Monday, February 21

Responding to Comments on Inability

There have been some good comments that require responses, and I plan to work through them as I can, beginning with this post.

From Diane R:
....there is that pesky passage in Romans 2:14-16 which talks about [those] who haven't heard the gospel BUT are saved through the conscience of their hearts. Yikes! What is that all about and how does that reconcile into total depravity?
I suppose the easiest thing is to just to quote the text referred to right here:
For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (ESV).
As I read this passage, I don't see it saying that anyone has been saved through the conscience of their heart, but rather it's part of Paul's explanation of the basis for the condemnation of all people, both Jew and Gentile. These particular verses are part of Paul's response to the Jewish people who thought that being given the law automatically gave them moral superiority. Paul is saying that it isn't just having the law that shows someone to be right before God, but keeping it. The Gentiles, who had never been given the law, nevertheless had some inate idea of right and wrong. Their consciences retained a moral code, even though it was imperfect. When they didn't act according to their innate moral code, their consciences would accuse them, and when they did act according to that code, their consciences would excuse them. Paul seems to be suggesting, however that the times when their consciences excuse them is much rarer than the times when their consciences accuse them.

In other words, they managed to do just as well at keeping God's law, even though they'd never been given it, as the Jews did, but they still end up on the wrong side of the sin equation. In the same passage, Paul tells us that "all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law (verse 12)" and "that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one...' (3:9, 10)." The innate moral code that Gentiles retained only condemns them in the long run:
For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. (3:20)
Their consciences serve as proof to them that they are sinners, so that when they stand before the judgment of God, their mouths will be stopped, too. They will understand why and for what they are being held accountable.

Next in line is a question from Robin Munn about 2 Peter 3:9.
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