Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pelagianism vs. Biblical Christianity

Here's the recap from today's class...

Man’s nature and Original Sin - Pelagius taught that man was morally neutral before God. He rejected the idea of “Original Sin” and taught that sin consists of sinful acts – not a condition of the heart. This is, however, contrary to the testimony of Scripture, which teaches that:

a. We inherited guilt from Adam (Legal Guilt)
  • “Therefore…sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all have sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
b. We have a sinful nature because of Adam’s Sin (Original Sin or Inherited Corruption)
  • "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalm 51:5)
  • We are “…by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Ephesians 2:3)
c. In our nature, we totally lack spiritual good before God. (Total Depravity) – not that we are as bad as we could be, but that every part of our being is affected by sin… our intellects, emotions, desires, goals, motives, etc.
  • “I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh” (Romans 7:18)
  • “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)
  • Apart from the work of Christ, all are “…darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.” (Ephesians 4:18)
d. In our actions, we are totally unable to do spiritual good before God.
  • “Apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
  • “Everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34)
  • “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.” (Isaiah 64:6)
  • “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” (John 6:44)
For other references, see also Genesis 6:5; Job 15:14-16; Psalm 130:3; Psalm 143:2; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Jeremiah 13:23; John 3:19; James 3:8; 1 John 1:8

Note: What about AFTER conversion?
  • “…As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.” (John 15:4) See also vs 5.
  • “For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh…” (Philippians 3:3)
  • “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)
Man’s capacity and Free Will Pelagius also taught that God holds man responsible only for those things that man is able to do. Since God warns us to do good, therefore we must have the ability to do the good that God commands. (“Ought implies Ability”) The idea, though that we are responsible before God only for what we are able to do is contrary to the testimony of Scripture.

a. Because of Original Sin, he is unable to do anything good (meritorious) before God (see above).

b. He is unable to believe in God (or come to him)
  • John 6:44 (see above)
  • “… no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” (John 6:65)
  • “Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil and your will is to do your father’s desires…” (John 8:43-44)
  • “…you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” (John 10:26)
  • “Therefore they could not believe. For again, Isaiah said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart’…” (John 12:39-40)
c. He is unable to understand the truth
  • “…even the Spirit of truth, who the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.” (John 14:17)
  • “The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)
d. He is unable to seek God
  • Rom 3:10-11
e. He is spiritually dead
  • Genesis 2:16-17; John 3:5-7; Ephesians 2:1-3; Col 2:13
f. He is blinded and corrupt in his heart
  • Gen 6:5; Gen 8:21; Ecclesiastes 9:3; Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21-23; John 3:19-21; Romans 8:7-8; Ephesians 4:17-19; Ephesians 5:8
g. He is captive to sin and Satan
  • John 8:34; John 8:44; Romans 6:20; 2 Timothy 2:25-26; Titus 3:3; 1 John 5:19
h. He performs actions freely according to his nature, but his nature is wholly evil
  • Job 14:4; Matthew 7:16-18; Matthew 12:33; Mark 7:21-23; James 1:13-14
The Glen Ellyn Bible Church Statement of Faith says it this way:
"We believe that our first parents were created holy and upright, that they fell from this condition, and that, in consequence, the whole human race is by nature dead in trespasses and sins" (Romans 5:12; Ephesians 2:1,2).
Pelagianism was first condemned by the church as heresy at the Council of Carthage on May 1, 418 – and repeatedly thereafter. But, it continues to influence thinking in the Church.
For example:
  • Charles Finney - Pelagian in theology and influential in Evangelical thinking and methodology.
  • Willow Creek (Reveal Study) -Pelagian in assumptions when they say:
"There is a passionate instinct born in all of us that desires to draw closer to God... The human spirit is wired by God to search for him, just like birds are wired to fly south for the winter." (Reveal Study, pages 41 and 44)
  • Joel Olsteen - he's a poster-boy for Pelagian thinking
Well, so what? The issue is this: The Pelagian viewpoint influences our thinking in at least 2 ways:
  • First, it leads to an UNDERSTATEMENT of our problem (pre-and post- conversion)
  • Second, it leads to an OVERSTATEMENT of our ability.
We'll talk more about this, but if you don't understand the severity of the problem and the importance of the solution, you'll minimize both. We'll unpack this more as we go, but this means that, in many cases, our message ceases to be about the Good News of what God has done for us in Christ Jesus, and is replaced by a call to our responsibility.

Think about this as we prepare for future discussions: All of this leads to the first sign of "'Christless' Christianity"":

If we're lost in sin without ability to save ourselves, we need "Good News." If we have a little problem with God and retain the ability to fix it ourselves, we just need "Good Advice".

In the book, Dr. Horton says this:
Without understanding “…the human predicament before a holy God, it is unclear what this personal relationship [with Jesus] might accomplish.” Without an understanding of the mediating work of Jesus, His substitutionary death on our behalf in order that His righteousness could be imputed to us by faith – which is itself a gift from God – the danger is that a personal relationship with Jesus becomes “…a vague, sentimental attachment to someone who is more like an invisible friend than the incarnate, dead, raised, ascended, and reigning Savior of the ungodly.” (Christless Christianity, p. 73)
  • If sin isn’t so bad, the practical focus becomes what we are to do – rather than what has been done for us. (That's moralistic)
  • If God isn’t so mad, the practical focus becomes how obeying God benefits us – rather than its proper focus on God and His glory. (That's therapeutic)
  • Most damaging of all, these misunderstandings of the problem and the focus lead us to conclude, as a practical matter, that we don't need God to address our need. (That's deism)
And Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism just isn't Biblical Christianity.

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