What Establishes Man's Responsibility...? — Part 2

I completed my annotated edition of Arthur W. Pink’s book, The Attributes of God (“Critical Edition” with detailed Preface, Biography, and Annotations, doubling the page count, 199pp., pb., 17.50 + P&H) and it is available for order

 

 

I have now completed my annotating his larger book, The Sovereignty of God (which “Critical Edition” will be printed in several months).  His original was about 220 pages; this annotated edition is 630pp., and will be 32.50 + P&H.

 

 

 

copyright © 2022 Ancient Heritage Foundation

As his doctrinal and logical eror in several places touches upon something that I wrote several months ago [ What Establishes Man’s Responsibility? Part 1 ], I will post a few pages of Pink’s book, and my annotations:

Halfway through Chapter 8, Pink writes:

What we have contended for above is of first importance.  Upon the distinction between the sinner’s natural ability, and his moral and spiritual inability, rests his responsibility.*  The depravity of the human heart does not destroy man’s accountability to God; so far from this being the case the very moral inability of the sinner only serves to increase his guilt.  This is easily proven by a reference to the scriptures cited above.  We read that Joseph’s brethren “could not speak peaceably unto him”, and why?  It was because they “hated” Him.  But was this moral inability of theirs any excuse?  Surely not: in this very moral inability consisted the greatness of their sin.  So of those concerning whom it is said, “They cannot cease from sin” (II Pet. 2:14), and why? —because “their eyes were full of adultery”, but that only made their case worse.  It was a real fact that they could not cease from sin, yet this did not excuse them—it only made their sin the greater.*2

[*1 Pink here is confused.  Man’s responsibility is established by God’s Decree that man is responsible.

*2 Pink here misses the pulse, the heart of the issue, the bullseye.  More coherently and concisely: Ignorance does not absolve the sinner of his guilt or responsibility to obey and not to sin.  Ignorant sin is sin nonetheless.  Even in God’s Law, those who sinned out of ignorance still had to have sacrifices offered for sin—they were still obligated to repent (stop sinning and start obeying), which they could only do once they realized that they were in sin.  Christ Himself said, “47And that servant, which [that] knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.  48But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes.” (Luke 12).  However, it needs to be realized that after some point in time (which God alone knows) ignorance itself is a choice and ignorance itself is a sin: for we are commanded to meditate upon God’s Law and to know His Will.  Sinful “Christians” claim that they have “no time”, yet make time for all the things in life that they think are so “important” (the cares of this life, their own selfishness and lusts).  Such most probably do not have the desire because they are unregenerate—and they will be dumbfounded (as the man at the wedding who was not wearing a wedding garment, and when questioned why he was not appropriately attired he was speechless) on the Day of Judgment when they find themselves rejected and cast out.  It is the duty of sons / servants to know their father’s / master’s will.  How can they expect to do what they don’t know?  WHAT is it that they are doing?  They are A.W.O.L seeking their own pleasure.  Again, those who act as if they are their own, quite possible were not bought with a price.  Notes mine. R.A.B.]

Should some sinner here object, I cannot help being born into this world with a depraved heart, and therefore I am not responsible for my moral and spiritual inability that accrue from it, the reply would be, [Human Moral] Responsibility and [Legal] Culpability lie in the indulgence of the depraved propensities,*1 the free indulgence,*1 for God does not force any to sin.*1  Men might pity me, but they certainly would not excuse me if I gave vent to a fiery temper, and then sought to extenuate myself on the ground of having inherited that temper from my parents.  Their own common sense is sufficient to guide their judgment in such a case as this.  They would argue [that] I [alone] was responsible to restrain my [own] temper.  Why then cavil against this same principle in the case supposed above? “Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee thou wicked servant” surely applies here!  What would the reader say to a man who had robbed him, and who later argued in [his own] defence, “I cannot help being a thief: [for] that is my nature”...?  Surely the reply would be: “[We cannot help the Nature of the Law] Then [and so] the penitentiary is the proper place for that man [you and any others that cannot restrain their criminal nature].”  What then shall be said to the one who argues that he cannot help following the bent of his sinful heart?  Surely, that the Lake of Fire is where such an one must go.  Did ever murderer plead that he hated his victim so much that he could not go near him without slaying him.*2  Would not that only magnify the enormity of his crime?  Then what of the one who loves*2 sin so much that he is “at enmity against God”...!  [Brackets mine. R.A.B.]

