For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds, casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full (II Cor. 10:3-6).

Captive Thoughts” is dedicated to bringing every thought captive to Christ through the study of the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms, with primary focus on the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This effort is a compilation of several years of catechetical study conducted at Westminster Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Westminster, California, by its Christian Education Committee and the author of this site.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q18



The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q14-19) is Original Sin. (see Harmony Index)
ProfessorJohn Murray wrote that, “Scripture attaches great importance to knowledge and gives a foremost place to the mind and understanding. Ignorance and error are the effects of the fall and it is upon them that Satan’s kingdom is built. Knowledge and truth are the grand weapons by which it is overthrown and Christ’s kingdom is established in the individual and the world” (quoted in Rediscovering Catechism by Donald Van Dyken, P&R Press).
In his book, Donald Van Dyken further comments, “Satan’s kingdom seems to erupt and spread everywhere. A few examples are the disarray in marriages and families and the worldly living and the ungodly pleasures that characterize not only the world, but so often the church. The contemporary situation mirrors what the prophet Hosea saw: ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge’ (Hos. 4:6).”
The comments above are a fitting backdrop for the study below. Again, we need to pray that God would bless our studies in the Word and the confessions of the Church, to our growth in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To him alone be all the praise, honor, and glory forever, Amen.
***********
WSC Q18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A. The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam’s first sin[a], the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin[b]; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it[c].
[a] Rom. 5:12, 19; I Cor. 15:22
[b] Rom. 5:6; Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 8:7,8; Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3:10-20; Ps. 51: 5; 58:3
[c] Matt. 15:19; James 1:14-15
Question #18 asks what is sinful about man’s fallen condition, and answers that the sinfulness of that fallen condition is twofold. First, in what is commonly called original sin, there is the guilt of Adam’s first sin with its lack of original righteousness and the corruption of his whole nature, and second, are all the specific acts of disobedience that come from original sin.
Comments and considerations:
Question #18 could be rendered, what is so sinful about man’s fallen condition? Since sin was earlier defined as any want of conformity unto or transgression of the law God, the answer might incorporate that definition of sin: For example, man’s fallen condition is sinful due to his failure to conform to God’s commands (law and intent), resulting in the loss of original righteousness and the corruption of his original nature, and including all the actual violations that proceed from breaking the law and purposes of God. We can see how this tragic fall from grace led to such sin-filled consequences that affected original righteousness, corrupted human nature’s every aspect, and alienated man’s wondrous communion with his God. The question is asking about the extent of original sin. If you think about it, all of history, subsequent to that moment in time that our first parents succumbed to the temptation to “be like God, determining for themselves what is good or evil” (Gen 3:5), shows the extent of the sinfulness which began with Adam’s fall. We see it in history, throughout time and place, and in human nature from which we derive the doctrine of total depravity.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary contained a stand-alone definition for “sinfulness”: 1. The quality of being sinful or contrary to the divine will; wickedness; iniquity; criminality; as the sinfulness of an action; the sinfulness of thoughts or purposes; 2. Wickedness; corruption; depravity; as the sinfulness of men or of the human race. However, in later and more modern editions this definition is not found; in fact we find the word listed as a noun in the context of the word “sinful,” with some rather weak definitions like, 1. Tainted with, marked by, or full of sin: wicked; 2. Such as to make one feel guilty <a sinful chocolate cake>. Somehow I don’t think these later definitions fit the reality of the temporal and eternal implications of the fall. Let’s consider man’s condition and the unintended consequences that our first parent’s sin brought upon their posterity by reviewing just a few of the references associated with the question:
“For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).
“As it is written: ‘There is none righteous, no, not one’” (Rom. 3:10).
“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5).
“For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (Matt. 15:19).
