Friday, November 14, 2008

I am an old, old man.

“We know that the man we once were has been crucified with Christ, for the destruction of the sinful self, so that we may no longer be the slaves of sin, since a dead man is no longer answerable for his sin.” Romans 6:8

“Give up living like the pagans with their good-for-nothing notions. Their wits are beclouded, they are strangers to the life that is in God, because ignorance prevails among them and their minds have grown as hard as stone. Dead to all feeling, they have abandoned themselves to vice, and stop at nothing to satisfy their foul desires. But that is not how you learned Christ. For were you not told of him, were you not as Christians taught the truth as it is in Jesus? That, leaving your former way of life, you must lay aside that old human nature which, deluded by its lusts, is sinking towards death. You must be made new in mind and spirit, and put on the new nature of God’s creating, which shows itself in the just and devout life called for by the truth.” Ephesians 4: 17-24

“ … now that you have discarded the old nature with its deeds and have put on the new nature, which is being constantly renewed in the image of its Creator and brought to know God.” Colossians 3: 10-11

“If you are guided by the Spirit, you will not fulfill the desires of your lower nature. That nature sets its desires against the Spirit, while the Spirit fights against it.”

To the best of my knowledge, Paul has very little complimentary things to say about a person prior to that person finding him/herself in Christ. It's very simple for him. The old man was someone who was full of vices and negative lusts and essentially just not a pleasant person. The new man -- the one created new in Christ -- is a reformed, more pleasant person.

So the unsaved is the "old man." Therefore, if we go back to person A (the unsaved) and person B (the saved), when person B is praying that person A receives salvation, does that not put person A in the category of the "old man?" For surely person A cannot qualify as the "new man," for person A is not saved.

Yet person A is also claiming person B to be a close friend, and accepts person A just as s/he is. Based on how Paul tends to describe the old man, who in their right mind would accept that type of person as a close friend? And if we take this exactly as Paul describes the old man, does this not mean that Person B is supposed to view person A as this lust-filled, vice-seeking, nature-fighting-against-Spirit ... person?

In many cases, I don't think evangelicals follow this black and white thinking, and divide people into these neat, organized categories. On the other hand, maybe they do, as I've seen the reason why an unsaved person is better behaved is because the person secretly believes in God. Or there's the idea that people are better behaved than Christians because that's what their religion teaches them -- they receive heaven based on good works, and thus the good behavior is really just driven by selfishness. And there are evangelicals out there who do view the world in these narrow compartments, absolutely convinced that that all unsaved people are just soaked through and through with sinsinsin, and are just waiting to burst forth and do all that sinful stuff.

I think person B falls into the category of an unnarrow viewpoint, to some degree. However, I'm also thinking that person B has no idea of the implications behind the sincere desire that person A be saved, and what that entails about person A's character. That it means person B is calling person A an "old man" and Biblically, that's not the most complimentary thing to say.

But person A is left with the feeling that person B cannot one the one hand say that person A is a very close friend, and wants person A to trust person B, and then at the same time hold this belief that person A is only the "old man." And that's not even getting into the idea behind certain Bible verses about how the only reason why one rejects Jesus is because of this burning desire to cling to the darkness. It's a little hard to maintain any sort of deep friendship when person B's theology leaves little room to see something positive in others.

Yet, I'm also wondering if maybe person A is just being a little hypersensitive.


Ray said...

"And that's not even getting into the idea behind certain Bible verses about how the only reason why one rejects Jesus is because of this burning desire to cling to the darkness."

I was thinking along this line throughout your post. A problem is that "clinging to the darkness" isn't restricted to the hedonistic areas Paul discussed, but any fault on the part of Person A. And a big fault of Person A is that they must have some dark evil motive for not believing the bible is true about Jesus and "accepting" him, like it must be they won't trust god, or hate christians, or are "puffed up with pride," or something, not that they just don't believe.

That said, I agree with your premise, friendship under those circumstances is nearly impossible *to the extent* that the evangelical christian is not willing to be flexible. How fanatic is the christian in holding to their doctrines? To what degree are they willing to really think their thoughts and live their lives unmarried to their doctrine.

Regardless, it can really really hurt to be Person A. My sympathies are with those who are in this situation.

OneSmallStep said...


**How fanatic is the christian in holding to their doctrines? To what degree are they willing to really think their thoughts and live their lives unmarried to their doctrine.**
That really is the crux of the whole issue. I think in many cases where the Christian is interacting with many non-Christians, and is friends with many non-Christians, there has to be some flexibility in terms of the theology. Because the non-Christians behavior simply doesn't match up to the idea of the non-Christian clinging to the darkness. After all, the non-Christian isn't consistently displaying the "fruits of the flesh."

