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Vermigli and SSA (pt. 5)

This is continued from part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.

In the last post I looked in detail at Vermigli’s view of how original sin is transmitted to Adam’s descendants. The question for the Christian who struggles with same-sex attraction, or any attraction similar to that, is: what does this have to do with my issues now? What does original sin have to do with my life as a born-again Christian? While Vermigli doesn’t use our terminology today, he does address what original sin looks like in the life of the Christian. What happens to original sin once a person is regenerated, or “born again” by the power of the Holy Spirit?

Original Sin called Indwelling Sin after Regeneration

In the Christian, original sin does indeed remain after regeneration, however it is often called by a new name: indwelling sin. This is to emphasize the fact that original sin no longer has mastery over the Christian. Instead, it remains within as an unwelcome visitor. But this does not negate the reality that it is still that same, old, original sin. The sin that indwells and inheres to the Christian, the sin that makes us inclined to what is evil, is that original sin that we inherited from our forefathers. Part of original sin remains in each of our faculties. Vermigli mentions this in several places as a reality, but he is most interested in the next part of our discussion, which is the way in which original sin is being altered in the Christian.

The Pattern/Path of Indwelling Sin’s Removal

Original sin doesn’t remain in the Christian as a static kind of invader. Vermigli argues that in regeneration, God begins to undo the corruption of original sin by following the inverse of the corrupting order we looked at in the last post. He says, “First and foremost, our reason and will must be reborn. Afterwards follows the regeneration of the affections and the body.” (p. 22) He points out Paul’s adage that we must be renewed in our minds first and foremost, and that from this Spirit-wrought renewal, our affections will be renewed as well. As original sin is being conquered and removed, the Christian is being conformed to the perfect image of Jesus.

Westminsterian Agreement on Indwelling Sin

Again, like with the last post on the impartation of original sin, we see that Vermigli’s doctrine of indwelling sin is in line with Westminster! There are several areas where they disagree, as we will see later, but for now I think it is sufficient to point out that they agree here. The WCF chapter 13 deals with this topic under the title “Of Sanctification”, and its authors suggest that “this sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part”. It is worth noting that in Calvin’s particular views on this topic, regeneration begins this process, and then continues it throughout the entire Christian life. What we often term as separate theological concepts as “regeneration”, “repentance” and “sanctification”, Calvin unites under the single term regeneration. That said, the post-Reformation theologians are clearly in agreement with Vermigli on this aspect of indwelling sin. In the last post, we’ll examine what exactly our indwelling sin has to do with our particular sin-inclinations, and how we should view ourselves in the light of this. But, before then, in the next post, we will look at how original sin (indwelling) is different than actual sin.

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