Sunday, March 26, 2017

Paradigm un-Shift

Something has bothered me for a very long time, and I've struggled to put it into words. It seems to me we have a tendency when we've seen a truth to step back away from it, but still use the language of that truth. I'm not sure that makes a lot of sense, so let me give three examples:

I once worked for someone who liked to talk about the Theory of Constraints, but he didn't seem actually to understand it. He liked to throw around the term "Theory of Constraints," but when actually pressed to explain himself, it became obvious he had no idea what it is. He used the terminology of ToC, but he really didn't mean what those words mean: he was using new terminology to describe his old ideas.

I spent many years studying internal martial arts. I began to recognize a pattern: there were some very skilled internal martial artists who would basically become kick boxers when it was time to spar. They were very good at the internal forms, but when it came time to put on the pads, they acted like they'd forgotten everything we practiced. It was weird: almost like they didn't really believe it would work in real life.

When I was a good deal younger, I got a glimpse of Romans 6:1–11. I saw for the first time that I had died with Christ, and God wasn't interested in my life per se. He is interested in the life of Christ. This was terribly exciting to me, and I would tell people about it. Almost invariably, the people I talked to would say, "Well, that's true positionally." I began to understand by "that's true positionally," they really meant "that's not true at all."

The Christian who sees Romans 6 as a sort of a morality tale is like the manager who talks about the Theory of Constraints but has no interest in understanding it, or the student who studies internal martial arts but has no intention of actually using them in a fight. He or she may use the language of the New Testament, but can't experience it.

It's interesting to listen to people speak about Romans 6. It seems like there are basically two approaches people take:

  1. some believe that Romans 6 is describing a reality: I have died with Christ
  2. some believe it's a metaphor: Romans 6 is effectively a call to live a "new life," living differently than before
It seems obvious to me people in the latter group like to use the language of the paradigm shift, but they don't really believe it. They've stepped back from that truth, if you like.

It seems obvious to me that Romans 6 is not a call to live a new kind of life: it's a statement that as far as God is concerned, my life has ended (Romans 6:2). Even if I don't believe that I actually died with Christ, it's impossible to avoid that plain command to think of myself that way (Romans 6:11). The fact is that Scripture commands us to "reckon" we've died with Christ. Regardless how you understand Romans 6:1–10, if you're not thinking of yourself as having died with Christ, then you're not obeying v. 11.

I was in a Bible reading where someone talked about how the raven and the dove that Noah sent out were really types of the "two natures," and how we need to feed the dove, not the raven. Of course that's nonsense.

Scripture doesn't talk about "two natures": it doesn't talk about an "old nature" or a "new nature". Scripture talks about new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and indwelling sin (Romans 7:17). The believer is a new creation in Christ, who is living in an unredeemed body. The day is coming when our bodies will be redeemed (Romans 8:23), Christ will come from Heaven and transform our bodies of humiliation to be like His (Philippians 3:21). Then we'll actually be free of the body of death (Romans 7:24).

This is fundamentally liberating: it's not that I have to choose between two natures, it's that I have been freed of who and what I was by the death of Christ so that I could walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4; Romans 8:1–3).

It's very easy to see truth in Scripture and sort of dull the edge a bit. It's easy to keep using the language of new creation but slowly fall back to the notion that we can improve the flesh. It's easy to forget that Romans 6 or Colossians 3 or Galatians 2 teach that our lives have ended at the cross of Christ. It's easy to forget we are new creations in Christ and start thinking it's God's purpose to improve us. It's easy to pay lip service to the truth while slowly stepping back from it.

There are plenty of teachers and preachers who urge us to walk in newness of life, but don't seem to grasp our death with Christ. It's not a metaphor or a romantic notion, it's a fact. Scripture bases the "newness of life" on the fact that I have died with Christ (Romans 6:4). We can't really experience new life while we try and cling to the old. We have to accept that we have died with Christ before we can expect to see the power of resurrection (Philippians 3:10).


Robert said...

Thanks to everyone for their prayer. I will be back soon!

I am just dipping in as this post resonates so much with my experience. I have found the term 'positionally' is short hand for 'you dont have to bother with that'. I find the same dismissive language used about the church as the body of Christ - 'thats positional truth but we live our daily lives in local assemblies so we dont need to worry about that'.

