Archive for the ‘Hyper-Calvinism’ Category

Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism 13

May 31, 2010

The basic tenants of Pelagianism in something of a logical form:
(a) Moral character can be predicated only of volitions.
(b) Ability is always the measure of responsibility
(c) Therefore, every man has always the plenary power to do all that it is his duty to do.
(d) Therefore, the human will alone, to the exclusion of the interference of an internal influence from God, must decide human character and destiny.
(e) Therefore, the only divine influence needed by man or consistent with his character as a self-determined agent is an external, providential, and educational one.

As we look at the basic thought of Pelagianism (from above), what we see is that it is the assertion of the free-will in human beings and in such a way that banished God from the heart. It is a direct and frontal attack on the sovereignty of God. If God is not sovereign over and in the human heart, then He is not sovereign at all. If God is not sovereign over and in the human heart, then He is not God of the human heart. Boiled down, Pelagianism is essentially the teaching that human beings are autonomous from God in their choices and in asserting that it is really an attempt to banish God and His sovereign rule over the human heart.

But who is regulating affairs on this earth today—God, or the Devil? Attempt to take a serious and comprehensive view of the world. What a scene of confusion and chaos confronts us on every side! Sin is rampant; lawlessness abounds; evil men and seducers are waxing “worse and worse” (2 Tim. 3:13). Today, everything appears to be out of joint. Thrones are creaking and tottering, ancient dynasties are being overturned, democracies are revolting, civilization is a demonstrated failure; half of Christendom was but recently locked-together in a death grapple; and now that the titanic conflict is over, instead of the world having been made “safe for democracy”, we have discovered that democracy is very unsafe for the world. Unrest, discontent, and lawlessness are rife every where, and none can say how soon another great war will be set in motion.”             (A.W. Pink)

To ask Pink’s question again, “who is regulating affairs on this earth today—God, or the Devil?” Perhaps, though, we should ask the question with a different control element. Who is regulating affairs on this earth today—God or man and his free-will? Perhaps it is thought that this question is something of an inflammatory point, and maybe it is. But it is a needful one. It gets to the point we need to get at. Is man really free as Pelagianism teaches, is man somewhat free as semi-Pelagianism teaches, or is man a slave to either God or the Devil as Augustinianism teaches? It is so true that sin is on the increase and governments are in increasing danger of anarchy. But what is the ultimate cause of that? Is it that man has a free-will and he is giving himself over to sin? Could it be that man will say that the devil is making him do it? Or could it be that God in His sovereignty is turning man over to his sinful heart as Romans 1:18-32 teaches?

But this points to another issue. If man is turned over to sin by God, then isn’t that a bondage of sin which points to the slavery of man in sin? Ah, and who is the puppet-master (so to speak) of those who are in bandage to sin? It is the Devil himself who works in men to do his will. Adam and Eve were in perfect subordination to God before the fall. When they fell they bought into the Serpent’s lie that they would be as God. This is the root of the teaching that man has a free-will and is free to choose what is good and evil for him or herself. The whole worldly system is described in Ephesians 2:1-3 with shocking clarity. “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.”

Human beings are born dead in sin and walk in those according to the course of this world. The course of the world is according to the prince of the power of the air. The prince of the power of the air not only sets up the course of the world, but he works in the sons of disobedience. Those who live according to the course of the world and have the prince of the power of the air working in them are those who live in the lusts of their flesh and indulge the desires of the flesh and of the mind. They are by nature children of wrath. In other words, a human being that does not have the kingdom of God in his or her soul lives under the domain of darkness and the devil (Col 1:13).

Therefore, it is true that the world can be seen as being under the dominion of God or the Devil since each human soul is under the dominion of God or of the Devil. One of the blinding influences of the Devil on the human soul is to deceive it into thinking that it has free-will and is not under the dominion of God or the devil. The human soul is either free to live by grace in the soul alone or it is under the dominion of the Devil thinking that it is free of both God and the devil. But God is the One that can turn the soul over to sin and its power as punishment. The sinful world we live in follows the course of the evil one. But in doing so it is being turned over to sin by God Himself. This shows that God is in sovereign control and that free-will is but a blinder put on the soul by the Devil to hide the true condition of the human soul from human beings. That is Pelagianism unmasked.

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Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism 12

May 30, 2010

Compared with our actually thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God (A.W. Tozer).

The basic tenants of Pelagianism in something of a logical form.
(a) Moral character can be predicated only of volitions.
(b) Ability is always the measure of responsibility
(c) Therefore, every man has always the plenary power to do all that it is his duty to do.
(d) Therefore, the human will alone, to the exclusion of the interference of an internal influence from God, must decide human character and destiny.
(e) Therefore, the only divine influence needed by man or consistent with his character as a self-determined agent is an external, providential, and educational one.