We must not conclude our meditation with only the thoughts above. We must learn the lessons of repentance and faith as we understand daily conflicts and their source (Gen 3:15). We must teach them to our children, generation unto generation, so that we do not lose a true sense of the sinfulness of sin, and of the human condition of total depravity. Truly, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it? I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his doings” (Jer. 17:9-10). In that same context Jeremiah says, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD. For he shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when good comes, but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in a salt land which is not inhabited’” (Jer. 17: 5-6). 
But he didn’t stop there; nor did our Heavenly Father when our first parents failed in their faith and obedience. Both the curse in the garden, and the curse pronounced by Jeremiah, is followed by a promise of redemption. “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jer. 17:7-8). “Though [we] fall, [we] shall not be utterly cast down” (Ps. 37:24). Redemption from their folly that lead all the world into sin and despair was true for our first parents; and it is equally true for all who heed the word of truth and follow in faith, repentance, and obedience.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.     There are various views regarding the nature of man, especially regarding the reason we act in certain ways. Many believe that people are born good, that every human being if just left alone or rightly educated would always act kindly, with love, never doing anything wrong. The Bible provides a different explanation for the so-called dilemma of sinful behavior. Read Ps. 58:3 and Matt. 15:18-19. What two things described here determine man’s sinful nature, thoughts, and actions? (1)
2.     We are guilty before God because of what we do and what we are. “Original sin” means the guilt we are born with, and in addition, our inability to act righteously. As such, what do we lack that Adam actually possessed when he was created? See Ps. 14:2-3 and Is. 64:6. (2)
3.     To what extent did the fall affect man’s nature? 1Cor 2:14; John 3:19; John 5:39-40. (3)
4.     Because of the true nature of our condition, what hope have we in this life apart from God’s saving grace? See Jer. 13: 23.
5.    We live out the truth of our nature every day in the way we live our lives (see Rom. 3:10-18). Though this may not be pleasant to dwell on, why is it important to know this, and what provision has God provided for those he loves? See I John 1:5 - 2:1.
Answers:
1-   We are sinful because of what we are on the inside and because of what we do on the outside. Not only do we do things that are sinful, we are sinful. The reason we sin on the outside is that we are sinners on the inside. The Bible says that because of the fall, all people are born sinful on the inside; all of us are sinners; none are naturally good. We sin because we are sinful.
2-   Answer: “original righteousness” as he was created in “knowledge, righteousness, and holiness” (see WSC Q10), yet finite and untested, without sin yet not without the ability not to sin.
3-   Answer: Every part of human nature was affected: Body, Mind (thinking and reason), Heart (feelings, emotions, and relation towards others), and Will.
Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 18, WLC Q# 25-26 & WCF VI. IV&V
WSC Q18. Wherein consists the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A.  The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consists in the guilt of Adam's first sin[a], the want of original righteousness, and the corruption of his whole nature, which is commonly called original sin[b]; together with all actual transgressions which proceed from it[c].
[a] Rom. 5:12,19; 1Cor. 15:22.
[b] Rom. 5:6; Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 8:7,8; Gen. 6:5; Rom. 3:10-20; Psa. 51:5; 58:3.
[c] Matt. 15:19; James 1:14-15.
WLC Q25. Wherein consisteth the sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell?
A.  The sinfulness of that estate whereinto man fell, consisteth in the guilt of Adam's first sin[a], the want of that righteousness wherein he was created, and the corruption of his nature, whereby he is utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite unto all that is spiritually good, and wholly inclined to all evil, and that continually[b]; which is commonly called original sin, and from which do proceed all actual transgressions[c].
[a] Rom. 5:12,19; 1Cor. 15:22.
[b] Rom. 3:10-20, 5:6, 8:7-8; Eph. 2:1-3; Gen. 6:5; Psa. 51:5, 58:3.
[c] Jam. 1:14-15; Matt. 15:19
WLC Q26. How is original sin conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity?
A.  Original sin is conveyed from our first parents unto their posterity by natural generation, so as all that proceed from them in that way are conceived and born in sin[a].
[a] Ps. 51:5; Job 14:4; John 3:6.
THE WESTMINSTER CONFESSION OF FAITH
CHAPTER. VI.
Of the Fall of Man, of Sin, and of the
Punishment thereof.
IV.From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil[a], do proceed all actual transgressions[b].
[a] Rom. 5:6; Rom. 7:18; Rom. 8:7; Col. 1:21; John 3:6; Gen. 8:21; Rom. 3:10,11,12.
[b] James 1:14-15; Matt. 15:19.
V.  This corruption of nature, during this life, doth remain in those that are regenerated[a]; and although it be, through Christ pardoned and mortified, yet both itself, and all the motions thereof, are truly and properly sin[b].
[a] Prov. 20:9; Ecc. 7:20; Rom. 7:14, 17-18, 21-23; I John 1:8, 10; James 3:2
[b] Rom. 7:5,7,8, and 25.
Questions for further study:
The large catechism expands on the instruction found in the shorter, delivering among other things, the truth regarding how sin is conveyed to Adam’s posterity. The confession does likewise, but also conveys what instruction of hope for those in Christ?




