Here are some approximate quotes from John Hannah’s lecture on Jonathan Edwards’ 1757 work The Great Doctrine of Original Sin Defended. The technical term for the doctrine of sin is “hamartiology,” from the Greek word hamartia). If there’s one doctrine that we instinctively revile or at least ignore, it’s this one. It devastates our perceived warrants for pride. Though several statements below are very theological and nuanced, I include them for this reason. It is easy to go for long periods of time without thinking deeply about the depths of sin. You may disagree with Hannah’s final hamartiological formulations, but there’s no escaping the biblical indictment of our extreme, suffocating, personal and corporate depravity. The only escape is the cross.
America’s view of human morality: Basically, we all have a good moral compass, and if we follow it, we’ll be fine. This is America to the core.
Hamartiology’s three issues: When discussing the doctrine of sin, you have three things to discuss: (1) corruption of nature, (2) corruption of action, and (3) guilt. And the real question is, “Which comes first? Which causes the others?” That’s the whole question of anthropology.
Condemned in the sin of Adam: I’m going to die on the hill of non-participational condemnation because I will die on the hill of non-participational atonement [see Romans 5:12-21]. A weak view of sin always leads to a weak view of what Christ had to do to accomplish its cure. A high view of sin places all the burden on Christ. You may have a bad problem, but we have a wonderful solution. That’s what we’re preaching. We’re not preaching self-help.
Sin and guilt: Are you guilty because you sin or do you sin because you’re guilty? Which comes first? You were born guilty, according to Scripture. And the proof of that guilt is your acts of sin.
Biblical order of human sinfulness: The correct order is: (1) guilt, (2) corrupt nature, (3) sinful actions. How does guilt come before a corrupt nature? Because we’re birthed with guilt because of Adam. I can’t put guilt after sins, because I’m not guilty because I sinned. I was guilty in Adam.
Just condemnation: It is not the depth of evil that condemns us, but the fact of it. Even .001% evil is enough to bring us infinite condemnation before an infinite God. I could argue that even someone who is very good is eternally condemned because of their sin.
Dead in sin: Death is real. I know a homiletics professor who takes his first class to a cemetery. He picks out a grave and tells one of the students to go and tell the person to live. Finally one goes over and kind of whispers some things, embarrassed. Then he says, “Men, you’re preaching to dead people.”
Death: I have concluded that death is so traumatic that it disables people from hearing.
Part 1 – Monday’s quotes
Part 2 – Tuesday’s quotes
Part 3 – Wednesday’s quotes
Part 4 – Thursday’s quotes
Part 5 – Friday’s quotes
Part 6 – Saturday’s quotes
Part 7 – Quotes from biographical lectures (1)
Part 8 – Quotes from biographical lectures (2)
Part 9 – Quotes from lectures on Edwards’ early writings
Part 10 – Quotes from lecture on Religious Affections
Part 11 – Quotes from lecture on Edwards’ Trinitarianism
Part 12 – Quotes from lectures on Edwards’ preaching and Grace
Part 13 – Quotes from lecture on Charity and Its Fruits
Part 14 – Quotes from lectures on Redemption, Communion Controversy, and Brainerd
2 thoughts on “Wit and Wisdom from John Hannah (15)”
Wendy: I appreciate your comments, and I’m very sorry about your loss of three babies.
When interpreting biblical teaching on depravity, we have to be careful to say what Scripture says and not what gives us most hope for babies who die. I’m not saying that Scripture gives no hope for babies (I think it might, though only by implication). But our doctrine has to come from Scripture and not feelings. I think you said it well: “I know God is good, and we can never think up a better plan than whatever is His.”
Just to clarify, the quote about death inhibiting hearing was actually about the devastating reality and far-reaching effects of spiritual death. Apart from the new life of the Spirit, people will never respond to the gospel, because dead people are by definition unresponsive (Romans 3:10-18; Eph 2:1ff.). Hannah was being a bit sarcastic: “It’s pretty obvious that death makes people unable to hear, and that’s why people who are spiritually dead will never respond to the gospel on their own.”
You’re dead on about telling people about the hope of Christ and the utter absence of hope without Him. Thanks for your thoughts.
Order of sinfulness:
“I’m not guilty b/c I sinned. I was guilty in Adam.”
–Seems to knock hope for unborn babies…I had hoped and still do hope, since we will be judged for “the deeds done in the flesh,” that babies will not be in hell. God knows. (i’ve lost 3) Presbyterians hope they are in heaven b/c of their saved parent(s). (1 Cor.7:14?) Lutherans hope, but know they don’t know. I don’t know what reformed Baptists think about this. But I know God is good, and we can never think up a better plan than whatever is His.
“death is so traumatic that it keeps people from hearing.”
Yes…ever wanted to witness to someone after they lost an unsaved loved one? How? I know God can reach them anyway, but it is the hardest time to start telling them that there is no hope for anyone apart from Christ, for all eternity. Much better to tell before, and yet also to keep telling, whatever the circumstances, ’cause look what is at stake! The Christian knows, and can’t be apathetic!
For the Christian, losing an unbelieving loved one makes you know He has given us nothing to hold on to but Himself in this world. No other gods. Ouch.