How do we relate the sin of Adam to humanity? Why are we guilty for something we did not do? How is this just? Are children born with original guilt and corruption, or does Scripture teach that there is an age of accountability? What did Augustine, Pelagius, or Arminius believe about this important question? On this program the hosts will discuss various perspectives on the effects of the Fall that have arisen throughout the history of the church as they continue to unpack the implications of Original Sin. Join us for the latest episode of the White Horse Inn.
“We don’t have trouble with the fact that someone else can carry our sins away. We don’t have trouble saying that someone fulfilled the law in our place and someone imputed his righteousness to us. What we have trouble with is that someone’s sin was imputed to us. But you can’t have one without the other. They’re two sides of the same coin. If you don’t like this side, you’re going to have to throw out the whole coin.” – Michael Horton
The term designates both the teachings of Pelagius, a fourth-century Christian monk, and any teaching that minimizes the role of divine grace in salvation. It was Pelagius’ views on the Christian life, his moral rigorism, his high regard for the law, and his emphasis on discipline and the human will that laid the foundation for the controversy that gave birth to what has come to be known as Pelagianism. Pelagius was offended when he read in Augustine’s Confessions that humans must necessarily and inevitably sin, even after baptism. Augustine’s phrase “Give what you command and command what you will” seem to him to undermine the moral law and the quest for perfection, because it placed responsibility for righteousness on God rather than on the human will. Pelagius did not, as is often thought, deny the necessity of grace. Grace was to be understood as the revelation of God’s purposes and will, the wisdom by which humans are stirred to seek a life of righteousness…. Pelagius saw no opposition between the laws of the old covenant and the gospel. He saw grace as a precept and example, a view that led him to overestimate human capability and thus to invite criticism. (Adapted from The Encyclopedia of Religion, s.v. “Pelagianism.”)
Why is there so much evil and corruption in the world? Why do children need to be taught to behave, whereas disobedience and naughtiness come rather naturally? What exactly is sin, where does it come from, and how does it relate to our view of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ?
While this topic of sin is no longer fashionable to voice, the world needs to understand its plight before it comes to believe in the wonders of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus Christ. On this program the hosts will discuss these questions and more as they begin a new four-part series on the doctrine of Original Sin on the White Horse Inn.
“Sin is rebellion against God. If we start talking about sin as ‘I’m not fulfilling my potential or something like that,’ we’re already starting off wrong. We need to ask how sin relates to God if sin is rebellion against God. There’s ways that the Bible has talked about this; sin is about missing the mark of God’s law.
“God is holy and the way that the Bible depicts sin is there’s guilt that comes with our rebellion, there’s corruption that comes with that, but it also talks about sin as folly. So talking about original sin actually helps describe to us our present reality.” – Justin Holcomb
6.2 Our first parents, by this sin, fell from their original righteousness and communion with God, and we in them whereby death came upon all: all becoming dead in sin, and wholly defiled in all the faculties and parts of soul and body.
6.3 They being the root, and by God’s appointment, standing in the room and stead of all mankind, the guilt of the sin was imputed, and corrupted nature conveyed, to all their posterity descending from them by ordinary generation, being now conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, the servants of sin, the subjects of death, and all other miseries, spiritual, temporal, and eternal, unless the Lord Jesus set them free.
6.4 From this original corruption, whereby we are utterly indisposed, disabled, and made opposite to all good, and wholly inclined to all evil, do proceed all actual transgressions. (1689 London Baptist Confession, chap. 6, Sections 2–4)
What are the stories we tell ourselves, and how do these stories shape what we believe and how we live? What kind of disciples do these stories and doctrines create? How should the gospel counter-form us into a discipleship that is following Christ’s call on our lives? How does a life of discipleship and discipline flow out of doxology and worship?
