COMING TO KNOW CHRIST

Friday, December 30, 2005

THE PELAGIAN INCLINATION

THEOLOGY AND THE BIBLE

The evolution of the Christian Bible begins with the Hebrew Scriptures, which are characterized in Romans as being the “Law and the Prophets,” the Old Testament (Rom 3:21). The reason for this is the simple fact that Christians were first of all Jews. But the new Church was not founded on the Hebrew Scriptures; it was established on the distinctive being of a person - to Jesus of Nazareth, crucified, dead and buried, but “designated Son of God in power ... by His resurrection from the dead.” (Rom 1:4)

Jesus wrote no book. His teachings were conveyed by word of mouth and personal example. What Jesus said, the word-of-mouth conveyance of His teachings, the historical events pertaining to what He said, were lovingly recollected and documented by His hearers, His Apostles and Disciples. These early writings became with various letters the eventual “confession of Faith,” the inspired written Word which now comprises the New Testament. The exalted process leading to the formalization of the Canon of Scripture evolved over the first four hundred years of Christian history.

The Bible was held as an exclusive intellectual property of the Church, until the coincident development of the printing press and the explosive generation of the Protestant movement in the early 16th century, a period of twelve hundred years. Nevertheless, the Bible served as the foundation for the developing theology of the Church during this extensive time period by a small number of thoughtful, literate theologians who studied the Word and used it as a foundation for their speculations on what it taught.

CHRISTOLOGY AND THE TRINITY

The first major resolutions in the developing theology of Christianity dealt with two mighty struggles regarding the nature of Christ and the Trinity. These struggles are characterized as the Trinitarian and Christological controversies. They vigorously evolved during the second, third, fourth and fifth centuries (400 years!), including the Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches as we know them now.

The Trinitarian definition dealt with the relationship of Jesus Christ, the Son, and the Father as persons. It determined that Christ was of the same essence as the Father and not subordinate to Him. The Trinity, as a Biblical doctrine, came into effect recognizing this Truth while, at the same time, determining the Spirit as the third person of one God in essence.

The start of the resolution of the Trinitarian conflict, at the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., marked a major event in the Church’s and Western civilization’s histories. It initiated the reconciliation of the informal structure of the Christian Church and the formalized secular institution of the Roman Empire through the remarkable leadership of the Emperor Constantine, who was not overly religious, whose political power became a significant instrument of the Holy Spirit in exercising this stage of God’s plan for mankind and His Church.


The result of this was the eventual structuring of the Roman Catholic Church, where the Church and the Roman Empire joined as partners in the conquering, subjugation and conversion of the European nations and peoples. The resolution of the conflict was finalized at the Council of Constantinople in the year 381, and resulted in the following doctrine within the Niceno - Constantinopolitian Creed:

“We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;”

The formulation of the Trinitarian doctrine framed the definition of the complex person of Jesus Christ. The famed reformed theologian, Louis Berkoff, instructs us in his History of Christian Doctrines,

“The decision to which the trinitarian controversy led, namely, that Christ as the Son of God is consubstantial with the Father and therefore very God, immediately gave birth to the question of the relation between the divine and the human nature in Christ.”

The Christological events dealt with the person of Jesus Christ and the logical contradiction suggested by one having both a divine and human nature, a problem that still bothers some religions today, religions that either deny Christ being the Son of God (Joshua’s Witnesses; Islam, 7th Day Adventist, Mormonism) or deny His divine and human nature. As with the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451 provided the beginning for the final resolution of the Christological definition by the issuance of the following specific statement of the doctrine of the person of Christ:

“We then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and also truly man, of reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with us according to manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably, the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, the Only-begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the Holy Fathers has handed down to us.”

The Christological and Trinitarian disputes were fundamental events that brought the Church to a point of understanding itself, in a very important sense. The developing doctrines pertaining to God (Theology Proper), Jesus Christ (Christology), the Holy Spirit (Pneumatology) and the Church (Ecclesiology) found their beginnings in the Spirit inspired consensus facilitated by these centuries of Spirit led dialectics.

THE DOCTRINES OF MANKIND, SIN AND SALVATION

At a later time, starting in the fifth century, another important controversy immerged that dealt with what now relates to the doctrines of Mankind, Sin and Salvation. This controversy eventually became the basis for the evolving definition of Anthropology (The doctrine of mankind), Hamartiology (The doctrine of sin), and Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) within the discipline of Systematic Theology as studied today.

These theological disciplines evolved exclusively in the Roman Church as a result of a momentous confrontation between the ideas of an English monk named Pelagius and the revered promulgator of Christian theology, Augustine.

This confrontation specifies an important contrast in the theological priority and interpretation of God’s Grace, as Grace interacts with mankind’s freedom and ability to choose.

The confrontation was so intense on the issues of Human Freedom and Grace that it appeared to subordinate His greatest gift, the gift of Jesus Christ as a propitiation for mankind’s sin, allowing the alleviation of the Adamic heritage, by providing the gifts of righteousness, the conviction called Faith, and eternal life through the guidance of His Holy Spirit.

Following, and in a sense summarizing, the rationalism of the Gnostic heresies that occurred at the beginning of Christianity, the Pelagian conflict provided a prominent dialectical arena in a historic framework that has pulled on theology’s intellectual coattails for over fifteen hundred years regarding Sin, Salvation, mankind’s freedom to choose, Predestination and Grace!

The answers for many questions remain confused today regarding the relationship of God and humanity as we know and understand it. The peculiar, antagonistic, substantial differences between various Christian religions, as to how and why they celebrate God and view His purpose in Salvation, have their delineated heritage from the Pelagian/Augustinian conflict.

THE PELAGIAN CONFLICT -- A DEFINING MOMENT IN HISTORY

The soul of the Pelagian thesis and its system of thought is human freedom, emphasizing mankind’s moral adequacy and capability in seeking and achieving the ethical life and God, as opposed to the Augustinian system which acknowledges the totality of mankind’s depraved nature and concludes that it is by God’s Grace, and only by God’s Grace, that Salvation and true freedom is attained.

The confrontation evolved on the intrinsic, inherent, constitutional nature of Sin and Grace, doctrines that, heretofore, had not been defined and resolved in the deliberations of the Church.

This 5th Century event, therefore, was an intellectual frontier, one of those defining moments of history which would establish new directions and change the course of Christian thought forever!

Louis Berkoff reminds us, “The Holy Spirit was guiding the Church, often through shame and confusion, into the clear atmosphere of truth.”

The Pelagian/Augustinian confrontation was to have a lasting impact on the evolving teachings of Catholic and Protestant Christianity. It provides the answers to many questions, such as is redemption a primary work of God or of mankind? Is it by the initiative of an individual that Belief and Faith are obtained? Or is Belief and Faith a complete gift of God’s Grace, a gift predestined by Him? What is the meaning of the Adamic heritage? Is God truly the Sovereign? What is the roll of mankind’s God-given free will?

THE ANTITHESIS OF SIN AND GRACE

The Pelagian/Augustinian conflict turns on the antithesis of Sin and Grace. Their consideration deals with historic, fundamental doctrines that are as important to the believer and the Church today as when they were first evolved in the 5th Century.

· Human freedom.
· The fall of mankind.
· The regeneration and conversion of mankind.
· The eternal purpose of redemption.
· The nature and operation of the Grace of God.

Pelagius believed that Adam was created by God sinless, and entirely competent to all good, with an immortal spirit and a mortal body. He was endowed with reason and free will. With his reason he was to have dominion over irrational creatures; with his free will he was to serve God.

Freedom, Pelagius held, is the supreme good, the honor and glory of mankind. Freedom is the sole basis of the ethical relation of mankind and God, who would have no unwilling service. It consists of the liberum arbtrium, the freedom of choice and the equal ability to do good or evil.

The initial reaction by many is that this argument and line of reasoning has a great appeal, an appearance of truth. On the surface, Pelagius presents an ideal philosophic overview that appeals to the ego, the sense that freedom is goodness, the satisfaction that results from dominance thinking, the natural gratification derived from having control of decisions, especially controlling decisions regarding religion.

Pelagius was a 5th century monk from that precious island region now known as England, where freedom, honor, and chivalry were considered virtues in the legendary mytho/historic court of King Arthur, of the same approximate time and place; where, eventually, the highest secular standards were to evolve in the governing of peoples.

Although history accords him no special honor, his inquiry prompted one of the great dialectics of all time, a debate whose heritage lasts with us today.

He became a cause of Augustine’s greatness, a cause that excited the development of key Church doctrines, a cause for understanding the other inclinations of believers, such as the natural inclination to favor their own opinions, speculations, judgments, while ignoring God’s guidance as provided in His Word (Gal 3:1-3).

MANKIND’S FREEDOM OF CHOICE

Pelagius prescribes that the ability to do good necessarily belongs to freedom, because mankind cannot will good without at the same time being able to will evil. Without the power of contrary choice, the choice of good itself would lose its freedom, and therefore its moral value.
He maintained that the right use of the freedom of choice leads to a state of holiness; the abuse of it, to a state of bondage under sin. The state of the will is affected by its acts, and settles towards a permanent character of good and evil. Every act goes to a moral state or habit; and habit is in turn the parent of new acts.

