Epistemology


CHAPTER II
THE NATURAL STATE OF MAN


Click here to view Chapter One of Theory of Knowledge.

Spiritual Blindness

The Reformed view of man finds him in a natural state of spiritual blindness. He is fully able to cogitate upon non-spiritual matters. He is able to acquire an incredible amount of knowledge and may become worldly wise and successful through his own determination and efforts.

Paul states that the lost are "always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:7). That is because the Bible says the natural man is blind to spiritual truths.

Ephesians 4:17-19 states, "This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness." This passage clearly states that the natural man is separated from God, and from all justifying knowledge and sanctifying wisdom.

A natural man is ignorant of spiritual truths which are necessary for saving repentance and faith. Their spiritual thinking is misguided, and their spiritual beliefs are vain and hopeless. Their hearts have become cold and insensitive to spiritual matters, and they have grown to love their sin and their partners in sin.

This is not to say that a natural man cannot gather facts about God by hearing a sermon, listening to someone witness, or by reading the Bible. But his mind is unable to fully comprehend the knowledge he has received about God, thus restricting him from the salvific requirement of true repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ.

It is not as though the natural man has a total case of unbelief in the true God, but it is a mistaken belief. He is confounded by the deep mysteries of the Christian faith. Keep in mind, though, that this predicament is perfectly fine to the natural man because they, as John Frame suggests, "are as passionately concerned to reject God as the Christian is to love Him" (1987, p.126). A sinful human's inclination is guided away from God, not towards Him.

God's Provision

Although such a man deserves to die, be judged, and sentenced to hell, God sometimes intervenes because of His love, mercy, and grace. Through election (Ephesians 1:3-14), divine calling (John 6:37), and the opening of a sinner's heart (Acts 16:14; Ephesians 1:18) God supernaturally enables a man to comprehend information pertaining to salvation. It is because of this divine predestination that a man begins to hunger and thirst for God, seeking to eat the bread of life and drink the living water.

In addition to truth facts already possessed by him gospel knowledge has to be given to the person. J.I. Packer says, "If there is to be faith, however, there must be a foundation of knowledge; a man must know of Christ, and of His cross, and of His promises, before saving faith becomes a possibility for him" (Evangelism, 1961, p.71). This is where pastors and Christian witnesses must be "on call" per se.

A Christian's faithful witness is precisely for a time such as this. Paul says he "endures all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Timothy 2:10). The Lord guides His seeker to a Christian where he will hear the gospel message (Romans 10:14-17). J.I. Packer reminds us to remain humble because, "Evangelism is man's work, but the giving of faith is God's work" (1961, p.40).

Be on guard as to the offensive nature of the gospel to the natural man. He has a long-standing personal religious system accumulated from various avenues which he will guard ferociously.

Pride is man's biggest sin and it rears its ugly head most dangerously when discussing religion. R.B. Kuiper warns about the two main elements that make it offensive, "One of these aspects is its uncompromising teaching of salvation by the grace of God and by that grace alone. Nothing could be more humiliating for man. . . . The other aspect of the Christian evangel which offends, and even infuriates, the natural man, is its claim to exclusiveness. He denounces that claim as intolerant and bigoted" (1966, p.173). Expect these common reactions to the gospel of grace.

Process of Acquiring Divine Knowledge

At this point, our earlier study on how a man comes to knowledge benefits us. God has created man so that he may come to know Him, and He provides a process for this to take place.

God Himself innately plants information in a person's heart, i.e. existence of God, fear of God, existence of oneself, a moral law code, etc. Christians offering testimony detailing their experience with God gives the man needed information, too. Of course, divine revelation offers many avenues for knowledge to pass into the man's mind. Scripture reading, preaching, and teaching by Christians is ordained by God to fulfill this aspect of knowledge.

So too, God may show a man many things in his life through events and experiences. Finally, God regenerates the man giving him the ability to sort out and reason through all of this information. The regenerated man is then able to repent and believe in Jesus Christ, coming to know God through an incredible experiential meeting with Him. This is God's ordained process of calling, informing, and saving a human being.

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