Resolved: A living human can never live their lives without sinning. A sinless Perfection debate.
Debate Rounds (3)
I will not use Wesleyan, Finnean, etc.... arguments, although undoubtedly there will be some cross arguments we all use or are similar in use.
It has been apparent that when I take the affirmative saying sinless perfection (nasty and misleading term) can be and is expected to be reached in this life, people don't listen to the arguments and just argue cliches...
Format makes sense to be :
Although the negative close should get two posts, ideally 1.5. Not sure how to arrange it.
In this debate, I'll be defending the claim that no human can live his entire life without sinning. We have agreed to exclude Jesus, crazy people, and infants from consideration (see the comments section). We have also agreed to the presupposition that the Bible is the authoritative word of God. With that presupposition in mind, the truth of the matter should come down to scripture and reason.
Before I begin, let me define what I mean by "can," since the word can be taken in two senses.
Natural ability: This includes whatever latent natural power we have to act or refrain from acting. If a person has a natural ability to act, then they can act in that sense. If they have a natural inability, that means they can't act in that sense.
Psychological ability: This includes our mental predispositions to act. If a person has a psychological ability to act, that means they are willing to act or they have the proper motive, preference, desire, or inclination. If a person has a psychological inability to act, that means they can't act because they are unwilling or they lack the proper motive, desire, inclination, etc.
An illustration might help to make this distinction clear.
In Titus 1:2, we find that God "cannot lie." Given that God is all-powerful, surely he has the natural ability to say things that aren't true. Nothing physically prevents him from doing so. He has the raw power. What he lacks, though, is the inclination. God's perfectly good character renders him incapable of lying. His inability to lie is due to a lack of inclination since his entire nature is perfect and holy. So God has a natural ability to lie but he does not have a psychological ability to lie.
My position is that people have the natural ability to live without sinning, but they do not have the psychological ability to live without sinning. Without the psychological ability, they simply can't avoid sin their entire lives.
My first argument comes from the fact that we all have a natural inclination to sin. Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt." Jesus taught in Luke 6:43-45 that a person"s behavior is determined by the condition of his heart (see also Ezekiel 36:26-27). Since the condition of the heart, according to Jeremiah, is corrupt, it follows that we are all determined to sin. We can't avoid it. We have sinful hearts, and we sin as a result. In Matthew 7:18, Jesus said that "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit." We cannot behave contrary to the condition of our sinful heart.
It is no wonder, then, that Paul tells us that before our conversions we are "dead in our sins" and that we are "by nature, children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:1-3). Those are strong words. Paul doesn"t say that we happen to sin or that we happen to be children of wrath. Rather, we are dead in sin, and we are by nature children of wrath. A person who is dead in his sin cannot change his own heart. Jeremiah asks rhetorically, "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?" He answers, "Then you also can do good who are accustomed to do evil" (Jeremiah 13:23). A person cannot simply choose, by an act of his own free will, to stop sinning. He is dead in sin, and only the power of God can raise him to spiritual life. That is why Jesus said that "No one can come to me unless the Father draws him" (John 6:44).
My second argument comes from the fact that the Bible explicitly says in many places and in many ways that all people sin and that there is no person who does not sin. I won't bore you with a long list of scripture references because this is not a controversial claim. I'll just give you one reference:
Romans 3:9-12 "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written, 'There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one'."
My opponent may rightly point out that to say, "All have sinned," is not the same thing as saying, "All must sin," or that "Nobody could have avoided sinning." The question for the debate is not whether anybody ever has lived without sinning, but whether anybody ever could live without sinning.
But I want to make an inductive argument from this scripture. If it's true that people can live without sinning, then there is only a probability less than 100% that they will sin. If the probability of their sinning were 100%, then it would be impossible for them to not sin. Since the Bible explicitly tells us that everybody sins, then the probability of the next person sinning is exactly 100%. Since the probability that each living person will sin is 100%, then it is impossible for anybody to live without sinning.
Let"s look at it another way. If it only happened that everybody sinned, then it would only be a matter of probability that each person happens to sin. Nothing would compel them to sin, after all. But if it were a matter of probability, then we should expect that of the billions of people who have lived on this planet, that at least a handful of them would go without sinning. But nobody does. The best explanation for why nobody lives without sinning is because they can't.