I sometimes say that I will give £100 to the first person in an audiece that can show me the phrase'raised to walk in newness of life'. My money is safe in my wallet! For the newness of life is connected in Romans 6 with death. Most teenagers are taught that baptism is a confession that they have believed that Chrst died for them - an outward confession of an inward belief. But baptism was a public declaration that I have accepted that I died with Christ. The 'newness of life' is that 'henceforth we should not serve sin'.

I actually think now that in the mind sof many, baptism is an initiation into the Christian 'club'. Over here in many places, baptisms have become like parties with hundreds of people travelling to attend and bringing cards and gifts. We would never behave like that at a funeral of a friend.

I am facinated by how internal martial arts works!

HandWrittenWord said...

Mark, my experience of the phenomenon described in your excellent post, after many, many years of observation, is that the vast majority of what passes for Christian "teaching" is a totally futile attempt to reform the "old man", so that he can somehow "conform to Christ" -- a patent absurdity and complete impossibility.

To use your martial arts analogy: "walking in newness of life", by recognizing at every moment that the old man is DEAD, and thus the ONLY real "life" available is the life of our resurrected Lord Jesus is, at it were, practicing the internal art.
Attempting to straighten out the "old man" is attempting to reform a being who is already and actually DEAD! When the Enemy shows up, a person "living" this way will revert to "kick boxing" every time. And the Devil is much, much better at it...

Susan said...

Circumstances here last week were very difficult so I'm very slow at reading your recommended papers by Darby in your "The Christian Life" post.
Robert - Great to hear from you.
Mark, you have much to discuss here. I can relate to the comments you both made on the "positional" position. I believe most of the "position/conditon" crowd are greatly confused by believing while it's true, it's not true now so "you don't have to bother with that" or "we don't need to worry about that". License to sin?????

I'm not familiar with internal martial arts but would that be similar to tai chi or yoga? Doesn't it include Buddhist or Zen philosophy? I know many Christians believe the "physical side" is OK...but can you separate the philosophies from the activity?

Susan said...

HWW - We both posted at the same time. I totally agree with your comment "the vast majority of what passes for Christian "teaching" is a totally futile attempt to reform the "old man", so that he can somehow "conform to Christ" -- a patent absurdity and complete impossibility."

Susan said...

Robert, I can relate to your comment on baptism. Over here I'm surrounded by the seeker, self-friendly Christian clubs where they seek to entertain, and baptisms are like a worldly party event.

Rodger said...

"Ask many a true-hearted saint what is the meaning of, "When we were in the flesh," and he could give no clear answer; he has no definite idea of what it can mean. Ask him what it is to be in Christ: all is equally vague."

It seems to me more and more that "in Christ" is the most practical doctrine of all.

Robert said...

"Where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried. It is only a Ruth who can rightly enter into Romans 6; it can only be understood by an affectionate heart...Mary Magdalene would have well understood Romans 6; she had become so thoroughly attached to Him...What a blessed thing for our hearts to be so attached to Christ that if He goes into death there is nothing for us but to go into death too".

C.A.Coates An outline of the Epistle to Romans

susan said...

Concerning "two natures"

clumsy ox said...

The issue of whether a Christian should do something or not is complicated. I definitely ran across people involved in things I had no business being involved in. I definitely ran across at least one club that was essentially a Buddhist mission using Kung fu classes to get people in the door. I am not making an endorsement that it's OK to be involved with martial arts. But I felt free before the Lord to study internal martial arts with the instructors I had.

Robert said...

Mark - that still doesn't explain what internal martial arts involves! Is it fighting with your head? If so, do you not still have to kick the guy, or do you knock him down with brainpower? 😊

Does anyone have any comments on the order in Romans 6? A man would be crucified and would die and be buried. In Romans 6 there is death, burial and then crucifixion.

HandWrittenWord said...