Perfect freedom is one with moral necessity, in which mankind no longer can do evil because he will not do it, and must do good because he wills to do it. The finite will is united with the divine in joyful obedience, and raised above the possibility of apostasy.

Refuting the essential lesson in Romans 1-8, Pelagius holds that the sin of Adam consisted in a single isolated act of disobedience to the divine command. This single excusable act of transgression brought no consequences, either to the soul or body of Adam, still less to his posterity, who all stand or fall for themselves. There is, therefore, according to the Pelagian system, no original sin, and no hereditary guilt. Sin is not born with mankind; it is not a product of nature, but of the will. Mankind is born both without virtue and without vice, but with the capacity for either. Mankind’s corruption is ascribed solely to the habit of evil, which grows in power the longer it works and the further it spreads. The universality of sin must be attributed to the power of evil example and evil custom.

AUGUSTINE’S RESPONSE

The Pelagian thesis is theologically speculative while the Augustinian system is based on Scripture and, therefore, represents “the weight of divine wisdom inherent in the Word.” (Philip Schaff)

In contrast and in rebuttal to Pelagius, a simple summary statement teaches us that the Augustinian system gives full prominence to the Biblical teachings of Sin, Grace and Salvation as taught in Romans and Ephesians:

· The individual is lost in sin and rebellion against God as a function of the heritage from Adam and will not seek God.

· His fallen will is so corrupted that he cannot seek salvation, that salvation and the turning to the way, Jesus Christ, is completely based on God’s Grace.

A major Scriptural passage supporting Augustine’s rebuttal is the often recited verses from Romans 5:15-21:

“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by transgression of the one many died (Adam’s initial sin of disobedience), much more did the Grace of God and the gift by Grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to many.

And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned (Adam); for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression (Adam’s fall) resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift (of Righteousness) arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of one (Adam’s disobedience), death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of Grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

So then as through one transgression
(Adam’s) there resulted condemnation to all men (the Adamic Sin heritage), even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For through the one man’s disobedience (Adam’s) the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.

And the Law came in that the transgression might increase; but where sin increased, Grace abounded all the more, that, as sin reigned in death, even so Grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

Augustine further prescribes that the reason that some are saved and others are not is based on God’s purpose, His eternal decree that some sinners are saved and others are left in sin according to the important and controversial doctrine of Predestination as cited in Romans 8:28-29:

“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren;”

Put yourself in Augustine’s place, fifteen hundred years ago. Given that you believe in His Word, how would you decide considering the Pelagian thesis?

The Pelagian thesis reveals the natural inclination to think of the mass of humanity as being good, favoring an idealistic view of mankind that ignores its underlying propensity for selfism and pride, the Adamic heritage, the initial disobedience.

A SUMMARY OF POSITIONS

The following summary juxtaposes the Pelagian and Augustinian positions before considering the evolution of Semi-Pelagianism and other compromises developed over fifteen hundred years on the question of God’s Grace versus Man’s/Woman’s freedom as provided by their free will.

Augustinian Divine Monergism: The doctrine that regeneration is the work of the Holy Spirit alone, and that the human will, having no inclination to holiness, is incapable of assisting or co-operating. Advanced by Augustine, divine Monergism gives God all the glory and makes freedom itself a result of Grace.

Pelagian Human Monergism: Ascribes the chief merit of conversion to mankind, and reduces Grace and the role of the Holy Spirit in relationship to the initiative determined by mankind’s will in achieving regeneration.

The Pelagian thesis was condemned at the synod of Diospolis in 415 A.D., approximately sixteen hundred years ago!

THE EVOLUTION OF THE PELAGIAN ISSUE

SEMI-PELAGIANISM

Semi-Pelagianism is a reaction against Augustine’s developed teachings that put down the Pelagian thesis and its system of thought. Because of the dialectical quality of the Augustine/Pelagius confrontation (i.e.: The Pelagian thesis versus the Augustinian antithesis), Semi-Pelagianism represents a biased synthesis swaying the argument from:

· the totality of Grace and election, as the determiner in bringing nonbelievers to Belief (the Augustinian antithesis),

· to a greater balance in favor of the freedom and moral quality of mankind to consciously believe and repent (a “swaying” to the Pelagian thesis).

Semi-Pelagianism establishes a compromise whereby Divine Grace and the human will jointly accomplish the work of conversion and sanctification, and that mankind must take the first step because the individual has the free will to decide.

The Semi-Pelagian system rejects:

· The moral soundness of mankind as advocated by Pelagius, but admits his moral ability to choose.

· The Augustinian teaching of the entire moral corruption and bondage of unbelieving mankind to sin.

· The Pelagian conception that Grace is an external auxiliary and not a principle efficacious attribute of God’s will.

· The Augustinian teaching of the sovereignty, irresistibleness and the limitation of Grace to the elect, those predestined by God.

All of this suggests a returning to the essential teaching called Greek Synergy. The Greek Church held that the human will and divine Grace were coordinated in the work of conversion. That is simplistic enough, but the obvious question arises where is the emphasis? Is the conversion experience a result of the human will or of God’s Grace? How big a factor is the sin nature? How does the Holy Spirit interact with the nonbelieving soul if it interacts in any event? Who directs the coordination, the human will or the Holy Spirit? Or is believing merely a psychic quirk where the believer to be takes the initiative to believe, independent from the inspired leading of His Holy Spirit?

GOTTSCHALK and DOUBLE PREDESTINATION

The Semi-Pelagianists were quick to make clear that the major problem with the Augustinian stance on predestination is that it leads to the inevitable and not unreasonable conclusion, by logical deduction, that while some are elected and saved others are reprobated by God to be left in sin, even though there is no Scripture stating directly that some (nonbelievers) are predestined by God to be lost.

This conclusion is fundamental to the anti-Pelagian, anti-semi-Pelagian findings of Gottschalk, a Benedictine monk who lived in the period 803 - 869.

He revived the Augustine teaching on predestination by emphasizing the concept of “double predestination” as a result of an intense study of Augustine. His view was that:

· God foreordains those he wishes to heaven and hell.
· God does not will that all are to be saved.
· Christ died for the elect.

Gottschalk’s view was not well received! Not relenting from his belief, Gottschalk was condemned at the Synod of Mainz in 848, beaten until almost dead and imprisoned for life.

He confirmed that a number of believers sincerely accepted the conclusion that Double Predestination was a fundamental dogma of God, to the extent that they willingly became martyrs in its defense.

Christian history pays a small tribute to this man by its recollection of this event. Such love and conviction has been the infrequent but sincere testimony of many true believers, a number of whom were judged as heretics by their contributions to the evolution of a maturing Christian doctrine.

For it is by placing Scriptural facts against speculative idealism, Biblical knowledge against wishful philosophy, that sound doctrine is developed.

Acknowledging this, history shows that Pelagius’ error was that he didn’t understand Romans. Gottschalk’s problem was that he knew that Augustine did!

Like a beacon, it shines; guiding fools and scholars alike. A beacon of the Truth; by which heretics stumble; false doctrines expire; correct doctrines flourish. God’s standard of Righteousness, so that we can know ourselves, His Son, His Spirit, His Truth. So that we may, by personifying His Grace, be resolved in glorifying Him. Romans!

GREAT THEOLOGIANS OF HISTORY

PETER THE LOMBARD/SEMI PELAGIAN LEANINGS

Peter the Lombard died in 1164. He was the father of Systematic Theology. His teachings included the Four Books of Sentences treating the Triune God, Created Beings and Sin, the Christian Virtues, the Decaloge (the Ten Commandments), and the Sacraments with some questions in Eschatology. They were the fundamental discipline for students of theology from the 12th through the 15th centuries when superseded by Calvin’s Institutes in Protestant Christianity.

He originated the Catholic religious practice of seven sacraments. These were confirmed by the Council of Florence in 1439, almost three hundred years after his death on the eve of the Reformation!

Firmly of the Augustine tradition, he, nevertheless, was accused of some semi-Pelagian sentiments, probably because he held the Sacrament to be not only a “visible sign of a visible Grace” (Augustine) but also the effective cause of that Grace. This became a critical issue when the Reformists insisted on two Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, which are the general religious practice in Protestant Churches today. These two Sacraments are Bible based. The other five practiced by the Catholic Church are held to be devised thus tainted by the Pelagian imperative honoring mankind’s initiative. Other noted teachings of Lombard are:

· By the fall, mankind suffered injury as from a wound, but not deprivation of all virtue (A Semin-Pelagian leaning).

· God knew mankind would fall, but we do not know why He did not prevent it.

· The root of Sin is concupiscence (selfism, sexual desire). Original Sin is handed down by the medium of the body and becomes operative on the soul because of the body.

· God’s predestination of the elect is the cause of good in the elect. It is not based on any foreseen goodness that they may have.

THOMAS AQUINAS, THE PRINCE OF SCHOOLMEN

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) is considered to “the most eminent divine” after Augustine. He retains this distinction today in the Roman Catholic Church. His works are replete with reference to the works of Augustine. On matters pertaining to Sin and Grace, he was considered a Semi-Pelagian by the protestant Christian historian, Philip Schaff.

The reason for this accusation probably lies in the fact that Aquinas was the “prince” of the scholastic Schoolmen, whose penchant for speculation, rationalization and intellectual “reachings” far surpassed the standard of Pelagius with the very important exception that they tended to respect Scripture and the teachings of Augustine.

