Friday, September 12, 2008

must we sin?

I used to believe that Romans 7 was part of the normal Christian experience, and while that interpretation may be correct, I now accept the interpretation that in keeping with the rhetoric of that time, and with earlier Ante-Nicene church fathers, it reflects all humankind in Adam, breaking a single command not to covet the fruit God forbade from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and in so doing- yielding to deception of the serpent.

I have good friends just as knowledgeable and equally committed to Scripture who disagree with me on this. And I can find good in thinking through ramifications if the interpretation they hold to is true. That when we're struggling over a sin issue in which we seem bound, or can't or won't get victory- and such can be over long periods of time, as most all of us know firsthand- we can be assured we're still in the grace and favor of the Lord. That he is working, and even can be pleased with us. Though for me, it can make a most murky and troubling experience.

I also know that they agree with what I'm going to say in this post that follows, with the exception of this thought: a seminary professor who is part of our church recently told me something like this: there is a perfectionist tendency in Paul's writings in how Christians are to live with the possibility of them fulfilling that. That seems to fly in the face of Paul never being able to do what he wants to do, and doing the very things he hates. When talking about himself in Scripture that would never occur to a reader as a problem he had. Unless of course, you interpret Romans 7 in an Augustinian/Luther and hence afterwards the traditional way.

I believe in Jesus that we can be shaped more and more into his image. That we are no longer under the law, but under grace. A grace which transforms us. That we are no longer in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if the Spirit of Christ lives in us.

For me this makes a big difference. I no longer have to sin in thought, word and deed all the time. Though I actually believe we do sin in thought, word and deed daily. There is a true tension between what we already have in Christ, and what is yet to come. Remember that sin includes not only what we do that is wrong, but what we leave undone, or fall short of in God's will. Why do we still sin? Because in a certain sense we still are sinners. If we still sin it's hard not to deny that the sinner label fits us. But one distinction between those born of God and those not born of God is that the former practice righteousness, while the latter practice sin- as general characteristics of each. In another way we're now righteous in Christ, and this righteousness, while legal in justification is also accompanied by a righteousness in our lives which is a part of what we call progressive sanctification, or holiness.

I believe we're all helpless unless we walk in the Spirit, unless we know it's all of grace, and not of the law, in fulfilling the requirement of the law. As we learn to abide in Christ, the life we live is no longer our own, but of Christ in us. Yet we live it, it's unique to each one of us, and expressive of Christ in unique ways from each of us in his Body.

Those who hold to the other, Augustinian view (but see all of Augustine's work on Romans 7) of Romans 7 do not deny any of this truth. And indeed their understanding of Romans 7 may give them more hope in the midst of sin than those who deny that interpretation. Like disputed passages each interpretation has its difficulties as well as its strength.

But the point here is that in Jesus by grace through faith we can live lives that are pleasing to God and fulfill the requirement of the law, to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Limited by our creaturely status and perhaps by sin (many believe even our best works are always tainted by sin, though while I think that's often true, I don't see why it always has to be so).

Kind of a heavy post, and especially for a Friday as we look forward to weekend. But what thoughts might you have on this?

32 comments:

Odysseus said...

Good thoughts, Ted.

My own thinking is this: we don't have to sin. But, sometimes, we can't help it. It's like a person who is addicted to drugs. They don't have to do drugs but they do. It gets to a point where the 'drug user' is who she becomes but not who she really, deeply, is. She has forgotten who she is at her deepest level. What I see Jesus doing is REMINDING us of who we REALLY are. Of offering a way out of the slavery BACK TO are true selves. Jesus didn't come to give us a NEW or DIFFERENT humanity but to set us free from the humanity we have become. He came to set us free. Released from the prison of sin means that we are no longer slaves to sin.

However, just like every other addiction, it takes time for us to go back to who we really are. It's like this: if one were to become lost, what is the guide? To retrace your steps. Now, that might mean taking a long journey BACK through dangerous territory, but that is the only way out. That is what Jesus offers. The difference this time, as you stated, is that the Spirit is there to guide us. We aren't on our own this time. We have our Shepherd guiding us back to true pastures.

