Is 'Carnal Christian' an oxymoron? : LUSENET : A.M.E. Today Discussion : One Thread

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11)NIV

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2004


Ron -

I'm having some difficulty with the relation between the question you raise and the supporting Scripture you provide. I'll address the question in my brief comments. Now many may adopt the view that a "Carnal Christian" is an oxymoron. To live as a Christian would suggest that sin is not present and has no influence in your life. Carnality focuses on satisfying the desires of the human body and mind which may not be compatible with the will of God. Such actions are by definion sin (rebellion to God's Will). This position is based largely on I John 3:9-10. Now the Johnnine version of carnality (I John 3:9-10) should be properly interpreted by exegetical tools. Is the author suggesting that a Christian will never sin? I propose no because John would have to qualify his theology in the first chapter and 8th verse where he unequivocally rejects the idea that a Christian has no sin. So then, what do we do with I John 3:9-10 which appears to suggest that a Christian cannot sin? I would propose that the intent of John's passage here is to show that a Christian cannot sin continually. Once we become "born again" our desire is to engage in a type of behavioral remake or radical life style where the goal is spirtual perfection. To be "born again" represents a spiritual evolution (is that an oxymoron?) since we are working towards perfection. Jesus afterall did command us all to, "Be Ye Holy, as Your Father in Heaven is Holy". Christians are not immune to sin. We are immune however to the penalty of sin because of our covenental relationship with Christ. Our walk with Christ will sometimes create unavoidable conflicts. This is not surprising since David lamented in one of his Psalms, "I was born in sin and shapen innto iniquity". The genetic disposition we all have to sin is why Paul describes in eloquent prose (Romans 7:11-21) the struggle for all Christians caused by sin. This passage is recommended reading for this important question/topic. QED

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2004

Paul asserts in 1 Cor. 3:1-4 that "brethern" ("and I brethern . . ." Christians) can be carnal. We can either be in a spiritual or carnal state. Most of us spend more time in the carnal state than we do spiritual. As we grow, we spend less and less of our time in the carnal state.

-- Anonymous, February 14, 2004

CARNAL Sensual, worldly, non-spiritual; relating to or given to the crude desires and appetites of the flesh or body; Enjoyments that minister to the wants and desires of man's animal nature which is enmity against God. The apostle Paul contrasts "spiritual people"-that is, those who are under the control of the Holy Spirit-with those who are "carnal"-those under the control of the flesh (1 Cor 3:1-4; Rom 8:5-7).

Dear Brothers,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts and insights on a most difficult question. The passage from 2 Peter used in the original post, anticipates the possibility of both a 'yes' and a 'no' answer to the question "is Carnal Christian an oxymoron", and recommends the Christian's course, in either case, is to make our calling and election sure.

Brother Paris advises that 1 Cor 3:1-4 illustrates that those who through divine grace are renewed to a spiritual life may yet in many things be defective and therefore implies that Christians can be in either a spiritual or carnal state. Brother Dickens surmises 1 John 1:8-10 and 1 John 3:7-10 to mean that a Christian cannot sin continually, and can neither claim to be without sin nor claim to have not sinned (1 John 1:8-10). Each brother presents very compelling views on the state of the Christian in the world and the Christian's relationship to sin. Yet, I am convinced from these same Scriptures that "Christians, born of the Spirit, CAN NOT BE CARNAL." Let me explain.

The words of our Lord … "A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you, Away from me, you evildoers!'" (Matthew 7:18-23) Now how will we reconcile this?

Look at what Paul says in (Rom 7:15-25). My reading of it is that Paul well describes the war between the Spirit-self and 'the body of death.' Acknowledging that nothing good lives in his sinful nature, he distinguishes his 'self' from that nature proclaiming that the evil done by it IS NOT HIM. As we know, much of the Scriptures are devoted to teaching us how to nurture the Spirit, how to be holy, how to live godlily so as to control and defeat the sinful nature's rule in our lives through the work of the Spirit and by the knowledge of the sacrifice of our Lord. It is important also to note that we died to the law through the body of Christ, "that we might belong to another, to him who was raised from the dead, in order that we might bear fruit to God. For when we were controlled by the sinful nature, the sinful passions aroused by the law were at work in our bodies, so that we bore fruit for death. But now, by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code." (Rom 7:4-6)NIV

Turning now to John and the Scriptures referenced from 1 John 1 where he says… No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God's seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. (1 John 3:9-10) In my humble opinion, John doesn't say that Christian's have not sinned or are without sin, but he does say "No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him." (1 John 3:6)

Lastly, Paul's admonishment to the Corinthians in 1 Cor 3:1-4 as worldly, mere men, babes in Christ. The key to the meaning of these verses is found in verse one where he says he cannot address them as spiritual. In so stating this obvious yet damning critique, Paul identifies them as worldly NOT as those having received the Spirit. So it would be necessary for us to say that Christians include those who have not received the Spirit (which I do not object to) in order to account for the CARNAL CHRISTIAN. Indeed, it is these souls for which the Lord has sent us into the entire world to minister and preach the Good News to.

