Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Augustine and Pelagius

As the true father of what is commonly referred to as Calvinism, Augustine properly emphasized the sovereign nature of God. While not tipping to the extreme position of certain over-zealous disciples of Calvin in accusing God of creating certain men solely for damnation, he did articulate an accurate framework concerning creation, the fall, and the nature of man. Conversely, Pelagius was every bit an Arminian as Jacobus (James) Arminius proved to be generations later--if not more. Their doctrinal differences began with their view of creation. While both men rightly saw Adam as originally created innocent and possessing a free will, Augustine correctly understood that he was immortal. Pelagius did not recognize the fact that death was brought about by the curse. He believed Adam was originally created to die--a belief clearly contrary to Scripture. It naturally follows that they disagreed on the scope of the fall. Pelagius, consistent with his view of man’s original mortality, saw the curse causing only the spiritual death of Adam--not his posterity. Physical death was already a created, inherent part of man. Spiritual death in Adam’s posterity was brought on by individual sinful actions. Augustine rightly disagreed. Both physical and spiritual death were placed on man as a curse. As such, both kinds of death are imputed to all subsequent generations. This is the basis for what later would be labeled, “The total depravity of man”—the refutation of the first point of Arminianisms’ Remonstrance. Augustine consistently held that since Adam’s sin is imputed to him, man is corrupt from his conception. Pelagius was consistent with his other views in believing all men are born innocent. It has been said that Pelagius’ beliefs were never tested in the crucible of parenthood.

While the contemporary debate rages in theological and denominational circles between Calvinism and Armenianism, it is good to remember its origin. Realizing the debate is certainly not new and seeing the ancient arguments and accusations sheds light on current posturing. It would seem helpful to highlight the historical context in public venues, but “Why I Am Predestined Not to be Augustinian” does not provocatively generate the same buzz as “Why I Am Predestined Not to be a Hyper-Calvinist.” As the years progress, Spurgeon’s treatment of the subject seems increasingly wise.


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