This article will explore three views of the nature of man held by the early Christian church and how those views developed into what we accept today in the modern church.
The three views are:
- Augustinian – man is spiritually dead;
- Pelagianism – man is spiritually well at birth and chooses his own destiny; and
- semi-Pelagianism – man is spiritually sick and only needs the help of a higher power to assist him in his recovery.
The heart of the debate between Augustine and Pelagius centered on the doctrine of original sin, particularly with respect to the question of the extent to which the will of fallen man is “free.”
The controversy began when the British monk, Pelagius, opposed at Rome Augustine’s famous prayer: “Grant what Thou commandest, and command what Thou dost desire.” Pelagius recoiled in horror at the idea that a divine gift (grace) is necessary to perform what God commands. For Pelagius and his followers responsibility always implies ability. If man has the moral responsibility to obey the law of God, he must also have the moral ability to do it.
Portions of this article taken from the UnHoly Alliance by Dan S.
|Augustine of Hippo was the most influential theologian of Latin Christianity. Early in his life he was inspired by the works of Cicero to devote his life to the pursuit of truth. He started this pursuit as a Rhetorician, then he became a Manichaean, and later a Skeptic. He eventually converted to Roman Catholicism in 386. In 391, he was almost forcibly ordained presbyter at Hippo, and from 395 to 430, he served as bishop.
He wrote many treatises among which we find the celebrated Confessions, The City of God and On the Trinity. Many of his writings were directed against heresies, particularly Manichaeism, Donatism, and Pelagianism.He is most noted for founding the Western theological tradition and establishing doctrines of the Trinity and Christology.
Considered the father of orthodox theology, Augustine argued for the absolute immutability, the triune, omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, immaterial nature of God. He saw the Bible as divine, infallible, inerrant, and alone the supreme authority over all other writings.
Augustine’s view of the Fall saw mankind as a massa peccati, a “mess of sin,” incapable of raising itself from spiritual death. It was the doctrine of total depravity. “No one is good, not even one.” According to the Scriptures, man is so fallen, so darkened in his heart, mind, and will by sin, that he is unable to turn from sin and embrace the truth of the Gospel and obey God’s commandments. For Augustine man can no more move or incline himself to God than an empty glass can fill itself. For Augustine the initial work of divine grace by which the soul is liberated from the bondage of sin is sovereign and operative. To be sure we cooperate with this grace, but only after the initial divine work of liberation. He believed sin originated with free will which implied the ability to do evil.
|Pelagius was highly educated, spoke and wrote Latin as well as Greek with great fluency and was well versed in theology. Pelagius arrived in Rome about AD 410 to find a morally lax clergy and church members who used the fact of human weakness as license for immorality.
He blamed Rome’s moral laxity on the doctrine of divine grace (as taught by Augustine). He attacked this teaching on the grounds that it imperilled the entire moral law. He thus reasoned that if a man were not himself responsible for his good and evil deeds, there was nothing to restrain him from indulgence in sin. Pelagius categorically denied the doctrine of original sin, arguing that Adam’s sin affected Adam alone and that infants at birth are in the same state as Adam was before the Fall. As such, he insisted that the constituent nature of humanity is not convertible; it is indestructively good.
|Pelagianism was indeed condemned, but not crushed. There were at least eighteen bishops of Italy who were exiled on account of their refusal to sign the papal decree. After the Council of Ephesus (431), Pelagianism no longer disturbed the Greek Church, so that the Greek historians of the fifth century do not even mention either the controversy or the names of the heresiarchs. But the heresy continued to smoulder in the West with it’s main centres in Gaul and Britain.
By the end of the Fifth century, through a process of compromise and conciliation with the teachings of the Bible, Pelagianism spawned Semi-Pelagianism. Those who hold to this doctrine maintain that man needs God’s grace to be saved, but that man has the ability within himself to accept or reject that grace. According to semi-Pelagianism, mankind is not dead in its sin, only sick. There remains a moral ability within man, a remnant of virtue hidden in his soul that is unaffected by the Fall by which the fallen sinner still has the inherent ability to incline or move himself to cooperate with God’s grace. In other words, man has the ability whereby he can accept God’s offer of salvation; or he can reject it. This view makes salvation, not totally dependent upon God’s grace as does Augustinianism, but ultimately on man’s own choice. It elevates man’s responsibility above God’s sovereignty in redemption. Grace is necessary but not necessarily effective. Its effect always depends upon the sinner’s cooperation with it by virtue of the exercise of the will.Though Pelagius was condemned as a heretic by Rome, and its modified form, Semi-Pelagianism was likewise condemned by the Council of Orange in 529, the basic assumptions of this view persisted throughout church history to reappear in Medieval Catholicism, Renaissance Humanism, Socinianism, Arminianism, and modern Liberalism. It has been described by Dr. Kenneth Good in these words:
– – – – – – – – – – T h e Dark Ages – – – – – – – – – – –
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 with its Semi-Pelagian doctrine. 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. The medieval period has commonly been called the Dark Ages – as if the light of civilization had been unceremoniously snuffed out and was generally characterized by ignorance, immorality, and barbarism. Almost every true doctrine of the Bible was either perverted or lost. (Excerpted from Compton’s Interactive Encyclopedia, Copyright © 1993, 1994 Compton’s NewMedia, Inc.)
|Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) held that man had revolted against God and thus was fallen, but Aquinas had an incomplete view of the Fall. He thought that the fall did not affect man as a whole but only in part. In his view the will was fallen or corrupted but the intellect was not affected. Thus people could rely on their own human wisdom, and this meant that people were free to mix the teachings of the Bible with the teachings of non-Christian philosophers. Authority of the church took over authority of the Bible and people began to ask if the Bible was really necessary?
Among the Greek philosophers, Aquinas relied especially on one of the greatest, Aristotle. Aquinas brought the Aristotelian emphasis on individual things – the particulars – into the philosophy of the late Middle Ages, and this set the stage for the humanistic elements of the Renaissance and the basic problem they created.
|John Wycliffe (1328-1384)
Known as an early dissident in the Roman Catholic Church during the 14th century. He was one of the earliest opponents of papal authority influencing secular power, and also an early advocate for translation of the Bible into the common language. He completed his translation directly from the Vulgate into vernacular English in the year 1382, now known as Wycliffe’s Bible.His followers were known as Lollards, a somewhat rebellious movement, which preached anticlerical and biblically-centred reforms. Lollardy taught the concept of the “Church of the Saved,” that there was an invisible true Church which was the community of the faithful, which overlapped with, but was not the same as, the visible Catholic Church. Believing the Catholic Church to be corrupted in many ways, the Lollards looked to Scripture as the basis for their religious ideas.
John Hus (1369-1415)
Hus returned to the teachings of the Bible and of the early church and stressed that the Bible is the only source of final authority and that salvation comes only through Christ and his work. According to Herve Kotasek, a sixteenth-century Czech historian, it was Hus who first gave currency to the notion of Sola Scriptura – Scripture only – a cornerstone of the Reformation. He openly challenged papal exclusivity, he courageously condemned the selling of indulgences, simony, and ecclesiastical larceny, and he forthrightly demanded uncompromising discipleship from every Believer. He exploded popular beliefs and condemned common practices as he stood against the tide of his entire generation.
|The Council of Constance declared John Wycliffe (on 4 May 1415) a heretic and under the ban of the Church. It was decreed that his books be burned and his remains be exhumed. The exhumation was carried out in 1428 when, at the command of Pope Martin V, his remains were dug up, burned, and the ashes cast into the River Swift.
Throughout the entire fifteenth century, cries for the reformation of the church came from every sector. The church had become impotent; it was entirely unable to halt the rapid slide into the godlessness, materialism, and hedonism of the ancient pagan philosophies. The authority of the church was asserted to be equal to, or greater than, the authority of the Bible and human works were emphasized as a basis for meriting the merit of Christ. Slowly but surely, the church had lost its grip.
– – – – – T h e R e f o r m a t i o n – – – – – – –
|The Reformation was a revival of Augustine’s “doctrine of grace over the legacy of the Pelagian view of man.||It was the humanists of that time who, under the enthusiasm for the classics, spoke of what had immediately preceded them as a “Dark Age” and talked of a “rebirth” in their own era.
– – – T h e Renaissance – – –
The Renaissance was not the rebirth of man; it was the rebirth of an idea about man.
There was a change in thinking about man, a change which put man himself in the center of all things. Harkening back to the pre-Christian era, they visualized man as taking a great forward leap. The concept of autonomous man was growing. In other words, humanism in the form it took in the Renaissance (and after the Renaissance) was being born.