Monday, October 22, 2018

Westminster Shorter Catechism Q17


The Doctrinal Heading for this section of questions (Q14-19) is Original Sin. (see Harmony Index)
The previous two catechism questions dealt with “the sin whereby our first parents fell from the estate wherein they were created” and the fall of “all mankind…in Adam’s first transgression.”  Now we come to Question 17, which deals with the disparate estate that the fall brought upon all mankind—“sin and misery.”
As we ponder the significance of the fall and its universal effects, we ought to reflect upon the saving grace of our Lord Jesus Christ “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross,” and the “so great salvation” his finished work provided for his own held captive to the consequences of the fall.
May the Lord grant us a grateful and rejoicing heart in the mystery of his great love and compassion, for we have abundant reason to praise him in every way, which is our first call and purpose.
****************
WSC Q17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery[a].
   [a] Gen. 3:16-19, 23; Rom. 3:16, 5:12; Eph. 2:1; Gal. 3:10
Question #17 asks what happened to man in the fall, and answers that man fell into a condition of sin and misery.
Comments and considerations:
In G.I. Williamson’s study book, The Shorter Catechism, Volume I, he says in lesson 12 (in which he combines Questions 16 & 17), “In this lesson we consider one of the most difficult doctrines for human beings to accept. Just as a person who has some terrible disease like cancer hates to hear what the doctor has to say, so we, as sinners, hate to hear what the Bible says concerning our sin and misery. And yet, the strange thing is, that no one can really escape from these facts by hating to hear about them.”  Williamson shows how we are surrounded by the undeniable facts of our condition; he then describes the different ways people try to explain the human condition. He concludes that, “the difference is only in the fact that the Christian has some understanding of the reason for this sin and misery.”  
I’ve heard that the Bible is 80% narrative – stories within the story of the fall, its effects upon all people, and the various aspects of redemption. To quote Shakespeare, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; they have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages” (As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7). This is not unlike the lesson of Ecclesiastes in its search for meaning in man’s existence. While the Preacher describes all as “vanity and grasping for wind” (Ecc. 1:14b), the Bard describes the “Last scene of all, that ends this strange eventful history,” calling it “second childishness and mere oblivion, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.” Of course Solomon in his wisdom saw the end differently: “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecc. 12:13-14). Solomon struggled to understand this world of sin and misery, as we all do; yet he remained teachable and ultimately understood that God “has made everything beautiful in its time. Also He has put eternity in [our] hearts, except that no one can find out the work that God does from beginning to end” (Ecc. 3:11). Our God and the things that he does may be past finding out and humanly incomprehensible, but He is knowable (Deut. 29:29). And as G.I. Williamson says, we “as sinners, [may] hate to hear what the Bible says concerning our sin and misery,” but if we do not “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Rom 1:18), but rather embrace it as one seeking healing from the death blows of sin and the disparate estate in which it placed all mankind, then truly we’ll find the hope of glory, the salvation of our souls, meaning, and life everlasting.
There is much to ponder in this short catechism lesson, much to learn and gain if we give proper heed. How did our Lord put it? “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). Those are comforting words indeed for those who dwell in the estate of sin and misery.
Training Hearts and Teaching Minds Questions:
1.    When Adam and Eve sinned and the fall took its effect, they did not immediately die physically; rather, they became spiritually dead on the inside, and their bodies began to die. How did sin and misery first manifest itself following their disobedience? Read Gen. 3:6-10.
2.    Catechism Question 10 asked how God created man; the answer states, “in His own image; in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; with dominion over the other creatures.” Question 1 teaches us that man’s chief end (primary purpose) in life is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. Reading Gen. 3:8-19, in what ways were God’s creative purposes for man affected by the fall?
3.    Likewise, how is man’s relationship with other men changed by the fall? See Gen. 4:1-10.
4.    Adam was created in the image or likeness of God. In whose likeness were those born after Adam? See Gen. 5:1-3.
5.    In the midst of the curse, God provides the gracious promise of redemption. How is that promise revealed? See Gen. 3:15 (cf. 1Cor. 15:22).
Harmony of the Standards:WSC Q# 17 & WLC Q# 23
WSC Q17. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A.  The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery[a].
[a] Gen. 3:16-19, 23; Rom. 3:16, 5:12; Eph. 2:1; Gal. 3:10.
WLC Q23. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A.  The fall brought mankind into an estate of sin and misery[a].
 [a] Rom. 5:12, 3:23; Gal. 3:10