My third argument comes from the sovereignty of God and his purpose for creating man. As Jonathan Edwards argued in The End For Which God Created the World, the ultimate end in all things is for the sake of God's own glory. God is glorified in the full demonstration of all of his attributes, which include both his mercy and his wrath. If people did not sin, then God's mercy would not be evident in their lives. God has two purposes for people--to demonstrate his grace or to demonstrate his wrath. The only way either can be demonstrated is if we sin, which means that whether your life reveals God's glory through the demonstration of his grace or through the demonstration of his wrath, you must be a sinner. And since everybody fits in one category or the other, it follows that everybody must sin.
After explaining that God has mercy on who he wills and hardens who he wills, Paul raises an objection: "Why does he still find fault? For who resists his will?" (Romans 9:19). That is a great question, but notice that the question only makes sense if, in fact, God finds fault in people even though they are the way they are because it was his will. The question of who resists God's will is rhetorical with the answer being, "Nobody." Paul reveals in verses 22-24 that God's purpose in creating vessels of wrath "prepared for destruction" (cf. Proverbs 16:4) is so that "he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy."
Since God's purpose is to reveal his glory by the demonstration of both his wrath and his mercy, and since God's wrath and mercy cannot be revealed unless people sin, and since people cannot resist God's will, it follows that nobody can live without sinning.
And it looks like I made it under the character limit. :-)
I'll quickly address Mr. Philo's arguments, then present the case in opposition which will show HOW a person could live from a point forward in their lives without sinning. Mostly, I'll be addressing perpetuated mindsets and deconstructing them, to get to a more cohesive presentation that fits together with less bumps.
It's nice to have a working definition of CAN/CAN'T in this debate.
I'll hold the position that man can't help but sin from birth forward, UNTIL a change is made in their character and when the change is complete from that moment forward they can not sin again.
I'm going to agree with the first contention that we have a deceitful heart. Our heart is corrupt and has a sin disposition, which paul addresses as SARX or sinful nature. When Paul says by our nature we are Children of Wrath, I think it's a picture of our sinful nature, puts us in the predicament of sinning, *(you obey either flesh or spirit). And a presumption most make is that we will have that sinful nature until we die. Mostly this is because of the literal translation of FLESH for the word Sarx. We'll get into this a bit more below.
The second contention I have to grant as well. All people sin. For all have sinned..... Not a man is born that doesn't sin except the Christ. So we can all agree that we are born with a sinful disposition/nature and that it pulls our strings towards a ME FIRST behavior that is sinful.
The third contention however, we need to spend a little time on. "If people don't sin, God's nature isn't evident."
*God is love. God's love is exhibited in more ways than just forgiveness.
** If God's love is ONLY forgiveness, from what He condemns us for in the first place, then God is a tyrant, or a Fascist.
***In Matthew 5 we see God's love is expressed to His enemies by providing them sun and rain... Let's just make that their necessisities are provided, God doesn't withold from them because they aren't "in the boat with Him."
**** God's love is much more than just forgiveness. Man tends to focus on the forgiveness aspect so much because we are a ME FIRST nature still. So our first priority is to take care of self, thus our first definition of God is one that seems we are taken care of. I.E. salvation/atonement.
I'd argue that the nature of God has been reduced to a point that God is both the threat and the solution, and that He's presented in such an oppressive fashion, "SINNER'S PRAYER OR BURN!" that people forget the other significant parts out of fear for missing the salvation part.
So, while GOD is a forgiving God, that isn't His only purpose. If a person got to a point that they no longer sinned, God would still be God and that person would still be His instrument of righteousness.
Mr. Philo then observed that everybody must sin.... which is true. But this position doesn't prove that everyone will continue to sin forever. So while I have sinned, and still sin, that doesn't present a convincing position that one will continue to sin. In fact, ultimately to say that is the case is to strip God of Omnipotence. (A bit hyperbolic but logically accurate...)
I'm also going to admit that no one can resist his will. And that is ultimately where we are going to find the case made from. What IS His Will?
Ultimately the argument presented here from Mr. Philo is centered around God's "purpose" is to reveal His Glory to us, and that glory is the forgiveness of sins.
And, while I understand the nature and the heart behind the claim, the claim itself, if true, sure does have God doing the servanthood, not being LORD. His purpose is to serve us? His purpose is to reveal His Glory to US? That GLORY is a self serving thing for ME? NO matter how I come at this thought, it centers around me.
