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Are We Born Free?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
July 29, 2020 12:01 am

Are We Born Free?

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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July 29, 2020 12:01 am

We aren't sinners because we sin--we sin because we are sinners. Today, R.C. Sproul addresses an early controversy in church history over the consequences of Adam's sin on human freedom and our need for God's grace in salvation.

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A survey asked this question is man basically good overwhelming majority professing evangelicals answered in the affirmative that you may have sin on the peripheral elements of your life to affect you outwardly, but in your heart of hearts scratch beneath the surface and you will find an up abiding goodness. So how would you into the question to determine how you view sin. Jesus work on the cross how you and I received an God's sovereignty. In other words, today's lesson from Dr. RC Sproul covers some extremely important ground was joined on the message titled, are we born free with saying already one part of the two front war that is engaged with respect to the issue of free will mainly how free will relates to divine sovereignty and of course that subject in and of itself is worthy of an entire series because there's so many issues involved in it but what I want to concentrate on in this series is the crisis with respect to the other front of the war, namely with respect to the doctrine of original sin as it relates to the question of free will know that issue emerged in great controversy in the early church with the influence of a man by the name of Pelagius and so because of his name. We refer to this as the Palladian controversy that pinhead Pelagius and his associates to last us and Julian against the Titan of the church in the first millennium St. Augustine now this controversy broke out towards the end of the fourth century and carried over into the fifth century and finally was settled at the Council of Carthage in 418, in which counsel Pelagius was condemned by the church as a heretic. Now, as often is the case in the history of heretics and church decisions and decrees that matter. Just because the church declares a theological position, heretical and renounces it does not mean it just simply goes away and disappears once and for all.

I would venture to say that the Palladian error is one of the most difficult errors that constantly confronts the church and certainly even in our own day. Well, let's step back from it for second and asked the question what was the Palladian controversy all about. Well, look at that first we have to understand a little bit of the biographical background of Pelagius. Pelagius according to tradition was born in Ireland, making him one of my national ancestors and Pelagius was certainly British. He was from the British Isles and he was an earnest and zealous monk who traveled to Rome and lived in Rome and was very much exercised by the cavalier spirit that he found among the clergy and among Christians in the eternal city and in fact he was appalled by the licentiousness, the godlessness and the conduct of those who were claiming to be Christians, and he was a zealot for the achieving of righteousness. In that regard, Pelagius had something in common with the original Pharisees, we use the term Pharisee.

We usually use it in the pejorative sense we have a negative connotation of the Pharisees because it was the Pharisees who were always so hostile towards Jesus that was in the first generation of Pharisees the original Pharisees were the Puritans of their day man who loves the covenant of God, men who love the law of God, and who were very much concerned about the moral laxity that had invaded the community of Israel. And so what the Pharisees devoted themselves to was to separate themselves onto the pursuit of righteousness through obedience to the law of God, so their motives were originally to restore the covenant truth in the law to Israel and then of course they became self-righteous and disintegrated into the enemies of Christ that they were when we meet them in the pages of the New Testament wealth. We look at Pelagius we see the Pelagius had this zeal for godliness and for righteousness and was very much concerned and exercised about the moral laxity that he found in the church at the end of the fourth century and then what provoked him to the theological controversy that bears his name, was a response to a famous prayer that had been penned by the Bishop of hippo St. Augustine. Augustine had in his prayer, made this statement. All God grant what thou command this and command what thou dost desire reset again of God grant what thou command this and command what thou dost desire. How do you respond to such a prayer.

Most of us would respond warmly and positively to such prayers that, but not Pelagius. Pelagius about had apoplexy when he read that prayer while he was in complete agreement with the second part of the prayer wherein Augustine had said to God, God command what so ever thou dost desire. Now, obviously, Augustine wasn't assuming that he was giving God permission to command whatever God desires, but rather he was simply acquiescing and acknowledging his willingness to submit to God's law. Whatever God desired that law to be and that was the intent of the sentiment of the second part of the prayer with which Pelagius had no problems and made no objection.

