Like a lost treasure, genuine biblical Christianity has been buried beneath the sands of time. Down through the centuries, much of Christendom has become a synthesis of humanism and Biblical semantics--an unholy alliance, symbolized above by Leonardo da Vinci's Renaissance man, (who signifies man as the 'measure of all things') holding the Christian Pax emblem. Nearly all twentieth century Christianity has erroneously embraced the foundational tenet of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment--the sovereignty of man. Let's explore the consequences.
Were you shocked by the 1978 Jonestown Massacre in which 900 sect members followed an ex-Pentecostal preacher, Jim Jones, into mass suicidal death? Or have you been appalled through the years by the outrageous claims and fleshly antics of the Tulsa, Oklahoma based charismatic Methodists--Oral and Richard Roberts? Have you provided an adequate explanation for yourself and others concerning the sex scandals and financial fiascos of Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, or numerous other Pentecostal or Charismatic 'lesser lights'? Then finally, was your curiosity stirred by Jim Bakker's confession of his sins "from childhood to this minute" to a Roman Catholic priest? Are these events somehow related? Were certain religious ideas or concepts common amongst those mentioned above? Or, are they simply cases of "individual moral failure" as the anti-religious news media so often report?
The remainder of this Web page is designed to explain, at an unfortunate but necessarily technical level, the historical union which developed between humanism and numerous Christian denominations. In addition, you'll be introduced to some biblical truths which are extremely vital to a sound and healthy Christian life. Follow along, and you'll gain a better understanding of the link between religious belief and behavior, the difference between truth and error.
Throughout this web page, you'll notice words ending with the suffix "ism." Typically, it's usage denotes a system of religious or philosophical tenets, or a scientific theory. An "ism" represents a group of related ideas bundled together to form an all-pervading point-of-view. However in contrast to "isms," you'll be primarily dependent upon God's written revelation--the 66 Books of the Bible, for guidance and instruction in safe and sound doctrine. Today, the Bible is the primary means by which God sovereignly illuminates and teaches us about Himself and gives mankind the only honest and accurate diagnosis of the human condition.
Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, were created in the "image" of God. God was the Creator, Adam and Eve were the created. This was not a physical likeness, rather it was one of personhood. Adam and Eve resembled God in that they possessed intellect, emotions, and volition or will. God created the first couple so that they, and consequently the entire human race which would spring from them, could share in God's life, love, and purpose...'a nurtured relationship' or fellowship with God. Throughout this web page, quotations taken from God's Word--the Bible (The New International Version) are shown as purple text.
Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. Genesis 1:26While God is: infinite, uncreated, heavenly, and the Source of life; Adam and Eve were: finite, created, earthly, and dependent upon their Creator for life. God is Sovereign and Supreme (above all) and Omnipotent (all powerful). Sovereign means above all, which by definition cannot be shared with any another. He alone is autonomous, and freedom in its purest form belongs only to Him. All other creatures (men and angels) possess a secondary form of self-determination--accurately referred to as volition or power of choice. Only God possesses free will!
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Genesis 1:27.
The Lord God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being. Genesis 2:7
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned... (Romans 5:12)Universal physical death is also proof that all mankind are sinners. The historical event of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God is commonly referred to amongst Christians as the 'Fall'. The First Man 'fell' from his original position, incurred corruption, and became alienated from the Creator.
When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. Genesis 5:3Adam and Eve did not have any children before the Fall. After the Fall, all their children (which includes you and me) inherently share in all the consequences of sin. We are all born into this world in the image of Adam--a corruption of the original "image of God." We all bear Adam's likeness-- chips off the old First Block. Since the Fall, every human being (except One) has been born in a state of independence and alienation from God. Born spiritually "dead in transgressions and sins;" we journey toward physical death.
P.S. Keep in mind, some forms of sin may not necessarily seem morally offensive to us or to society. However, sin's basic or underlying essence is independence from or rebellion against God, which can appear quite upright, good and noble at times.
If you have not experienced this 'new birth,' are unclear as to its meaning, or for any other reason are further interested, a separate Web page has been provided. Like a careful archeologist, author Miles J. Stanford will spread before you a comprehensive presentation of the subject in his THE NEW BIRTH EXPLAINED.
