"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO THE CORINTHIANS" True Repentance (7:9-11) by Mark Copeland


                        True Repentance (7:9-11)


1. A prominent theme in the preaching of the Gospel is the call to 
   a. Jesus wanted it to be preached in His name to all nations 
      - Lk 24:46-47
   b. Peter proclaimed the call to repent in his first two sermons 
      - Ac 2:36-38; 3:19
   c. Paul spoke of repentance to philosophers and kings - Ac 17:30-31;

2. However, the call to repentance is often neglected in modern day 
   a. By some who preach "faith only"
   b. By some who in reaction stress "baptism"

3. One cannot truly preach the gospel of Christ without the call to 
   repent; and yet...
   a. What is repentance?
   b. How is it produced?
   c. What are some indications that repentance has occurred?

[Perhaps the most elaborate discussion on repentance is found in 2Co 
7:9-11, which serves as the text for this lesson entitled "True 
Repentance".  Let's begin by...]


      1. That repentance is "sorrow"
         a. 2Co 7:9-10 shows that repentance is an OUTCOME of sorrow
         b. Sorrow leads to repentance; sorrow itself is not repentance
      2. That repentance is "a changed life"
         a. Some understand that repentance is a converted life
         b. But Ac 3:19 reveals that repentance and conversion are two
            separate things
            1) Peter says "Repent therefore and be converted"
            2) If repentance is the same as conversion, then Peter is 
               being redundant
         c. As we shall see, the order is actually this:
            1) First, sorrow
            2) Then, repentance
            3) Finally, a changed life

      1. W. E. Vine's definition ...
         a. "change of mind"
         b. "involves both a turning from sin and a turning to God"
      2. So think of repentance as simply "a change of mind" in which 
         we DECIDE to "turn from sin and turn to God"
         a. Which is PRECEDED by sorrow
         b. And is FOLLOWED by a changed life

[Repentance is therefore a decision of the mind in which one decides to
change their life;  but what prompts one to make such decision?]


      1. This we glean from our text (2Co 7:9-10); but note carefully:
         a. It is not simply "sorrow", but sorrow that is "godly"
         b. For there is a sorrow that is "of the world"
      2. Note the difference between "godly sorrow" and "worldly 
         a. "Worldly sorrow" is a SELFISH kind of sorrow
            1) E.g., when one is sorry because HE got caught
            2) E.g., when one is sorry because what one did made HIM 
               look bad
            -- In "worldly sorrow", one is more concerned about SELF!
         b. "Godly sorrow" is sorrow directed toward GOD ("godly" is
            lit. "according to God")
            1) I.e., one is sorry because their actions are sins 
               against a Holy God -cf. Ps 51:4
            2) Also, one is sorry for the price GOD must pay to have 
               our sins removed
            -- In "godly sorrow", one is more concerned with GOD than
      3. Some more differences...
         a. "Worldly sorrow" produces regret; "godly sorrow" suffers
            loss in nothing
         b. "Worldly sorrow" produces death; "godly sorrow" produces
            repentance to salvation

   [If "godly sorrow" leads to repentance, how best to produce this
   "godly sorrow" in others?]

      1. Nathan's rebuke to David in 2Sa 12:7-12 provides some 
         a. He made an appeal to God's love (7-8)
         b. He revealed the sin (9)
         c. He warned of the consequences (10-12)
      2. The Gospel of Christ, when properly taught, is designed to so
         produce "godly sorrow", and in turn, repentance...
         a. It appeals to God's love as a basis for repentance - Ro 2:4
         b. It reveals our sin - Ro 3:23
         c. It warns of the consequences - Ro 2:5-11
      3. Our best hope for producing repentance in others that leads to
         salvation is proclaim the gospel in its entirety
         a. Not just the "commands" (believe, repent, be baptized)
         b. Nor just the "promises" (remission of sins, eternal life,
            gift of the Holy Spirit)
         b. But also the "facts" (man's sin, God's love, the coming

[If people are not responding to the "commands" of the gospel, perhaps
we need to consider whether we are providing proper emphasis to the 
"facts" of the gospel.  Finally, consider the...]


      1. "diligence" (KJV, carefulness)
         a. This can be defined as "earnestness, zeal, sometimes with
            haste accompanying it"
         b. I.e., being quick to do what is right!
         c. Examples of conversion in ACTS demonstrate this diligence
            in that every case described in detail shows people obeying
            the gospel after just one lesson!
      2. "clearing of yourselves"
         a. To clear one's self of blame
         b. E.g., quick to stop doing what is wrong, if such is the
         c. E.g., quick to respond to the offer of forgiveness when one
            realizes their guilt
      3. "indignation"
         a. This involves a sort of anger, or moral outrage
         b. I.e., toward the SIN which required the repentance
      4. "fear"
         a. Lest the sin should be repeated
         b. Lest the sin should not be entirely removed
      5. "vehement desire"
         a. I.e., a fervent wish
         b. Especially to be right in God's eyes
      6. "zeal"
         a. This involves an "eagerness and ardent interest in pursuit
            of something"
         b. In this case, to turn from sin and turn to God
      7. "vindication" (KJV, revenge)
         a. As the NIV puts it, "what readiness to see justice done"
         b. I.e., to do the right thing!

      1. Not apathy, not half-hearted service
      2. But a desire to do "works befitting repentance" - Ac 26:20


1. Is this indicative of OUR repentance?
   a. Can we look at our lives and see signs that we have really had "a
      change of mind"?
   b. That we have truly made "a decision to turn from sin and to turn
      to God"?
      1) If we have not yet obeyed the gospel ...we have not repented!
      2) If we have become slack in our service...we are in need of

2. If so, then we are in need of a healthy dose of "godly sorrow", 
   brought about by realizing...
   a. God's love for us
   b. The fact we have all sinned
   c. And the consequences if we do not repent!