But the speculations, rationalizations and reachings did incline towards abstractions that tended to obfuscate and deny many real problems and excesses affecting the Church. Therefore, there was the Semi-Pelagian charge that suggested a drifting away from the solid standard admired by the Protestant Reformists.

Schaff informs us, “The protestant reformers, in their indignation against the Scholastic theology, could not do justice to Thomas Aquinas. Luther went so far as to call his ‘Summa’ the quintessence of all heresies, meaning Papal doctrines. He spoke of him as ‘the fountain and original soup of all heresy, error, and Gospel havoc, as his book bears witness.’”

We must remember that Luther did not lack an enthusiasm for diatribe when motivated. Don’t forget that he didn’t exactly admire Calvin either!
The present historical estimate is much more kind, for Aquinas was an extraordinary man who measures with the standard of relevance accorded Augustine, Luther and Calvin following the teachings of Paul.

Aquinas acknowledged that the cause of Adam’s fall, the original Sin was self love, Pride. As an acknowledged teacher, Calvin probably incorporated his views as an extension of Augustine’s teachings.

A number of Aquinas’ teachings follow. They speak for themselves as a follow-on, a bridge from the Gottschalk controversy to the expansive Augustinian based theologies of Luther and Calvin. They are framed by the theological influence of Peter the Lombard and John Duns Scotus, who follow. From his Treatise on Grace:

· For the knowledge of any truth whatsoever mankind needs Divine help.

· Mankind needs God’s help, God’s Grace, to move mankind to love God.

· Without Grace mankind cannot merit eternal life.

· The preparation of the will by Grace is twofold: to be right and enjoy God; to prepare the will to receive Grace.

· Mankind’s turning to God is by free choice, but only when by His Grace that He turns it.

· Mankind can do nothing unless moved by God.

· Mankind by himself can in no way rise from Sin without the help of Grace.

· Mankind’s corrupt nature needs Grace to heal its nature.

Regarding perseverance:

· Perseverance is sought even by those who are hallowed by Grace.

· Mankind, when possessed by Grace, needs perseverance to be given to it by God.

· After anyone is Justified by Grace through Faith, that person must beseech God for the gift of perseverance.

· By the Grace of Christ many receive the gift of Grace whereby they may persevere, and the further gift of persevering. Thus Christ’s gift is greater that Adam’s fault.

Regarding God’s providence, in respect to predestination and reprobation, especially regarding mankind’s eternal salvation:

· All the good that is in things has been created by God.

· All things are subject to Divine providence.

· For it belongs to Divine providence to order all things.

· Predestination presupposes election in the order of reason, and election supposes God’s Love.

· Predestination presupposes God wills the salvation of the elect and is a part of God’s providence.

· He wills this good to some in preference to others, sinceHe reprobates some.

· There is no distinction between what flows from free choice and what is of predestination. That which flows from free choice is also of predestination.

· He predestines by means of His mercy, in sparing them; and in respect of others, whom He reprobates by means of His justice, in punishing them.

· Why He chooses some for glory and reprobates others has no reason except the Divine will.

DUNS SCOTUS, THE AUTHORITY of the CHURCH

Accused by Luther of reviving Pelagianism by emphasizing the freedom of the will and the natural powers of mankind, John Duns Scotus, a Scotsman, D.1308, was one of the last of the scholastic theologians of the Medieval period starting with Lombard, reaching its pinnacle with Aquinas. Contrary to any Pelagian leaning, he held that:

· The controlling element in the divine nature is the will of God.

· To submit to the will of God is the highest goal the human can reach.

· The will of God determines the salvation of mankind.

· The predestination of the elect is an act purely of God’s determination (and His Grace).

· The non-elect are reprobated in view of their foreseen demerit.

Luther’s criticism may have been inspired by the fact that Duns Scotus taught that the Scriptures contain what is to be believed, but the authority of the Church, controlled by man, establishes what Truth is. In other words, Belief in the Scriptures rests ultimately on the authority of the Church.

This is a major division point between Catholicism and the Protestant Churches, which holds the Scriptures to be the supreme authority, not man, or traditions created by man.

Further, he was the father of the Immaculate Conception doctrine.

He did differ with Augustine in holding that the human will is free and that, more importantly, Adam’s sin was not passed to his descendents - a certain Pelagian error.

Don Scotus’ wisdom and attitude on predestination is confirmed by the following story:

“On one occasion he stopped to speak to an English farmer on the subject of religion. The farmer, who was engaged in sowing, turned and said, ‘Why do you speak to me? If God has foreknowledge that I will be saved, I will be saved whether I do good or evil.’ Duns replied: ‘Then, if God has foreknowledge that grain will grow out of this soil, it will grow whether you sow or withhold your hand. You may as well save yourself the labor you are at.’”

CALVIN AND PREDESTINATION

John Calvin (1509-1564) was a Frenchman, a scholar, a studious Catholic who fathered what is now called the Reformation. His doctrinal system combined predestination with the certainty of salvation, in contradiction to the Catholic dogma, which does not promise this comfort. In this sense, Calvin carried the doctrine beyond the teaching of Augustine, who subscribed to the uncertainty of salvation as an incentive for pursuing holiness.

The question on what is the constitution, the predicate of salvation is a significant question that divides the Christian Church today. Are believers saved when they come to Belief and are given the gift of Faith? Is this salvation secure? Does the Holy Spirit’s sealing make salvation secure? Or, must the believer persevere independent of God’s Grace? Is salvation a later event that must be earned? Is there some middle ground such as taught by many, that there is an initial salvation followed by a progressive phase that leads to a final salvation? If salvation is obtained under any teaching, can it be lost?

The hard view of Calvin’s teaching, like Gottchalk’s followed by Aquinas’, means God’s judgment is that some are predestinated to eternal life while others to death. It concludes a twofold decree where some are elected into holiness and salvation and others are reprobated into death because of sin and guilt.

Calvin was very definite on the question of salvation. One was elected and that election was never to be lost because of God’s predestined plan. As noted, Aquinas did not subscribe to this thesis, stating explicitly that perseverance was not assured!

The doctrine of predestination is a hard teaching for many believers, those who are saved (or, are being progressively saved!) and do not have the problem of not being saved. They feel that it is difficult to understand why God would deny anyone the opportunity to know Christ.

The predestination teaching flies in the face of the evangelical instinct to convert nonbelievers that includes the theoretical majority who are not chosen, not elected, not ordained by God to be His.

Of course, this question creates no regard or uncertainty on the part of nonbelievers who, by choice, do not care and are not concerned about their salvation, who, in fact, think that such interest on their behalf by believer’s is “foolishness” (1Cor 1:18).

Contrasting this hard interpretation of Paul shared by Augustune, Aquinas and Calvin, a moderate and contemporary Arminium view provides a softer, compromised teaching on predestination, rationalizing the importance of God’s foreknowledge:

· God in His omniscience has foreseen how all individuals will respond to the offer of the gospel.

· He has predestined to eternal life those whom he has foreseen responding in Faith and obedience.

What is the Truth? Those who defend double predestination with its doctrine of reprobation cite the important teaching in Romans 9: 10-24. It is the same Scripture guiding Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin!

“And not only this, but there was Rebekah also, when she conceived twins by one man, our father Isaac; for though the twins were not born, and had not done anything good or bad, in order that God’s purpose according to His choice might stand, not because of works, but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, ‘THE OLDER WILL SERVE THE YOUNGER.’ Just as it is written, ‘JACOB I LOVED, BUT ESAU I HATED’ (Mal 1:2).

What shall we say then? There is no injustice with God, is there? May it never be! For He says to Moses, I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.’ So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs but on God who has mercy.

For the Scripture says to Pharoah, ‘FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH.’

So He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?’

On the contrary, who are you O man and woman who answers back to God. The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this, will it?’ Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make the same lump one vessel for honorable use and the other for common use?

So what if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among the Jews only, but also among the Gentiles.”

THE AGUSTINIAN HERITAGE FROM PAUL

CALVIN AND LUTHER

The Aquinarian, Calvinistic and Lutherean systems of theology are based on the teaching of the revered Augustine. Because of this fact, the four systems of theology are closely allied, with the important qualification by Luther on the priority of the doctrine of predestination, a primary teaching of Augustine and Aquinas which was elaborated and enhanced by Calvin.

While summaries do not do justice to the depth of the teachings of the two great reformers (This document is not intended to be a treatise on Reformation Theology.), Calvin made election, Luther made the justification by Faith, the primary basis for being chosen in terms of God’s predestinated, foreordained plan. Each attempted to improve on the teaching of Augustine and Aquinas.

Calvin relied on his view of the unchangeable decree of God on election and predestination. Luther relied on the importance of saving Grace through the righteousness obtained by Faith. Both systems stressed their teachings in an atmosphere of contention and dissatisfaction affecting the Roman Catholic Church, which upheld a practical dogma that de-emphasized Grace and stressed human works.

The Church’s teaching on “works” was done with the determined ecclesiastical objective that greatly qualified the doctrine of perseverance, the assurance of being delivered. Protestants maintain this is not Scriptural, and was done to provide a “fearful” incentive for the believer to earn final salvation and to avoid eternal damnation.