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|The Reformers took seriously that man needs the answers given by God in the Bible to have adequate answers not only for how to be in an open relationship with God, but also for how to know the present meaning of life and how to have final answers in distinguishing between right and wrong. That is, man needs not only a God who exists, but a God who has spoken in a way that can be understood.||Remember that to Thomas Aquinas the will was fallen after man had revolted against God, but the mind was not. This eventually resulted in people believing they could think out the answers to all the great questions, beginning only from themselves.||Beginning with man alone and only the individual things in the world (the particulars), the problem is how to find any ultimate and adequate meaning for the individual things. The most important individual thing for man became man himself.|
|Few disagreed on the fact that the church needed to be reformed. What they disagreed on was what reform should entail and how it was to be effected. In frustrated tension, dozens of competing factions, sects, schisms, rifts, and divisions roiled just beneath the surface of the church’s tranquility for decades. Finally, on October 31, 1517, those pent-up passions burst out into the open when an Augustinian monk named Martin Luther posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the Palast Church in Wittenberg.|
|Martin Luther (1483-1546)
Luther preached that only faith could lead to salvation, without the mediation of clergy or good works. It was clearly a rejection of the teaching that man contributes something to his salvation, by human act or deed we merit the merit of Christ. He attacked the authority of the Pope, rejected priestly celibacy, and recommended individual study of the Bible (which he translated, c 1525).
|Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536)
The Dutch Humanist, bound in Roman tradition revived Pelagianism, rejecting the falleness of man. Man is sick but not dead. Erasmus contended that salvation is a cooperative enterprise of God and man, even though man’s share in it is small. Given the opportunity, man will chose God.
|The Renaissance humanism steadily evolved toward modern humanism -a value system rooted in the belief that man is his own measure, that man is autonomous, totally independent.|
|Contrary to common interpretation, the banner of the Protestant Reformation period was not “justification by faith.” Rather it was “justification by grace through faith” built upon a solid foundation of the truths 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! Man did not possess free will, but was helplessly bound in sin. 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 argues against the Dutch humanist scholar, Desiderius Erasmus, and semi-pelagianism in his magnum opus–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. (Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will, translated by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston, Old Tappan, 1957, Fleming H. Revell Co.)
This “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 Gospel, and that its absence had formed the seedbed for various types of pseudo-Christianity.
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John Calvin (1509-1564)
The father of Reformed and Presbyterian doctrine and theology. Calvin asserted that since the fall of Adam and Eve, every aspect of humans are corrupted, including our reason and will. In the same vein of Augustine and Luther, Calvin stated that humans are not capable of knowing and choosing God. Instead, the sovereign God has His absolute plan of salvation. He said God’s elect were predestined for salvation and good conduct and success were signs of election. The formal principle and source of Calvin’s theological system is embodied in the Latin phrase sola Scriptura (Scripture only). He rejected the medieval fourfold interpretation which allowed allegorizing, spiritualizing, and moralizing, insisting that the literal meaning of the words was to be taken in their historical context.
|Modern Evangelicalism sprung from the Reformation whose roots were planted by Augustine. But today the Reformational and Augustinian view of grace is all but eclipsed in Evangelicalism. Where Luther triumphed in the sixteenth century, subsequent generations gave the nod to Erasmus.|
|Puritanism was a loosely organized reform movement originating during the English Reformation of the 16th century. The name came from efforts to “purify” the Church of England by those who felt that the Reformation had not yet been completed. Eventually the Puritans went on to attempt purification of the self and society as well.
The theological roots of Puritanism may be found in Reformed theology, in a native dissenting tradition stretching back to John Wycliffe and the Lollards, but especially in the theological labors of first-generation English reformers. From William Tyndale the Puritans took an intense commitment to Scripture and a theology which emphasized the concept of covenant; from John Knox they absorbed a dedication to thorough reform in church and state; and from John Hooper they received a determined conviction that Scripture should regulate ecclesiastical structure and personal behavior alike.
Rationalism rejected the inerrancy of scripture and miracles. Philosophical rationalism shares the conviction that reality is actually rational in nature and that making the proper deductions is essential to achieving knowledge.
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|Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609)
Jacob Arminius was 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 came to the conclusion that some of Calvin’s tenets were indefensible. However, in rejecting the excesses of Calvinism, and in the attempt to construct his own scheme of beliefs, Arminius drew upon both Semi-Pelagianism and the Bible to create a new theological hybrid–subsequently dubbed “Arminianism.”
He sought to create a consistent interpretation of the Christian religion without forfeiting the free will foundation. According to his theory, man’s will was once hindered, but God restores to all men adequate freedom (free will) so that they can determine their own destiny. 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 light of that decision. Consequently, man is sovereign!
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 saviour.
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 experienced-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.” (Miles J. Stanford, Tri-13 – Arminius, to Calvin, to Paul, Lakewood: Christian Correspondence, 1983.)
The Enlightenment may be represented as a new way of thinking about mankind. The main proponents of this intellectual movement, the philosophes, were primarily men of letters – men like Voltaire, Diderot, Montesquieu and Rousseau – but their views stemmed from the scientific revolution of the previous century. The discoveries of Galileo, Kepler and Newton in physics and cosmology revealed a universe that was infinite, yet governed by universal laws that could be discovered by the human intelligence. The philosophes were convinced that all creation was similarly rational, so that it was possible for man to uncover laws which regulated society, politics, the economy, even morality. Once understood, these laws would teach mankind not only what we are, but what we ought to be and to do.
Taking their cues primarily from ancient Greece and Rome, the leaders of the epoch were not so much interested in the Christian notion of progress as they were in the heathen ideal of innocence. In France, Rousseau and Voltaire led the attack on the church and institutional Christianity. At the same time they both professed belief in a Supreme Being. Rousseau’s religion denounced all creeds beyond the assertion that natural religion was based on feeling and that all beliefs should be brought “to the bar of reason and conscience.” Voltaire, on the other hand, professed a theism based on the order and rationality of the world. “Just as a watch proves a watchmaker, so a universe proves a God.” On this basis Voltaire urged tolerance of all religions except that of the institutionalized church.
Humanism reached its pinnacle during the eighteenth century Enlightenment. Literature celebrated the supremacy of man’s reason and placed humanity at the center of the universe. The worth of earthly existence for its own sake was accepted, and the otherworldliness of medieval Christianity was disparaged. Writers and poets denied their need for redemption and proclaimed man’s right to absolute freedom. Humanists believed that the pursuit of secular life was not only proper but even meritorious.
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|The First Great Awakening
In the second quarter of the eighteenth century what was called the Great Awakening broke out among the Reformed and Presbyterians in New Jersey and among the Congregationalists in the Connecticut Valley. The First Awakening brought to an end the Puritan conception of society as a beneficial union of ecclesiastical and public life. The leaders of the Awakening called for purity in the churches, even if it meant destroying Puritanism’s historically close association between church and state. Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made religion intensely personal to the average person by fostering a deep sense of spiritual guilt and redemption, and by encouraging introspection and a commitment to a new standard of personal morality.Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758)
Under Edward’s leadership many New England Congregationalists and middle colony Presbyterians moved toward an ideal of a “pure church,” the conviction that only professed believers should participate in the Lord’s Supper or take their places as full members of a local congregation.
Edwards argued that the “will” was an expression of the whole person which always followed the hearts strongest motives. The hearts ultimate motives were selfish and turned from God because of humanity’s participation in Adam’s fall, until God’s sovereign grace brought about a change in the heart.George Whitefield (1714-1770)
A leading evangelist and preacher of the era, he was one of the founders of Methodism in America. He became perhaps the best-known preacher in Britain and America in the 18th century, and because he traveled through all of the American colonies and drew great crowds and media coverage, he was one of the most widely recognized public figures in colonial America.Whitefield accepted the Church of England doctrine of predestination but disagreed with the Wesley brothers views on slavery and of the doctrine of Arminianism. Whitefield preached that salvation belonged completely to God, and that humans did not possess the natural capacity to turn to Christ apart from God’s saving call. As a result the Wesley brothers pursued their own religious movement.Like his contemporary and acquaintance, Jonathan Edwards, Whitefield preached with a staunchly Calvinist theology that was in line with the “moderate Calvinism” of the Thirty-nine Articles. While explicitly affirming God’s sole agency in salvation, Whitefield would freely offer the Gospel, saying near the end of most of his published sermons something like: “Come poor, lost, undone sinner, come just as you are to Christ.”
Whitefield’s revival meetings in New England in 1740 affected most of America. Perhaps as many as ten percent of the total population of the colonies was converted to Jesus Christ during this great revival. Historians credit this revival with shaping the spirit that led to the American Revolution in 1776.
|Deism became prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries during the Age of Enlightenment mostly among those raised as Christians who found they could not believe in either a triune God, the divinity of Jesus, miracles, or the inerrancy of scriptures, but who did believe in one god.
Deism maintained that a rational view of the universe and of man is that God exists, that He created the universe, that the universe is governed by laws inherent in its structure, and that these laws do not permit the departure from them which is seemingly implied in miracles and the Christian revelation.
Initially deism did not form any congregations, but in time it strongly influenced other religious groups, such as Unitarianism and Universalism. Many ideas of modern secularism were developed by deists.
