The image of God in fallen human beings part 4: Understanding The natural and Supernatural

                      Knowledge in the mind and Holiness in the will

                                                  

Google Blog community complained about this blog and it was taken down and then reinstated it.  I haven’t been told why apart from some infringement.  I have changed the photos and will republish it.   Next time I hope they have the courtesy to explain to me before reacting.  If this becomes a regular thing then I may move my blog away from Google.

In this section we will here the words natural and supernatural.  Perhaps your understanding of supernatural has come from the comic books.  Science fiction has given us some great stories to read.  It is great when Superman, Spider man or the Flash are able to stop the super villains but remember this is only fiction.  Even if it is great to read and gives us a buzz it is only fiction.  When we look at Bavinck, we will have a better understanding of natural and supernatural and it is only God that can do this lovely stuff.

 

This section is interesting because his definition on natural and supernatural here is very important.  As he says on page 152 that good works must proceed from a true faith (page 152).  He then quotes the Heidelberg Catechism. 

Then, what is true faith?

By way of diversion…

I’m actually going through the book of Ruth.  The interesting thing is that I would say that Naomi and Ruth are true examples of faith.  So, if you’re interested in what true faith looks like then after you have finished this blog or even before go and have a read at;

https://weaver1hasonline.international/

Why Naomi and Ruth?

As King David’s and Christ’s ancestors we can learn some serious stuff from them.  Don’t look down on the short story because it is short.  God can teach us a lot about true faith here.

Going back on track with Bavinck…

“Spiritual good is what spiritual perform, worked in them and through them by the Holy Spirit”: This good according to Bavinck is supernatural because it is by the Holy Spirit.  The goods the natural man has are other goals but not this one.  We have looked at the natural man earlier and we discovered that his main goal is the ‘I’.

Bavinck goes on to say that the image of God is total conformity to the True. We have read enough to realize that the true is an impossibility for the natural man even without the 10 Commandments. Are there only 10? We cannot in the natural fallen state even fulfil these.  Remember that the Torah there are hundreds of laws, but the fact is, we cannot even keep ten perfectly. 

 

Then on page 153 of his ethics Bavinck starts to get serious and shows us lots of proof texts.  We can look at these now.

7 I will give them a heart to know Me, for I am the LORD; and they will be My people, and I will be their God, for they will return to Me with their whole heart. Jeremiah 24:7

 

33 “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Jeremiah 31:33

 

25  At that time Jesus said, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Matthew 11:25

 

11  Jesus answered them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted. Matthew 13:11

 

3 Jesus answered and said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3

 

14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. Acts 16:14

 

27  FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL,
AND WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR,
AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES;
OTHERWISE THEY MIGHT SEE WITH THEIR EYES,
AND HEAR WITH THEIR EARS,
AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN,
AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.”’
28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will also listen.” Acts 28:27-28

 

Interesting verses that point to the fact that when God moves by the Holy Spirit in the natural man, he will get a brand-new heart (the focus moves from the self-back to God!).  We plainly see this working in Lydia as “the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul”.  In the Christian tradition God is always active and working in the lives of his people.  In the story of Ruth as well in one verse Naomi doesn’t understand why but she says something like “God caused this situation to happen and”.  We do not need to be Superman, Spider man, the Hulk or the Flash to move from the natural to the supernatural.  With God it is completely normal to take us into His dimension and into the perfect relationship.

Then, the question has to be begged; Why is it impossible for the natural fallen nature of Man to make it into eternity and back into a relationship with God?

Bavinck continues with another set of proof texts that shows us the reason.

 

 

The Natural Man:

11 THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD; Romans 3:11

 

The natural man is hostile to God

7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, Romans 8:7

 

From the point of view of the natural man it is Seen as foolishness:

The Wisdom of God
18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19For it is written,
“I WILL DESTROY THE WISDOM OF THE WISE,
AND THE CLEVERNESS OF THE CLEVER I WILL SET ASIDE.”
20  Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe. 22 For indeed Jews ask for signs and Greeks search for wisdom; 23 but we preach  Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

 

The natural man lacks spiritual understanding

7 but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God predestined before the ages to our glory; 8the wisdom which none of the rulers of this age has understood; for if they had understood it they would not have crucified the Lord of glory; 9 but just as it is written,
“THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD,
AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN,
ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM.”
10   For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, 13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. 1 Corinthians 2:7-13

 

There are some more proof texts, but I think you get the idea.  Having completed his section on the proof texts he sums up on page 154.

 

“The ability to do the good, the supernatural, God-pleasing, eternal-life deserving good, is totally lost. Indeed, even the believer accomplishes not

a single perfectly good work. But the believer’s good work can be good in

principle, because it derives from the Holy Spirit, from faith, and it takes

God’s law as its standard, and it aims at God’s honour. Then whatever is still

lacking is atoned for by Christ and supplemented by him. The fact remains,

however, that the spiritual good remains lost.”

Reflection

Having looked at “Knowledge in the mind and Holiness in the will” we have come to recognize that goodness only comes from God.  God’s saving power comes from God, God’s saving power comes from the Holy Spirit and not from fallen man.  This has caused theologians over the centuries to battle out the doctrine of election.  For some Calvin’s double predestination is a driving force of people going to heaven and hell.  I have to say I think Calvin is very sharp, but I don’t think he intended it to be this way.  Karl Barth saw this, and he emphasised ‘in Christ’ but for some this over emphasis can lead some to think that Karl Barth is on his way to universalism.  I think the truth is that it does not matter!  Pelagius was wrong because it gave God’s sovereignty to man.  I am looking forward to reading Bavinck’s ideas on election.   Here however in his ethics God is Sovereign and that is the way it should be. 

Prayer

Perhaps as a Christian we may have gone astray like the prodigal son.

O Lord I pray that by your Holy Spirit you will put us on the same road as Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will work in our intellect and wills to bring us into the great salvation that you created.

Help us to show mercy as you showed mercy.

Help us to show love as you show love.

Help us to see with the eye of faith like Lydia.

Amen

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