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Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is Pelagianism the Gospel?




In their latest episode entitled “rd116 The Outsider Test for Faith” the hosts of the Reasonable Doubts have a section in which they briefly discuss Christianity and the film industry, specifically in relation to the Christian targeted marketing for films such as Man of Steel and Les Misérables. While this section is somewhat of an aside to the overall episode and, or so I suppose, not well thought out and on the fly, the hosts make several comments that reveal a fundamental misunderstanding of the Christian religion. It is precisely because these comments are off the cuff that they reflect the most candid and genuine beliefs about Christianity that the hosts maintain. Therefore these comments are the clearest expression of the kind of Christianity that the hosts think that they are engaging with. However, are they accurate?
What we will see is that the hosts commit the same kind of strawman fallacy that many skeptics perpetrate. Well to be more charitable, it is not exactly a strawman generally. They are engaging with a position that many “Christians” hold to. While this article is not meant to parse what Christianity is or is not or what makes someone a Christian or not, anyone familiar with the history of Christian theology will know that the heresy known as Pelagianism[1] has been condemned at more church counsels that even the most severe Christological heresies. The problem is that the Christian church, at least in the West, has failed to continue to make that distinction, and Pelagianism or Semi-Pelagianism (at least in praxis) has come to be synonymous Christianity – at least in many Western “evangelical” circles. For those interested in exploring the difference between the heresy of Pelagianism and Historic/Orthodox[2] Christianity I could not recommend a book more highly than Michael Horton’s tour de force Christless Christianity.[3][4] Horton not only explores the divergent theology between the two, but also goes into countless examples in which Pelagianism is hiding in plain sight in a massive amount of American churches and that because it is often the religion of choice for highly publicized and culturally noticeable ones (such as that of Joel Osteen, Joyce Meyer, and many others) it has not only seeped into many churches influenced by them but also into the public perception and understanding of what Christianity is. It is my opinion that the overwhelming majority of those polled who say that they believe in God are actually practicing either a form of Pelagianism or else its kissing cousin known as Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.[5] Again, while this article is not going to be able to explore the ramifications of this on the state of the western church (am I saying most people who say that they are Christians aren’t? or what does this do for religious epistemology if people can believe that they are Christians but are practicing a fundamentally different religion? Etc.), I do need to preface this article by stating that this kind of “Christianity” is a fundamentally different religion than that of Historic/Orthodox Christianity and its fundamental principle of the gospel of grace.
Therefore this article is not meant to take the tone of irritation or rebuke for this flawed understanding. After all, if millions of Pelagians think that they are practicing Christianity, why should we expect Christianity’s critics to make the distinction for us. Rather this article is meant rather to engage with the concept of Christianity held by the hosts of Reasonable Doubt and expressed in their comments and to show that while it is not a strawman for what commonly passes for Christianity, it is actually not a valid critique of Historic/Orthodox Christianity. I will begin by transcribing the comments from the hosts and then give my responses to those comments. Here is the dialogue that follows in their discussion about Hollywood films that had expressly Christian targeted marketing programs (such as Man of Steel, Blindside and Les Misérables):

Justin: It’s strange to me that they would do it for Les Miserables because the quote/unquote villain of Les Mis is a guy who is like the sense of absolute justice, that recognizes…
Dave: Absolutely yes, he’s an authoritarian figure.
Justin: right, he recognizes that this kind of retributivism is absurd.
Dave: And kills himself.
Justin: Which is not at all what we would see as God right.
Dave: Right.

I want to begin by first clearing up a simple historical fact. Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables specifically on the themes of Christian grace and redemption even though we can see the early stages of his anti-clericalism that he would later fully embrace.[6] While Hugo became anti-clerical in his later years and stood on the fringes of Roman Catholicism, that does not mean that he was not expressly religious, and indeed Christian, in his writings, especially in his earlier works. It should not be a surprise us then that the film Les Misérables, based on a specifically Christian inspired novel, should then marketed to Christians any more than it should surprise us that The Chronicles of Narnia (written by world famous Christian scholar C.S. Lewis) which were explicit allegories for many Christian themes was later marketed to Christians when it was made into a feature film. We will discuss these themes in a moment as it pertains to the problem of Orthodoxy and Pelagianism but for now we just must remember that it is marketed to Christians because it was an intentionally Christian themed book.
Now the next problem is that the reason Joe thinks that it is so strange to market the movie to Christian is because the villain[7] of the book/film is the one who stands for absolute justice and finds retributivism “absurd” is more like the Christian and yet he is the villain. These comments as posed in the episode were vague enough to not know exactly what Justin actually meant and so I reached out to him to make sure I was properly representing him. Since the comments were somewhat off the cuff and therefore not fully thought out, I thought it only fair to give him a chance to elaborate on his comments since I wanted to make sure that I was evaluating his position properly. He explained that he meant the following:

This is an example of something I said that wasn't clearly thought out. I think what I was wanting to say was that the villain in the story recognizes that this form of absolute retributivism is dehumanizing and so, as you know, he ends his own life. This is seen as one of the central thrusts of the story I would argue. But I would also argue that Christian theology is much more inline with [Javert] before he comes to this understanding… I was attempting to say that it seems strange that this movie might be marketed towards Christians who believe in a god who I would argue is worse than the villain. Generally, Christians believe God is Just but also merciful. He is merciful in that he is willing to forgive as long as his subjects fulfill certain contingencies. (Belief, relationship, good works) whereas Javert forgives without demanding any contingencies. I was just arguing for what I saw to be a disconnect with the often perceived Christian message in the show.
Mainly because he forgives unconditionally rather than expecting something before he forgives.

Therefore his position is that it is bizarre to market it to Christians because it is the villain Javert who is the one concerned with ultimate justice, and is (as Dave points out) is the authoritarian figure, whereas that should be the attributes of a “Christian” hero rather than the villain. Yet, as I have stated above, if this is what Justin believes the “Christian message” is, then he has fundamentally misunderstood what the Christian message is and is actually rejecting Pelagianism.
There is a fundamental distinction in Christian theology known as the Law/Gospel distinction. The law is standards by which we ought to live and this can refer to either the specifically Mosaic Law found in the Old Testament, or it can refer to the general law (something like the moral law) which Paul refers to in Romans 1, that all humanity has suppressed in unrighteousness. The Christian message is not, “you must be a good person to be saved.” It is not “God only loves the good among you” and it is not “God helps those who help themselves.” It is not even “be holy and righteous and pure and God will reward you.” The Gospel, which is the Christian message, is not an imperative, it is an indicative. It is not the answer to the question, “what would Jesus do?” It is the answer to the question, “what has Jesus done?” The Christian message is not about being good, acting moral, being more righteous than others, or forcing others to be righteous like you are. In fact that is precisely the legalism and the hypocrisy of the Priests, the Pharisees and the Scribes that Jesus presented his harshest condemnations for, and of the Judaizers that Paul flat out called “another gospel.”[8]
The ironic thing about Justin’s comment is that in Les Misérables neither Javert nor Jean Valjean are the Christ figure. The Christ figure is actually a minor character near the beginning of the story. It is the Bishop of D—that is the redeemer. When Jean Valjean escapes jumps bail he finds his way to the home of the Bishop of D—and upon realizing that he will always be seen as a criminal, even though he paid his time for merely stealing bread so his family could eat, he hardens himself and steals the silver from the Bishop of D—‘s home (in some versions he actually attacks the Bishop in the process) and steals away in the night. The next morning when he is caught he tries to tell the constables who catch him that the silver was a gift from the Bishop. They obviously do not believe him and bring him back to the Bishop. At this point the Bishop confirms Valjean’s story and even offers to give him the candlesticks that he had “forgotten” in his haste. Valjean is stunned by the grace of the Bishop and even more stunned when he Bishop tells him, “Do not forget, never forget, that you have promised to use this money in becoming an honest man.”…  Jean Valjean, my brother, you no longer belong to evil, but to good. It is your soul that I buy from you; I withdraw it from black thoughts and the spirit of perdition, and I give it to God.
It is at this point that Valjean is “redeemed”. His crimes are wiped clean and he is forgiven. Even though he sinned against the Bishop, the Bishop condescends to give him free grace – grace that Valjean neither expected nor deserved. It is straight from Romans 5:6-8: For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
The problem is that in the story Valjean still must live in the world where he is hunted by the law – represented by Javert. In essence the story is not a story about justification. It is not a story about how one is saved in God’s economy. It is a story of sanctification – it is about how one lives in light of their redemption in a fallen world, with their own sin nature, and the conflicts that can arise even from doing right and acting ethically.
So why the confusion for Justin over the Christian message and Javert? To be honest I do not blame him. The legalism of Javert is the predominate religion in the United States. Pelagianism has, in my opinion and in the opinion of many others, has come to replace Christianity in the West. The problem is not with Justin, the problem is with those who have been swayed by the lure of Pelagianism and call it Christianity. What they, and Justin, do not realize is that Javert did not commit suicide because retributivism is “absurd”. For Javert, the problem was with himself. He realized that he represented an absolute and totalitarian legalism that would never allow retributivism to flourish – and he wanted it to. It was representative of the fact that for free grace and redemption to proceed and boom, legalism must die, that rigid, authoritarian legalism needs to disappear or else it will always sap the power from the beauty of redeeming grace. Javert did not commit suicide because he thought, as Justin says, “absolute retributivism is dehumanizing” it is because he finally came to realize how beautiful it is and wanted to see it set free to spread.
And yet this is why the alternative gospel of the American church, even when concealed with a big white smile and a nice suit will always keep people in bondage. It is about having the right kind or right amount of faith – if your prayers didn’t get answered it is because you did it wrong. If you aren’t becoming healthy and wealthy it is because you need to improve yourself. It is all law. It is not the Christian message of total inability to redeem oneself and relying on the free grace offered to us in Jesus – that while we were still sinners, still rebels, still deniers, Christ redeemed it. It is not because of who we are or what we have done. The Christian message is not that “[God] is merciful in that he is willing to forgive as long as his subjects fulfill certain contingencies” but rather that because God has forgiven we freely choose to act in accordance with his will and seek his good pleasure.
Justin, and many skeptics cannot be blamed for making such a fundamental error in their understanding of the Christian message. It is the “Christianity” that is all around it. Unfortunately it is not the Christianity of the Bible, the early church or the Reformers. It is not the message of Christianity. It is not the Gospel.

