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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : Is the problem "unwillingness" or "inability" ?

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makrothumia
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Joined: 2005/5/19
Posts: 564
Texas

 Is the problem "unwillingness" or "inability" ?

I want to approach this topic like the Bereans, eager to consider what some of my brothers here on the forum have written, and then carefully examine the scriptures diligently to see if what has been posted aligns itself with the testimony of the scriptures. I count the opportunity to discuss some of these topics with those who challenge my own understanding to be a great blessing. I am driven by a desire to understand the truth and to genuinely consider a viewpoint that I am unfamiliar, even uncomfortable, with.

One of the fruits of having been stimulated by the topic of
"depravity" and man's inability is that it has led me to search out and examine "the mind of the flesh." "The mind of the flesh" is often referenced in discussing man's inability to respond to God without prevenient grace quickening the sinner unto life.

For the benefit of sharing my own discovery with the brothers here on the forum, I offer the following thoughts for our consideration and possible discussion.

Here is the passage from Romans 8:
For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, nor indeed can be. 8 So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

What is "the mind of the flesh" or "to be carnally minded"?
Paul uses the Greek word φρόνημα (Strong's 5427) which scholars translated as "mind". This word φρόνημα has a fascinating use throughout the Greek Septuagint, particularly prevalent in the book of Proverbs. As I searched out the uses, and meaning of this particular word, I began to understand why Paul chose it in Romans, and possibly what he intended to be understood by its use.

Here is the basic information on φρόνημα from Bible Hub
Cognate: 5427 phrónēma (a neuter noun) – properly visceral opinion (the innermost, personal level of opinion); inner perspective as it determines (regulating) outward behavior, especially as it bears on the outward results (i.e. of exercising personal insight). Note the suffix, -ma, pointing to the result of the verbal idea. See 5429 (phronimos).

5427 /phrónēma ("the results of gut-insight") connects how the individual processes opinion-making to how they act.

The corresponding verb is given this treatment:
5426 phronéō (from 5424 /phrḗn, "the midriff or diaphragm; the parts around the heart," J. Thayer) – properly, regulate (moderate) from within, as inner-perspective (insight) shows itself in corresponding, outward behavior. 5426 (phronéō) essentially equates to personal opinion fleshing itself out in action (see J. Thayer). This idea is difficult to translate into English because it combines the visceral and cognitive aspects of thinking.

The adjectival use is also classified
Cognate: 5429 phrónimos (an adjective, derived from 5424 /phrḗn, "personal perspective regulating outward behavior," and the root of the English term "diaphragm" which controls key body functions from the inside out) – properly, "how we size things up," reflecting our personal ("visceral") opinions, i.e. what we consider "savvy" (smart). This always roots to our personal perspective ("inner outlook") which regulates our definition of being "shrewd," i.e. reflects personal mind-set (insight).

Having reflected upon how to boil this down to a concise expression, I currently use the term "mind frame" or "frame of mind". A "mind frame has been developed over time by the individual into his or her own personal "mind set." It is like their own mental IOS that they have developed through interaction with information, picking and choosing what to accept, what to reject, and how it all works in their own developed mental system.

Thus the "mind of the flesh" is that "mind frame" that a sinner has personally developed through his or her multiple encounters with truth and knowledge in general. It is not so much that they have been born with their mind frame, no, they have developed the way they have come to think over countless opportunities to consider wisdom and knowledge and decide what they are to do with it.

This idea of φρόνημα becomes apparent in the way it is used throughout Proverbs. The "fool" in proverbs is ἄφρων, the "a" is the negative alpha prefix added to φρων to identify an individual as being "non"-prudent or non-phronimos.

Chapter 1 identifies the ἄφρων (fool) this way:
"The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
But fools despise wisdom and instruction"
Solomon was asserting that at the root of the fool's condition is the disdain of wisdom and correction.
"We know that as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he."
A person who disdains wisdom will disregard what he hears and consequently develop a way of thinking void of wisdom's instructions.

Wisdom calls out to all who are simple to leave their simple ways and live. She pleads with them to listen to her, for she has worthy things to say. She promises that all who embrace her will love life. Wisdom built her house, hewn with seven pillars, she prepared her feasts and sent out her maids to everyone, everywhere, inviting all who are simple to feast at her house and be filled with her riches. She is willing to make everyone wise.

Interesting that "wise" is the Greek word "sophia". It is where we get the English word sophisticated. A sophisticated person is one who has large stores of wisdom in their mental framework.

