Monthly Archives: May 2015

“What is Arminianism, and is it biblical?”

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Question: “What is Arminianism, and is it biblical?”

Answer: Arminianism is a system of belief that attempts to explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will, especially in relation to salvation. Arminianism is named after Jacob Arminius (1560—1609), a Dutch theologian. While Calvinism emphasizes the sovereignty of God, Arminianism emphasizes the responsibility of man. If Arminianism is broken down into five points, similar to the five points of Calvinism, these would be the five points:

(1) Partial Depravity – humanity is depraved but still able to seek God. We are fallen and tainted by sin but not to the extent that we cannot chose to come to God and accept salvation, with the help of prevenient grace from God. Given such grace, human will is free and has the power to yield to the influence of the Spirit. Note: many Arminians reject partial depravity and hold a view very close to Calvinistic total depravity. (2) Conditional Election – God only “chooses” those whom He knows will choose to believe. No one is predetermined for either heaven or hell. (3) Unlimited Atonement – Jesus died for everyone, even those who are not chosen and will not believe. Jesus’ death was for all of humanity, and anyone can be saved by belief in Him. (4) Resistible Grace – God’s call to be saved can be resisted and/or rejected. We can resist God’s pull toward salvation if we choose to. (5) Conditional Salvation – Christians can lose their salvation if they actively reject the Holy Spirit’s influence in their lives. The maintenance of salvation is required for a Christian to retain it. Note: many Arminians deny “conditional salvation” and instead hold to “eternal security.”

The only point of Arminianism that four-point Calvinists believe to be biblical is point #3—Unlimited Atonement. First John 2:2 says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Second Peter 2:1 tells us that Jesus even bought the false prophets who are doomed: “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” Jesus’ salvation is available to anyone and everyone who will believe in Him. Jesus did not just die for those who will be saved.

Four-point Calvinism (the official position of Got Questions Ministries) finds the other four points of Arminianism to be unbiblical, to varying degrees. Romans 3:10–18 strongly argues for total depravity. Conditional election, or election based on God’s foreknowledge of human action, underemphasizes God’s sovereignty (Romans 8:28–30). Resistible grace underestimates the power and determination of God. Conditional salvation makes salvation a reward for work rather than a gift of grace (Ephesians 2:8–10). There are problems with both systems, but Calvinism is far more biblically based than Arminianism. However, both systems fail to adequately explain the relationship between God’s sovereignty and mankind’s free will—due to the fact that it is impossible for a finite human mind to discern a concept only God can fully understand.

Read more: http://www.gotquestions.org/arminianism.html#ixzz3bUNL8JWU

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Dr. Clay Nuttall, The Secularization of Christian Education

In Defense of the Gospel
Dr. Clay Nuttall, The Secularization of Christian Education
Posted: 27 May 2015 05:11 AM PDT
The term “secular” is most often used as a contrast to that which is spiritual, so that the world is divided into those two parts. That is actually a liberal concept. Believers often divide the work of the local church into those two parts, too. The problem is that, in the believer’s life, there is no such thing as secular or “non-spiritual”. The truth is that, for us, everything is a spiritual responsibility, right down to our very thoughts.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. (II Corinthians 10:5)

In the local church, we have made a false dichotomy because that allows us the freedom to do it our own way. This is exactly what has been done in our personal lives as well. Where did this human-based idea come from? This dangerous insertion is the way of the world. It is rebellious man wanting to live his life without spiritual intervention, to feel that he is in charge of his world, the “captain” of his soul. Human government has used this to strangle spiritual influence, and it is everywhere in the world around us.

Why did this false idea spread so rapidly? One of the major reasons is that it has been a centerpiece of our education systems, allowing man to answer the major questions of life rather than following the plain, clear teaching of God’s Word. From such areas as the source of life, to life after death, man has forced his definitions on us. The most tragic issue is that so-called Christian education has followed this concept blindly so that it would appear to be intellectual.

THE RECORD IS CLEAR

There is no question that many of our great educational institutions began with worthy spiritual goals. It’s not that they were perfect or had the same beginning; they moved from preparing preachers to creating scholars who despise the concept of a sovereign God with absolutes. The sad thing is that many current Christian institutions are neck- deep in this journey of the secularization of Christian education. This is a difficult thing for us to admit, but our very beliefs and the way we approach the Scripture is tainted by the concept that we have a better idea than God.

The question is why and how did this happen? It is as simple as reviewing the history of Israel. They determined that God as their king was not enough; they wanted to be like the other nations around them with a king they could see and touch. (I Samuel 8) So God gave them Saul, who was the epitome of “independent man,” who could live life the way he determined and yet have one foot in the religious world. This is clearly demonstrated in I Samuel 15. Saul, the secular/religious man, was actually the judgment of God on a nation who wanted to have it both ways. This is exactly what Paul describes with the “religious sinner” in Romans 2:17-29. You can’t have it both ways and still have it God’s way.

HUMANISTIC EDUCATION AT ITS WORST

In all honesty, state or federal schools are not public. They do not represent the general public; they reflect the view of the elite, who continue to experiment on unsuspecting people. Humanistic education will claim that it is free-thinking and intellectual, but the truth is that state schools function by “indoctrination”. That is exactly why, since the 1030’s, socialism has blossomed into the entitlement society we live in today.

Please don’t use the old lame excuse of there still being some good Christian teachers and administration in the system. Looking at the whole, their number is so small they barely appear on the charts. Talk about believers bailing out of the educational system is also poorly thought through. When schools were local and community-oriented, our presence was effective; but today the ACLU has more influence on the schools than all of us put together!

THE TRAGIC INFLUENCE ON US

Christian education has been unduly influenced by the humanist agenda. We were taught to think like they do. This liberal mindset is neck-deep in our own schools. We copied so many of their errors in an effort to be intellectual that now we not only think like the world, but also act like the world. A couple of illustrations from the pool of thousands will suffice. We were the people of absolutes and truth, with God and His Word as a standard; now we think that all views are right, and you cannot say that other people are wrong. People do have a right to their own views, but there is only one truth. We need to be kind and polite, but that doesn’t extend to our giving credence to error. All of this has affected our theology, too. There is only one right interpretation of a Bible text, but we act like we are not really sure, and they just may be right. Instead of being a matter of black and white, truth has turned gray.