[*1 This is untrue.  Nothing originates in man.  God created all that exists, and God was fully aware that He made man incapable of perfect obedience, and yet He decreed that man should be fully culpable.  Man’s fall into depravity did not cause God to alter His Plan—He planned it fully in advance exactly as it is (with no “contingencies” whatsoever).  Man does not merely have depraved “propensities”—His nature is totally depraved.  The notion of “free” indulgence is misconceived, as is the use of the word indulgence in both the subject and the predicate.  God does not outwardly force anyone to sin; but only a terribly confused person would deny the fact that if a designer / manufacturer designed and manufactured something to fail, that they did not cause the failure.  If such made the shell of a boat out of sponge instead of fiberglass, when they then put the boat in the water, did they not cause the boat to absorb water and sink...?  Again, foolishness is the result of trying to explain truth in terms that are erroneous.  God needs no one to absolve Him.  His Hands are not “dirty”.  God is Good and Holy and Just in all that He does—whether or not His sinful, damaged, limited, small-minded, emotional creatures agree or approve—for He can do no other.  His Nature defines what He does and what Goodness, Holiness, and Justice are.  Even as with fallen man, the sinful act does not produce the sinful nature; but vice versa (Matthew 15:19,20*).  God wrote the entire plot of universal history down to every single electron—for His Own Glory, according to His Own Purpose, Pleasure, and Will.

* This is yet another passage in which the Greek word heart #2588  kardia (car-DEE-ah)—from which we get our words cardiac, cardiology, etc.—refers to the mind.  Furthermore, the second part of this passage has nothing to do with declaring the dietary laws to be unimportant (which they are) or abolished (which they were not).  It is referring to the Pharisees’ obsessive-compulsive disorder and the numerous extra hand washings that these corrupt Pharisees forced upon the people; sinfully adding to the Law of God (because of their own guilty conscience, which could be appeased, because it was not within their nature to repent).  Christ’s discourse referred to the fact that there is no need to wash hands that are already physically clean before one eats.  Christ was speaking in general in regard to someone who is already clean does not need to “wash his hands again” immediately before he ate.  This, of course, would not apply to someone who just mucked out the horse stables or someone who had fallen in the mud.  Similarly, Christ had explained to Peter, while He was about to wash Peter’s feet, that a person who is already generally clean, only needs to wash his hands and feet, after having walked with sandals on a dusty road.  Christ in Matthew 15 was not referring to eating things that by their very nature (animals that God forbade to be eaten) would pollute (contaminate) the eater.  He was using the illustration to expose the wickedness of the Pharisees, while also explaining the genesis of man’s sin.  A man’s nature (whether regenerate or unregenerate) produces the acts; the acts do not produce the nature.  A tree does not become an apple tree by bearing apples; an apple tree produces apples because that is what its Creator determined for it to bear (kind after kind).  The unregenerate nature cannot do good.  It can do counterfeit good, things that sinful man immorally imagines to be “good”; but it cannot do good (which God defines).  What determines good is not merely “the thing done”, but also, to whom it was done, and the nature and motive of the doer.  Elsewhere (Matthew 23:25,26) Christ similarly exposed and chided them about the purity of the inner nature, not outward things.

*2 Jewish lawyer Alan Dershowitz humorously explained Jewish Chutzpah being epitomized in the boy guilty of murdering his own parents who begs the court for understanding and mercy because he is an orphan.

*3 While love of sin is in many cases a valid impetus, it is not the only one.  Other factors would be utter indifference to morality, or a “difference of opinion” with what constitutes morality.  Furthermore, those addicted to certain sins are ambivalent, and not merely in love with their sin; and even though they are ashamed of their sin and their weakness, do not have it in them to perfectly keep from sin (like a self-reforming drunk “falling off the wagon”, or drug, sex, gambling addict giving in to sin after trying to restrain themselves. Only a fool would declare that many such sins are not pleasurable and do not feel good. Notes mine. R.A.B.]

The fact of man’s responsibility is almost universally acknowledged.*1  It is inherent in man’s moral nature.*2  It is not only taught in Scripture but witnessed to by the natural conscience.*1  The basis or ground of human responsibility is human ability.*3  What is implied by this general term “ability” must now be defined.  Perhaps a concrete example will be more easily grasped by the average reader than an abstract argument.*4

[*1 This is an invalid argument; an argumentum verecundiam (an appeal to [pseudo-] authority).  Natural is a useless adjective to use.  Is there such a thing as an unnatural conscience...?

*2 This is an assertion, not a proof.

*3 This also is an assertion, not a proof—and it is also false.  The basis or ground of responsibility is not anything to do with man, but it is solely due to the Decree of God.  God also decreed that murderers are to be put to death. This Law has zero basis in man’s ability—but in God’s Decree. Liberals and other God-haters will claim that it is “not fair” (in a plethora of limp objections); but it does not change God’s Decree.  So it is with man’s responsibility.  Man’s responsibility does not originate (or have its basis) in man.  See the link to my previous article that I have listed at the beginning of this current treatise.