These four men were intense in their dedication to God. Each made prodigious contributions to Christian thought and knowledge. Each embraced the teaching of Paul in Romans as being the divine guide in the development of the doctrines of Anthropology and Soteriology. And because of this, each stressed the doctrines of Sin and Grace, the impotence of mankind in reaching God, the omnipotence of God and His plan for the ages, the very sinfulness of sin as a heritage from Adam’s fundamental disobedience, and the absolute role of Grace in the regeneration of men and women.

They made extraordinary contributions to the intellectual formulation of church doctrine and practice in specific time periods: Augustine from the 5th century to the 16th century; Aquinas from the 14th century; Luther and Calvin from the 16th century to the present age.

The heritage is clear: from Paul to Augustine, then Aquinas to Luther and Calvin in the Protestant tradition. It includes Aquinas and ignores Luther and Calvin in the Catholic tradition. The parallel heritage for Pelagius starts with his misinterpretation of Paul. This survived because of anti-Augustinian rancor, which inspired the Semi-Pelagianism rebuttal to Augustine’s powerful doctrines on Grace and predestination. The heritage was finally embraced by Aminianism as an evolved reaction to Calvin. More on Arminius will follow.

THEIR TEACHINGS

The teaching of these revered men of God may be summarized as follows (it is also Aquinas’ belief!):

· God has from eternity foreordained all things that should come to pass, with a view to the manifestation of His glory.

· He created mankind pure and holy, and with freedom of choice.

· Adam was tried, disobeyed, lost his freedom, and became a slave of sin.
· The whole human race fell with him and is justly condemned in Adam to everlasting death.

· God in His sovereign mercy elects a part of this mass of corruption to everlasting life.

· Without any regard to moral merit, He converts the elect by irresistible Grace, justifies, sanctifies and perfects them.

· He thus displays in them the riches of His Grace.

· In His inscrutable, yet just and adorable counsel, he leaves the rest of mankind in their inherited state of condemnation.

· He reveals in the everlasting punishment of the wicked the glory of His awful judgment.

DETERMINING GOD’S PURPOSE

Augustine’s system, developed in response to the Pelagian thesis, inspired centuries of theological acrimony and debate. The dialectics of this confrontation, including compromised specifications of Semi-Pelagianism and Semi-Augustinianism, carried down and through the 17th Century heightened by the Gottschalk and Jansenist controversies of 853 and 1653.

Calvin’s system, in turn, was effectively opposed by the Arminians, the Quakers, and the Methodist, each opposition sharing and echoing the heritage of the Grace/Sin/Freewill semi-Pelagian heritage, with a stringent disagreement on the doctrine of predestination and election as advocated by Calvin.

The principle thesis of the anthropological and soteriological doctrines, as evolved by these giants of the Christian Church, is the universal damnation of the whole human race on the sole ground of Adam’s sin.

This conclusion is troubling by itself for those who have a grander view of humanity, and it is particularly repulsive in that it includes innocents, infants and all those in far lands who have never heard of Adam. There is no wonder that it inspired disagreement by those who had a greater hope, and/or an ignorance of what Scripture teaches.

The sensible argument is made as to how one reconciles this view with the justice and mercy of God? And why would He decree the damnation of all these souls when with His omnipotence He could persuade them to Belief, Faith, Righteousness and Salvation? This is serious stuff indeed, if one chooses to take it seriously!

As suggested before, the rub lies in the fact that those who do not believe in Him do not care one way or another. It means nothing to them! So like the grass in the field (Psalms 90:5-7), their destiny is a short term on earth ended by death, while those who do believe, and who express the great legitimate concern for those not chosen, have eternal life (Rom 6:23).

The Scriptures paint a clear picture of God’s will on these matters. There is no mystery in the fact that He wills as Augustine and Calvin confirm. There is no question that this determination is supported by Scripture:

Isaiah 46:10 “I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.”

This mystery about God’s purpose, when thought out, is often disguised in a reaction of amazement and humble thanksgiving on the believer’s part, for being “called according to His purpose,” elected according to His plan of predestination:

Rom 8:29,30 “For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”

THE EVOLUTION OF DOCTRINE

JANSEN, THE PELAGIAN ISSUE CONTINUES

The Dutch Jansenists movement excited continued study of the conflict between Pelagius and Augustine and resulted in the political recognition of an independent bisphoric in the “Old Catholic Church.” In 1653 Pope Innocent X condemned five propositions allegedly extracted from a book title “Augustinus” written by a Dutchman, Cornelius Jansen (1585-1638). These propositions allegedly affirmed that:

· God’s commands cannot be fulfilled without Grace. Grace is irresistible.

· Fallen mankind is free from coercion, not from necessity.

· The Semi-Pelagians’ error was denial of the irresistibility of Grace.

· It is Semi-Pelagian to say that Christ dies for all mankind.

The battle raged on over centuries, effecting the fundamental precepts of the growing Christian Church, especially the emerging Protestant dominations, but least of all the Eastern Orthodox Church, whose theology was retarded by the Islamic incursion and a propensity for extreme conservatism in ritual and dogma.

ARMINIUS, A CHALLENGE OF CALVIN

The rise of Arminianism in the early 17th Century (1610) presented the greatest challenge to the Augustine heritage and the pervasive, controversial theology of Calvin. It presented a revival of the one thousand year old fruits of the Pelagian system, recapitulated by Jacob Arminius’ (1560-1609) followers.

Like Cornelius Jansen (1585-1638), Arminius was a Dutchman and a contemporary fellow theologian, who preceeded Jansen in this life by approximately twenty five (25) years.

The Arminian theology proposed a radical view of predestination on the grounds that it lacked a Christ centered “Christocentric” focus. Since Christ was not the foundation for election, according to the Calvinistic system, but was only a subordinate follow-on to a foreordained salvation, what is the meaning for Christ’s ministry when the elect are to be saved in any event? In other words, why Christ when His elect will be saved anyway? This concern led Arminius to change the priority of election and Grace from the Reformist view that election preceded Grace to the shocking thesis that election followed Grace! The Arminian system held that:

· God decrees to save all who repent, believe and persevere.

· Election is conditional on mankind’s response, dependent on God’s foreknowledge, mankind’s Faith and perseverance.

· The possibility of a true believer totally or finally falling from Grace and perishing is not denied.

There is no assurance of ultimate salvation.

· Man’s/woman’s will is free. God’s will can be resisted.
God gives sufficient Grace so that man/woman can believe if they so will.
· Redemptive Grace is universal, offered to all, and is not particular, it is not offered only to the elect.

In regards to the predestination thesis, Arminius condemns this by, in effect, concluding that God does not choose anyone but foresees that some will choose Him. This means that God’s chosen choose Him.

The confusion continues: The Arminius views were formally developed by His followers in the Remonstrant Articles of 1610, as follows:

· Predestination is conditional on a person’s response, being grounded in God’s foreknowledge.

· Christ dies for each and every person but only believers are saved.

· A person is unable to believe and needs the Grace of God. This Grace is irresistible.

· Whether all the regenerate will persevere requires further investigation.
These Articles were condemned by the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619:

· The Arminians were rightfully accused of adopting a Semi-Pelagian view of Grace.

· They were accused of destroying the doctrine of assurance by questioning perseverance.

· They were accused of endorsing a conditional gospel message which undermined the doctrines of atonement and justification.

Those opposed to Arminianism were rightly concerned over the possible additional erosion in reformist doctrine stimulating further divergence of the protestant movement. Despite this fact, the Arminian thrust became a pervasive influence as Protestantism spread throughout the world. For many, Arminianism became a rebellion against the teachings of Calvin, a reaction to the harsh teaching that spells the terminal fate of reprobates who are not elected of God.

JOHN WESLEY, ONE THOUSAND YEARS LATER

Arminius and Jansen teach us a great lesson on the vagary of the Pelagian/Augustine controversy, a millennium, one thousand years after it commenced. Arminius, a protestant, held a Catholic leaning in doctrine while Jansen, a Catholic, embraced the Augustinian view that was most closely allied to Calvin’s.

We could learn much from this irony.

John Wesley (1703-91) and the Methodist movement are credited for the growth of the fundamental precepts of Arminianism. “Wesleyan Arminianism” taught that:

· Depravity was total, affecting every facet of man’s and woman’s being.

· There was a requirement for God’s Grace if one was to believe.

· Synergism, acting for the work of Christ, was related to and could be applied to all of mankind.

· Christ may deliver all from Adam’s guilt, providing people appropriate (receive, accept) His Grace.

· The possibility of a person falling from Grace was expressly accepted. There can be an assurance of an initial salvation but not of an ultimate salvation.

God’s will - mankind’s freedom and free will to choose - the concept of sin - its historic roots with Adam - the loving invitation to attain Belief by Jesus Christ - the characterized love and mercy of God balanced against His wrath - God’s plan for the ages - His rightful determination that He will be glorified - that He will glorify His elect, all of these, and a multitude of other considerations, leads the student of His revelation, the believer in His Word, to read carefully His inspired teachings on all of this.

These teachings have been debated through the last fifteen hundred years...with a decisive impact on Church dogma and doctrine of the various Christian religions. Let us summarize what we have learned so far on this important and complex consideration of Sin, Grace, and Salvation:

GOD’S PLAN OF SALVATION

It should be obvious that Predestination is a real and controversial teaching of the Christian Church. Its teaching is the core of how God’s plan of salvation is administered. It defines the nature and application of God’s grace.