The reason for the Tozer quote is an effort to set forth for us once again that our real beliefs may be hidden in the heart under our creedal statements. Our real idea of God and our own real doctrine can be hidden from our own sight by our own religious notions and love of the thoughts of our own orthodoxy. In our modern day which likes to hide the reality of sin and sinful hearts from the probing eyes of God and ourselves, it will take a lot of painful self-probing in order for the Pelagianism that has dug in deeply and hidden under the rubbish of theology and even Reformed theology to be seen for what it is. The proud heart of Pelagianism can be easily hidden underneath the external humility of a religious heart. The proud heart of Pelagianism can be easily hidden underneath a lot of religious activity including evangelism. The proud heart of Pelagianism can be hidden beneath the most orthodox of creeds. The proud heart of Pelagianism can be hidden in pews and behind pulpits. The proud heart of Pelagianism is at war with the true God and rejects His rule in the heart. So it takes refuge in many places. When the proud heart of Pelagianism begins to be exposed by truth, it will fire out words from historical writers who are thought to be orthodox, though they many be used differently in order for the Pelagian heart to hide behind them.

One of the ways that the heart of Pelagianism can be hidden is by using the words “responsibility” and “free agent.” While these may be used in ways that are orthodox, they are also used in an effort to banish God from the human heart. Many get fired up when some attempt to banish God from His creation by asserting a materialistic form of evolution. Others get fired up when some attempt to banish God from schools by not letting people openly pray or speak of Him in speeches. However, it is even viler to attempt to banish God from being sovereign over human hearts as well. Whether a person is Reformed in name or not the heart of the Pelagian wants to ban God from His sovereignty over the human heart. It is worse that the teaching of materialistic evolution and it is worse that not having prayer in schools. The heart is the dwelling place and temple of the living God.

Not only is it denied that God created everything, by personal and direct action, but few believe that He has any immediate concern in regulating the works of His own hands. Everything is supposed to be ordered according to the (impersonal and abstract) “laws of nature.” Thus is the Creator banished from His own creation. Therefore we need not be surprised that man, in their degrading conceptions, exclude Him from the realm of human affairs. Throughout Christendom, with an almost negligible exception, the theory is held that man is “a free agent”, and therefore, lord of his fortunes and determiner of his destiny. That Satan is to be blamed for much of the evil which is in the world, is freely affirmed by those who, though having so much to say about “the responsibility of man”, often deny their own responsibility, by attributing to the Devil what, in fact, proceeds from their own evil hearts (Mark 7:21-23).                A.W. Pink

In reality, then, Pelagianism is the attempt of the human heart to rule over its own heart and life rather than bow in submission to the reign and kingdom of Christ over the life and in the heart. Pelagianism depends on the pride of heart to assert free-will and man’s responsibility in ways that deny the sovereign rule of God. It is not only the use of the words “free agent” and “responsibility,” but it is the meanings assigned to them. They banish God from the heart. In every thought, word, and deed God is either working grace in the soul or is turning that soul over to sin. Pelagianism is so deeply rooted in the proud heart that it hides itself with theology and biblical language. When Pelagianism has taken the hearts of a people, even if they have the externals of Reformed theology, the devil has deceived them. They will then use words to hide their own Pelagianism from themselves and deceive themselves into thinking that they are orthodox. Satan is so deceitful in planting his own seed (Pelagianism) and then hiding it with the externals of orthodoxy. It is painful to root out this heresy and idol from our own hearts, but we must do it. We must do it? No, we must fall on our faces in helplessness before God and ask Him to show us our hearts and then for Him to root this awful idol from our hearts and lives so that Christ would be our real life.

Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism 11

May 28, 2010

The basic tenants of Pelagianism are given below in something of a logical form.
(a) Moral character can be predicated only of volitions.
(b) Ability is always the measure of responsibility
(c) Therefore, every man has always the plenary power to do all that it is his duty to do.
(d) Therefore, the human will alone, to the exclusion of the interference of an internal influence from God, must decide human character and destiny.
(e) Therefore, the only divine influence needed by man or consistent with his character as a self-determined agent is an external, providential, and educational one.

What follows is taken from The Sovereignty of God by Arthur Pink. The intent is to show the difference between the basic teachings of Pelagianism with the orthodox concept of God. It is not just that the teachings of Pelagianism are wrong, but they are an attack on the character of God Himself.

The sovereignty of God. What do we mean by this expression? We mean the supremacy of God, the kingship of God, the godhead of God. To say that God is sovereign is to say that God is God. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Most High, doing according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth, so that none can stay His hand or say unto Him what doest Thou? (Dan. 4:35). To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will (Ps. 115:3). To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is “The Governor among the nations” (Ps. 22:28), setting up kingdoms, overthrowing empires, and determining the course of dynasties as pleaseth Him best. To say that God is sovereign is to declare that He is the “Only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords” (I Tim 6:15). Such is the God of the Bible.