Peace be with you.

OD

Lanny said...

Ted I think you're right by questioning the standard interpretation of Romans 7. I had way to much to say about it, I am sure there is a word limit on comments. But mostly what I think about it is not important here. What is important is what The Word of God says about it. A proper reading of the whole of Romans, not taken through our filters of experiences, excuses and distraction of comfortable (but not righteous) living.

This subject seems to keep coming up for me and I am sure that I will be thinking of it today and tomorrow will need to write about it but for now I encourage you and yours to read it in context, with all of Romans and all of the Gospels and all of the other Epistles. And not in context of our crippling experiences.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Oddysseus,

Thanks. I agree. And I've thought a bit on what you talk about more, here.

So true that sin is addictive, and also that addictions are not only big in our society but can be big in Christians lives. But no, I don't see that this means we can't work out of them. Or get victory over them, as many can testify otherwise.

Thanks!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Lanny,
I agree, and actually a reading of Romans in context is one of the arguments for the reading of Romans 7 suggested here. But I'm sure both sides would argue the same (ha!).

Douglas Moo, considered by many to have the foremost evangelical commentary on Romans
today holds to this view, having departed himself from the traditional view. And N.T. Wright holds something like it, while Ben Witherington holds to the said view stated here. Actually since the 1970's and scholarship in the New Perspective, this ante-Nicene view has picked up some traction.

In no way whatsoever do I ever believe at all in reading Scripture in the light of my experience and letting that dictate its meaning. We surely must read Scripture in context. In the immediate context, in that of the book- Romans in this case, etc., all the way to context of the entire Bible, for sure.

There is no possible way I would see this view as foolproof. And I'm not advocating that we can become sinless in this life, either. And it's a difficult subject.

I do believe we read Scripture in the light of Scripture as well as in the light of tradition, reason and experience. It is the word of God but it's likewise a human book- both at the same time- thus unique. So we read it in a human way. Of course we need the Spirit.

So whatever you might say on it, Lanny, I'll be most interested. I would suggest you look over Douglas Moo on it (and if you have time, give Ben Witherington a look). Just my suggestions. The Moo work on Romans I have is this one.

I look forward to whatever you have to say on this.

Thanks.

preacherman said...

Ted,
I believe as long as we live in this cursed world we will sin. I believe as Christians we must strive to be like Christ. We must stirve to be holy as He his holy I think Peter said something to that effect in one of his letters. John stresses in one of his letters that if we confess our sins God is faith and will forgive us of our transgressions. Wonderful do know isn't it. I wake up everyday pick up my cross. I calls us to and demands us to do it. Thank you Ted for mentioning this topic. Love you brother and hope you have a great weekend.

Every Square Inch said...

Ted - we don't have to sin as liberated sinners but we do anyway - all of us do

Thanks for the post

Litl-Luther said...

Ted,
As you know, I completely disagree with your interpretation of Romans 7. In fact, I see no textual justification for it. And your interpretation goes against Paul's counterpart to the Romans 7-8 discussion: Galatians 5: the war between flesh and Spirit.

But you ask why we still sin: Because our flesh is yet to be redeemed. The redemption of our bodies will not occur until Christ returns. Until then, we are stuck in these "bodies of death" until He comes or until we die. That's why Paul continued to sin as a Christian and why Christians continue to sin as Christians.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Triston,
In Galatians Paul says we are not to live in the flesh and that those who do the practices of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God.

We're to walk in the Spirit. We're not to be in bondage to practices that God's word says will exclude those who practice them from the kingdom.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI,
Agreed on that.

I also think we may not be sinning by grace, but God brings something else into our lives to stretch us so that we'll grow more or in a needed area of growth- and that new dynamic will open us up to new challenges which we'll sometimes fall short in regard to.

Just a theoretical thought.

Of course when I speak of sin, I am thinking of acts of known sin. Sin is sin, and all must be covered and is in Christ. But known sin is what God holds us accountable for.

Odysseus said...

