Anthropology

Does the Believer Have One Nature or Two? (Part 3)

Published as a single article in DBSJ 2 (Fall 1997): 81–103. Used by permission.

Part 2 concluded that speaking of the believer as having “two natures” is not contrary to Scripture, but that a defective theology exists that happens to also use two-nature terminology. Here, Part 3 aims to “look more carefully at the scriptural descriptions of the believer’s struggle with sin” as groundwork for examining that defective theology.

The Old Man/New Man

In Romans 6, Ephesians 4, and Colossians 3, Paul contrasts the old man with the new man, though, actually, Romans 6 speaks only of the old man. Whereas the KJV has “man” (ἄνθρωπος) in these passages, the NASB uses “self.”

Romans 6:6, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin;

Ephesians 4:20–24, But you did not learn Christ in this way, if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

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Does the Believer Have One Nature or Two? (Part 2)

Published as a single article in DBSJ 2 (Fall 1997): 81–103. Used by permission.

Part 2 continues Part 1’s consideration of what “nature” means in the “one or two natures” question.

Theological Usage

As was previously noted, the use of the term nature as it relates to the question of one or two natures does not stem primarily from a particular text. Instead, it can more correctly be viewed as a theological term, essential to the discussion at hand, but whose meaning is generally derived from its common, ordinary usage. Webster, for example, defines nature as “the inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing: essence, disposition, temperament.”1 Smith helpfully observes that

except when it is used for the material world or universe, the term “nature” does not designate a substance or an entity. Instead, it is a word which refers to the inherent or essential qualities of any substance or entity.2

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Does the Believer Have One Nature or Two? (Part 1)

Published as a single article in DBSJ 2 (Fall 1997): 81–103. Used by permission.

In recent times the popular radio preacher and author, John MacArthur, has attacked the idea of two natures in the believer. He says at one point: “If you are a Christian, it’s a serious misunderstanding to think of yourself as having both an old and new nature. We do not have a dual personality!”1 Similar attacks have come from a number of others. J. I. Packer says: “A widespread but misleading line of teaching tells us that Christians have two natures: an old one and a new one.”2 John Gerstner labels the two-nature viewpoint “Antinomianism.”3 Are these attacks justified? Is it unbiblical to speak of two natures within the believer? This essay purposes to tackle the issue. Read more about Does the Believer Have One Nature or Two? (Part 1)

Sin and Judgment to Come

(About this series)

CHAPTER III: SIN AND JUDGMENT TO COME

BY SIR ROBERT ANDERSON, K. C. B., LL. D., LONDON, ENGLAND

The Book of Judges records that in evil days when civil war was raging in Israel, the tribe of Benjamin boasted of having 700 men who “could sling stones at a hair breadth and not miss.” Nearly two hundred times the Hebrew word chatha, here translated “miss,” is rendered “sin” in our English Bible; and this striking fact may teach us that while “all unrighteousness is sin,” the root-thought of sin is far deeper. Man is a sinner because, like a clock that does not tell the time, he fails to fulfill the purpose of his being. And that purpose is (as the Westminster divines admirably state it), “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” Our Maker intended that “we should be to the praise of His glory.” But we utterly fail of this; we “come short of the glory of God.” Man is a sinner not merely because of what he does, but by reason of what he is. Read more about Sin and Judgment to Come

Folk Religion and Gracious Lost People

I have known many folks who embrace what I call “folk religion.” It runs something like this: “I want my family (and myself) to be nice, good, and decent. Christianity is what makes people nice, so I will choose to be a Christian and rear my children as Christians. The theology doesn’t matter, what matters is how we live and treat others.”

This belief system boils down to using the Kingdom of God. Using this reasoning, our faith exists to help us and our children become kind and honest people—a civilizing, positive influence. Hopefully our faith will keep us off of drugs, keep us from being promiscuous, help us avoid excessive alcohol, and help us avoid dishonest gain. We will see our kids grow up to become responsible, family-oriented, and self-supporting.

We all desire our children to turn out well, and to live decent lives ourselves. This is not a bad secondary goal. We should aim for that. But if this is why we call ourselves Christians, we are in trouble. Faith in Jesus becomes a means to an end, not an end in itself. Our primary goal should be to be in right relationship with God.

When folks use Christianity in this manner, they will eventually be confronted with the rude awakening that some who profess faith in Jesus are not all that wonderful. On the other hand, at times, those who profess other faiths or no religion at all are sometimes quite kind and generous. Read more about Folk Religion and Gracious Lost People

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