Monday, March 9, 2015

Pelagianism in The Banner of Love

"I will say that there is no gospel in telling men what they must do or can do to be saved and if they fail they will be damned for their lack of doing it.  To call on dead sinners to repent and believe the gospel implies there is an ability in them to perform such acts." (Ricky Harcrow, "If salvation is by free grace why preach the Gospel?", Banner of Love Feb. 2015)

When I read these words from the current issue of The Banner of Love for the first time my first impulse was to do as usual.  I would rebut this anti-gospel nonsense by asserting that warnings and exhortations are an essential component of the gospel of Christ, and that the second statement is blatant Pelagianism, pure and simple! But then my mind turned to where it often goes nowadays.  I began to think of all the indoctrinated souls that would be receiving this teaching in the mail and accept it without question.

This happens a lot.

Ever since the Lord delivered me from the heretical position I used to occupy, I think of my former acquaintances quite often.  Most of the time I am overcome with sadness for I know the things that they are being taught.  I think of the many friends I made while among them; and how they, not being as learned in the deeper things of theology as they ought, are simply unaware that these words are condoning one of the major errors that faced the early church!  They will swallow this 'command implies ability' teaching hook, line, and sinker.  Oh, how sorrowful I become when I think of the hundreds of souls who are being taught Pelagianism and know it not!!

And one stands in wonder how anyone could assert that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ contains no exhortations to being saved or warnings if they fail to comply with its terms! How much of the teachings of Jesus and that of Paul are immediately cast into the wastebasket when such a position is maintained?  Why, they are both full of exhortations and warnings!  The New Testament would essentially have to be re-written were such the case.

What we’re seeing is the full germination of what began as a small seed in the mid-19th century.  A ministry concerned only with “feeding the sheep” and comforting those “already regenerated” took off about this time. Elder John Watson took notice of this sad omission in the ministry of his contemporaries, writing: 

“But the worst deviation of all is, that of our not exhorting both saint and sinner as enjoined in the word of God. A gospel without exhortations may not be 'another gospel' but it is not a full one; it would want many things which the Lord has ordained for the good of his people.  Our cold doctrinal, non-exhorting way of preaching, has doubtless already produced bad results.”

"A gospel without exhortation; without a call on the sinner to repent and believe; a gospel which does not in word address itself to all; is not the gospel which Christ ordained subordinately for the bringing in of his 'other sheep'."

Much of this anti-evangelistic spirit results from the belief that effectual calling through the means of the gospel is not compatible with the depravity of man.  It naturally follows then that the elder's next statement would be to assert that calling upon the lost to repent and believe implies they are capable of doing so:

"To call on dead sinners to repent and believe the gospel implies there is an ability in them to perform such acts."

This is nothing but sheer unadultered Pelagianism for it is clearly affirmed that commands imply ability!

Excuse me but they most certainly do not.  A command only illuminates what a person is obligated to perform, and not what they are able to do.  To command the lost to come to Christ “no more implies that fallen man has the power (in himself) to come, than ‘Stretch forth thine hand’ implied that the man with the withered arm had ability (in himself) to comply” (Arthur W. Pink).

I suspect that my deceived “Primitive” Baptist friends are totally oblivious to the fact that they are regurgitating the same philosophy as the 16th century Dutch humanist Erasmus.  However, instead of using it to deny the total depravity of man as he did, they opt for the only perceived alternative by shifting the gospel call to this side of regeneration where the man is now able to comply.  Though the end result is different, they both stem from the faulty reasoning that ability is the limit of obligation. It is for that very reason why Martin Luther, who thoroughly refuted the claims of Erasmus, can be of help to them. His grand work The Bondage of the Will is just as much a refutation of Hardshell Pelagianism as it is of Erasmus’s version.  Here’s a recommended sampling.

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