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Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Herman Hoeksema: What Is Pelagianism?



[The following is an excerpt from Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1, by Herman Hoeksema.  Hoeksema was one of the ministers who was defrocked by the Christian Reformed Church for refusing to accept the doctrine of the Three Points of Common Grace.  It is well that the ministers and churches of the Protestant Reformed Church in America stood their ground.  Currently the Christian Reformed Church is a mix of Amyraldianism and broad Evangelicalism at best and outright theological liberalism and modernism at worst.  The problem of pelagianism has troubled the American Evangelical movement since the revivalism of Charles Finney in the 19th century.  But exactly what is pelagianism?  I found the following explanation by the late Professor Herman Hoeksema to be a succinct and perspicuous accounting of pelagianism.  I hope you will agree.  Charlie.]


"The fundamental error of Pelagianism in all its forms is always that it denies any other righteousness and holiness than that which is the result of the choice and act of the will of man."  Herman Hoeksema.

By these three spiritual virtues that originally adorned the nature of man, the rectitude of his whole being in relation to God and all things is denoted.  By holiness is  meant not any acquired purity, but that original rectitude of his nature according to which he was consecrated to God in love with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength.  Adam's whole soul yearned after the living God and had its delight in his favor and fellowship.  Man's righteousness was not an imputed righteousness, nor was it acquired.  Rather,  man's righteousness was the virtue of his whole nature by which, according to the judgment of God, he was wholly in harmony with the will of God; he was fully capable of doing the will of God, and doing God's will was his delight.  Man's knowledge of God was not a mere intellectual or natural knowledge of the Most High so that he knew who and what God is, nor was it a ready-made system of theology or dogmatics with which Adam was endowed from the beginning.  Instead, man's knowledge of God was that original rectitude of his mind by virtue of which he immediately and spontaneously knew God, both through the revelation of all the works of God round about him and through the direct word of God addressed to him in paradise.  Through this positive knowledge of God, Adam had a living contact with the Most High, the fellowship of friendship that was his life.

In one word, Adam was good.  He was so made that he was quite capable of serving the Lord his creator, of being his representative in all the world--his prophet, to know and to glorify him; his priest, to consecrate himself in all things unto him; his servant-king, to rule in righteousness over the works of God's hand--and of living in perfect fellowship with the Most High.

In this respect the truth differs radically from the Pelagian error.  According to the Canons of Dordt, the Pelagians teach:

. . . that the spiritual gifts, or the good qualities and virtues such as goodness, holiness, righteousness, could not belong to the will of man when he was first created, and that these, therefore, could not have been separated therefrom in the fall.
. . . that in spiritual death the spiritual gifts are not separate from the will of man, since the will in itself has never been corrupted, but only hindered through the darkness of the understanding and the irregularity of the affections; and that, these hindrances having been removed, the will can then bring into operation its native powers, that is, that the will is itself able to will and to choose, or not to will and not to choose, all manner of good which may be presented to it.(8)

The fundamental error of Pelagianism in all its forms is always that it denies any other righteousness and holiness than that which is the result of the choice and act of the will of man.  Hence righteousness and holiness cannot be virtues with which the nature of man was originally endowed.  Man could be either righteous or unrighteous, holy or unholy, according as he chose to be.  Only the deed of righteousness makes a man righteous.  According to the same fundamental principle, man could never become corrupt in nature.  It may have become more difficult for him to choose for righteousness and holiness because of the fall; but essentially he is the same as he was before the fall, a beingg who can either be righteous or unrighteous by the choice of his own free will.  Grace may "give him a lift" in his efforts to be righteous after the fall, but never is it a radical change of his nature.  Over and against this Pelagian corruption, which is as superficial as it is pernicious, stands the plain truth of the word of God that God created man after his own image, in true knowledge, righteousness, and holiness.

[From Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1, 2nd Edition, by Herman Hoeksema.  (Grandville:  Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2004), pp. 298-300. For more information about the doctrine of common grace see, The Myth of Common Grace, by Garrett P. Johnson.]

8.  Canons of Dordt, 3 & 4, Rejection of Errors, 2, 3 in The Psalter with Doctrinal Standards, Liturgy, Church Order, and added Chorale Section, Reprinted and revised edition of the 1912 United Presbyterian Psalter (PRC) (Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans, 1995), 70.

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Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

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