Book Review: The Two Natures In The Child Of God

The Two Natures In The Child Of God, by Ethelbert William Bullinger

When one looks at the question of the nature of Christ [1], it is worthwhile to compare and contrast that nature with that of the believer.  After all, the Bible is very clear that children of God have two natures, a carnal nature that naturally rebels against God’s ways and is vulnerable to great corruption and evil, and a godly nature that desires to imitate Christ.  Given this experience, it can often be easy for us to extrapolate this to the experience of Jesus Christ on the earth, even though His nature did not have our carnality dragging him down.  Suffice it to say that this book does not contain any discussion of the nature of Christ, but it does contain enough worthwhile discussion of the divided nature of human beings in general that it is worthwhile at least as a contrast.  Sometimes we can better understand something by understanding its contrary, and such is the case here.  The author certainly makes it clear that believers continue to struggle with the corrupt human nature within them even after the process of conversion, a reality most of us understand all too well.

This short book of about 50 pages is divided into eight chapters.  The author begins with a discussion of various biblical names and characteristics of the old nature–the flesh, natural man, old man, outward man, heart, carnal mind, sin (1).  After this he discusses the character and end of this old nature, namely that it cannot be changed and is doomed to destruction and death (2).  This leads quite naturally into a discussion of the new nature of spirit and the mind in believers (3) as well as the character and end of this nature, namely that it cannot be changed and leads to resurrection into eternal life (4).  The fact that there are two unchanging natures with contrary destinies within us has consequences in that it increases the conflict inside of us (5), but by and large the discussion of these two natures has a characteristic conclusion in the author pointing to our responsibilities to both the old nature (6) in mortifying and making no provision for it, as well as to the new nature (7) in walking in it and feeding it.  After this comes some practical conclusions, where the author paradoxically speaks out against the law but seeks to ignore and starve the flesh and cultivate the higher spiritual life.

Although there is much to appreciate in this book, the author’s dealing with the two natures in believers is clearly not perfect.  For one, the author has some unbiblical beliefs about the rapture that he indulges in briefly when talking about the resurrection of the believer into eternal life.  More troubling, the author demonstrates a particularly notable Hellenistic Christian bias concerning the mortification of the flesh.  The author is particularly intent on engaging in a typical gnostic dualist perspective on the wickedness of the flesh and the glories of the higher spiritual and intellectual life.  That this view is biased is certainly fairly obvious, and that this bias is not one that agrees with me entirely is also striking.  Nevertheless, even if the author certainly pushes the biblical statements concerning the body and the spirit and the two natures to heretical extremes, it is worthwhile to note that believers do have two natures within us and that these two natures are hostile to each other.  It is a common mistake that many new believers make that conversion will reduce the spiritual conflict within their lives but often it seems to heighten it by increasing the warfare between the part of the believer that is a child of Adam and the part that is a child of God.

[1] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to Book Review: The Two Natures In The Child Of God

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    Reblogged this on James' Ramblings.

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