May the love of God and the reality of the coming judgment move us all
to "True Repentance"! The blessings for those who do repent are 
wonderful... - cf. Ac 2:38-39; 3:19

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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The Spirit and Letter of the Law by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Spirit and Letter of the Law

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

All erroneous systems of belief share in common the fact that several “props” are necessary to support them. The fact that the belief system is false, necessarily implies that one or more of the props are false. But the mere presence of an array of props gives the appearance and the impression that the belief system has much “evidence” to support it. One of the props that is marshaled to support the concept known as “situationism” is the notion that a legitimate distinction may be made between the “letter of the law” and the “spirit of the law.” It is argued that sometimes it is necessary, even mandatory, to violate the “letter of the law” in order to act in harmony with the “spirit of the law.” According to this line of thinking, those who insist that obedience to God’s law always is required—without exception—are “hung up on the letter of the law” instead of being led by the “spirit of the law.”
Of course, this kind of thinking naturally breeds and nurtures a relaxed attitude toward obedience. It militates against a desire to be precise and careful in conformity to Bible teaching. One individual explained how his feelings of devotion to Jesus made him feel that as long as he maintained a close sense of nearness to Him, he did not have to fret over “nitpicky” concerns, like whether he was staying within the speed limit when he drove his car. Another person avowed that she did not “sweat the small stuff,” since she was living her life in recognition of God’s grace, and felt certain that Jesus would “cut her some slack.” The “small stuff ” to which she referred included such things as whether God would approve of unscriptural divorce and remarriage, whether God would accept instrumental music in worship to Him, and whether one church was as good as another.


The primary passage in the New Testament that is marshaled in an effort to support the “spirit vs. letter” antithesis is Paul’s remarks to the church of Christ in Corinth. The reader is urged to pause and read the third chapter of second Corinthians before reading the analysis that follows. Two phrases typically are excised from the context and used as proof-texts to support a notion contrary to the chapter: “not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (vs. 6), and “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (vs. 17). These phrases are set forth as proof that Christians ought not to be too meticulous in conforming strictly to New Testament directives. Those who take such a position assume that “letter” refers to the commands of God—the written statements of Scripture that specify and regulate human behavior. They also assume that “spirit” refers to one’s attitude or feelings. Hence, if the individual feels devoted, concerned, and sincere, he or she is deemed in line with “the spirit of the law.” On the other hand, the individual who appears inflexible and rigid, or overly concerned with strict obedience, is perceived to lack “compassion” and “sensitivity,” and too concerned with “the letter of the law.”
Incredibly, if one would take the time to study God’s Word and refrain from mishandling its intended meaning (Acts 17:11; 2 Corinthians 4:2; 1 Timothy 4:13; 2 Timothy 2:15), one would see that neither Paul nor any other inspired writer agreed with such thinking. In a pericope dealing with his apostolic ministry, Paul crafted a beautiful allegory—what D.R. Dungan called “the most perfect antithesis to be found in the whole Bible” (1888, p. 349). By arranging the contrasting phrases of the antithesis into two columns, one is able more easily to grasp Paul’s intended meaning:
Old CovenantNew Covenant
Ministers of the new covenant (vs. 6)
Of the letter (vs. 6)Of the Spirit (vs. 6)
The letter kills (vs. 6)The Spirit gives life (vs. 6)
Ministry of death (vs. 7)Ministry of the Spirit (vs. 8)
Written/engraved on stones (vs. 7)  
Ministry of condemnation (vs. 9)Ministry of righteousness (vs. 9)
Glorious (vss. 7,9)Much more glorious (vss. 8,9)
Passing away (vs. 7)Remains (vs. 11)
Veil on Moses’ face (vs. 13)  Great boldness of speech (vs. 12)
Veil remains in reading O.T. (vs. 14)Veil taken away in Christ (vs. 14)
Veil lies on their heart (vs. 15)Veil taken away when heart turned
to the Lord (vs. 16)
It should be immediately evident to the unbiased observer “that the two legs of the antithesis are the New Covenant in contrast with the Old Covenant” (Dungan, p. 268). Precisely the same meaning is conveyed by the same terminology in Paul’s letter to the Romans (2:29; 7:6). The Old Testament legal system, though an excellent system for what God had in mind (Romans 7:12), was unable to provide ultimate forgiveness for violations of law and, in that sense, “kills.” It took Jesus dying on the cross to make “life” possible (i.e., actual cleansing from sin).
When one recognizes the contextual meaning, it becomes apparent that these verses have absolutely nothing to do with the alleged “spirit vs. letter” contention! In fact, the Bible nowhere postulates such a thing. Like all liberal thinking, one must refrain from thinking too much about it if one does not wish to see the absurdity and nonsensical nature of it. The “spirit vs. letter” contrast is gobbledygook that is “better felt than told.” It makes no sense. On April 3, 1897, J.W. McGarvey responded to just this type of thinking in an article titled, “The Letter That Killeth”:
Just once in the course of his writings Paul makes the declaration that “the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:7); and no remark that he ever made has been applied in a greater number of unlicensed ways. If a man insists upon preserving some ordinance in the very form of its original appointment, such an ordinance as baptism or the Lord’s Supper, for example, he is accused of contending for the letter that killeth, while the man who makes the charge, and who changes the ordinance, claims that he is following the spirit that giveth life. All of that large class of writers who make free with the Scriptures while claiming to reverence their authority, employ this device to excuse their departures from the word of God, while those who remonstrate with them for their license are denounced as literalists, or sticklers for the letter that killeth. In all these instances it seems to be claimed that if you stick close to the ordinance as Christ gave it, you will kill somebody. The last example that attracted my attention was in connection with the number of elders that should be appointed in a church. The writer says: “It has been thought to be a greater evil to have a congregation without a plurality of elders than to have an eldership without the requisite qualifications;” and he adds: “This is to do violence to the spirit of the New Testament in an effort to be loyal to its letter.” But which, in this case, is the letter, and which is the spirit? To have a plurality of elders is certainly the letter of the New Testament; that is, it is the literal requirement; and the literal requirement also is to have elders of prescribed qualifications. Where, then, is the spirit as distinguished from the letter? Echo answers, Where? The writer was so in the habit of using this favorite expression where he wished to justify a departure from Scripture precedent that he evidently applied it in this instance from pure habit and without thought. The watchful reader will have seen many examples of the kind (1910, pp. 160-161).
Indeed, redefining the biblical expressions “spirit of the law” and “letter of the law” enables the situationist to promote his agenda under the cloak of Bible backing.
If one wishes to use the expression “the spirit of the law” to refer to a proper attitude, and “the letter of the law” to refer to compliance with the explicit dictates of Scripture, it certainly is true that a person can distort or disregard “the spirit of the law” while following carefully “the letter of the law.” A person may engage in external, rote compliance without heartfelt, genuine love for God and His will. But it is impossible to represent faithfully “the spirit of the law” (i.e., to have the right attitude) while acting out of harmony with the specific details of the law. When Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands” (John 14:15), He pinpointed the fact that “love” for Him includes “obedience.” It is possible to obey and not love; but it is not possible to love and not obey. One may have good intentions in one’s religious pursuits, but if those religious actions are contrary to God’s specified will, the activity is unacceptable to God. The situationist’s claim that sincerity and feelings of “love” legitimize whatever action “love” takes, is in direct contradiction to Bible teaching.
The fact of the matter is that God always has required that people approach him “in truth”—i.e., according to the divine directives that He revealed to man. The only worship that has ever been acceptable to God has been that worship which has been undertaken with (1) a proper attitude, frame of mind, and disposition conducive to spirituality, and (2) faithfulness to the specific items that God pinpointed as the proper external acts to be performed. Jesus made this fact very clear in His encounter with the Samaritan woman (John 4:23-24). God never has accepted one without the other. He always has required both. He always has required two facets of response to His will: the right action with the right attitude. Notice the following chart of scriptures:
John 4:24spirittruth
Joshua 24:14sinceritytruth
Ecclesiastes 12:13fear Godkeep commands
Acts 10:35fear Himwork righteous
James 2:17faithworks
1 John 3:18word/tonguedeed/truth
Deuteronomy 10:12-13  fear/love—heart  walk/ways
Romans 1:9with my spiritin the gospel
To emphasize one dimension of obedience over the other is to hamper one’s acceptance by God. Bible history is replete with instances of those who possessed one without the other, and thus were unacceptable to God. The Pharisees (Matthew 23:3), Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:2-4), and the people of Amos’ day (Amos 5:21-24) engaged in the external forms, but were unacceptable because of their insincerity. Paul (Acts 22:3; 23:1), Cornelius (Acts 10:1-2), and Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:6) all demonstrated genuine motives, but were unacceptable to God because of their failure to observe the right forms.
Think for a moment of the many people in biblical history who failed to approach God “in truth”—that is, they approached God, but did so without sufficient attention to complying with the details and guidelines that God had articulated. Adam and Eve, regardless of the condition of their attitude, were condemned by God for the external act of eating the forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:17; 3:11). Likewise, Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-3), the Sabbath breaker (Numbers 15:32-36), Moses (Numbers 20:11,12), Achan (Joshua 7), Saul (1 Samuel 13:13,14; 15:19-23), Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:1-7; 1 Chronicles 15:12,13), King Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:16-18), and Ezra’s contemporaries (Ezra 10)—all experienced the displeasure of God for their deviation from divine directions.
God has not changed in His insistence upon man’s loving obedience to His instructions (John 14:15; 15:14; 1 John 5:3). The Old Testament was written, among other reasons, in order for Christians to learn from the example of those who departed from God’s way (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11). New Testament faith, the kind of faith that Christians must possess if they wish to be pleasing and acceptable to God, is obedient trust—trust that conforms to God’s will (Hebrews 11; James 2).
The psalmist understood that God’s truth consisted of God’s written words (cf. Psalm 119:30,43,142,151,160). So did Jesus when He said, “Thy word is truth,” and declared that the basis of judgment would be the words that He spoke (John 17:17; 12:47-48). Worshipping God “in truth” is equivalent to “doing truth,” which entails “deeds” or external actions which are prescribed by God (John 3:19-21; cf. loving “in truth” in 1 John 3:18). When Jesus taught the way of God “in truth” (Matthew 22:16), He related information that accurately represented God’s will. When the Colossians heard “the word of the truth of the gospel” (Colossians 1:5), they heard the specific tenets, doctrines, requirements, and teachings to which they had to conform their lives.
Situationism, antinomianism, and liberalism share in common their mutual aversion to law keeping. Christians must not fall prey to these sinister forces that attempt to soften and obscure the clear call from God to render obedience to His directives. All He seeks from people is conformity to His laws out of hearts full of sincerity, earnestness, and love.