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?
Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection,
knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin;
for he who has died is freed from sin. (Romans 6:1-7 NASB)

In the above passage the Holy Spirit communicates a number of OBJECTIVE FACTS concerning everyone who has believed the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been baptized into HIS death -- the Anointed One who died for our sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day. ONE death, that took place in actual history, roughly 2,000 years ago. The Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, says that we who believe have been baptized into THAT death -- the death of Jesus the Messiah. Do we AGREE with the Holy Spirit concerning this, or not?
The instrumentality of His death was the particularly cruel method of crucifixion. The cross brought about His death. The Holy Spirit says that we who believe are to KNOW that "our old self was crucified with Him..." Do we AGREE with the Holy Spirit concerning this, or not?
Jesus, after His death, was buried in a tomb apparently owned by Joseph of Arimathea. The Holy Spirit says that we were "buried with Him through baptism into death..." Do we AGREE with that, or not? Do I identify with HIS death? with HIS burial?
WHY does the Holy Spirit identify we who believe with the death and burial of Jesus?
" that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so too we might walk in newness of life." Do we AGREE with the Holy Spirit concerning this, or not? Jesus our Lord, now glorified, walks in a dimension of Life that we cannot begin to grasp. And we shall, in the future, walk in glorified bodies, FULLY identified with Him in every respect. But NOW, HIS RESURRECTED LIFE IN US BY THE HOLY SPIRIT has made full provision for us to "walk in newness of life." NOW. Do we AGREE with the Holy Spirit concerning this, or not? Do we walk "in newness of life" RIGHT NOW, or not? If the answer is "No", then perhaps certain things that we currently believe are not objectively true.

Now if we have died with Christ (do we believe that, or not?), we believe that we shall also live with Him,
knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him.
For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all, but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (Do we AGREE with the objective facts that the Holy Spirit has stated concerning our identification with HIS death and HIS resurrection, or not?)
Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
(Romans 6:8-11 comments in parentheses)

Why would the Holy Spirit, through the Apostle Paul, ask us to consider AS TRUTH such remarkable things concerning the status of our lives RIGHT NOW? Could it be because they are actually, objectively true? Do we AGREE with Him, or not?

Susan said...

I agree with you, HWW, and Him!

Our old self was crucified WITH Him, and now we(our new self) are alive In Him. I don't understand what you're getting at Robert.

clumsy ox said...

I wish it was about just using brainpower! It would have saved me a lot if push-ups.

There's a lot of mystique and legend surrounding all martial arts, and it can be difficult to unravel it all. Tai-chi is the most well know internal martial art, but it's hard to find a teacher who actually teaches it as a fighting style and not a sort of moving yoga. I think I've actually seen one person use tai-chi as a fighting style.

Internal arts are generally presented very mystically, and attract a lot of people who are looking for a mystical experience. I wasn't, nor were the majority of people I knew. We were probably a disappointment to the martial arts community...

I don't know whether I'd do it again. Susan's concerns are valid, and I might be more cautious now than I was then.

Robert said...

Sorry - I didn't explain it very well. The order as it relates to Christ was crucifixion death, and burial. This is not the order presented to us as we take up the truth. Burial comes first v. 4 then death - 'buried with Him by baptism into death'. Then after we have been baptised, we come to the truth of crucifixion v. 6. So our order is buried, dead and crucified. Is it possible that Paul is teaching that only an individual that has been baptised and has submitted to burial to death can understand the wider implications of crucixion, which is not about me as an individual but the entire race headed by Adam? I only ask, if it's not helpful, let's move on.

Rodger said...

How would you distinguish death and crucifixion, Robert? Would you say the first is the flat fact of a total end; whereas to be crucified is the act of a certain will in the putting to death? It seems as if Paul expands on "we who have died" (vs. 2), and sharpens the picture in vs. 6.

Susan said...

Yes, I see what you mean now Robert. That was very helpful. Thank you.

clumsy ox said...

Even someone who's crossed the Jordan has to be circumcised in Gilgal. I think that's a big part of he message of Colossians 3: having died I now have to mortify. Reckoning myself to have died with Christ doesn't hurt very much, mortifying my members on the earth certainly does. Crossing the Jordan doesn't hurt a whole lot, but the stone knives in Gilgal surely do.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but Genesis 23 makes it clear that burial is really hiding from sight. Perhaps Romans 6 talks about burial first to remind us we are hidden from God's sight in Christ as the starting point?

Susan said...

Instead of saying "we are hidden from God's sight in Christ", I would say "God sees us hidden in Christ".