For more on this I recommend:
Articles:
1.      “Christless Christianity: Getting in Christ’s Way” by Michael Horton, Modern Reformation May/June 2007 Vol. 16 No. 3 Page number(s): 10-16, found at: http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1&var3=main
2.      “The Pelagian Captivity of the Church” by R.C. Sproul, Modern Reformation, Vol 10, Number 3 (May/June 2001), pp. 22-29. Found at http://www.bible-researcher.com/sproul1.html
3.      “Augustine and the Pelagian Controversy” by B.B. Warfield, found at: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/augpel.html
4.      “Pelagian Origins” by Ligon Duncan, found at: http://www.fpcjackson.org/resources/church_history/pelagianorig.htm
5.      “Pelagianism” by R. Scott Clark, found at: http://clark.wscal.edu/pelagianism.php
6.      “Pelagianism: The Religion of Natural Man” by Michael Horton, found at: http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/onsite/pelagiannatural.html
7.      “The History of Heresy: Five Errors that Refuse to Die” by Phil Johnson, found at: http://www.the2ndring.com/freestuff/TheHistoryofHeresy.pdf
8.      “The Pelagian Controversy – A Historical Essay” by Phillip Schaff, Bibliotheca Sacra and The Theological Review, Number XVIII (May 1848), found at: http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bsac/1848_205_schaff.pdf

Books:
1.      Michael Horton – Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church
2.      J. Gresham Machen – Christianity and Liberalism
3.      Stephen J. Nichols – Jesus: Made in America
4.      Christian Smith – Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers

Podcasts:
1.      The Law and the Christian Faith
a.       Presented by Reformed Theological Seminary
b.      Lecturer – Variety
2.      Introduction to Pastoral and Theological Studies
a.       Presented by Reformed Theological Seminary
b.      Lecturer - Derek Thomas
3.      The White Horse Inn


Full text of the Council of Orange (one of the most concise and thorough rejections of Pelagianism from any Council):

