Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Ten Effects of Believing in the Five Points of Calvinism

Ten Effects of Believing in the Five Points of Calvinism
by Dr. John Piper 
(April 20, 2002)

These ten points are my personal testimony to the effects of believing in the five points of Calvinism. I have just completed teaching a seminar on this topic and was asked by the class members to post these reflections so they could have access to them. I am happy to do so. They, of course, assume the content of the course, which is available on tape from Desiring God Ministries, but I will put them here for wider use in the hope that they might stir others to search, Berean-like, to see if the Bible teaches what I call "Calvinism."

1. These truths make me stand in awe of God and lead me into the depth of true God-centered worship.
I recall the time I first saw, while teaching Ephesians at Bethel College in the late '70's, the threefold statement of the goal of all God's work, namely, "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14).

It has led me to see that we cannot enrich God and that therefore his glory shines most brightly not when we try to meet his needs but when we are satisfied in him as the essence of our deeds. "From him and through him and to him are all things. To him the glory forever" (Romans 11:36). Worship becomes an end in itself.

It has made me feel how low and inadequate are my affections, so that the Psalms of longing come alive and make worship intense.

2. These truths help protect me from trifling with divine things.
One of the curses of our culture is banality, cuteness, cleverness. Television is the main sustainer of our addiction to superficiality and triviality.

God is swept into this. Hence the trifling with divine things.

Earnestness is not excessive in our day. It might have been once. And, yes, there are imbalances in certain people today who don't seem to be able to relax and talk about the weather.

Robertson Nicole said of Spurgeon, "Evangelism of the humorous type [we might say, church growth of the marketing type] may attract multitudes, but it lays the soul in ashes and destroys the very germs of religion. Mr. Spurgeon is often thought by those who do not know his sermons to have been a humorous preacher. As a matter of fact there was no preacher whose tone was more uniformly earnest, reverent and solemn" (Quoted in The Supremacy of God in Preaching, p. 57).

3. These truths make me marvel at my own salvation.
After laying out the great, God-wrought salvation in Ephesians 1, Paul prays, in the last part of that chapter, that the effect of that theology will be the enlightenment of our hearts so that we marvel at our hope, and at the riches of the glory of our inheritance, and at the power of God at work in us – that is, the power to raise the dead.

Every ground of boasting is removed. Brokenhearted joy and gratitude abound.

The piety of Jonathan Edwards begins to grow. When God has given us a taste of his own majesty and our own wickedness, then the Christian life becomes a thing very different than conventional piety. Edwards describes it beautifully when he says,

The desires of the saints, however earnest, are humble desires: their hope is a humble hope, and their joy, even when it is unspeakable, and full of glory, is humble, brokenhearted joy, and leaves the Christian more poor in spirit, and more like a little child, and more disposed to a universal lowliness of behavior (Religious Affections, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1959, pp. 339f).

4. These truths make me alert to man-centered substitutes that pose as good news.
In my book, The Pleasures of God (2000), pp. 144-145, I show that in the 18th century in New England the slide from the sovereignty of God led to Arminianism and thence to universalism and thence to Unitarianism. The same thing happened in England in the 19thcentury after Spurgeon.

Iain Murray's Jonathan Edwards: A New Biography (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1987), p. 454, documents the same thing: "Calvinistic convictions waned in North America. In the progress of the decline which Edwards had rightly anticipated, those Congregational churches of New England which had embraced Arminianism after the Great Awakening gradually moved into Unitarianism and universalism, led by Charles Chauncy."

You can also read in J. I. Packer's Quest for Godliness (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1990), p. 160, how Richard Baxter forsook these teachings and how the following generations reaped a grim harvest in the Baxter church in Kidderminster.

These doctrines are a bulwark against man-centered teachings in many forms that gradually corrupt the church and make her weak from the inside, all the while looking strong or popular.

1 Timothy 3:15, "The church of the living God [is] the pillar and bulwark of the truth."

5. These truths make me groan over the indescribable disease of our secular, God-belittling culture.
I can hardly read the newspaper or look at a TV ad or a billboard without feeling the burden that God is missing.

When God is the main reality in the universe and is treated as a non-reality, I tremble at the wrath that is being stored up. I am able to be shocked. So many Christians are sedated with the same drug as the world. But these teachings are a great antidote.

