12/13/2009

Genetics and Sanctification

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Possible Influence of Genetic Factors on Sin, Sanctification and Theology

http://didache.nts.edu/index.php?option=com_docman&task=doc_view&gid=771&Itemid=

(keith Drury and Burt Webb)

30 comments:

Craig Moore said...

Wow, a holiness pill to cure my sinful inclinations. The Holiness Movement is evolving toward a human solution for the problem of sin and rebellion, that's pretty open minded. I knew I wasn't really responsible for my sins, there had to be a good excuse somewhere. I guess grace used to be enough. Maybe you guys can find the genetic flaw that causes people to resist grace and fix that too, or even a genetic solution that will make Christians tithe!

Chap said...

There are four views of the constitution of human beings.
1. Trichotomism-- man is composed of body, soul and spirit
2. Dichotomism--man is composed of body and soul/spirit
3. Monism--man is not to be thought of as any seperate parts, but unified
4. Conditional unity (my favorite view and theologian) Millard Erickson states, "the normal state of man is as a materialized unitary being" He uses the anaolgy of compounds found in atoms as opposed to looking at "us" as mixtures of body and soul. As a compound like sodium chloride (table salt), "one can detect the qualities of either sodium or chloride. It is possible to break up the compound, whereupon one again has the original elements with their distinctive characteristics."
For the human condition, the spiritual and material are not always distinguishable (they are unified) and dissolvable upon death. Upon the event of the resurrection the compound is re-formed and body and soul are re-united.
I think this view resolves the tendency for liberalism (monism) to not see a distinction between soul and body even though it appears Jesus did (e.g. Matt. 10:28 "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell") and consequently has a difficult time with an intermediate state.
It also resolves the tendency of trichotomism and dichotomism that seperates our body and soul and diminishes the impact of body and soul and spirit.
Finally, I've always viewed the fall of humanity as something that impacts our DNA/RNA and soul. Conditional unity would affirm that as well. Sorry for the long post and always appreciate your thoughtful disscusion.

Greg said...

This is simply a layman's view on this. No doubt there is a natural tendancy to sin. Each person has different weaknesses than others have. I also don't doubt that it shows up in scientific tests. However this is also my experience. I knew zero about holiness movements until a few months ago. I began searching because I had finally seen the light about crucifying the old man and living a resurrected life. The result being a complete freedom from the sins of the flesh. It came by simple faith in what is taught in Romans chapter 6. I came accross this website via internet. Anyways, your studies are interesting, but I KNOW from personal experience that what sins I was a slave to for 47 years, I am now free from. I didn't need science to find the problem, and science certainly wasn't the cure. Please overlook any abnormalities in my response as I knew zero of Wesleyans or any other holiness group until just this year. I had to discover freedom from sin from many years of searching and praying.
Keith Drury if you read this please let me know where to find out more about this babtism in love. I now seek this. I can now readily see that a person only receives what he believes for. I believed for the old man being crucified and me being free from the sins of the flesh. This is exactly what I got. I have yet to understand or believe for this babtism in love. Please help me out here. Thank you.

Keith Drury said...

Greg, You have captured the essence of the idea of sanctification-by-faith for the deliverance from sin. Science may indeed some day discover there is material evidence of this kind of healing, though the evidence is scant yet. Your testimony is evidence however that deliverance from the slavery to sin is indeed possible--though not average. It is perhaps not average because few believe it is even possible.

As for baptism in love--this is God's work and those who seek may find... The Holy Spirit's work in us enables us to live up to the greatest two commandments: loving God wholly and loving others. Seek and you shall find.

Chad said...

As you pointed out in your paper we have been here before. Most physical sickness was once considered the effect of evil spirits, but Christians now accept germs, and viruses and even genetic causes for some illness. Science has explained these other causes. Denying the existence of unseen viruses in order to "protect" the existence of unseen demons doesn't help the Christian cause.

And, just because most illness comes from some scientifically-discovered physical cause does not mean God cannot heal it--as if God is confined to only the spiritual world--if that were so we would never seen the incarnation.

So, maybe there ARE material causes for some behaviors that are sin. So what? God can heal a sickness that is caused materially so why would He not be able to heal a spiritual illness that has a physical source?

John Mark said...