We wanted to be approved by them, and in doing so we became like them. The demise of the Bible college movement is a result of this terrible compromise. What do the intellectual heathen know about what God wants our academic standard to be? Herein is the great failure. In Christian education, we have divided life into secular and spiritual. That is our excuse for allowing men and women who hate our God and us to tell us how education is best accomplished. Of course, most every one of us reading this was trained to think with a liberal mindset, and that is why Christian education has become secularized. We act, think, talk, and smell like our culture rather than having the sweet smell of truth and holiness.

Shepherd’s Staff is prepared by Clay Nuttall, D. Min

A communication service of Shepherd’s Basic Care, for those committed to the authority and sufficiency of the Bible. Shepherd’s Basic Care is a ministry of information and encouragement to pastors, missionaries, and churches. Write for information using the e-mail address, shepherdstaff2@juno.comor Shepherd’s Staff

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Sunday School Syndrome

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Sunday School Syndrome

by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer
Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children.

The New Answers Book Boxed Set Shop Now
Everything I know I Learned in Kindergarten
—title of a best-selling book for adults.
This Sunday morning a familiar scene will play itself out at churches from coast to coast. Minivans and SUVs will open like pop cans in the parking lots of various denominations, spewing forth their contents of kids. With Bibles in one hand and car-seats in the other, parents will herd their excited children toward the doors. In the hallways, the kids will split up by age and be welcomed into classrooms full of laughter and life and hope. Teachers will embrace these kids as if they are their own for about 45 minutes. They will pour their hearts and souls into the children and teens with the help of videos, various curricula resources, Bible stories, crayons, crackers, CD music, computer graphics, flannel graphs, white boards, cookies, cotton balls, popsicle sticks, prayers, and pipe cleaners. . . . It all looks so safe and so healthy—an inseparable part of the fabric of spiritual life in the western world.

“Did you often attend Sunday school?”

yes. 61%
no. 39%
In our survey of 1,000 20-somethings who regularly attended church as children and teens, we asked the question, “Did you often attend Sunday school?” In reply, 61 percent said yes; 39 percent said no. That’s about what you would expect, isn’t it? After all, not everyone is committed enough to make the effort to get to Sunday school, right? Only those who are more concerned about the spiritual and moral health of their kids, right? Because we all assume that Sunday school is good for them, correct? The ritual of Sunday school is so interwoven into American church life that it’s hardly worth mentioning, right? Wrong. Our research uncovered something very disturbing:

Sunday school is actually more likely to be detrimental to the spiritual and moral health of our children.
Now before you react to this, please hear us out and consider the research—real research that is statistically valid and gives us a true look at what is going on.

Compared to the 39 percent who do not go to Sunday school, contrary to what many of you may believe, the research showed that students who regularly attend Sunday school are actually:

more likely NOT to believe that all the accounts/stories in the Bible are true/accurate.
more likely to doubt the Bible because it was written by men.
more likely to doubt the Bible because it was not translated correctly.
more likely to defend that abortion should continue to be legal.
more likely to defend premarital sex.
more likely to accept that gay marriage and abortion should be legal.
much more likely to believe that God used evolution to change one kind of animal into another.
more likely NOT to believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old.
much more likely to question the Bible because they believe the earth is not less than 10,000 years old.
more likely to doubt the Bible because of the secular dates of billions of years for the age of the earth.
more likely to have heard a pastor/Sunday school teacher teach Christians could believe in millions/billions of years.
more likely to question the earth is young and the days of creation are 24 hours each.
more likely to believe that dinosaurs died out before people were on the planet.
more likely to view the Church as hypocritical.
much more likely to have become anti-church through the years.
more likely to believe that good people don’t need to go to church.
Read that list again. No, we don’t have it backward. Yes, you’re reading it correctly. These results are extremely alarming—in fact, quite shocking. (I had to look at it several times before I could believe it.) They are so contrary to what we would have assumed that they should feel like a rude slap in the face. And remember, these findings were the result of probing questions by a leading researcher who knows how to gather data and statistically analyze it to give us a true picture of the situation.

This was our most stunning and disconcerting result of the entire survey. First, we found out that we were losing our kids in elementary school, middle school, and high school rather than in college. Then we found out that Sunday school is one of the reasons why. The “Sunday school syndrome” is contributing to the epidemic, rather than helping alleviate it. These numbers are statistically significant and absolutely contrary to what we would expect. This is a brutal wake-up call for the Church, showing how our programs and our approaches to Christian education are failing dismally.

Before we investigate this further, however, I want to say a few words to those of you who are committed to Christian education inside and outside of the church. My hat goes off to you. I thank you. I sincerely commend you for taking action and giving your time, skills, and best efforts to invest in the future generation. We are not questioning your dedication, intentions, or passion. In fact, we believe that your efforts are far too often taken for granted and never thanked enough. We don’t question your integrity and we certainly don’t doubt your sincerity. In our survey, less than half of the students said they came to Sunday school to see their friends. That means that you were their contact point. You are the ones who are sincerely trying to build a bridge for them into a healthy spiritual adulthood. The problem is that, by and large, what you are doing isn’t working. We need to ask some hard questions here. We need to be willing to swallow our pride, if necessary, as we find the answers. And we will offer solutions—real solutions—if the Church will take these findings to heart and be prepared to face the challenge head-on.

Disturbing Details
Three out of five individuals in our survey said they “often attended Sunday school.” Of those who attended Sunday school, over seven in ten said Sunday school lessons were “helpful.” Our results, however, disproved that perception.

In many situations, Sunday school didn’t necessarily hurt, but it certainly didn’t help. When asked, “Does the Bible contain errors?” sadly, Sunday school made no difference. (About 39 percent of each group said yes to this question.) When asked, “Do you believe you are saved and will go to heaven upon death?” there was almost no statistical difference— which really is very disconcerting. In most of the categories, there was such a slight difference between the “yes” or “no” answers of these two groups that the “I don’t know” answers became a big factor. The results show that Sunday school is actually having an overall negative impact on beliefs, even though these differences were often quite slight in a number of instances. The obvious conclusion is that Sunday school really had no impact on what children believed in these critical areas.

For example, when asked if they believed in the creation of Adam in the Garden of Eden, Sunday school had no significant effect on the answers. The same can be said for the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and Lot’s wife. The same can be said of Noah’s ark and the global Flood. Belief in the Tower of Babel was nearly identical. In these areas Sunday school did nothing—it wasn’t a help or a detriment. The numbers indicate that Sunday school actually didn’t do anything to help them develop a Christian worldview. In several other areas, as shocking as this sounds, the reality we have to face is that Sunday school clearly harmed the spiritual growth of the kids. Consider these questions:

“Do you believe that God used evolution to create human beings?”

yes. 24.6% of those who attended Sunday school
yes. 18.5% of those who did not attend Sunday school
“Do you believe that God used evolution to change one kind of animal into another?”

yes. 27.2% of Sunday school attenders
yes. 18.8% of those who did not go to Sunday school believed in this type of evolution
Toward the end of this chapter, we will give you an explanation as to why we believe such a situation exists.

