What I Believe: Inevitable Sin

The reason there is so much sin among us humans is that we have so many opportunities. We are corrupt in some of our actions and desires, are tempted by the pleasures of this world and its overwhelming presence in our lives, and actively assaulted by spiritual forces of evil.

It seems evident, I believe, that we cannot overcome sin on our own. In fact, trying to perfect ourselves that way can lead us in two directions. Minimizing our sins and becoming self-righteous is one of these paths. Learning the futility of perfecting ourselves on our own on the other hand can lead us to disillusionment with Christianity, anger with God or hedonism depending on our temperaments.

The answer to sin, I believe, is not focusing on it but on Christ’s love for us. Through his grace we can be enabled to love God, our fellow humans, and ourselves. In this state of mind we can see that sin is always harmful to someone and thus find (though not every time) an effective counterbalance to the things that pull us in the direction of sin.

What I Believe: Inherited Sin

In all the material realm sin is an attribute only of humans. This is because no other physical entities can know right from wrong. All things other than people do only what God has given them an instinct and ability to do. What they do may not suit what we think they should do. However, since they do not choose their actions based on knowledge of right and wrong, they are free from guilt. I believe that this was true of the first-creation humanity before the later version came to know right from wrong and hence to be able to make sinful choices.

The new type of humanity came to know right from wrong by doing wrong. You know the story and it seems only fair to credit both Adam and Eve for this addition to human capabilities. However, we should note that their punishments differed. Adam, I believe, bore the guilt that has been transmitted to all his descendants. This guilt could not be transmitted through Eve because a woman was to bear the child that would offer all humanity redemption from our guilt.

What I Believe: Origins and Natures of Humans

When it comes to the origin and nature of humanity, I am going to depart from traditional understandings. First, I think that the two accounts in Genesis of the creation of people are actually two events. The first one, on the sixth day of creation (Genesis 1:26-31) begins with a description of the creation of humans in the same terms as the creation of livestock, wild beasts, and varmints (my terminology). Then that creation account tells us that these people were to be fruitful and multiply and rule over the other animals (except wild animals) and the earth. This mandate to rule, I believe, constitutes their creation in the image of God, that is they were able to think rationally. Since these original people came before people had spirits and Jesus had a body they had to be in the image of God in some way other than physically or spiritually.

The second account, which is that of Adam and Eve, I believe, particularizes the origin and nature of current humanity. The creation of Adam and Eve marked the beginning of a new kind of humanity. It differed from the earlier humanity in that they had an indwelling spirit. As it is written in Ecclesiastes 11:5( ESV) “As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything.” What we do know was that these new people had spirits that came to them while they were babies still in the womb.

These humans were also to have something new—a sense of right and wrong. This came into being when Adam and Eve disobeyed God. It also resulted in them being expelled from the Garden of Eden and forced to make their way in the “real” world and deal with their spiritless relatives. We are told in Genesis 6 how the sons of God found the daughters of man (earlier humans) attractive and the usual thing happened.

By the time of Noah, the attractiveness of the women and their culture had so overwhelmed the virtues of the sons of God that God brought about a mass extinction of humanity, except for eight people of the new type.

I think what I believe about the origin and nature of humanity is different from what you have been told or have read about. Nonetheless, what I have pictured retains the validity of the biblical accounts of creation and also allows for the prior existence of human-type people. It also takes into account the knowledge we have of the effects of mass extinctions on the overall history of life.

What I Believe: Created Spirits

The Bible mentions a wide variety of created spirits. One problem we have in knowing more about spiritual creatures is that the writers of Scripture had to use physical categories to describe spiritual realities. Another, more actual, problem is that we normally have little experience with spiritual creatures and so when we may think we are in the presence of angels of light they may actually be demons.

One defining characteristic of Satan and his minions is that they are liars. This is why it is so important in our thinking about spiritual creatures and events to seek only to know what is true because truth only comes from God.

There is a fundamental division between those created spirits who have chosen to serve God and those who choose to follow Satan. The lower ranks of those who follow Satan we call demons. The New Testament also tells us of powerful beings, apparently produced by Satan, that are described as frogs, dragons, two beasts, a false prophet, and a reigning prostitute.

On God’s side, in addition to angels, there are archangels, elders and seraphim. Angels act as God’s messengers. Archangels also act to bring God’s messages to people. They also have a role in the destiny of nations and wage war against the satanic spirits. The elders lead worship in heaven and may have other roles. The seraphim, with their multitude of eyes, appear to have the job of overseeing God’s physical creation.

On earth, I believe we are in the midst of a vast spiritual warfare. Satan’s intent is not just to cause problems for people but to bring physical and spiritual death to as many humans as he can. Were it not for the purpose of the Father, the work of Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the obedience to God of the angels we all, without exception, would be doomed to eternal death.

What I Believe: Additional Gifts of the Holy Spirit

All the gifts of the Holy Spirit are given to us for God’s purposes. They are supernatural and given to us by a work of the Holy Spirit—not as the result of any merit of ours. Thus it is, I believe, they should be sought and received by us with a sense of our own unworthiness and a great deal of humility.

There is great controversy among Christians concerning these gifts. Some Christians believe these gifts ended with the close of the apostolic age and the closing of the canon. Others believe that these gifts should be the focus of Christian worship in our own time.

My own belief is that the additional gifts, including healing, are a difficultly for both sides of the dogmatic divide. My own experiences have shown me that the Holy Spirit has worked in my life and in the lives of others I know in ways that do not fit the ideas of either side of the controversy. It is clear to me that the Holy Spirit is with us, working in us and still doing remarkable works in individual’s lives.

This is only a small start on what might be written about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

What I Believe: Work of the Holy Spirit

The work of the Holy Spirit moves in two directions. It proceeds from the Father and Son towards creation and humanity and from Christians to the Father and the Son as he acts as an advocate for our needs. I do not believe that the work of the Holy Spirit is under our control. God, in each of the persons, does what it is that is his intention. It is better that we align ourselves with that intention rather than try to persuade the Holy Spirit, or any of the other two, to do what we would like happen.

The Bible is a work of the Holy Spirit. Our redemption is the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit, I believe, also shapes human culture and history by influencing the thoughts and actions of different people, believers and nonbelievers, at various times and places to fulfill the purposes of the Father and the Son.

The Holy Spirit is active now and can be seen by faith as he works in our persons, faithful churches and our world. I believe that the present works of the Holy Spirit can be experienced by Christians though an internal assurance of his presence in our beings and recognition of  his work in shaping events around us.

What I Believe: Person of the Holy Spirit

We might think of the Holy Spirit as the all-present person of the Trinity. He, using the traditional pronoun, exists in heaven communicating to the Father and Son the prayers of believers, sometimes even when the believers do not know what to say. He also continually passes over the earth to do what he has been given to do in our physical realm.

The person of the Holy Spirit is able to relate to our spirits so as to bring them to new life, make them stronger by maturing them in the knowledge and will of the Trinity, and produce in them the fruit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit that brings God’s power and blessings to our Christian endeavors.

The Holy Spirit deserves the same respect as the other persons of the Trinity. Also, since the Holy Spirit is the person of the Trinity that brings awareness of sin to individuals. I believe a rejection of the Holy Spirit by an individual leaves no other path to faith in Jesus Christ and acceptance by God the Father.