Dungan, D.R. (1888), Hermeneutics (Delight, AR: Gospel Light).
McGarvey, J.W. (1910), Biblical Criticism (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).

The Saga of Ancient Jericho by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


The Saga of Ancient Jericho

by Wayne Jackson, M.A.

After having spent forty hard years in the wilderness of Sinai, the children of Israel were stationed on the eastern bank of the Jordan River, just north of the Dead Sea. The challenge was now before them; they were to take the land of Canaan that Jehovah had promised to Abraham five centuries earlier.
The first obstacle in Israel’s path was the fortress city of Jericho. Joshua sent spies across the Jordan to survey the situation. When the presence of these Hebrews was detected, a Canaanite woman—Rahab the harlot—befriended them. Doubtless she saved their lives, and in turn, the spies promised that she and her family would be spared during the coming invasion (Joshua 2).
Shortly thereafter, Joshua led Israel against Jericho. The procedure for capturing the city was strange indeed, according to military standards. The Hebrews were to encompass the walls of the city once a day for six days, then, seven times on the seventh day. A blast was to be made on the priests’ trumpets, the people were to give a great shout, and the city would be theirs—for God had given it to them (Joshua 6:2,16). When the Hebrew people, by faith, followed this plan, the walls of Jericho fell down. According to divine instructions, the Israelites then destroyed the inhabitants of the city (with the exception of Rahab and her kinsmen), both man and beast. They were charged to confiscate the gold and silver and the vessels of brass and iron for Jehovah’s treasury, but they were prohibited from taking any personal booty. The city then was burned. Finally, a prophetic curse was placed upon any who attempted to refortify Jericho (Joshua 6).
It is important to note at this point that the chronology of the Bible indicates that the Israelite conquest of Canaan took place near 1400 B.C. Upon the basis of archaeological data, we know that Solomon commenced his reign over the united kingdom of Israel about 970 B.C.Additionally, 1 Kings 6:1 states that from the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, back to the time of the Exodus from Egypt, was a period of 480 years. This would suggest that Israel’s departure from Egypt occurred circa 1446/5 B.C.Since the invasion of Canaan commenced about forty years later (after Israel’s sojourn in the wilderness), this would put the conquest of Canaan at approximately 1406/5 B.C.It is important to remember this because liberal scholars, rejecting the chronology of the Bible, date these events 150 to 200 years later!
There are several important elements in this account worthy of consideration.