It’s safe to say that Sunday school attendance is tied to higher percentages of belief in evolution. The same can be said about important moral issues.

“Do you believe that premarital sex is wrong?”

47.7% of students who did not attend Sunday school believe that premarital sex is wrong
40.8% of Sunday school attenders believe that premarital sex is wrong
And what about the main issue we are concerned about in this book? Why are our kids leaving the Church?

These next three findings may shock you because you would naturally feel those who attended Sunday school would have deeper religious convictions. However, we found the exact opposite.

“Do you feel good people don’t need to go to church?”

yes. 39.3% of Sunday school attenders
yes. interestingly, only 28.9% of non-attenders
“Do you feel the Church is relevant to your needs today?”

no. 46.4% of Sunday school attenders
no. Only 39.6% of those who did not attend Sunday school felt like church is not relevant to their needs today.
“Do you believe that you have become anti-church through the years?”

yes. 39.1% of those who attended Sunday school
yes. 26.9% of those who didn’t go to Sunday school
This should cause us to gasp. When compared to those who never went to Sunday school, more Sunday school attenders believe that good people don’t need to go to church, more feel like the church is less relevant, and more have become increasingly anti-church over the years.

The brutal conclusion is that, on the whole, the Sunday school programs of today are statistical failures.

Ouch!

I know that’s going to hurt many of you who are devoted and dedicated to these programs—as well as those of you who are depending on these programs to properly influence your children. I’m sure various Sunday school curricula publishers will want to become defensive about their resources. But listen, if you are depending on these programs to properly teach and influence your children, it is just not happening.

Out of the 1,000 interviews, 606 were former Sunday school students, and the Church failed these people miserably. As children and teenagers they were there almost every Sunday; they were committed and they were present; they heard the lessons and they nodded their heads . . . and it had a nominal and even negative effect on their faith.

If I were a church leader, I would first sit down and cry and pour my heart out to the Lord. And rightly so. I would then find a new Sunday school curriculum that better prepares young people to maintain their faith. These numbers would be telling me that I need to earnestly look at some radical changes, and I would be working hard toward doing what is needed to reverse this situation.

Taught but Not Caught
All of these numbers would be a little bit easier to accept if we had surveyed a broader cross-section of Christian churches. If these numbers included all of the nominal, liberal churches (particularly those that don’t even claim to stand on the Word of God), then these results would be a little bit more understandable. But they don’t. Remember what we said at the beginning about the type of person we identified for this survey. These results have come from the Christian education programs of the most dedicated, Scripture-affirming churches out there—imagine what the situation must be in the Church as a whole!

Is it a problem of not being taught? Considering these people came from conservative church backgrounds, consider these numbers from our research:

Of those who attended Sunday school, over 9 in 10 said that their Sunday school classes taught them that the Bible was true and accurate.
Only 1 in 10 said their pastor/Sunday school teacher taught that Christians could believe in Darwinian evolution.
One in 4 said their pastors and Sunday school teachers taught that Christians could believe in an earth that is millions or billions of years old.
Over 4 in 5 said their pastor or Sunday school teacher taught that God created the earth in six 24-hour days.
Only 1 in 16 said their pastors or Sunday school teachers taught that the Book of Genesis was a myth or legend and not real history.
Further,

2/5 said the Bible contains errors.
Less than 2/5 said they believe all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true and accurate.
Actually, as we will explain later on, there is a major problem with how they were taught. These people who went to conservative churches heard many of the right things for the most part (though the situation would be much less so on the whole), but did they “hear” in a way that equipped them to believe in their hearts what the Bible clearly stated, and were they equipped to be able to defend this teaching in the real world they live in?

Clearly, we do have a problem on our hands. The causes for the problems are many, but one thing is for sure: Sunday school isn’t solving it. High school is when we lost nearly half of this group; a big group was lost even earlier in middle school due to doubt in the accounts and stories in the Bible being true. Of those who don’t believe all the accounts and stories in the Bible are true and accurate, four in nine said they had their first doubts in high school.

As the astronaut exclaimed, “Houston, we have a problem!” We will look at our “problem” in great detail in the chapters ahead. Several major concerns will become evident: the concern over biblical authority, the history behind our descent into this abyss, and the great disconnect this has caused when people try to make a connection between their spirituality and reality. What are we going to do?

You will see later in the book that much can (and must!) be done. Great debate is raging right now about the future of Christian education programs. What are some of the ideas?

1. Should we eradicate?
This is a very extreme suggestion, but since we have an extreme epidemic on our hands, it needs to be at least discussed. A growing number of people within the evangelical church are suggesting that we do away with children’s and youth ministries altogether. Consider these thoughts from the Reformed Baptist Church blog site The World from My Window:1

It seems as if we are always trying to fix what is broken with youth ministry. Has it crossed anyone else’s mind that maybe youth ministry shouldn’t be fixed because youth ministry IS a major part of the problem?!

. . . Just in case you were wondering. I am not anti-youth or anti-youth pastor. My two brothers function in the role of youth pastors (including the famous Ken Fields). I was a youth pastor for six years and I am greatly concerned with the future of our younger generations.
Is that idea too radical? Could it possibly be an improvement to get rid of Sunday school and youth ministries altogether? That almost sounds blasphemous. After all, aren’t our concepts of “church” and “Sunday school” inseparable? Not necessarily. Just because our generation has always done it that way doesn’t mean that we have to continue to do it that way. George Barna and Frank Viola note that Sunday school isn’t even historical:

The Sunday school is also a relatively recent invention, born some 1,700 years after Christ. A newspaper publisher named Robert Raikes (1736–1811) from Britain is credited with being its founder. In 1780, Raikes established a school in “Scout Alley” for poor children. Raikes did not begin the Sunday school for the purpose of religious instruction. Instead, he founded it to teach poor children the basics of education. . . . The Sunday school took off like wildfire, spreading to Baptist, Congregational, and Methodist churches throughout England.2
Part of the concern is that the mere existence of youth ministry and Sunday school allows parents to shrug off their responsibilities as the primary teachers, mentors, and pastors to their family. The other part of the concern is that, again, what we are doing just isn’t working. If the existence of our Christian education programs in their current forms are certainly not helping—and in some situations even doing harm—why not dump them altogether?

