Skip to comments.BioLogos, theistic evolution and the Pelagian heresy
Posted on 03/24/2014 12:18:30 PM PDT by fishtank
BioLogos, theistic evolution and the Pelagian heresy
Debating an historical Adam and the destruction of the Gospel
by Richard Fangrad
Published: 22 March 2014 (GMT+10)
The secular philosopher George Santayana wrote, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.1 King Solomon, the wisest person in all history said, What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun. Is there a thing of which it is said, See, this is new? (Ecclesiastes 1: 910).
This is especially applicable to Church history. There is no new heresy under the sun, and those who arent familiar with the battle for truth throughout the past 2000 years are doomed to repeat the same errors that have plagued the church since it began.
Today we Christians find ourselves at an interesting place in Church history. Although Scripture has been with us for 2,000 years (and is sufficient for determining how and when God created), we now have decades of research that supports what the Bible has always said. Today we are blessed with mountains of scientific evidence supporting the biblical record of a recent creation followed by a global flood and all humans originating with Adam and Eve. Despite all of this, aspects of an old heresy relating to the creation account are increasingly infiltrating the Church. This is the falsehood known as Pelagianism.
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CMI article image.
The heresy of Pelagianism
Augustine of Hippo
The Pelagian controversy ignited when Pelagius vehemently disagreed with a prayer written by the famous Augustine of Hippo that was becoming popular throughout Christendom, Lord, give what Thou commandest and command what Thou wilt.11
Dr Tom Ascol explains Augustines prayer. He asks for the grace and then acknowledges: Command whatever you will and then give the grace to do what you command. You have commanded us to worship, LORD grant us the ability to worship. You have commanded us to pray, grant us the ability to pray. You have commanded us to evangelize, grant us the ability to evangelize. And every real Christian, at his best moment, would acknowledge the rightness of both of those requests. Because when we pray were asking God to do for us what we cant do for ourselves.12
However, Pelagius insisted that God would not command something of man that man cannot accomplish. He reasoned that a divine command implies human ability. A favourite saying of his was, If I ought, I can. Therefore, he taught that no one inherited the sin nature from Adam nor were they born in sin. Infants are born tabula rasa (Latin for a blank slate) and are therefore perfectly capable of obeying and pleasing God. His error here on the fundamental doctrine of original sin led to his belief that a person could live a sinless life. He said that, a man can be without sin and keep the commandments of God, if he wishes.13
As a moralist Pelagius reasoned that if Christians are told that God forgives all sin, then they would sin without restraint. He blamed Augustines teaching on grace for the moral weaknesses he saw in the church. Pelagianism insists that if people are born sinners by nature (if sin is something we inherit) it would be unjust for God to hold individual sinners responsible for their sin. That is why he reasoned that the human will must be totally freeinclined to neither good nor evilor else our choices cannot be free. If our choices are not free, then we cannot be held responsible for what we do. So, how can we be held responsible for how we were born?
Pelagianism inevitably results in the purest form of works salvation. This is because the more that human will is magnified, the more that human works are magnified. If the fallenness of humanity is denied, then to be consistent, there is really no need for divine grace. If we are not hopelessly in bondage to our sin then we really dont need Gods grace, we just need strength of will to make the right decision. Pelagianism makes salvation by grace through faith unnecessary. V Notice that the foundation of Pelagianism is rooted in extra-biblical reasoning. Turning to Scripture, one single verse can overthrow it, Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. Romans 5:18
Augustine reasoned from Scripture that before Adam sinned he was in a state of Able to sin and Able not to sin, but by his sin he rendered himself and his descendants Not able not to sin. After death the redeemed saints are glorified to a state which Adam did not enjoy, namely Not able to sin.
Steven Lawson writes, This was the heart of the dispute between Augustine and Pelagius. Augustine taught that man lost all ability to obey God in the fall of Adam. Because of original sin, human beings cannot perform what God requires. Pelagius, relying on human reasoning rather than divine revelation, concluded that accountability necessitates ability. Despite the teaching of Scripture, he insisted on the natural ability of fallen man to keep Gods law. The main facets of Pelagiuss teaching were an exalted view of human responsibility and a weakened view of divine sovereignty.14
The great significance of this controversy is recognized by Church historians. Adolf von Harnack notes, There has never, perhaps, been another crisis of equal importance in church history in which the opponents have expressed the principles at issue so clearly and abstractly. The Arian dispute before the Nicene Council can alone be compared with it.15
B.B. Warfield considered that the issue was a struggle for the very foundations of Christianity.16
Steve Lawson writes, This controversy was a Continental Divide in the theology of the church, one that separated a God-centered approach to truth from one that is man-centered.17
A great deal of the credit for the defeat of Pelagianism goes to Augustine. However, Pelagianism continued to influence the Church after Augustine and even saw a revival through the influential lectures of William of Ockham at Oxford University in the early 14th century. As before, God raised up scholars and teachers to stand against error and teach truth. Thomas Bradwardine was a voice for truth responding to Ockhams Pelagian views at Oxford.
Pelagianism is a form of arrogant naturalism. On the one hand, it denied original sin and the necessity of grace, and, on the other, asserted human sinlessness and autonomy before God, thus striking a double blow at the heart of Christianity. In other words, it stripped all meaning from the cross of Christ and the idea of our redemption.
1Jn 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1Jn 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
1Jn 1:10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
Pelagius worked for the father of lies.
Thanks for the replies!