I suspect my basic struggle has been with the use of the word Christian, since Christian has become nearly synonymous with American or one that lives in Western Civilization who is not Jewish, Islamic, Hindu or Buddhist. We know that the Scriptures teach us that being good isn't good enough. That even the demons believe Jesus is the Son of God, that he was born of a Virgin, and raised up and sits at the right hand of God. So when we read "That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Rom 10:9-10) we know that as the Spirit reckons them, the words CONFESS and BELIEVE are high words, not to be taken lightly as the world might so do, as our very souls depend on a true understanding of their meaning.

Lastly, let us not error as the Pharisees did. Those leaders and priests of Israel who taught the Law, enforced the Law, and presumably kept the Law. They believed themselves upright, righteous, and favored of God. However, we see Jesus admonish them as a brood of vipers and hypocrites. We understand from the Scriptures that the Pharisees were both blind and deaf and could not understand that for all of their keeping of the Law, that the Law is Spiritual (Rom 7:14) requiring a Spiritual discernment and not merely a reading of the letter.

Sincerely, In Love, In Christ, Yours Truly --- Ron.

Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, 'You must be born again.' (John 3:5-7) NIV

-- Anonymous, February 18, 2004

Many who regularly occupy church pews, fill church rolls, and are intellectually acquainted with the facts of the gospel never strike one blow for Christ. They seem to be at peace with his enemies. They have no quarrel with sin and, apart from a few sentimental expressions about Christ, there is no biblical evidence that they have experienced anything of the power of the gospel in their lives. Yet in spite of the evidence against them, they consider themselves to be just what their teachers teach them -- that they are 'Carnal Christians'. And as carnal Christians they believe they will go to heaven, though perhaps not first-class, and with few rewards.

Instead of trying to stem the tide or oppose the wickedness of our culture, the Church has simply adopted a theology that allows sinners to feel very comfortable in our midst. Many today are like those in the Corinthian church who profess to be Christians, but are indeed carnal. All kinds of sin and wickedness in the church as well as the actual denial of the faith is being excused under the name of "carnal Christian."

Carnal actually means unregenerate; unsaved. How can we have unsaved Christians? Paul states in the second letter to the Corinthians that he was afraid when he came to them he would be embarrassed and find many which had sinned and not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lasciviousness which they had committed. He feared there would be quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, factions, slander, gossip, arrogance and disorder (2 Cor 12:20-13:5). These were in the visible church, but not considered saved. In fact, Paul states real Christians should not fellowship these "carnal Christians" (1 Cor 5:11-13).

Some seem to think the only one in the Corinthian church who was unsaved was the one who was living immoral with his mother or maybe step-mother, but from the verses quoted above it seems there were many in an unconverted state. Yet there were no doubt saved, regenerate, upright Christians in that church as well, but Paul feared many who had sinned would not have repented when he arrived (2 Cor 12:20).

The classic passage in defense of the "carnal Christian" position is found in 1 Corinthians 3:1-4. First, I see no necessity of saying all in a particular local church are in the same spiritual condition. John describes antichrists as going out from [the church]. "They were not [really] of us; for if they had been of us, they would not doubt have continued with us" (1 John 2:19). Obviously all professing Christians are not in the same state or degree of grace. To refer to a church collectively as Christians does not mean all in that church are saved.

The term carnal is never used in an unqualified sense to describe Christians, as it later came to be used in the holiness movement and by dispensationalists. Their use of the categories "carnal Christian" and "Spirit-filled Christian" are not biblical. They teach a "carnal Christian" is still in bondage to sin and may not live any differently from the unsaved until he receives the Spirit. This is heresy.

The expression "carnal Christian" is a misnomer. Over a hundred names are given for Christians, but "carnal" is never mentioned. Neither is "a sinner saved by grace." Let us be Scriptural in our doctrine, in our faith, and in our practice.