However, we are not advocating eradication! We want to be solution-oriented, as you will see, so that we can effectively reach these young people with the truth of God’s Word.

2. Renovate
This recommendation isn’t quite so extreme—and it is one we recommend. Our children need more training, more nurturing, more teaching than ever—but we need to turn things around so Sunday school isn’t doing the opposite.

We believe it’s possible that the current Christian education programs within the Church don’t need to be eradicated, but they certainly need to be renovated. Churches need to appraise the teachers teaching Sunday School and ensure they know how to answer the skeptical questions and know how to teach apologetics—and know how to teach the age group being entrusted to them. It’s one thing to tell students what to believe, it’s another thing to teach and communicate that in a convincing and gripping way.

Churches need to totally reevaluate the curricula they use (including their VBS programs), and at the very least supplement at all age levels and all years with good apologetics curricula. And we are not just talking about creation apologetics—we mean general biblical apologetics as well. Most church-going adults cannot adequately defend the basics of their Christian faith or basic doctrines, let alone defend the faith against the skeptical questions of this scientific age. How many can really even properly answer questions such as: Where did the Bible come from? What does it mean to have faith? What does it mean that the Bible is inspired? Aren’t there other books that some say should be in the Bible? How do you know Jesus is God?—just to name a few. More and more curricula (such as VBS programs and supplemental curricula for different ages) that is apologetic in nature is being produced to begin to fulfill the above need. Some resources are described in the bibliography.

When we talk of “renovating,” we mean something much more aggressive than simply “redecorating.” A little updating isn’t going to do the job. The entire structure and focus of our programs need to be reconsidered; we need to be willing to make radical changes in the format and the style of these programs to determine how they can be most effective in teaching truth to our children and overcoming the issues that are undermining biblical authority in their thinking and driving them away from the Church.

Let’s be honest. Our entire culture (including secular schools) is aggressively teaching the apologetics of evolution and secular humanism. They teach our students how to defend a humanistic worldview, and they model that worldview. They show all the reasons that what they are teaching is supposedly true. The secularists are teaching our children how to defend the secular faith, and connecting it to the real world—and here we are in churches teaching wonderful Bible stories and reinforcing in their minds that they can believe the secularists and that the Bible is not really connected to the real world. No wonder we are losing them. (See the section for the Christian educator in chapter 7 which deals with solid curriculum for more details on the problems with Sunday school lessons.)

Unless the facts behind the Christian faith are clearly and convincingly communicated in a way that students can learn and remember, their faith will not stand the assault of doubt from the world. It’s not enough to just tell students, “Believe in Jesus!” Faith that is not founded on fact will ultimately falter in the storm of secularism that our students face every day.

In many cases, when we look at what is being taught in the Sunday schools, we’re just teaching on an inspirational or a moral level. The Sunday sermon usually dishes out more of the same. Neither one is providing the necessary support and education students need. In many cases, they are getting two lessons on a Sunday, and neither are really relevant to them. It’s not just the Sunday school, it’s the sermon, the VBS, it’s most of the teaching programs—they are not helping them in this postmodern culture where it is becoming the norm to attack and marginalize Christians. They are not coping—they are not able to cope—they haven’t been trained to cope.

Perhaps you agree with us that it’s going too far to eradicate, but hopefully you will agree it’s certainly time to renovate. Radical renovation is needed urgently. We are losing the next generation—we are losing the culture.

3. Don’t delegate
Listen carefully. We’re certainly not saying that Sunday school can’t be effective in teaching the truth about God’s Word. We’re just saying that in its current form it isn’t. If nothing else, a parent should look at these data and feel a rush of sober realization. If you, as a parent, have been putting the responsibility for the religious education of your child on your church’s Sunday school, you need to realize that the statistics say the job isn’t getting done. As we have seen, in many cases and for many different reasons, it’s not helping, it’s hurting. So this coming Sunday, don’t feel like you have absolved yourself of responsibility when you drop your child at Sunday school. This is your job. Do not totally delegate it to someone else—as, sadly, many parents seem to do.

Deuteronomy 6:4–10 and Ephesians 6:1–4 clearly exhort parents to teach, disciple, and train their own children. Regardless of what’s happening in the Sunday school youth groups, pulpit, and Bible studies of your church, the responsibility for ministry to our kids has never been removed from the parents. It’s time to pick that ball up again and jump in the game. James H. Rutz, in his thought-provoking book The Open Church: How to Bring Back the Exciting Life of the First Century Church, has the heart and the courage to take an honest look at the Sunday school ritual and test its effectiveness:

Take Sunday school for example. God’s plan for religious education is Dad. It’s a 4,000-year-old plan that’s worked like a watch since the days of Abraham. But if your weekly gathering doesn’t equip Dad to open his mouth at home and be a teacher of the Word—well, Sunday school is your next best bet. (Programming Dad would be easier.)3
I understand what this author is saying, but we would say it is actually a 6,000-year-old plan, going back to the first dad, Adam.

If your parents shirked their responsibility for training you spiritually, you will need to break the chain of biblical illiteracy and spiritual irresponsibility in your family tree. If your church hasn’t been stepping up to the plate to equip you, I would suggest a book I wrote with my brother Stephen, Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World—Leaving a Lasting Legacy.4 Steve and I had a great blessing of being raised by a father (and mother) who took creative and determined responsibility for teaching their kids from God’s Word, and living a biblical life. Our father, as the spiritual head of the house, stood uncompromisingly on the Word of God, determined to be equipped to answer the skeptical questions of the age, setting an example for his children that prepared us for the ministries we are involved in today. We would gratefully pass on to you what he passed on to us so that you can pass it on to your kids. Again, don’t delegate this. It’s one of the most rewarding and important aspects of being a parent. And do it right now. There’s no time to waste.

What is interesting to me is that a person who has not heard of the research being reported in this book, and who has never heard me speak on this topic, wrote to my brother Stephen after reading the book referred to above and said:

I read your book Raising Godly Children in an Ungodly World. . . . I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt greatly challenged as a Sunday school teacher. I just realized how many people went through Sunday school in Australia and came out of it, and never come back to church again. It makes me reevaluate the role that I played at our Sunday school, whether I am playing my part right, drawing children to know God or pushing them away from God without even knowing it. Your book came in just as a wake up call!
Not a Simple Epidemic
This Sunday, the ritual of Sunday school and teen ministry will again repeat itself. Through the data collected by Britt Beemer in this survey, we now know how typical Sunday school programs have affected our children. The Sunday school syndrome is a serious contributor to the overall problem of students exiting the Church. A true and urgent commitment to address the problem is probably more important than the specific solutions that are eventually implemented. Again, when 60 percent of our kids are leaving the Church, there will be no single solution to the overall problem—there is no single inoculation that will make us immune. The truth of the matter is that the epidemic affects each of us as individuals, because each of us is part of the greater Body of Christ. Together, working as a body, a multifaceted response to the disease can materialize. Lord willing, the mass exodus can be slowed, if not reversed, and be transformed into something new and more powerful than the typical, traditional forms we are now using.

