Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Disagreeing With Theological Giants

This probably isn’t as in depth as the original, which for some reason disappeared into the ether… great!!!! All thanks to MSN Spaces, where this was originally posted back in 2005.

I think my understanding of spiritual condition and sin is radically different from the versions put forward by both Augustine and Pelagius.

My understanding of “original” sin, is that the guilt for it lies solely with the original perpetrators, but the consequences of it still lie with us. Augustine would probably agree with this but the buck probably stops there.

Augustine would have us believe that our nature is changed to one of evil, that without baptism, we are all doomed from birth; even infants would not escape hellfire. This doesn’t fit with scripture, because scripture teaches us that we are judged by the light we receive. I think that people who have not developed a proper understanding of right and wrong, are not held accountable. God is completely righteous, completely loving and completely just.

Pelagius believed that our nature was essentially good, and that God would not call us to be good if we didn’t have the means within us to achieve this in the first place.

I disagree here with both of them. I agree our nature changed, but not in a sense of good or evil, just in attitude.

What we lost as a race when we fell, was not our capacity to do good, it was our ability to be in direct fellowship with God. This meant that we were made much more susceptible to evil desires. We were acting independently of God. It means that we cannot have a proper relationship with God though, one without true union. Although this makes us sinful, it doesn’t make us inherently evil by nature. Sin, as I have mentioned before came from an archery term meaning “to fall short”. In this state, how we fall short is up to us. We can try and keep God’s commands (but we will fail at some point), or we can openly rebel against God. However, in the final analysis… without God’s intervention both paths unfortunately end in destruction.

As an example, think of a broken tooth that becomes rotten. The break itself will not cause death, but it will attract more tartar and plaque which will lead to it’s death through rotting. We can obey God’s Law (which I suppose is equivalent to brushing your teeth and flossing), or we can openly rebel by refusing to do that and worse… eat sugary foods that we know are harmful.

By observing God’s will for us in our actions, we “clean our teeth”, by acting in rebellion to God we hasten our spiritual demise.

However, observance of the Law in itself is not sufficient (because we will always fail to some degree). The damage done to us means the eventual balance will lead to spiritual death. What we need is something that plugs the gap in our broken tooth.

That, would be Jesus. By dying for our sins, he restored the gap in our broken tooth. No, even more than this… he recreated us in his image, we are new creations… complete in god’s sight through Christ’s sacrifice. We can still sin of course, and that will harm the eventual condition of the tooth… but it will never rot to a point where it dies. This is why it is important to avoid sinning… scripture clearly teaches us that after death, Christians are still accountable for what they do with their salvation, it’s just that the eventual discipline does not result in eternal death.

Where Augustine believed mankind is fundamentally bad, Pelagius believed that mankind’s nature was fundamentally good. I believe that mankind is fundamentally broken, but has a diverse nature… Many of us are on the whole good, many essentially bad… but when we have reached that certain point of accountability in our life, we ALL require divine grace in order to attain salvation.

Both Pelagius and Augustine were of their time, as was Calvin… so I try not be too hard on them.

Calvin used the scripture “those God foreknew, he predestined” to propagate the idea that God only bothers trying to save a lucky few. If that were true, how would you explain the parable of the sower? Or the fact that according to Peter, Jesus preached to the Flood dead?

I find that teaching completely abhorrent. I believe that God loves and reaches out to all, equally and without discrimination. He does this despite the fact he knows people will reject him. This is perhaps the most tragic yet moving thing about his love for us. You might be an atheist from the cradle to the grave, and God will know this... he will know the fruitlessness of reaching out and attempting to save you... but do you know what, even with a 0% possibility of you choosing to accept him... he still reaches out.

There is a much used statement about Christ's sacrifice that is true: If by dying he could only save one person, and that person was you... he'd still do it.

What I believe is also true, is that even if NOBODY had chosen to accept his gift of salvation, he would still have offered it.

Pelagius, Augustine and Calvin all have to some degree or other, valid points. However, they all fall short because they do not have a proper understanding of how time works. They all favour either free will or destiny, without trying to properly explain the role of the other they have rejected.

God is outside of and yet permeates time completely. To him, all the past and all the future is happening in the present tense (can you even imagine the complexity of that?). He knows and loves you to the very core of your being. He knows every choice you have made, and will make, and why you made or will make them. He knows the way you will jump in every conceivable scenario, even when the interaction of others is involved. Each person’s individuality from the dawn of time till the end of days is taken into consideration; we therefore all have free will and the freedom to make any choice we wish. However, God also has a complete and perfect plan for the human race, which we all play our part in. So we have a destiny

That is the beautiful paradox. We are both completely free and completely destined. Recently I came across a proverb, which I believe backs this idea up:

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” - Proverbs 16:9

So based on my conclusions here and in other blog entries, I believe if I had existed at some point between 300 and 1700 AD, I would have been burned at the stake by at least one denomination.

So on a heresy rating of 1-10, where do you guys rate me? If you think I’m wrong, tell me. If you have your own comments on the thoughts of Pelagius, Augustine and Calvin… do tell. If I’ve gotten anything out of context please comment.

Blessings and regards


1 comment:

  1. Nick thanks for your comments on my Blog regarding this issue. I was pointed at this website:
    as a good read on the subject from a Calvinist point of view. It goes some way to explaining how Calvinists reconcile election with the Love of God, worth a read. I am looking for a good read from a more Arminian point of view to find some sort of Balance!

    All good brain scrambling stuff!


The ideas and thoughts represented in this page's plain text are unless otherwise stated reserved for the author. Please feel free to copy anything that inspires you, but provide a link to the original author when doing so.
Share your links easily.