And I pray for awakening and revival.

And I try to preach to create a people that are so God-saturated that they will show and tell God everywhere and all the time.

We exist to reassert the reality of God and the supremacy of God in all of life.

6. These truths make me confident that the work which God planned and began, he will finish – both globally and personally.
This is the point of Romans 8:28-39.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? 33 Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died- more than that, who was raised- who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, "For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered." 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

7. These truths make me see everything in the light of God's sovereign purposes – that from him and through him and to him are all things, to him be glory forever and ever.
All of life relates to God. There's no compartment where he is not all-important and the one who gives meaning to everything. 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Seeing God's sovereign purpose worked out in Scripture, and hearing Paul say that "he accomplishes all things according to the counsel of his will" (Ephesians 1:11) makes me see the world this way.

8. These truths make me hopeful that God has the will, the right, and the power to answer prayer that people be changed.
The warrant for prayer is that God may break in and change things – including the human heart. He can turn the will around. "Hallowed be thy name" means: cause people to hallow your name. "May your word run and be glorified" means: cause hearts to be opened to the gospel.

We should take the New Covenant promises and plead with God to bring them to pass in our children and in our neighbors and among all the mission fields of the world.

"God, take out of their flesh the heart of stone and give him a new heart of flesh" (Ezekiel 11:19).

"Lord, circumcise their hearts so that they love you" (Deuteronomy 30:6).

"Father, put your spirit within them and cause them to walk in Your statutes" (Ezekiel 36:27).

"Lord, grant them repentance and the knowledge of the truth that they may escape from the snare of the devil" (2 Timothy 2:25-26).

"Father, open their hearts so that they believe the gospel" (Acts 16:14).

9. These truths reminds me that evangelism is absolutely essential for people to come to Christ and be saved, and that there is great hope for success in leading people to faith, but that conversion is not finally dependent on me or limited by the hardness of the unbeliever.
So it gives hope to evangelism, especially in the hard places and among the hard peoples.

John 10:16, "I have other sheep that are not of this fold, I must bring them also. They will heed my voice."

It is God's work. Throw yourself into it with abandon.

10. These truths make me sure that God will triumph in the end.
Isaiah 46:9-10, "I am God and there is no other. I am God and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, "My counsel shall stand that I will accomplish all my purpose'"

Putting them altogether: God gets the glory and we get the joy.


By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: www.desiringGod.org.
Email: mail@desiringGod.org. Toll Free: 1.888.346.4700.
 
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Christians and the Sabbath

This is a good article about the Sabbath and how it points to the reality of Jesus Christ who becomes our Sabbath.  We "rest" in Christ.  This is another example how everything points to Christ.  We had a similar discussion in Sunday School yesterday going through the book of Romans Chapter 1 and talking about the Law.  The main question that was being asked was "is the Gospel really necessary to be heard for people to come to faith in Christ?"  How do you think I responded to that question?  That was Pandora's box to me to all kinds of other questions and there really wasn't a lot of time left in the class to get a good handle on it, but it was a good discussion.   I'm looking forward to next week.

Grace and Peace,
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!



Pulpit Magazine

New Article from Pulpit Magazine


Christians and the Sabbath

Posted: 28 Jul 2008 02:01 AM CDT

Must We Keep the Sabbath?Are the Sabbath laws binding on Christians today?

We believe the Old Testament regulations governing Sabbath observances are ceremonial, not moral, aspects of the law. As such, they are no longer in force, but have passed away along with the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and all other aspects of Moses' law that prefigured Christ.

Here are the reasons we hold this view:

Bullet Point In Colossians 2:16-17, Paul explicitly refers to the Sabbath as a shadow of Christ, which is no longer binding since the substance (Christ) has come. It is quite clear in those verses that the weekly Sabbath is included, with the phrase "a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day" refering to the annual, monthly, and weekly holy days of the Jewish calendar (cf. 1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 31:3; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11).

Bullet Point The Sabbath was the sign to Israel of the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 31:16-17; Ezekiel 20:12; Nehemiah 9:14). Since we are now under the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:7-13), we are no longer required to observe the sign of the Mosaic Covenant.

