Article VI – Anthropology and Hamartiology – The Study of Man and the Study of Sin
Section 1 The Imago Dei
We believe that Adam and Eve were a literal man and woman, and that Adam was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). We believe that this is not a mere physical image, but reference to intellect, will, emotions, with the capacity for self reflection and reasoning, particularly in the area of their capacity to understand something of the existence and attributes of the invisible God by the evidence of His creation, and their capacity to recognize themselves as owing a duty to their Creator (Romans 1:19-20). We believe that man’s capacity to know and worship his Creator, and to recognize his responsibility and duty to that Creator, sets man above the other animals.
Section 2 The Fall
(a) Physical and Spiritual Death We believe that, although man was originally created in the image and after the likeness of God, Adam knowingly transgressed God’s command (Genesis 3:6-7). We believe that as a result of Adam’s sin, a fallen nature has been transmitted not only to the entire human race (Romans 5:12-14), but to the whole of nature as well (Genesis 3:16-19; Romans 8:18-23), Jesus Christ being the only descendent of Adam to be preserved of the stain of Adam’s sin. As a consequence of man’s fallen nature, man is inherently disposed to sin (Romans 7:17-20), and every motive of man’s heart and every work of man’s hands is therefore, in some degree, tainted by sin (Isaiah 64:6; Haggai 2:12-14; Genesis 2:17; 6:5; Romans 3:10-19). We believe that, as man’s fallen nature manifests itself in actual sin, man is become offensive to the holy nature of God and separated from God as a result (Isaiah 59:2, 64:6; Romans 3:23), spiritually dead in trespasses and sins and without any spark of divine life (Genesis 2:17; Ephesians 2:5), and subject to futility, sickness and death (Genesis 3:1-24; Romans 5:12-14; 8:18-23), and eternal damnation (Revelation 20:11-15).
(b) Dominion We believe that man was created to have dominion over the earth (Genesis 1:28-30; 2:19-20), but that, as a result of the fall, man lost his dominion over the earth (Genesis 3:17-19). We believe that this aspect of the fall holds great significance in the defense of the gospel according to the following reason(s).
Because these consequences both stem from Adam’s fall, we note that the terms “save” and “salvation” are used within Scripture to refer to man’s deliverance from these consequences. However, we believe there are very distinct grounds for man’s deliverance or salvation from these consequences.
Scripture teaches that salvation or deliverance from Physical and Spiritual Death is accomplished by justification, regeneration, and ultimately, the resurrection. We believe these aspects of salvation are through faith alone in Christ alone (passim).
On the other hand, Scripture teaches that man’s “salvation” from his loss of dominion over the world is realized in the world to come when man is given dominion over the world to come. Man’s future dominion is represented by the “crowns” or rewards that he earns at the judgment seat. Within Scripture, this future dominion is also referred to by terms such as “inheritance,” “heir,” (Psalm 2; Hebrews 1:1,4, 6:12); “ruling” or “reigning” with Christ, or equivalent terms–Hebrews 1:13, 2:5-9. We note that the term “salvation” is sometimes also used with reference to this aspect of man’s deliverance. Mark 16:16, Hebrews 1:16, 2:3, 2:10. We believe, however, that this aspect of man’s salvation is not assured simply through the work of Christ, and man’s faith in Christ, but is contingent upon not being ashamed of Christ (Matthew 10:32-33; Mark 8:38, Hebrews 10:38 1 Peter 4:16-19, Romans 1:16), but maintaining the true and public confession of that faith (Hebrews 3:6, 3:12-14, 10:23-25), and a life of holiness (Hebrews 1:9, 4:11).
We believe that by blurring the distinct nature of these two aspects of salvation, teachers and preachers who are unskilled in the Word of God do grave damage to the gospel message, making man’s justification and the bestowal of eternal life contingent upon works of holiness and ongoing faithfulness, thereby impugning the freeness of the gift of eternal life offered to whosoever believes on Jesus Christ.
Section 3 Total Depravity
The term “total depravity” means different things to different Christians. By it, we do not believe that every thought and motive of man is totally wicked. Scripture, by the use of such terms as “innocent” (Proverbs 1:11; 6:17) and “wicked” (Genesis 3:13) in a relative sense, plainly bears witness to varying degrees of realized sin in different persons. Indeed, a cursory view of history bears blunt witness to profound acts of wickedness to which few men fully sink. However, we believe that, as red paint dropped into a bucket of white paint will turn some shade of pink, so likewise, sin permeates the human condition, including every motive and every act of man. Accordingly, every act of man is, in some measure, tainted by sin, and therefore, unacceptable to God, and worse, every deed of the lost, however good and pure in a relative sense, does, by virtue of the taint of sin, offend God’s holy nature. Thus, a man without Christ falls deeper into the debt of sin with every passing second. We further believe that man is incapable of earning God’s favor unto forgiveness and eternal life through obedience to the Ten Commandments, or any other work of man (Galatians 5:1-4; Romans 4:4). Accordingly, we do not believe that all men are as bad as they can be, but we believe that all men are as “bad-off” as they can be, in that all men, regardless of their relative measure of innocence or wickedness in human terms, are subject to the same futilities and consequences for sin, both in this life, and, apart from the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, in the life to come.
