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 should we think about the issue of same-sex attraction? Is it essentially the same as being gay? How does the issue of sexual preference relate to our identity as Christians, and how are we to talk about our differences with others in a world that is increasingly accepting of homosexuality and same-sex marriage? Michael Horton discusses these issues and more with Sam Allberry, author of Is God Anti-Gay? on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“What our own culture is saying at this particular point in time is that your sexual desires define you and they are the core of who you are. They are the key to understanding you and we too easily adopt this as Christians but Jesus himself said it’s what comes out of your heart that defiles you. And so, we as Christians should have a very different understanding of who we are. We don’t look within ourselves to find true meaning, true fulfillment, true salvation as what we find when we look inside of ourselves is the problem, not the solution.” – Sam Allberry
“Sin as a Condition”
Sin is first of all a condition that is simultaneously judicial and moral, legal and relational. Accordingly, we sin because we are sinners rather than vice versa. Standing before God as transgressors in Adam, we exhibit our guilt and corruption in actual thoughts and actions.
Furthermore, we are both victims and perpetrators. There is no human being since the fall who is only victim; yet it is also true that every sinner is also sinned against. A particular act of sin may be (or include) the fault of someone else, but the sinful condition and the web of sinful actions and relationships that flow from it implicate us as well. It is true that we do not simply choose our vices, but are conditioned by the sinful structures to which our particular socio-cultural or familial contexts tend. Yet it is also true that we yield ourselves to these vices and are responsible for our own actions. (Adapted from Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, pp. 427–28)
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)
Everyone has an intricate belief system that takes some kind of faith and leads us to worship. Each belief system, whether secular or religious, is rooted in some kind of narrative or story that ends up forming a person’s core values, goals, and habits. As we have seen in previous episodes, all of these things are bound together. The same is true with the Christian story and how we relate the drama to the doctrines and worship we derive from it.
How should we respond to the announcement of God’s redemptive mission to seek and save the lost, or to the doctrinal implications of Christ’s atoning death and his resurrection from the dead? On this program, the hosts will move from the drama and the doctrine to a discussion of doxology, or worship. What is the appropriate response to the good news of the gospel, and what patterns of living should flow out of an understanding of God’s grace in Christ? As with doctrine, we cannot escape worship. The question is to whom or to what we will be devoted. We’re talking about “Finding Yourself in God’s Story” on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“Too often in churches this basic biblical drama and its doctrines are assumed. Or they’re turned into a story about us with the supporting role for God, but we’re the star and author of the play. It’s all about how you can have your best life now and if God fits into that, so much the better. Our drama, doctrines, doxology and discipleship, even as believers, are increasingly determined by a human-centered culture.
“First, we need to be immersed once again in the amazing drama of the Bible, its Christ-centered plotline from Genesis to Revelation. Second, we need to see the connections to the doctrines that actually tell us what the drama means for us here and now. Third, we need to step into the story ourselves. Some believers are richly fed each week by a steady diet of the biblical drama as the story of God sitting purposes in Christ unfold before them. Some even connect the doctrinal dots. They know what they believe in and why they believe it. But they’re still in the stands, fans rather than participants. They’ve never been gripped by the ‘So what?’ – the implications of the drama and the doctrines that would lead them to join in this parade of thanksgiving. Scripture itself connects doctrine and worship in our lives so that we can take our place in the royal procession to Zion!.” – 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 (compare Phil. 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)
According to the doctrines of nihilism, nothing at all is sacred. In fact, nothing really matters except that which gives momentary pleasure or excitement. Christianity, on the other hand, starts with a completely different premise. This world is God’s world, and everything we do matters.
So what are the implications of these two views? Do ideas like these just float around in a person’s head, or do these beliefs shape us in ways we can’t even comprehend? The hosts will discuss these issues and more as they continue their series, “Finding Yourself in God’s Story,” on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“According to the doctrines of nihilism and secularism, nothing is sacred; and, in fact, ultimately nothing really matters at all except for that which excites you for the moment. Nothing’s transcendent and we become like beasts with only base instincts. Christianity, however, presents a completely opposite picture. You are significant. You are bought with a price. This matters for you today. For as we become immersed in this story and understand the doctrines that connect us to it, we find ourselves experiencing the joy, hope, and confidence – that doxology – which makes us disciples of Christ throughout our lives.” – Michael Horton
Narrative collapse is the loss of linear stories and their replacement with both crass reality programming and highly intelligent post-narrative shows like The Simpsons. With no goals to justify journeys, we get the impatient impulsiveness of the Tea Party, as well as the unbearably patient presentism of the Occupy movement. The new path to sense-making is more like an open game than a story.
Narrative Collapse is what happens when we no longer have time in which to tell a story. It is the experience of living in this fast-moving, chaotic information environment which destroys our capacity to conceive of our lives as stories, with a beginning, middle, and end. (Adapted from Douglas Rushkoff, rushkoff.com/present-shock)
On this program the hosts are continuing our new series, taking a look at how the drama gives birth to the doctrines we are to believe. As they unpack these key concepts, they’ll help us to see that every belief system is rooted in some kind of narrative or story that ends up forming a person’s core values, goals, habits, and yes, doctrines.