It was the first part of the prayer that upset him so greatly when he heard Augustine say, oh God, grant without a scummy place. And why would you pray prayer like the if God commands it surely he doesn't have to grant you the power or the authority to do whatever he commands. Augustine of course was saying God give me a gift.

Help me, when Augustine was talking about here was grace when he says God grant what thou dost command.

He was saying God give me the grace to be able to do what you command because Augustine believed, as we will see when we study him. That man is unable to obey the commandments of God unless God grants the necessary grace to do it.

Here's where Pelagius objected. He said no. Whatever God commands imposes an obligation and responsibility on the creature to obey it, and the first article of our theology has to do with the doctrine of God according to Pelagius and Pelagius said the thing that we understand so clearly about God is that God is just and being just God would never and indeed could never command his creature to do something that the creature is on able to do for God to command us to do something we are not able to do would be to impose an unjust commandment upon us, and even worse to punish us when we fail to do what we couldn't possibly do in the first place would be diabolical.

It would be like God said to us fly unaided without any machines or equipment from Orlando to Chicago.

God held us accountable for that money hasn't given us wings or feathers or any other equipment to make the soaring journey through the air. And so the idea that man required grace some kind of divine assistance to do his duty was utterly repugnant to Pelagius because again he said this casts a shadow on the righteousness of God. Now Augustine course would respond to that and would say wait a minute man cannot obey the law of God without the help of grace because man is fallen, and the effects of the fall involved to some degree or extent the loss of our moral power.

Now God's law doesn't change in creation. God said be holy even as I am holy.

You shall be perfect, even as I am perfect. Most of us would recognize today that the ability to be perfectly holy, perfectly mirroring the righteousness of God is an ability we don't have Adam had it in creation. But Adam fell, and with Adam's fall. The entire race fell with him and the fall meant a fall into a state of corruption by which we are born with the sin nature, such that we no longer are morally able to obey the law of God perfectly. Hence, we need grace. So what was assumed by Augustine here was the reality of the fall. In light of the fall. Augustine was arguing we need grace in order to obey God. So now the dispute turned into a controversy over the fall and its effects. Of course Pelagius did not deny that Adam sinned what he said is that Adam was created good and in his creation. He was made immutably good with respect to his constituent nature. Now, that means that according to Pelagius. Man was created good, but he had the freedom or the power to obey or disobey to do good or to do evil, but even when he'd chose to do evil, and that was real sin. That choice did not change his nature so that today every human being who was born into this world is born in the same moral condition that Adam was created prior to the fall. So what Pelagius is denying is not that Adam sinned, but that Adam fell in the sense of plunging himself and his descendents into a state of moral corruption by which their natures were changed historically, we would say that we are sinners, not because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners, that is that we are born with a sin nature.

That's the point. That was so sharply in dispute with a Pelagius. So for Pelagius man always has the ability to do either good or evil. He is not lost the moral ability or the moral power to obey God. Sin affects him but not at the core. Now you remember in our last session I talked about the Gallup poll world. The majority of professing evangelicals that were pulled in response to the question do believe that man is basically good that is good at the core, the overwhelming majority of professing evangelicals answered in the affirmative. That's the Pelagius answer answer is that you may have sin on the peripheral elements of your life. The affect you outwardly, but in your heart of hearts in the deepest part of your soul scratch beneath the surface and you will find an up biting the immutable goodness to the human heart and that of course was the position of Pelagius.

Now again for Pelagius. Though Adam fell's fall affected Adam and only Adam there is nothing that was passed on to his descendents. No transfer or imputation of guilt or no corruption of nature that resulted from Adam's sin.

In a sense no fall, there is the failure of Adam but no consequences to Adam or anyone else as far as the power of our will power of our nature. What Pelagius went on to say was that he was not opposed to grace the understood that the Bible has much to say about grace and the grace is a good thing not a bad thing and there's nothing wrong with praying for grace but for Pelagius grace the operative word. This facilitates obedience or righteousness, that is to say, with the help of grace, it is easier to live a life of moral perfection to be totally obedient to the law of God, but it's not necessary. It helps if facilitates it, but it's not something that is required again wisely saying that he is saying if grace is necessary in order to be righteous then the person who is not righteous without the aid of grace is no longer accountable or morally culpable for having sin, because he couldn't do anything but sit Pelagius is incarnating the response of the clay to the potter. Why has the made me thus and objecting to any fall concept that would make it necessary for grace in order to be righteous like he not only says that grace facilitates righteousness, but is not necessary for righteousness.

