Recently I struck a “raw” nerve with Bart Barber, Tim Rogers, Wes Kenny, and Robin Foster over the issue of Pelagian beliefs in the SBC. I say that I struck a “raw” nerve with these guys because after posting a comment over on SBC Today saying that the “vast majority of Southern Baptist hold Pelagian beliefs of some sort or another…” Tim Rogers sent me an email to inform me that my comments were going to be “Censored” and Wes Kenny posted a comment on my Blog telling me that I was more than likely going to be banned from posting on SBC Today.
Now, I’m a big boy and I really don’t care if they ban me from posting on SBC Today or not, after all it is their blog and they can do as they please. However, I am a somewhat concerned by the extreme reaction of these Landmark guys over at SBC Today and I intend to post an article about that issue in the next few days. But really I am not all that concerned because neither of these guys are very influential in the SBC, nor is the Landmark movement they are a part of likely to gain many converts with these guys as the head of it’s PR department.
So, what is Pelagianism and is my comment that the “vast majority of Southern Baptist hold Pelagian beliefs of some sort or another…” true?
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 overhwhelmingly 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).
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. (source: Theopedia.com)
That the vast majority of Southern Baptists hold to Pelagian beliefs of some sort or another is without question. Regardless of how embarrassed and uncomfortable some of my Landmark friends might be over my stating this publicly, it is nevertheless absolutely the truth as the above definition of Pelagianism makes it all to plain to see.
Here are the major areas of agreement between what Pelagian taught and what most Southern Baptist believe today:
1st - Pelagianism views humanity as basically good.
Most Southern Baptist view humanity (human nature) as basically good - This can be seen in that the majority of Southern Baptist believe that the “Will” of man is absolutely free to choose what is good or what is evil. And while most would not deny that there are evil people in the world, most would attribute their being evil people in the world due to the evil choices they have made, and not because they are by nature corrupt.
2nd - Pelagianism denies the imputation of Adam’s sin.
Most Southern Baptist deny the imputation of Adam’s sin – This can be seen in that most Southern Baptist believe that children are born in a state of innocence, just as Pelagian taught, and only become guilty before God after they commit actual sin. Pelagianism is the ideology behind the so called “Age of Accountability” which most Southern Baptists have adopted in order to explain how children dying before they make a profession of faith can go to heaven.
I am sure that better theologians than I can give a far more complete list of shared beliefs between Pelagian and the majority of Southern Baptist today, however I believe I have effectively proven my point.
Now, the question is; “why are my Landmark friends so embarrassed by me stating this truth in public?” I think I understand why, but what do you think is the reason for their obvious embarrassment?