James is Back...Dropping Anthropology Bombs!

Okay. That was an unplanned, obviously well-earned sabbatical.

Where were we?


Right. So, this isn’t the cool kind of anthropology where you trapes around the world seeking hidden treasures and chasing Nazis. It’s not even that boring kind where you slowly dust the planet looking for pottery. No, this where we discuss the “Doctrine of Man.” And, don’t worry, we’ll be using “man” in the sense of all humans, so, ladies, you’re not off the hook.

What do we mean by the “Doctrine of Man?” Although this is a broad topic, when speaking theologically, we primarily want to examine our relationship with God...cough...sin..cough cough. And in order to do that we need to speak in the universal language of love, Latin. Here, we’ll look at our relationship with sin: posse peccare et non posse peccare; non posse non peccare; posse non peccare; non posse peccare(well, maybe not the universallanguage of love). This is what Augustine of Hippo called the Four-fold State of Humanity (Correction and Grace XXXIII).

The original state, posse peccare et  posse non peccare, which means “the ability to sin and the ability to not sin,” really only applied to Adam and Eve (and, in a way, Jesus but we’ll save that for Christology). They were innocent, and their relationship with God was unfettered; they walked with him in the Garden in the cool of the day. But, it was also (obviously) a tenuous situation and by rebelling, they plunged humanity into the second state.

Non posse non peccare. Following the Fall, we lost the ability to “not sin.” The genealogies of Genesis, the lives of the patriarchs, and the history of Israel all attest to the fact that “the heart of man is desperately sick, who can understand it” (Jer 17:9). We are “not able to not sin.” The loss here is tremendous. Not only did we lose communion with God as a friend, but all are good deeds tainted and are nothing more than menstrual rags (Isa 64:6). We are severed from God not just by our actions, but by our very nature, which is why we need a savior.

In Christ, we become posse non peccareor “the ability to not sin.” I know, it may seem like we are in a state like Adam and Eve...but...not....quite. While they were innocent, we are not, and we struggle against the flesh. Paul puts it this way:

“For I do not understand what I am doing, because I do not practice what I want to do, but I do what I hate.Now if I do what I do not want to do, I agree with the law that it is good.  So now I am no longer the one doing it, but it is sin living in me.For I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my flesh. For the desire to do what is good is with me, but there is no ability to do it.For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do.Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one that does it, but it is the sin that lives in me.” - Romans 7:15f

There is so much to unpack here it’s worth a sermon series of its own, let’s suffice it to say that even for an apostle, sin lingers and it is something we deal with for the duration of our earthly sojourn...but not longer than it.

The final state, the glorified state, the endgame is non posse peccare. Even if your Latin is rusty, your soul should sigh in relief. This final state of humanity, one where we dwell with God, in incorruptible bodies, free from sin, free to walk with God in the cool of the day is “the inability to sin.” Admittedly that’s clunky English. Let’s put it this way, at the end of all things we will not be able to sin. Just writing those words lifts a burden. Can you imagine? No guilt. No shame. Just peace and rest and your Savior forever.

There’s so much more, but I’m sure I've exceeded my word count. Next time, we’ll delve into Hamartiology, the Doctrine of Sin. Boo, hiss. I know, but we have to pass through that valley to get to the Doctrine of Christ.

Until then, soli Deo gloria.

Grace and Peace Out.

Chuck Ryor