Unitarianism in the hands of Joseph Priestly and others became more rationalistic and less supernaturalistic in its outlook. Nature and right reason replaced the NT as the primary source of religious authority, and what authority the Scriptures retained was the result of their agreement with the findings of reason.
Unitarianism came to New England as early as 1710, and by 1750 most of the Congregational ministers in and around Boston had ceased to regard the doctrine of the Trinity as an essential Christian belief. In 1788 King’s Chapel, the first Anglican church in New England, became definitely Unitarian when its rector, with the consent of the congregation, deleted from the liturgy all mention of the Trinity. The triumph of Unitarianism in New England Congregationalism seemed complete with the election of Henry Ware, an avowed opponent of the Trinitarian position, to the Hollis chair of divinity at Harvard.
Thomas Jefferson (1743 – 1826)
|Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
Rousseau viewed primitive man, “the noble savage,” as superior to civilized man. He wrote, “If man is good by nature, as I believe to have shown him to be, it follows that he stays like that as long as nothing foreign to him corrupts him.”
Rousseau and his followers began to play down reason, and they saw the restraints of civilization as evils: “Man was born free, but everywhere he is in chains!” Rousseau saw the primitive as innocent and autonomous freedom as the final good. We must understand that the freedom he advocated was not just freedom from God or the Bible but freedom from any kind of restraint – freedom from culture, freedom from any authority, an absolute freedom of the individual – a freedom in which the individual is the center of the universe.Immanuel Kant (1724-1804)
He wrote in 1784 that enlightenment is mans emergence from immaturity. It is man learning to think for himself without relying on the authority of the church, the Bible, or the state to tell him what to do. No generation should be bound by the creeds and customs of bygone ages. To be so bound is an offense against human nature, whose destiny lies in progress.In order to rescue science and philosophy from skepticism while at the same time preserving humanistic assumptions, Kant removed the form and structure of reality from their precarious place in a problematic external world and established them within the mind of man. The patterns that science studies, the dynamic orderliness of nature which rewards the efforts of science, are not the result of habit and custom as David Hume had proposed. Instead, Kant now argued, this order originates in the mind of the observer. This subjective ordering process is the condition for perception itself. Kant called this “the transcendental unity of apperception” (T.U.A.). All of a sudden the mind contained the creative power which produces what we know as “reality.”What reality is, what “things in themselves” are, cannot be known. What we “know” is made possible not by God, not by the mind’s penetration of a real world, but by the mind’s projections of what we can know upon an essentially unknowable world. Kant placed God, the soul, moral freedom, and the like in the realm of the unknowable “things in themselves.” This conceptual framework became known as phenomenalism, a foundation stone within the German school of idealism.Kant’s influence on the modern world was immense, and it is no exaggeration to say that he dominated the nineteenth century. Some scholars argue that the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are footnotes to Kant. His epistemology laid the groundwork for an artistic and intellectual response, known as the Romantic movement, which swept the Western world. The Romantics too would open some terrible new doors, the implications of which they would not fully realize until it was too late. The Romantics were a group of influential avant-garde thinkers, poets, and artists of the nineteenth century who strongly felt the diminished portion of reality with which they were left. They were given a reductionism coming from the eighteenth century that was antimetaphysical. Its hard, natural determinism and unfeeling, soulless universe left them with an impoverished vision of life. The Romantics did not question the humanistic and naturalistic assumptions of the Enlightenment. They merely sought to reverse the tendency toward impersonality by asserting the value of private experience over and above what was mere scientific fact. Hume had shrunken the universe with his unyielding skepticism. Mystery was gone. Now Kant was giving the Romantics new room to breathe. They loved Kant’s idea about the mind creating reality. Hegel’s influence after Kant marked the era of a new optimism, but this solipsism had not only an up side, it had a downside as well.
|Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831)
A German philosopher is perhaps best known for his development of a distinctive articulation of idealism sometimes termed “absolute idealism,” in which the dualisms of, for instance, mind and nature and subject and object are overcome. He is known for the Hegelian dialectic, a three-step process, “thesis, antithesis, synthesis”; namely, that a “thesis” (e.g. the French Revolution) would cause the creation of its “antithesis” (e.g. the Reign of Terror that followed), and would eventually result in a “synthesis” (e.g. the constitutional state of free citizens). Hegel believed that experts and knowledgeable persons should rule – not God – with the most perfect government and unlimited authority over the individual. Through the State and its rulers, man would essentially become God on earth. This was the foundational principle that eventually became known as progressivism. [Glenn Beck, Progressive Liars Part II: German Roots]In the French Revolution, human reason was made supreme and Christianity was pushed aside.
In 1789, with the French Revolution at its height, the members of the National Assembly swore to establish a constitution: The Declaration of the Rights of Man. To make their outlook clear, the French changed the calendar and called 1792 the “year one,” and destroyed many of the things of the past, even suggesting the destruction of the cathedral at Chartres. They proclaimed the goddess of Reason in Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris and in other churches in France, including Chartres. In Paris, the goddess was personified by an actress, Demoiselle Candeille, carried shoulder high into the cathedral by men dressed in Roman costumes.
Like the humanists of the Renaissance, the men of the Enlightenment pushed aside the Christian base and heritage and looked back to the old pre-Christian times. When the French Revolution tried to reproduce the English conditions without the Reformation base, but rather on Voltaire’s humanistic base, the result was a bloodbath and a rapid breakdown into the authoritarian rule of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).
In Sept. 1792 began the massacre in which some 1,300 prisoners were killed. Before it was all over, the government and its agents killed 40,000 people, many of them peasants. Maximilien Robespierre (1758-1794), the revolutionary leader, was himself executed in July 1794. This destruction came not from outside the system; it was produced by the system.
The influence of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, as seen within the context of the French Revolution, can hardly be overestimated. Within a period of two years, an extreme form of democracy had been established and all titles of privilege abolished. In subsequent decades, based on the achievements of the revolution, political theorists began suggesting even more dramatic changes in government–changes that in the 20th century are called socialism, Communism, and anarchism. It is no exaggeration to say that subsequent revolutions in Europe, especially the Russian Revolution of 1917, had their antecedent in the ideas and practices that were spawned by the French Revolution.
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|The Second Great Awakening (1795-1830)
Its origins were in the frontier American west under the leadership of Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian itinerants, and in the settled East with the Congregational ministers of New England. Breathing new life into exhausted denominations and providing the impetus for the creation of many newer bodies, it also had important theological consequences for ideas of salvation, church, and society.
The Second Awakening encouraged a revivalistic, aggressive, democratic theology that shaped all American Protestantism through the 1870’s, provided one of the major sources of fundamentalism, and contributed an enduring legacy to modern evangelicalism.
Under the libertarian influences of the Revolutionary age individual Christians insisted that the Bible and the Bible only, free from traditional interpretations, was the standard for organizing churches. So it was that following the Bible only, Disciples, Free Will Baptists, Calvinistic Methodists, Universalists, “Christians,” and other new groups employed private interpretations of Scripture to break from historical denominations and start their own. Nathaniel Taylor (1786-1858)
Founder of the New Haven Theology, he contributed to the rise of evangelical theology by modifying Calvinism, rendering it compatible with revivalism in the opening decades of the nineteenth century. His conviction was that individuals always possessed a “power to the contrary” when facing moral choices leading him to a full belief in human free will. He insisted that men are lost but denied that Adam’s sin was imputed to all men and that everyone inherits a sinful nature which causes one to sin. Even though a person sins, he has power to do otherwise, thus remaining morally responsible. While Edwards and Whitefield had stressed the inability of sinful people to save themselves in order to preserve God’s sovereignty in salvation, Taylor and the leading revivalists on the frontier tended to stress more the ability which God had bestowed on all people to come to Christ. The will was an independent arbiter which chose among options presented to it by the mind and the emotions.
|Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
A child of the Puritans, Emerson fathered a cultural tradition his spiritual ancestors might well have deplored. He helped to sever the final ties of that tradition to the historic Christian faith, and he is considered the central figure in the birth and growth of a distinct American literature.
Emerson trained for the ministry, but even though the Unitarianism of his day required little specific theological commitment, Emerson found even its limited requirements stifling. Emerson questioned both the morality and efficacy of any historical event or ritualistic practice that claimed in any way to mediate the soul’s direct experience of God. He resigned his own pastorate in 1832 in a dispute over the Lord’s Supper.
|Charles Finney (1792-1875) claimed that it is possible for humans to reach the standard of God on our own will.
