Vol.XI No.IV Pg.6
June 1974

Pelagian Or Calvinist?

Robert F. Turner

Ever hear of Pelagius? I wouldnt know him if I met him on the street— for he was a British monk who lived Ca. 360 to 428 A.D. He went to Rome Ca. 400, where his teaching was controverted by Augustine, and was officially condemned as heretical. It was:

1. There is no such thing as original sin: consequently:

2. There is no baptismal regeneration, no damnation of unbaptized infants, no hereditary taint of As sin.

3. Man has perfect freedom of the will and has no absolute need of Gods grace to set him right.

4. Man, though aided in various ways by divine grace, is virtually the author of his own salvation.

(Taken from Websters Unabridged Dict.)

John Calvin systematized and gave prominence to an opposite concept. In 1536 he presented four Books of Institutes of the Christian Religion. He considered the absolute sovereignty of God as in-compatible with freewill or agency on mans part. Also, the nature of God necessitated a complete and particular foreordination and predestination of all things— including Adams fall. He had some difficulty reasoning through Adams sin; but once Adam sinned, even the will of his descendants is depraved. Quoting Augustine— Man through liberty became a sinner, but corruption, ensuing as the penalty, has converted liberty into necessity. Calvin says, It thus appears that none can enter the kingdom of God save those whose minds have been renewed by the enlightening of the Holy Spirit. It is important to note (for our current discussions) that Calvins grace is extended particularly, to individuals chosen of God. He says, Let no prating Pelagian here allege that God obviates this rudeness or stupidity, when, by the doctrine of his word, he directs us to a path which we could not have found without a guide. Again, When the will is enchained as the slave of sin, it cannot make a movement toward goodness, far less steadily pursue it. (From Institutes Bk. 2, Ch. 2, S. 20-21; Ch. 3, S.5.)

Of course, I believe man does have the capacity to understand the revelation of God— that grace is universally extended in that the Gospel is offered unto all, (Titus 1:11-f. Eph. 3:2-6). I do not believe (as Pelagius, if fairly represented) that man has no need for grace, for Christ, died for the sins of the world, to become the author of salvation unto all who obey Him. (Heb. 5:9) It is by His grace that He liveth to make intercession for us. (Heb. 7:25 1 Jn. l:7-f.)

I do not believe that mans free will was lost in Adam; nor that sins because he is man. (In the sense that God is just because He is God.) One need not be Pelagian nor Calvinist— these two did not exhaust concepts of salvation— but their conflicts focus attention upon the nature and condition of man. Is he free to accept or reject Gods word? Is he capable of serving God acceptably? We are going to have to reexamine, or study initially, such basic fundamental issues. Maybe we will rediscover why pioneer preachers often preached: THE GOSPEL WHICH GOD GAVE, IS WELL. SUITED TO THE MAN WHOM GOD MADE!!