The historical accuracy of the fall of Jericho has lain under a cloud of doubt in the minds of many for more than three decades. John Garstang, a professor at the University of Liverpool, excavated Jericho between 1930 and 1936. Garstang identified a destruction level at the ancient site that he called City IV. He concluded that this was the occupation level which paralleled the city of Joshua’s day, and that the biblical account was accurate. Jericho had fallen to Israel about 1400 B.C. He wrote: “In a word, in all material details and in date the fall of Jericho took place as described in the Biblical narrative” (1937, p. 1222). For several years, scholars generally accepted Garstang’s conclusions. However, that was to radically change.
From 1952 to 1958, Kathleen Kenyon, of the British School of Archaeology (daughter of famed archaeologist, Sir Frederic Kenyon) supervised an expedition at Jericho. Her work was the most thorough and scientific that had been done at this site. Her team unearthed a significant amount of evidence, but surprisingly, Kenyon’s interpretation of the data was radically different from Garstang’s. She contended that City IV had been destroyed about 1550 B.C. and therefore there was no fortress city for Joshua to conquer around 1400 B.C. She suggested that the archaeological evidence discredited the biblical record! And, not surprisingly, a sizable segment of scholars fell dutifully into line. Whenever there appears to be an apparent conflict between the Bible and other data, there is always a certain group that immediately calls the Scriptures into question. They never have the patience to wait for the more complete picture. Comments like those of Magnusson are typical: “...on a purely literary level, the Book of Joshua reads more like an adventure story than history...there is no archaeological evidence to support it” (1977, p. 96).
One of the most curious elements of this whole matter, however, is the fact that, prior to her death in 1978, Kathleen Kenyon’s opinions regarding Jericho had been published only in a popular book (Kenyon, 1957), in a few scattered articles, and in a series of preliminary field reports. The detailed record of her work was not made available until 1982-83, and an independent analysis of that evidence is bringing to light some startling new conclusions.
The March/April 1990 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review (certainly no “fundamentalist” journal) contains an article titled “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?—A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence,” authored by Bryant G. Wood. Dr. Wood is a visiting professor in the department of Near Eastern studies at the University of Toronto. He has served in responsible supervisory positions on several archaeological digs in Palestine. In this scholarly article, Wood contended: “When we compare the archaeological evidence at Jericho with the Biblical narrative describing the Israelite destruction of Jericho, we find a quite remarkable agreement” (1990, p. 53, emp. added). The professor emphasized several major points of agreement between the archaeological evidence and the record in the book of Joshua. A summary would appear as follows:
  1. The Bible indicates that Jericho was a strongly fortified city. It was surrounded by a “wall,” and access to the fortress could only be obtained through the city “gate” (Joshua 2:5,7,15; 6:5,20). Biblical Archaeology Review notes: “The city’s outer defenses consisted of a stone revetment wall [some 15 feet high] at the base of the tell [hill] that held in place a high, plastered rampart. Above the rampart on top of the tell was [the remnant of] a mudbrick wall [about 8 feet high at one point] which served as Jericho’s city wall proper” (see Wood, 1990, p. 46).
  2. According to the Old Testament, the invasion occurred just following the 14th day of Abib (March/April) (Joshua 5:10), thus in the springtime, or in the harvest season (3:15). Rahab was drying flax upon her roof (2:6). Both Garstang and Kenyon found large quantities of grain stored in the ruins of Jericho’s houses. In a very limited excavation area, Kenyon found six bushels of grain in one digging season—“This,” as Wood commented, “is unique in the annals of Palestinian archaeology” (1990, p. 56).
  3. The biblical record affirms that the conquest was accomplished swiftly in only seven days (6:15). The people of Jericho were confined to the city with no chance to escape (6:1). The abundance of food supplies, as indicated above, confirms this. Had the citizens of Jericho been able to escape, they would have taken food with them. Had the siege been protracted, the food would have been consumed. The Old Testament record is meticulously accurate.
  4. When the Israelites shouted with a great shout on that seventh day, the “wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city” (6:20; cf. Hebrews 11:30). Kenyon’s excavations uncovered, at the base of Jericho’s tell, a pile of red mudbricks which, she said, “probably came from the wall on the summit of the bank” (Kenyon, 1981, p. 110; as quoted in Wood, 1990, p. 54). She described the brick pile as the result of a wall’s “collapse.” Professor Wood stated that the amount of bricks found in the cross-section of Kenyon’s work area would suggest an upper wall 6.5 feet wide and 12 feet high (1990, p. 54).
  5. According to the Scriptures, Jericho was to be a city “devoted” to God, hence, the Hebrews were to confiscate the silver and gold, and the vessels of brass and iron for Jehovah’s treasury. However, they were to take no personal possessions(6:17-19). The archaeological evidence confirms this. As indicated earlier, a considerable amount of grain was found in Jericho. Grain, in biblical times, was exceedingly valuable, being frequently used as a monetary exchange (see 1 Kings 5:11). It therefore is unthinkable, unless by divine design, that the Israelites would have taken Jericho and left the grain intact. The Bible is right!
  6. The Scriptures state that during the destruction of Jericho, the city was set on fire (6:24). When Miss Kenyon dug down into the city, she discovered that the walls and floors of the houses were “blackened or reddened by fire...in most rooms the fallen debris was heavily burnt” (Kenyon, 1981, p. 370; as quoted in Wood, 1990, p. 56).
  7. The Bible indicates that Rahab’s house was built “upon the side of the wall, and she dwelt upon the wall” (2:15). A number of houses were found just inside the revetment wall, which could have abutted the wall [see point (1) above], thus easily accommodating an escape access from the city (Wood, 1990, p. 56). The evidence indicates that this area was the “poor quarter” of the city—just the type of residence that one might expect a harlot to have.
  8. Whereas Kathleen Kenyon contended that Jericho (City IV) had been destroyed about 1550 B.C., and abandoned thereafter, hence, there was no city for Joshua to conquer in 1400 B.C. (according to the biblical chronology), the actual evidence indicates otherwise. A cemetery outside of Jericho “has yielded a continuous series of Egyptian scarabs [small, beetle-shaped amulets, inscribed on the underside, often with the name of a pharaoh] from the 18th through the early-14th centuries B.C.E., contradicting Kenyon’s claim that the city was abandoned after 1550 B.C.E.” (Wood, 1990, p. 53).
Other evidences indicate a harmony with the biblical chronology as well. There is absolutely no reason to contend that the book of Joshua is in error in its description of the conquest of Jericho.