*4 Define the word however you like—it does not change the fact that the statement is erroneous: It is unbiblical.  Notes mine. R.A.B.]

Suppose a man owed me $100 and could find plenty of money for his own pleasures but none for me, yet pleaded that he was unable to pay me. What would I say? I would say that the only ability that was lacking was an honest heart. But would it not be an unfair construction of my words if a friend of my dishonest debtor should say I had stated that an honest heart was that which constituted the ability to pay the debt? No; I would reply: the ability of my debtor lies in the power of his hand to write me a check, and this he has, but what is lacking is an honest principle. It is his power to write me a check that makes him responsible to do so, and the fact that he lacks an honest heart does not destroy his accountability. [2 - Pink’s or his publisher’s Endnote, printed at the end of this treatise.]

[* Pink’s “logic” is as erroneous as that of the friend of the debtor in Pink’s example.  Pink, if he was an archer—hit the target right in the dead center of the bullseye...! the only problem is that it was not his target, but the target 2 lanes from his.  Pink confuses his own point and discusses something altogether different than proving his assertion (a blatant non sequitur).  The issue is man’s responsibility; yet what Pink talks about is man’s “abililty”, which is utterly irrelevant.  A simple realization that the word responsibility contains the word ability, and that responsibility refers to ones RESPONSE to his ability to indebt himself (not to his ability to pay a debt), and not to his general ability, is the issue.  Just because a person “can” pay “a debt” does not mean that the debt is his or that he should pay it.  Pink confuses a symptom and the ability of the infirmed to take medicine with the disease itself and with the natural law upon which that disease operates.

Man’s ability to pay a debt does not establish his responsibility.  If a man enters a contract to pay $10,000 for a garage to be built, is he responsible for paying only if he actually has the money, or is he responsible because he signed the contract and received the new garage...?  Furthermore, even the signing of that contract is not the issue—it is merely a specific example of the actual general truth, “things that by nature incur responsibility”.  The issue is that God in His Law (all of which establishes morality in every area of life—and which never changes; none of which has “passed away” or been “abolished”—not a single jot or tittle) decrees that individuals (or their guardians) are responsible for debts that they incur.  In fact, it could be argued that because he tried to rob the contractor of $10,000 (by entering a contract to receive goods and services that he had no intention of paying), that he then actually owed the contractor $20,000 — $10,000 for the contractual obligation for the completed garage, and $10,000 for the attempted robbery, according to the principles in Deuteronomy 19:19.  Also, based upon other laws of God (Leviticus 6:4,5 and Exodus 22:1-4), at the very least he would owe 120%; though most probably in this case he would owe 200%; and at the very most he would owe 500%—that is, if he burned down, sold off, or destroyed the garage, immorally and illogically thinking that doing so would enable him to evade having to pay.  If he was unable to, or if he refused to pay, he was then to be forced into servitude / slavery (presumably until the debt is paid off, but possibly for life: God takes all the “fun” and “profit” out of sin, if the sinner is caught).

Thus, in summary, man’s responsibility has nothing to do with his ability to pay, but with God declaring that man in general is responsible for obligations—and in any specific example man is responsible not because of his ability, but for his having indebted himself.  In regard to the sin nature and man’s general responsibility, man is born depraved; he is born with a sin nature; he is born tainted with sin, and therefore, is responsible because God has so decreed him to be responsible. It indeed is queer (inconsistent, hypocritical) that humans think that it is their right to inherit the wealth of their ancestors—but not their debt.  The dishonest, sinful man is elated when the bookkeeping shows that he has a surplus of $50,000 in the bank; but when the bookkeeping shows that he owes $50,000 he then refuses to believe in mathematics...!

Man’s “ability” is also utterly irrelevant because man is depraved and unable to do good or to seek God outside of God’s Grace / Agency—and thus, Pink’s erroneous assertion and his subsequent, off-point analogy has nothing to do with man’s responsibility.  It has only to do with man’s inability.  Again, since man cannot do good (as God Himself declared), that is, if he is unable to do good, and since man cannot choose to do good (since he is unable to do it, it is not a choice; and if the only other “option” is doing evil, then that is not a choice either, but simply his nature and its natural outflow)—how can that be confused with man’s “ability” (since he is not able) and how can that be confused as the genesis of man’s “responsibility”...?   Notes mine. R.A.B.]

 

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Pink’s (or his publisher’s) Endnote

[2] The terms of this example are suggested by an illustration used by the late Andrew Fuller.

[It matters not whose idea it was, the notion is false.  If Pink argued that 2 + 2 = 7 it would be utterly irrelevant whose calculation it was, in terms of the truth or falsehood of the statement.  Note mine. R.A.B.]

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See also: 

What Establishes Man’s Responsibility? Part 1