Bullet Point The New Testament never commands Christians to observe the Sabbath. On the other hand, each of the other nine commandments are reiterated in the New Testament.

Bullet Point In our only glimpse of an early church worship service in the New Testament, the church met on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7).

Bullet Point Nowhere in the Old Testament are the Gentile nations commanded to observe the Sabbath or condemned for failing to do so. That is strange if Sabbath observance were meant to be an eternal moral principle.

Bullet Point There is no evidence in the Bible of anyone keeping the Sabbath before the time of Moses, nor are there any commands in the Bible to keep the Sabbath before the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai.

Bullet Point When the Apostles met at the Jerusalem council (Acts 15), they did not impose Sabbath keeping on the Gentile believers.

Bullet Point The apostle Paul warned the Gentiles about many different sins in his epistles, but breaking the Sabbath was never one of them.

Bullet Point In Galatians 4:10-11, Paul rebukes the Galatians for thinking God expected them to observe special days (including the Sabbath).

Bullet Point In Romans 14:5, Paul forbids those who observe the Sabbath (these were no doubt Jewish believers) to condemn those who do not (Gentile believers).

Bullet Point The early church fathers, from Ignatius to Augustine, taught that the Old Testament Sabbath had been abolished and that the first day of the week (Sunday) was the day when Christians should meet for worship (contrary to the claim of many seventh-day sabbatarians who claim that Sunday worship was not instituted until the fourth century).

Sunday has not replaced Saturday as the Sabbath. Rather the Lord's Day is a time when believers gather to commemorate His resurrection, which occurred on the first day of the week. Every day to the believer is one of Sabbath rest, since we have ceased from our spiritual labor and are resting in the salvation of the Lord (Hebrews 4:9-11).

So while we still follow the pattern of designating one day of the week a day for the Lord's people to gather in worship, we do not refer to this as "the Sabbath."

John Calvin took a similar position. He wrote,

There were three reasons for giving this [fourth] commandment: First, with the seventh day of rest the Lord wished to give to the people of Israel an image of spiritual rest, whereby believers must cease from their own works in order to let the Lord work in them. Secondly, he wished that there be an established day in which believers might assemble in order to hear his Law and worship him. Thirdly, he willed that one day of rest be granted to servants and to those who live under the power of others so that they might have a relaxation from their labor. The latter, however, is rather an inferred than a principal reason.

As to the first reason, there is no doubt that it ceased in Christ; because he is the truth by the presence of which all images vanish. He is the reality at whose advent all shadows are abandoned. Hence St. Paul (Col. 2:17) that the sabbath has been a shadow of a reality yet to be. And he declares elsewhere its truth when in the letter to the Romans, ch. 6:8, he teaches us that we are buried with Christ in order that by his death we may die to the corruption of our flesh. And this is not done in one day, but during all the course of our life, until altogether dead in our own selves, we may be filled with the life of God. Hence, superstitious observance of days must remain far from Christians.

The two last reasons, however, must not be numbered among the shadows of old. Rather, they are equally valid for all ages. Hence, though the sabbath is abrogated, it so happens among us that we still convene on certain days in order to hear the word of God, to break the [mystic] bread of the Supper, and to offer public prayers; and, moreover, in order that some relaxation from their toil be given to servants and workingmen. As our human weakness does not allow such assemblies to meet every day, the day observed by the Jews has been taken away (as a good device for eliminating superstition) and another day has been destined to this use. This was necessary for securing and maintaining order and peace in the Church.

As the truth therefore was given to the Jews under a figure, so to us on the contrary truth is shown without shadows in order, first of all, that we meditate all our life on a perpetual sabbath from our works so that the Lord may operate in us by his spirit; secondly, in order that we observe the legitimate order of the Church for listening to the word of God, for admin-istering the sacraments, and for public prayers; thirdly, in order that we do not oppress inhumanly with work those who are subject to us. [From Instruction in Faith, Calvin's own 1537 digest of the Institutes, sec. 8, "The Law of the Lord"].

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pragmatism: Trend or Trap?