The Bible provides extensive guidance in Romans 8:28-30; 9:9-24, Acts 2:23;22:10, and Ephesians 1:3-14; 3:11 on this teaching.

Religions do, in a sense, “mask” this teaching for it rips at a central question as to God’s sovereignty compared to mankind’s control of the Church.

This doctrine has evolved from the fifth century to the present time, and has been a key theological issue that has divided Christendom in the definition of separate religions. This ancient deliberation may be partially summarized for the reader by considering the theological doctrine called the Covenant of Grace.

God’s plan of salvation for mankind - the great redemptive work of Christ - is properly called the Covenant of Grace. That covenant, between God and mankind, is based on the promise of salvation and eternal life, on the part of God, and the condition of belief and obedience, on the part of mankind.

It is called a covenant since the plan of salvation is presented in the Bible with parties, mutual promises or stipulations, and conditions.
Mankind by its heritage of imputed unrighteousness from Adam, is lost in sin and misery, subject to God’s wrath, and perishes in this state. This state persists except for God’s plan of salvation which is moved by His compassion for the lost. To alleviate this historic tragedy, God sent His Son to assume mankind’s nature with the objective of suffering rejection and experiencing a painful physical death providing forgiveness and the basis for the justifying gift of righteousness and faith in His promises.

In summary, the manifestations of God’s Grace take the form of:

1) An “unmerited” love by God for troubled nonbelievers, who languish in disbelief, who wish for help, who are not evil, who are willing to confess and repent.

2) The supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit in leading nonbelievers to Belief and maintaining the believer’s walk in redemption and a progressive sanctification.

3) Spiritual blessings in the form of the fruit of the Spirit in the believer.

4) The specific salvific gifts of Faith (Eph 2:8) and Righteousness (Rom 5:17) to the believer through rebirth in Jesus Christ.

In considering the Covenant of Grace, as it is applied by various religions, the core debate forming the doctrines of Anthropology (the doctrine of mankind), Harmartiology (the doctrine of sin), and Soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) takes form in the confrontation between Pelagius and Augustine. The net differences of the theological debate represented by the Pelagian thesis as opposed by Augustinianism are:

1) The plan of salvation, or covenant of grace, has provision for all mankind (Pelagian) or is particularized to that “ predestined” portion of mankind (the elect) who are actually saved (Augustine).

2) It is disputed whether Man (Pelagian) or God (Augustine), determines who are saved and subject to the Covenant of Grace.

Historically, the Augustinian system held within the formal Catholic Church starting in the fifth century until eroded and compromised by the Semi-Pelagian influence which became paramount in the Gottschalk tragedy in the ninth century.

In the sixteenth century, following the Pelagian influence, the Arminians held that salvation is by works in that mankind must take the initiative to find God by Faith, that the Covenant of Grace assumes mankind’s initiative and is not totally dependent on the moral incapacity of mankind and God’s election.

This was a specific reaction to Calvinism within the reformation movement. The sister to the Lutheran reformed movement, Calvinism is consistently and strongly Augustinian holding that God is sovereign.

Following this, Wesleyan Arminianism held that the covenant was exercised through the use of the sufficiency of grace extended through the work of Christ and the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Lutherans join a consensus that God has the serious purpose to save all mankind; that Christ died equally for all. That salvation and the covenant is joined by those who hear and believe the gospel and are thereby given the gift of Faith. That mankind does not have the power to believe, that they have the power of effectual resistance, and those who resist perish.

Charles Hodge states in his Systematic Theology, “the question which of these systems is true is not to be decided by ascertaining which is more agreeable to our feelings or the more plausible to our understanding, but which is consistent with the doctrines of the Bible and the facts of experience.”

The question lies formidably in the understanding of the reader. Who is sovereign, mankind or God? What does the Bible teach us regarding God’s plan of salvation and the Covenant of Grace?

It is interesting that the Catholic Church and the reformed Churches (represented by Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Baptist, Congregationalist) share in the heritage of the Pelagian/Augustinian controversy, and the intellectual shaping of doctrines established by its understanding.

This sharing, along with the Trinitarian and Christological resolutions, is a formidable base of common “tradition.” These common doctrinal foundations are shared between the Roman Catholic and Protestant Movement. These traditions are not shared by Mormonism, Jehovar’s Witnesses, Christian Science and other cults that renounce these historic doctrines.

It is a fitting to quote the great Christian historian, Philip Schraff, as a conclusion to this consideration of the Covenant of Grace:

“The subjective principle of Protestantism is the doctrine of justification and salvation by faith in Christ (the Covenant of Grace); as distinct from the doctrine of justification by faith and works or salvation by grace and human merit. Luther’s formula is sola fide (by faith alone). Calvin goes further back to God’s eternal election, as the ultimate ground of salvation and comfort in life and death. But Luther and Calvin meant substantially the same thing, and agree in the more general proposition of salvation by free grace through living faith in Christ (Acts 4:12), in opposition to any Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian compromise which divides the work and merit between God and mankind. And this is the very soul of evangelical Protestantism.”

THE PARAMOUNT CONCERN

It is the writer’s personal observation that the paramount issue is the Pelagian Inclination. And what does that mean? Simply stated, the Pelagian Inclination is a concept that attempts to put into perspective a number of erroneous propensities shared by many individual and collective groups of believers.

It can be described as an attraction to a particular activity that represents a leaning away from the Spirit of God. It is the “man-centered” inclination that persisted in the Gnostic heresies of the first and second centuries.

In a sense, it is the flavor of thinking that disputed the identity of Jesus Christ as a divine human being because of the human inclination that can not reconcile or identify with both a human and a divine person.

It is the predisposition that when “push comes to shove,” “ when the debate is on the line,” “when the issue is in balance,” the natural inclination is to let the human judgment prevail, to literally ignore or override the Will Of God, to seek the comfort of a human rationalization rather that the search for God’s Will on matters of Faith, customs in the home and daily life, practices and conduct regarding Church, school and governmental affairs.

MANIFESTATIONS OF THE PELAGIAN INCLINATION

One blatant example of the Pelagian Inclination is the conclusion that the believer comes to know God and have His gifts of Faith, Righteousness, and Salvation through the believer’s sole choice and determination.

This is an obvious example of the thread of personal human conduct recognized by most true believers as being not right, out of synch, non conforming to most Church standards. But, the Pelagian Inclination would support this mode of thinking. There are many “Christians,” who through ignorance or choice, believe this way.

A second manifestation of the Pelagian Inclination reveals the natural inclination of certain believers to think of the mass of humanity as being good, favoring an idealistic view of mankind that ignores its underlying propensity for selfism and pride, the Adamic heritage, the initial disobedience. Many Churches are full of sincere believers who subscribe to this way of thinking.

One must recognize that there are many “Christians” who do not know the Bible and are ignorant of Scripture. Wouldn’t one expect that these people would be “inclined” to respect the judgment of men and women who possess a natural or official position of leadership, who are of the Pelagian persuasion, even though they do not know it?

A third and most prevalent aspect of the Pelagian Inclination is where the intellectual equilibrium favors man’s or woman’s initiative compared to God’s Will as revealed in Scripture, where the decision balance favors man’s or woman’s will in determining God’s Will in a given problem or situation, where the proverbial straw placed on the camels back is controlled by man, independent from the guiding Spirit of God.

This manifestation, a restatement and reemphasis of the man-centered inclination stated before, is the most insidious, the most difficult to ascertain and correct. It crushes the sweet Spirit of Christ, for it quenches and grieves the Spirit.

It should be noted that the writer does not propose this concept
as a thesis, a lesson or as a sermon. It is his personal
observation only. It is contrived to establish a frame of
reference to a historic on-going practice by believers within the
Church of Christ. The reader may not agree with its premise or conclusion. The writer only asks that the reader consider and respect his point of view given the historic evidence supporting this tendency as defined, formalized and focused by Pelagius.

THE INCLINATION’S EFFECT

The Pelagian Inclination echoes the ancient Gnostic heiresses, emphasizing mankind’s special knowledge that thrived before the formal Canon of Scripture. It speaks prominently through Pelagius’ thesis in the contest with Augustine through Semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism or any other system that places the emphasis on man or woman, and not on God, as the focal point.

It favors theological interpretations that respect mankind’s role and dominance, the historic factor which has on occasion, in the writer’s opinion, driven the Church from the guidance of God’s Will and Grace. It seems to happen to all churches of every denomination, large and small. It has predictable effects on church groups and cliques.

It is the cause of major schisms, dissents, heresies and disaffections where either the Church or its members are in error, where to correct the error the Church disciplines the membership, or when the Church is in error, the membership of believers leave the Church. It is a story repeated through history, where the greatest incident was the Reformation. One can call this phenomena by many other names, but the manifestations of the Pelagian Inclination can be clearly seen and defined. Why does this inclination exist?

THE CAUSE OF THE PELAGIAN INCLINATION

THE PROMINENT SIN BEHAVIOR

It appears that the prominent Sin behavior that separates mankind from God, and particularly specifies the Pelagian Inclination, is the artless yet subtle, consistent yet disguised state of ever-present Pride!

It is that aspect of the human nature (the Flesh!) which pretends, in many ways, to have some undefined power in an imagined partnership with God, in some alleged form of command about God and God’s plan. It is the writer’s belief that Pride is the manifestation of the Pelagian Inclination. It is the human attribute absolutely lacking in Jesus Christ!