HandWrittenWord said...

Instead of saying "we are hidden from God's sight in Christ", I would say "God sees us hidden in Christ".

Susan. Well said!

Robert said...

Crucifixion is more than death. It involves the judicial termination of a life. No doubt most who died on a cross did not want to be there and wanted to hold onto life in this world. Paul's use of the cross throughout his epistles develops the thought of God bringing things to an end by the cross. It is extensive in its scope: Romans - the cross and the old man; Corinthians - the cross and the wisdom of the world; Galatians - the cross and fellowship with the world; Ephesians - the cross and enmity between Jew and Gentile; Philippians - the cross and strife between believers; Colossians - the cross and the universal powers.

In Paul's explanation of the gospel in Romans he only speaks about crucifixion once in ch 6:6. This must be significant?

HandWrittenWord said...

"Paul's use of the cross throughout his epistles develops the thought of God bringing things to an end by the cross." Indeed!

Here is another bringing to an end by the cross of Jesus our Lord:

Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.
But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of Spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter.
(Romans 7:4-6)

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)

Susan said...

But God forbid that I should boast except in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ,
by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For in Christ Jesus
neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a New Creation. Galatians 6:14, 15

Rodger said...

"The Holy Ghost is here telling us how, because God looks upon believers as having died with Christ when He died, they ought so to think of themselves, and live the life which they do live as " alive unto God through Jesus Christ." (Ver. 11.) But I observe that we do not only get "dead with" and " alive with," &c., in such passages, but here " that our old man was crucified with." And herein doubtless we get one reason of our
Lord's death being by the cross as well as a word of warning and comfort to ourselves. God not only sought blood for atonement, but Jesus did indeed stand in our place and experience the treatment we deserved; and He was therefore crucified, or put to open shame in His death, as to the mode of it. Well, says Paul, Christian! have you hope because God tells you to think of yourself as one who died with and revived in Christ? then remember that where you found this comfort, in God's declaration about Christ crucified, there you found God putting your old man to open shame in a cruel lingering death. And when you think of the cross, and that the cross of the Son, O see how utterly God abominated and loathed, from the very bottom of His soul, the evil nature which is in you; so that when its guilt was seen by Him on Jesus, He hid His face even from Him. And as Christians, we see there is in this verse a word for us-for it is a constant memento of God's detestation of the old man in us, on the ground of which Christ was crucified." (GVW)

Is this what you are thinking, Robert?

I was wondering today whether the cross represents the expression of enmity, and so the very helpful list you have given represents things that God loathes; and as well whether they all find their root and ground in the old man, who heads up the list. Or perhaps they all have their root in sin. Thoughts?

Robert said...

I think the cross extends beyond what is personal and reaches everything that God wants to terminate. The best book I have read on the distinctions is the Blood, Cross and Death of Christ by GV Wigram. This is the cross section:

Joshua said...

Wonderful post. Your post has got me to think over. I would like to know your thoughts on the following:
1)What happens at New birth ?
2) What is the difference between New birth & New creation?
3) Why can't the Indwelling Sin in a Born Again person be called as Old Nature?

Joshua said...

I was searching & found FER(!) also taught on similar lines:

I have sometimes contended against the idea of two natures in the Christian on the ground that I do not allow that one person can be characterised by two natures. A Christian is characterised by one nature, and an unbeliever is characterised by another nature; an unbeliever is characterised by sin, and a believer is characterised by righteousness.

FER 1:95

The nature of the christian is that he is righteous even as He is righteous. The christian has not two natures; the flesh in him is like a foreign substance, it is not his nature. I may get a foreign substance in a lump of sugar, but that is not the nature of the sugar.

FER 21:233

Joshua said...

But I think Similar reasonings from FER " I DONOT ALLOW ONE PERSON TO BE CHARACTERISED BY TWO NATURES " would have led him to teach heresies on the inscrutable person of our LORD JESUS CHRIST

Susan said...

Yea......Roy Huebner has much to say on Ravenism!

clumsy ox said...