Well, let's look at it this way: Did Christ set us free from sin or not? Look at what Paul wrote in Romans 6. While I understand all too well about the 'now and the not yet', I think this is coming down to where we place the emphasis (like the debate between predestination and free-will; both are in Scripture). There are some who want to emphasize ONLY the sin while others ONLY the freedom. But they are both in the Bible. There has to be a balance. We have to BELIEVE that we ARE set free from sin.

Furthermore, by way of story, if I have a daughter and all I tell her is that she is horrible and disrespectful and worthless and on and on, how would we expect her to live? Why, she would live what she has be (for the lack of a better term) 'programmed' be. Likewise, if all we do is cut out the knees of Christ work but saying that we can NEVER be without sin until the resurrection, we are not giving anyone any hope of actually living without sin.

To go back to the addiction story: if an addict is ONLY told that she will always do drugs because that is her real nature, that is who she really is, then that is all she will do and be. BUT, if we tell her that the drugs aren't really who she is at the deepest level, that she is an image bearer of God, that, yes, there are terrible things deep within her, BUT deeper still is the light of God, she will be given some hope of over coming her addiction.

Likewise, if all we do is tell people that who they are are 'sinners' then that is all they will be and all they will strive to be. We shouldn't be shocked by what we see on the news. When we are conditioned to think that we are animals, then we should not be surprised when we act like animals.

Lastly, concerning context: we MUST start in Genesis 1-2. That is who we are at the deepest level. Most of the time, people only go back to Genesis 3. But the story is already in full swing by that point. To find out who we really and truly are, we MUST go back to Genesis 1 and 2. That is the way Jesus is leading us. He is leading us back to our true selves through the shedding of his blood and the power of his spirit.

Peace be with you.

OD

Ted M. Gossard said...

Well stated, OD.

I like the point that we need to get back to Genesis 1 and 2. Important, along with Genesis 3.

And also your point that we become what we're told we are. If we're nothing but dyed in the wool sinners, than certainly our faith will never extend to reach God's promise for us in Christ of deliverance from sin in the here and now.

Thanks.

Litl-Luther said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Litl-Luther said...

Can someone show me where the term free-will is in the Bible? I've never come across it. It is conspicuously missing from the Scriptures.

Ah, but you will say, "Yes, the word freewill is not there, but the concept is. See how many times God tells people they must believe, they must repent? Surely this is proof.”

But proof of what? Proof that God commands things, but not proof that men are capable of obeying what He commands. The 10 commandments are the same way: God commanded them, but no one but Christ has obeyed them perfectly. Everyone has broken His commandments. And the same is true for repenting and coming to Christ. God commands it, yet no one is capable of repenting or coming to Christ without God doing the first work of regeneration in the person.

Free-will ended when Adam sinned. What people have are enslaved wills, not free-wills. They have wills enslaved to sin, but thanks be to God He has set us free when He made us alive, making it possible for our wills to finally be free.

Litl-Luther said...

With a post titled "Must we sin?" I'm just curious how you understand 1 John 1:8 "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

Are you saying that it is possible for Christians to mature to the place in their walk with the Lord where they can stop sinning altogether?

debragossard@gmail.com said...

As Christians we are not to let sin "reign in our mortal bodies"; but are also reminded in Ephesians 4:22-24 to "put off" our "old self...to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness."

Ted M. Gossard said...

Triston,
My comment to ESI above will answer your last question.

As to the free will question, it is true that apart from grace none of us will ever repent and believe. The question among Christians has been what that grace means or involves. Not at all that anyone can do it on their own.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI,
looking at my comment to you above, it's not like I'm teaching you. I feel silly at such a thought! Only expressing thoughts on this.

Litl-Luther said...

Hi Ted,
Since you agree that no one will come to Christ apart from God's work of grace in them, would you then also agree with me that freewill is a myth? I know people make free decisions all the time, but when it comes to spiritual matters--decisions for God, they are not free, but rather are captive to Satan to do his will (2 Tim. 2:25-26).