The Positive Thinking Movement can be traced back to the revivalism of Finney, whose emphasis on the human element in conversion and the ability of men to create revivals. Between 1824 and 1832, Finney established the modern forms and methods of revivalism in American.
|By the time Nietzsche entered the philosopher’s chair, he took Kant a step farther and held “mere scientific fact” – indeed, the scientific undertaking itself – in complete contempt. Nietzsche was the one to rub the implications of what had happened over the past centuries into the faces of his contemporaries. He bemoaned the desolating universe that he and his contemporaries had inherited from his predecessors. It was Nietzsche who declared “God is dead!”|
|The stern doctrines of Calvinism bred in believers a relentless commitment to one’s earthly calling and an avoidance of trivial pleasures. The result was, in Protestant nations, the rapid accumulation of capital that has made possible the enormous structure of modern economic life.||The Romantics no longer needed to worry about a sovereign, transcendent, and moral God looking over their shoulders. They gloried in their initial freedom. Now they could go on a binge and taste all of life’s little delicacies. The English Romantics from Coleridge to Carlyle were swept up in this celebratory frenzy. Soon it spread from them to America, where it was seized upon by the New England transcendentalists: Thoreau, Emerson, and Whitman. Thoreau was to assert in Walden that “The universe constantly and obediently answers our conceptions … Let us spend our lives in conceiving them.” Man can create the universe he so desires simply by revolutionizing his thinking, Thoreau observed, marking the early beginnings of “consciousness-raising.”
Nature began to be regarded as somehow divine. It was a tabloid for the sacred experience. Pantheism crept in. By the time the first translations of Hindu and Buddhist texts were made in the nineteenth century, there was an immediate influence on Western minds. Walt Whitman applauded these new mystical breakthroughs in his celebrated poem “Song of Myself.” Whitman announced to the world: “Divine am I inside and out, and I make holy whatever I touch or am touched from.”
The Romantic movement introduced pantheism as a result of Kant’s thought, and with that came the effort to lay aside traditional conceptions of good and evil. These categories were seen as limitations upon human consciousness and its quest for unlimited experiences. Later on in the nineteenth century, the very terms “good and evil” were made irrelevant by persistent reductive analyses of experience. The most famous and influential of these came through the Englishman Walter Pater in his critical work The Renaissance. Pater sought to isolate value judgment from experience. He extracted the teeth from moral judgment by saying that “not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end.” Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism took the Eastern holy books, the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, which had recently been translated into English, and created what religious historian J. Gordon Melton has called “a uniquely American form of mysticism … the first substantial religious movement in North America with a prominent Asian component.”
It’s distinct leader, Ralph Waldo Emerson, called it “the Saturnalia or excess of Faith.” The power of thinking, whether negative or positive, was believed to be sufficient even to create physical reality or to destroy it.
Transcendentalism broke with Unitarianism for two reasons. First, they objected to the Unitarian desire to cling to certain particulars of Christian history and dogma. Emerson called this clinging a “noxious” exaggeration of “the personal, the positive, the ritual,” and he asked instead for a direct access to God, unmediated by any elements of Scripture and tradition. Secondly, the transcendentalists lamented the sterility of belief and practice they found in the Unitarian faith. According to Henry David Thoreau, it is not man’s sin but his boredom and weariness that are “as old as Adam.” The American Adam needs to exchange his bondage to tradition for a freedom to experiment: “old deeds for old people, and new deeds for new.”
Transcendentalism helped spawn what became known as New Thought, which emphasized that thought controls everything. Now called Positive Thinking, Possibility Thinking, Positive Confession, Positive Mental Attitude, and Inner Healing, this New Thought is sweeping today’s church. New Thought became the basis for such cults as Christian Science, Religious Science, and Unity.
Its direct influence was confined to a small circle, but it had wide repercussions. In the years immediately preceding the Civil War, several of the transcendentalists were important participants in the abolitionist movement, and in the decades to follow, widely divergent individuals and movements would find inspiration in the transcendental protest against society. Henry Ford, who once said “history is bunk” and declared Emerson’s essays to be his favorite reading, dwelt upon the transcendentalists’ disdain for convention and their exaltation of self-reliant power, while both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King drew deeply upon the resources of Thoreau’s famous essay, “Civil Disobedience.”
Transcendentalism marked the first substantial attempt in American history to retain the spiritual experience and potential of the Christian faith without any of the substance of its belief. By claiming an essential innocence for man, by substituting a direct intuition of God or truth for any form of revelation, and by foreseeing a future of ill-defined but certain glory for humankind, transcendentalism paved the way for the many romantic notions about human nature and destiny that have become such a central part of the American experience in the last hundred years.
|Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855)
Danish lay theolgian and unintentional founder of existentialism. He viewed the search for meaning or value as a struggle between non-reason and reason. He argued that each individual must choose – consciously and responsibly – among the alternatives that life brings. He saw optimism to be in the area of non-reason.
Vatican Council I (1869-1870)
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
As a result of the cumulative scientific, economic, and political changes of the preceding eras, the idea took hold among literate people in the West that continuing growth and improvement was the usual state of human and natural life. In his book, The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle for Life, Darwin set forth the concept that all biological life came from simpler forms by a process called “the survival of the fittest.” This intellectual challenge to Christianity sought to discredit the creation account in the Bible and replace it with his theory of evolution.
Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), who actually coined the phrase “survival of the fittest,” extended the theory of biological evolution to all of life, including ethics. Because of their desire to find a unifying principle that would enable autonomous man to explain everything through naturalistic science, that is, on the basis of the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system, they extended biological evolution to “social Darwinism.” This had become the frame of reference by which they attempted to give unity to individual things, the particulars, to the details of the universe and to the history of man. Walter Bagehot (1826-1877) went even further than Spencer in applying these concepts to the advance of groups. Thus these concepts opened the door for racism and the noncompassionate use of accumulated wealth to be sanctioned and made respectable in the name of “science.”
|Because the Enlightenment sees man not as social by nature but as merely sociable, his relations to others do not arise from his nature and the demands of the common good but solely from his freely given consent. This is the origin of the “pro-choice” mentality. The expectant mother is an autonomous individual owing no duty to her child except as she chooses to consent. Marriage implies no inherent stability of relationship. Rather, it is up to each spouse to decide whether it will be permanent or temporary, monogamous or adulterous. The goal is self-fulfillment of the isolated individual unencumbered by any inherent duties or relations to others.
– – T h e N e w W o r l d O r d e r – –
As the Age of Reason made pronouncements about the validity or invalidity of various approaches to knowledge, the arena of philosophic inquiry shifted from ontology – the study of the nature of being and reality – to epistemology – the theory of knowledge. Thinking shifted from the study of God to the study of the human mind and its capacities and limitations in apprehending reality.
Karl Marx (1818-1883) brought to the scene the idea that religion and God were man-made institutions invented to ease emotional pain and explain life and death. He called religion, “opiate of the masses,” in that it deadened the desire for social change in the present with a hope of heaven.
Marxism sees human society developing through class stuggle: a conflict between ruling classes (bourgeoisie) that control the means of production and working classes (proletariat) that work on these means by selling their labor for wages.
The Fabian Society was named in honor of the Roman general Fabius Maximus, whose strategy sought gradual victory against the Carthaginian army under the renowned general Hannibal through persistence, harassment, slowly dumbing down and changing the moral standards of their enemies, and wearing the enemy down by attrition rather than head-on battles.
Unlike Marxists, who advocated bloody revolution for world socialism, the Fabian Socialists of Britain advocated a more gradualist path to socialistic globalism. The plan of these early one-worlders was to use intellectual penetration, from the top of the pyramid down, into key areas of influence on society.
In 1887, their stated aim was, “The reorganization of society by the emancipation of land and industrial capital from individual and class ownership… the society accordingly works for the extinction of private ownership, of property in land.”
One of the most effective Fabians was famed Cambridge University economist John Maynard Keynes who turned Harvard on its ears when he came and charmed the students and faculty with his socialist economics. Keynes said that the state should guarantee welfare for all, that it should provide guaranteed employment through government programs, and that all of this could be financed by his revolutionary scheme. How? By turning paper into gold. The gold standard could be dropped for paper currency, then deficit spending through government loans would open up a money vault of endless supply. Indeed, it was a “New Deal,” to use the Roosevelt expression – maybe too good a deal to be true.
Today, we are reaping the seeds of Keynesian philosophy with rapidly expanding governments, skyrocketing deficits, soaring personal, corporate, and government debt, collapsing economies, and the enslavement of mankind to a corporate global elite.
|Both the Nineteenth century Holiness movement (e.g. Nazarene denomination) and the Twentieth century Pentecostal movement find their roots in Methodism. Pentecostal historian, Vinson Synan, succinctly described the relationship as follows:
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 linage 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.
Pentecostalism was an evangelical charismatic reformation movement which usually traces its roots to an outbreak of tongue-speaking in Topeka, Kansas, in 1901 under the leadership of Charles Fox Parham, a former Methodist preacher. It was Parham who formulated the basic Pentecostal doctrine of ‘initial evidence’ after a student in his Bethel Bible School, Agnes Ozman, experienced glossolalia.