It is this wisdom σοφία who calls out to the "innocent"- yes the Greek word is άκακοι

172 ákakos (an adjective, derived from 1 /A "not" and 2556 /kakós, "malignant") – properly, not harmful, describing someone innocent, down to their very intentions (motives), i.e. a person without any desire to hurt (harm).

Does "wisdom" consider men "innocent"? YES. Over and over again this word is used in Proverbs. Wisdom calls out to the innocent to run to her for safety and she will save them from the ways of crooked and ungodly men, who have left the straight ways to walk in crooked paths.

But the "fool" - the "non-phronimos" individual has disdained the instruction wisdom is offering and even the correction she attempts to bring. The fool's mindframe is developed without wisdom's words and knowledge and instead is personally developed using their own thoughts and ideas.

In Proverbs 10:23, this verse reveals that it is wisdom that generates or gives birth to "phronimos" a (sound mind. Here is the verse - "a fool (ἄφρων) commits evil with laughter, but wisdom "Sophia" gives birth phronimos (a sound mind) to a man." The man with a sound mind is a man who has heard, considered, taken heed, stored up, guarded and remembered the instruction and correction wisdom continually offers. His "mind frame" is filled with wisdom's knowledge. He has a "sound mind", a mental framework developed through hearing, embracing and guarding the information wisdom has taught him.

This study has influenced my consideration of Paul's use of "the mind of the flesh" in Romans 8. Here are my own thoughts for you to consider and test. A person who has consistently disregarded wisdom's continual pleading, and has developed their own personal way of thinking void of wisdom's counsel, creates a mental framework hostile to God. The mind of the flesh is a thought process based upon fulfilling lusts and personal satisfaction. It is a way of thinking built to justify itself against the instruction and correction wisdom has continually offered through life.

Paul is correct when he asserts that a person with that current mind frame does not, and can not submit to God. Such a person's mind will not convict themselves of sin, righteousness or judgment. It takes the active work of the Spirit of God to produce such conviction over the mind fame that the individual is operating by. Such a person has disdained wisdom for years in favor of personal satisfaction and justification for personal pursuit.

The description of sinners given by Paul in Romans 3 is an overview or summary of men's character from God's observation. The condition described is most certainly affected by "indwelling sin" with which everyone is born, but the fruition of a life given over to sin has resulted from thousands upon thousands of conscious decisions to reject what the heavens are declaring and wisdom has been declaring continually.

Allow me to say, that I am NOT attempting to change the position of any Calvinist. I am simply trying to explain how I view some of the same passages with a different perspective. "Total depravity" is both an inherited and a personal condition caused by thousands and thousands of decisions to ignore wisdom, disdain her counsel and reject her attempt to correct.

mak








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Alan and Dina Martin

 2018/11/29 11:25Profile
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 Re: Is the problem "unwillingness" or "inability" ?

Thanks for all the work it took to set forth that understanding and the support behind it. One question.

You address the issue of the darkened mind which becomes more and more so over time by active sin. That I agree with totally. Do you make a distinction between the thinking of the natural mind that is hardened as a consequence of sinful choices and the desires/passions of the flesh and its members that I think Scripture says control that mind? That is, Romans 1 says men suppress the truth because of evil desire. The mind blinds itself to the truth (believes the lie) so that it can continue in its sinful desires. That's why Jesus would say that the darkened mind will not come to the truth. Do you read Romans 1 and John 3 that way?


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Robert

 2018/11/29 11:54Profile
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 Re: Is the problem "unwillingness" or "inability" ?

Brother Mak,

Firstly I wanna say I truly enjoy your contributions here and have benefited from them immensely as well as your demeanor:)
Also it’s not intended to derail your thread, however I have a totally different understanding of Paul’s passage (R8) -

In my understanding, there are two very simple and consistent options throughout scripture. First there is the “flesh” or to be mindful of such, and this is constantly being contrasted with the second-the “spirit” or being mindful of such-
It ALL comes down to fellowship,... we are encouraged/admonished to respond to God in faith and warned/rebuked not to react or plan in our flesh.
Calvinist and Arminians will always debate the finer points of doctrine and theology but this is no different than Pharisee’s & Sadducee’s .... it’s nothing more than an exercise of the flesh as is demonstrated by its ends- which more often than not clearly reflect the “works of the flesh”; envy, strife, contentions and the like-
If we are reacting to any situation in our flesh, even when we’re right- we’re wrong....
for anyone who has not yet been reborn of the spirit, that is the only option “knowledge of good/evil” but there is no life in this no matter which path they take.
However for one who is born of the spirit, let them walk in the spirit (fellowship with God) and if we walk in the spirit let us keep step with the spirit (staying current in our fellowship with God).
We see on several occasions where Jesus was tempted to react in His flesh but gave pause, retreating into fellowship with the Father, only responding from that place:)))


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Fletcher

 2018/11/29 11:55Profile
makrothumia
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Joined: 2005/5/19
Posts: 564
Texas

 Re:

Great Question.