- Questions and Answers
BEWARE! - Read 2 Corinthians 4:3,4
Religious humanism is centuries old. The problem was at the core of hatred and opposition toward the Lord Jesus Christ when he walked the earth over 2,000 years ago. The Jewish religious leaders of his day (and ours) denied their inheritance from the First Adam, rejected their condition of bondage to sin, and erroneously believed that they possessed free will. The account of this conflict is recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 8, verses 31 to 47. As this error continued its infectious spread, the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians living in Rome,
"For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all." and "But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching [Paul's Gospel of Grace] to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness." (Romans 11:32; 6:17, 18).Going forward however, Christianity would always struggle to stand free from the corrupting influence and damaging effects of religious humanism.
Pelagius taught that man did not inherit Adam's propensity toward sin, possessed free will, and consequently constructed a system of rationalistic moralism. While accepting the Bible's account of Adam and Eve, but relying on reason and experience, he insisted that a good and just God would not command of fallen man that which was impossible and that anyone could live free from sin, if they just chose to. According to Pelagius, man was autonomous, unhindered, and free to choose for or against God. Further, he also erroneously believed that man's mental abilities were unaffected by the Fall. He and his followers became the life-long theological antagonists of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430), who sought to defend the truth of man's ruin at the Fall as recorded by God in the Bible.
Though it retained much of the philosophical basis of its parent (Pelagianism), as opposed to divine revelation (i.e. the Bible), Semi-Pelagianism compromised with truth sufficiently to gain favorable audience with some Christians. It became, thus, a far more dangerous form of infidelity than its parent. As such, it eventually overcame the Roman Catholic Church and returned it to the very Pelagianism condemned by Augustine. Semi-Pelagianism changed its disguise and further altered its voice at a later date to become known as Arminianism, following some scholastic refinements and adjustments to Christianity. 1Note that although Semi-Pelagianism was initially condemned by Rome's leaders, it later gained sufficient popularity to be adopted as an official religious doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Thereafter, it has been defended and maintained by Rome down through the centuries to this very day. Recent books by Pope John Paul II affirm the Semi-Pelagian position of modern-day Catholicism.
From approximately the Fifth to the Fourteenth century, most of Europe lay under feudalism and the pervasive civil influence and ecclesiastical control of the Roman Catholic Church. This period is known as the Middle or 'Dark' Ages and was generally characterized by ignorance, immorality, and barbarism. The Bible was tenaciously controlled by Roman Catholic monks, priests, bishops, etc., thereby keeping church members as well as the general populace ignorant regarding the Bible's contents. However, following the linguistic translation work of William Tyndale (1494-1536), and black market efforts to make the Bible widely available in the language of the common people, the spiritual and religious darkness began to lift. The people were eager to explore the contents of the Bible and found that the Book could act as its own interpreter, contrary to Rome's claim. Also reflecting the growing willingness to question religious authority, England's King Henry VIII (1491-1547) challenged Pope Clement the VII's claim to papal infallibility. King Henry took steps to formally separate the Church of England from the Roman system, and by 1534 had fully established the independent, national Church of England, also called the Anglican Church. Later, the American version of Anglicanism would be known as the Episcopal Church. However, in spite of the institutional separation, Anglicanism retained a Semi-Pelagian position.
Contemporaries to this era, Martin Luther (1483-1546) and John Calvin (1509-1564) also raised protests against Semi-Pelagian heresy and Rome's claim to ultimate authority. For these Reformers or 'Protest'ants, as they were called, the Bible was the sole and final authority for faith and life, not tradition or church leaders. These individuals and their followers left their mark, many times with their own blood, on medieval history by progressively freeing Northern Europe from the tyranny, but not the presence of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and Semi-Pelagianism.
Contrary to common thinking, the banner of the Protestant Reformation was not "justification by faith." Rather, it was "justification by grace through faith" built upon a solid foundation of God's sovereign electing grace and man's ruin as recorded in the Bible (Ephesians 2:8,9). No Pelagian error would be tolerated here! The original Protestants taught that man did not possess free will, but was bound in sin as previously discussed. God's grace (unmerited favor) was the cause of redemption, faith but the means. While this may seem like a subtle or unimportant semantic difference, the religious consequences of this distinction are profound. Listen to the concluding remarks of Martin Luther as he argued against the Dutch humanist scholar, Desiderius Erasmus and Semi-Pelagianism in his magnum opus work--The Bondage of the Will.