When man’s or woman’s will intervenes, the intervention is typically done through the agency and energy of Pride, not in the passive yet overwhelming effect of Love (1Cor. 13). It appears that every act of the believer that concludes some responsibility for what happens with God, is based on the motivation of Pride, the Sin that the Bible teaches drove Satan from Heaven, Adam and Eve from the Garden, the Pharisees from the Truth of Jesus Christ. It excites infractions and divisiveness, a problem that is especially prevalent in church organizations where the Spirit of God does not dominate the will of the membership, for one reason or another. 1st Corinthians teaches this great Truth. Pride is the star of all Sins known to the believer.

It is a difficult concept for the active believer to apprehend and understand that his or her efforts in behalf of Christ are the humble exercise of His directions. Pride and pompous authority have no place in the “upside down” reality of God’s order of things, “the first will be last, and the last will be first” (Matt 20:16). The believer is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, Christ and the Father. Believing man’s and woman’s initiative are subject to His Will!

THE BELIEVER’S INITIATIVE

There are two of events when the believer, by the power of his or her will, exercises an initiative regarding God. The first is when one comes to God and by the exercise of the God given free will attains Belief in God the Father and His Son. Chafer teaches us in his Systematic Theology; Volume III; Soteriology:

“It is reasonable to conclude that as man by an act of his own will renounced God at the beginning, in like manner he, by the act of his own will, must return to God. It matters nothing at this point that man cannot of himself turn to God and that he must be enabled to do so. In the end, though enabled, he acts by his own will and this truth is emphasized in every passage wherein salvation is addressed to his will.”

The second event is where the believer exercises its will in the continuing application of Belief. This growing conviction of Belief impounds an increasing knowledge of God the Trinity, guided and confirmed by His Word. The believer becomes one whose conviction is based on a Love and Hope for God, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son, Jesus Christ, who is certain that the Bible is God’s Word, who is convicted of Sin, Justified, made Righteous, and Saved, who is the beneficiary of God’s Grace and has received, among other gifts, the gifts of the conviction of Faith, Righteousness and Salvation, who is filled with and walks with the Holy Spirit.

THE SPIRIT’S ENABLEMENT

The filling and walk with the Spirit truly differentiates the individual believer and protects against the propensity of the Pelagian Inclination.
The Bible specifies certain steps a believer should take in order to be filled with the Spirit. A believer should seek to be obedient to the revelation of God regarding the conditions He has set forth in His Word. If the believer meets those conditions, he or she will be filled with the Spirit.

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30). What grieves the Holy Spirit is Sin. The cure of the effects of Sin is repentance, which leads to making a genuine confession. (1John 1:6-10) Because sin is a common problem in Christian lives because of the knowledge gained by Belief (Rom 7:7-25, 8:1,2), the Bible suggest three ways it can be prevented: The study of God’s word. Praying for the Spirit’s help. The intercession of Christ as the believer’s High Priest (Heb. 7:25).

A believer should not refuse to let the Spirit of God direct his or her lives. “Do not keep on quenching the Spirit of God” (1Thess 5:19). Grieving the Holy Spirit is the effect after a sin is committed, but quenching the Spirit is what leads to sin in the first place. Though this exhortation is included in a series of exhortations, it obviously relates to the central truth of the necessity of being completely yielded to the will of God in order to experience the filling of the Holy Spirit.

It is by the Spirit’s enablement that the believer will discern and recognize that the Pelagian Inclination typically manifests itself in a collective social environment, where a group of believers fall into error by consensus. The normal propensity is for a group of people, a group of believers, to decide that the group consensus is in fact the Will of God. This is a special problem for groups of Elders and Deacons! One should understand that there is one test in being filled by the Spirit for the individual (not quenching or grieving the Spirit), it is still another test for a group to dispel pride, formidable group pride, to experience the collective filling of the Spirit so that God’s Will, not the individual or group’s will be done. God must be in control if His Will is to be known and exercised. For the exercise of His Will is through the filling of the Spirit in the individual believer and/or a group compromising individual believers!

The true Spirit filled believer knows that God, not mankind, must be in control for the simple reason that the Glory belongs to Him!!! Further, mankind’s glory is derived from God, by God, and only if chosen by Him for His purpose (Rom 8:28-30)! Mankind’s personal and collective glory is only achieved by His Grace!

JESUS CHRIST, PRIEST, KING AND LORD

As stated in the Introduction of this paper, “These extraordinary theological realities:

· The mystery that is God,
· God’s Grace and God’s Wrath,
· His Holy Spirit, and
· The “Way” provided by Jesus Christ in understanding His Church on earth, are a complex of revealed ideas (revealed in the Bible) that are intolerantly considered by nonbelieving man for it is all “foolishness” to him. 1 Corinthians 2:14:
“But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God; for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them,”

Why? Because man thinks he has a “free will” and is an heir to the original sin by Adam in the form of his initial disobedience to God.”
It is not lost on the writer, and hopefully not on the reader, that if one is not chosen by God, that person most likely doesn’t care in any event. For it is all, sadly, foolishness in the eye of the nonbelieving individual (1Cor 2:14, above). That person doesn’t believe in Him. How else can we explain that so many who have heard the Gospel do not believe?

On the other hand, if one is chosen, and is perturbed because he or she doesn’t have more control (on any problem or situation) in his or her relationship with God, it is the writer’s belief that person is not filled with the Spirit of God and is suffering the consequences of Sin, the result of His Wrath, for that believer hasn’t got the message. God is the boss! Jesus Christ is Priest, King and Lord! And by His Grace we are saved!

“For into this earthly dilemma of man there comes the love of God, and that love of God, by an act of unbelievable free grace, lifts man out of the consequences of sin and saves him from the Wrath he should have incurred.” Phillip Schaff

1st Thessalonians 1:10: “and to wait for His Son from heaven whom He raised from the dead, that is Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.”

Romans 5:9: “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.”

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  • The Pelagian Captivity of the Church

    by R.C. Sproul

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    ISSN-1076-7169
    Shortly after the Reformation began, in the first few years after Martin Luther posted the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door at Wittenberg, he issued some short booklets on a variety of subjects. One of the most provocative was titled The Babylonian Captivity of the Church. In this book Luther was looking back to that period of Old Testament history when Jerusalem was destroyed by the invading armies of Babylon and the elite of the people were carried off into captivity. Luther in the sixteenth century took the image of the historic Babylonian captivity and reapplied it to his era and talked about the new Babylonian captivity of the Church. He was speaking of Rome as the modern Babylon that held the Gospel hostage with its rejection of the biblical understanding of justification. You can understand how fierce the controversy was, how polemical this title would be in that period by saying that the Church had not simply erred or strayed, but had fallen — that it’s actually now Babylonian; it is now in pagan captivity.

    I’ve often wondered if Luther were alive today and came to our culture and looked, not at the liberal church community, but at evangelical churches, what would he have to say? Of course I can’t answer that question with any kind of definitive authority, but my guess is this: If Martin Luther lived today and picked up his pen to write, the book he would write in our time would be entitled The Pelagian Captivity of the Evangelical Church. Luther saw the doctrine of justification as fueled by a deeper theological problem. He writes about this extensively in The Bondage of the Will. When we look at the Reformation and we see the solas of the Reformation — sola Scriptura, sola fide, solus Christus, soli Deo gloria, sola gratia — Luther was convinced that the real issue of the Reformation was the issue of grace; and that underlying the doctrine of solo fide, justification by faith alone, was the prior commitment to sola gratia, the concept of justification by grace alone.

    In the Fleming Revell edition of The Bondage of the Will, the translators, J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, included a somewhat provocative historical and theological introduction to the book itself. This is from the end of that introduction:

    These things need to be pondered by Protestants today. With what right may we call ourselves children of the Reformation? Much modern Protestantism would be neither owned nor even recognised by the pioneer Reformers. The Bondage of the Will fairly sets before us what they believed about the salvation of lost mankind. In the light of it, we are forced to ask whether Protestant Christendom has not tragically sold its birthright between Luther’s day and our own. Has not Protestantism today become more Erasmian than Lutheran? Do we not too often try to minimise and gloss over doctrinal differences for the sake of inter-party peace? Are we innocent of the doctrinal indifferentism with which Luther charged Erasmus? Do we still believe that doctrine matters?1

    Historically, it’s a simple matter of fact that Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and all the leading Protestant theologians of the first epoch of the Reformation stood on precisely the same ground here. On other points they had their differences. In asserting the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. To all of them these doctrines were the very lifeblood of the Christian faith. A modern editor of Luther’s works says this:

    Whoever puts this book down without having realized that Evangelical theology stands or falls with the doctrine of the bondage of the will has read it in vain. The doctrine of free justification by faith alone, which became the storm center of so much controversy during the Reformation period, is often regarded as the heart of the Reformers’ theology, but this is not accurate. The truth is that their thinking was really centered upon the contention of Paul, echoed by Augustine and others, that the sinner’s entire salvation is by free and sovereign grace only, and that the doctrine of justification by faith was important to them because it safeguarded the principle of sovereign grace. The sovereignty of grace found expression in their thinking at a more profound level still in the doctrine of monergistic regeneration.2

    That is to say, that the faith that receives Christ for justification is itself the free gift of a sovereign God. The principle of sola fide is not rightly understood until it is seen as anchored in the broader principle of sola gratia. What is the source of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received, or is it a condition of justification which is left to man to fulfill? Do you hear the difference? Let me put it in simple terms. I heard an evangelist recently say, “If God takes a thousand steps to reach out to you for your redemption, still in the final analysis, you must take the decisive step to be saved.” Consider the statement that has been made by America’s most beloved and leading evangelical of the twentieth century, Billy Graham, who says with great passion, “God does ninety-nine percent of it but you still must do that last one percent.”