Section 4 The Bondage of the Will
We believe that no man, left alone in his lost estate, will seek after God in truth (Romans 3:11), but will corrupt the knowledge of God for a lie (Romans 1:21-25). Accordingly, we believe that no man will therefore ever come to saving faith in Jesus Christ apart from the activity of the Triune God in drawing the unbeliever to Christ, (John 3:8; 6:44; 9:1-41). We believe, however, that in His infinite grace and mercy, our Triune God does, in fact, draw all men unto Jesus Christ (John 16:7-11; John 12:32), and that His offer of salvation to all men is authentic (John 3:16; 1st Timothy 2:4; 2nd Peter 3:9; 1st John 2:2).
We reject the doctrine of “sovereign grace,” that God infuses in certain elect persons some divine empowering substance that will “irresistibly” impel them to faith in Christ, and that apart from this infusion, men are incapable of faith. Faith is an act of the creature, not an imposition of the Creator. And the drawing of men to faith Christ is an act of the personal Triune God, not a product of an impersonal Aristotelian substance.
The fact that all men, even those dead in their sins, have the capacity to believe, is evidenced by the activity of Satan, who “has blinded the minds of them which believe not,” and “takes the Word out of their heart” . . . “lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them” . . . “lest they should believe and be saved,” (Luke 8:4-5,12; 2nd Corinthians 4:4). The plain meaning of the term “lest they believe,” demands that those who are lost have the actual capacity to believe on Christ without some magical infusion of “sovereign grace” or “irresistible grace.” The fact that not all men respond to Christ is evidence that they are endowed with a free will to resist the drawing of the Father, and to reject the convicting ministry of the Holy Spirit, thereby calling the Holy Spirit a liar. The failure of men to respond by faith in Jesus Christ has nothing to do with their failure to receive a divine infusion of some ethereal empowering substance.
Section 5 The Image of God After the Fall
We believe that, even in his fallen estate, man retains, in his nature, the image of God (James 3:9), and that all men must be accorded the respect and dignity consistent with that image, whether Jew or Gentile (Acts 10:34-35; Romans 1:16; Ephesians 3:6), young or old (1st Timothy 4:12; 5:1), male or female (John 4:7-27), born or unborn (Exodus 21:22; Job 31:15; Psalm 22:10, 127:3, 139:14; Jeremiah 1:5; Luke 1:41), rich or poor (James 2:1-13; 5:1-6), the believer and the unbeliever (Matthew 13:25-40), the healthy, the infirm (Mark 1:40-2:12) and even the dying (Proverbs 31:6).
Section 6 Regeneration
We believe that, upon saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, man is regenerated by the Holy Spirit, therein begetting a new man (John 3:3-6; 2nd Corinthians 5:17) which, having been begotten of God’s own “sperma” (1st John 3:9), is endowed with some of the divine characteristics of God’s own nature, including, at the very least, a holy nature incapable of sin (Ephesians 4:24; 1st John 3:9), and eternal life possessing the same incorruptible nature as the life that God himself possesses (John 3:16, 1st Peter 1:23), thereby giving those who are regenerate in Christ the right to be called the children of God (John 1:12) in a most real and literal sense.
We believe that faith is not the product of regeneration, but rather, that faith precedes regeneration (John 1:12).
Section 7 The Two Natures
We believe that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the regenerate man is able to overcome his sin nature in this lifetime (Romans 6:5-19), but that the old nature of sinful man remains after regeneration, that it is at war within the members of the regenerate man, and that this battle will continue until death or rapture separates the regenerate nature from the fallen nature (Romans 7:15-25). Because of this, we believe that no man, other than Jesus Christ, has achieved, or will achieve “sinless perfection” in this lifetime, and that any man who claims to achieve sinless perfection is self-deceived (1st John 1:8). We believe that every motive and every action of all men remains tainted by sin, even after salvation through Christ (Romans 7:17). However, we believe that, because sin, both inherent and realized, is resident only in the old man (Romans 7:17) and because the regenerate man is holy and incapable of sin (1st John 3:9) that regenerate man may present works of righteousness to God that are untainted by sin in God’s sight, and therefore worthy of reward (1st Corinthians 3:11-15).
Section 8 The Resurrection
We believe those who have died in Christ will experience a literal resurrection of the dead into an incorruptible body, subject to neither sin, nor the decay and ravages of time, and that those who die without Christ will be raised and cast into everlasting torment. We acknowledge profound mysteries surrounding such questions as the physical resurrection of one who is buried at sea, burned, or eaten by beasts, whose very atoms are thus disbursed and recycled into the biosphere, and absorbed into the bodies of other living men. We believe, however, that these complexities are fully appreciated within Scripture (Revelation 20:13), and that God will somehow effect a bodily resurrection of all men, unto glory or damnation (1st Corinthians 15:12-57; Revelation 20:13).