Sin, Depravity, Calvin and Wesley: Trying to Make Sense of This Stuff

Here’s a great article that ought to make us think more deeply about both redemption and sin….

David F. Watson

Have you ever noticed that Paul rarely talks about Satan? Jesus, particularly in the Synoptic Gospels, engages Satan directly or indirectly quite often. Paul does not. The role that many Christians assign to Satan, Paul seems to assign to Sin. To be clear, he isn’t so interested in particular sins (though he does address these at times), but especiallyin Romans he is interested in Sin, with a capital “S.” Sin, for Paul, is not just something we do wrong. It is a cosmic force exercising control over our lives. Everyone stands under the power of Sin. We are unavoidably affected by it.

His clearest statements about Sin are in Romans 1-7. There are a few concepts to keep in mind.

First, everyone commits sin: “[A]ll have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

Second, the origin of Sin is in what later came to be called…

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2 thoughts on “Sin, Depravity, Calvin and Wesley: Trying to Make Sense of This Stuff

  1. I am neither Wesleyan nor Calvinist. I barely studied an intro to Calvinism which was probably covered in one chapter of one book and maybe two or three lectures with maybe one or possibly two test questions. I am dimly aware of Wesley through my Methodist friends, but made no study in the academy of him at all.

    So, with that background, my thoughts here should be taken with a truckload of salt.

    I read a lot of N.T. Wright, and he has changed my mind about Calvin. Not that I had much to work with, but I got enough lecture to sense a brooding contempt for TULIP and predestination in the one or two lectures I am sure I sat through. (I had no interest in Church History back in school.) But the more Bible I studied – and this increased exponentially after the academy for me – the more I came to appreciate the sovereignty of God. But I was raised in, and studied in, a heritage that, like most of my Protestant neighbors from various traditions, prizes Augustinian FREE WILL very, very, very deeply. And the little bit of Calvin I have come to see through Wright’s offerings (Wright seems to be a Calvin enthusiast if not a Calvinist) this is where the real action is. I never see Wright promote anything approaching predestination at all, but he seems to see sovereignty behind every tree and under every rock.

    And well, I am sorry, I know this is not a popular criticism of Augustine among his adherents, but the Free Will Theodicy does in fact impinge upon God’s sovereignty. I will grant that it is God’s own sovereign choice to with hold his own sovereignty to the degree that is required to allow Free Will, but that is the access Augustine takes to answer the Problem of Evil.

    I still think there is a Gordian Knot in the mix, I just think it has shifted a few feet down the length of rope from where us Free Will types have been working on it. Us Free Will types have let our Free Will explanation take up too much of our imagination in the God’s sovereignty department, in my estimation. It remains a divine mystery how we sin at all if God is really in charge, but since he is GOD, I trust he has the problem worked out somewhere in the mist above my head. But I, taking my cues from Calvin (via Wright of course and through my broken and limited understanding) tend to Live in the neighborhood of thought that plays host to God’s Sovereignty rather than down at the trailer park of Free Will.

    Anyway, I think the sovereignty part of this is where the action is.

    Jesus is LORD!


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