February 23, 2010
CORRECTING THE DISTORTIONS OF OUR TEACHING
Recently, our church has been embroiled in a discussion about Pelagianism - that is, the heresy which denies the biblical teaching about the corruption of all human nature, brought about by the fall of our first parents.This discussion has raised by several direct challenges to the teaching of the church, and has been accompanied by several gross misinterpretations of what it is that we actually do teach.
I hope that these misrepresentations are not intentional, they are serious, in that a church is only valid to the extent that they are the custodians of the "faithful Word", holding the "mystery of the faith", which was "Once and for all delivered to us by the apostles" of our Lord Jesus Christ. What is the church, after all, if not "the pillar and ground of the truth"? Therefore it is urgent that we clearly respond to the misrepresentation of our teachings, point by point.
* We are said to teach that people "must sin of necessity", and that "sin is inevitable" because of the sin nature. This is not true; we have always taught that indeed the sinner (unregenerate person) must sin of necessity, in fact we believe that everything a person does, before they are born again, is a sin - because "Whatsoever is not of faith is sin" (Romans 14). But we have always insisted that a born again person has a choice not to sin, they don't have to sin now that they are partakers of eternal life - indeed just last summer we spent several weeks teaching out of Romans 6 that for the believer, "Sin shall not have dominion over you for you are not under law but under grace". Jesus came to destroy sin in our lives - its power as well as its penalty!!
* We are accused of believing that the sin nature is a genetic condition - This is an absurdity! BIG has always insisted that sin is spiritual and moral, that the physical world was made by God and called "Good", even though marred by the fall, ie: the bondage to corruption and decay (Romans 8:20-30) and that there can only be a spiritual solution to it.
* We are called by our detractors "Augustinians" - Actually other than Augustine's testimony, I have never read Augustine, nor have I even once cited Augustine. My belief in "original sin" is derived from the Word of God. Calling us Augustinians is a tactic, designed to debase our teaching. It would be easier to refute someone claiming Augustine's authority, than it would to honestly deal with our scriptural arguments. I am a Christian pastor, not a Roman Catholic.
* We are accused of citing original sin as an excuse that we give people for sin! This is preposterous to anyone who has heard the constant teaching of this church. We know that all men everywhere are accountable and without excuse for their own sin, transgressions and iniquity. Anyone that has heard our teaching knows we don't excuse any man's sins, but solemnly warn all of the coming day of judgment.
* We are accused of saying that we are held guilty of the sin of Adam - this is also a distortion. We will answer for our own personal sins, not Adam's. What we have insisted is that Adam's sin has affected us, in that there is a solidarity of the human race, "As in Adam, all die...". All men were "constituted sinners" by the sin of Adam, and they prove it by individualy repeating the sin of Adam - by the disobedience of the one, the many were made sinners - this is the clear teaching of Romans 5.
* We are accused of "proving original sin by refferring to the doctrine of original sin" - in other words 'circular reasoning'. This is very exasperating because we have cited numerous scriptures which those who wish to challenge the validity of the teaching of this church have never been able to answer.
* Where is the doctrine of 'original sin ' in the scripture?
Paul tells us that we were "By nature children of wrath" in Eph 2:3. David testifies to us that "Behold I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin that my mother concieved me" in Psalm 51, And in Psalm 58 we are assured that "The wicked are estranged from the womb,they go astray from birth, speaking lies in hypocracy". The very plowing of the wicked is sin according to Proverbs. If sin is always a choice to break God's law, why is the very plowing of the wicked sin? Sin is more than a choice, it is also a status, a state of being, out of which the host of particular sins emerge. Jesus told us that we must be born again, (John 3) we must recieve a new nature - why? The old nature is "corrupt according to decietful lusts." Eph 4. By believing in God's promises, we become "partakers of the Divine nature" according to Peter. Furthermore, Jesus told us that it is man's heart that is evil, not just his actions -Mark 7 - man needs a new heart, which can only be given him by God - Ezekiel 36 and John 1:12-13.
* We are accused of "criminalising God" by teaching that though men's nature has been corrupted in the fall, men are still held fully accountable for their individual sins against God. I believe brother Jason Scmidt has given the best response to this calumny, in his response to the charge -
This is the foundational error of the arguments that I have heard in our discussions and in what I have read about Palagianism. It presumes that we can somehow measure God's justness or unjustness with our human centered measuring stick, and then comes up with conclusions and reinterpretations of the scripture for the purpose of denying that our sense of justice might be off base. God understands that this is where we as sinners originate, and allows it to a point, specifically to the Cross. We finite mortal beings can not reasonably sit in judgement on the infinite God who is so much more than we will ever know. We can however judge what he did in taking our form, suffering and even dying a horrible death for us while we reviled him, fulfilling the scriptures, and being raised from the dead. If we can look at that and find him trustworthy in motive and in ability, then maybe we can let go of trying to judge those things that are beyond our ability to understand.
Anyone can set up a straw man, and then knock it down , pretending to be a defender of faith - but God knows what is in men's hearts. It is not fair to misrepresent the teaching of a church, and hard to accept coming from people who know all too well what the actual teachings are. It is a serious thing to seek to undermine the teaching of a christian church, challenging the very validity of the church. Especially is it so, when the teaching is distorted. Alas, as it is written,"Only by pride cometh contention".
Grace and Peace ~
Pastor Bill Randles