Semi Pelagianism

Discussion in 'Calvinism/Arminianism Debate' started by glad4mercy, Oct 13, 2016.

  1. glad4mercy

    glad4mercy
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    Someone asked me in another thread to deal with Semi-Pelagianism. This request was made in light of my stating that my beliefs most closely reflect Classical Arminianism. I will take the opportunity to address this as requested, because contrary to the notion of some, Classical Arminianism is not semi-pelagianism. First, I will address what semi pelagianism is, then state the position of the Classical Arminians.

    Semi Pelagianism teaches that a person can decide to turn to Christ without the aid of Divine Grace, ie that a person can initiate faith and take the initial steps toward salvation on their own initiative. This is not the view of Classical Arminians.

    Arminius- In this state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, maimed, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.

    Arminius The Second thing to be observed is, that as the very first commencement of every good thing, so likewise the progress, continuance and confirmation, nay, even the perseverance in good, are not from ourselves, but from God through the Holy Spirit. For "he who hath begun a good work in you, will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ;" (Phil. i. 6;)

    Remonstrants, article three- That man has not saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as he, in the state of apostasy and sin, can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving faith eminently is); but that it is needful that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, or will, and all his powers, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, “Without me ye can do nothing.” [4]

    Remonstrants, article four- That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to this extent, that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements, that can be conceived, must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. but respects the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible; inasmuch as it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Ghost. Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places.

    So the statement that Armiianism in it's original form is a form of Semi-pelagiianism is wholly invalid, and people who say such things harm their own credibilty.
     
    #1 glad4mercy, Oct 13, 2016
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  2. JonC

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    The Formula of Concord (under Negative Theses) rejects the “error of the Semi-Pelagians, who teach that man by his own powers can make a beginning of his conversion, but without the grace of the Holy Ghost cannot complete it.”

    The document continues by rejecting “Also, when it is taught that, although man by his free will before regeneration is too weak to make a beginning, and by his own powers to turn himself to God, and from the heart to be obedient to God, yet, if the Holy Ghost by the preaching of the Word has made a beginning, and therein offered His grace, then the will of man from its own natural powers can add something, thought little and feebly, to this end, can help and cooperate, qualify and prepare itself for grace, and embrace and accept it, and believe the Gospel.”

    The first rejection is Semi-Pelagianism, and I agree that many reject Arminianism falsely (Arminianism does not claim that men can turn to God and then allow God to do the rest). But the second rejection does appear (to me) to be Arminianism (although the objection is pre-Arminianism). I do not know if both points were meant to be taken as Semi-Pelagianism (and if so, I do not know if the term had expanded to incorporate the action of man as effecting salvation).

    But that's one reason I prefer to talk about what people believe instead of the "isim" that defines their view. Very often positions are stereotype and characterized in ways that are not necessarily reflective of their views.
     
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  3. rsr

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    Just to be clear to readers, the Formula of Concord is a Lutheran document that attempted to reconcile Luther's strict Augustinianism with Melanchthon's revisions.

    The negatives on this point deal with a number of issues, not strictly Pelagianism. For example, it also condemns the Enthusiasts, whose soteriological views are similar to that of many Primitive Baptists, i.e., they "imagine that God without means, without the hearing of God's Word, also without the use of the holy Sacraments, draws men to Himself, and enlightens, justifies, and saves them."

    In rejecting that "the will of man from its own natural powers can add something, though little and feebly, to this end, can help and cooperate, qualify and prepare itself for grace, and embrace and accept it, and believe the Gospel” is a condemnation of some Lutheran theology and may describe some Arminian thought, but that formulation is absent from classical Arminianism, though not perhaps from later developments.
     
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  4. JonC

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    What I wonder, reading the Formula of Concord, is whether or not Semi-Pelagianism was originally or at least by the end of the 16th Century (by 1577) taken as a broader term than the OP allows. In this Lutheran document, it seems that three errors may fall into this category (the third being that man can, after regeneration, perfectly observe God's Law and merit salvation). But even if I am mistaken regarding how the Lutherans organized those "errors", I wonder if the term in contemporary usage can legitimately refer to any theory whereby salvation depends on an act or will of man.