Imagine if we started (in our homes and churches) raising generations of children who stood uncompromisingly on the Word of God, knew how to defend the Christian faith, could answer the skeptical questions of this age, and had a fervor to share the gospel from the authority of God’s Word with whomever they met! This could change the world.

In the next chapter, we will look deeper into the lives of those who are leaving the Church. What the numbers taught us about them will be essential as you move into the future and discern what you can do to address this problem. Let there be no mistake, it’s time to do something—it’s time for you to do something. If not, you might as well sleep in this Sunday. The statistics show that not going won’t hurt your kids one bit. In fact, they might be better for it.

Britt’s Bit: Not by Chance
You have to be careful with numbers. People often say, “You can prove anything you want to with statistics,” and they are partially right. As a consumer researcher, I’ve seen people use every trick in the book to try to prove their point no matter whether the data supported it or not.

For example, what if a politician told you that “70 percent of students in the country scored above the national average”? Would you believe him? Could you believe him? No way. The law of averages says that half the country will be above average. (The other half, of course, will be below average.)

A news anchor recently said, “Over half of Americans approve of abortion.” The truth is, only 38 percent approve of abortion, but 13 percent are still undecided. So by adding the undecideds with those who oppose it, they conclude that 50 percent accept it. A few years ago I was hired to conduct a study of 1,000 consumers across America. When we finished the survey we realized that we had omitted a question that the client really wanted. So, at our expense, we interviewed another 1,000 consumers with the original questions, plus the one new one. Amazingly, when I reviewed all the data from the two different surveys conducted within a week of each other, no answer varied more than 1.8 percent, well within the 3.8 plus or minus statistical error factor.

In this study, when we say that there is a difference between two numbers, we can prove that mathematically. When you hear statistics from other people, you’ll just have to be careful and double check to make sure that they aren’t twisting or fabricating what they are saying!

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“What is baptismal regeneration?”

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Question: “What is baptismal regeneration?”

Answer: Baptismal regeneration is the belief that baptism is necessary for salvation, or, more precisely, that regeneration does not occur until a person is water baptized. Baptismal regeneration is a tenant of numerous Christian denominations, but is most strenuously promoted by churches in the Restoration Movement, specifically the Church of Christ and the International Church of Christ.

Advocates of baptismal regeneration point to Scripture verses such as Mark 16:16, John 3:5, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, and 1 Peter 3:21 for biblical support. And, granted, those verses seem to indicate that baptism is necessary for salvation. However, there are biblically and contextually sound interpretations of those verses that do not support baptismal regeneration. Please see the following articles:

Does Mark 16:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does John 3:5 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does Acts 2:38 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does Acts 22:16 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does Galatians 3:27 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Does 1 Peter 3:21 teach that baptism is necessary for salvation?

Advocates of baptismal regeneration typically have a four-part formula for how salvation is received. They believe that a person must believe, repent, confess, and be baptized in order to be saved. They believe this way because there are biblical passages that seem to indicate that each of these actions is necessary for salvation. For example, Romans 10:9–10 links salvation with confession. Acts 2:38 links salvation with repentance and baptism.

Repentance, understood biblically, is required for salvation. Repentance is a change of mind. Repentance, in relation to salvation, is changing your mind from rejection of Christ to acceptance of Christ. It is not a separate step from saving faith. Rather, it is an essential aspect of saving faith. One cannot receive Jesus Christ as Savior, by grace through faith, without a change of mind about who He is and what He did.

Confession, understood biblically, is a demonstration of faith. If a person has truly received Jesus Christ as Savior, proclaiming that faith to others will be a result. If a person is ashamed of Christ and/or ashamed of the message of the gospel, it is highly unlikely that the person has understood the gospel or experienced the salvation that Christ provides.

Baptism, understood biblically, is an identification with Christ. Christian baptism illustrates a believer’s identification with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:3–4). As with confession, if a person is unwilling to be baptized—unwilling to identify his/her life as being redeemed by Jesus Christ—that person has very likely not been made a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) through faith in Jesus Christ.

Those who contend for baptismal regeneration and/or this four-part formula for receiving salvation do not view these actions as meritorious works that earn salvation. Repenting, confessing, etc., do not make a person worthy of salvation. Rather, the official view is that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are “works of obedience,” things a person must do before God grants salvation. While the standard Protestant understanding is that faith is the one thing God requires before salvation is granted, those of the baptismal regeneration persuasion believe that baptism—and, for some, repentance and confession—are additional things God requires before He grants salvation.

The problem with this viewpoint is that there are biblical passages that clearly and explicitly declare faith to be the only requirement for salvation. John 3:16, one of the most well-known verses in the Bible, states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” In Acts 16:30, the Philippian jailer asks the apostle Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” If there was ever an opportunity for Paul to present a four-part formula, this was it. Paul’s response was simple: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). No baptism, no confession, just faith.

There are literally dozens of verses in the New Testament that attribute salvation to faith/belief with no other requirement mentioned in the context. If baptism, or anything else, is necessary for salvation, all of these verses are wrong, and the Bible contains errors and is therefore no longer worthy of our trust.

An exhaustive study of the New Testament on various requirements for salvation is not necessary. Receiving salvation is not a process or a multi-step formula. Salvation is a finished product, not a recipe. What must we do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and we will be saved.

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MAY WE NEVER FORGET

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Matt. 27:45-54 MAY WE NEVER FORGET

Intro: It is proper and fitting that the church pause to remember the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to secure our liberty as citizens and to guarantee us the freedom to worship as we see fit. Since the Revolutionary War some 1,162,000 people have given their lives for our freedom. Countless millions more have served and suffered. May we never forget!