How different is the God of the Bible from the God of modern Christendom! The conception of Deity which prevails most widely today, even among those who profess to give heed to the Scriptures, is a miserable caricature, a blasphemous travesty of the Truth. The God of the twentieth century is a helpless, effeminate being who commands the respect of no really thoughtful man. The God of the popular mind is the creation of a maudlin sentimentality. The God of many a present-day pulpit is an object of pity rather than of awe-inspiring reverence…

The sovereignty of the God of Scripture is absolute, irresistible, infinite. When we say that God is sovereign we affirm the His right to govern the universe, which He has made for His own glory, just as He pleases. We affirm that His right is the right of the Potter over the clay, i.e., that He may mould that clay into whatsoever form His chooses, fashioning out of the same lump one vessel unto honor and another unto dishonor. We affirm that He is under no rule or law outside of His own will and nature, that God is a law unto Himself, and that He is under no obligation to give an account of His matters to any.

Sovereignty characterizes the whole Being of God. He is sovereign in all His attributes. He is sovereign in the exercise of His Power. His power is exercised as He wills, when He wills, where He wills. This fact is evidenced on every page of Scripture. For a long season that power appears to be dormant, and then it is put forth in irresistible might. Pharaoh dared to hinder Israel from going forth to worship Jehovah in the wilderness—what happened? God exercised His power, His people were delivered and their cruel task-masters were slain. But a little later, the Amalekites dared to attack these same Israelites in the wilderness, and what happened? Did God put forh His power on this occasion and display His hand as He did at the Red Sea? Were these enemies of His people promptly overthrown and destroyed? No, on the contrary, the Lord swore that He would “have war with Amalek from generation to generation” (Ex. 17:16).

The God of the Bible as set forth by Pink is not the same God set forth in Pelagianism. The god of Pelagianism waits and depends on the will of man, yet the God of the Bible does as He pleases in all cases and at all times. The God of the Bible depends on no man and simply does all according to His own will. The God of the Bible saves those whom He pleases rather than waiting on the pleasure of man to be saved. The holy God of Scripture and all reality cannot be hindered or thwarted in doing His pleasure at any point and at any way, but Pelagianism is focused on man’s will and man doing as he pleases. The difference is infinite, stark, and has eternal consequences.

Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism 10

May 19, 2010

The basic points of Pelagianism may seem like common sense to many people, but that simply points to the need for humanity to recognize its fallen condition. What seems like common sense is simply natural sense or the sense that comes from sinful human nature. We begin to reason from ourselves and the way we perceive things. For example, we know that we should not expect our infants to obey our commands to mow the yard. We know that they are unable to do so. We would also not command a frail person to lift a thousand pounds and press it. These things are common sense. But there is the distinction between physical ability and moral or spiritual ability. A person has the physical ability to do what s/he can do according to the physical nature. But the moral or spiritual ability of people is according to the judgment of God upon them. Adam acted as the federal representative of all humanity (see Romans 5). When he sinned, all fell into sin in him.

Pelagian thinking is an outright denial of Ephesians 2:1-3 in all parts: “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.” The thinking of the Pelagian is that we are not dead in trespasses and sin because ability is the measure of responsibility. The Pelagian denies that all are children of wrath by nature because of the same reason. The Pelagian also says that if we are dead in sin and are children of wrath by nature, then we have no ability and so we have no responsibility as well.

It is here that we run into a major teaching of Pelagianism which is diametrically opposed to the Gospel of grace alone. Now, if virtually anyone who really believed and loved the Gospel of grace alone would be asked if s/he could love a doctrine that was directly opposed to the Gospel of grace alone, that person would deny that with some degree of vehemence. It may be that a person may have read the basic tenants of Pelagianism and believe that they are wrong. But there is still a major teaching that hides itself in the background of Pelagianism. It is believed by the vast majority of people in the religious world today and by most of those who don’t believe it (though few in number), they don’t see it as a major issue at all. This major issue is free-will.

Let me give the basic tenants of Pelagianism again in something of a logical form.
(a) Moral character can be predicated only of volitions.
(b) Ability is always the measure of responsibility
(c) Therefore, every man has always the plenary power to do all that it is his duty to do.
(d) Therefore, the human will alone, to the exclusion of the interference of an internal influence from God, must decide human character and destiny.
(e) Therefore, the only divine influence needed by man or consistent with his character as a self-determined agent is an external, providential, and educational one.

Now, let us look at them again. A volition is simply an act of the will in choice. If moral character can be predicated only of volition, then the will must be free in order to make choices that are moral in nature. The truth of this assertion would be seen from statements (d) and (e) above. The Pelagian asserts that man, as a self-determined agent, makes choices apart from any internal influence of God. So for a volition to determine moral character rather than an internal and moral nature, the will must be free from the internal influences of God.

If ability is always the measure of responsibility, then a person must have free-will so they could have any ability at all. This shows that man has no responsibility apart from the free-will. Even more, if the soul always has the plenary power to do all that it is its duty to do, then the will always has the power to be free in order to do what it is commanded to do. Pelagianism, then, is really the attempt to assert free-will over the free grace of God. We could also turn that around and say that free-will is the attempt to assert Pelagianism over the free grace of God. Free-will and free grace are opposed to each other at each point. If we are going to fight Pelagianism because it is opposite of the grace of God in salvation, then we must fight free-will as well. There is no fighting one without the other. In fact, the doctrine of the free-will is really the heart of the Pelagian system. To fight Pelagianism is to fight free-will. Yet to staunchly defend free-will is to defend the heart of Pelagianism. Pelagianism stands or falls with the teaching of free-will. Christianity only stands when it defends the truth of free-grace against the error of free-will. The heart of the Gospel of free grace will only stand when it is free of the tentacles of free-will.

Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism 9

May 18, 2010

If the devil could have his way in the churches across a nation, it may not be the case that he would totally do away with them. Instead he would use them to deceive the people in differing ways. His work is given to us in the New Testament when this is said: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (II John 7). The devil is also described in Revelation 12 as “the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him” (v. 9). Without question, then, the devil is one that deceives. Some of his work is in disguising himself as an angel of light (II Co 11:14). Another aspect of his work, as god of this world, is to blind “the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (II Cor 4:4).

So as the deceiver who disguises himself as an angel of light and who blinds people to the glory of Christ, we can see that it is not necessarily his work to deny the truth of Christianity but it is his work to hide the glory of it and to distort it. This is the massive problem in an age that does not like to think closely about issues and has enough pride to blind a billion worlds. We are also bound with the problem of thinking that we know something if we have heard of it with the ears and can memorize it. So because people have heard something about Pelagianism and they know that it is heresy, and assuredly they know they have the truth, they think that they are not guilty of it. The devil has the professing Church in his clutches as he is devouring it by deceiving it and hiding the true glory of the Gospel from the people. He is busily snatching the Word from the hearts of a sleepy and unsuspecting people while they go on their busy ways deceived and enslaved to the devil. The road to hell is without bumps for them as they go smoothly along fast asleep to eternal flames with their unregenerate hearts while ministers who are externally orthodox croon them to sleep with words of ease.

We can speak of revival and even desire it to some degree, but we must also realize that a desire for revival in name can also simply deceive our own wicked hearts from us. Our own zeal for evangelism can hide our unregenerate hearts from us. We think that surely a person that has zeal in evangelism must be a believer, but if we are shot through with a Pelagian way of thinking we are not proclaiming the Gospel. We can have all sorts of people pray prayers with us and make commitments, but if they have not been delivered from Pelagianism they are not converted. We can even get people in the churches and get them busy doing “ministry” in all sorts of activities, but unless they are delivered from Pelagianism they have not been delivered from their sin. Religion is being used in their case to hide their eyes from the true Gospel. As they sink deeper and deeper into their religious activities they are actually sinking deeper and deeper into their own sinful hearts and the ways set out for them by the devil.

A major thought today in Christendom is that we are not to worry about our feelings but do what needs to be done. How is that any different from the first point of Pelagianism? “Moral character can be predicated only of volitions.” On the other hand, people focus on their feelings greatly and told to let them go. We also use music and fiery sermons to fire up the feelings as if true religious affections could be fired up by external influences. This is no different than believing the last point of Pelagianism as listed by Hodge: “the only divine influence needed by man or consistent with his character as a self-determined agent is an external, providential, and educational one.”

Pelagianism is very much alive and the devil is fighting to deceive and blind. He is using hyper-evangelism to blind those who are using it to evangelize as well as blind those hearing it to the truth of the Gospel. Finney’s methods were used and so the areas that he held his evangelical services were referred to as “the burned out district” because of his practices that actually hardened people to the truth. It may be the case that the United States of America is one large burned out district today because of Finney’s methods being used by so many. Hyper-evangelism has held the day and has been preaching at the very best a very diluted gospel. On the other hand, some have confused Calvinism as hyper-Calvinism and the Gospel itself was thrown out. Finney’s errors have grown and have been reproduced over and over again. Hyper-evangelism and confusing true Calvinism with hyper-Calvinism are massive errors that spring from Pelagianism. These are both the ways of the devil who wants to hide the true glory of the Gospel from sinners. Not only does He hide the glory of Christ from the eyes of many, but he does so to many by hiding the true glory behind a false glory. So many think of the glory of the Gospel as being what it does for them only. The true glory of the Gospel is the glory of God shining in the face of Christ. It is when God shines forth His true grace in Christ that His glory is seen. But Pelagianism also attacks the nature of true grace. Oh the wiles of the devil!

Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism 8

May 16, 2010

The “gospel” of Pelagianism leaves a person still in the bondage of self-love and independency. The pride of the natural man is like the child that always wants to do it ‘by myself.” The proud heart blinds a person to the proud heart and the real inability of self to do one good thing apart from Christ. If it every occurs to the Pelagian that s/he is to love God with all of the soul and of something what that means, the proud heart will quickly shut that out and remind itself that (a) Moral character can be predicated only of volitions and (b), ability is always the measure of responsibility. This is one way the proud and sinful heart blinds itself to what must happen in salvation. The heart must repent of its love of self as its chief love and motive in what it does to love God as its chief love and motive in all it does. The Great Command to love God with the whole soul is far beyond the natural human soul when it is seen for what it really commands. It is not just a command to do external things, but it is a command to the depths of the soul to love God with all of its being at all times. The soul that loves self will respond with enmity because it cannot do that and it cannot turn from self-love apart from the glory of grace changing it. But it can produce an external moral reformation and convince itself that the external acts are the love of God.

