The Nature of the Cure Tells the Nature of the Disease

Recently I’ve been listening to Victor Shepherd‘s lectures from a class called “Theology of the Human Person.” I’ve never taken a class from Shepherd, who teaches at Tyndale Seminary in Toronto, but Regent College sells some of his lectures through Regent Audio. I’ve listened to a series of his lectures on historical theology, and another lecture on Calvin and predestination, and have enjoyed them a great deal.

Here is a quote from Theology of the Human Person, on how people gain knowledge of sin:

A knowledge of redemption alone generates a knowledge of sin. An apprehension of the cure acquaints you with the nature and scope of the disease. The cure defines the ailment. Reconciliation highlights the nature and the fact of alienation….

Can sinners, of themselves, know themselves to be sinners? No. Only the grace of redemption acquaints us with the fact that we are sinners. Sinners of themselves can know themselves to be guilty, self-alienated, fed up, frustrated, lethal—but sin by definition is a defective relationship with God. Who is the God with whom we are defectively related? And how do we know that we are defectively related to him? All of this has to be revealed to us. This is not naturally knowable….

If the cure discloses the nature of the disease, we ought never to preach on sin without preaching of sin forgiven. We ought never to preach on estrangement without preaching on estrangement overcome in Christ. Because only the overcoming of estrangement acquaints us with the nature of the estrangement. I think that in church, we have preached many times on sin, and very lamely, and too lately, gotten around to sin forgiven. We left people in a worse condition than ever, and we made them bigger and better moralists.

If you preach on sin without preaching on sin forgiven you’re going to fall into the moralistic trap.If you think that the moral person is any closer to the kingdom than the immoral person, then you think that the Pharisee is going to go into the kingdom ahead of the [tax collector]. Jesus says the harlots and the tax collectors go into the kingdom first because the one thing they have is no illusion about the fact that they’re moral. Moral people always manage to convince themselves that they’re not sinners.