Still, there was a time when America did not exist. There will be a day when it will no longer exist. And, while we are grateful and thankful for the lives we memorialize this time of the year; we must remember that our very presence in this church today speaks of something far more eternal in nature. I never want to forget the price others have paid so that I might be free. But, even if I were locked in a dark dungeon today, I would still be free. Why? Two thousand years ago a man named Jesus paid the ultimate price to secure my liberty and eternal freedom when He died on the cross. I want to examine that sacrifice again today. Let’s look back to that day when Jesus died for us on the cross. Let us remember His sacrifice as we consider three aspects of His sacrifice that I pray we will never forget. I want to preach on the thought: May We Never Forget.

I. MAY WE NEVER FORGET THE CRUELTY

A. The Cruel Crown – Mt. 27:27-31 – The symbol of a rejected Sovereign (Ill. John 19:15 – The King of eternity came to the world He made and He was rejected by the very people He made in His image. They refused to have Him “reign over” then, Luke 19:14.)

B. The Cruel Crowd – Mt. 27: 39-44 – The symbol of a rejected Servant (Ill. John 1:11; John 19:1-16)

C. The Cruel Cross – Mt. 27:35-37 – The symbol of a rejected Savior (Ill. The sufferings of the cross – Psa. 22:15-18; Isa. 53:4-6; Psa. 129:3; Isa. 50:6; Isa. 52:14.)

II. MAY WE NEVER FORGET THE CRIES

A. A Forgiving Cry – Lk 23:34 – Jesus ends His ministry as He began it: in prayer. Ill. What He could have done. Instead, He exercised grace.

B. A Favoring Cry – Lk 23:43 – Even as He was dying, Jesus demonstrated the reason why He came into this world. He extended grace to one who was totally undeserving. (Ill. Eph. 2:8-9.)

C. A Family Cry – Jn 19:25-29 – Jesus took the time to provide for His mother. She had no, so He gave her someone. (Ill. The comparison with a Jewish wedding. Jesus was calling John into a covenant relationship with Mary. Did John fulfill it? I think so – John 20:10.)

D. A Forsaken Cry – Mt. 27:46 – When Jesus became sin on that cross, he was forsaken by the Father, Hab. 1:13. For the first time in all eternity, there was a loss of fellowship between the Father and the Son. (Ill. Father in Luke 23:34; Father in Luke 23:46; God in Matt. 27:46.) Jesus was judged as sin on that cross – John 3:36; Rom. 6:23.

E. A Fervent Cry – Jn 19:28 – Emphasizes His humanity. The One Who made all the water, suffered thirst for you. He did without physical water on that cross so that you might have a free drink of spiritual water, John 4:14; Rev. 22:17. His thirst was far more than merely physical, Ill. Psa. 42:1-3. He was forsaken by His Father so that we might be accepted in the Beloved, Eph. 1:6.

F. A Finishing Cry – Jn 19:30 – “It is finished” – Tetelestai – “To bring to a close, to end, to finish.” What was finished? His Sufferings; Satan, Sacrificial system, Sin’s Power, were all finished. This word was used by: Servants, Farmers, Soldiers, Artists, Merchants, Homeowners, Priests. Note that Jesus did not say, “I am finished.” This was the statement of a Victor, not a victim.

G. A Farewell Cry – Lk 23:46 – For a time the fellowship between Father and Son had been broken. Now, it is restored fully. Jesus has suffered at the hands of cruel men; now He recommits Himself to the loving hands of His Father. The word “commend” was a banking term. It meant “to deposit something of value”! Heaven’s greatest Treasure, Jesus, had been “withdrawn” and send to earth to “spend Himself” for lost sinners! He did so fully and upon completing history’s greatest “redemptive transaction”, He re-deposited Himself (now more valuable than ever) back into Heaven’s Bank and the Father’s Hand![i]

Notice that it was Jesus Himself that “gave up the ghost.” No man killed Him. He laid down His life freely for you and for me, John 15:13; John 10:17-18.

III. MAY WE NEVER FORGET THE CAUSE

A. Our Condition – Everyone in this world deserves to go to Hell. We are all sinners, Rom. 3:10-23 and we are already judged and doomed, Rom. 6:23; John 3:18. Jesus came to deliver us from that condition – Luke 19:10; Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 1:15; 2 Cor. 5:21; Isa. 53:5

B. His Compassion – Why did He do what He did on that cross? His mission can be summed up in one word: Love! He did what He did because He loves you, Rev. 1:5; Rom. 5:6-10; 1 John 3:16.

Conc: May we never forget! Fact is, we never will! If you go to Heaven, His presence will remind you, Rev. 5:6. If you go to Hell, regret will haunt you for eternity, Ill. Luke 16:25! Regardless of what you do with Jesus today, you will never forget what He did for you on the cross!

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Two Views on the “Sign Gifts”: Continuity Vs. Discontinuity

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Two Views on the “Sign Gifts”: Continuity Vs. Discontinuity

Introduction

On any given day of the week, Christians can be found debating with one another over the “sign gifts”–that is, the spiritual gifts of tongues, prophecy, miracles, and healings. The debates center on a simple issue: Are they for today or not? There is no debate about whether these gifts were a part of the first-century Church. That part is assumed by all who embrace the Bible as the Word of God. Rather, the debate is whether these gifts have continued or have ceased. There is no debate that certain spiritual gifts have continued to today, such as teaching, mercy, administration, service, etc. But whether the more overtly supernatural gifts continued is a different matter. Again, the issue is not whether God is still powerful enough to work such miracles. Rather, the issue is whether he does so through individuals as special emissaries of his power. There is no debate over God’s power, or even miracles. All true Christians know that miracles happen every day: every time a person places his trust in Christ the greatest miracle occurs, because that person’s eternal destiny has just done a 180. The Spirit of God has broken through the shackles of sin and freed that person to see Jesus as he really is. That person is born again, receives a new nature, is indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, and has begun a journey of progress toward becoming like Christ. What greater miracle is there than that? Further, Christians know that God still performs lesser miracles, such as miracles of healing,1 or any number of answered prayers. The issue of whether the sign gifts continue or not, then, has nothing to do with God’s power per se. But it has everything to do with the purpose of the sign gifts.

Continuity Vs. Discontinuity

This is more than fodder for an academic dialogue. To be sure, some theological issues are of that ilk. But not this one. If one Christian says that all tongues are of the devil and another says that you can’t be saved unless you speak in tongues, these two obviously will not have the richest fellowship. Each one will look at the other as still unregenerate. But even less extreme views can produce some distancing. If one person says that tongues is not of God (whatever its source), and another says that it is of God, then the first will view the second person’s spirituality as having some illegitimate elements to it, while the second will see the first as not letting God work in his life. In coming essays I will try to deal with these very pragmatic issues. (They are especially pragmatic when husband and wife, both Christians, have differing views.) But for now, I wish simply to explore one issue: the argument from continuity vs. discontinuity. I write this knowing full well that many Christians will get angered at what I am saying. I plead with you to listen and dialogue. We can only grow if we are charitable toward one another and submit to the Word of God as our final authority.