Some have argued that the account of Jericho’s destruction places the Bible in a morally compromising position. It is alleged that Rahab’s lies (Joshua 2:4-5) condone situation ethics, and that the slaughter of the city’s women and children (Joshua 6:21) is reprehensible—a reflection upon a benevolent God. These objections simply are not valid.
First, one should note that the Scriptures do not attempt to conceal Rahab’s falsehood. Her weakness is bluntly revealed. This evinces the impartiality of the divine record and is an indirect suggestion of inspiration. Too, one should understand that this woman was from a pagan environment. Her concept of morality and her personal lifestyle (she was a harlot) needed considerable refining. In spite of her sordid background, she had developed a sincere faith in Israel’s God (see Joshua 2:9ff.). Consequently, when the spies approached her, she was not “disobedient” as were the others of Jericho. She received the spies and sent them out another way. It was by these “works” of faith that she was delivered (Hebrews 11:31; James 2:25). She was not “justified” by lying; rather, she was justified by her faith and her works, in spite of her ignorance and/or weakness. It would be a gross misuse of this narrative to employ it as proof that there are occasions when it is divinely permissible to lie.
We must not pass from this point without noting that the case of Rahab demonstrates the wonderful harmony between faith and works in the divine plan. The writer of Hebrews states that Rahab perished not, as a result of her faith; James declares that she was justified by her works. These two requirements are not mutually exclusive of one another.
Second, while the extermination of an entire population may seem excessively cruel when viewed as an isolated incident, other factors shed light on that situation. Consider the following: (a) The destruction of Canaan’s heathen tribes was justified in view of their utter abandonment of moral restraint. The ancient evidence indicates that they practiced child-sacrifice, religious prostitution, sodomy, etc. A people can reach a state of such deep depravity that the justice of God demands punishment. (b) Their destruction had not been rendered impetuously. Jehovah had been patient with them for more than 500 years; finally, their cup of iniquity ran over and the time for judgment came (see Genesis 15:16). (c) This type of punishment was implemented on a rather limited basis—principally, upon the tribes of Palestine. This was due to the fact that God had chosen Canaan as the place where the Hebrew nation was to be cultivated in view of the coming Messiah, the Savior of the world. It was an example of moral surgery for the benefit of all mankind. (d) Finally, it still is true that these Old Testament narratives illustrate the fact that innocent people (e.g., infants) frequently have to suffer the consequences of evil acts that others generate, due to the kind of world in which we live. This should motivate us to want a better state wherein wickedness does not exist. And so, though such cases as the fall of Jericho may entail some difficulty, the problem is not insurmountable.


Following the destruction of Jericho, Joshua pronounced an imprecation upon the ancient city, saying: “Cursed be the man before Jehovah that riseth up and buildeth this city Jericho: with the loss of his firstborn shall he lay the foundation thereof, and with the loss of his youngest son shall he set up the gates of it” (Joshua 6:26).
Some writers have assumed that this prophecy failed, for not many years after Jericho’s fall, one reads of people living in Jericho (see Joshua 18:21; Judges 3:13; 2 Samuel 10:5). In fact, it is called specifically “the city of Jericho.” And yet, there is no record of the “curse” being fulfilled in those times proximate to Joshua’s invasion.
In response to this charge, several factors need to be noted. First, the prophetic curse did not state that Jericho never was to be inhabited. It does not even indicate that the city never was to be rebuilt. The divine prediction was simply this: The man who attempts to rebuild Jericho, as a fortress city (cf. “set up the gates of it,” 6:26) would be the recipient of the divine curse (see Coslinga, 1986, p. 73).
The fact of the matter is, five and a half centuries later, during the reign of Ahab of Israel, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho as a fortress. And, precisely as Joshua had declared, he lost his oldest son when the foundation was laid, and his youngest son when the gates of the city were set up (see 1 Kings 16:34). The prophecy was fulfilled. There is no discrepancy in the Bible record.


Coslinga, C.J. (1986), Joshua, Judges, Ruth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Garstang, John (1937), “Jericho and the Biblical Story,” Wonders of the Past, ed. J. A. Hammerton (New York: Wise).<
Kenyon, Kathleen (1957), Digging Up Jericho (London: Ernest Benn).
Kenyon, Kathleen (1981), Excavations at Jericho, Vol. 3: The Architecture and Stratigraphy of the Tell, ed. Thomas A. Holland (London: British School of Archaeology).
Magnusson, Magnus (1977), Archaeology of the Bible (New York: Simon & Schuster).
Wood, Bryant G. (1990), “Did the Israelites Conquer Jericho?—A New Look at the Archaeological Evidence,” Biblical Archaeology Review, 16[2]:44-58, March/April.

Originally published in Reason & Revelation, April 1990, 10[4]:17-19.

The Sacredness of Marriage by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