I try to use the terms Scripture uses. It’s not a legal thing: it’s just that our very best efforts to sum up the truth of Scripture in our own words still lead into very real problems. I try to say “Godhead” (Colossians 1:19), rather than “trinity”; I try to say “our gathering together to Him” (2 Thessalonians 2:1) or “resurrection” (1 Corinthians 15:51–52) instead of “rapture”. It’s not that those ideas are wrong, but I try to use the language the Spirit of God uses.

When I tried to find the Scriptural language about “two natures”, I found myself coming up short. Scripture uses language much more like the FER quotes Joshua shared, than the “two natures” language I hear people use in Bible readings. Scripture talks about the believer as a “new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17), although it is careful to say we have sin dwelling in us (Romans 7:17). Romans 8:9–14 makes the incredible statement that the spirit “is life because of righteousness” but the body “is dead because of sin”. Romans 8:23 goes on to talk about the redemption of the body, when the current state of affairs will be ended and Christ will make our fallen bodies like His (Philippians 3:21).

When we express an idea in words, the words themselves begin to change the idea. I’m sure FWG was correct in that paper Susan linked (thanks, Susan!), but using language Scripture doesn’t use is the first step to teaching things Scripture doesn’t teach.

The common evangelical idea of “two natures” isn’t what Scripture teaches: it’s a sort of a pagan dualism couched in Christian terms. I haven’t an “light side” and a “dark side” to choose between: I am a new creation in Christ Jesus, and the remnants I find in myself of the man I was in Adam are to be mortified (Colossians 3:5).

But notice it’s not that I mortify the flesh, nor that I mortify the old man. It’s that I mortify my members on the earth. Romans 8:11–13 uses similar language, but there it’s mortifying the deeds of the body. Both Romans 8 and Colossians 3 carefully remind us that this is a temporary state of things (“on the earth” in Colossians, “of the body” in Romans) until Christ comes to change our mortal bodies to be like His.

FER was, as far as that’s concerned, correct. It’s not that I have two natures which are both equally representative of what I am: it’s that I am a new creation in Christ, with impurities that are temporary until the body is redeemed.

No, I’m not advocating FER, I’m just saying he was correct here.

I’m reminded of the story of the Gibeonites: we’re not to make peace with the inhabitants of the land. I’m afraid a whole lot of what’s said about “the two natures” amounts to exactly that: it takes the edge off the bleak statements of Scripture that we are enemies of the flesh (Galatians 5:24).

HandWrittenWord said...

For the LORD giveth wisdom: out of His mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.
He layeth up sound wisdom for the righteous: He is a buckler to them that walk uprightly.
He keepeth the paths of judgment, and preserveth the way of His saints.
(Proverbs 2:6-8)

Therefore I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right;
and I hate every false way. (Psalm 119:128)

Let my cry come near before Thee, O LORD:
give me understanding according to Thy word.
(Psalm 119:169)

Susan said...

I appreciate your using Biblical words but there are words that the Bible does not use, but the concepts are there. So I don't have problems using "Trinity", "Rapture", "two natures"..and other words like "Divinity", "Incarnation", "Monotheism". I agree with FWG on the subject.

Rodger said...

Not wanting to add another lengthy extract, I would only draw your attention to a few remarks made about expressions in the third paragraph here:

I think it is quite balanced.

HandWrittenWord said...

Mark aptly noted:

"But notice it’s not that I mortify the flesh, nor that I mortify the old man. It’s that I mortify my members on the earth. Romans 8:11–13 uses similar language, but there it’s mortifying the deeds of the body. Both Romans 8 and Colossians 3 carefully remind us that this is a temporary state of things (“on the earth” in Colossians, “of the body” in Romans) until Christ comes to change our mortal bodies to be like His."

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh:
For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;
Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ...
(II Corinthians 10:3-5)

Susan said...

“Mortify your members” means keep them in the place of death where they have been put by the death of Christ. “Let it be as done”--exercise the power which redemption gives by holding in the place of death the members which are upon earth. This, however, is not possible unless the believer walks in the Spirit, is occupied with Christ and seeks those things which are above. Gaebelein

Anonymous said...

I'm still thinking about this post.

We are told that "you have died" (Col 3:3), and that we are to "put to death" (v. 5). We are told that "you have put off the old man ... and have put on the new" (v. 9-10), while also being told to "put on" the characteristics of that new man (v 12).

Are we too keen to say it's one and not the other, when Scripture says it's both?