Now, my good Erasmus, I entreat you for Christ's sake to keep your promise at last. You promised that you would yield to him who taught better than yourself. Lay aside respect of persons! I acknowledge that you are a great man, adorned with many of God's noblest gifts--wit, learning and an almost miraculous eloquence, to say nothing of the rest; whereas I have and am nothing, save that I would glory in being a Christian. Moreover, I give you hearty praise and commendation on this further account--that you alone, in contrast with all others, have attacked the real thing, that is, the essential issue. You have not wearied me with those extraneous issues about the Papacy, purgatory, indulgences and such like--trifles, rather than issues--in respect of which almost all to date have sought my blood (though without success); you, and you alone, have seen the hinge on which all turns, and aimed for the vital spot. (emphasis mine). 2This "vital spot" to which Luther refers was the biblical truth concerning man's lost and sin-bound condition in contrast to any and all forms of Pelagian heresy. Luther was convinced that this doctrine was vital to the truth of the Christian Gospel, and that its absence had formed the seedbed for various false forms of Christianity. As one brother has keenly said, "The world was never the same following God's testimony through this faithful servant."
Arminianism is another humanistic religious system generally accredited to the sixteenth century theologian--Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), and his followers. Who was this man whose ideas influence Christendom today more than those of any other? Some detailed church history will prove helpful. Born in Amsterdam, Holland, he received his education on the European continent. Later, he returned to the Netherlands as a Protestant minister. In time, he became a strong advocate of Dutch Reformed theology--a system of teaching held by the followers of John Calvin in Holland. Ultimately chosen to write a defense against attacks upon these beliefs, Arminius concluded that some of Calvin's tenets were indefensible. However, in rejecting the excesses of Calvinism, and in the attempt to construct his own system of beliefs, Arminius drew upon both Semi-Pelagianism and the Bible to create a new theological hybrid--subsequently dubbed Arminianism.
While Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism more or less denied the effects of Adam's sin on his posterity, Arminius sought to further modify and construct some middle ground on the subject. He labored to create a consistent interpretation of the Christian religion without forfeiting the free will foundation. According to his theory, man's will was hindered in the Fall, but God restores to all men adequate freedom (free will) so that they can determine their own destinies.
The followers of Jacob Arminius, called Arminians, set forth their views in a document called the Remonstrance which can be summarized as follows:
1. God acts on the basis of foreseen faith or unbelief. The basis for God's favor is His foresight of man exercising faith.Appropriately, Christian theologian Dr. A.H. Strong wrote:
2. Christ died for all men without distinction, consequently only those who exercise their "free will" are saved. Christ's atonement did not guarantee salvation for anyone. Man's decision or choice makes the difference.
3. Common grace, which is given by God to all men, removes their inability to choose Him. Man's will is rendered free and is unhindered from exercising saving faith. Consequently, man has no propensity for or against God; man is neutral.
4. Grace may be resisted. Man has the ability to ultimately resist God's effort to save him.
5. Hence, uncertainty surrounds whether those who are saved will finally persevere or be lost. Final salvation is possible for believers. However, ultimate victory rests with their faithfulness. Apostasy (ultimate falling away) is possible for those once saved..
It is important to understand that, in Arminian usage, grace is simply the restoration of man's natural ability to act for himself; it never actually saves him, but only enables him to save himself...if he will.While these Arminian tenets were added to, expanded, and further developed, their essence has remained the same. Miles J. Stanford has precisely stated:
Their God determines nothing, gives nothing except so-called common grace which removes the inability to choose Him, and He secures nothing.As a synthesis of humanistic Semi-Pelagianism and the Bible, Arminianism insists that any movement toward God is man's ultimate decision, and that God simply acts in response to that decision. Consequently, man is sovereign!
The founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, L.S. Chafer, wrote:
Arminianism's misleading error in the field of salvation is that it persists in attempting to build the Christian's standing upon his feeble and faltering daily life, rather than on the sufficient and immutable merit of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Arminian salvation becomes little more than a system of human conduct; for, though the idea of regeneration is incorporated, it is, in the Arminian idea of it, of no abiding value, being supported only by a supposed human merit. 3Again, listen to the succinct words of Miles Stanford :
Coming from humanistic Pelagianism instead of from the Scriptures, Arminianism bases salvation upon the will of fallen man. It is anti-sovereignty, anti-security, anti-dispensational, anti-grace, pro-works religion. The teaching is that God, through redemption, bestows a 'common grace' upon all men, thereby making it possible for the individual to exercise his free will either for, or against God. Its maxim is, "It is mine to be willing to believe, and it is the part of God's grace to assist."
Thus the sinner's choice of God, and not God's choice of the sinner, is the ultimate factor in salvation. Those elected by God are chosen only in the sense that He foresaw their faith and good works--which arise from themselves and are not wrought of God. The human will is exalted to the place of sovereignty and, according to this system, man is his own savior.