The “gospel” of Pelagianism then leaves the human soul in bondage to self-love and pride because it leaves it in the power of self rather than the power of Christ and the Spirit. It leaves the human soul to its choices when the true Gospel takes the human soul and leaves it in the power of the life of God in the soul. Pelagianism will leave the human soul in the power of its own ability since it says that ability is the measure of responsibility. That means, they would say, that God would not require what is beyond human ability. Oh what a weak and inept (not to mention filthy) message of a so-called gospel that is. How utterly hideous it is to leave men and women in the bondage of their own ability whether that is what we are actually saying or not. We must preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His ability to sinners by grace alone. Sinners need to be delivered from their own ability to they may look to the ability of God to save them by the ability of Christ and the Spirit. How utterly impoverished is the Pelagian so-called “gospel” that does not point poor sinners away from their own wills to the omnipotent will of God. How desperately wicked it is to leave people to their own choices and so-called “ability” and not point people to the power of the Spirit of Christ to give them a new heart. The “gospel” of Pelagianism is no true gospel at all.

We would charge a medical doctor in criminal court if a patient came to him or her in need of heart surgery or even a new heart and s/he just told the patient to will themselves to health. The Great Physician alone can deal with sinners who need new hearts rather than new choices. Yet those who claim to speak for Him today are simply telling people that they are responsible to give themselves new hearts. They tell sinners that they have the ability because they are responsible before God. They tell sinners that all they need to do is to repent and believe which comes down to a choice that the sinner is supposed to make. Even if we don’t tell sinners that, if we don’t tell them of their need for a new heart and who alone has the ability to give them new hearts, we have effectively told them nothing more than a Pelagian would do. God commands all sinners to repent, but that does not mean that sinners have the power to repent. When Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born from above (again) to enter the kingdom, He did not leave it at that or Nicodemus would have reasoned that he must have the power to do it. Instead Jesus told Nicodemus this: “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

In John 15 Jesus taught on the vine and the branch. The branch does not have a free-will to produce fruit, but instead all true fruit comes from the vine and then through the branch. Jesus said that apart from Him we can do nothing (v. 5). In other words, the only fruit that can be borne through the branch must come from the vine. No soul has the free-will to produce spiritual fruit because spiritual fruit has its source in the spiritual realm and will only come from its true origin. But even more, a branch that bears spiritual fruit must be one that was grafted in by another (see Romans 11). God must graft a branch into the tree so that it may be nourished of the root, which shows that the free-will cannot do this. The will cannot be free to do what only God can do. When the will tries to be free and mimic what God alone can do, that will is then being like Adam and Eve who believed the promise of the devil to be like God. The idol of Pelagianism, therefore, is to bow at the feet of its own will and pretend that it can do what God alone can do. The ability of free-will is not just a speculative doctrine or metaphysical nicety, but instead it is that by which men go to war with God over to see if they will worship self or God. Pelagianism, even when it is trying to cover itself by wearing the dress of Arminianism or Calvinism, is a wicked teaching that is enmity against God.

Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism 7

May 15, 2010

Pelagianism has been condemned by council after council and creed after creed. Until modern days it has been considered non-Christian by all champions of orthodoxy. While many “Reformed” people in the modern day are zealous against hyper-Calvinism, it appears that some are simply fighting historical Calvinism. True hyper-Calvinism, while not something to just ignore, has no real impact today. Pelagianism, on the other hand, has made massive inroads in the professing Church. While many would not hold to all the teachings of Pelagianism in their own minds, they are practical Pelagians in evangelism and sanctification. Pelagianism hides behind the teachings on man’s responsibility, of free-will, and then by those in methods of evangelism. It hides in the guise of Arminian theology and it hides in the guise of Reformed theology. It is rampant.

The basic tenants of Pelagianism are given below in something of a logical form.
(a) Moral character can be predicated only of volitions.
(b) Ability is always the measure of responsibility
(c) Therefore, every man has always the plenary power to do all that it is his duty to do.
(d) Therefore, the human will alone, to the exclusion of the interference of an internal influence from God, must decide human character and destiny.
(e) Therefore, the only divine influence needed by man or consistent with his character as a self-determined agent is an external, providential, and educational one.

In evangelism and preaching we must teach people the nature of sin. Now, if all we do is try to get them to see that they have committed external acts of sin rather than teach them the nature of their sinful hearts, then we are practical Pelagians at this point. This cannot be stressed too much as it is so dangerous. If all people admit to is that they are sinners because of the fact that they have committed external sins, they still don’t have any idea of what it means to be a sinner. If people have no idea that they have sinful hearts that sin in all that comes from the heart, they have no concept of the biblical teaching of sin. They will have no concept that they need a new nature and not just some external forgiveness. If they have no idea of what it means to have a sinful heart, they will have no idea of the Gospel which is a promise of a new heart.