Sincerely, In Love, In Christ, Yours Truly,

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2004

The "Carnal Christian" teaching is, after all, the consequence of a shallow, man-centered evangelism in which decisions are sought at any price and with any methods. When those pronounced to be converts do not act like Christians, do not love what Christians love and hate what Christians hate, and do not willingly serve Christ in his church, some explanation must be found other than calling them carnal Christians and asking them to make yet another decision. They have already done that and have already been pronounced, by the preacher or personal worker, to be "Christians." But when they don't act like Christians something is wrong. What is it? The teaching I have sought to expose says that the trouble is that they are just carnal Christians; they have not made Christ "Lord" of their lives; they have not let Him occupy the throne of their hearts. Once this explanation is seen to be unscriptural it will also be seen to be closely connected with an initial error of evangelism itself. Too often modern evangelism has substituted a "decision" in the place of repentance and saving faith. Forgiveness is preached without the equally important truth that the Spirit of God must change the heart. As a result decisions are treated as conversions even though there is no evidence of a supernatural work of God in the life.

Surely the best way to end this evil is to pray and labor for the restoration of New Testament evangelism! Whenever such evangelism exists it is certain that men will learn that it is not enough to profess to be a Christian, and not enough to call Jesus "Lord, Lord" (Luke 6:46). The gospel preached in awakening power will summon men not to rest without biblical evidence that they are born of God. It will disturb those who, without good reason, have believed that they are already Christians. It will arouse backsliders by telling them that as long as they remain in that condition the possibility exists that they never were genuine believers at all. And to understand this will bring new depths of compassion and urgency to the hearts of God's people in this fallen world.

Sincerely, In Love, In Christ, Your Truly,

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2004

Ron, Are you the Christ? You set yourself as judge for others. May I suggest that you examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. This will consume so muych of your time, you will not have time to judge others.

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2004

Reverand Paris,

I am not the Christ. But be certain - the Christ lives in me and I in Him. The Christ sits at the right hand of God the Father and makes intercession for me. No one comes to the Father but by Him. By His blood and through His sacrafice I am adopted as a son of the Almighty, heir to an inheritance beyond comprehension. He is my sanctuary and my salvation - He is the rock on which I stand. It is by his will that I have my being and by His Word that I draw my strength. Do not think that I judge my brother, it is God who justifies.

Will I shrink under fire from the accuser? NEVER. Will I turn the truth of God into a lie for the convenience and comfort of those who might be offended? NEVER. As it is written, "For your sake we face death all day long." Search the Word and Pray in the Spirit and fear not whether it is I who judge - its not - rather, it is He who has the sharp, double-edged sword.

Sincerely, In Love, In Christ, Yours Truly

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2004

CARNAL MAN Condemned (Rom. 8.3) Walks after the FLESH Under law of sin and death Minds things of FLESH CARNALLY minded is DEATH Enmity (enemy) against God Not subject to God's law Cannot be subject to law (cf. Matt.12:33-35) Cannot please God (Rom. 8:8) In the FLESH (Rom. 8:9) OUT OF CHRIST NONE OF HIS (Rom.8:9) Shall Die (spiritual death)8:13

SPIRITUAL MAN No condemnation (Rom.8:1) Walks NOT after flesh (Rom.8:4) Free from law of sin and death (8:2) Minds things of Spirit Spiritually minded is LIFE, PEACE (8:6) Friend of God (8:7) cf. Jn.14:15-21,14. A subject of God's law (Rom.13:8-14) God's law the rule of his life (cf. Matt. 7:13-27; 1 Jn.2:3-7) Pleases God (Jn.14:21; 16:27) NOT in the flesh (not carnal) (Rom.8:1) IN CHRIST, if Spirit indwells (Rom.8:9) A child of God (Rom.8:16) Shall LIVE (Gal.3:2-3;5:24)

-- Anonymous, February 21, 2004

Brother and Sisters,

Is there anyone here who would declare themselves a Carnal Christian? If yes, please enlighten me. If no, then let's not condemn those who are so called by covering them in a cloak false hope.

Sincerely, In Love, In Christ, Yours Truly,

-- Anonymous, February 24, 2004

Brothers and Sisters,

Though we defend the notion of the "Carnal Christian" is there no one here that claims to be one?

In Love,

-- Anonymous, April 04, 2004

Carnal refers to a state. A Christian does not remain in the carnal state but he/she does spend a lot of time there. I plead guilty, I fall into a carnal state, but I don't stay there; I don't live there. As Paul says in Romans, "With my mind (my intent) I serve the law of Christ." But the flesh is still there, so I have to be ready and quick to repent when, not if, I fall.

