From the Heidelberg Catechism:
Q8: BUT are we so corrupt that we are totally unable to do any good and inclined toward all evil?
A: Yes, unless we are born again, by the Spirit of God.
This appearance of but begins the question. It’s a good idea to look back and see what preceded this conjunction. Question 6 explains that God created human beings good, so that they might know their God and walk with him. Question 7 explains that the fall of mankind changed all of that. “This fall has so poisoned our nature,” it states, “that we are born sinners–corrupt from conception.” To this the catechism replies, But…
Is man so totally corrupt that he cannot remedy this predicament? Can’t he purpose to be good, to do good? Certainly you don’t mean that man is fallen, and he can’t get up!
That’s exactly what it means.
This Q&A in the catechism prepares us to turn a corner. Over the next few we’ll move from man’s depravity (the extent of his fall) to God’s mercy–and indeed, God’s remedy. But (there’s that word) key to all of this will be recognizing it is God’s remedy. Man cannot do it on his own. He is so totally corrupt that he needs a Savior. So this is a big but setting our course. We’re headed toward the good news. Let’s keep following the buts.
This is the second installment in a series considering appearances of the word ‘but’ in the Heidelberg Catechism.