While many will say that of course they believe that morality is of the heart, it could not be seen in their methods of evangelism. There are popular methods of evangelism that focus on the externals of the Ten Commandments. This can get quite tricky, but we can think of certain “inward” sins and still think of sin as external. We can still leave people as thinking that a sinful desire or a sinful thought is nothing more than an act of the will or choice. We may think that we have escaped Pelagian thinking if we tell people that their lusting is sin, but we have not if we have not pressed home the reason people have lustful thoughts. We must take people to the point where they see that they have a sinful nature and all that flows from their hearts is sin. They have sinful actions and lustful thoughts because they have sinful hearts. If we don’t take them to the very depths of their sinful natures they will think that repentance is nothing more than an external turning from sin and that amounts to nothing more than a moral reformation.

The New Covenant is built on the fact that God will give a new heart. It is built on the fact that it is God who will come in the soul and be the life of that soul in Christ. The New Covenant is built on the indwelling of Christ by the Spirit and so the believer becomes a temple of the living God. Salvation is to be rescued from the devil and the bondage of sin and not just external sins. In chapter 7 of Mark we have the words of Jesus on this: “After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, “Listen to Me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside the man which can defile him if it goes into him; but the things which proceed out of the man are what defile the man.” The only thing that can happen to a sinful heart that is the spring and fountain of sin is to be replaced with a new heart. We must be born from above (again) if we are going to enter the kingdom. Once a sinner understands that s/he has a sinful heart, it becomes clear that s/he needs a new heart and so must be born from above. But if we do nothing but get people to see that they have sinned and need a sacrifice for sin to be saved, we have not gotten beyond what a Pelagian would teach. Can a person repent of a sinful nature if the person does not know about that nature and feel its power on them? Can a person repent of pride of the heart (a sinful heart is full of self and pride) if s/he thinks that only acts of the will need to be repented of? Pelagianism attacks the Gospel even when it is disguised in Arminian or Reformed clothing. It is the deception of the devil to keep people from seeing that they must become new creatures. It can be the difference between the Gospel and a distortion of it.

Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism 6

May 12, 2010

We have looked at three of the points of Pelagianism according to A.A. Hodge over the past few posts. The fourth point is as follows: “(d). Hence the human will alone, to the exclusion of the interference of an internal influence from God, must decide human character and destiny. The only divine influence needed by man or consistent with his character as a self-determined agent is an external, providential, and educational one.”

Hodge has set out the Pelagian view in somewhat of a logical argument. When adjusted a little it fits easily into argument form and appears something like what follows:

(a) Moral character can be predicated only of volitions.
(b) Ability is always the measure of responsibility
(c) Therefore, every man has always the plenary power to do all that it is his duty to do.
(d) Therefore, the human will alone, to the exclusion of the interference of an internal influence from God, must decide human character and destiny.
(e) Therefore, the only divine influence needed by man or consistent with his character as a self-determined agent is an external, providential, and educational one.

Notice the power of this argument and its reliance upon the freedom of the will and the absence of the hand of God on the soul itself. In (a) moral character can only be predicated only of volitions. This statement denies that a moral character can be of the person’s nature or comes from the heart. It is only of a bare volition as such. If one accepts that moral character can only be predicated of volitions, then one must accept that (b) ability is always the measure of responsibility. In a sense (a) and (b) are separate, but in another sense they are inextricably linked together. The trap, if one is following it, has been sprung and it is hard to get out of it. If we accept that (a) and (b) are correct, we are driven to the following conclusion of (c). If ability is always the measure of responsibility, then every man always has the plenary power to do all that it is his duty to do. Surely that would shock Paul who did all by the power that worked in him (Col 1:29) and not by some external influence.

There is no getting out of the argument at this point unless one goes back to (a) and (b) and looks at the rotten foundation that they are built on. But notice where this argument has taken us and where we are at if we have agreed to it. We are now at the point of holding that whatever it is man’s duty to do it is also in his power to do. If it is in man’s power to do all that it is his duty to do, and man is not responsible apart from what he has the power and ability to do, then it is the human will alone to the exclusion of the interference of an internal influence from God that must decide human character and destiny. What man needs from God, then, is simply a God that will work on his external parts in a providential and educational way. This describes the vast amount of religion in America today. It sounds a whole lot like a lot of modern “Reformed” teaching as well. It sounds like almost all of the evangelism and “gospel preaching” today. The real choice and power is that of the human will, though the theory may be different. Practically speaking, however, that is what we are left with.

What we are told over and over again is that we must balance the teaching of the sovereignty of God with the responsibility of man. We are told that it is man who must repent and it is man who must believe. But that is not the whole issue. Is it the will of man that enables the man to repent or is it the will of God that enables the man to repent? Is it the will of man that enables man to believe or is it the will of God that enables man to believe? This is a vital question. The word “responsibility” can be used by Pelagians of differing degrees and of Reformed people as well. A Pelagian can speak of the sovereignty of God as well. So both a Pelagian and a Reformed person can state the words that “we must teach the responsibility of man and the sovereignty of God.” But they mean something totally different by the statement, or at least if they are consistent with the historical positions they will. Historically, the two positions are polar opposites. Today, different words are used but it seems as if the meanings are getting closer and closer. But the Reformed position is the one changing and so is becoming like the Pelagian side and not the other way around.

