Monday, March 31, 2008

Filthy, yet clean and dignified...

There are many Christians who just do not seem to understand their sin and their standing before God.
What I am getting at is their confusion about grace and works.
If a Christian who has grievously sinned against another person and feels the heat of their sin (which incidentally is not repentance) and or the repercussions of their actions and decides to call attention to the “inherent dignity” of man as a way of attempting to deflect the repercussions of their sin, then something is way wrong.
It is an attempt to yet still appeal to the flesh rather than the grace of God.

When we talk about the "inherent" dignity of man, there seems to be much confusion among Christians as to what that means.
In order to keep this post short, let me just say that the term is legitimate but misunderstood and often misapplied.

The general idea of course comes from the idea that man is made in the image of God, and therefore as a creature of His making we all have inherent dignity.
This is the general idea behind the idea of dignity in man.

At this point we could go to two extremes and many do exactly that.

1/ Like Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peal and in today’s current landscape, the likes of Joel Osteen and the centrality of the needs of "man" at the centre of the pulpit is one way to run the idea of dignity amok.
2/ Then there is the Calvinistic idea based upon Total depravity, that man is so filthy and ruined, he has no dignity whatsoever.

The balance is the reformed idea that even though man is totally depraved, in that every aspect of his nature has been corrupted by the fall, man is not inherently as bad as he can possibly be all of the time. In other words, man does not have the ability to please God, all men are not able to drag themselves up by the bootstraps and find favour with God on God's terms.

So, where does the reality that we are all depraved and yet have dignity become reconciled to one another.

Well, let me just say this.
Any Christian caught out in there sin and who has need of repentance has no real claim to dignity. If they think they do, then they are looking upon an exterior righteousness they possess by virtue of said so called inherent dignity, rather than the whole and free grace of God alone as their hope.

Imagine if the Prodigal Son, whilst in the midst of his sin, and whilst eating from the filthy trough with the pigs, decided to grab hold of his inherent dignity. Think about it!
I dare say, that in such a circumstance, his repentance may have become subverted entirely!
What dignity do we have when eating with the swine? The answer is rather obvious, not much!

And thank God that in such a circumstance we have no proper way out by looking inwardly in any way, shape or form.
It is only when we have come to see ourselves how we really are, that hope may come.
And if hope comes, it does not come by making us look to any inherent dignity at all, it comes once we realise the very opposite! That we are filthy, unclean and like pigs that by nature return to the mud.

You see, this image of God in man, which is the basis of the idea of inherent dignity, has to be viewed in light of the fall, post fall and it's consequences, and a lot of Christians are confused on the issue.

It is true that in the fall the Imago Dei was greatly marred and smashed, but not entirely obliterated. That is the teaching of normal Protestant Reformed Theology, but it is important to hold the balance in application under differing outcomes.
I have addressed one main outcome here, that which involves the hope of a sinner under sin, and his needed admission that dignity is not something inherent to be misapplied as some kind of justification.
It is not, and any Christian appealing to such inherent dignity is yet looking to the flesh and pride and ultimately works, which are antithetical to the free grace of God alone found in Jesus Christ.

True dignity, inherent dignity is to be found in the sinless Son of God. The second person of the Trinity who emptied Himself and was found in likeness as a man. Here is where dignity is to be found!

True Christians have been imputed with the righteousness of Jesus Christ and His perfect life. His dignity becomes ours by virtue of His grace, forgiveness and reconciliation.
As Christians we would not dream of using our so called inherent dignity as a means to avert the consequences of our sins!
We would however, cling to His righteousness and we would flee sin in order to have His forgiveness and washing of our sins.

If you are a Christian and your sins find you out, do not go back to the flesh and claim human dignity as a defence against the consequences of your sins, but rather cling to the righteousness which is by faith in the dignified and suffering servant, the Lord Jesus Christ.

He alone is our righteousness, sanctification and redemption.


Ps, it is interesting to note that although man is made in the image of God, we see that Post Fall, a change is made. We read that man is then made in the image of Adam. (Compare Gen 1:27 and 5:3 )
Also, when we come against Materialists and Darwinists, we are right to point out that man is not an animal and therefore has a value or inherrant dignity not shared by the animal kingdom.

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