I had a great week at a youth camp called Fun in the Son.  You can visit their website at FunSon.com

The week focused on teaching the teens to know what they believe and why the believe it.  "But in your hearts, set apart Jesus as Lord, and always be prepared to give an answer to anyone who asks about the hope you have, but do this with gentleness and respect."  1 Peter 3:15  (I did this from memory, so I hope I got it right).
The Gospel  was well presented throughout the week.

Grace and Peace,

Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!




Pulpit Magazine

New Article from Pulpit Magazine


Pragmatism: Trend or Trap?

Posted: 24 Jul 2008 02:01 AM CDT

(By John MacArthur)

What's Inside the Trojan Horse?By God's grace, I have been the pastor of the same church now for nearly forty years. From that vantage point, I have witnessed the birth and growth of menacing trends within the church, several of which have converged under what I would call evangelical pragmatism — an approach to ministry that is endemic in contemporary Christianity.

What is pragmatism? Basically it is a philosophy that says that results determine meaning, truth, and value — what will work becomes a more important question than what is true. As Christians, we are called to trust what the Lord says, preach that message to others, and leave the results to Him. But many have set that aside. Seeking relevancy and success, they have welcomed the pragmatic approach and have received the proverbial Trojan horse.

Let me take a few minutes to explain a little of the history leading up to the current entrenchment of the pragmatic approach in the evangelical church and to show you why it isn't as innocent as it looks.

Recent History

The 1970s, for the most part, were years of spiritual revival in America. The spread of the gospel through the campuses of many colleges and universities marked a fresh, energetic movement of the Holy Spirit to draw people to salvation in Christ. Mass baptisms were conducted in rivers, lakes, and the ocean, several new versions of the English Bible were released, and Christian publishing and broadcasting experienced remarkable growth.

Sadly, the fervent evangelical revival slowed and was overshadowed by the greed and debauchery of the eighties and nineties. The surrounding culture rejected biblical standards of morality, and the church, rather than assert its distinctiveness and call the world to repentance, softened its stance on holiness. The failure to maintain a distinctively biblical identity was profound — it led to general spiritual apathy and a marked decline in church attendance.

Church leaders reacted to the world's indifference, not by a return to strong biblical preaching that emphasized sin and repentance, but by a pragmatic approach to "doing" church — an approach driven more by marketing, methodology, and perceived results than by biblical doctrine. The new model of ministry revolved around making sinners feel comfortable and at ease in the church, then selling them on the benefits of becoming a Christian. Earlier silence has given way to cultural appeasement and conformity.

Even the church's ministry to its own has changed. Entertainment has hijacked many pulpits across the country; contemporary approaches cater to the ever-changing whims of professing believers; and many local churches have become little more than social clubs and community centers where the focus is on the individual's felt needs. Even on Christian radio, phone-in talk shows, music, and live psychotherapy are starting to replace Bible teaching as the staple. "Whatever works," the mantra of pragmatism, has become the new banner of evangelicalism.

The Down-Grade Controversy

You may be surprised to learn that what we are now seeing is not new. England's most famous preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, dealt with a similar situation more than 100 years ago. Among churches that were once solid, Spurgeon and other faithful pastors noticed a conciliatory attitude toward and overt cooperation with the modernist movement. And what motivated the compromise? They sought to find acceptance by adopting the "sophisticated" trends of the culture. Does that sound familiar to you?

One article, published anonymously in Spurgeon's monthly magazine The Sword and the Trowel, noted that every revival of true evangelical faith had been followed within a generation or two by a drift away from sound doctrine, ultimately leading to wholesale apostasy. The author likened this drifting from truth to a downhill slope, and thus labeled it "the down grade." The inroads of modernism into the church killed ninety percent of the mainline denominations within a generation of Spurgeon's death. Spurgeon himself, once the celebrated and adored herald of the Baptist Union, was marginalized by the society and he eventually withdrew his membership.

The Effects of Pragmatism

Many of today's church leaders have bought into the subtlety of pragmatism without recognizing the dangers it poses. Instead of attacking orthodoxy head on, evangelical pragmatism gives lip service to the truth while quietly undermining the foundations of doctrine. Instead of exalting God, it effectively denigrates the things that are precious to Him.