While many churches in our day emphasize convenience and comfortability, one of the key ingredients to a life of lasting discipleship is actually discipline. In other words, like marriage or excelling in a particular career path, being a Christian is not always fun, but often involves hard work, faithfulness, and perseverance. We also need faithful shepherds to come alongside us, to feed and care for us, as we make our way through Vanity Fair on our way to the Celestial City. That’s the focus of this edition of the program as the hosts wrap up their series, Finding Yourself in God’s Story, on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“We don’t live the Gospel, but we do conduct ourselves in a way that in step with the truth of the Gospel. And that’s not just moralistic peccadillos, it’s something grander. It’s a vision that Paul was talking about right there about not living hypocritically, about loving across the boundaries of race and of socioeconomic standing, of male and female, rich and poor, people’s cultural affinities, whether you like opera or country music, across all of the boundaries, all of the enemies in this world that you can possibly think of, all the hostilities, living non-hypocritically, being at all times driven by the Gospel.
“Above all that is what the life of discipleship is – empowered by the Gospel and guided by God’s law. That is discipleship in summary. And, you know, it really comes down to love. That’s why Jesus could summarize the whole law in terms of loving God and loving your neighbor. Discipleship is about receiving God’s love and giving God’s love to others.” – Michael Horton
Term to Learn:
The move to the therapeutic in society has been induced by several cultural developments. The intense psychologization of men’s attitudes and feelings as the primary subconscious level of “who we are,” the altering definitions of justice as primarily the accommodation of society to remove all barriers from self-expression and empowering fulfillment of the self, and the movement to the individual subject as the arbiter of that freedom to happiness apart from external structures and forces. The good life of justice, freedom, happiness have been internalized to such a degree that boredom and the external forces which upset that interior life are now seen as the greatest of evils. Justice has been re-defined in the last century as the removal of external barriers and the material empowerment of the individual towards the good life perceived to be desirable.
Men’s attitudes and feelings have come to arbitrate justice and goodness in the late modern society. Safety and security have been held out as the primary good of Western culture above what previous generations saw as essential to promoting the good life, namely liberty, self-reliance, and responsibility. Conventional ideals of moral responsibility have gradually become subordinated to state interpreted therapeutic ideals. “Modern culture is unique in having given birth to such elaborately argued anti-religions, all aiming to confirm us in our devastating illusions of individuality and freedom,” writes Philip Rieff in his magisterial, The Triumph of the Therapeutic.
Jacques Ellul argued in the mid-century that whenever a culture’s ethical outlook could not keep a pace with its technological developments, propaganda was the fated result – the subconscious alteration of men’s attitudes and feelings through technological means of domination. Modern cultural production has moved into the business and technique of manipulating a sense of wellbeing under what Jürgen Habermas has called a “therapeutocracy.” (Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Culture,” WHI [blog], October 05, 2015)
What are the stories we tell ourselves, and how do these stories shape what we believe and how we live? What kind of disciples do these stories and doctrines create? How should the gospel and our liturgical practices form us into a discipleship that is following Christ’s call on our lives? How does a life of discipleship flow out of doxology and worship? Why are our daily habits and practices so critical in our discipleship?
We need to remind ourselves once again that worship is the natural response to encountering the God of Scripture. Once we have been captivated by his mercy and kindness to us in Christ, we not only offer him praise and adoration, but we also give him our very selves, for we are now no longer our own, but have been bought with a price.
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1Corinthians 6:19-20).
On this program the hosts discuss what it means to become true and lasting disciples of Jesus Christ as they continue their series, Finding Yourself in God’s Story, on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“There’s a lot of emphasis in our generation and in the whole history of evangelicalism on spontaneity. Get rid of order. Get rid of formalism. This is understandable and a correct critique of formalism but that can become a dangerous attack on forms and structure. I remember growing up with — even though it was non-liturgical evangelical background — lots of liturgies and there were also lots of disciplines. There was a lot of structure. You were expected to go to church in the morning and in the evening and in the Wednesday night prayer service and the church was pretty full at all of those services.