The Canons of the Council of Orange 529 AD

CANON 1. If anyone denies that it is the whole man, that is, both body and soul, that was "changed for the worse" through the offense of Adam's sin, but believes that the freedom of the soul remains unimpaired and that only the body is subject to corruption, he is deceived by the error of Pelagius and contradicts the scripture which says, "The soul that sins shall die" (Ezek. 18:20); and, "Do you not know that if you yield yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are the slaves of the one whom you obey?" (Rom. 6:16); and, "For whatever overcomes a man, to that he is enslaved" (2 Pet. 2:19).
CANON 2. If anyone asserts that Adam's sin affected him alone and not his descendants also, or at least if he declares that it is only the death of the body which is the punishment for sin, and not also that sin, which is the death of the soul, passed through one man to the whole human race, he does injustice to God and contradicts the Apostle, who says, "Therefore as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned" (Rom. 5:12).
CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).
CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, "The will is prepared by the Lord" (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).
CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.
CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).
CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him "unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).
CANON 9. Concerning the succor of God. It is a mark of divine favor when we are of a right purpose and keep our feet from hypocrisy and unrighteousness; for as often as we do good, God is at work in us and with us, in order that we may do so.
CANON 10. Concerning the succor of God. The succor of God is to be ever sought by the regenerate and converted also, so that they may be able to come to a successful end or persevere in good works.
CANON 11. Concerning the duty to pray. None would make any true prayer to the Lord had he not received from him the object of his prayer, as it is written, "Of thy own have we given thee" (1 Chron. 29:14).
CANON 12. Of what sort we are whom God loves. God loves us for what we shall be by his gift, and not by our own deserving.
CANON 13. Concerning the restoration of free will. The freedom of will that was destroyed in the first man can be restored only by the grace of baptism, for what is lost can be returned only by the one who was able to give it. Hence the Truth itself declares: "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36).
CANON 14. No mean wretch is freed from his sorrowful state, however great it may be, save the one who is anticipated by the mercy of God, as the Psalmist says, "Let thy compassion come speedily to meet us" (Ps. 79:8), and again, "My God in his steadfast love will meet me" (Ps. 59:10).
CANON 15. Adam was changed, but for the worse, through his own iniquity from what God made him. Through the grace of God the believer is changed, but for the better, from what his iniquity has done for him. The one, therefore, was the change brought about by the first sinner; the other, according to the Psalmist, is the change of the right hand of the Most High (Ps. 77:10).
CANON 16. No man shall be honored by his seeming attainment, as though it were not a gift, or suppose that he has received it because a missive from without stated it in writing or in speech. For the Apostle speaks thus, "For if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:21); and "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men" (Eph. 4:8, quoting Ps. 68:18). It is from this source that any man has what he does; but whoever denies that he has it from this source either does not truly have it, or else "even what he has will be taken away" (Matt. 25:29).
CANON 17. Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God which "has been poured into our hearts" not by freedom of will from our own side but "through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5).
CANON 18. That grace is not preceded by merit. Recompense is due to good works if they are performed; but grace, to which we have no claim, precedes them, to enable them to be done.
CANON 19. That a man can be saved only when God shows mercy. Human nature, even though it remained in that sound state in which it was created, could be no means save itself, without the assistance of the Creator; hence since man cannot safe- guard his salvation without the grace of God, which is a gift, how will he be able to restore what he has lost without the grace of God?
CANON 20. That a man can do no good without God. God does much that is good in a man that the man does not do; but a man does nothing good for which God is not responsible, so as to let him do it.
CANON 21. Concerning nature and grace. As the Apostle most truly says to those who would be justified by the law and have fallen from grace, "If justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:21), so it is most truly declared to those who imagine that grace, which faith in Christ advocates and lays hold of, is nature: "If justification were through nature, then Christ died to no purpose." Now there was indeed the law, but it did not justify, and there was indeed nature, but it did not justify. Not in vain did Christ therefore die, so that the law might be fulfilled by him who said, "I have come not to abolish them, but to fulfil them" (Matt. 5:17), and that the nature which had been destroyed by Adam might be restored by him who said that he had come "to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
CANON 22. Concerning those things that belong to man. No man has anything of his own but untruth and sin. But if a man has any truth or righteousness, it from that fountain for which we must thirst in this desert, so that we may be refreshed from it as by drops of water and not faint on the way.
CANON 23. Concerning the will of God and of man. Men do their own will and not the will of God when they do what displeases him; but when they follow their own will and comply with the will of God, however willingly they do so, yet it is his will by which what they will is both prepared and instructed.
CANON 24. Concerning the branches of the vine. The branches on the vine do not give life to the vine, but receive life from it; thus the vine is related to its branches in such a way that it supplies them with what they need to live, and does not take this from them. Thus it is to the advantage of the disciples, not Christ, both to have Christ abiding in them and to abide in Christ. For if the vine is cut down another can shoot up from the live root; but one who is cut off from the vine cannot live without the root (John 15:5ff).
CANON 25. Concerning the love with which we love God. It is wholly a gift of God to love God. He who loves, even though he is not loved, allowed himself to be loved. We are loved, even when we displease him, so that we might have means to please him. For the Spirit, whom we love with the Father and the Son, has poured into our hearts the love of the Father and the Son (Rom. 5:5).
CONCLUSION. And thus according to the passages of holy scripture quoted above or the interpretations of the ancient Fathers we must, under the blessing of God, preach and believe as follows. The sin of the first man has so impaired and weakened free will that no one thereafter can either love God as he ought or believe in God or do good for God's sake, unless the grace of divine mercy has preceded him. We therefore believe that the glorious faith which was given to Abel the righteous, and Noah, and Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and to all the saints of old, and which the Apostle Paul commends in extolling them (Heb. 11), was not given through natural goodness as it was before to Adam, but was bestowed by the grace of God. And we know and also believe that even after the coming of our Lord this grace is not to be found in the free will of all who desire to be baptized, but is bestowed by the kindness of Christ, as has already been frequently stated and as the Apostle Paul declares, "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake" (Phil. 1:29). And again, "He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and it is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). And as the Apostle says of himself, "I have obtained mercy to be faithful" (1 Cor. 7:25, cf. 1 Tim. 1:13). He did not say, "because I was faithful," but "to be faithful." And again, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7). And again, "Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights" (Jas. 1:17). And again, "No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven" (John 3:27). There are innumerable passages of holy scripture which can be quoted to prove the case for grace, but they have been omitted for the sake of brevity, because further examples will not really be of use where few are deemed sufficient.
According to the catholic faith we also believe that after grace has been received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul. We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema. We also believe and confess to our benefit that in every good work it is not we who take the initiative and are then assisted through the mercy of God, but God himself first inspires in us both faith in him and love for him without any previous good works of our own that deserve reward, so that we may both faithfully seek the sacrament of baptism, and after baptism be able by his help to do what is pleasing to him. We must therefore most evidently believe that the praiseworthy faith of the thief whom the Lord called to his home in paradise, and of Cornelius the centurion, to whom the angel of the Lord was sent, and of Zacchaeus, who was worthy to receive the Lord himself, was not a natural endowment but a gift of God's kindness.