Though Pentecostals recognize sporadic instances of tongue-speaking and other charismatic phenomena throughout the Christian era, they stress the special importance of the Azusa Street revival, which occurred in an abandoned African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Los Angeles from 1906 to 1909 and which launched Pentecostalism as a worldwide movement. The Azusa Street services were led by William J. Seymour, a black Holiness preacher from Houston, Texas, and a student of Parham.
Jean-Paul Sartre (1905-80)
One of the leading exponents of existentialism, Jean-Paul Sartre began to develop his existentialist philosophy during the 1930s, which stressed personal freedom and stated that the individual exists only in relation to other people.
Sartre’s concept was that a finite point is absurd if it has no infinite reference point. If there is no absolute moral standard, then one cannot say in a final sense that anything is right or wrong.
He held in the area of reason everything is absurd, but nonetheless a person can authenticate himself by an act of the will; everyone should abandon the pose of spectator and act in a purposeless world. But because, as Sartre saw it, reason is separated from this authenticating, the will can act in any direction. On the basis of his teaching, you could authenticate yourself either by helping a poor old lady along the road at night or by speeding up your auto and running her down.
|The Progressive Movement was an effort to cure many of the ills of American society that had developed during the great spurt of industrial growth in the last quarter of the 19th century. Disturbed by the inefficiencies and injustices of the post-Civil War and post-Reconstruction eras of the late 19th century (1865-1901), the progressives were committed to changing and reforming society.
Embracing Humanist philosophies, they believed in science, technology, expertise—and especially education—as the grand solution to society’s weaknesses. Significant changes enacted at the national levels included the imposition of an income tax with the Sixteenth Amendment, direct election of Senators with the Seventeenth Amendment, Prohibition with the Eighteenth Amendment, and women’s suffrage through the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
|The Scopes Trial in 1925 accelerated the process of withdrawal and separation of Evangelicals from society. The so-called “Monkey Trial” pitted evolution and biblical creationism against each other. H.L. Mencken and others in the secular press heaped ridicule upon the Fundamentalists. Creationists won the court case in Dayton, Tennessee, but Fundamentalists lost the larger battle. The press-generated image of the Fundamentalists as a backwoods ignoramus was locked indelibly in the American consciousness.||Toward the end of the 19th century, liberal forces arose within American Protestantism that turned from belief in the traditional orthodox Christian doctrines. Many liberal Protestants shifted the emphasis away from personal salvation toward an effort to redeem society.
Progressive philosophies began to infiltrate the Church as activists from different religious groups formed to enact prohibition amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Two important groups were formed during this period including the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and the Anti-Saloon League. Social Gospel Movement
The Social Gospel was a movement away from seeing individual man as sinful and in need of personal salvation. Social Gospel preachers pointed to societal evil and called on individuals to join together and, with God’s help, eradicate the evil forces that were at work in corporate society. Evil forces in society were seen as corrupting the individual. Humans were essentially good. Society was evil.
These advocates of social reform undertook to clear slums, to end child labor practices and to eliminate a host of other social evils. They put a major emphasis on education. If society could be redeemed humankind could create a perfect habitat here on this earth.
Also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The LDS God at one time was a mortal man, who by obeying the laws of the Mormon “gospel” became God. In His rise to Godhood He kept His physical body, or so the LDS church teaches. In perhaps the most famous of all Mormon discourses, Joseph Smith plainly declared his belief that God had been a man: “God enthroned in yonder heavens…if you were to see him today, you would see him like a man in form” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.6,pg.3). Brigham Young stated that “God was once a man in mortal flesh as we are” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.7,pg.333). One of the original LDS apostles felt that “The Gods who dwell in the Heaven…were one in a fallen state…their terrestrial bodies after suffering death, were redeemed, and glorified, and made Gods…they were exalted also, from fallen men to Celestial Gods” (The Seer, Orson Pratt, pg. 23). McConkie declared, “God himself, the father of us all, is a glorified, exalted, immortal resurrected Man!” (Mormon Doctrine, pg. 643). One LDS writer says, “Through modern revelation we learn that the universe is filled with vast numbers of intelligences…Elohim is God simply because all of these intelligences honor and sustain Him as such” (The First 2000 Years, W. Cleon Skousen, Bookcraft, 1953, pf. 355). He goes on to say, “The present exalted position of our Heavenly Father was gradually built up…if He should ever do anything to violate the confidence or ‘sense of justice’ of these intelligences, they would promptly withdraw their support, and the ‘power’ of God would disintegrate” (ibid).
The Mormon church claims that men now living can also attain godhood. The Doctrine & Covenants says of those who obey the laws of Mormonism, “Then shall they be gods” (Section 132:20). The late Elder James Talmage declared, “In spite of the opposition of the sects, in the face of direct charges of blasphemy, the church proclaims the eternal truth: ‘As man is, God once was; as God is, man may be”’ (Articles of Faith, pf 430). According to Brighman Young, “the Lord created you and me for the purpose of becoming Gods like Himself… We are created, we are born…to become Gods like unto our Father in heaven” (Journal of Discourses, Vol.3,pg.93).
|Back in the Middle Ages we saw that certain humanistic elements entered the church. The essence of the Reformation was the removal of these from the church’s teaching. On the other hand, humanistic thinking developed in the Renaissance and again went further in the Enlightenment. The teachings of the Enlightenment became widespread in the various faculties of the German universities, and theological rationalism became an identifiable entity in the eighteenth century. Then gradually this came to full flood through the German theological faculties during the nineteenth century. Thus, though the Reformation had rid the church of the humanistic elements which had come into it in the Middle Ages, a more total form of humanism entered the Protestant church, and has gradually spread to all the branches of the church, including the Roman Catholic. The concept of man beginning from himself now began to be expressed in theology and in theological language. Or we can say that these theologians accepted the presuppositions of rationalism. As the Renaissance had tried to synthesize Aristotle and Christianity and then Plato and Christianity, these men were attempting to synthesize the rationalism of the Enlightenment and Christianity. This attempt has often been called religious liberalism.
Harry A. Ironside (1876-1951)
A Plymouth Brethren, author and preacher known for his lively style and clear-cut interpretations, was at the center of the fundamentalist network from 1930-1948, when he became the final authority on fundamentalist teaching. Ironside is best known for his prolific literary output and was a major figure in the popularizing of dispensationalism among American evangelicals and for the most part followed the views of the Scofield Reference Bible. Fundamentalism
Evangelical Protestants rallied around fundamental doctrines of the faith. The issuance of The Fundamentals, a series of books defending traditional Christian teachings gave Evangelicals a new name, Fundamentalists.
Conservative Christians such as dispensationalists and Princeton Calvinists joined forces to counter liberalism’s rejection of biblical teaching. Fundamentalists wanted to reaffirm orthodox Protestant Christianity and to defend it militantly against the challenges of liberal theology, German higher criticism, Darwinism, and other isms regarded as harmful to American Christianity.
Many enemies of Christianity were identified: Romanism, socialism, modern philosophy, atheism, Eddyism, Mormonism, spiritualism, and the like, but above all liberal theology, which rested on a naturalistic interpretation of the doctrine of faith, and German higher criticism and Darwinism, which appeared to undermine the Bible’s authority. Almost immediately, the list of enemies became narrower and the fundamentals less comprehensive. Five essential doctrines were regarded as under attack in the church: the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, Christ’s bodily resurrection, and the historicity of the miracles. These came to be regarded as the fundamental doctrines of Christianity.
Until very recently the fundamentalist doctrine of separation from the world was understood to discourage involvement in social and political issues. Under this view “the world” is seen as so utterly corrupt and evil that little can be done to redeem its structures and institutions. Hope is placed instead in the return of Christ, the final judgment, and the creation of a new heaven and a new earth.
Harry Emerson Fosdick (1878-1969)
In 1922, Fosdick preached a sermon which cast doubt on the Bible being God’s Word, the Virgin Birth, the Second Coming, and Christ’s death as atonement for sins. He was not arguing some gray area of theology; it was total repudiation of Christinaity’s major tenets. With funding from John D. Rockefeller, Fosdick’s teachings were spread among seminaries and churches. Humanism
Modern Humanism, also called Naturalistic Humanism, Scientific Humanism, Ethical Humanism and Democratic Humanism is defined by one of its leading proponents, Corliss Lamont, as “a naturalistic philosophy that rejects all supernaturalism and relies primarily upon reason and science, democracy and human compassion.” Modern Humanism has a dual origin, both secular and religious, and these constitute its sub-categories. Secular Humanism is an outgrowth of 18th century enlightenment rationalism and 19th century freethought. Many secular groups, such as the Council for Democratic and Secular Humanism and the American Rationalist Federation, and many otherwise unaffiliated academic philosophers and scientists, advocate this philosophy. Religious Humanism emerged out of Ethical Culture, Unitarianism, and Universalism. Today, many Unitarian-Universalist congregations and all Ethical Culture societies describe themselves as humanist in the modern sense.