If you do a study on "will" for instance, you might be surprised how many times the Scripture speaks negatively: When we were born of God, it was NOT by our will (John 1:13). No one is able\capable of coming to Jesus unless the Father draws him to Jesus (John 6:44). The weight of the word for draw is very strong. It means "to drag" throughout the NT. Our election is NOT by our wills (Rom. 9:16). Jesus says all people are slaves to sin, but He can set us free. (John 8:34-36). It is not our wills that bring us to Jesus, but it is Jesus’ will that brings us to Himself (John 5:21).

What amazes me (not just here at this blog but throughout the Church) is how quickly people will nonchalantly make the comparison of Predestination and freewill, as if both are equally taught in Scripture. But freewill is not taught in Scripture. Rather enslaved wills to sin and Satan are taught in Scripture and it is only Jesus who can set us and our captive wills free.

I make an issue of this because so many in the church throw out this freewill mumbo jumbo as if it is true, but the implication of saying it is true is to take away credit from Christ for a great work He does in us. HE frees our wills. It is His work. There is no such thing as freewill in non-Christians, but rather, wills enslaved. Our wills too were enslaved and Jesus set us free, but by proclaiming "freewill", as if it even existed(!), we are taking credit away from Christ for an incredible work of salvation He does in our wills.

Triston

Ted M. Gossard said...

Triston,
I agree that no person can choose God and the gospel of their own free will.

At the same time the call of the gospel is a call to all people everywhere to repent, so that in the miracle of grace people can be included in the "whosoever will" of Romans 10 and Revelation 22.

Also I never compared free will and predestination, and my take on that would be different than you state.

And sorry. I'm not becoming a Calvinist. :)

Litl-Luther said...

It was Odysseus comment (9/13 11:26) that sparked my post on freewill.

Ted, I don't want you to become a Calvinist brother. I like you just the way you are.

Odysseus said...

Ted, I'm not trying to high-jack the post with my comments and the responses to predestination and free-will, but I would like to address the comments.

Tristin,

I used to be a 'calvinist' but I am not anymore. I am in neither camp. Both concepts are clearly taught in Scripture. What is surprising is that BEFORE Augustine, the church NEVER taught the sovereignty of God the way Augustine did. And, for the record, Augustine was a manichaeist before he became a Christian. The interesting thing here is that Rome outlawed manichaeism by penalty of death. The manichaen tradition was a gnostic one that taught matter was evil and only the spirit was good. Isn't it amazing that that was what Augustine taught? Did you know that his doctrine of 'original sin' came from that belief?

Furthermore, did you know that Pelagius was not found guilty of heresy on several different occasions? Every time he was there to defend himself, the church sided with him and against Augustine. Only when Augustine went to the state and had him exiled from Rome did the church follow along. And Pelagius was not there to defend himself.

To state that 'free-will' is not in scripture because the word is not found in the Bible is like stating that Jesus never went to the bathroom because the Bible doesn't tell us that.

The concepts of predestination and free-will are all over the place in the Bible. Isaiah 10 is the best example, not to mention all of the 'free-will' offerings that go on in the OT.

Lastly, I tire of this debate. I have been on your side for such a long time and just have recently found a great balance. There is a mystery here and we mere mortals can't grasp it. Again, look closely at Isaiah 10.

Oh, one more thing...I completely believe that there is all sorts of sin and falseness deep within people. However, deeper still, is the light of God.

Peace be with you.

OD

Litl-Luther said...

OD
I personally would never defend Pelagius. There is a decent chance he and Finney are swimming partners in the lake of fire. Both are clear heretics, who teach works-righteousness.

I don't get my theology from Augustine or Calvin, but rather, I get it from the Apostle Paul. So you are wrong. The church did teach the sovereignty of God long before Augustine, through the Apostle. Moreover, it is not "Augustine's doctrine of Original Sin”--it is Paul's doctrine, clearly taught in Romans 5.

Are you here denying the fundamental Christian doctrine of Original Sin?

There are three imputations in Scripture:
1.) The imputation of Adam's sin to the human race;
2.) The imputation of our sin to Christ, and
3.) The imputation of Christ's righteousness to us who believe.

