Does The Believer Have One Nature Or Two?

The author of the article discusses the theological controversy related to the number of natures in a believer which has been defined as one or two. By interpreting various parts of the Scripture related to the human struggle against sin and critiquing the work of scholars espousing both views, the writer demonstrates that both a two-nature and a one-nature view are legitimate, depending on the understanding of the very term “nature.” This term, taken in its theological, not scriptural meaning, can be defined as “a complex of attributes, a set of characteristics, or disposition” (p.103), in which case it is possible to speak of a two-nature model. The believer, in this case, can choose based on which nature to act – whether to appeal to the old, sinful or new, regenerate nature that was acquired after regeneration and sanctification.

Drawing on the Scripture, Combs brings up the examples where the human struggle against sin is described, in particular, Romans 6, Ephesians 4, and Colossians 3. Interpreting these passages, the author seems to make somewhat arbitrary connections between concepts of the sinful nature present in each of them. Thus, in Ephesians 4:20-24 and Colossians 3:9, the new nature is something a person can ‘put on, fully’ and the old nature is something one can ‘lay aside’. In Romans 6:6, knowing this, the old nature is ‘crucified’. Finally, in Galatians 5:16-17, man has to overcome the urges of the old nature that is associated with flesh, although in a broad meaning. Combs points out that the two-nature view in the interpretation of this passage is possible if one equates spirit and Spirit; however, this equation does no become entirely justifiable and indisputable. Finally, looking at the different meaning of the concepts associated with old, sinful nature in the previous passages, one may wonder whether these ideas can be united to serve as scriptural evidence for the validity of the two-nature view, including the old and the new natures.

In my personal view, the division between the old value system that a Christian had before regeneration and sanctification and the new outlook is vivid in the life of every Christian.

However, defining these ideas with an ambiguous word ‘nature’ complicates the understanding since it requires an agreement on the exact meaning of this word that can prove elusive. Besides, in my view, talking of an ‘old, sinful nature’ reduces the properties of unregenerate humans to sins and neglects any positive attributes. In the Scripture, one can find the more exact definition of what God wants us to put aside. For instance, in Colossians 3:8:

“But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth” (KJV). Here the list of sins is given, which is more definitive than the use of the term ‘nature.’

The Bible indeed often refers to the ‘old man’ as noted by Combs, for instance in Ephesians 4:24: “And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (KJV). There is not always a reason to consider that ‘man’ in this case is equivalent to nature.

One area on which I strongly agree with Combs is that the old sins cannot be with all certainty equated with the human body. Interpreting Paul’s words in Romans 6:6 and Romans 8:13, the author notes: “Whichever way we may view Paul’s language, it is clear that the Bible does not teach that the body is inherently evil but that sin resides in man’s immaterial being, not his physical; yet the body is where we commonly see the outworkings of sin” (p. 103). In Galatians 5:16-17 and Romans 8:13, the notion of a sinful human body came to be translated as “flesh.” However, Combs rightly cautions against taking this meaning literally. In fact, “flesh” could be interpreted broader, as a collection of sins. If we accept that it is a broader notion of sinful human nature, there is no actual need for mortification.

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