First, there is in vogue today a trend to make the basis of faith something other than God's Word. Experience, emotion, fashion, and popular opinion are often more authoritative than the Bible in determining what many Christians believe. From private, individual revelation to the blending of secular psychology with biblical "principles," Christians are listening to the voice of the serpent that once told Eve, "God's Word doesn't have all the answers." Christian counseling reflects that drift, frequently offering no more than experimental and unscriptural self-help therapy instead of solid answers from the Bible.

Christian missionary work is often riddled with pragmatism and compromise, because too many in missions have evidently concluded that what gets results is more important than what God says. That's true among local churches as well. It has become fashionable to forgo the proclamation and teaching of God's Word in worship services. Instead, churches serve up a paltry diet of drama, music, and other forms of entertainment.

Second, evangelical pragmatism tends to move the focus of faith away from God's Son. You've seen that repeatedly if you watch much religious television. The health-wealth-and-prosperity gospel advocated by so many televangelists is the ultimate example of this kind of fantasy faith. This false gospel appeals unabashedly to the flesh, corrupting all the promises of Scripture and encouraging greed. It makes material blessing, not Jesus Christ, the object of the Christian's desires.

Easy-believism handles the message differently, but the effect is the same. It is the promise of forgiveness minus the gospel's hard demands, the perfect message for pragmatists. It has done much to popularize "believing" but little to provoke sincere faith.

Christ is no longer the focus of the message. While His name is mentioned from time to time, the real focus is inward, not upward. People are urged to look within; to try to understand themselves; to come to grips with their problems, their hurts, their disappointments; to have their needs met, their desires granted, their wants fulfilled. Nearly all the popular versions of the message encourage and legitimize a self-centered perspective.

Third, today's Christianity is infected with a tendency to view the result of faith as something less than God's standard of holy living. By downplaying the importance of holy living–both by precept and by example–the biblical doctrine of conversion is undermined. Think about it: What more could Satan do to try to destroy the church than undermining God's Word, shifting the focus off Christ, and minimizing holy living?

All those things are happening slowly, steadily within the church right now. Tragically, most Christians seem oblivious to the problems, satisfied with a Christianity that is fashionable and highly visible. But the true church must not ignore those threats. If we fight to maintain doctrinal purity with an emphasis on biblical preaching and biblical ministry, we can conquer external attacks. But if error is allowed into the church, many more churches will slide down the grade to suffer the same fate as the denominations that listened to, yet ignored, Spurgeon's impassioned appeal.

Make it your habitual prayer request that the Lord would elevate the authority of His Word, the glory of His Son, and the purity of His people in the evangelical church. May the Lord revive us and keep us far from the slippery slope of pragmatism.

Friday, July 11, 2008

My Visit to Mars Hill Bible Church (Part 2) - (By Nathan Williams)


Pulpit Magazine

New Article from Pulpit Magazine


Back from Mars (Part 2)

Posted: 11 Jul 2008 03:24 AM CDT

(By Nathan Williams) 

My Visit to Mars Hill Bible Church (Part 2)

Yesterday I began telling about my experience of attending Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, MI., which is pastored by Rob Bell. Today, I'd like to finish that discussion by talking about the sermon that was preached while I was there.

Unfortunately, on the Sunday when I went Rob Bell wasn't teaching. I guess he gets some time off during the summer to recover from his speaking tour and to prepare for his next one. Instead of having one guest preacher, we had two. I've never experienced tag team teachers, but it was certainly a unique approach.

The teachers for the morning were Don Perini and Jeanette Banashak. Both serve as professors at nearby Cornerstone University. Don is the assistant professor of youth ministry and also teaches creativity. Apparently a class on creativity is required for every student at Cornerstone. Jeanette serves as an instructor in youth ministry at Cornerstone and also recently began serving as an elder at Mars Hill. These two were specifically asked to speak on creativity because it is one of their specialties. They announce a couple of times during the message that they will be teaching a multi part class in the coming months at Mars Hill on creativity.

The dual teaching method creates an interesting dynamic. One person sits on a stool on stage while the other does his (or her) teaching. Instead of one person teaching the first part of the message and the other preaching the second half, they rotate several times throughout the message.

The title for the message the morning I was there was "A Journey to Unleash Your Creative Potential."