Only heretics such as Pelagius and Charles Finney deny these imputations.

You can believe in the myth of freewill. Many Christians do. I prefer to base my beliefs on Scripture, which teaches an enslaved will to sin and to Satan’s will. There are I’m sure 50 verses I could list to make the case. But what is the point? Even one, if understood correctly, will suffice: “Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.” (John 8:34)

No hard feelings though; it is just my conviction.

Odysseus said...

Tristin,

I was only pointing out the historical context for you. Before Augustine, the church did not have a doctrine of original sin and sided with Pelagius. That was the point. The Jews do not have a doctrine of original sin, either, as taught by Augustine. Furthermore, I'm not saying that we don't sin. Never have. I'm saying that deeper than the sin (Genesis 3) is the life and light of God (Genesis 1-2). And that this 'either/or' only distorts the wonderful diversity of God.

Concerning being slaves to sin: Jesus was talking about things BEFORE the cross. AFTER the cross, St Paul wrote, 'We know that our old sinful selves were crucified with Christ so that sin might lose its power in our lives. WE ARE NO LONGER SLAVES TO SIN' (Romans 6.6). So where do we stand NOW in the whole scheme of things? Paul continues, 'Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to sinful desires' (v.12). This solidifies my point. People do not have to sin. We are no longer slaves to sin and do not have to 'give in to sinful desires'. It is through God's grace that this happens, I don't think anyone is arguing that. But, again, if we only focus on our sins, what kind of followers of Jesus will we be? We must focus on what Christ has done and how we can live without sin. Did Christ set us free from sin or not? Are we no longer slaves of sin? If we have not been set free from slavery, then Christ died in vain.

Grace and Peace to you.

OD

Litl-Luther said...

OD,

You are completely right in that though we were slaves, Jesus sets us completely free. I do believe freewill is restored in the Christian, similar to Adam before he sinned (though we are still in the sinful flesh; Adam was in an uncorrupted body when he chose to sin, so we do have an added struggle he did not have before he sinned).

What you are saying is true OF CHRISTIANS. But it is not true of unbelievers. They are still blind, deaf, spiritually dead and have no inclination whatsoever to come to Christ--not until God does a powerful work of grace in them--resurrection from spiritual death.

The things you are speaking of are the wonderful fruit that results in the life of born again people. But none of these things are true in unbelievers.

"Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." (Romans 14:23) This is a radical indictment of all natural "virtue" that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God's grace. Everything they do is the product of rebellion and cannot be an honor to God, but only part of their sinful rebellion.

You are referring back to "what was" before the Fall. But what is the reality after the Fall--what is the reality now in "unbelievers" (not Christians but unbelievers)?

"Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5)

Total depravity.

But Jesus does free us from this slavery. Amen to that.

Odysseus said...

Tristin,

I didn't think that Ted was addressing 'unblievers' in his post but those who claim to follow Jesus.

Furthermore, 'total depravity' can not erase the light of God in creation. The Gospel of John clearly states that darkness can not over come light. Sin, the devil, whatever, can not completely remove the light and life of God. If sin can so competely destroy the light of God, then 'God' is no go at all.

Mind you, I have not always held this belief. Like you, I was a Calvinist through and through. I, too, could quote chapter and verse to support my view. However, God has recently graced my sight with the freedom of people and God's sovereignty. Like a Celtic knot they are twisted together to form one reality.

Peace to you.

OD

Litl-Luther said...

Sorry OD,
But I still don't feel that you have given even a hint of evidence of this "light of God" in men that the Fall cannot erase. Yes. There appears to be emptiness in people, which makes them grope for God in various false religions. God has also given a sense the exists in people according to Rom. 1 and His laws have been written on their hearts, Rom. 2. But you are saying much more than that, I think.

Explain to me if you would how you understand the text I quoted to you (Gen. 6:5) "every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." This text really leaves no room for this light you speak of.