He went on to argue that some people indeed, many people not only can live perfect lives, but that many in fact have without the benefit of grace over against that Augustine had declared his view that the human race was a mass of perdition, and that not only did no one ever live a perfect life but no one ever really did an absolutely good deed that our best days are at the very best when Augustine called splendid vices. We recall, of course, the teaching of the apostle Paul in Romans three there is none righteous, no not one. There is none who does good, no not one over against that Pelagius is saying. Many are righteous. Yes, many, many do good, yes indeed, many in direct opposition to the clear teaching of the New Testament. Now what is at stake here with the pledging attack is not just the idea of the necessity of grace but the whole concept of our salvation.

The whole understanding of what is going on in the drama of salvation since God's grace is now just concluding unscientific postscript that is not something that is absolutely essential in order for us to be say and it paves the way for the resurgence of Neil Newman is him or pure legalism where a person can be righteous in and of themselves. This is what we call self righteousness, a righteousness that is accomplished, and achieved by our own natural powers without the assistance of grace. This even casts a shadow on what Christ has done for his people. In terms of the supreme work of God's grace is in giving us a Redeemer who lives a life of perfect righteousness in our place upon the basis of whose righteousness. Those who believe are declared just in the sight of God for Pelagius. We are not justified on the grounds of the imputation of the righteousness of Christ. We are justified on the grounds of what our own righteousness that we achieved by exercising our free will and is this issue began to heat up. Pelagius even went so far as to teach that the chief way in which Christ works in behalf of our redemption is by providing us with a stellar example of moral perfection may we've seen this appear many many times in church history where the atonement is gutted and replaced by some kind of influence theory by which Jesus saves us by setting a good example and by being a moral influence by showing us the right way to achieve righteousness. Augustine saw this as an attack, not simply on a minor point or a simple detail of Christian theology, but something that touches the very heart of our whole concept of salvation and redemption because before we can be saved. We first have to understand our absolute need for salvation and our impoverished condition to understand that we are debtors who cannot pay our debts again for Pelagius was in that. And even if they were in debt they had it within themselves to pay their debt.

This is the ultimate bootstrap theology by which people earn their way or merit their way into the kingdom of God and so Augustine saw this as a stake in the heart of grace. The stake in the heart of the biblical concept of salvation and postnatal phone Harnack the great German church historian who said this controversy was waged in the most clear terms of any theological controversy in church history, with the possible exception of the Arian controversy that culminated in the Council of Nicaea, but that this dispute here was a dispute and with both parties clearly understood the other side was saying and that there was no studied ambiguity that was involved in the discussion question is, is grace an absolute prerequisite for salvation or is it simply a it all boils down to an understanding of ourselves, are we good enough to choose God or do we need God to change your hearts. Dr. RC Sproul is taking us back to the first major debate in the church over man's free will.

Where we landed. This debate determines what we think about God and salvation.

So it's important that we get this right this week on Renewing Your Mind were airing portions of RC series willing to believe if you'd like to have a biblical perspective on this topic. Let me commit this series to will send it to you on three DVDs when you contact us today with your donation of any amount or number is 800-435-4343 but you can also go online and give your gift@renewingyourmind.org. Let me remind you that our Bible study magazine also probes important theological issues. If you'd like to learn more about free will, God's sovereignty. Man's depravity and other topics. Let me recommend table talk magazine when you subscribed, you'll have access to articles from today's leading theologians. Plus, you'll find daily guided Bible studies.

You can explore some articles online and learn how to subscribe@tabletalkmagazine.com will tomorrow. Dr. Spruill will continue the series willing to believe he'll address this question. How can God hold us responsible for being a sinner when it's our nature to sin is that the dilemma we have God holding people morally accountable to a standard of righteousness. They cannot possibly attain or achieve. And it seems at first blush to be manifestly unfair. We hope you'll join us Thursday for Renewing Your Mind


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