Don began the morning by lamenting the fact that as we grow older we tend to play less games and tend to be less creative. The busyness of life creeps in and we no longer take the time to play and imagine. Once Don finishes his introduction, Jeanette asks us to open to Matthew 28 and take a look at the great commission. She reminds us that we are supposed to be making disciples and baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. She makes the connection between the Trinity and the discipleship commanded in the great commission.

Then she asked us to flip over to Genesis 1. She noted that the first verb in the Bible is to create and that obviously our God is a creative God. Since Genesis 1:26 tells us that we are made in the image of God, we must learn to be creative like God is creative. Then she explained that since God is a Trinity the Trinity must hold some clues as to how God is creative and therefore how we should be creative.

I mentioned in yesterday's post that when we entered the worship center we were greeted with quotes on the overhead projectors. One of the main quotes that continued to cycle through as we waited for the "gathering" to start was a quote by Dorothy Sayers. After getting back home and doing some research I realized that much of the teaching on creativity and the Trinity comes from a book by Sayers called The Mind of the Maker. The entire message was based on the idea that every bit of human creativity resembles the Trinity. The creative idea we have is like God the Father, the action that we perform because of that idea is like the Son, and the influence and power of that creative idea is like the Holy Spirit.

Once Jeanette taught this background it was easy to see the shape the message would take. Jeanette taught the philosophy and theology (I use that term loosely) behind creativity and then Dan gave us practical insight into becoming more creative. For example, after Jeanette taught on the idea of creativity and that being analogous to God the Father, Dan taught on the top ten places for creative ideas to come to us. After the section dealing with Jesus and the creative idea being put into action, Dan taught on several habits of creative people.

The ultimate point of the message was for us to learn to be creative and then use that creativity for something useful. The Sayers quote which they kept using throughout the lesson was "…that we may redeem the Fall by a creative act." When one actually begins to break that down and think it through, it's a scary thing to be teaching people. The point of the message was that we can use our creativity to redeem the fall. In other words, our world is in a rough situation. All of the pain and hardship in society comes as a result of the fall. We must use our creativity to fix the problems created by mankind's fall into sin.

Sadly, throughout the message there was no mention of the gospel of Jesus Christ being what redeems men from the fall.

In the end, the tag-team talk consisted of little more than some vaguely inspiring teaching about using creativity to meet the physical and temporal needs of those in our community. Noticebly missing was the centrality of the gospel.

Needless to say, my trip to Mars Hill Bible Church confirmed in my mind what I have often heard said concerning much of the Emerging Church. This movement is really just old liberalism with cooler glasses and a penchant for mystery and postmodernism.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Pelagianism

I'm getting the sense that I am seeing a trend in many churhces from a Semi-Pelagian Theology / dressed up in a Charles Finney style of worship, with a message being sold by a pragmatic car salesman with the title of Sr. Minister who tells people what they want to hear and not wanting to disturb his fans in the stands.  The trend is away from these things to all out Pelagianism.  And I really believe it all starts with the slight denial of the Sovereignty of God.  Although, in words, they will say they believe in the sovereignty of God.  However, their worship, evangelism, and preaching is a subtle denial of it.
I think we need to heed the warning of Charles H. Spurgeon and the Downgrade Controversy.  Let's preach Christ and Him crucified and trust that will change the hearts and minds of those inside and outside of the church.  We ALL need to be reminded on a regular basis the Holiness of God, our sinful nature, and the Grace of God found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 
If you would like to read John MacArthur's article on the Down-Grade Controversy go to the following link>. 

Spurgeon and the Down-Grade Controversy

Here is part of an Article by Michael Horton on Pelagianism.  I would also invite you to listen to their latest broadcast on the White Horse Inn, titled: "The Gospel According to Pelagius".

Grace and Peace,
Chris

Michael S. Horton
Printer Friendly Version Email Link to a Friend
Image for Article
We possess neither the ability, free will, power, nor the righteousness to repair ourselves and escape the wrath of God. It must all be God's work, Christ's work, or there is no salvation.