[1] I readily admit that a major problem of this article will be the lack of time and space given to actually developing what Pelagianism is. I will have a list of excellent books on the topic at the bottom however to supplement this article.
[2] This is in the broad theological sense of “orthodox” and not in the technical ecclesiological sense to refer to Eastern or other brands of capital “O” Orthodox traditions.
[3] There is also an excellent podcast episode of The White Horse Inn that deals directly with Les Misérables which you can find at: http://www.whitehorseinn.org/blog/2012/12/20/whi-bonus-law-gospel-les-miserables/
[4] Even though it interacts with Christian Liberalism more so than Pelagianism, I think J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism would also be extremely beneficial to read on this point since Pelagianism and Christian Liberalism are so closely related.
[5] For more on this concept I recommend Soul Searching by Notre Damn sociologist Christian Smith.
[6] Ironically the Bishop of D- who redeems Jean Valjean is arguably the most noble character in the entire book despite Hugo’s later anti-clericalism.
[7] I do not think it is accurate to call Javert the “villain” so much as the antagonist since one would be wrong in assuming that Javert was an evil man. Due to the fact that this is the term that Justin chose to use, I will continue that in the text of the article but wanted to note that not all antagonists are, properly speaking, villains.
[8] Galatians 1:6-9 says, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.” The entire epistle is about the Judaizers and the legalism of their “gospel” and so this is surely the “different gospel” he is referring to in the preface to the letter.

1 comment:

  1. You clearly don't understand Pelagianism if you think its about "absolute justice." This is probably the first point where Pelagianism differs from Calvinism. The Calvinist believes that God's Justice is an absolutist robotic justice that has to be carried out on someone -- Pelagianism believes that God's justice does not have to be absolute, he can forgive a repentant person without punishing them or anyone else (as per Ezekiel 18). So you whole point falls apart.

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