I would contend it's not about me. It's about His will, and His expectations, and His enabling presence in our lives. I will only be what HE wills me to be. I will only achieve what HE wishes to achieve through me.
So there are a couple of things we need to determine. IS God's intention for us to be at a point where we no longer sin?
Is there a mechanism in place that can enable us to that end?
1. His Will....
My argument here will revolve around change. I'll keep it simple because of space. His plan is to change My heart and my Mind so that I think and feel as He does.
Christ commanded we LOVE as perfectly (maturely) as God does. Matt 5:43-48.
If we don't love correctly, we aren't in Him and He's not in us. 1 john 4:16-18
We are born with the sinful nature.
We are given atonement, then we battle obedience, then we receive a benefit, and the benefit, not my ability leads to that final sanctification of being made different, vs just seen or looked upon as different. Rom 6:22.
That benefit is His Spirit, romans 8:9/Gal 5:16, His Seed 1 john 3:9, His person 1 john 5:18, and that benefit is what makes it possible. It's God in you that makes it happen, not your ability.
2. His Spirit keeps you from giving into temptation, His Spirit, if indwelling you, has replaced your flesh nature. It's removed by Christ, not your ability, col 2:11. What makes you do what you don't wanna do and not do what you wanna do rom 7:14-26ish... is no longer there to pull your hand and is replaced by His Spirit Rom 8:9 that keeps you from giving into temptation, gal 5:16.
HIS goal is to change you. HIS Goal is to provide the means for you to be changed and remain changed.
Jesus purpose isn't just to save us. Although I'm thankful for that part of His purpose. He wishes to mature us. Through HIM we are made mature. Mature is that its no longer me who lives (sinful nature is removed), but HE who lives in me (holy spirit resides after that removal.)
He is the vine, we are the branch. We just hold His fruit, that He produces, and determines which branch will bear it. But it's HIS FRUIT, HIS nourishment, HIS WILL that brings the fruit to be. By bearing that fruit we grow in love as that fruit is loving service to someone, somehow.
And through works, led by the Church, we grow in Unity and knowledge of Christ, until we are perfect/mature/finished. How mature is that? As fully and completely as the Christ Himself was. EPh 4:11-17. This little gem of scripture shows you to be as mature as Christ was. Either Christ still sinned, or once a person was that mature they wouldn't sin.
This maturity, and this accomplishment is done not by man but by God, WHEN man gets out of the way and allows it.
If you would be perfect (complete mature, same word as the perfect in the Eph 4 vss) surrender your former life/sell all your belongings/be dead to your former life, and come to me fully dependant on me....(Christ's words to the Rich Young Ruler.) He was discussing what is mature, which is after atonement/salvation.
Blessed are the POOR in Spirit. Check the meaning of the Greek word for Poor there. Dependant on Him. APply that Greek meaning of Poor with the story of the RYR and accept that "perfect" word to mean what it means, and you have the plan for a man/woman on earth to be made mature/perfect, which results in a person that no longer sins from that point forward.
While I can't claim to know this person, only God can judge that state, I can attest to Biblical claimants. ALSO I don't know anyone that has been resurrected from a 3 day death either, but I also believe that because of the witnesses...
What he meant to argue, instead, was that although nobody can live their entire lives without sinning, people can nevertheless break the habit. A person can reach a point in their lives where, from that point forward, they no longer sin. That is going to be a much more difficult position for me to refute.
The crux of Xian-Pugilist's argument is this:
1. God's will cannot be thwarted.
2. It is God's will that we each reach a state of perfection in this life.
3. Therefore, we can reach a state of perfection in this life.
Putting the argument in the form of a syllogism, I think, immediately reveals a problem. The conclusion should not be that we simply can, but may not, reach moral perfection in this life. Rather, the conclusion ought to be that we necessarily do reach moral perfection in this life. But XP does not reach that conclusion, which means there's a problem with one of the premises.
I think the problem with the premises is that he's equivocating on the phrase, "God's will." There are two senses in which God can will something--he can will it morally, or he can will it sovereignly.
God's moral will includes his commands and desires. We can disobey God, so clearly it doesn't follow that because something is God's moral will that it will necessarily take place.
God's sovereign will includes what God actually accomplishes. It's his sovereign will that cannot be thwarted.
XP appears to be using "God's will" in the sovereign sense in the first premise, but he's using it in the moral sense in the second premise. That makes his argument invalid since it commits the fallacy of equivocation.
