CON Contact Us DON Donate
Our History General Assembly Worldwide Outreach Ministries Standards Resources

Question and Answer

Is Man’s Sinfulness Incomprehensible?

Question:

When speaking about God, very often theologians start with God’s “incomprehensibility.” As Reformed Christians we are well acquainted with the concept of man’s “total depravity.” My question is this: Am I correct in submitting that man’s sinfulness is “incomprehensible”? It seems to me that it is an impossibility, this side of glory, to even come close to grasping the depths of the implications of the corruption in our hearts.

Answer:

What an interesting question! Thank you. In general, I think we both are looking at the same ideas. But I think we want to separate thinking about the incomprehensibility of our sin and the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God.

The latter means that we cannot know God as he knows himself because of the Creator-creature distinction. God, an infinite being—uncreated, and separate (holy) from his creation—lets us know the “edges of his ways,” so to speak. We think of Moses, secure in the cleft of the rock in Exodus 33–34, mercifully protected from seeing the full glory of God. In Jesus Christ we have the fullness of the Godhead revealed in bodily form, but Revelation 1 shows us that Christ is now, as the risen and ascended Lord, more glorious than we could grasp here on earth. So we cannot comprehend God as he comprehends himself.

In regard to our own understanding of our sin in relation to the perfectly holy and sinless Creator, again the Creator-creature distinction is at work. David in Psalm 139 asks God to search him and know him and see if there is any wicked way in him, because David, as a fallen creature cannot—because he cannot grasp the utter holiness of God—see his sin for what it truly is, an offense against the very being of God (compare Psalm 32). Take the sins of gossip or slander, sometimes called “respectable sin,” sins “everybody” does. Yet in the ninth commandment God tells us to be truth-speakers because he himself is, and these “minor” sins are just as offensive to his holy character as “greater” sins. So the psalmist asks God to cleanse him from “hidden faults” (Ps. 19:12)—hidden because as both redeemed and still-sinning creatures we cannot see those faults for what they truly are. This makes the gospel of God’s free grace in Jesus Christ so precious to us: we are ignorant of just how sinful we are and yet must be cleansed from those sins that we do not even recognize. Our “scarlet” sins, including the “respectable sins” are washed away in the blood of the Lamb. Praise God!

So we are radically fallen, corrupted by sin in our innermost being, and our hearts are “desperately wicked”; who (humanly speaking) can understand it? (Jer. 17:9–10). We are left in awe of a holy God who nonetheless cleanses us from all unrighteousness with the precious blood of his only begotten Son. Thinking about these things should cause us to praise and thank him for all eternity!


About Q&A

"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.

The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.

At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those people who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)

The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.

While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.

You will receive an answer by e-mail. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two (2) weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.

Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been edited—all personal references are removed, Scripture references or from some source may be added, and sometimes portions are expanded—to make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.

OPC
© 2020 The Orthodox Presbyterian Church
o

Search OPC.org

MINISTRIES

Chaplains and Military Personnel

Diaconal Ministries

Historian

Inter-Church Relations

Ministerial Care

Planned Giving

Short-Term Missions

RESOURCES

Church Directory

Daily Devotional

Audio Sermons

Trinity Hymnal

Camps & Conferences

Gospel Tracts

Book Reviews

Publications

Newsletter

Presbyterian Guardian