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)
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)