Pelagius Pops Up Again

I have been intrigued by different ways of thinking from those in some of my Christian circles of friends. Some of the statements may be just random statements, but when you keep hearing a theme, you know something is up.

You might not have ever heard the term ‘Pelagian’ unless you are familiar with St. Augustine of Hippo. Throughout church History, there have been a number of apologists appearing, who are fighting to protect a particular doctrine of theology that is important to the Gospel message. St. Augustine was such an apologist. His cause was to defend the doctrine of inherent sin (people are born with sinful natures due to the fall of Adam). His opponent was Pelagius, a man who did not believe that the fall of mankind resulted in sinful hearts of all people.

Pelagius believed that human beings are responsible for their own sin, and have a choice of doing right or wrong. He believed that people could obey God if they chose to do so. He also does not believe that we are born in sin.

I’ve listened to a few Open Air preachers (and I don’t want to lump all open air preachers like this!) and have seen hatred pour out of their mouths. One of them did a critique on a song by Casting Crowns called, ‘Jesus Friend of Sinners’. I have actually recently written blogs on this topic, because I am now seeing God’s love for the outcast, in action.

One sharp contrast I have seen between Calvinists and Pelagians is the one concerning God’s love. Those who hold on to Pelagian teachings never teach about God’s love. I’m sure they think it will lead to lawlessness if they do. The problem is, that God is love, and if you never teach about a God who is love, you aren’t correctly teaching about God and your hearers will miss out on an important aspect of God.

I used to think it was simply because many evangelists don’t want their converts to be false converts. The world has taken the concept of God’s love and has made God into an all-loving, all-forgiving God, but that’s not true either.

All of us need to know, and the key word is ‘know’ a loving God. All of us need a Savior from sin, and the power to say ‘no’ to sin. Pelagians do not believe they need God’s power to keep them and to help them as they fight against sin. Yes, we need to be forgiven of our sins, but once we come to Christ, the process of sanctification comes in, and the power to change comes from God. As we get to know God better, and we respond to Him in obedience and love, He changes us. This is opposite of the doctrine that Pelagians hold. They believe you have to live a holy life by your own choosing to do so, and by your own strength.

Pelagians believe that people are basically good, and that outside forces pull people into sin. Remember that they don’t believe in original sin, so they believe that the condition of man is the same as Adam’s was, when God first created him.

Also, Pelagians have a different understanding of sin than Calvinists do. They believe that sin is something we do, verses something we are. Sin is in the fabric of our being. We can do nothing to get out of it either. But when God sent Jesus to die for our sins, that provided the power for sin to be broken in our lives. Because of the Cross, the rulers of darkness have been dismantled, and those enslaved by sin can now be set free.

Because Pelagians believe that sin is what we do, rather than sin being what comes from our hearts, they believe they are free from sin. They believe they are keeping the Commandments of God. They look down upon others who aren’t keeping the Commandments. At least, this is the impression I am getting as I listen to these people talk. This whole episode sounds very familiar. It sounds just like some of the things I have read about in the Bible, Luke 18 being one of them in particular.

So, Pelagians believe people can stop sinning. This is one of the things that seriously concerns me. I see signs held by street evangelists that read ‘Stop sinning’ ‘Repent’. Does God hate sin? Of course He does. Sin can never be in His presence. It is like oil and vinegar that don’t mix, but even more. God will judge sin. One day, sin will be eradicated. We can’t stop sinning because we are sinners. We need a new heart. If we try to ‘stop sinning’ it would be like turning over a new leaf. We could try all we want, but it will never happen on our own. We come to God with our sin. We bring it to the Cross. He cleanses us and gives us a new heart. When the Holy Spirit came, He gave power to fight against sin. With the new heart God gives us, we have new desires. Now we have desires to not sin. But we will still struggle against sin until the day we die. But God gives us the power to overcome.

I have seen some of my friends act like Pelagians at times and that concerns me. Pelagian beliefs differ from what the Scriptures say in a couple of different areas:

1. The nature of sin      (overtly breaking the commandments vs. heart issues)                                                                                                                                                                        2. The sinful nature of man (original sin vs. sinning by choice)                                                                                                                                                       3. Salvation by keeping the Commandments and obeying God (vs salvation by grace alone through faith alone).

I never realized that some people are actually overt Pelagians. It would seem like it would be something to be kept quiet. But there are forums that they create to support their belief system. There is no grace in Pelagianism. I would imagine that their beliefs about salvation by faith alone would be much like what the Mormons believe in. Mormons believe that they are sinful people, and they believe that Jesus died for their sins, but that is the door one gets into in order to be saved. The person must do the rest. Then they use verses like ‘Faith without works is dead’ meaning that works are part of our salvation rather than the evidence that we are saved.

Here is a photo I found in a Pelagian forum. I don’t know who to credit for this, but this picture is very revealing. This is at the heart of Pelagianism. Take a look at it and see what you think.

Image

This is what Pelagians think of Jesus’ death.

Always keep in mind that we line up everything with Scriptures. If it’s not found in Scriptures, throw it out.

For a clear, concise article on what Pelgianism is and why it is not based upon Scriptures, check this web page out: http://carm.org/pelagianism

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