-- Anonymous, April 05, 2004

Dearest Rev. Paris,

I will diffidently accept your qualification of carnality as a 'state,' as I do not believe it provides much cover. To be in a carnal 'state' means to be non-spiritual, sensual, worldly - given to the crude desires and appetites of the flesh or body. Your arguement suggests that every Christian is carnal since the flesh is sinful and Christians in the flesh are therefore sinful. If this is your assertion, I'd be very interested in your reading of Romans 7:14-25. Are Christians, the saints, the disciples of Christ, born of the Spirit, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, predestined to be conformed to the image of the Son, called to be sons - are we still slaves and prisoners of sin? Your thoughts...


In Love, In Christ,

-- Anonymous, April 06, 2004

Bro Harris, You have made my point for me. Paul says in Romans 7:14 "but I am carnal." [KJV] Paul then goes on to describe why he considers himself carnal: The law is spiritual but since he (we) cannot keep the law, then he (we) are carnal. In verse 25 we find the solution: Because of Christ, "With my mind, I serve the law of Christ, but my flesh, the law of sin.

Now it is unfortunate that the translators chose to put a chapter break after verse 25. It should not be there. The discussion begun in verse 7:25 continues through 8:17. It is with the MIND, one is able to serve the law of Christ. Our faith in Christ covers all the sins our carnal bodies are going to commit until we are perfected which comes after death and the resurrection when we will no longer be held captive in these carnal bodies. Paul thought he was carnal and I am certian that I am; and at the same time, I'm covered by the blood of Jesus. It is difficult for me to see how one cannot conclude his/her carnality if they are truyly examining themselves.

-- Anonymous, April 06, 2004

"There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom 8:1)

Rev. Paris,

Let me begin with what I agree with you on. The chapter break after verse 25 is anomolous as the conversation does continue well into chapter 8. Now I agree that it is in the mind that the war between the flesh and Spirit occurs, and it is in the mind that we decide to walk after the Spirit or the flesh. I contend that 'Carnal Christian' is a euphemism for double-mindedness which is an impossible state for those born of the Spirit. It is by the intensity of the battles and the heat of the war in the mind that Christians examine themselves and resolve to put to death whatever belongs to the sinful nature. Assuming that belief is born in the mind and that faith is belief in action, is it possible for the double-minded to "believe"; have a trustworthy confession, and be saved? The Scriptures, in my opinion, do not support the proposition of Carnal Christians. Thoughts?

"Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me." (Rom 7:20)KJV

In Christ,

-- Anonymous, April 06, 2004

Bro Harris aske the question:

"Assuming that belief is born in the mind and that faith is belief in action, is it possible for the double-minded to "believe"; have a trustworthy confession, and be saved?"

This discussion (can a Christian be carnal?) is not about "being saved". By definition in a discussion such as this "Christian" means "saved" person. Otherwise we are getting into the whether one is truly saved or not. My argument is that the word "carnal" itself indicates one who is not adhering to what he/she truly believes, thereby making them carnal, but still Christian or "saved". So what happens if the unfortunate carnal Christian dies while in that carnal state, is he/she lost? I think not, there is a lost of "rewards" based on how we live as Paul says, "We must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ that every one may receive the things in body, according to that he has done, whether good or bad." [2 Cor. 5:10]

This suggest to me that if a Christian becomes addicted to alchol or drugs, and cannot refrain from partaking of these drugs, perhaps for many years, and has an accident while in a drug-induced stupor, killing himself and several innocent victims, he/she is still not lost but will "receive according to that he has done" and will still partake of everlasting life with Jesus. Does this make sense?

-- Anonymous, April 07, 2004

Rev. Paris,

Accepted: Your characterization of the discussion as - "Can a Christian be carnal?" By this definition, and the additional qualification of 'Christian means saved' - I largely agree with your line of reasoning. Other difficult questions arise though, such as whether salvation can be lost, or, can the would-be-saved person who continues in or indulges the sinful nature be counted among the elect? The words of our Lord are clear - "...wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matt 7:13-14) This is the reason we preach! We would not have our beloved deceived! The unrepentant soul will perish.

Paul argues that sin lives in the flesh, and that while the Spirit is too in the flesh, war ensues between the two. God's righteous decree the soul that sins will surely die is still in effect, and we know that no flesh will inherit the Kingdom of God. The Spirit does not succumb to the flesh and sin, but rather subdues and defeats the flesh - through Christ, who has given us the victory over sin and death.

What shall we say then, is sin yet present in the Christian's flesh? Yes - wretched creature! "Can the Christian be Carnal?" Yes, only insofar as he/she is in the flesh and is at war.

In Love, In Christ,

-- Anonymous, April 08, 2004

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