Antiques and Our Heritage (2) – The Sense of Sin

Two weeks ago we began to quote from a selection by John J.Timmerman, former English professor at Calvin College, found in a collection of his writings titled Markings on a Long Journey (Baker, 1982). It is an article he originally wrote for The Banner in September of 1972, and includes his thoughts on some things “old, precious, and beautiful” in the Reformed tradition.

The first one was the “antithesis”; the second one ties in well with our previous post today. Timmerman calls this “antique”, “the sense of sin and human limitation”. Here are his thoughts:

Markings on long journey-TimmermanSin is almost an obsolete word in our culture. We have criminals and lawbreakers, people have guilty feelings, often considered unjustified, but what newspaper would accuse the would-be assassin of Wallace as a sinner? The word would sound medieval. The exuberant religious movements don’t talk much about guilt. Sin as transgression of God’s law, as a cause of corruption, alienation, and human tragedy has a very limited circulation.

In the face of the most massive evidence of human greed and callousness, man seems to view sin as a myth. There is little talk about the endless, thorny battle with sin in our ordinary lives, little feeling of the enormous distance between the ethics of the Sermon on the Mount and our daily existence. I remember vividly the almost monotonous prayers to keep us from sinning in thought, word, and deed; prayers, however, that rose from hard and inescapable experience. I am not stressing the morbid preoccupation with sin that… approaches sickness of soul and exhibits ingratitude to our Lord’s redeeming power, but I am stressing the importance of a realistic and honest appraisal of the dark side of our daily lives and measureless need of daily forgiveness and daily repentance. Indeed Jesus has saved us once and for all, but He also saves us everyday. Nobody wears robes of stainless white this side of Jordan (p.157).

The Biggest Heresy In America | HeadHeartHand Blog

The Biggest Heresy In America | HeadHeartHand Blog.

David Murray (Puritan Reformed Seminary) comments (posted Nov.5, 2014) on a recent survey taken by Ligonier Ministries revealing what is “the biggest heresy in America” – one hardly surprising in the sea of heresies that envelope our society. What I appreciated about Murray’s response is the thoroughly biblical – and Reformed! – teaching concerning man’s depravity and inability.

Here is a part of what the survey found, along with a part of Murray’s summary of the Bible’s teaching on sin. Find the full post at the “HeadHeartHand” link above.

Thanks to a recent survey by Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research we now know the biggest heresy in America. Pushing errors regarding the trinity and the church into second and third place is the denial of the Bible’s teaching about the doctrine of sin, especially in the related areas of human depravity and human inability. I say “related” because what we believe about human depravity impacts what we believe about human ability; what we are determines what we can or cannot do.

Regarding human depravity, the research showed:

  • 67% agree “Everyone sins at least a little, but most people are by nature good.”
  • 40% agree “God loves me because of the good I do or have done.”

…But now, let’s turn from our culture and from the polls to the Word of God, to hear what God says about human depravity and human inability. As we will see, the Bible teaches that because of human depravity we have human inability. Here’s what the Bible teaches about our natural spiritual condition and abilities. Notice the repeated emphasis on what we cannot do.

1. You cannot think a good thought or desire a good desire: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).

2. You cannot bring anything clean out of your own heart or life: “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? No one!” (Job 14:4).