The semi-Pelagian position will have God reaching out to man with co-operative grace which may render the man’s efforts successful. But the Augustinian or Reformed position teaches that the will cannot cooperate with God until God has renewed the will and has been renewed by grace. These positions cannot be more opposite. There is no middle ground between the Augustinian view and anything else. It is that God saves by grace alone and nothing else. Man does not assist in his own salvation but instead is saved by God alone. God saves to the praise of the glory of His grace (Eph 1:3-6). God reaches down and saves sinners by raising them from the dead because of who He is and not because of anything He finds in them (Eph 2:4-10). There is utterly no room for boasting in any saved person other than boasting in the cross of Christ.

The “Reformed” teaching of today tells us that we must stress the responsibility of man, and indeed we must tell man that he is obligated to love God with all of his being and to repent and believe if s/he is to be saved. But does man have the ability to do that of himself? When we leave human souls to their own devices and do not tell them that the grace and power of God can give them new hearts by grace alone, we are practical Pelagians. We have done nothing but given them external words that tell them of external duties if we do not tell them the truth of their rotten and sinful hearts and natures. Men are Pelagians by birth and will hear us as Pelagians when we tell them the externals of the Gospel. But the only real Gospel is the Augustinian one. It is by grace alone from beginning to end and it is a grace that changes the hearts of human beings and it is grace that enables them to repent and believe. Salvation is by grace alone. In this case, alone means alone and by itself.

Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism 5

May 8, 2010

In the last BLOG on Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism a quote, taken from John MacArthur’s Ashamed of the Gospel, made and makes an important (vital) point. “Finney did not distinguish between Calvinist orthodoxy and hyper-Calvinism.” “But the doctrines Finney enumerates are not doctrines unique to hyper-Calvinism; they are simply Calvinist orthodoxy—and in most cases, plain biblical teachings. Finney jettisoned them all—and thus repudiated the heart of biblical theology.” That teaches us that we must be careful to make an accurate distinction between orthodox Calvinism and hyper-Calvinism. If not, we will do what Charles Finney did and cast out orthodoxy in the name of hyper-Calvinism. We may also cast out the heart of Reformed thinking if we erroneously identify the heart of Calvinism as hyper-Calvinism. That is exactly what I am claiming is being done. Warfield stated that the heart of Calvinism is really irresistible grace and not election. What many have done is throw out the real meaning of irresistible grace while adhering to the words. That leaves them with a form of orthodoxy with practical Pelagianism at the heart of their system. With practical Pelagianism at the heart of their practice of evangelism and preaching, they can join hands in agreement with Pelagians on many points. When they do that, orthodox Calvinists see that as wrong but their protestations are dismissed with the pejorative “hyper-Calvinist.”

The above quote from Finney should awaken many from their slumbers and their witch hunts on hyper-Calvinism. While many are out to get hyper-Calvinists, in doing so they have cast out orthodox Calvinism. Real and true hyper-Calvinism is quite a different thing than what many are calling it today. A person who is a Pelagian will think that virtually all Calvinism is hyper-Calvinism. So when one that thinks of himself as a Calvinist has a form of Pelagianism at the root of his system of evangelism, that person will automatically think that true Calvinism is hyper-Calvinism. Thus making an accurate distinction is vital. We speak of those who have a historical faith in the Gospel which is to hold to the facts without the whole soul being changed by them. In our present discussion a person can be blinded to true Calvinism by holding to the historical facts about Calvinism.

Compared with our actual thoughts about Him, our creedal statements are of little consequence. Our real idea of God may lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and may require an intelligent and vigorous search before it is finally unearthed and exposed for what it is. Only after an ordeal of painful self-probing are we likely to discover what we actually believe about God…It is my opinion that the Christian conception of God currently…is so decadent as to be utterly beneath the dignity of the Most High God and actually to constitute for professed believers something amounting to a moral calamity (A.W. Tozer).

If our real idea of God can lie buried under the rubbish of conventional religious notions and as such requires us to make an intelligent and vigorous search to unearth and expose it, then the heart of Pelagianism may be in us and stay there unless we make an intelligent and vigorous search for it. However, we live in a day which prefers to hear a teaching and accept it as true of false based on the intellect alone. For example, Jeremiah 17:9 can be accepted as true and yet there be no deep understanding of our own heart because of it. “The heart is more deceitful than all else And is desperately sick; Who can understand it?” We may even think of that verse when we have differences with others, and yet apply it to them and never even think that we may be deceived.