The Sacredness of Marriage

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Since its inception, the United States of America has been a country whose Founding Fathers recognized the need for God in public life, and the need for Bible principles of morality to govern and structure American society. Our Founding Fathers recognized that if our country ever strayed significantly away from these foundational moral, spiritual, and ethical principles, we would be doomed as a nation. For 150 years, our society recognized the importance of what some are calling the “traditional family,” i.e., a husband and a wife who marry for life and rear their children together. Divorce was almost unheard of in this country. When it did occur, it was regarded as deviant behavior. Family disruption in the form of separation, divorce, and out-of-wedlock birth were kept to a minimum by strong religious, social, and even legal sanctions. Immediately after World War II, most American children grew up in a family with both biological parents who were married to each other.
This state of affairs held sway up through the 1940s and 1950s. In fact, disruption of the traditional American family reached a historic low in the 1950s and early 1960s. But then something happened (see Whitehead, 1993). Beginning in about 1965, the divorce rate suddenly skyrocketed, more than doubling over the next fifteen years. By 1974, divorce passed death as the leading cause of family breakup. By 1980, only fifty percent of children could expect to spend their entire childhood with both their parents. Now half of all marriages end in divorce. Every year a million children go through divorce or separation, and almost as many more are born out of wedlock. People who remarry after divorce are more likely to break up than couples in first marriages. The same is true for couples who just live together.
Overall child well-being has declined, despite a decrease in the number of children per family, an increase in the educational level of parents, and historically high levels of public spending. The teen suicide has more than tripled. Juvenile crime has increased and become more violent. School performance has continued to decline. Some sociologists are now recognizing the incredibly harmful effect these circumstances are having on our country and the homes of America. They are beginning to realize the relationship between family structure and declining child well-being. Some are even admitting that the social arrangement that has proved most successful in ensuring the physical survival and promoting the social development of the child is the family unit of the biological mother and father.
But our society as a whole has been slow to see family disruption as a severe national problem. Why? A fundamental shift has occurred in our culture with reference to religious and moral value. Much of our society has jettisoned the Bible as the absolute standard of behavior. The Bible is no longer considered to be the authoritative regulator of daily living. Many, perhaps most, Americans no longer feel that divorce is wrong. “Irreconcilable differences” and “incompatibility” are seen as perfectly legitimate reasons for divorce—flying directly in the face of Bible teaching. Many Americans no longer feel that a couple simply living together without marriage is morally wrong. By the mid-1970s, three-fourths of Americans said that it is not morally wrong for a woman to have a child outside marriage.
We could debate the causes of this basic cultural shifting. I would argue that the influence of evolution and humanism in our educational system, the impact of feminism, the increased participation of women in the work force to the neglect of their children, the widespread prosperity that we enjoy as a nation (causing us to forget God and to indulge ourselves)—these and other factors have contributed to our moral decline. Hollywood, television, and the cinema have unquestionably glamorized, defended, and promoted divorce, premarital sex, unwed motherhood, abortion, and the use of alcohol, filthy language, and many other immoral behaviors.
Ironically—and tragically—the media have been working overtime to discredit the married, two-parent family by playing up instances of incest, violence, and abuse. If a family has religious inclinations, its members are depicted on programs as weirdoes and deviants. In fact, it is surely disgusting to the sensibilities of the morally upright that what was once mainstream and normal (i.e., the religious, church-going, two-parent family) is being demonized and ridiculed, while behavior that once was considered deviant, reprehensible, and immoral is paraded before society—on TV, in the news, and in the courts—as the social norm. Anyone who lifts a finger to speak against such immorality is berated as “homophobic,” “prejudiced,” “judgmental,” “mean-spirited,” and guilty of a “hate crime.”
Two illustrations of the undermining of the marriage relationship as God intended are the recent decisions regarding homosexuality by the United States Supreme Court and the Episcopal Church. By a 62-45 vote, the Episcopal House of Bishops elected the denomination’s first homosexual bishop on August 5, 2003 (see Duin, 2003). Only days earlier, the Supreme Court ruled that sodomy laws are unconstitutional—even though sodomy was treated as a criminal offense in all of the original thirteen colonies and eventually every one of the fifty states (see Robinson, 2003; “Sodomy Laws,” 2003). Sadly, a generation has arisen who simply does not share the values of its parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Sexual fidelity, lifelong marriage, and parenthood are simply no longer held up as worthwhile personal goals.
All of this self-centeredness has taken its greatest toll on the children. The erosion of basic moral values in exchange for pluralism, the growing tolerance of moral and ethical diversity, the shifting of emphasis to choice, freedom, and self-expression, have all inflicted great damage on marriage and the family—especially the children. The fuller body of empirical research now documents a number of startling conclusions:
  1. Divorce almost always brings a decline in the standard of living for the mother and children, plus a dependence on welfare; children in single-parent homes are far more likely to propagate the same behavior.
  2. Children never fully recover from divorce. Five, ten, fifteen years after a divorce, the children suffer from depression, under-achievement, and ultimately, their own troubled relationships.
  3. Young adults from disrupted families are nearly twice as likely as those from intact families to receive psychological help.
  4. Children in disrupted families are nearly twice as likely as those in intact families to drop out of high school. Those who remain in school show significant differences in educational attainment from those children who grow up in intact families.
  5. Remarriage does not reproduce nor restore the intact family structure. The latest research confirms that stepparents cannot replace the original home.
  6. For children whose parents divorced, the risk of divorce is two to three times greater than it is for children from married parent families.
These findings—and many others—underscore the importance of both a mother and a father in fostering the emotional well-being of children. But even more far-reaching effects have been documented—effects that impact society at large beyond the confines of the family. Authorities now are beginning to admit that a central cause of our most pressing social problems (i.e., poverty, crime, and school performance) is the breakup of the traditional American family.
What is even more startling is the fact that as an institution, marriage has lost much of its legal, religious, and social meaning and authority. For most of American history, marriage was one of the most important rites of passage in life. But now, marriage has lost much of its role and significance as a rite of passage. Sex is increasingly detached from the promise or expectation of marriage. Cohabitation is emerging as a significant experience for young adults. It is now replacing marriage as the first living together union. It is estimated that a quarter of unmarried women between the ages of 25 and 39 are currently living with a partner, and about half have lived at some time with an unmarried partner. Referring to this state of affairs as “the deinstitutionalization of marriage,” researchers at the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University concluded: “Taken together, the marriage indicators do not argue for optimism about a quick or widespread comeback of marriage. Persistent long-term trends suggest a steady weakening of marriage as a lasting union, a major stage in the adult life course, and as the primary institution governing childbearing and parenthood” (Popenoe and Whitehead, 1999).
Make no mistake: the social science evidence clearly documents the fact that the breakdown of the traditional two-parent, biological husband-wife family is a major factor contributing to the overall moral, religious, and ethical decline of our country. The social fabric of American civilization is literally tearing apart. The social arrangement that has proved most successful in ensuring the physical survival, and promoting the social development, of the child is the family unit of the biological mother and father. America is in deep trouble.
Our society is not likely to solve these massive problems. The liberal elite has been operating with great vigor for over forty years to push our country into “value neutrality” and “political correctness.” The clear-cut restraints and distinctions between right and wrong so typical of American culture in the past have been systematically dismantled. Relativism has taken the place of objective, absolute truth. The glorification of the individual has encouraged people to determine for themselves right and wrong—rather than looking outside themselves to the Transcendent Creator of the Universe. Consequently, whatever the individual feels is right is sanctioned as right—at least for that individual. The absolute standard of moral value and human behavior—that previously governed our nation—has been successfully supplanted. Subjectivity reigns supreme, and God has been effectively severed from human culture. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:12).