Those who argue that the sign gifts are for today generally hold to the argument from continuity. (They are called non-cessationists; within this group are charismatics and Pentecostals.) This argument essentially says that the sign gifts of the twentieth century are simply the sign gifts of the first century, that they have continued from day one unabated until today. Part of the argument derives its theology from the book of Acts, part of it from the New Testament as a whole. The sign gifts are everywhere, it is claimed. That is normative Christianity. And to the extent that we today are not experiencing these gifts, to that extent we are not experiencing the richness of the Spirit and the spiritual life that God intends for us to have.

There are others who argue that, with reference to these gifts, there is greater discontinuity than continuity. (They are called cessationists or non-charismatics.) Part and parcel of this argument is the nature and purpose of these gifts. This view claims that these gifts were essentially poured out on select individuals for the purpose of authenticating that God was doing something new. Surely the coming of Christ and the doing away with the Law and the inclusion of uncircumcised Gentiles into the spiritual community was radical stuff. When Jesus cleansed the temple and when he taught, his religious opponents wanted a sign. They knew that he was challenging the status quo. He had better back up his message with some miracles. So he gave them one big miracle: his own resurrection. End of discussion. Something new was afoot in Israel. God authenticated his message by raising him from the dead. Jesus invested supernatural authority in his own apostles (Matt 28:16-20) to bring this good news to the world. These apostles and certain others in the early church had a measure of some of these gifts. Whether they represent all Christians of all time or whether theirs was a special time and a special gift is the question.

I belong to the latter group. That is, I believe in a sufficient amount of discontinuity to warrant speaking of the sign gifts as having ceased. I will argue, in fact, that every true Christian has to belong to this latter category to some degree. I will offer two theses below, followed by several specific arguments backing them up.

Thesis One: To the extent that we see discontinuity between the first century and the twentieth in terms of the sign gifts, to that extent we are cessationists.

Thesis Two: The more we see discontinuity, the more we affirm that the purpose of the sign gifts was authentication rather than a display of normative Christianity.

All Christians hold to some measure of discontinuity, just as all Christians hold to some measure of continuity. But that there is any discontinuity at all is most significant: it indicates the Spirit of God is not working in exactly the same way today as he was in the first century. If so, then we must immediately ask: How normative is the book of Acts? Indeed, how normative are the sign gifts?

1. The Argument from the Close of the Canon

Only the radical fringe thinks that Scripture is still being written.2 Virtually all cessationists and non-cessationists agree that Scripture ceased to be produced with the death of the last apostle. With the death of John, the canon closed. What is the significance of this? Three things: (1) It is evident that the Spirit of God no longer is inspiring people to write Scripture. Hence, there is a measure of discontinuity between the first century and the twentieth. (2) Much of Scripture is prophetic in nature. In the least, a certain kind of prophecy apparently ceased in the first century (the kind that was of universal value to the Church). So one cannot simply say that prophecy continues today just as it did in the first century. (3) Significantly, many folks say that the biblical argument for the cessation of the sign gifts is inadequate. Ironically, these same folks are adamant that Scripture ceased in the first century. Yet the biblical arguments that the sign gifts have ceased are stronger than the arguments that the canon is closed. There is a certain inconsistency in their position. To be consistent, they should either affirm both the sufficiency of Scripture and the cessation of the sign gifts, or the inadequacy and incompleteness of Scripture and the continuation of the gifts. In fact, every time someone prophesies, they should have a discussion about whether such an utterance belongs in the Bible. That they don’t do this implicitly argues that they, too, are in some measure cessationists.

2. The Argument from Errant Prophecy

Some would counter the above by arguing that apostolic prophecy no longer takes place, but non-apostolic prophecy does continue. Further, they say, non-apostolic prophecy can have some errors in it, while apostolic prophecy is error-free. (This argument is used because charismatics and Pentecostals regularly admit that their prophets are not perfect; their messages sometimes miss the mark.) The argument as sometimes presented is rather sophisticated and has some pretty decent scholars to back it up. However, it falters at three points: (1) This presupposes that non-apostolic prophecy in the NT was mixed with error, yet the passages used to prove this point don’t yield such an interpretation naturally. (2) There is a pragmatic problem with the possibility that modern-day prophecies can be mixed with error. When a so-called prophet says, “Thus saith the Lord,” the recipient of such a message ought to be able to bank on it. But there may be error in the message. How much is allowable? Perhaps the message is something like, “John, you need to quit your job and apply to General Motors.” What if the prophet got it garbled from the Lord and the message was supposed to be, “John, you need to quit jogging around the General Motors plant?” or “John, you need to quit your job and apply to General Mills”? Obviously, errant prophecy gives the recipient little confidence and may, in fact, have disastrous results. (3) This point involves a key text. The argument is a bit difficult to follow, but important to think through. The key passage is Ephesians 2:20. There Paul says that the Church is built on the foundation “of the apostles and prophets.” The Greek construction is such that it almost surely views two distinct groups (apostles, prophets) or two overlapping groups (probably “apostles and other prophets”).3 If either of these is correct, then the Church is built, in part, on non-apostolic prophets. And if that is the case, then non-cessationists have a problem: Either the foundational prophets of the Church mixed error with truth (in which case, the New Testament itself is error-prone and is no longer our final authority) or else non-apostolic prophets were, like the apostles, without error in their prophecies. If the former is affirmed, then the Bible is abandoned as the final authority; if the latter is affirmed, then modern-day prophets do not have continuity with the first-century prophets. In short, if one embraces the Bible as authoritative, then one rejects modern-day prophets. Such prophets have no continuity with the first century.

3. The Argument from Faith-Healers

Several months ago, I was at a conference on pneumatology (the doctrine of the Holy Spirit). At the conference cessationists and non-cessationists were discussing their differences, in the midst of a broad confession of unity. There, some faculty members at a major Christian university stated that their founder never claimed to be a faith-healer. Yet, he had gone on thousands of crusades throughout the world, allegedly healing people in the name of Jesus. I asked for a clarification. They said that he had the gift of faith and that they knew of no one who had the gift of faith-healing today. By saying that he had the gift of faith, they admitted that when he prayed for someone that person did not always get healed. I believe that the gift of faith still exists today. It is not one of the sign gifts. What was curious in this discussion, however, was that these professors at a Pentecostal university knew of no one today with the bona fide gift of faith-healing. (Sure, they knew about several folks who claimed to have the gift. But they were as skeptical about these folks as most of the rest of us are.) Hence, they inadvertently agreed with cessationists that what was going on in the first century is not the same as is going on in the twentieth. In other words, by their own admission, they embraced discontinuity when it came to the sign gifts.