In our time, humanism has replaced Christianity as the consensus of the West. The humanist view has infiltrated every level of society. This has had many results, not the least of which is to change people’s view of themselves and their attitudes toward other human beings. Having rejected God, humanistic scientists, philosophers and professors began to teach that only what can be mathematically measured is real and that all reality is like a machine. Man is only one part of the larger cosmic machine. Man is more complicated than the machines people make, but is still a machine, nevertheless.
By constant repetition, the idea that man is nothing more than a machine has captured the popular mind. This idea keeps being presented year after year in the schools and in the media, however unfounded and unproven the hypothesis. Gradually, after being generally unquestioned, it is blindly accepted – just as, after many years of teaching that the earth was flat, the notion was believed because of its sheer pervasiveness. People came more and more to hold that the universe is intrinsically and originally impersonal – as a stone is impersonal. Thus, by chance, life began on the earth and then, through long, long periods of time, by chance, life became more complex, until man with his special brain came into existence.
For the Humanist, the truth of the pervasiveness of sin is repugnant because it removes the possibility of man building a truly moral society. In reality, Humanism dehumanizes people because it denies their true human condition and points to a solution that cannot work. To the Humanist, morality depends on what seems right (to him) at the time, or whether it feels good, and not on any Biblical or Theological standards. He strives for the good life here and now, and is dependent only upon his own reasoning and intelligence. The fundamental idea of humanism is that men and women can begin from themselves and derive the standards by which to judge all matters. There is no knowledge except what he himself can discover. There are for such people no fixed standards of behavior, no standards than cannot be eroded or replaced by what seems necessary, expedient, or even fashionable. (Francis A. Schaeffer, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?)
Humanistic philosophy rests on four major pillars: Atheism, Evolution, Moral Relativity, and Pragmatism
The message that secular humanism teaches is that we need no outside help. Our own intelligence and strength are sufficient. In making humanity the focus of attention, secular humanism displaces God. There is no place for the Creator in His world. We are good enough on our own. Sin is not a problem. Some of us might do bad things, but we are not really evil. We are basically good. There is no need therefore for salvation, no need for a Christ to redeem us.
Humanist Manifesto I (1933)
Humanist Manifesto II
Humanist Manifesto III Cultural Hegemony
In Marxist philosophy, cultural hegemony is the domination of a culturally diverse society, by the ruling class who manipulate the culture of that society—the beliefs, explanations, perceptions, values, and mores—so that their imposed, ruling-class worldview becomes the accepted cultural norm; the universally valid dominant ideology, which justifies the social, political, and economic status quo as natural and inevitable, perpetual and beneficial for everyone, rather than as artificial social constructs that benefit only the ruling class. [Wikipedia, Cultural Hegemony]
It was Italian, Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937) who developed the theory of cultural hegemony during the interwar period, which describes how states use cultural institutions to maintain power in capitalist societies. It was designed to capture the mind of the society through a quiet 5th Column revolution of religion in the culture. Gramsci Socialism was designed to destroy belief in God and to deny the reality of the supernatural life by changing the existing Christian mind into an anti-Christian mind by a false Marxist humanism which lets the entire effort be solely by man for man’s sake.It was to do so by incrementally and gradually transforming America’s Judeo/Christian culture by overthrowing it’s moral and spiritual values from within. It would target family life by infiltrating and transforming education, law, military, media and entertainment, unions, and public interest groups. [A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing]
Adolf Hitler adopted the ideas of Malthus in a wholesale fashion in his administration of the Third Reich – his exterminative “final solution,” his coercive abortion program in Poland, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, and his elitist national socialism. He echoed the Malthusian call to “rid the earth of dysgenic peoples by whatever means available so they we may enjoy the prosperity of the Fatherland.”
|Disunity, racked the church during much of the twentieth century, not just an institutional and a denominational disunity, but a fundamental disunity of focus and purpose. Beginning in the early 1940’s the fundamentalists divided gradually into two camps. There were those who voluntarily continued to use the term to refer to themselves and to equate it with true Bible-believing Christianity. There were others who came to regard the term as undesirable, having connotations of divisive, intolerant, anti-intellectual, unconcerned with social problems, even foolish. This group wished to regain fellowship with the orthodox Protestants and people in the large northern denominations – Presbyterian, Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian.
When believers began to abandon orthodoxy in a wholesale fashion, they simply exchanged the Christian system of moral standards that had brought Western culture to full flower for ancient pagan values. When the ethical system of the Bible is jettisoned, men are left to their own devices and thus quickly revert to destructive primal passions. There is no other alternative. There is no third way. There is no middle ground (Matt. 12:30). Working at cross purposes with itself, the church tragically nullified its import and impact at the very time it was most needed. It abdicated its role as the pacesetter of art, music, and ideas, yielding to a new cultural and scientific high priesthood. A rapid slide into neo-paganism resulted.During the past forty years in North America, American values have dramatically shifted. At one time, our culture was governed by a consensus of Judeo-Christian thought, though even then society was no less sinful at its core. But at least life was regarded as sacred, homes were honored and secure, homosexuality was clearly viewed as wrong, and God and the church were outwardly revered.
Righteous indignation and holy zeal became all but endangered species during much of the century. Passions were turned inward, as were devotions. Virtues became vices, and the most awful of indulgences became canonized orthodoxies. Risk, jeopardy, and self-sacrifice were replaced by security, certainty, and self-gratification. Thus, the only urgency that drove much of the church during this dark period in history was its own satisfaction. An easy “instant-everything” mentality developed so that believers would not have to face up to their responsibilities or live with the consequences of their actions.
For several hundred years, predestination has been the majority while free will remained the minority. In this century, more and more theologians suggested another theory of God’s will: God is no longer to be understood as an immutable monarch controlling human history and individual lives, but rather is to be seen as a self-limiting, loving, and suffering father who allows himself to be affected by his creatures (e.g. Hans Kung, T. Chardin, John Cobb, David Griffin, Clark Pinnock).
|The next accepted version in the West of life in the area of non-reason was the religious experience of Hinduism and Buddhism. This grasping for a nonrational meaning to life and values is the central reason that these Eastern religions are so popular in the West today. Young people (and older ones) tried the drug trip and then turned to the Eastern religious trip. Both seek truth inside one’s own head and both negate reason.
Hinduism is the religion of the peoples of India. Today, there are almost as many versions of Hinduism as there are villages or groups of Hindus. It is a twisted, confusing religion which strives for ecstatic experiences through severe asceticism and a works oriented salvation.
In Buddhism there is no god as we conceive of God. The idea of self in Buddhism is distinctive. The self or soul is made up of five elements or skandhas – body, feelings, perception, impulses and consciousness – and it’s constantly changing. It is not a ‘permanent self’ which connects a man’s new life to the life of his former existence. Rather it is the deeds or karma which link one existence to another. The goal of human existence is nirvana, the state of bliss arrived at when desire ceases and karma is no more.
Aldous Huxley (1894-1963)
|See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ. – Colossians 2:8
They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie. – 2 Thessalonians 2:10-11
They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator-who is forever praised. Amen. – Romans 1:25
Totalistic relativism is:
(1) an epistemological theory denying any objective, universally valid human knowledge and affirming that meaning and truth vary from person to person, culture to culture, and time to time;
(2) a metaphysical theory denying any changeless realities such as energy, space, time, natural laws, persons, or God and affirming that all conceivable meaning rests on activities, happenings, events, processes, or relationships, in which observers are changing participants; and
(3) an ethical theory denying any changeless moral principles normative for all people in every situation and so of limited validity.With the onslaught of relativism (the belief that there is no right or wrong, but all is relative) and an infusion of rationalism (the belief that only that which is capable of being tested and proved is real), we essentially rendered God and His truth useless. At best, God and His Word became irrelevant; at worst, they became a hindrance to “progress.”
Since truth is no longer absolute – since we can no longer believe anything – we’re told we must now believe everything. Tolerance and acceptance are the watchwords of the day. Every kind of bizarre belief, outlandish claim, aberrant experience is justified and embraced. The only things you won’t find tolerated are claims to absolute truth and the exposing of error.
The Humanist Manifesto II declared God to be “harmful.” We began to publicly order our lives by nonbiblical, godless, faithless values. In turn, our present secular society evolved. The Death of God Theology established by nineteenth century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, flourished in the mid-1960s fueled by the bankruptcy of modern theology and because it was a journalistic phenomenon. The movement gave expression to an idea that had been developing in Western philosophy and theology for some time – the suggestion that the reality of a transcendent God at best could not be known and at worst did not exist at all. English mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote a prodigious amount of verbiage in his Unpopular Essays trying to prove God never existed, that there isn’t a “First Cause,” as he states it.