The fact remains that there is a God in heaven (Daniel 2:28). God has spoken to the human race through His written Word, i.e., the Bible. In that inspired communication, He has designated the structure of society. He created male and female with the intention for one man to marry one woman for life (Genesis 2:24; Matthew 19:4-6). Here is the foundational building block of humanity. That is His simple will on the matter. He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). The only way He permits divorce is if one marriage partner divorces the other marriage partner for the one reason that the marriage partner has committed fornication, i.e., illicit sexual intercourse. Upon that basis alone, God allows the innocent partner to put away that unfaithful mate and form a second marriage (Matthew 19:3-9).
God intended for the husband and wife to produce children who, in turn, are to receive nurturing and care from their parents in a stable, loving home (Ephesians 6:1-4; Colossians 3:18-21). In this divinely ordained institution of the home, God intended that children receive the necessary instruction and training to prepare them to be productive, honest, God-fearing, hard-working citizens of their country. The home was designed by God to impart to each succeeding generation proper religious, moral, and social principles that would in turn make their nation strong and virtuous. The Bible is filled with references to the essential ingredients of healthy family life (e.g., Deuteronomy 4:7-9; 6:1-9; 11:18-21; 32:46-47; Psalm 127; Proverbs 5:15-20; 6:20-35; 11:29; 12:4; 14:1; 15:25,27; 17:1,13; 31:10-31), including proper parenting skills (Proverbs 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15,17; Ephesians 6:1-4).


How simple! The solution to the confusion and corruption that has gripped American civilization is simple—if hearts are humbly yielded to the will of God. If we could get our families back on track according to God’s will, we could get our nation back on track. It starts with you and me. We must believe in, affirm to others, and conform ourselves to the sacredness of marriage.


Duin, Julia (2003), “Gay Bishop Sets Off Talk of Episcopal Schism,” The Washington Times, [On-line], URL: http://www.dynamic.washtimes.com/print_story.cfm?StoryID=20030806-123147-7931r.
Popenoe, David and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead (1999), “What’s Happening to Marriage?” [On-line], URL: http//marriage.Rutgers.edu/Publications/pubwhatshappening.htm.
Robinson, B.A. (2003), “Criminalizing Same-Sex Behavior,” [On-line], URL: http://www.religioustolerance.org/hom_laws1.htm.
“Sodomy Laws in the United States,” (2003), [On-line], URL: http://www.sodomylaws.org/usa/usa.htm.
Whitehead, Barbara (1993), “Dan Quayle Was Right,” The Atlantic Monthly, [On-line], URL: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/family/danquayl.htm.

The Reality of Eternal Hell by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


The Reality of Eternal Hell

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Hell has been depicted as a lake of fire, eternal torment, and everlasting punishment. Because of the heinous nature of hell, many have decided that it is impossible for a loving God to conceive such a place, much less send His wayward creatures there. For this reason, they have rejected the idea of an eternal hell. And this trend to reject the concept of hell does not reside solely in the camp of the skeptic and unbeliever. Many Bible “believers” have fallen prey to this idea. In a March 1991 U.S. News & World Report article titled “Revisiting the Abyss,” this quotation appears: “In many churches, one finds little talk these days about a literal, punitive hell as a real possibility after death. ‘My congregation would be stunned to hear a sermon on hell,’ says the Rev. [sic] Mary Kraus, pastor of the Dumbarton United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. Her parishioners, she says, are ‘upper-middle-class, well-educated critical thinkers’ who view God as ‘compassionate and loving, not someone who's going to push them into eternal damnation’ ” (1991, 110[11]:60).
According to Miss Kraus, the idea of a literal place of torment reserved for the wicked does not sit well with her “upper-middle-class, well-educated critical thinkers.” The basic argument against hell can be stated like this: It is unjust to punish someone eternally for sins they committed in their few years on Earth; the biblical concept of hell entails such punishment; therefore the biblical concept of hell is unjust (which would mean, of course, that the God of the Bible is unjust as well).


Although the argument against the biblical concept of hell is erroneous in several of its points, it is accurate when it states that the Bible depicts an eternal hell. On numerous occasions Jesus underlined the fact that hell is eternal. In Matthew 18:8, for example, He described an “everlasting fire” (Matthew 25:41,46 renders the same idea, but adds “everlasting punishment”). In our modern day and age, it is popular to posit the idea that hell will last only a short time, and then the souls of the wicked will be annihilated. Clark H. Pinnock, theology professor at McMaster Divinity College in Hamilton, Ontario, was quoted in the January 31, 2000 issue of U.S. News & World Report, as saying: “How can Christians possibly project a deity of such cruelty and vindictiveness” as to inflict “everlasting torture upon his creatures, however sinful they may have been?” (as quoted in Sheler, 2000, 128[4]:44). Pinnock went on to argue that a God Who would do such a thing is “more nearly like Satan than like God.”
However, for Pinnock and his ever-increasing pack of “annihilationists,” their house is built on shifting sand—both biblically and philosophically. Biblically, our Lord repeatedly stressed the idea that the souls of the wicked will have to endure “everlasting punishment” (Matthew 25:46). To contend that the wicked soul is annihilated would be to negate the words of Christ, since “everlasting punishment” cannot be inflicted upon an annihilated being.
Philosophically, the view is equally flawed, because it fails to take into account what every person understands about justice: the punishment always lasts longer than the actual crime. When a man walks into a bank, shoots two tellers, robs the bank, and is apprehended, tried, and found guilty, his punishment always is of a much longer duration than his crime. The actual shooting and looting might have taken only 3 minutes to accomplish, but he most likely will pay for those three minutes with the remainder of his life in prison. Those who contend that hell will not be eternal say that forever is “too long.” But once a person concedes that punishment can (and generally does) last longer than the crime, his argument against an eternal hell becomes self-defeating.
Furthermore, the idea that eternity is “too long” only appeals to the human emotions when dealing with punishment, never with reward. Who would argue that heaven cannot be eternal because God would be unjust to reward us for “so long.” On the contrary, the eternality of heaven and hell stand and fall together. And both find their place in the justice and mercy of God. When Christ spoke to the people of His day about the ultimate fate of humanity in eternity, He stated that the wicked would “go away into everlasting (aionios) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (aionios) life” (Matthew 25:46). The Greek word aionios, rendered “eternal” in the English, is the same Greek word (aionios) rendered earlier as “everlasting,” Precisely the same word is applied to the punishment of the wicked as to the reward of the righteous. Those who are willing to accept Christ’s teaching on heaven should have no trouble accepting His teaching on hell.


“Revisiting the Abyss,” (1991), U.S. News & World Report, 110[11]:60, March 25.
Sheler, Jeffery L. (2000), “Hell Hath No Fury,” U.S. News & World Report, 128[4]:44, January 31.

The Problematic Concept of a Sinful Human Nature by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.