Not being a scientist, psychologist or theologian, I'm not sure what I think of this. My reaction at this point is that if there is help for any kind of bad behavior-anger, passive-aggressive tendencies, dishonesty, addictive tendencies, etc., then we should avail ourselves of it. Still: as pointed out, there will never be an end to the need for grace...for power. No matter what counseling or medicine might do, (I have benefited from both at times)-or what help science might provide- the root causes of why we are what we are will always be a problem needing the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the work only the Spirit can do. Even if you could tinker with my genetic code some way to fix me (this may not be precise or accurate language) I'm not sure many of us would submit to treatment, fearing a "Stepford wives" kind of existence; preferring freedom even if it meant dysfunction. Maybe I'm wrong.....but we all know that addicts and habitual sinners of all kinds often refuse help. There are lots of folk around who have never been convinced that their misbehaviors are sinful.
It might be a wonderful thing to come up with a "pill" (Craig's term) that would get us to admit we are sinful and need help. :)
The beauty of Wesley's methodology was the weekly challenge to confession. In my life, nothing has been more liberating than that. I think the concept of dependence, not just on God, but on other people is one that we somehow need to come back to. Wholeness happens when we submit to the community of believers.
I don't discount Greg's testimony. Perhaps I am confusing the ideas of "sins of the flesh" (lust, rage) with human frailty or sins such as jealousy or irritable feelings. I know that God can work on our temperaments as well as deal with sin and rebellion in our hearts.
So I guess my bottom line reaction is to take a wait and see attitude on the research, and avail myself of the help I know something about: scripture, prayer, communion with the church, and the presence and power of the Spirit. I surely need it all.

Dr.O said...

a "sanctification pill" already exists... Prozac. While this antidepressant is not complete its positive effect on clinically depressed patients is certainly more powerful then a trip to the altar or counseling with the pastor.

The church can offer forgiveness through the sacraments, but the medical world and psychological therapy is where to go for sanctification. Thee church has lost its edge on anything beyond offering forgiveness and a promise of heaven. Medicine and therapy will take care of the personal change business where churches fail to offer anything as powerful to change people as Prozac, Cymbalta, Effexor, Lexapro, and Zoloft. The scope where religion offers power-to-change is shrinking (except maybe some charismatic deliverance whacko approachs).

Pete Vecchi said...

The paper asked the following on page 6:

"Could God save a person from their genetic predispositions by altering their epigenetic makeup?"

This seems to me to be related to the question of imparted vs. imputed holiness. Some christians contend that God "imputed" holiness to us--meaning that He simply declared it to be so. Wesleyan understanding is generally that God "imparted" holiness to us--meaning that an actual change occurred. I came up with a simple rhyme to remember the difference between imparted and imputed holiness when studying about it for a test many years ago in Bible College: "Impart means a change of heart."

::athada:: said...

for the next draft: change "but" to "by" in Keith's second sentance, p. 6.

Keith Drury said...

Adam: yeah... thanks and changes in 8 others places where this pre-final draft got into print before those changes ;-)

vanilla said...

It is truly sad that there are those who believe that the power of prozac is superior to the power of God.

But then, believing as I do would make me some sort of "charismatic deliverance whacko," I guess.

tom moe said...

Tom Moe
I appreciate the thoughts. My issue is that sin is not in the DNA but is the DNA. All the DNA changes in the world can not provide us with an eternal body, for example. Futher, you can treat a kleptomania but that doesn't take the ability to steal from the person. Either way, by the time you find and remove the lie gene, hate gene, lust gene, cheat gene, what is left of the person? I think a robot.

steve jones said...

Steven Jones
I'd hate to think that sin is what makes us human.

tom moe said...

Tom Moe
May I ask why

kristin said...

Kristen Haines Thanks Coach for posting the thoughts! I do not think that sin is what makes us human, so I agree with Steven. The reason it why, I agree is because God made us human before sin entered the world. We are human, because God created us that way. The sinful nature (whether in the DNA or not) is a result of Adam and Eve's choice to sin against God. Even if we are genetically inclined to certain sins, which I have believed that for several years now, it doesn't mean we have to act on those inclinations or even dwell on them. As to being able to adjust the genes to eliminate sin, I think that would both be a lovely thing (because it would make holiness easier) and a thing that will cause problems in the faith realm ( People will truly be able to say "I'm a good person" because they had their genes altered without accepting God and then would wonder why Christians still insisted that Jesus was the ONLY way.).

Mark-Connie Haines said...

It seems to me that sin is a relational issue. Only humans can and do sin because we have a unique relationship to our Creator. Any genetic tendency to a sinful behavior is a result of the destructive results of our rebellion against God. We cannot say "God made me this way so he cannot complain when I act this way." We are far more than our genes, our environmental conditionings, our educations and our wills. The spirit given to us by God, in cooperation with his Spirit can live above all these.

Tom Moe said...

The problem is that you have to become an eradicationist to think that sin and humanity are separable. Unless you are an eradicationist, sin is the DNA.

Steven Jones said...

I think that's a false dichotomy, and a failure to appreciate the creation story, which tells us who we are. Sin comes after creation. Sure, concerning our experience, sin is part of the package. But as concerns the meta-story of our faith, our identity is something entirely apart from our sin. This distinction is important when it comes to the Spirit empowering us against our own sinfulness. God tells us who we are, we respond by continually understanding ourselves apart from our sinfulness, and we strive for that as a reality, even if its realization is arguably unattainable. See the writings of Lewis, Augustine, Nouwen, and narrative therapy.