    What Is Pelagianism?

    Now, let’s return briefly to my title, “The Pelagian Captivity of the Church.” What are we talking about? Pelagius was a monk who lived in Britain in the fifth century. He was a contemporary of the greatest theologian of the first millennium of Church history if not of all time, Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. We have heard of St. Augustine, of his great works in theology, of his City of God, of his Confessions, and so on, which remain Christian classics.

    Augustine, in addition to being a titanic theologian and a prodigious intellect, was also a man of deep spirituality and prayer. In one of his famous prayers, Augustine made a seemingly harmless and innocuous statement in the prayer to God in which he says: “O God, command what you wouldst, and grant what thou dost command.” Now, would that give you apoplexy — to hear a prayer like that? Well it certainly set Pelagius, this British monk, into orbit. When he heard that, he protested vociferously, even appealing to Rome to have this ghastly prayer censured from the pen of Augustine. Here’s why. He said, “Are you saying, Augustine, that God has the inherent right to command anything that he so desires from his creatures? Nobody is going to dispute that. God inherently, as the creator of heaven and earth, has the right to impose obligations on his creatures and say, ‘Thou shalt do this, and thou shalt not do that.’ ‘Command whatever thou would’ — it’s a perfectly legitimate prayer.”

    It’s the second part of the prayer that Pelagius abhorred when Augustine said, “and grant what thou dost command.” He said, “What are you talking about? If God is just, if God is righteous and God is holy, and God commands of the creature to do something, certainly that creature must have the power within himself, the moral ability within himself, to perform it or God would never require it in the first place.” Now that makes sense, doesn’t it? What Pelagius was saying is that moral responsibility always and everywhere implies moral capability or, simply, moral ability. So why would we have to pray, “God grant me, give me the gift of being able to do what you command me to do”? Pelagius saw in this statement a shadow being cast over the integrity of God himself, who would hold people responsible for doing something they cannot do.

    So in the ensuing debate, Augustine made it clear that in creation, God commanded nothing from Adam or Eve that they were incapable of performing. But once transgression entered and mankind became fallen, God’s law was not repealed nor did God adjust his holy requirements downward to accommodate the weakened, fallen condition of his creation. God did punish his creation by visiting upon them the judgment of original sin, so that everyone after Adam and Eve who was born into this world was born already dead in sin. Original sin is not the first sin. It’s the result of the first sin; it refers to our inherent corruption, by which we are born in sin, and in sin did our mothers conceive us. We are not born in a neutral state of innocence, but we are born in a sinful, fallen condition. Virtually every church in the historic World Council of Churches at some point in their history and in their creedal development articulates some doctrine of original sin. So clear is that to the biblical revelation that it would take a repudiation of the biblical view of mankind to deny original sin altogether.

    This is precisely what was at issue in the battle between Augustine and Pelagius in the fifth century. Pelagius said there is no such thing as original sin. Adam’s sin affected Adam and only Adam. There is no transmission or transfer of guilt or fallenness or corruption to the progeny of Adam and Eve. Everyone is born in the same state of innocence in which Adam was created. And, he said, for a person to live a life of obedience to God, a life of moral perfection, is possible without any help from Jesus or without any help from the grace of God. Pelagius said that grace — and here’s the key distinction — facilitates righteousness. What does “facilitate” mean?

    It helps, it makes it more facile, it makes it easier, but you don’t have to have it. You can be perfect without it. Pelagius further stated that it is not only theoretically possible for some folks to live a perfect life without any assistance from divine grace, but there are in fact people who do it. Augustine said, “No, no, no, no . . . we are infected by sin by nature, to the very depths and core of our being — so much so that no human being has the moral power to incline himself to cooperate with the grace of God. The human will, as a result of original sin, still has the power to choose, but it is in bondage to its evil desires and inclinations. The condition of fallen humanity is one that Augustine would describe as the inability to not sin. In simple English, what Augustine was saying is that in the Fall, man loses his moral ability to do the things of God and he is held captive by his own evil inclinations.

    In the fifth century the Church condemned Pelagius as a heretic. Pelagianism was condemned at the Council of Orange, and it was condemned again at the Council of Florence, the Council of Carthage, and also, ironically, at the Council of Trent in the sixteenth century in the first three anathemas of the Canons of the Sixth Session. So, consistently throughout Church history, the Church has roundly and soundly condemned Pelagianism — because Pelagianism denies the fallenness of our nature; it denies the doctrine of original sin.

    Now what is called semi-Pelagianism, as the prefix “semi” suggests, was a somewhat middle ground between full-orbed Augustinianism and full-orbed Pelagianism. Semi-Pelagianism said this: yes, there was a fall; yes, there is such a thing as original sin; yes, the constituent nature of humanity has been changed by this state of corruption and all parts of our humanity have been significantly weakened by the fall, so much so that without the assistance of divine grace nobody can possibly be redeemed, so that grace is not only helpful but it’s absolutely necessary for salvation. While we are so fallen that we can’t be saved without grace, we are not so fallen that we don’t have the ability to accept or reject the grace when it’s offered to us. The will is weakened but is not enslaved. There remains in the core of our being an island of righteousness that remains untouched by the fall. It’s out of that little island of righteousness, that little parcel of goodness that is still intact in the soul or in the will that is the determinative difference between heaven and hell. It’s that little island that must be exercised when God does his thousand steps of reaching out to us, but in the final analysis it’s that one step that we take that determines whether we go to heaven or hell — whether we exercise that little righteousness that is in the core of our being or whether we don’t. That little island Augustine wouldn’t even recognize as an atoll in the South Pacific. He said it’s a mythical island, that the will is enslaved, and that man is dead in his sin and trespasses.

    Ironically, the Church condemned semi-Pelagianism as vehemently as it had condemned original Pelagianism. Yet by the time you get to the sixteenth century and you read the Catholic understanding of what happens in salvation the Church basically repudiated what Augustine taught and Aquinas taught as well. The Church concluded that there still remains this freedom that is intact in the human will and that man must cooperate with — and assent to — the prevenient grace that is offered to them by God. If we exercise that will, if we exercise a cooperation with whatever powers we have left, we will be saved. And so in the sixteenth century the Church reembraced semi-Pelagianism.

    At the time of the Reformation, all the reformers agreed on one point: the moral inability of fallen human beings to incline themselves to the things of God; that all people, in order to be saved, are totally dependent, not ninety-nine percent, but one hundred percent dependent upon the monergistic work of regeneration in order to come to faith, and that faith itself is a gift of God. It’s not that we are offered salvation and that we will be born again if we choose to believe. But we can’t even believe until God in his grace and in his mercy first changes the disposition of our souls through his sovereign work of regeneration. In other words, what the reformers all agreed with was, unless a man is born again, he can’t even see the kingdom of God, let alone enter it. Like Jesus says in the sixth chapter of John, “No man can come to me unless it is given to him of the Father” — that the necessary condition for anybody’s faith and anybody’s salvation is regeneration.

    Evangelicals and Faith

    Modern Evangelicalism almost uniformly and universally teaches that in order for a person to be born again, he must first exercise faith. You have to choose to be born again. Isn’t that what you hear? In a George Barna poll, more than seventy percent of “professing evangelical Christians” in America expressed the belief that man is basically good. And more than eighty percent articulated the view that God helps those who help themselves. These positions — or let me say it negatively — neither of these positions is semi-Pelagian. They’re both Pelagian. To say that we’re basically good is the Pelagian view. I would be willing to assume that in at least thirty percent of the people who are reading this issue, and probably more, if we really examine their thinking in depth, we would find hearts that are beating Pelagianism. We’re overwhelmed with it. We’re surrounded by it. We’re immersed in it. We hear it every day. We hear it every day in the secular culture. And not only do we hear it every day in the secular culture, we hear it every day on Christian television and on Christian radio.

    In the nineteenth century, there was a preacher who became very popular in America, who wrote a book on theology, coming out of his own training in law, in which he made no bones about his Pelagianism. He rejected not only Augustinianism, but he also rejected semi-Pelagianism and stood clearly on the subject of unvarnished Pelagianism, saying in no uncertain terms, without any ambiguity, that there was no Fall and that there is no such thing as original sin. This man went on to attack viciously the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement of Christ, and in addition to that, to repudiate as clearly and as loudly as he could the doctrine of justification by faith alone by the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. This man’s basic thesis was, we don’t need the imputation of the righteousness of Christ because we have the capacity in and of ourselves to become righteous. His name: Charles Finney, one of America’s most revered evangelists. Now, if Luther was correct in saying that sola fide is the article upon which the Church stands or falls, if what the reformers were saying is that justification by faith alone is an essential truth of Christianity, who also argued that the substitutionary atonement is an essential truth of Christianity; if they’re correct in their assessment that those doctrines are essential truths of Christianity, the only conclusion we can come to is that Charles Finney was not a Christian. I read his writings and I say, “I don’t see how any Christian person could write this.” And yet, he is in the Hall of Fame of Evangelical Christianity in America. He is the patron saint of twentieth-century Evangelicalism. And he is not semi-Pelagian; he is unvarnished in his Pelagianism.