“Now, you look at a generation of boomers who reacted against that as ‘legalism’ and now people don’t even want to show up for church. You drive by the mall and its parking lot is overflowing on Sunday and there is very little of what there used to be. I even reacted when I went through my college years against a kind of pietistic environment where everything was, ‘Have you had your quiet time today?’ and it was all based on guilt. So, I reacted against that too. No, I should have a quiet time or whatever it is. I should read my Bible regularly and pray regularly by myself and with other people, but not on the basis of guilt. You don’t get rid of the discipline if you want to be a disciple. Liturgy is one of those disciplines, one of those structures, which is essential. Sunday is a good day to test whether we are being immersed in the greatest story ever told or whether we are being shaped by these other cultural liturgies.” – Michael Horton
Term to Learn:
“Church as Counter-Culture”
Cultures enact and uphold certain ritual practices that act as liturgical formations of identity through imaginative means. Such ritual forces of culture are not satisfied with being merely mundane; embedded in them is a sense of what ultimately matters.
…so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (Philippians 1:10)
‘Secular’ liturgies are fundamentally formative, and implicit in them is a vision of the kingdom that needs to be discerned and evaluated. From the perspective of Christian faith, these secular liturgies will often constitute mis-formation of our desires – aiming our heart away from the Creator to some aspect of the creation as if it were God. Secular liturgies capture our hearts by capturing our imaginations and drawing us into ritual practices that ‘teach’ us to love something very different from the kingdom of God.
By the same token, Christian worship needs to be intentionally liturgical, formative, and pedagogical in order to counter such mis-formation and misdirections. While the practices of Christian worship are best understood as the restoration of an original, creational desire for God, practically speaking, Christian worship functions as a counter-reformation to the mis-formation of secular liturgies into which we are ‘thrown’ from an early age. We must learn to consider Christian education (and worship) as a counter-pedagogy of desire. (Adapted from James K.A. Smith, “Love Takes Practice” in Desiring the Kingdom, p. 88)
As contemporary Christians have become increasingly detached from both the drama of Scripture and its doctrinal significance, our praise has shifted from a focus on God and his glory to our individual worship experiences. Yet we are not only called to gather once a week to sing God’s praises and to receive his good gifts, but also throughout the rest of the week to be loving, generous, and hospitable to others in grateful response to all that God has done for us.
The hosts will discuss issues related to worship and doxology as they continue their series, Finding Yourself in God’s Story, on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“What is justification?” Forgiveness of sins and declared righteous. You need the sacrifice on the cross, the penal substitutionary sacrifice, and Jesus’ obedience. What you start seeing throughout the entire Old Testament, not just Psalm 51 and Hebrews, is Jesus is the true Israel who fulfilled what Israel was supposed to be. So, he is the true vine who doesn’t need to get chopped off and thrown away. He is the fruitful one.
“This is important for people to see because many people think, okay, Jesus died on the cross. I’m forgiven of my sins. I’m back to zero. Now, it’s up to me to add to that account and what we’re saying, what this text is saying is, no, he is the obedient son and we are co-inheritors of this inheritance now. We’re in Christ. Because we’re in Christ, all of his benefits and all of his obedience, all that he has done is given to us. This is really helpful for people to see, is that Jesus doesn’t just get us back to zero but he deposits into our account his righteousness.” – Justin Holcomb
Term to Learn:
While some of our habits are acquired by choosing to engage in certain practices (e.g., signing up for drivers’ ed or registering for piano lessons), many are acquired without out our knowing it. And this might happen especially when we are unaware of it. If we are inattentive to the formative role of practices, or if we treat some practices as thin when they are thick, then we will be inattentive to all the ways that such practices unwittingly and unintentionally become automated. We will fail to recognize that they are forming in us habits and desires, oriented to particular ends that function to draw us toward those ends at an affective, unconscious level such that we become certain kinds of people without even being aware of it.
