Friday, May 20, 2011

‎A Refutation of a Pelagian

Recently I attempted to dialogue with a Pelagian, although he made it abundantly clear that his intention was to present me with a monologue to read instead. I was hesitant to interact with such a person, who I will call “Charles” for the sake of this post, as he is an open theist, sinless perfectionist and Pelagian: Pelagianism extends to denying both imputations.  The refutation will only be quick, as he operates upon a few premises: once his premises are disproven, his whole nonsense crumbles. These premises are 1. A case against original sin from the supposed innocence of babies. 2. That people would not be punished by God for crimes they did not commit.
1.       On a supposed innocence of babies:
Charles stated that babies cannot make decisions, so therefore cannot be sinful. To prove that babies are in fact sinful, I need only ask one question: “Are babies human?” If the reply is negative, reproduction is not according to kind; if the reply is positive, 1 John 1:8 condemns them. Otherwise, why did David’s baby die if innocent? He cannot be human if he is not sinful; after all “the wages of sin is death”.
If Charles wishes to maintain the notion that babies are human, because according to his presupposed beliefs babies cannot believe, they must all be in a permanent state of unbelief. If they are in unbelief, Charles must deny the notion that unbelief lacks conformity to the character of God (Hebrews 3:19) to maintain that unbelieving babies are perfect and not deserving of the wrath of God. A denial of the notion contradicts his own views of humanity, sin and salvation: he also self-refutes his central doctrine of free will the process, as all of a sudden specific humans (all babies), are rendered unable to choose God, but are slaves to their unbelieving nature. Then again, the consistent Pelagian must admit that unbelief demonstrates perfect conformity to the character of God.
Simplistically, the previous arguments can be formulated into two syllogisms:
Premise 1: All babies are humans (Psalm 139:13-16)
Premise2: All people without exception have sinned (1 John 1:8)
Conclusion: David bore a son, who died in infancy aged seven days (2 Samuel 13:18). Therefore, either the infant was not human or the infant was sinful. If David’s son was not human, Psalm 139 is false; therefore David’s son was sinful from a few days old.
Premise 1: Unbelief lacks conformity to the character of God
Premise 2: Babies, according to Charles and Pelagianism have no will.
Conclusion: All babies must remain in unbelief, thus they are sinful so under the condemnation of God, in bondage to their sinful nature.
But what does the Bible say about original sin? Original Sin has two components:
a) Original Guilt: The guilt of Adam is imputed to mankind (Romans 5:12-19, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22); when Adam sinned as the representative of humanity, all of humanity sinned in him (Genesis 3, Hosea 6:7). Therefore, from conception (Psalm 51:5, 1 Corinthians 2:14) every person without exception is in a state of wilful violation of the law and liable to punishment. (Ephesians 2:1-5).
b) Original Pollution: All humans inherit moral pollution from Adam. From birth no person has original righteousness (Romans 3:9-11) but they have an inherent positive disposition towards sin (John 8:34, 15:4-5, Romans 7:18) whereby they always act in accordance with their nature that cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8, 15:23 Hebrews 11:6).
2.       The Nature of the Will
As under point one, I have refuted the presuppositions behind Charles’ thinking, the remainder of his arguments regarding man’s will can be adequately addressed quite quickly.
Charles correctly stated that man sins wilfully, however, he then straw manned the Calvinistic position into that people are coerced into sinning by God. This is not what Calvinism states; as evidenced by the following quote from John Calvin:

“Man has choice and it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined.”
Nonetheless, Charles’ argumentation correctly showed that man has a will wherein he acts wilfully; however, his reasoning did not prove anything regarding the freedom or nature of man’s will. The previous syllogisms showed (in subjection to Scripture) that original sin is true, in light of Scripture we answer affirmatively that man’s will is indeed in bondage to his sinful nature, as ‘whoever commits a sin is a slave to sin’ (John 8:34, Romans 8:7-8). The consequence of believing that babies cannot will sinfully is that the Pelagian cannot account for their sinfulness (proven above) or must deny the humanity of a newborn; which in turn means that a Pelagian cannot account for the sinfulness of a baby without believing original sin. I guess he could also resort to coercion ;)
3.       Some more fallacious argumentation
Charles only other arguments likewise were fallacious . Additional to the straw-man regarding the nature of man’s will, Charles resorted to equivocating in his terminology. Specifically, he equivocated on the meaning of the word “sin” by quoting verses discussing actual sin in an unsuccessful attempt to refute original sin. On numerous occasions he quoted John Owen on actual sin or judgement to forge an apparent Calvinistic inconsistency: this fallacy is known as cherry picking. In Reformed Theology, even in traditional Arminianism, adherents are careful to distinguish between original sin and actual sin.
Charles also failed to distinguish between the Decreetive and Preceptive wills of God. Most simplistically this is refuted by comparing Ephesians 5:17 which states “therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of God is” with Deuteronomy 29:29 which states “the secret things belong to the Lord our God”. Obviously, God Hismself reveals a distinction in His will between His decree and precpt, otherwise God would be saying “The revealed will of God is secret”.
Lastly, Charles turned his attention to attempting to refute the fifth point of Calvinism. He used an unusual tactic by attempting to build a case from a text commonly used against his position. Charles built a case around one word: the word “from” in Revelation 13:8 and in 17:8.
4.       Perseverance of the Saints
The Greek word translated ‘from’ (ἀπὸ) is singular, likewise the act of writing the names is singular (γέγραπται), occurring at one time: “before the foundation of the world”. The verses continue by noting that anyone whose name was not written in the book of life before the foundation of the world was slain. The verse makes it clear that every sinner who will ever live fits into one of two categories: Written in the Book of life at one singular time before the foundation of the word, or designated to everlasting destruction. The phrasiology destroy Charles’ argument that “the book of life has been in the process of being written over a distance of time”. These verses clearly prove not only perseverance of the saints, but Divine Predestination also.
The question is not whether or not Charles is right or wrong; he is clearly wrong. The question is whether he is guilty of heresy or damnable heresy. To answer this question, we only need to evaluate one verse:

1 John 1:8 states “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us”. The phrases “we have” (echomen) and “have no sin” (planōmen) are both in the present tense. Therefore the verse is saying that if you claim that you currently are not still committing sin, the truth is not in you. This means that anyone who claims to be living sinlessly does not have the truth – they are unregenerate. Charles is not a Christian. And this is not the only damnable heresy of his; a denial of original sin logically leads to a denial of imputed righteousness (Charles goes here), whcih is to look outside of Christ for salvation (Acts 4:12).

(C) J. Williams, 2011.

5.       A Final Evaluation of Perfectionism


  1. Good Post and glad I read it

  2. Great post, man! Loved the syllogisms.

  3. Thanks for the positive feedback guys!

  4. The reasoning is this article was fallacious. If babies are human, they must be sinful? Was not Jesus a human? Stupid Calvinists...

  5. Your fallacious syllogism would logically conclude Jesus Christ, a human, to be sinful...

  6. Hello Anonymous,
    If you do not mind, may I please have a name?

    Yes, Jesus was human - most certainly. However, when all of mankind is referenced, Jesus Christ is often not included.

    John 17:2 "even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life"
    Did Jesus have authority over Himself? That would be a contradiction.

    Acts 17:30 "Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent"
    Does this also mean that Jesus should repent?

    Romans 3:9 "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin"
    Does this include that Jesus is under sin?

    Romans 3:23
    "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
    Is Jesus one of the all who have sinned?

    Romans 14:10 "But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God"
    Will Jesus stand before the judgement seat of God?

    Romans 3:4 "May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written," THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS,AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED."
    Does this include that Jesus be found a liar?

    Corinthians 11:3 "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ"
    Christ is the head of every man... so is Christ the head of Himself?

    Philippians 2:10 "so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth"
    Dose this mean that Jesus will bow to Himself?

    Obviously, on numerous occasions in Scripture Jesus is not lumped together with the rest of humanity. Likewise with sin, Jesus is not included with the rest of humanity that has sinned, both originally and actually.

    I presume that you also deny the Calvinistic Doctrine of Particular Atonement; so therefore, I assume that whenever you cite verses to say that Jesus died for every person without exception, you also mean that Jesus died for Himself.

  7. Jesus was the only person born of a virgin. Consequently, He was the only person not born under the federal headship of Adam. That is why He can function as the last Adam, the federal head in whom we can find salvation as opposed to the condemnation in Adam if we put faith alone in His redemptive work alone.