    The reason I bring this up is that definitions change. Some may be tempted to take the "words have meaning" position, and I'd agree to an extent, but we can't ignore that language evolves. In a historic context alone, dealing with original definitions only, we would not be having this dialogue because we are Baptists. Lutherans coined the phrase "Calvinism" not to address soteriological differences but positions in sacramental views. Arminianism itself is of Calvinist trajectory (lest we forget, Arminius died a Calvinist), so it carries with it (in a strictly historic and original context) views contrary to Baptist theology.

    Definitions change and we have to work within the bounds of what these things mean in order to communicate effectively. I believe what is more important than the terms used is the meaning of those terms and how they are used.

    That said, the terms "Semi-Plagainism" and even "Arminianism" have often been thrown about as insults rather than legitimate talking points. Glad4mercy has started what could be an interesting discussion (if the temperament of the board allows).
     
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  5. TCassidy

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    I think some simple definitions are necessary in order to intelligently continue this discussion.

    1. Pelagianism: Man is capable of initiating his own salvation solely on the basis of his own free will apart from the grace of God.

    2. Semi-Pelagianism: man does not have an unlimited free will, but man and God could cooperate to a certain degree in this salvation effort: man can (unaided by grace) make the first move toward God, and God then increases and guards that faith, completing the work of salvation.

    3. Classic Arminianism: Man is Totally Depraved and thus unable to come to God unless God first intervenes with Prevenient Grace which precedes a person's decision for Christ and is completely apart from any human merit. Prevenient Grace enables a person to engage their God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ or to reject that offer.

    4. Lutheranism: Conversion is through a "means of grace," such as the "Sacrament" of Baptism wherein the recipient is "born again in baptism." As history shows us that all those initiated into the church of Luther do not necessarily grow into Christians it would seem that this form of Augustinianism is, therefore, at least to some extent, resistible.

    5. Classic Augustinianism: By God's Sovereignly bestowed regenerating grace one is given faith to believe and grace to live the abundant life in Christ.

    Any person holding to any one of these positions should feel free to object or modify my understanding of your position.

    But please, don't try to tell me what somebody else believes. The above were formulated by those who believe those position, not by opponents.
     
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  6. JonC

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    It seems that the Formula of Concord addresses what it sees as error in Christian theology (guarding the Lutheran church from what they reject). For my clarification, what exactly is the historical position that “although man by his free will before regeneration is too weak to make a beginning, and by his own powers to turn himself to God, and from the heart to be obedient to God, yet, if the Holy Ghost by the preaching of the Word has made a beginning, and therein offered His grace, then the will of man from its own natural powers can add something, thought little and feebly, to this end, can help and cooperate, qualify and prepare itself for grace, and embrace and accept it, and believe the Gospel” properly titled?

    It appears to be fairly well described and rejected in the Formula of Concord as error, but this was prior to the controversial teachings of James Arminius (he would have been about 16, I think, when this was addressed by the Lutherans). I can see that it is stated differently, but I don’t see a difference between what they were addressing and the doctrines put forward by the Remonstrant movement.
     
  7. glad4mercy

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    Direct quote- 5. Likewise, that the human being, after rebirth, can keep God‘s law perfectly and fulfill it completely, and that this fulfilling of the law constitutes our righteousness before God, with which we merit eternal life.

    Three parts...I disagree with them, especially b and c.

    a. Man can keep God's law perfectly after regeneration
    b. This fulfillment of the Law constitutes our righteousness before God.
    c. Therein we merit eternal life.

    regarding a- http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works1.iii.vii.ii.htmlc

    As to myself, I would say that for one to keep the Law perfectly would require loving God and neighbor with an perfect and infallible love, even to the degree where not only our works, but also our thoughts, motives, and intents would be absolutely pure. I don't think we attain that absolute perfection in this life, which is why we need the grace, mediation, intercession of Christ continually

    The Law is a mirror to show us our need for Christ and His Grace. It cannot save or preserve us, it is Christ's finished work that saves us and His Mediation that keeps us as we trust Him.