Liturgies are rituals of ultimate concern: rituals that are formative for identity, that inculcate particular visions of the good life, and do so in a way that means to trump other ritual formations. Our thickest practices – which are not necessarily linked to institutional religion – have a liturgical function insofar as they are a certain species of ritual practice that aim to do nothing less than shape our identity by shaping our desire for what we envision as the kingdom – the ideal of human flourishing. (James K.A. Smith, “Love Takes Practice” in Desiring the Kingdom, pp. 85-87)
The Bible did not fall down from heaven as a sourcebook for spirituality, personal life-lessons, or even as a collection of doctrines. Rather, it should primarily be understood as a report of an unfolding drama that took place in real space and time history that culminates in the life of a particular Jew born in Bethlehem in the days of Caesar Augustus.
If this story isn’t true, it should be completely rejected and set aside. But if it is true, then we will find ourselves caught up in the greatest story ever told. “Finding Yourself in God’s Story” is our theme on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“The Christian faith is not only true, but it’s also beautiful and good. That’s the thing about a drama that a doctrine by itself cannot manifest. A doctrine can be proved as true but you separate it from the drama, it doesn’t grip you as beautiful and good. There are good stories and bad stories. There are even — sometimes I’ll read a story or see a movie where it’s kind of a horrific drama that’s unfolding. But it’s true to reality. There’s something about it that grips me because it’s actually true to reality. That’s different from saying the cat is on the mat.
“There’s something in the drama of redemption that’s compelling to me, that’s persuasive. I think part of why a lot of people can’t connect with Christianity, though they’ve been raised in churches their whole life, is because it may have been presented as doctrine. It may have been presented as eight-hour praise services, praise-athons. It may have been 18,000 hours of homeroom where you’re doing discipleship courses. But the one thing it wasn’t was — here’s the greatest story ever told unfolding from Genesis to Revelation. And so, they don’t think Christianity is good. They don’t think it’s beautiful. They don’t care whether it’s true, then they begin to look for another story to ground their lives.” – Michael Horton
Term to Learn:
“Popular Postmodernism as Most-Modernism”
Most often postmodernism is simply a code word for something new, a supposed break with the past (modernity) and the dawn of a radically new era. Of course, a more modern description of an era could hardly be found, as academic postmodernists will be the first to point out. On a host of points (notions of tradition, language, the critique of autonomy, progress, presence and absence, and so on), thinkers actually classed as postmodern have a lot to teach us about what popularizers of postmodernism fail to recognize is little more than “most-modernism.”
There is just too much of the modern in the postmodern to be able to speak in sweeping terms of a major paradigm shift in culture. Postmodernism, or whatever one wishes to designate our brief moment in history, is the culture in which Sesame Street is considered educational; sexy is the term of approbation for everything from jeans to doctoral theses; watching sitcoms together at dinner is called family time; abortion is considered choice; films sell products; and a barrage of images and sound bites selected for their entertainment and commercial value is called news. This general trend in culture translates into hipper-than-thou clubs passing for youth ministry, informal chats passing for sermons, and brazen marketing passing for evangelism, where busyness equals holiness, and expository preaching is considered too intellectual. This trend can account in part for homes in which disciplined habits both of domestic culture and instruction in Christian faith and practice give way to niche marketing and churches becoming theaters of the absurd.
This take on postmodernism is hardly new. Marxist intellectual Alex Callinicos’ illuminating analysis of postmodernism concludes that it is little more than the result of the self-obsessed “flower children” of the revolutionary ’60s now taking their place in the professional “new middle class.” In other words, postmodernism and boomer go hand in hand. Fellow Marxist Terry Eagleton adds, “Radicals, for example, are traditionalists, just as conservatives are; it is simply that they adhere to different traditions.” This appraisal fits perfectly with what I see in my experience of contemporary evangelicalism. Postmodernism is the new code word for mission, a new way of enforcing not just change but particular changes that have particular ideological assumptions. One can even detect a note of fatalism in challenges that verge on bullying: “Get with it or get left behind.” This is just the way things are now, so we had better adapt. Sweeping endorsements or sweeping denouncements make for light work.
(Adapted from Michael Horton, “Better Homes & Gardens,” The Church in Emerging Culture, pp.105–111)