Tom Moe said...

And they all said what about DNA?

Steven Jones said...

They guide our approach to DNA. Not everything is so easy or explicit.

Mark-Connie Haines said...

Coach D once taught us that we can be freed from the Practice of sin. We may be delivered from the Inclination to sin. While in this life time at least, we will always have the Capacity to sin. That Capacity to sin is not in our DNA. It is in our God given freedom/responsibility to trust and obey, or to distrust God and disobey. It is a relational issue. The Inclination to sin may be genetic and/or environmental in some cases but that does not force a person to Practice sin.

Steven Jones said...

I'm half Native American. I'm told this means I have a genetic disposition toward alcoholism. Who knows? What I do know is, I'm very careful about alcohol and other things like it, because I have a very addictive personality. I mean that I can easily become dependant on other things in unhealthy ways. I struggle with anxiety and such. So perhaps the tendency is in my DNA, but I am very careful about acting out with regards to those tendencies. A good two-thirds of scripture considers this to be the important first step of dealing with sinfulness. Over time I have learned to manage my anxiety rather well, and as I deal with my issues, and confront myself as God reveals my identity to me, my need for other things diminishes, and I become more whole.

Steven Jones said...

Whether or not I will ever be free from these things I do not know, though I do know it is God's desire to see me free, in this place or the next. Also, as I become progressively free from my sinfulness I do not find myself become less, but more human. My sinfulness is my lack of being truly human. Zizioulas speaks of the path from 'individual' to 'person' by means of the Spirit working in the Church. I believe this is the case with me and those I know well, that we are more person with less sin.

steven jones said...

Also, we're not just talking DNA here, but epi-genetics, the process by which certain genes present in the DNA are turned on or off, sometimes through persistent behaviour, sometimes through external factors. We are learning how to do this artificially. It doesn't change DNA, but affects how DNA is used. Much like medicine helps us manage the physical consequences of our sinfulness (though not overcome them entirely), perhaps we can do the same with more non-physical consequences. I'm cautiously and critically hopeful at the least. I may have grown up suspicious of modern developments, but I'm not ready to give up on them. Our work is always to redeem, never reject outright.

Tom Moe said...

I have very little to win an argument. However, I am seeing this taking you into the land of obsurdity. Here are two that your position takes you

Mark-Connie Haines said...

Are humans only the expression of their DNA? Or are we not more? Is sin only woven into our DNA? Or is it not woven into our cultures, societies, families, and every other thought/behavior shaping institution? Sin saturates humans and all we do, not because it is woven into our DNA but because it contaminates our bodies, our minds, our souls and our spirits. We not only need a Savior, we need a Sanctifier (1 Thess. 5:23-24)

Steven Jones said...

I hear your arguments, Tom, and they are significant. I think my real concern is that even the most conservative teachers in the church (until the modern period) have been unanimous in seeking perfection. I hear you clearly defend the seriousness of sin. But in response, the church has also always stressed the seriousness of redemption and sanctification. Sin is not so final that the work of the Spirit does not remove it from us (however one understands that happening). So there has to be some middle ground, and there always has been, theologically. The problem is that the conversation at hand (the article) tends to make that middle ground shaky and push everyone off it. Sin is total, sanctification is a reality of life in the Spirit, and somehow genetic manipulation affects things. The question is, what is this effect?

Tom Moe said...

I actually am there with both of you. We are more than our DNA. Choices have greater impact of who we are than does DNA. In our example, you apparently have the much greater DNA for alcoholism than myself. However, it is our choices, not our DNA that have impacted who we are.My argument is that apart from God's Guidance probably both of us would have made the bad choice. From Tiger Woods to the political world and the entertainment world we see brilliant people making fool mistakes. Apart from Christ it just seems to be in our DNA.

Steven Jones said...

In Christ, I still do stupid things I know I shouldn't. I just hope that it doesn't have to stay that way. And even though I haven't sorted through the details and specifics, I'm open to the idea of epigenetics making it easier for us to allow the Spirit to work in us, because of Christ. I know that complicates my theology a bit, and I'm sure not going to open this can of worms with my church. I just have a lot of hope, and a lot of desire to be free from my sin. I want it all.

Tom Moe said...

Knowing what little we know on this whole thing, I am there with you. I am gun shy with all this because I have seen so many jump into Watchtower with the hope of "becoming a god." They tend to crash pretty hard. I am grateful for modern medicine but don't think that this one will work.

Perhaps this comes from my personal journey, which may be very unique for me and not universal. However, I greatly appreciated my battle with cancer, (based upon how poorly I chose my DNA) I don't think that I would be the person I am had I not gone through the experience.