However, in the case of this post, it's not a matter of blatent behavior in terms of person B. Person B isn't going around saying that, and if person B can call person A a best friend, then I would say there's a large part of person B that doesn't consider person A pursuing a lot of sin-filled activities -- after all, if person A were doing that, person B would not be friends with her.

What it really comes down to is the implication behind seeing person A as unsaved. No matter how flexible person B is in terms of theology, no matter how good or nice or friendly person B sees person A, there is still the fact that person A can only be an "old man," since person B is praying for person A to become the new creation in Christ.

Therefore, on some level, person B is calling/considering person A to be in line with the "old man," and thus having the desires of the lower nature.

Which is why I'm wondering if person A is being hypersensitive, because the stance above is taking the theology more literally than person B seems to be at the same time. Person B isn't being that fanatical about it -- s/he is simply praying for person A to be converted. But there's a huge undertone there that I don't think person B is aware of. Rather, person B is seeing it more along the lines of desperately wanting person A to avoid hell, rather than implying certain things about person A's character.

Anonymous said...

I think person B may be a little guarded around person A - restricting their friendship - or at least straining it. It's all about the 'in crowd' and the 'out crowd'...this the reason I always talk about the 'line in the sand' people draw.

However, Paul, to me, is using terminology that is symbolic in many cases and not to be taken literally. He talks about death and resurrection concerning the 'old man' and this 'new man'...that has to be all symbolic in nature - about the changes one chooses to make when they follow the Christian faith (as compared to a quite hedonistic Roman culture). These explanations make sense to him concerning the finality of one's decision to follow the Messiah.

Yes it will impact our friendships with others - very religious people are also very guarded against the factors of society (ex: some won't watch tv, some won't attend movies, etc). Some only drink mlik from Christian cows (lol).

Problem is - in this democratic society we do have some of the similar problems of Roman times - but I would also lean to the idea these Western societies adopted any Christian values also. The separation person A is having from person B may not be justified.

OneSmallStep said...


**The separation person A is having from person B may not be justified.**

I'm unsure what you mean here. Do you mean that person A is unjustified in seperating from person B, or that person B isn't justified in being guarded around person A?

Pastor Bob said...

Seems to me that the biggest problem in separating persons A and B is that in all the passages quoted here they are the same person! Person A is person B prior to becoming a Christian. And Paul's advice is that Person B needs to stop acting like person A, that is to go through the process of sanctification or transformation.

Now if you want to talk about how Christians should behave with non Christians you need to check I Cor. Paul basically says encouragement to change behavior happens once one is inside the Church. Relationships with non Christians are different as one cannot step outside of the world. The implication is the Christian loves the non Christian.

Just a thought

OneSmallStep said...

Pastor Bob,

** Person A is person B prior to becoming a Christian. And Paul's advice is that Person B needs to stop acting like person A, that is to go through the process of sanctification or transformation.**

Here's the complication with that, though. Person A doesn't act the way Paul describes -- there is no consistent following of the lower nature, or the sin nature. Person A is not dead to all feeling, or abandoned him/herself to vice. In fact, person A and person B demonstrate the fruits of the Spirit and the fruits of the flesh about the same amount of time.

Unless you knew person B was a Christian -- and this person is, a very devout one -- there is very little means of using anything external to determine a difference.

So the complication again comes down to the fact that if person B is praying for person A to be saved, then the only category person A can be thrown into is the category of the "old man." Thus how can there be any sort of meaningful relationship, when one person in the relationship "sees" the other as "stopping at nothing to satisfying his/her foul desires?" You can't build trust based on that.

Anonymous said...

"The separation person A is having from person B may not be justified." (SVS)

I mean, the seperation person A is causing due to their religious perogative's - may not be very 'just' or based in something 'just'.

I think society has adopted a lot of Judeo-Christian values and they are written into ethics within this country (or most countries in the West).

If person A tries to seperate to be more 'Christian' (creating the us vs. them mentality) - they are pretty much saying society has nothing to offer worth of value. I think that is a flawed premise for them to hold. Society may very well be based on some of their most dear religious ethics.

I have noticed most strains on relationships between A and B comes down to that basic premise - 'the world' is full of bad and if person B persists in hanging out there - they may need some good talking to. I think Person A is making an arguement without total merit in my opinion - since the 'world' we live in - may be based on religious ethics/principles from prior. So how can that all be bad?

I think person A is willingly shutting themselves off from others for sake of being 'seperate from the world' - but they may not fully understand what that means - so the generic use of 'the world is everything' is used.