And I am not saying men do not seek God, but we must give God the credit for it. And that, to me, is exactly what you are arguing against (unless I’ve misunderstood you). All I am saying is that the good things men do, such as seek God, comes because God does a work of grace in people. But you seem to be saying that this is something they can do without His work of grace (much like Pelagius taught, whom you seemed to defend earlier). I'm not trying to put words in your mouth. I am just trying to give God His rightful due. I don't believe men can take a good step in faith forward toward God unless God does a work of grace in them first, and this is what preserves all the glory of our salvation for God alone, and to say contrary to this is to give glory to man which belongs to God alone.

PS: Looks like I got us off track from the original post...wouldn't be the first time.

Blessings in Christ,
Triston

Odysseus said...

Tristin,

This will be last post on this topic. I feel that we can do this all day! After all, this debate has been waged for quite a long time and better people that we have not succeeded.

However, I will say a few things. First, to the 'light of God' within people. I completely agree that all light is a grace from God. God, and God alone, places it there. That is my exact point. We have this light because we are created by God. To assert that this light of God can be erased by ANYTHING is to label that anything greater than God. Not even the power of humankind can do this. However, that is what the doctrine of 'total depravity' wants us to believe. That people, created things, have more power than God. That they have, through some pact with another created thing (the devil), have actually thwarted God by completely removing God's light from us (and all of creation). To this, I can no longer agree. As for 'proof', I will cite a few passages of Scripture. However, the point I have been making is that one of 'seeing'. That is, BOTH views are taught in Scripture but more times than not, we tend to emphasize only one. But, you have already used a couple of passages that I hadn't thought of. Romans 1 and 2 are good places. I was primarily thinking of St Paul in Athens. In Acts 17, he is recorded as saying, 'Men of Athens, I notice that you are very religious in every way, for as I was walking along I saw your many shrines. And one of your altars had this inscription on it: "To an Unknown God." This God, WHOM YOU WORSHIP WITHOUT KNOWING, is the one I’m telling you about...His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist. As some of your own poets have said, "We are his offspring." AND SINCE THIS IS TRUE, we shouldn’t think of God as an idol designed by craftsmen from gold or silver or stone' (Acts 17.22-23, 27-29).

A couple of things here, that I emphasized with all caps, is that St Paul stated that the people of Athens were actually worshiping God. He even quoted one of their own poets and agrees with the poet that people are the 'offspring' of God. While this does not exactly 'prove' light in people (simply because it doesn't state it), nevertheless, I think it is a good indication of that light.

Furthermore, there are several passages that state that people kept the law of God and they were completely righteous concerning the law (the parents of John the Baptist, come to mind). Again, no one is saying that this is without God's grace. It is only by God's grace that we live and breath.

Concerning Pelagius and 'works without Grace': Have you ever read any of the works of Pelagius (outside of Augustine)? Before we can simply write him off as teaching that people don't need grace (which HE NEVER TAUGHT), then we might want to read some of his works. Again, he was brought before several different church councils and the church sided with Pelagius EVERY TIME (Even Augustine liked him at first. It wasn't until Pelagius started questioning Augustine gnostic views that they became opponents).

Concerning Genesis 6.5: This simply means that the people of Noah's time were intent on evil. This obviously doesn't mean ALL people for Noah was considered 'righteous' in his generation. For us to use this verse (out of context) to prove that all people everywhere are filled with such evil 'continually' is absurd. I know from my own experience that I do not think like this. It is only of God's grace that I do not.

Concerning giving God 'his' rightful due: I completely understand. Too often we are prone to pat ourselves on the back. However, we should not cut off humanity in the process. God works THROUGH people to implement God's redemption of creation. If humanity was such an evil thing, then God would not have become human. Jesus did not come to give us a foreign humanity but to remind us of who we really are, at our deepest level. We are children of God. And it is only by God's grace that we can go back to that place.

Finally, perhaps we should continue this conversation in private so as not to take up Ted's web space. If you are willing, you can reach me at odysseusjak at gmail dot com.

Peace be with you.

OD

Litl-Luther said...

OD,
Who believes this nonesense you speak? : "that is what the doctrine of 'total depravity' wants us to believe. That people, created things, have more power than God. That they have, through some pact with another created thing (the devil), have actually thwarted God by completely removing God's light from us."