Since XP may object to the charge of equivocation and insist that he is using the phrase with the same meaning in both premises, let's run the argument through both ways and see what happens.
1'. God's sovereign will cannot be thwarted.
2'. It is God's sovereign will that we reach moral perfection in this life.
What follows from these two premises is:
3'. Therefore, we will necessarily reach moral perfection in this life.
But XP denies 3', which means that his second premise must be false. It's not God's sovereign will that we reach moral perfect; rather, it's his moral will. Now, let's try God's moral will.
1'. God's moral will cannot be thwarted.
2'. It is God's moral will that we reach moral perfection in this life.
What follows from these premises is again that:
3'. Therefore, we will necessarily reach moral perfection in this life.
This time the problem is with 1'. No doubt, XP will agree with me that 1' is false because if it were not false, then sin would be impossible.
But in either one of these cases, the argument does not lead to XP's intended conclusion, which is that a person can reach a state of moral perfection, but doesn't necessarily.
If you read XP's 1st heading, "God's will", you'll see that he's appealing to God's moral will. He points out that in Matthew 5:43-48, God commands that we love perfectly. In verse 48, it says to "be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect." If that were God's sovereign will, then everybody would be perfect. But it is clearly referring to God's moral will, which can be disobeyed.
XP points to a number of verses that speak of the removal of our sarx (i.e. flesh, sinful nature, etc.), including Colossians 2:8, and Romans 8:9. Interpreting these passages the way XP does, though, proves too much. Paul is speaking to his audience, telling them that the removal/burial of their sarx is a past event. It has already happened. It would follow, from XP's interpretation, that they no longer struggle with sin. It would follow that no Christian struggles with sin.
But that is demonstrably false. I'm sure that even XP would agree that the vast majority of Christians (if not every one of them) has an internal struggle with sin. And certainly no Christian is free from sinful desires immediately after conversion. We are like the person Paul describes in Romans 7:14-25 who has an internal conflict between the good he wants to do and the evil he is drawn to do.
XP rightly points out that the Spirit works in us, causing us to continually improve morally. He points to Ephesians 4:11-13, which says that Christ appointed officers in the church for the purpose of equipping the saints "until we all attain to the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the son of God, to a mature man, to a measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." Notice this passages say "until we all" become as mature as Christ. Well, that goal is never reached. After 2000 years, believers still have not reached perfect unity in their beliefs about the son of God, and they still have not all become as mature as Christ. Clearly, then, this passage does not guarantee that the goal is arrived at during our lifetimes. Rather, it is the end that we aim for during our lifetimes. It's the direction we are headed. It's the limit that we approach but never arrive at. The Spirit enables us to approach the goal, but that doesn't mean we ever reach it in our lifetimes.
So far, I think I have shown that XP's arguments do not demonstrate that a person can reach a point in their lives that they no longer sin. But I have not shown that they can't.
It is trivially true that a person can experience some small interval of time in which he does not sin. A person might go a whole hour without sinning. If we suppose that a person commits a sin, lives another 30 minutes without sinning, then dies, then we would have to concede XP's point that it's possible for a person to reach a point in their lives where they stop sinning and never sin again for as long as they live.
But I think XP wants me to defend a more robust view than that. Dying before committing the next sin is just cheating if the goal is really to reach a state of moral perfection.
On the other hand, if you think that through, you'll see that nobody can ever really be said to have reached a state of moral perfection. Say, for example, that somebody stops sinning at the age of 50, and they live another 30 years before dying. The only difference between them and a person who died 30 minutes after his last sin is just a matter of degree. Suppose the person who went 30 years without sinning didn't die. Could we say that if they live another 200 years that they will not sin in all that time? I don't think we can say that. As long as we live in a fallen world, it is inevitable, given enough time, that we will sin. The fact that we might die before committing the next sin, therefore, is no basis for saying that we have really reached a state of moral perfection. The only way we can really reach a state of moral perfection--from which point we will never sin again regardless of how long we exist--is if God finally deals with sin and evil in the world, and that won't take place until the resurrection and the judgment.
ps) I'm typing in Word and cutting and pasting. Every time I do that, it turns my ' into ". I've attempted to make all the necessary corrections, but I may have missed some.
pss) I must apologize to XP for misunderstanding what this debate was supposed to be about. I guess I should've asked for more clarification before accepting. I thought I had thought of everything! :-/
And I didn't catch it. So that's on me. I'm sorry. Awkward and embarrassing.