I believe through "yielding unto sin" the natural mind becomes more and more corrupted. The more the natural mind yields to sin's influence the darker and darker it becomes.

Paul's description of the way the Gentiles live in Ephesians 4 describes this progression.

I hope that helps.

mak


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Alan and Dina Martin

 2018/11/29 12:20Profile
makrothumia
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 Re:

Amen brother Fletcher,

I am hoping to build fellowship among brothers who hold different doctrinal perspectives.

I refuse to see brothers as either "Calvinist" or "Arminians", we are not to call "men" our spiritual fathers. I choose to see only brothers in Christ and I am grieved when discussions become hostile and combative because we have come to view someone as an "enemy".

The early church made it through a tremendous test caused by devout and sincere Jews insisting upon their own understanding. I give praise to God that He was able to guide those early saints to preserve the work that God had begun among them. May we all receive that same help to recognize the difference between a differing opinion and a damnable heresy.

mak


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Alan and Dina Martin

 2018/11/29 12:28Profile
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 Re:

The reason I asked the question is because total depravity is a depravity of the total man. His mind (thinking), his will and his desires. Most people don’t know that. So, according to this position, the desires have to be changed so that the mind and will can be changed. Desire is at the root of choices. Do I desire God or self? If God, I turn. If self I don’t. Thus the change of the heart is the genesis of a change of mind. Good tree good fruit. Bad tree. Bad fruit. Good soil, bad soil. The desires of the flesh wage war with the desires of the Spirit even in the new man.

Brother Fletcher. Fellowship of the Spirit and true love of the brethren is so very iimportant. Agreed. Discussing God’s work in salvation and man’s true need is more to me than a finer distinction. The NT and the OT are full of so many Scriptures where God addresses these issues. God’s grace is the central point of creation itself.


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Robert

 2018/11/29 12:40Profile
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 Re:

Brother Robert,
Agreed:)
And why did God create us to begin with...?
In my understanding it was because He wanted offspring to fellowship with-
When Adam sinned EVERYTHING fell with him because it had all been placed under his care/dominion, and fellowship with God was broken. But... God was busy in Christ reconciling the world/kosmos unto Himself:)))
Again in my understanding, Jesus is the exclusive way/means by which creation itself has fellowship with the Father. It is as if a failsafe in that all things are created by,for,in etc... Christ and nothing that was created is outside Him. He is our fellowship... hence no one can come to the Father except through me, for I am the door- and other quotes also follow this narrative. If we abide in Him, (abide in fellowship) we will bear fruit. As slaves if we, as Paul says, obey the flesh we will die- full stop. So in other words who is our fellowship with?
I remember once a visiting Pastor stopped preaching mid sermon, as if to receive inspiration pausing briefly to confirm its origins, he looked up and spoke with a totally different demeanor, one of authority, and said “Jesus is the only thing that ever really happened” this befuddled me in no small measure and I’ve meditated on it for years as there’s allot of meat on that bone;). One day it occurred to me how true that statement was as nothing outside of Christ will last but everything in Him is eternally preserved:)))


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Fletcher

 2018/11/29 14:37Profile
makrothumia
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 Re:

Those who have read the Proverbs will recognize that God's wisdom is personified as a woman calling out to the sons of men. A truth that can be deduced from her perspective is that she calls certain men "innocent" or "guileless" in contrast with other men whom she describes as "ungodly" and "insolent".

The significance of this distinction should not be overlooked, especially considering that the Greek word in the LXX (Septuagint) is "akakia". Kakos is translated as "bad" or "evil" throughout the word of God. Therefore "a" + "Kakos" means "not" evil or "not" having guile.

Here are a list of scriptures where this word is used in the LXX - (Septuagint).
Proverbs 1:4
Proverbs 1:22
Proverbs 2:20
Proverbs 8:5
Proverbs 13:6
Proverbs 14:15
Proverbs 15:10
Proverbs 21:11
Jeremiah 11;19
Romans 16:18
Hebrews 7:26

We know that such distinctions contrasting the righteous and the wicked proliferate the biblical record.

Not all sins are counted equal and the reparation for certain sins is far more serious than for others. The "sins of ignorance" were all atoneable on the day of atonement through fasting and confession. Sins of presumption were non-atoneable, but called for the death penalty when the testimony was established by two or three witnesses.