Who actually believes God's plans were thawarded, except Arminians? And they are who deny Total Depravity. What you said makes absolutely no sense.

God ordained the Fall of Man, for His own glory.

There you go again defending the heretic Pelagius! Pelagius was a British layman and ascetic, active in Rome in the late fourth century. He introduced into the stream of Christian theology a system of beliefs that has continually resurfaced in the life of the Church, particularly in the West. Augustine contended with Pelagius and his teachings and the latter was declared to be heretical by the Council of Carthage in 418. (See Kenneth Latourette, A History of Christianity, Vol.I. (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1975), pp.173-181)

Pelagian theology can be summarized in the following points:

1) There is no such thing as taint or sin passed on from Adam to his progeny.
2) Humans have true and absolute free will.
3) Humans can initiate and instigate salvation in their own power, without influence of divine grace or the Holy Spirit.
4) Therefore, people are in essence the authors of their salvation.

Pelagius’ system was characterized by
… an insistence on the adequacy of created human nature, essentially unimpaired by Adam’s fall, to fulfil the will of God; (a theology that appears much like yours OD!), the denial of original sin as either guilt or corruption transmitted from Adam to all mankind; the highest moral and spiritual expectations of the baptized Christian who must be capable of a life of perfect holiness, because God commands him thereto; and an understanding of the gifts of grace that excludes, or at best drastically minimizes, that enabling power without whose inner working we can do nothing acceptable to God. (Sinclair Ferguson and David Wright, editors, New Dictionary of Theology (Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), pp.499,500. For Pelagius’ own words on the relevant subjects see Henry Bettenson, ed. Documents of the Christian Church (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1967), pp.52-54.)

Pelagian views were examined by the Church in history and found wanting. His theology was censured first in 411 at Carthage, more fully at the Councils of Carthage in 417 and Ephesus in 431.

Pelagius was a heretic then; he's a heretic now as are all who teach his heresies today.

OD, I'm happy to not speak with you on this subject again.

Odysseus said...

Just a little clarification regarding Pelagius.

Pelagius (c. 350--418) was a British theologian, teacher, writer and soul-friend who settled in Rome. He was highly spoken of at first--even by Augustine. He taught about the value of soul-friendship. He celebrated the fact that the goodness of God cries out through all of creation, for 'narrow shafts of divine light pierce the veil that separates heaven and earth'.

But soon he was criticized for teaching women to read Scripture, and for believe that the image of God is present in every new-born child, and that sex is a God-given aspect of our essential creation. He did not deny the reality of evil or its assault on the human soul, or the habitual nature of sin. Augustine's own peculiar ideas were in stark contrast, seeing humanity as essentially evil, and polluted by the sexual activity which causes conception to occur.

Augustine tried twice in 415 to have him convicted of heresy--on both occasions Pelagius was exonerated in Palestine. In 416 Austine and the African bishops convened two diocesan councils to condemn him and Celestius, another Celt. In 417, the Bishop of Rome called a synod to consider the conflict, and declared Pelagius' teaching entirely true, and urged the African bishops to love peace, prize love and seek harmony. They ignored this, and in 418 they persuaded the State to intervene and banish Pelagius from Rome for disturbing the peace. The Church then was obligated to uphold the Emperor's judgment, and excommunicated and banished him, though no reasons were made clear.

From 'Celtic Daily Prayer'; pg. 135.

Litl-Luther said...

OD: Now I see why you have been so deceived: All the fabrications in the 'Celtic Daily Prayer'. Good example of "itching ears", if you know the text.

If you are hell-bent to take up the cause of the heretic Pelagius, I suppose I should also be willing to take up the role of Augustine and seek to have you convicted of heresy.

Litl-Luther said...

The following text reminds me of you OD. Not to be offensive but it does. I think this is what is going on here:

"For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables." (2 Tim. 4:3-4)

Litl-Luther said...

I was thinking how ironic Jesus' words are if compared to your insistence, OD, that all men have the light of God in them:

This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. (John 3:19-20)