On April 8, 1966, Time devoted its cover story to the question “Is God dead?” By casting doubt on God’s existence and preeminence, society was cut loose from scriptural moorings and historic restraints. Thereafter, “each man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). As we all know, vacuums do not exist in human thought. When one dominant idea begins to fade, another will rush to take its place. Thus, when the theologians surgically removed the belief in God from the minds of the vulnerable, a wide range of New Age propaganda quickly tumbled into that void. As faith in Jesus Christ subsided, astrology, psychic readings, crystal influence, pantheistic theologies, Eastern mysticism, Satan worship and all the nonsense taught by Shirley MacLaine gained influence.
|The rise in popularity of a semi-Pelagian view of man has given rise to many cults. Hundreds, if not thousands, of groups have risen through the years variously claiming the semi-Pelagian and sometimes Pelagian view of man. They are too numerous to mention all here, so I will only comment on some of the more popular ones.
Positive Thinking Movement
|Far too many Christians have become so simpleminded these days as to be blown around by circus sideshow doctrines. They think God will give them mansions and pink Cadillacs with rhinestones if they pray with enough fervency. There they are on TV: gobbling away, hands outstretched, eyes closed, and asking God for goodies. Kenneth Copeland uses the words of Willow, telling a stadium audience that if they believe enough, they can have anything. On another channel is Oral Roberts in his prayer tower telling “the faithful” that if they don’t send in ten million dollars in the next few months God will take him home. The largest Sunday morning TV audience is drawn to a program that preaches a humanistic gospel masquerading as Christianity. Robert Schuller’s message on the “Hour of Power” program is called “possibility thinking,” a self-esteem message not heavily laden with “Jesus talk.” He has defined sin as “lack of faith in yourself…” He declared that “Jesus Christ…has saved me from my sin which is my tendency to put myself down and not believe that I can do it…Negative thinking is the core of sin…Jesus died to save us from our sins to change us from negative thinking people to positive thinking people.” (Hour of Power, April 12, 1992).
Positive affirmations and success seminars – Even for many evangelicals, “faith” no longer requires God as its object, but is touted as a “positive” power of the mind that creates what we firmly and sincerely believe. One seminar by well known Christian success/motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, promises: “How To Get What You Want.” A popular booklet by Kenneth Hagin is titled How To Write Your Own Ticket With God. Thus what we “pray” for will come to pass, not if God wills it, but if we can only believe it will happen. Robert Schuller said, “What is the magic ingredient that can insure success and eliminate failure from our lives? It is FAITH! Possibility Thinking is just another word for faith.” (Robert Schuller, “Faith, The Force That Sets You Free!” Possibilites, Sept/Oct. 1988, pg. 22.) Norman Vincent Peale says, “Your unconscious mind … has a power that turns wishes into realities when the wishes are strong enough.” (Norman Vincent Peale, Positive Imaging, 1982, pg. 77) Robert Schuller said, “You don’t know the power you have within you! You make the world into anything you choose. Yes, you can make your world into whatever you want it to be.” (Robert Schuller, “Possibility Thinking: Goals,” Amway Corporation tape)
|One need not practice Eastern mysticism to deify self. That philosophy is basic to humanistic psychology, which has gained prominence within the last 20 years. One of its leaders was Carl Rogers who offered students a substitute secular “born again” experience of being “baptized in the fluid waters of your own self,” declaring that “self in its unlimited potential is virtually a god.” In Carl Roger’s view, human experience is the center and source of meaning, self-realization can be accomplished apart from responsibility to other persons, tradition, or an objective God who makes moral demands. Only is one responsible to one’s own feelings. Only you can judge your values, Rogers said.
The idea of man’s innate goodness – of the innocent child that still resides within us all – is the cornerstone of psychology. The idea that low self-esteem is rampant and the root of almost all problems is confidently stated as though it were proven fact. Yet many other psychologists would strongly disagree. Los Angeles psychotherapist Nathaniel Branden, author of The Psychology of Self and Honoring the Self, tells us that sin, even criminal violence is viewed as a “psychological problem.” No one is willfully doing evil; we are all innocent victims of a disease for which we cannot be held accountable. A plague of “poor self-concept” is sweeping our world and that is the cause of all that has gone wrong. Branden explains: I cannot think of a single psychological problem – from depression to fear of intimacy to criminal violence – that is not traceable to poor self-concept … Until we are willing to honor the self and proudly proclaim our right to do so, we cannot fight for self-esteem – and we cannot achieve it. (Brain/Mind Bulletin, September 10, 1984, “Nathaniel Branden Rises to the Defense of Self,” pg. 3)
What does self-esteem mean to humansists? It does not mean a healthy appraisal of one’s abilities and talents, which many mistakenly believe. In the realm of personal psychology, self-esteem means being one’s own person, developing one’s own values apart from the values of others, expecially the values of one’s parents. It’s not a matter of semantics; the term self-esteem means lover of one’s self. The only outcome of such a philosophy is a generation of selfish, defiant and rebellious people who put themselves before others. They have learned that they are worthy of self-esteem regardless of their behavior. Shirley MacLaine proclaims, “You must never worship anyone or anything other than self. For you are god. To love self is to love god.”
Christian counter culture youth movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Jesus movement of the 1970s yielded an unprecedented rise in conservative biblical evangelicalism. During that time there was a great interest in evangelism, Bible study, and discipleship. New Bible translations appeared, and Christian broadcasting, publishing, and music ministries expanded rapidly. Churches experienced rapid numerical growth, and some built auditoriums that could seat several thousand people. Participants were sometimes labeled Jesus freaks because of their former status as drug users (“drug freaks”) and street people. But not all Jesus people were once drug users or “hippies.”
The Charismatic Movement
|Transcendental Meditation, also called “Spiritual Generation Movement,” “Student’s International Meditation Society,”and “TM.” Maharishi Hahesh Yogi says the reason for creation and individual life is the expansion of happiness. This is done by expanding one’s consciousness through seven levels of consciousness. Jesus is considered an Enlightened One.
Church of Scientology
|The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9
Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished– he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. – Romans 3:20-28
Originating in Mecca in the early 7th century, it quickly spread in the Arabian peninsula. Fueled by oil dollars and supported by Arab governments, today, Islam is rapidly spreading its message among people on every continent. With about 1.7 billion followers or 23% of the global population, Islam is the second-largest religion by number of adherents and, according to many sources, the fastest-growing major religion in the world.Islam teaches that God made His promises to Ishmael, not Isaac, and that he would become a great people, a promise that has been kept. The Ishmaelites did not follow the God of Abraham, and, by the early 7th century, the Arabs had 365 different gods. Although Islam speaks respectfully of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, they were merely prophets, of which Mohammed was the last and greatest. Mohammed claimed to be a direct descendent of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and the servant girl Hagar, and he chose one of these 365 gods, Allah, to be “the one true God” of Islam.After Mohammed’s death in 632 they conquered Persia, Turkey, and all of North Africa, then crossed the Mediterranean to conquer Spain and were well on their way to taking all of Europe when they were defeated in A.D. 732 at the Battle of Tours in France. Thus was the “faith” of Islam taken to the world. It was either submit to Allah and to the teachings of his prophet, Mohammed, or die. Such is the shameful heritage of Islam today in those countries which it presently controls. It is still quite in keeping with their religion for Muslims to consider it their honorable duty to kill Christians and Jews.For Mohammed the Koran was the revelation of final and absolute truth. It replaced the Old and New Testaments and corrected the errors which had supposedly crept into the revelation that Allah had previously given to the Jews and the Christians. Islam holds that the authority of any God given book is canceled by the next book. For example, the authority of the law was canceled by the psalms which followed after. In the same way, the authority of the whole Bible is superseded by the Koran. In asserting that the Jews had twisted the words of God, Mohammed was specifically referring to the promises given to Abraham. These include the promises which God has fulfilled through the line of Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and Israel, as well as those which await fulfillment. But, according the Mohammed, the major promises from Allah were not given to Isaac but to Ishmael.Islam says Allah is not a father and has no son, denies that Jesus is God, denies His death, burial and resurrection for our sins, denies even that He died on the cross (another died in His place), claims He was taken to heaven without dying and must come back to die. [Dave Hunt, “A New Christianity?”, The Berean Call, February 2000]Man is the highest creation of Allah and he has a free will to make his own decisions. Allah has shown him the right path, and the life of Prophet Mohammed provides a perfect example for achieving success and salvation. Islam stands for the sanctity of human personality and confers equal rights on all without distinction of race, nationality or sex.In practice, however, Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia do not provide for equal rights and freedoms for their religious minorities. In some cases they have taken steps to obliterate all traces of other religions, particularly Christianity. In Saudi Arabia as well as Iran, the practice of Christianity is illegal, and a Muslim who converts to Christianity is punished with death. Even visiting Westerners are not allowed to practice Christianity, and it is considered an offense to bring a Bible into Saudi Arabia.The Sharia is Islamic law and constitutes a system of duties that are incumbent upon a Muslim by virtue of his or her religious belief. Islamic law covers all aspects of life, from matters of state, like governance and foreign relations, to issues of daily living. Jihad means “to strive or struggle” (in the way of God). Within Islamic jurisprudence, jihad is usually taken to mean military exertion against non-believer/non-Muslim/Muslim combatants.Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, in accordance with their increasingly modern societies and outlooks, liberal Muslims have tended to reinterpret many aspects of the application of their religion in their life.Some claim that Muslim Terrorism is the direct offshoot of the fanatical Islamic cult known as Wahabism, a branch of Sunni Islam, which runs Mecca and believes in the destruction of non Islamic cultures and is financed by Saudi Arabia. Wahhabism has been accused of being “a source of global terrorism”, [Haider, Murtaza (Jul 22, 2013). “European Parliament identifies Wahabi and Salafi roots of global terrorism“][ “Terrorism: Growing Wahhabi Influence in the United States” (PDF). US GPO. June 26, 2003.]inspiring the ideology of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), and for causing disunity in Muslim communities by labelling Muslims who disagreed with the Wahhabi definition of monotheism as apostates (takfir), thus paving the way for their execution for apostasy. Baha’i
The Baha’i Faith was birthed in Iran, a Muslim nation, in the 1800s. Baha’is have a strong missionary emphasis and are active in more than 250 countries, and though world wide missionary work has been limited to the 20th century, total membership totals over 5 million. The 60’s and the 70’s witnessed very strong growth, especially in the United States (special emphasis in California), where a large percentage of the membership consists of minorities and youth.