In that the Arminian begins on the premise of his own free will, his end is on the same assumption. He feels that since he can come in, he can therefore go out, by his free will. What little assurance of salvation he has is founded upon his own momentary merit, plus whatever emotional experiences he can muster along the way. "After I accepted Jesus I wasn't sure if I was really saved; but when I had my 'baptism in the Holy Ghost,' and spoke in tongues, then I was sure." Consequently the Arminian's existence is experience-based, only to be beset by fears, uncertainties, backslidings, and failure.
Unconditional eternal security grounded upon the fact of the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ is utterly rejected by the Arminian. He sedulously avoids all portions of the Bible that establish eternal security, or at best seeks to discredit and deny them. He gravitates to out-of-context verses that seem to him to militate against the truth of "once saved, always saved." 4
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society [Moravian meeting] in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther's preface to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing a change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sin, even mine, and saved mefrom the law of sin and death. 5If John Wesley were truly saved, he remained confused regarding what occurred or why. However in time, with the aid of the theologian John W. Fletcher, Wesley embraced and incorporated both Arminianism and the spirit of the Enlightenment (Europe's intellectual awakening) into his Wesleyan movement--Methodism. While several aspects of both the Renaissance and the Enlightenment eras were culturally positive, their progressive reliance on human reason in religious matters and denial of divine, supernatural revelation proved spiritually ruinous. In 1790, shortly before his death, Wesley published Fletcher's biography in The Arminian Magazine as a tribute to, in Wesley's words, the "Theologian of Methodism."
Note closely the contemporary remark of Duke University Divinity School professor, Thomas A. Langford:
It is important that the Wesleyan movement came into existence during the Enlightenmentand therefore, from the beginning, has carried a modern sensibility.Lanford's "modern sensibility" is nothing less than the "free will" autonomy of man. Is this not where Pelagius began over 1,500 years earlier?
The Enlightenmentushered in the modern period in western culture.
More revolutionary for the West than the Reformation, which continued to accept the dominant assumptions of medieval life, the Enlightenment challenged inherited convictions about God and affirmed the radical independence and competent rationality of human beings. Hence autonomous rational people came to be the chief assured reality. Underline emphasis mine. 6
Although the Pentecostal movement began in the United States, itself a significant fact, its theological and intellectual origins were British. The basic premises of the movement's theology were constructed by John Wesley in the Eighteenth century. As a product of Methodism, the holiness-Pentecostal movement traces its lineage through the Wesleys to Anglicanism and from thence to Roman Catholicism. This theological heritage places the Pentecostals outside the Calvinistic, Reformed tradition which culminated in the Baptist and Presbyterian movements in the United States. The basic Pentecostal theological position might be described as Arminian, perfectionistic, premillennial, and charismatic. 7
Recently, new variations of Christian humanism have emerged--e.g. the Word-Faith & Kingdom Now,Latter Rain, Third Wave Movement and 'New Age' Christianity, so-called. Strangely, a convergence is beginning to form between secular humanists who are dabbling in New Age occult spirituality and 'New Age' Christians. For an introduction to New Age Christianity see: THE NEW GNOSTICS - Resurrecting Pagan Rites.
The Eighteenth, Nineteenth, and Twentieth centuries have witnessed further evolution of the original Pelagian heresy. The Enlightenment's tenet of the total self-sufficiency of man formed a foundation for the Deism of John Locke, the Unitarianism of William E. Channing, and the Transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson. These movements formed the foundations for both Modernism and Liberalism. It is these forces, rooted in Christian humanism, which have corrupted America's understanding of personal freedom, and have led to widespread abandonment of respect for authority (particularly the Divine), irresponsibility, and social decay. In our lifetime, Secular Humanism has become the dominant philosophy of Western culture. This anti-Christian perspective largely controls both education and mass media in America and is responsible for the growing tide of anti-religious bigotry.
During the last decade of the 20th century, a radical philosophy termed Postmodernism has risen to ascendancy in America. Like Modernism before it, the average individual is regularly bombarded by these viewpoints through television, newspapers and magazines, academic and social interest groups, and even churches. For an outstanding explanation of this phenomena from the Christian perspective, see the book THE DEATH OF TRUTH, WHAT'S WRONG WITH MULTICULTURALISM, THE REJECTION OF REASON, AND THE NEW POSTMODERN DIVERSITY,Dennis McCallum, General Editor. It does an excellent job in contrasting the ideologies of modernism and postmodernism with the Judeo-Christian theistic tradition and is must reading for every thinking Christian.