The Problematic Concept of a Sinful Human Nature

by Caleb Colley, Ph.D.

It is fashionable in some religious circles to teach that human nature is sinful, i.e., we all have a “sinful nature.” If this is supposed to mean merely that all accountable persons at some point sin, and need forgiveness, then the doctrine of a sinful nature is biblical (Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). However, the very words “sinful nature,” and much of the discussion surrounding it, often denote the doctrine of hereditary depravity. This is the idea that all humans inherit the sin of Adam in some way—we suffer due to this original sin, and therefore we all are inescapably sinful by nature. The biblical evidence militates against this idea, as we have shown previously (see Pinedo, 2009; Colley, 2004; Butt, 2004). The very concept of a sinful human nature is also philosophically problematic. Indeed, the concept of a sinful nature is plagued with difficulties even before the Bible is consulted.

Consider a preliminary remark concerning what it means to speak of a sinful human nature. To speak of human “nature” at all is to refer to qualities that are essential to all humans. Such characteristics cannot be accidental, or things that might become characteristic of a human as he develops, but might also not. Rather, aspects of human nature are inseparable from whatever it is that makes us human (with the possible exceptions of young children and the mentally ill). For example, we might admit that human nature is essentially rational (this is part of what differentiates us from animals), but not essentially football-loving, because there are plenty of humans who seem not (however mysteriously!) to appreciate football. Someone who thinks that we become sinful when we transgress God’s law does not believe in the essentially sinful human nature.

To ascribe a sinful nature to humanity, therefore, is to say that there is something sinful about being a human being. What part of our being might be accused of inherent sinfulness? If we think that a human being consists of a body and a soul, there are three possibilities: (1) The body could introduce guilt; (2) The soul could introduce guilt; (3) The union of body and soul could itself produce guilt.

First, someone could allege that sin comes as a result of our embodiment. Indeed, the idea that the body unavoidably mars the perfection of the soul has been popular at times. For example, the Gnostics taught that matter is intrinsically evil and is the source of all evil (see Renwick, 1982, 2:490). How may moral blame attach to human nature as it arises from our bodies? We are typically unprepared to blame purely material objects such as tables and chairs. Genes and brain matter are different from tables and chairs, but it is nonsensical to look for a difference that would give rise to moral guilt. As yet, there is no good explanation to convince us that evil arises simply from matter. (Yet, we might use our bodies to do wrong. Indeed, all sins are committed while we are “in the body” [2 Corinthians 5:10]).

On the other hand, someone who believes in sinful human nature might be (and probably is) referring to the status of the soul rather than the body. Before assessing the possibility of the essential blameworthiness of the human soul, consider that for someone to think of the soul as essentially sinful, there are some concepts of soul which he must reject. For example, the Aristotelian view of the soul as being the animating force of the body, or that which activates the body’s potential, does not allow for the human to “start out” as blameworthy. Guilt, on this view, cannot arise from outside of the human order, because Aristotle does not posit a supernatural being to ascribe the guilt. Furthermore, humans could not possibly claim to know that a newborn baby was already guilty if they did not think that God had ascribed guilt to the baby from outside the human order.

Likewise, the Stoic idea of a Universe-Soul is problematic for the idea of an essentially sinful soul. If we all share in the same soul, which also gives life to everything else in the Universe, then to ascribe guilt to that soul would be to say that everything is altogether evil. If everything is evil, how would we know what good is? And what is the point of discussing sinful human nature if we think there is no rescue from it?

There are other conceptions of soul that would a priori disallow a sinful nature. If we presuppose, however, that the soul is distinct from the body (i.e., it is its own, separable substance) and comes to the body from elsewhere (from heaven or wherever), then we have at least a format that might allow for the essential guilt of the soul. In this format, we are free to suppose that the soul acquires guilt prior to entering the body, at which time human nature is indeed guilty. There are two problems with this, however: (1) We could not know about such an arrangement unless it were revealed to us. Plato’s theory of reincarnation is beautiful and interesting, but like other theories of reincarnation, is not readily amenable to proof (Socrates’ “proofs” in the Meno [Plato, 1997, pp. 870-897] and the Phaedo [pp. 49-100] are notoriously problematic). A person has just as much reason to deny the existence of souls prior to their embodiment as he does to assert such existence, because the spiritual realm does not appear to us. (2) Most people who want to establish sinful human nature presumably would not be interested in the guilt of a soul prior to embodiment, because sin is supposed to be passed along from one embodied soul to another embodied soul. If we suppose that a new soul acquires guilt while it waits in heaven to be born into the world, we would need an additional story about where this guilt comes from. Such a story does not seem to be forthcoming. Because reincarnation is not evident (and seldom proposed by supporters of the sinful human nature), then there is no obvious way to ascribe the sin of a previous human to a soul not yet embodied.

The only remaining option is that the soul becomes sinful at the time when it is embodied, at the occasion of the union of soul and body. If the soul is innocent prior to embodiment—and as we have seen, there is no obvious reason to think it guilty—then the body is the substance that is responsible for the guilt in the union. We have already shown the difficulty of associating blame with matter. Furthermore, recall that the common view of sinful nature is that we have inherited the sins of an ancestor. His soul was guilty, not because of contact with matter, but because of his own sinful volition. This was the “original” sin. Guilt was introduced on this occasion, but did not exist prior. This ancestor did not inherit guilt, so matter, at least in his case, did not bring sin. Why should we think matter brings sin in our case?


One response in favor of sinful nature might be that it is a spiritual, theological matter, and thus a philosopher will not find it if he searches for it (e.g., Hodge, 2010). This is an appeal to the limits of philosophy, and would be a well-taken point if God had revealed a logically coherent doctrine of original sin that was not obvious apart from revelation. However, He has not done this. In fact, He has revealed information to the opposite effect. Glory be to God, Who does not blame us for the sins of our ancestors (Ezekiel 18:20).


Butt, Kyle (2004), “Do Children Inherit the Sins of Their Parents?,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2543.

Colley, (2004), “Did David Authorize Infant Baptism?,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/2626.

Hodge, Bodie, “Is Original Sin (Sin Nature) Passed through the Father’s Genetic Line?,” http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2010/02/23/satan-the-fall-good-evil-how-is-original-sin-passed.

Pinedo, Moisés (2009), “Are Children Born With Sin?,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240109.

Plato, Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett).

Renwick, A. M. (1982), “Gnosticism,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).