    The Island of Righteousness

    One thing is clear: that you can be purely Pelagian and be completely welcome in the evangelical movement today. It’s not simply that the camel sticks his nose into the tent; he doesn’t just come in the tent — he kicks the owner of the tent out. Modern Evangelicalism today looks with suspicion at Reformed theology, which has become sort of the third-class citizen of Evangelicalism. Now you say, “Wait a minute, R. C. Let’s not tar everybody with the extreme brush of Pelagianism, because, after all, Billy Graham and the rest of these people are saying there was a Fall; you’ve got to have grace; there is such a thing as original sin; and semi-Pelagians do not agree with Pelagius’ facile and sanguine view of unfallen human nature.” And that’s true. No question about it. But it’s that little island of righteousness where man still has the ability, in and of himself, to turn, to change, to incline, to dispose, to embrace the offer of grace that reveals why historically semi-Pelagianism is not called semi-Augustinianism, but semi-Pelagianism.

    I heard an evangelist use two analogies to describe what happens in our redemption. He said sin has such a strong hold on us, a stranglehold, that it’s like a person who can’t swim, who falls overboard in a raging sea, and he’s going under for the third time and only the tops of his fingers are still above the water; and unless someone intervenes to rescue him, he has no hope of survival, his death is certain. And unless God throws him a life preserver, he can’t possibly be rescued. And not only must God throw him a life preserver in the general vicinity of where he is, but that life preserver has to hit him right where his fingers are still extended out of the water, and hit him so that he can grasp hold of it. It has to be perfectly pitched. But still that man will drown unless he takes his fingers and curls them around the life preserver and God will rescue him. But unless that tiny little human action is done, he will surely perish.

    The other analogy is this: A man is desperately ill, sick unto death, lying in his hospital bed with a disease that is fatal. There is no way he can be cured unless somebody from outside comes up with a cure, a medicine that will take care of this fatal disease. And God has the cure and walks into the room with the medicine. But the man is so weak he can’t even help himself to the medicine; God has to pour it on the spoon. The man is so sick he’s almost comatose. He can’t even open his mouth, and God has to lean over and open up his mouth for him. God has to bring the spoon to the man’s lips, but the man still has to swallow it.

    Now, if we’re going to use analogies, let’s be accurate. The man isn’t going under for the third time; he is stone cold dead at the bottom of the ocean. That’s where you once were when you were dead in sin and trespasses and walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air. And while you were dead hath God quickened you together with Christ. God dove to the bottom of the sea and took that drowned corpse and breathed into it the breath of his life and raised you from the dead. And it’s not that you were dying in a hospital bed of a certain illness, but rather, when you were born you were born D.O.A. That’s what the Bible says: that we are morally stillborn.

    Do we have a will? Yes, of course we have a will. Calvin said, if you mean by a free will a faculty of choosing by which you have the power within yourself to choose what you desire, then we all have free will. If you mean by free will the ability for fallen human beings to incline themselves and exercise that will to choose the things of God without the prior monergistic work of regeneration then, said Calvin, free will is far too grandiose a term to apply to a human being.

    The semi-Pelagian doctrine of free will prevalent in the evangelical world today is a pagan view that denies the captivity of the human heart to sin. It underestimates the stranglehold that sin has upon us.

    None of us wants to see things as bad as they really are. The biblical doctrine of human corruption is grim. We don’t hear the Apostle Paul say, “You know, it’s sad that we have such a thing as sin in the world; nobody’s perfect. But be of good cheer. We’re basically good.” Do you see that even a cursory reading of Scripture denies this?

    Now back to Luther. What is the source and status of faith? Is it the God-given means whereby the God-given justification is received? Or is it a condition of justification which is left to us to fulfill? Is your faith a work? Is it the one work that God leaves for you to do? I had a discussion with some folks in Grand Rapids, Michigan, recently. I was speaking on sola gratia, and one fellow was upset.

    He said, “Are you trying to tell me that in the final analysis it’s God who either does or doesn’t sovereignly regenerate a heart?”

    And I said, “Yes;” and he was very upset about that. I said, “Let me ask you this: are you a Christian?”

    He said, “Yes.”

    I said, “Do you have friends who aren’t Christians?”

    He said, “Well, of course.”

    I said, “Why are you a Christian and your friends aren’t? Is it because you’re more righteous than they are?” He wasn’t stupid. He wasn’t going to say, “Of course it’s because I’m more righteous. I did the right thing and my friend didn’t.” He knew where I was going with that question.

    And he said, “Oh, no, no, no.”

    I said, “Tell me why. Is it because you are smarter than your friend?”

    And he said, “No.”

    But he would not agree that the final, decisive issue was the grace of God. He wouldn’t come to that. And after we discussed this for fifteen minutes, he said, “OK! I’ll say it. I’m a Christian because I did the right thing, I made the right response, and my friend didn’t.”

    What was this person trusting in for his salvation? Not in his works in general, but in the one work that he performed. And he was a Protestant, an evangelical. But his view of salvation was no different from the Roman view.

    God’s Sovereignty in Salvation

    This is the issue: Is it a part of God’s gift of salvation, or is it in our own contribution to salvation? Is our salvation wholly of God or does it ultimately depend on something that we do for ourselves? Those who say the latter, that it ultimately depends on something we do for ourselves, thereby deny humanity’s utter helplessness in sin and affirm that a form of semi-Pelagianism is true after all. It is no wonder then that later Reformed theology condemned Arminianism as being, in principle, both a return to Rome because, in effect, it turned faith into a meritorious work, and a betrayal of the Reformation because it denied the sovereignty of God in saving sinners, which was the deepest religious and theological principle of the reformers’ thought. Arminianism was indeed, in Reformed eyes, a renunciation of New Testament Christianity in favor of New Testament Judaism. For to rely on oneself for faith is no different in principle than to rely on oneself for works, and the one is as un-Christian and anti-Christian as the other. In the light of what Luther says to Erasmus there is no doubt that he would have endorsed this judgment.

    And yet this view is the overwhelming majority report today in professing evangelical circles. And as long as semi-Pelagianism, which is simply a thinly veiled version of real Pelagianism at its core — as long as it prevails in the Church, I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I know, however, what will not happen: there will not be a new Reformation. Until we humble ourselves and understand that no man is an island and that no man has an island of righteousness, that we are utterly dependent upon the unmixed grace of God for our salvation, we will not begin to rest upon grace and rejoice in the greatness of God’s sovereignty, and we will not be rid of the pagan influence of humanism that exalts and puts man at the center of religion. Until that happens there will not be a new Reformation, because at the heart of Reformation teaching is the central place of the worship and gratitude given to God and God alone. Soli Deo gloria, to God alone be the glory.

    Notes
    1. J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, “Introduction” to the The Bondage of the Will (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming Revell, 1957) pp. 59-60.

    2. Ibid

    By Blogger Otis Sherman Page Jr, At 7:22 PM  

  • "Now, let’s return briefly to my title, “The Pelagian Captivity of the Church.” What are we talking about? Pelagius was a monk who lived in Britain in the fifth century. He was a contemporary of the greatest theologian of the first millennium of Church history if not of all time, Aurelius Augustine, Bishop of Hippo in North Africa. We have heard of St. Augustine, of his great works in theology, of his City of God, of his Confessions, and so on, which remain Christian classics."

    Anyone who thinks Augustine was a great theologian has either never read Augustine but merely believed what others told him, or has read plenty of Augustine but never read the Bible (at least not with an open heart).

    Augustine invented the most pernicious doctrine of all time, and that is his only claim to fame really. He invented the notion that there is an extra curse that God placed on man due to Adam's sin, one that the book of Genesis happened to forget to mention. Right after God cursed the ground for man's sake and said man must work by the sweat of his brow to grow food, and that woman would have more pain in childbirth, and we would all die, Augustine sneakily adds in an extra and hitherto unheard of cruse, that God curses Adam's sperm to make it transmit the guilt of his sin to all mankind. Talk about a crafty devil! Augustine got the whole Roman Catholic Church believing this fiction. Then he took a man named Pelagius, who taught that man needs God's grace to be saved and that when we are baptized God gives us grace to live the Christian life, and made him out to be Satan because he said that after baptism men had the ability to resist sin because God gave them the grace to do so when they were baptized. Augustine argued that because we were born with Adam's guilt (an altogether new and fictionaly theory) that we cannot resist sin, even after baptism. So the real heretic, Augustine, who based his doctrine on Gnosticism and Manicheanism (from which he converted) and not the Bible, turns the true preacher of the Bible into the heretic in the minds of Catholicism and consquently of the spineless reformers who kept his Satanic doctrine. The roles are reversed: Pelagius is orthodox and Augustine the heretic. And of course, Pelagius did not teach all of what Augustine said he did. Augustine is the worst liar in ecclesiastical history. He is not great theologian.

    By Blogger beowulf2k8, At 7:08 PM  

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