Similar to the heresy dealt with by the Apostle Paul at the ancient Mediterranean city of Colosse, Arminianism, Wesleyanism, Pentecostalism, etc. either reject or twist the truth concerning God's redemption through identification with Christ and are consequently characterized by fleshly lawlessness and/or self-righteous hypocrisy (read Colossians 2:23). Hence, there is an established link between these groups and the religious beliefs and behavior of the individuals cited at the beginning of this paper. Each embraced humanistic error in one form or another.
For additional insight, visit our Where They Stand, and fall page to see how various individuals (Best, Chafer, Custance, Darby, Feinberg, Stanford, Verduin, Bright, Dobson, Finney, Graham, McCartney, Neuhaus, Robertson, Wimber, John Paul II) line up on the issue. And for the best explanation ever written on the Pentecostal/charismatic errors, see - THE LINE DRAWN.
Miles Stanford has observed,
While many truly born-again Christians may begin as 'Arminians,' with their 'free will' and their self-centered life and service for 'Jesus;' the tragedy is that far too many never get beyond this early stage of the Christian life, but go on into the fleshly emotionalism of full-fledged Arminianism. 8While this is true, a far more solemn fact is that Christian humanism has lulled tens of thousands, possibly millions, of unregenerate individuals into a comfortable religiosity, intoxicating them with a false hope of redemption, while in fact they are deluded and lost. Further, those who embrace these humanistic religions sooner or later join rank with those who are "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18). Some of the most intense persecution of true members of the Body of Christ has come from adherents to Christian humanism and other religions based on free will (John 16:2). As with Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus), may God grant them mercy unto salvation (1 Timothy 1: 13).
Again, we state:
Christian humanism is a religious philosophy which utilizes a biblical vocabulary, but is built on the sociological myth that man is autonomous and possesses free will. It is a devastating error which deceptively draws sinners into falsely believing they are saved (i.e. Christian) when in fact they are religious and lost. It is a widespread means by which the unbelieving mind is blinded to the Gospel--the true message of Christian redemption.
This statement is supported by the Bible, church history, and the testimony of individuals whom God has saved out of these errors. From time to time, new-creation Christians (2 Corinthians 5:17) will testify of how they previously "thought they were Christian" and how God subsequently brought them to the scriptural realization of their sinfulness and subsequent genuine salvation. The question is often asked, Can a truly new-creation Christian be found in these denominations and movements you've mentioned above? The answer is--assuredly yes. History has proven that there will always be a large number of Christians who are uninformed or idealistic, and assume that the Lord Jesus Christ is interested in reforming Christendom. They are generally unaware that church history testifies against the success of such efforts. Further, there are those who due to tradition, family, friends, or other cares of this world, have rationalized their affiliation, most likely under the banner of "love," and have tragically compromised truth for the sake of peace, so-called.
However on occasion, beleaguered by resistance to sound doctrine from leaders and drawn by the Holy Spirit, the growing Christian wisely withdraws to establish a positive testimony in a safe and doctrinally sound local Bible church, assembly or fellowship, or will gather with other like-minded believers in small home meetings.
1. Good, Kenneth H., Are Baptists Calvinists?, Oberlin, OH, 1975, Regular Baptist Heritage Fellowship. [RETURN]Written in 1985. Revised 1995, 1997. All rights reserved. Raised Roman Catholic until the age of twenty, the author, Dan S., became a new-creation Christian in 1969. A personal testimony is available upon request.
2. Martin Luther,The Bondage of the Will, translated by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston, Old Tappan, NJ, 1957, Fleming H. Revell Co. [RETURN]
3. Chafer, Lewis, S., Systematic Theology, Dallas, TX, 1969, Dallas Seminary Press. [RETURN]
4. Stanford, Miles J.; Tri-13 - Arminius, to Calvin, to Paul ; Lakewood, CO, 1983, Christian Correspondence. [RETURN]
5. Langford, Thomas A., Practical Divinity, Theology of the Wesleyan Tradition, pp. 15, Nashville, TN, 1983, Abingdon Press. [RETURN]
6. Ibid., pp. 21. [RETURN]
7. Synan, Vinson, The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States, Grand Rapids, MI, 1971, Eerdmans Publishing. [RETURN]
8. Stanford, Miles J.; Tri-13 - Arminius, to Calvin, to Paul ; Lakewood, CO,1983, Christian Correspondence. [RETURN]