Friday, January 25, 2008

How Many Natures Do You Have?

The picture above is of the sculpture Struggle of Two Natures In Man by George Gray Barnard. It represents a common view that man has two natures, a "good" one and a "bad" one.

Many have taught that this is true of every person, "born again", or not.

Others who are Bible believers think that Christians once had only a "bad" nature, but after being "born again" now have both a new (good) nature plus their old (bad) nature.

But is this true?

Nowhere in Scripture is it indicated that we have two natures. Your "nature" is your very "being", your "essence" or "essential self". This is expressed in Scripture as our "spirit", and we don't have two of those.

Biblically, we had ONE nature when we were unregenerate. It was an enemy to Christ, and loved sin.

When we are born again, we still have ONE nature. But it's New (2 Cor. 5:17).

We don't get a second nature to live alongside our now-schizoid "sinful nature". We are "regenerated", given a new nature (new "man"). The old nature (old "man") has been crucified -- "dead" for those in Rio Linda.

We still have the "flesh" to contend with, which while admittedly mysterious, is much more physical than usually thought of by those who incorrectly think we still have a "sin nature".

This flesh might be compared to an old computer program, with its habitual thought/behavior patterns still warring with our new spirit (our new nature).

Thanks to modern science, we know that our brains are quite literally physical/chemical/cellular "river patterns", which can be physically stimulated to cause things to happen in our minds. Things like remembering a birthday party from age 3, or "feeling" exhilaration as we remember going down a roller coaster, or thinking murderous thoughts as we probe some cell of a long-lost memory of injustice.

Thus our minds need to be "renewed" to establish new habit patterns of thought, which align with Scripture and the Holy Spirit.

But the flesh is not our "sin nature" because it is not our nature at all. In it (in our "members") dwells this thing called "sin", but Paul was careful in Rom. 7 to say that while "sin" dwelt in his members, his flesh, the sin was not him ("I find it's no longer *I* that do it, but sin which is within me.")

The New International Version (NIV) has done a great disservice to the Church by translating "flesh" (sarx) as "sinful nature" in Romans 7. It's an interpretational mistake which furthers the error of our having two natures.

The English Standard Version (ESV) made the same mistake in the earliest translations, but the translators became convinced that this was wrong, and have since corrected it to read "flesh".

I write on this subject only because I think biblical Anthropology is very important. It makes the difference between the believer who thinks it's "natural" for him to sin, and the one who thinks it is *against* his nature to sin (the latter is the correct one).

If we correctly think that it is *against* our nature to sin ("Consider yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God through Jesus Christ" - Rom. 6:11), we have a greater understanding in seeking to walk by the Spirit (the Holy Spirit, as well as our new spirit in which He dwells), and not by the flesh.

Paul in Romans 7 is clearly speaking of a believer walking by the flesh, with sin residing in his flesh. Who will deliver him from this BODY of death (see how physical that is?)? The answer is Christ, as He indwells Paul's spirit (nature) and lives His Life out through Paul.

We can all identify with "doing what we don't want to do" sometimes. But can't we also identify with "doing what we DO want to do" sometimes, as He works in us "both to will and to do for His good pleasure"?

All things beings equal, when we KNOW we are changed, we have more of a tendency to ACT like we're changed.


jensgems said...

OK, this is my new favorite blog! I'd like to see lots more of these kinds of articles!

I was excommunicated three years ago. The "spiritual" reason was that I believe that we don't have two different natures fighting in us. I'm glad I'm not a kook after all!

Terry Rayburn said...


Glad you are encouraged. It's great we can always go back to the Word, isn't it?

Only Look said...

Amen. Well taught.