Christianity Today 17

When the long-standing pillars of orthodox theology and sound doctrine are abandoned, the overwhelming floods of error rush in to destroy what is left. I have attempted to detail those errors in this book, however, not everything covered in each sermon can be summarized here.

Although error has always been present in the church, the false theology which is so prevalent today gained a foothold under the Pelagian teachings of Nathaniel Taylor at Yale University who altered many basic Christian doctrines including man’s depravity, God’s sovereignty, Christ’s atonement, and regeneration, Taylor’s erroneous teachings were put into practice by Charles Finney who applied them to evangelism and introduced his New Measures into numerous churches through his revival meetings. Few pastors were willing to question Finney’s methods at the same time due to what seemed to be the apparent success he was having. Jonathan Edwards and 21st Century Evangelicalism, William C. Nichols

The heart of all true Christian doctrine is God. We must always keep this in mind because when the heart of our doctrine becomes man, then our doctrine is built on idolatry. When men turn from the biblical teaching of man’s depravity, then man has enough good (according to that teaching) to do good of himself and perhaps even to contribute something to his salvation. It seems as if the flood of error has swept into the Church in times past to drastically and fatally change the teaching about man. The Bible teaches us things that are not pleasant to hear, yet if they are true we must not change that teaching.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.

In Ephesians 2 we see what man is by nature. In Romans 3 (dealt with later) we see the view that God has of man. Man is born dead in trespasses and sins. It is not just that man sins on occasion, but man is born that way. It is not just that sin is something grievous and obvious to all, but man sins by simply following the course of the world doing what seems normal to the world. Man is by nature a child of wrath. It is not just that man becomes evil by doing evil things, but man is a child of wrath by his or her very nature. This is cutting to the pride of those who think that they are good people and righteous people. Man is left entirely helpless as he is spiritually dead. Man cannot change his own nature and give himself a spiritual heart, but instead man is left to the mercy and grace of God. However, man hates that and wants all things in his own hands.

But what we can easily see is that if we change the condition of man and what he is by nature, then the Gospel of Christ that saves man will change as well. If the problem is that of man’s nature, then the nature must change in order for man to be saved. If the problem is simply that man makes wrong choices, then all man has to do is to make a good choice or a right choice. But again, if the problem is the nature of man, then man cannot change his own nature and man must have his heart changed by the act and choice of God. This is entirely different from the way that the professing Church functions and operates today. We may accept a sick man we need to tell some good news to, but we will not have the biblical teaching of man being dead in sins and trespasses. We may accept a sick man who is weak to teach, but we do not want men who are utterly helpless and without any strength at all.

Surely it is obvious that how we teach depravity is very important in terms of evangelism, the growth of believers, and of the life of the church. As our minds strive for consistency, if we do not hold to the biblical teaching on depravity, we will change the teachings regarding the sovereignty of God and of what is needed to save human souls. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born from above to see and enter the kingdom. He also told Nicodemus that it was the Spirit who must do that work. He never told Nicodemus to pray a prayer or make a choice for Jesus. People who are dead in sins and trespasses need to be made alive. Those who are by nature children of wrath need a new nature. Only God can make people alive and only God can change a person’s nature. Thus it is easy to see that if we change the teaching on depravity we will change our teaching on the character of God and the Gospel of God. This is what Finney did and it is still rampant today.

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