Many Christians today have uncritically accepted the idea that “doctrine is irrelevant,” without even realizing that this very idea is itself a doctrine. In fact, the very moment one turns away from any particular belief or opinion, other beliefs rush in to fill the void. So everyone has doctrine, but the question is whether our beliefs and assumptions about God or the world in which we live are true, false, or somewhere in between. “Finding Yourself in God’s Story” is our series and the importance of doctrine is our focus on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“Folks, what we’re saying here is doctrine matters. The doctrines come out of the drama. The drama is basically the story you’re living in, whether you know it or not – the story you take to be true. You may not have even reflected on whether it’s true or not, but it’s your default setting. You’re assuming certain things are true about the world. This is how your life fits in with the life of other people around you. This is the meaning of history. This is what the story is all about and you’re living your life in the light of that. Then, the doctrines that come out of it are the reasonable implications of that story and that shapes your experience and the way you live in the world. That’s what we’re saying. If it’s not going to be Christianity, it’s going to be some other narrative. It’s going to be some other drama that shapes you. If the Christian drama isn’t what you’re getting regularly in church, if this isn’t the way you’re reading the Bible and getting it deep down into you, even to the point, as Paul says, where we are singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs so that the work of Christ may dwell in us richly, then other stories are going to do that. You can’t just drift. You can’t just say, well, I tip my hat to a couple of doctrines and yeah, I believe Jesus died for my sins, and not immerse yourself in that story from Genesis to revelation and reflect on the doctrines that come out of it.
“If you don’t invest in that Christian, biblical drama and its doctrines, you will, by default, be shaped by the drama and the doctrines that Madison Avenue is selling to you every day that you’re getting from CNN or MSNBC or Fox. They’re going to shape you. They’re going to tell you who you are and it’s not going to be in Christ. This is the greatest story ever told and it happens to be the true story and Jesus proved that by being raised on the third day. No other drama has that lynchpin and has that kind of empirical validity that you can analyze, that you can approach and look at and contrast with the baseless stories that the world is telling us every day.” – Michael Horton
As individual believers and as churches, we are always prone to fall away unless we are brought back by the Spirit to the Word. Therefore, we always need a theology grounded in that Word in dependence on the Spirit. The study of Christian doctrine is always an indispensable enterprise for the faith and practice of the whole church—not only for academics or even pastors, but for the whole communion of saints. Everyone who confesses the creed should always be growing in his or her understanding of its depth and implications.
The alternative to this growth in the knowledge and grace of Christ is not pious experience or good works but gradual assimilation to the powers of this passing evil age. The biblical drama plots our character “in Adam” by our natural birth in this present evil age. Nevertheless, “According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet 1:3-5).
(From Michael Horton’s, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, p. 26)
As you may have heard, several prominent religious leaders have been chosen to lead prayers at the upcoming presidential inauguration. Among them: Franklin Graham, and the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Graham of course is the son of the great Billy Graham, and Cardinal Dolan, the recipient of the 2013 Wilberforce Award.
But it’s a third prominent person chosen to pray that has raised both eyebrows and, truth be told, more than a few hackles in part of the Christian world.
Paula White is the Senior Pastor of the New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, a megachurch with thousands of members. She is also a televangelist and author of numerous books.
Now, I mention her today because both throughout the election and now, she’s being referred to as an evangelical Christian leader despite both political controversy and deep theological error. Politically, she, along with Bennie Hinn, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland and others, were the subject of a three-year investigation headed by Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa prompted by complaints of “lavish spending at the ministries,” including the purchase of private jets.
Now, I don’t believe in government oversight of theology and ecclesiastical practice. But, truth be told, it’s the theological error in the prosperity gospel movement that led to this political investigation. And the theological error is so grave, we must not allow it to be confused with the actual Gospel.
You’ll forgive me for citing Wikipedia’s two-part definition of the “prosperity gospel,” but it’s quite accurate, and it reveals the error of which I speak.
First, followers of the prosperity Gospel believe that “financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them.” The phrase “financial blessing” goes beyond the meeting of basic material needs to what could reasonably be characterized as “luxuries.”
Second, “faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth.” In other words, God can, through our thoughts and actions, be manipulated into giving us what we want. And if we don’t get what we asked for, it’s because we didn’t have enough faith, we allowed doubt to creep in, or we weren’t generous enough.
Now, if that sounds strikingly similar to something you might hear from Oprah, there’s a good reason. There is more than a little overlap between the worldview underlying the prosperity gospel and that underlying stuff like “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne and its “law of attraction.” Neither are compatible with the teaching of the New Testament or historic, orthodox Christianity.
Consider White’s own words on a TBN show:
“There is creative power in your mouth right now. God spoke and created the universe; you have creative power to speak life and death! If you believe God, you can create anything in your life.”
There is problem enough with those words without taking into account that exercising this “creative power,” according to prosperity preachers, almost always requires an upfront financial commitment.
These and other heterodox beliefs are why Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary, writing in the Washington Post recently, said that the prosperity gospel is not “just another branch of Pentecostalism,’ but instead, “another religion.”
Now sadly, Graham and Dolan are catching flak for appearing on the same platform as White. But that’s unfair. Ministers of the Gospel should always take the opportunity to speak truth to power.
And at a time when the general public—and certainly the media—barely understands Christianity, we need to take the opportunity to point out the very significant differences between the prosperity gospel and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
(Editor’s note: The commentary originally quoted Paula White “on her TBN show.” We should have said “on a TBN show.”)
By Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.