Thursday, March 5, 2009

David Powlison on the Place of Desiring in Sanctification

In a recent post, Justin Taylor refers to David Powlison's essay, "I Am Motivated When I Feel Desire," reprinted in his book, Seeing With New Eyes: Counseling and the Human Condition Through the Lens of Scripture.

Powlison, like Lewis (and like Calvin, and like the apostle Paul), distinguishes between ordinate and inordinate desires. He does a sort of FAQ on the "lusts of the flesh" which is very insightful and helpful:

How does the New Testament commonly talk about what's wrong with people?

Why do people do specific ungodly things?

But what's wrong with wanting things that seem good?

Why don't people see this as the problem?

Is the phrase "lusts of the flesh" useful in practical life and counseling?

Does each person have one "root sin"?

How can you tell if a desire is inordinate rather than natural?

Is it even right to talk about the heart, since the Bible teaches that the heart is unknowable to anyone but God? (1 Sam. 16:7; Jer. 17:9)

Doesn't the word lusts properly apply only to bodily appetites: the pleasures and comforts of sex, food, drink, rest, exercise, health?

Can desires be habitual?

What about fears? They seem as important in human motivation as cravings.

Do people ever have conflicting motives?

How does thinking about lusts relate to other ways of talking about sin, such as "sin nature," "self," "pride," "autonomy," "unbelief," and "self-centeredness"?

In counseling, do you just confront a person with his sinful cravings?

Can you change what you want?

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