The generation under twenty years old which were present when God swore an oath in His anger that no one 20 years or older would ever step foot into the Promise Land, were not held to the same degree of accountability as their older relatives.


God's judgment is based upon an "accountability" factor. To whom much is given, much is required. The servant who does not know his master's will and does not do it, shall be beaten with few blows. The servant who knows his master's will and does not do it shall receive many blows.

Teachers will be judged more strictly than non teachers.


"It would have been better not to have known the way of righteousness than after having known to turn their back on the sacred commandment.


There is a sin unto death and there is a sin not unto death. If we see a brother commit a sin not unto death, we are to pray and God will give him or her life. We are not told to pray for those whose sin is unto death.


Jeremiah and Ezekiel were told not to pray for the generation that they had prophesied to. Ezekiel was told that even if Noah, Daniel and Job were to pray, they would only save themselves by their righteousness.


Having carefully considered this distinction between "sins of ignorance" and "sins of presumption", sins unto death and sins not unto death, it becomes apparent that God Himself makes these distinctions. Men such as Cornelius are not viewed by God in the same light as the teachers of the law in the days of our Lord.

In Paul's introduction of the gospel in Romans 1, he introduces the good news in the setting of God's wrath being currently revealed from heaven against the ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. He then carefully lays out the degenerative process whereby the minds of men become reprobate. "Because they did not think it worthwhile to retain God in their full knowledge, God gave them over to a disapproved mind."

These men "knew God, but they neither glorified Him as God or gave thanks to Him, but their thinking BECAME FUTILE and their foolish hearts "WERE DARKENED." This is just what wisdom preached to the "innocent", calling for them to leave their simple ways and live.

Paul concludes his treatise on men's accountability with an amazing distinction that contrast the actions of certain men against the actions of others.

He wrote "to those who by perseverance of good work seek glory, honor and incorruption, eternal life, but to those who are contentious, unpersuaded by the truth, but persuaded by unrighteousness, rage and wrath."

If Paul saw the importance of emphasizing such distinctions and exhorting men to pursue righteousness, then we would do well to heed his exhortation and follow his example.

God does not see all men the same. Every other man on earth may have been wicked continually, but God did not see Noah like He saw other men. God even mentioned Job to Satan as one who stood out among the people of his time.

Perhaps men themselves have a hand in determining these distinctions. Noah's great grandfather was Enoch, and Enoch's son Methuselah likely related the messages that Enoch preached to the ungodly men of his day. Can you imagine Noah sitting at the feet of his grandpa, hearing about the life of Enoch? Does God use godly parents to influence and direct the hearts of some men to live differently than others.

Whatever our view is of total depravity, it must not be allowed to blur the distinctions God Himself makes throughout the record of scripture He has left us.

mak

allow me to add that the attitude of the "fool" whose state is caused by his disdain of wisdom and correction, is summed up in the word "lawlessness". Lawlessness is an attitude of defiance, disregarding the law of God. Lawlessness is not error, it is sin. Lawlessness is a conscious rejection of the law of God. Israel is called "lawless" more than any other people in scripture. Why, they are the ones who had received the Law and thrust it away from them.


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Alan and Dina Martin

 2018/11/29 18:53Profile
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 Re:

Thanks Brother Alan,

I'll give that treatment of Romans 1 some thought. Your understanding or application of Romans 1 is different than most I've read. Romans 1 seems on its face to address the sins of Gentiles generally and then in Romans 2 Paul seems on the face of it intending to then sweep the Jews into the same sinfulness in an effort to include "all men" under judgement and thus to conclude in Romans 3 that all men are accountable to God and that all men are without excuse. Your exclusion of the ignorant foolish would leave one large party out of the treatment of sinfulness or at least unaddressed in God's salvific plan . It seems that your limitation on Romans 1 to the wicked foolish runs counter to the overall flow of Paul sweeping all mankind under God's just condemnation thus ushering in God's salvation in Romans 4. Maybe you could if you are interested address that objection or counter point.


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Robert

 2018/11/29 19:43Profile
makrothumia
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 Re:

Thanks Robert,

Here is one reason I see the Jews in Romans chapter 1 and not merely Gentiles. Jeremiah said that "No other nation had exchanged their god for a different god."

Only the Jews had a true covenant with the glory of God and they were the only nation who exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for idols made in the image of corruptible man. They did this knowing having received the Ten Commandments directly from God Himself.

I hope that helps.

mak

I forgot to mention that the Jews are the most likely ones to be identified as having known God because God made Himself known to them.


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Alan and Dina Martin

 2018/11/29 20:21Profile





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