I guess I answer what's in here, but perhaps we should end this since we went different directions... errrr I went a different direction?
>>I should argue, that we necessarily do reach moral perfection...<<
I don't distinguish a difference in perfection in this context. The idea of "moral perfection" reflects an image of what man can accomplish in their lives. And I'll concede man can't attain this moral perfection. Rather I'm discussing when God changes a person, to the extent HE changes us. HE changes our mind and heart
Now, I would use the "can" because while every person has that opportunity, not every person will accept it. And many will claim it in name, but deny it in their lives. Those most often stand in direct contradiction with Romans 8:9.
You said....>>>Paul is speaking to his audience, telling them that the removal/burial of their sarx is a past event<<<
I guess this would be an Exegetics debate in another thread. However I'll point out that Paul often spoke in a Historical Present where he played the role of those he was addressing, so his use of the personal I ME MY pronouns didn't represent himself. There are people that write on this that will show up with a fairly simple Google search. I'd point out that Paul addresses people within the Church at two levels, Milk/Meat, Mature/Immature. As a result, when he's addressing the IMMATURE and says, "do you not know that we....", you very well may have a situation where Paul is telling them WE are .....whatever.... and you aren't or need to be there.... This is your goal, this is the prize at the end of the race, etc...
I don't think you could hold that those were all past tense for the whole Church, but only the people he used as examples...
You commented that we have an internal struggle, I'd agree to that being present in a person. However you don't give into the internal struggle when col 2:11 has occurred, Romans 8:9 is the result, and that has the enabling benefit of Gal 5:16. In other words, a person is under atoning forgiveness, but that life is changed through their application of the faith, manifesting in works of love, and resulting in a person that loves as God does Matt 5:48, and is as mature as Christ was Spiritually, Eph 4:11-17. They sin during the growth, can confess, but are on a race to a time where they are changed permanently by God.
And in Eph 4 you argue that "until they become" which means it's never been reached. I tried, and exegetically, logically, etc.. I can't draw that conclusion from the words which read until they reach, which is an event which occurs. This perfection is something Paul says him and others have reached in Phil 3. And I could argue that John in 1 John claims he and others are there when he says
So, I have to deny the presumption that no one has been there, nor can be there...
A good example, when you referenced....We are like the person Paul describes in Romans 7:14-25 who has an internal conflict between the good he wants to do and the evil he is drawn to do....... I'd direct you to Romans 7:5. This FLESH/SARX that is making us do what we don't want to do and not do what we want to do, is something PAUL HIMSELF no longer struggles with because it's gone, he's not in the flesh. So, if we accept the Romans 7:14-25, forgo the Hypothetical nature of the "IF"s in those vss, and assume it's Paul speaking of himself, then he's delirious to claim something he no longer has makes him do things he doesn't want. I'd contend most folks teach that chapter in the opportunistic view, "even Paul still sins" to make room for them still sinning in their lives, and to do that they have to redact the IFs and the vs 5. Since it's been taught that way for generations by most folks I've ever known, and ridiculed to suggest other wise (not you, but most) then the dilemma I presented is ignored and never reconciled.
All of the arguments you present tend to rely on what man can accomplish. As Christ told the Apostles after the chat with the Rich Young Feller, through man it's not possible, through God all things are possible. And that comment from Christ, interestingly enough, was regarding the thought, "if you would be perfect" and Christ told him how to be said word of complicated meanings... Telioo/Perfect/Mature....
I see man as having to be involved in the process, and man is doing the work, sure as Moses held the stick over his head to part the red sea... But, God guides, empowers, directs, us in our efforts, and HE does the changing along the way.
If GOD is going to change your views of heart and mind, is he not capable of making the change? Or will He not keep the promise to change us that the Bible makes? If it says through works we will be made as mature as Christ, then did Paul get "led to lie" when he made it read as those he addressed could be there? Or did He lie when Paul said him and others were perfect?
This conversation got derailed because of my presumption and not reading carefully. I was reading what I expected. I'm sorry for that.
If you'd like to pursue or drop this, I'm ok either way. We could have them wipe the thing from the forum as we got derailed.... I don't do that often, but..... when I do I have mad skills. :)
I responded because I didn't want to disrespect your work at responses, even though we weren't on the same page..
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