4. Miscellaneous Arguments for Discontinuity

There are several other arguments on the side of discontinuity. Some of these will take time to develop, but at least they should be put out on the table for discussion. First, where are the miracle-workers today? The gift of miracles (i.e., miracles that were other than healings) existed in the first century. But where are the miracle-workers today? Second, in the early church the gift of discernment was heavily employed. Today, although there are pockets of discernment here and there, by and large the charismatic movement caters to gullibility–so much so that one is often scorned and viewed as unspiritual if he raises questions about legitimacy or proper use of a particular supernatural manifestation. Third, many non-cessationists claim that the biblical basis for the sign gifts as a normal manifestation of the Spirit is to be found in Mark 16:9-20, especially verses 17-18. We will address in some detail this passage in a later essay, but suffice it to say here that the text is most likely not a part of Mark’s gospel. The earliest manuscripts do not have these verses and the earliest patristic writers indicate extreme doubt about their authenticity. The vast majority of New Testament scholars today (including non-cessationist scholars) believe that these verses were added by a later hand. And even if these verses are part of Mark’s gospel, it is probable that they speak of the sign gifts as authenticating signs, not normative manifestations. But all this is for a later time.

Conclusion

Continuity or discontinuity? In several major ways, there is discontinuity between the first century and the twentieth century as far as the sign gifts are concerned. This certainly raises questions about the legitimacy of such gifts today. We have not even addressed the historical evidence that after the first century those who have practiced the sign gifts have almost always been on the fringes of orthodoxy. From the second century until the beginning of the twentieth, such manifestations were almost unheard of in orthodox circles–yet God somehow was able to bring about great revivals (not to mention the Reformation) without such gifts taking center stage. How is that possible if they are normative expressions of the Christian faith?

Having said all this, a word of counsel must be added. Some readers will surely read into this piece an angry tone or a statement that their entire spiritual experience is illegitimate. Neither could be further from the truth. My concern for believers is borne of pastoral motives; it does not come from a a vendetta. I am deeply concerned about postmodernism’s impact on the Church with its elevation of personal experience as the final authority for life. At the same time, I believe in the bigness of God. He is sovereign over all the affairs of life. None of us has it all together. No one has a corner on the truth. I think that charismatics do a lot that is right and cessationists do a lot that is wrong. We can learn from each other. I have already addressed this in brief;4 I plan to suggest some other, very specific points in later essays (some of which may well surprise my cessationist friends). But suffice it for now to say that if someone has embraced Jesus Christ as his or her Savior, then that person is in the universal body of Christ. And that means that we have much more in common than not.

1 The distinction here between God performing miracles and the continued existence of sign gifts has to do with the empowerment of the individual. Those who argue that the sign gifts have ceased do not argue that miracles have ceased. But they do argue that God is no longer granting individuals special powers to perform such miracles at will.

2 To be sure, there are some groups that claim to have their own prophets who have written inspired books. But such groups are always otherwise heretical. And they usually center around one strong personality who has brain-washed them into thinking that they have the truth with a capital T. We usually call them cults.

3 The construction in Greek is a plural personal article-noun-kai-noun construction. In the singular such a construction follows “Granville Sharp’s rule.” And Sharp’s rule indicates that both nouns would refer to the same person. But nouns in the plural do not fit Sharp’s rule. For example, “the men and women” in Acts 17:2 or “the Pharisees and Sadducees” in Matt 3:7 are plural personal constructions. Yet, it is obvious that men are not the same as women and Pharisees are not the same as Sadducees.

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Pelagianism

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Pelagianism
Pelagianism views humanity as basically good and morally unaffected by the Fall. It denies the imputation of Adam’s sin, original sin, total depravity, and substitutionary atonement. It simultaneously views man as fundamentally good and in possession of libertarian free will. With regards to salvation, it teaches that man has the ability in and of himself (apart from divine aid) to obey God and earn eternal salvation. Pelagianism is overwhelmingly incompatible with the Bible and was historically opposed by Augustine (354-430), Bishop of Hippo, leading to its condemnation as a heresy at Council of Carthage in 418 A.D. These condemnations were summarily ratified at the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431).

Pelagianism (QuickTime), by Ron Nash
Discussion

Pelagius was a monk from Britain, whose reputation and theology came into prominence after he went to Rome sometime in the 380’s A.D. The historic Pelagian theological controversy involved the nature of man and the doctrine of original sin.

Pelagius believed that the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin (the Fall) were restricted to themselves only; and thereby denied the belief that original sin was passed on (or transferred) to the children of Adam and thus to the human race. Adam’s sin merely “set a bad example” for his progeny and Jesus “set a good example” for mankind (thus counteracting Adam’s bad example). Pelagianism teaches that human beings are born in a state of innocence with a nature that is as pure as that which Adam was given at his creation.

As a result of his basic assumption, Pelagius taught that man has an unimpaired moral ability to choose that which is spiritually good and possesses the free will, ability, and capacity to do that which is spiritually good. This resulted in a gospel of salvation based on human works. Man could choose to follow the precepts of God and then follow those precepts because he had the power within himself to do so.

The controversy came to a head when Pelagian teaching came into contact with Augustine. Augustine did not deny that man had a will and that he could make choices. But, Augustine recognized that man did not have a free will in moral issues related to God, asserting that the effects original sin were passed to the children of Adam and Eve and that mankind’s nature was thereby corrupted. Man could choose what he desired, but those desires were influenced by his sinful nature and he was unable to refrain from sinning.

Pelagius cleared himself of charges, primarily by hiding his real beliefs; however, at the Council of Carthage in 418 A.D., his teachings were branded as heresy. The Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D., again condemned Pelagian doctrine and it was banished in the Greek portion of the church. However, in the West, the teachings held on, primarily in Britain and Gaul.

Pelagian teaching was replaced with Semi-Pelagianism which sought a middle ground between Pelagianism and Augustinianism, but it too was condemned at the Second Synod of Orange in 529 A.D. However, elements of Semi-Pelagianism continued in the Western (Roman) church. It emerged again after the Reformation in modified form in Arminianism which was rejected by the Reformed churches at the Synod of Dort in 1618-1619 A.D.

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