Cicero observed of his own civilization that people thank the gods for their material prosperity, but never for their virtue, for this is their own doing. Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield considered Pelagianism "the rehabilitation of that heathen view of the world," and concluded with characteristic clarity, "There are fundamentally only two doctrines of salvation: that salvation is from God, and that salvation is from ourselves. The former is the doctrine of common Christianity; the latter is the doctrine of universal heathenism." (1)

But Warfield's sharp criticisms are consistent with the witness of the church ever since Pelagius and his disciples championed the heresy. St. Jerome, the fourth century Latin father, called it "the heresy of Pythagoras and Zeno," as in general paganism rested on the fundamental conviction that human beings have it within their power to save themselves. What, then, was Pelagianism and how did it get started?

First, this heresy originated with the first human couple, as we shall see soon. It was actually defined and labeled in the fifth century, when a British monk came to Rome. Immediately, Pelagius was deeply impressed with the immorality of this center of Christendom, and he set out to reform the morals of clergy and laity alike. This moral campaign required a great deal of energy and Pelagius found many supporters and admirers for his cause. The only thing that seemed to stand in his way was the emphasis that emanated particularly from the influential African bishop, Augustine. Augustine taught that human beings, because they are born in original sin, are incapable of saving themselves. Apart from God's grace, it is impossible for a person to obey or even to seek God. Representing the entire race, Adam sinned against God. This resulted in the total corruption of every human being since, so that our very wills are in bondage to our sinful condition. Only God's grace, which he bestows freely as he pleases upon his elect, is credited with the salvation of human beings.

In sharp contrast, Pelagius was driven by moral concerns and his theology was calculated to provide the most fuel for moral and social improvement. Augustine's emphasis on human helplessness and divine grace would surely paralyze the pursuit of moral improvement, since people could sin with impunity, fatalistically concluding, "I couldn't help it; I'm a sinner." So Pelagius countered by rejecting original sin. According to Pelagius, Adam was merely a bad example, not the father of our sinful condition-we are sinners because we sin-rather than vice versa. Consequently, of course, the Second Adam, Jesus Christ, was a good example. Salvation is a matter chiefly of following Christ instead of Adam, rather than being transferred from the condemnation and corruption of Adam's race and placed "in Christ," clothed in his righteousness and made alive by his gracious gift. What men and women need is moral direction, not a new birth; therefore, Pelagius saw salvation in purely naturalistic terms-the progress of human nature from sinful behavior to holy behavior, by following the example of Christ.

In his Commentary on Romans, Pelagius thought of grace as God's revelation in the Old and New Testaments, which enlightens us and serves to promote our holiness by providing explicit instruction in godliness and many worthy examples to imitate. So human nature is not conceived in sin. After all, the will is not bound by the sinful condition and its affections; choices determine whether one will obey God, and thus be saved.

In 411, Paulinus of Milan came up with a list of six heretical points in the Pelagian message. (1) Adam was created mortal and would have died whether he had sinned or not; (2) the sin of Adam injured himself alone, not the whole human race; (3) newborn children are in the same state in which Adam was before his fall; (4) neither by the death and sin of Adam does the whole human race die, nor will it rise because of the resurrection of Christ; (5) the law as well as the gospel offers entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven; and (6) even before the coming of Christ, there were men wholly without sin. (2) Further, Pelagius and his followers denied unconditional predestination.

It is worth noting that Pelagianism was condemned by more church councils than any other heresy in history. In 412, Pelagius's disciple Coelestius was excommunicated at the Synod of Carthage; the Councils of Carthage and Milevis condemned Pelagius' De libero arbitrio--On the Freedom of the Will; Pope Innocent I excommunicated both Pelagius and Coelestius, as did Pope Zosimus. Eastern emperor Theodosius II banished the Pelagians from the East as well in AD 430. The heresy was repeatedly condemned by the Council of Ephesus in 431 and the Second Council of Orange in 529. In fact, the Council of Orange condemned even Semi-Pelagianism, which maintains that grace is necessary, but that the will is free by nature to choose whether to cooperate with the grace offered. The Council of Orange even condemned those who thought that salvation could be conferred by the saying of a prayer, affirming instead (with abundant biblical references) that God must awaken the sinner and grant the gift of faith before a person can even seek God.

Anything that falls short of acknowledging original sin, the bondage of the will, and the need for grace to even accept the gift of eternal life, much less to pursue righteousness, is considered by the whole church to be heresy. The heresy described here is called "Pelagianism."

 
Chris
www.Reform-Shire.blogspot.com
Coram Deo!!!