Hodge’s third point (Pelagianism): Hence every man has always the plenary power to do all that it is his duty to do.
Pelagians believe in the free-will of man and will not relinquish that. They believe that man has all the power that is needed to do all that is his duty to do. Compare that with the Augustinian (Calvinism) view: “Which was adopted by all the original Protestant Churches, Lutheran and Reformed. (a.) Man is by nature so entirely depraved in his moral nature as to be totally unable to do any thing spiritually good, or in any degree to begin or dispose himself thereto.” All the original Protestant Churches adopted this? How many really believe that today? Now if we compare those two statements with the way Calvinists are teaching and preaching today, what would we conclude? My conclusion is that most Calvinists preach or teach more in line with the Pelagians on this matter. While they may deny the creed of the Pelagians, yet in practice they are practical Pelagians. Put in a different way, the difference between how a Pelagian and a Calvinist speak of grace is telling. If deep in our souls we believe that a person is entirely depraved that s/he is totally unable to do anything spiritually good, or in any degree to being or dispose him or herself to do so, then we must tell the person of the need for grace to bring him or her to Christ. The failure to do that is practical Pelagianism. Calvinism speaks of irresistible grace in doctrine, but if we hold back and don’t tell people that grace is needed to apply grace to them, our practice is not treating people as totally depraved.

Pelagianism, Hyper-Evangelism, and Hyper-Calvinism, Part 4

May 4, 2010

The monstrous conception of Pelagianism in its fullest sense is expressed in the thinking of various forms of liberalism and humanism. It is nothing more than the poison of self-sufficiency that the serpent of old has injected into the human race with his venomous bite. As the poison of a viper begins to have effects on the nervous system and/or circulatory system of the one bitten, so the venom of the serpent of old has many effects. It brings a delusion of ability to the subject. It also brings pride into the soul which hides the effects of the poison. The proud heart enamored with its own ability will become religious in order to avoid punishment for its sin, but it simply hates the idea of having to be saved by grace alone. The proud heart that has taken hold of religion is ensnared with itself in religion. That proud heart gives lip service to the grace of God while living in its own power. That proud heart will change the grace of God into licentiousness, but another proud heart will turn grace into strict morality. The proud heart that is so enamored with its own ability can also hide itself in the creeds of Reformed thinking.

In Ashamed of the Gospel MacArthur points this out:

Finney did not distinguish between Calvinist orthodoxy and hyper-Calvinism. ..But the doctrines Finney enumerates are not doctrines unique to hyper-Calvinism; they are simply Calvinist orthodoxy—and in most cases, plain biblical teachings. Finney jettisoned them all—and thus repudiated the heart of biblical theology.

This is what is happening today, though somewhat differently. Warfield said that Finney was a Calvinist in many ways except his Pelagian view of the will. Luther thought of the doctrine of the enslaved will as the very hinge of the Gospel and of the Reformation. Pelagianism is really dangerous to the Gospel of grace alone, and is an attack on the Gospel of grace itself. It can do so in the guise of Reformed theology. Regardless of our professed doctrine and creed we hold to or confess, if we have a view of the will that is Pelagian in some form, we have rejected the Gospel of grace alone. In MacArthur’s words, we have “thus repudiated the heart of biblical theology.” If we jettison the true doctrine of the bondage of the will we have jettisoned the Gospel. Again, we may claim to be Reformed and preach in accordance with the creeds in some way, but if we hold to some form of Pelagianism in the way we view the Gospel then the heart of the Gospel we preach and hold to is Pelagian despite some Reformed externals. The heart of our message would be Pelagian because our doctrine of the will is Pelagian while the externals are simply that.

What was the result of his hyper-evangelism when he rejected Calvinism as hyper-Calvinism?

To put it briefly—that everyone who was concerned in these revivals suffered a sad subsequent lapse; the people were left like a dead coal which could not be reignited; the pastors were short of all their spiritual power; and the evangelists—“among them all,” he says, “and I was personally acquainted with nearly every one of them—I cannot recall a single man, brother Finney and father Nash excepted, who did not after a few years lose his unction, and become equally disqualified for the office of evangelist and pastor.” Thus the great “Western Revivals” ran out into disaster.

This is what happens when true Reformed theology is rejected even if it is rejected as hyper-Calvinism and done so with a Reformed covering. In our day we have various degrees of Pelagianism hiding itself in the guise of Reformed theology. One way it does this is by hiding under human responsibility. Calvinists have been attacked and accused as saying that human beings are robots and they respond by making excuses and saying that they are not like those other people. But it is easy to flee from hyper-Calvinism and run right into Pelagianism. It is easy to say that we are simply Calvinists who are zealous in evangelism because it makes us fit in with Pelagians better. But a person that holds to the biblical doctrine of the enslaved will cannot evangelize in the same way that a person that does not. It makes a massive difference when this is seen as reality and something more than semantics.

While Finney did not distinguish between hyper-Calvinism and Calvinism, we absolutely must because Pelagianism utterly destroys the Gospel of grace alone even when it is held by a professing Calvinist. We will be guilty of what Finney did in throwing out the Gospel though we may do it in a different way and do it with different motives. But we will still be throwing out the biblical Gospel if we confuse hyper-Calvinism with true Calvinism and so resort to some form of Pelagianism in our thinking and in the way we preach the Gospel. On the one hand true Pelagians are attacking the Gospel while on the other hand professing Calvinists are attacking the Gospel because they think they are fleeing from hyper-Calvinism. They have misunderstood the historical teaching of the bondage of the will and are giving themselves to teaching a form of Pelagianism. It is still a form of Pelagianism and it is still heresy.