    And I would never say that our performance in keeping the Law is the basis of our righteousness or that we ever merit eternal life. Christ is our only righteousness (imputed in justification;imparted in sanctification) and our only merit

    I agree with the definitions you provided. Thanks
     
    #7 glad4mercy, Oct 14, 2016
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  8. glad4mercy

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    I don't think the Remonstrants would agree to the statement that we "add" something by our "natural powers". We receive God's grace, but that is not adding anything to it.

    And I don't think they would agree to the Law being the basis of our righteousness or that we merit salvation by our obedience to the Law as the formula addresses. These things are definitely contrary to Classical Arminianism, IMHO
     
    #8 glad4mercy, Oct 14, 2016
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  9. JonC

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    Thanks. When I read the views expressed and debated I realize that there are two barriers I face - variety of positions and a poor understanding (on my part). What role (if any) would you say that our "natural powers" would serve in terms of a man being saved?
     
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  10. glad4mercy

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    The thing is, I do not see faith and repentance as works. They are responses but not works that I do or drum up by my own natural powers. Repentance is a change of heart and mind resulting in a change of life. If I try to do that by the natural power of my volition, I will fail and fail again. ONLY GOD CAN CLEANSE AND TRANSFORM A HEART! I think this is why so many people who confess Christ struggle with sin, is because they think that repentance and faith is something that they must somehow do by their own volition (Pelagianism?), and then God will do the rest. This is not what we mean (or at least not what I mean) I see repentance and faith as gifts that can be received from God. But they can also be rejected.

    So knowing the utter depravity of my flesh, I need to trust God to cleanse and purify (and soften) my heart. But even the desire for a clean and soft heart comes from Him. In fact, holy desires like these are indications of His grace, because they are not produced by sinful flesh.

    So the only thing we can do is receive the gift, and even that is only made possible by preceding grace.

    This is why I say that salvation is monergistic, even though I am an Arminian who believes in resistable grace. This is not contradictory when you realize that everything, even faith and the ability to repent, is a GIFT from God, but like any gift can be received or rejected. And a gift can also be neglected. Hebrews 1:3
     
    #10 glad4mercy, Oct 14, 2016
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  11. JonC

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    Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. Both sides of the Cal/Arm debate (historically) reject a works based salvation. The way you see it, is the difference strictly in context of whether or not one has the capability to resist this grace?

    The reason that I ask is I do view grace as prevailing. I do not think that God can have mercy to an extent that salvation is revealed without that revelation itself carrying the man forward (I suppose for support my first appeal would be to God blinding Pharaoh's heart in Exodus 9:12). My initial thought would be that your position has man prevailing over God, but I also know that this would be neither a fair assessment of your position nor a statement of your conclusion.
     
  12. glad4mercy

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    Besides resistable grace there is also the question of who did Christ die for. Did He die for the world (KOSMOS) or for the elect ONLY? The Bible teaches that He died for the sins of the world, that He died for all, etc. In addition, the verses that say He died for the Elect/Sheep/those given to Him by God does not necessarily exclude others.

    Calvinists think that this position depreciates the value of the atonement and infringes on God's Sovereignty, but i disagree.

    The value of the blood of Christ is infinite, whether He dies for the whole world or for the elect only. As far as God's Sovereignty, Calvinists say that if Christ died for all people and not all people are saved, then God's intention is not realized. I think this misses the point.

    Why would Christ die for those who reject Him? And why would the Father draw those who will refuse to come? Simply put, the fact that Christ died for the perishing sinner and the fact that the invitation was sent to him or her magnifies God's Justice in punishing the unrepentant sinner. They will not be able to say that they had no opportunity to be saved.

    Pelagius rejected original sin and sin nature because he thought that if a man was incapable of righteousness and was a sinner by nature (which we Calvinism and Arminianism agrees on), then he could not be held accountable for his sin, for acting according to his nature. Yet Pelagius was wrong, because while it is true that man by nature is incapable of righteousness and is a sinner by nature , yet God has provided a way to escape the corruption of the flesh (regeneration and sanctification). So the objection of Pelagius was wholly unfounded.

