Pelagius (considered heretical):
- Everyone is born neither a sinner nor a saint. We become sinners through our own choices, but we could have chosen otherwise. Adam was just a single man and his sin did not affect anyone but himself. Just as Adam decided to be a sinner, so can we. When we are born we are just like Adam was before the sin of the fall.
- Everyone has the ability to either do good or to do bad. The reason why most people choose to be bad is because of the abundance of bad examples. This free will is God’s gift of grace to us.
- Therefore, we can be perfect and without sin if we simply choose to. Further, man is able to find his own salvation.
- B.B. Warfield summarizing the view: “Man was thus a machine, which, just because it was well made, needed no Divine interference for its right working.”
- In short: denied original sin.
- We are not only unwilling to do good, but also unable. Only Adam was born perfect, but as the result of his sin the fullness of his free will was lost. He still had the ability to choose, but due to the corruption that had entered his moral nature he will most always choose to do evil. This moral nature has been passed down to us. We are born with a corrupt moral nature and, although we retain the ability to make our own choices, we are overwhelmingly inclined to choose evil.
- The grace of God is a gift that allows us to break free from this moral corruption and choose to do good. Without this grace we do not even have the ability to select God. He does not give this gift to everybody.
- In short: confirmed original sin.
||Born free, chose to sin, no effect on us
||Born free, chose to sin, affected us
||Born free, can choose to sin or not to sin
||Born with original sin. Have free will, but will mostly choose to do bad because of original sin.
|What is Grace?
||The ability to have free will and choose either to sin or not to sin.
||A gift from God that allows us to be free from sin.
||Through choosing not to sin and doing good works
||A gift of grace through God alone.
I share the view of Andrew Fuller. This view is very similar to Augustine’s. Man is born with original sin, but the original sin affects only man’s moral nature. It makes the bad things in the world look more desirable than the spiritual things do. Because of this preference, man will always choose to do bad. This in no way limit’s man’s free will or his ability to choose. Take this worldly example: there are some people who, after exposure to certain things, do not have any desire to do them again. Some people touch something hot and get burned. Others have too much of a specific alcoholic beverage and never want it again (remember I said worldy example). Even though these specific experiences have influenced people’s subsequent future reactions, it is still the people that are making the decisions.
Our inherited moral corruption is also like this, but the original experience was that of someone else: Adam. God, though His grace, chooses to free some men and women from this predicament, but the granting of freedom is only fixing the broken moral will. Man still makes his own choices, as always, but that event that caused man to prefer bad has been wiped away and a new one that prefers good is in its place. We always make choices according to our preference and only our preference is affected in this process. Our ability to choose never is. Therefore, man is always free and God is always sovereign.
Calhoun, David. “Augustine & Pelagian Controversy.”
Samples, Kenneth Richard. “Historical Profile: Augustine of Hippo Part 2 of 2: Rightly Dividing the Truth.”
Sproul, R.C. Augustine and Pelagius.
Contrary to the ease and delight I found in reading Athanasius, I found St. Gregory of Nazianzus’ On God and Christ to be very difficult to get through and had to put the book down numerous times in order to take mental breaks. Although it has been said that Gregory is a prose artist in the original Greek, the English translation loses this appeal and thrusts the work into the realm of virtual incomprehensibility.
The startling discovery was that a reader must read Gregory with the same care that an explosives technician puts into following his recipe for destruction. Just as one wrong combination of ingredients leads to the death of the bomb maker, a normal-paced reading of Gregory leads the reader to intellectual complacency. Without extreme care, the reader finds himself in a vicious circle back where he started having no further understanding of the subject matter than he did before the reading, having only the passage of time to show for the experience.
Even when our mind correctly interprets the puzzle of Gregory’s words, our understanding of the material is still hindered by its contextual ontology. We are faced with the sorry realization that the concepts in Gregory’s time are not the same as concepts in our time and what may seem heretical by our standards were just ways of expressing correct theological interpretations based upon a pre-psychological epistemology. So, even when we finally fully understand Gregory, we don’t. Correct understanding of Gregory seems as simple as trying to swim across a lake of molasses with your hands and feet bound and your waist strapped to either a Yugo or a John Deere tractor, depending on your pre-existent familiarity with early church history.
With all of that being said, I understand that Gregory had a wonderful impact on Christian history and that his writings are works of art in the original language and are difficult to translate for this reason. I believe there is much value in reading Gregory in the translated form however difficult it may be. People do all sorts of bizarre things.
Reading St. Athanasius’s On the Incarnation was my first experience with any of the early church fathers. I found this exercise both fun and interesting. As a Christian, and as any “-an” for that matter, it is important to know the history of the faith (or the history of the United States, if one is an Americ”-an”). Through understanding the history of the early church, we can not only gain a better theological understanding but also, as apologetics students, an understanding of the various heresies these founders were confronting and how they overcame them. Responses to early heresies should be on every apologist’s bookshelf as the same heresies keep coming back in different forms. For example, today’s Jehovah’s Witness heresy is a form of Arianism. Early responses to the Arian heresy by church fathers such as Athanasius are critical tools for confronting this cult today.
I found Athanasius’s style very accessible yet convincing. Many classic translated texts seem to be very difficult to comprehend and sometimes much time is needed to find even the key points. I did not have this problem with Athanasius. Key points are repeated many times to further the reader’s understanding. The text is inviting and addicting. I found it difficult to put down.
Throughout the book, Athanasius masterfully illustrates his ideas by presenting many examples and analogies to further simplify the topics for his readers. This provides a useful method to strengthen understanding of the doctrine of the Incarnation which, if not explained correctly, could develop into either prose that is too difficult to comprehend or, when oversimplified, could develop into a heresy such as Arianism which Athanasius himself devoted most of his life to refuting. Athanasius walks across this tightrope of presentation like a skilled artist and the reader is left with an exhilarating new understanding of the Incarnation.
Since I am currently interested in learning about the different views regarding the noetic effects of sin and the general struggle of good vs. evil in the world, I enjoyed many of Athanasius’s quotes on the topic. These include §5 “Indeed, they had in their sinning surpassed all limits…”, and §11 “How could men be reasonable beings…”. I also enjoyed the example of the painter and the portrait which, although not pertaining to the topics just listed, presents a great illustration of the Incarnation, the main theme of this work.