A student of mine (non-Christian – and one who has given me permission to share what he writes) says:
“Romans 3-6 definitely speaks on our sin, and nature as man. More importantly this section speaks on god’s grace, and the separation we have as living beings. That may seem confusing so I will clarify. If god loves us and shows that through this grace, there’s obviously a very close connection we have with god. The separation comes in our existence and our nature. We are not all knowing or capable of the feats god has, so that’s where the disconnect comes in and requires grace. That was the entire point of Jesus coming to Earth, to take on the burden of sin, and in some ways a burden of grace.”
[Student’s name] – biblically, the separation comes not because of our existence and our nature, but because of our sin, begun with Adam and Eve’s fall. It is true that as creatures we were made to always need God, but that does not mean we should have considered ourselves “deficient” in any way. In many faiths – and even in some quarters of Chrisitianity – there is a belief that nature itself (not nature infected by sin) is lacking and needs to be completed by grace. In practice this means salvation looks like “I do my best and God does the rest” – i.e. makes up for the difference. Not the Christian message, which is full-boar rescue from a desperate situation, i.e. spiritual deadness.
Can fallen man do anything that is good when “only God is good” as Jesus said? Externally to be sure! But can some actions by some fallen men perhaps be more “pure” than others? Are some more righteous because of their particular natures and/or the habits they have developed? Well – here is the key question that must be asked here: “Why do we want to know this?” For practical reasons? For reasons related to building our systematic theologies?” More specifically, do we want to take credit for the good that we do so that God will notice us and give us what we deserve – even though, on the other hand, we know that we deserve nothing from Him?! Why is it not enough to simply say that God, in Christ slain from the foundation of the world, is the source of all goodness and fallen man, lost in Adam’s capitulation to Satan, is the one responsible for all evil? According to his fallen nature, man will reject all God desires to give (see I Cor. 2), and even if God were to do a perfectly good work in fallen man, man, when made conscious of this fact, would take credit for it – or at the very least, take credit for actively choosing by their own free will to not reject God’s work in them! It is, after all, our fallen nature to consider ourselves “good persons” who are really not fully in need of a Savior.
But the glory must remain Gods.
Therefore, why not, when it comes to the defining matter being able to stand justified before Him, simply confess that all is by grace and say “what do we have that we have not received”? That He gets all the glory for our regeneration and we get all the blame for our degeneration… (our lack of faith, fear and love of God).
This is what Lutheran theology does – and when I read the Bible again and again I don’t read anything that causes me to think twice.
In Adam all fell and are lost and in Christ all are made alive. All is gift. What do we have that we have not received?