    I have tried to reason with Pelagians and Semipelagians (socinians, unitarians) extensively. They always think I am a Calvinist, because Arminianism is so far removed from both Pelagianism and semi-pelagianism. They even accuse Calvinists (and me) of being influenced by Gnostic tendency. I have been called "gnostic" by Pelagians and semi-pelagian by SOME (NOT ALL) Calvinsts, LOL.

    ...and man is not prevailing over God by resisting grace. God is Soveriegn regardless of whether we submit to Him or we don't. Resisting a Soveriegn is not the same as prevailing against a Soveriegn.
    See Matthew 21:33-44
     
    #12 glad4mercy, Oct 14, 2016
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  13. TCassidy

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    We do? Who says?

    1 Timothy 4:10 For therefore we both labour and suffer reproach, because we trust in the living God, who is the Saviour of all men, specially of those that believe.

    Is Christ the Savior of all persons without exception in exactly the same way, or is He Savior of all, but in a special sense of those who believe?
     
  14. glad4mercy

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    I have heard it from several Calvinists. I just heard it yesterday. I have to look it up, but it was either a sermon on limited atonement or from one of Boetner's books. I will let you know later

    As far as 1 Timothy 4:10, the passage is saying that there is only one Saviour for all men (not more than one), not that everyone is saved (universalism)
     
    #14 glad4mercy, Oct 14, 2016
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  15. JamesL

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    Everyone, without exception, will be saved. But not in the sense you think of salvation. Limited Atonement is absolutely true also
     
  16. JonC

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    James,
    In what sense do you mean (that everyone, without exception, will be saved)?
     
  17. JamesL

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    bodily resurrection...

    Consider that we are "saved" by the washing of regeneration (Titus 3:5) this is referring to our inner man of believers. Christ died for His own, etc. Limited Atonement.

    But also consider that the resurrection is called "regeneration" in Matthew 19:28

    Romans 5:10 says we shall be saved "by His life" and then goes on in a very universal fashion, strikingly similar to 1Cor 15:21-22 - which is very clearly in the context of bodily resurrection.

    The blood of Jesus cleanses sin. Not only the inner man of believers, but also the entire creation. That's what regeneration is. Jesus is the Savior of all men (bodily), and especially of believers - who will be with Him
     
  18. JonC

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    Regarding for whom Christ died, I find myself very much in agreement with you here on many points.

    I agree that Christ died that all may be saved. But in terms of election, I do believe it unconditional and therefore what ultimately determines the difference between belief and disbelief resides with the Father electing rather than the Son dying. I will also point out that historical Calvinism has existed on both sides of this issue. Some have viewed the crux as those for whom the Son died while others have concentrated on the election of the Father (holding that Christ died literally for all men). I believe the former to be error while ascribing to the latter.

    I agree with your assessment that Christ died for those who will reject Him. In fact, I find this not only biblically but also experientially true. The Bible says that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Before I was “in Christ” I was found outside and in a state of rejecting Him.

    I suppose the greatest difference between you and I here would be that while I agree that Christ died so that all may be saved, I do not believe that Christ died to save all. All can be saved on the basis of Christ as the propitiation for their sins (Christ died as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world). Jesus is Savior, period. But none are saved on provision. Salvation is a Trinitarian and supernatural work of God in the lives of men who exist in a state of condemnation for rejecting Christ already.
     
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  19. JonC

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    I'm not sure that I understand you, James. What becomes of those who are "saved" but are without faith in Christ (those who are not "saved by the washing of regeneration" as they are not believers)?

    As it stands now, it seems to me that you are speaking of the bodily resurrection of all (some to condemnation and some to glory) as a "salvation", but I am not sure I am following you. (I may just be a bit thick headed this morning).
     
  20. JamesL

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    scripture says they experience the second death.

    Seems reasonable that a regenerated body would not be consumed by the flames of hell. I really have no opinion as to literal vs figurative flames, though.


    You got the gist of it. However, this is not something merely fabricated in the mind of a fanciful wonderer. I have a hard time conceiving how it could be considered salvation in any sense. But scripture uses that word so I go with that.

    And I'm also not suggesting that scrupture ties all the ends together for us
     

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