The Baha’i Faith is essentially rationalistic. “We must not accept traditional dogmas that are contrary to reason, nor pretend to believe doctrines which we cannot understand. To do so is superstitious and not true religion.” Because of this inclination to reject any doctrine that does not seem reasonable to them, Baha’is interpret allegorically, rather than literally, the biblical doctrines of the Holy Trinity, the bodily Resurrection of Christ, the existence of angels and evil spirits, and the doctrines of heaven and hell. Yet, despite this insistence that everything must be understood in order to be believed, they hold that God Himself is impersonal and unknowable. He can only be perceived indirectly through the reflection of his Manifestations – Jesus being ONLY ONE of these NINE, in no manner superior to the other eight.
Among world religions, probably only Buddahism and Confucianism are less concerned with man’s relationship to God than Baha’ism. The Baha’is are concerned chiefly with man’s relationship to man, as evidenced by the Baha’i thirteen “principles” which denote social and political concerns rather than religious. In volume 13 of “The Baha’i World”, we read: “It is the avowed faith of Baha’is that this Revelation has established upon earth the spiritual impulse and the definite principles necessary for social regeneration and the attainment of one true religion and social order throughout the world.”
Baha’is deny that man fell through Adam from his original spiritual and moral state. They affirm that no one is “essentially” bad or evil, but merely imperfect. Sins are characteristics of the lower, baser plane of nature, and education brings deliverance from them. Baha’u’llah taught that men ought not to confess their sins to one another, for this would lead to humiliation and abasement, which he taught, are contrary to God’s will.
Because they fail to recognize that man fell from his original position with God, Baha’is also fail to understand what the prophet Jeremiah witnessed concerning the nature of man. As a result they believe that man is capable of keeping the commandments of God, whereas the Bible emphatically declares that he cannot. Not realizing that man’s problems stem from his heart, instead of the intellect, they think that education is the ultimate answer.
At the heart of Baha’ism is what Baha’u’llah termed a new Covenant between God and humankind. The distinguishing feature of humanity’s coming of age is that, for the first time in its history, the entire human race is consciously involved, however dimly, in the awareness of its own oneness and of the earth as a single homeland. This awakening opens the way to a new relationship between God and humankind. As the peoples of the world embrace the spiritual authority inherent in the guidance of the Revelation of God for this age, Baha’u’llah said, they will find in themselves a moral empowerment which human effort alone has proven incapable of generating. “A new race of men” will emerge as the result of this relationship, and the work of building a global civilization will begin. The mission of the Baha’i community is to demonstrate the efficacy of this Covenant in healing the ills that divide the human race.
|“Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils.” – 1 Timothy 4:1
For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. – Mark 7:21-22
But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. – James 3:14-16
Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. – John 8:43-44
What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. – James 4:1-4
|The New Age Movement
Here is a spiritual system that combines man centered humanism with Eastern religious philosophy. It seems to be a marriage of Science & Easternism Cult-religious organizations and can be a mixture of Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Spiritualism such as, Church Universal & Triumphant. It is a religious movement that is centered in SELF- all you need is within – with no defined order of sin, repentance or salvation! You become your own god!
Central to New Age philosophy is the concept of personal transformation. They see it as people awakening to their own divinity, “the god within,” where we’re all gods. They say that man has within himself the power and ability to achieve all he ever desires and needs. People are hindered, they say, by misinterpretations and wrong concepts. For example, New Agers take Christ’s statement “the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21) to mean that the kingdom is a mystical reality inside of every person, a reality which may be experienced in a “higher state of consciousness.” What we need to achieve this higher level of concienceness is ‘free thinking’ and tapping into the divine life force within us. New Agers believe humanity is supreme, that there is no such thing as sin and that the highest goal for a person on earth is to reach his or her full human potential. The New Age movement encourages any who seek a transcendent experience to think of God merely as a depersonalized ‘Star Wars’ force that exists in each of us. New Age thinking promises that the seeker can discover this force, tap its resources, and then use its power for his or her own benefit. This force does not impose any ethical standards. The only personalization occurs when we “realize” that because this force is in us and in everything around us, we ourselves can be gods.
Sin is viewed by New Agers as an outdated concept that is “only a tool used to shackle the minds and actions of people.” The only “sin” or evil is that of being unbalanced and out of harmony or estranged from oneself, others, the varied life forms, and Mother Earth. As there is no sin or divine retribution to be saved from, “salvation” has only to do with attaining and maintaining harmony with the above. (Craig Hawkins, “The Modern World of Witchcraft,” Christian Research Journal (Summer 1990), pp. 11-12,14.) Tex Marrs writes, “The Essence of New Age religious doctrine is that man is neither sinful nor evil, and that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was meaningless and futile. Man did not need a Savior to atone for sin, says the New Age, because man has for millennia been inevitably evolving toward perfection and godhood (in the flesh).” (Tex Marrs, Dark Secrets of The New Age, pg. 13.)
Within some Christian circles, the same lie is being taught. Robert Tilton teaches that man was created to be the god of this earth, that he lost this dominion to Satan, who became the god of this world, and that it is up to us to take that dominion back from Satan and begin functioning as the gods of this world once again. In order for this to happen, we Christians must begin, as E.W. Kenyon taught, to “walk as Jesus walked, without any consciousness of inferiority to God.” Echoing this teaching, Kenneth Copeland declares: “You don’t have a God in you. You are one.” (Kenneth Copeland, “The Force of Love,” Tape BCC-56.) These teachings are at the heart of the Positive Confession movement today, and can be traced back to numerous groups of earlier eras, such as the Manifested Sons of God and Latter Rain movements. It is in the writings of leaders in these earlier movements, such as Kenyon, Branham, and John G. Lake that we first find the major teachings of Hagin, Copeland, and Capps. Lake wrote: “Man is not a separate creation detached from God, he is part of God Himself … God intends us to be gods … He is calling forth a soul-awakening to the realization that the man within is the real man. The inner man is the real governor, the true man that Jesus said was a god.” (Ed. Gordon Lindsay, Spiritual Hunger, The God-Men and Other Sermons by Dr. John G. Lake, 1976, pp. 20-21.)
According to New Agers, evil simply does not exist. Evil is conveniently redefined as ignorance, and not as sin against a personal God. The Universal Mind, or “God,” merely creates in our human minds the illusion of evil. Evil is our failure to see the unity that is already there, thus forcing us to succumb to the “myth of separation.” The only thing that’s truly evil is to believe in evil, some in the New Age teach. For example, William Warch insists that to believe in evil is very harmful to one’s own self-esteem: “The belief that you are bad, a form of evil, distorts your vision and self-esteem. This belief will enable you to produce negative results in your world … You are made up of the same stuff God is, and that is nothing but Good. You are Good. You are not evil. No one is evil.” (William Warch, The New Thought Christian, 1977, pg. 57).
By and large, New Age is a modern revival of ancient religious traditions, along with a potpourri of influences: Eastern mysticism, modern philosophy and psychology, science and science fiction, and the counterculture of the 50s and 60s. But underlying all these influences is the New Age understanding of the human mind. The Zen Buddhist view of reality, for example, is that higher consciousness, or the true self, is none other than the Buddha-Mind. For the Zen practitioner, distinctions are meaningless. There is no “internal” or “external.” Nothing exists outside the true self. Things that appear to be external are only stirrings within the Buddha-Mind. Zen (a Japanese word meaning meditation) has directly shaped New Age thought, and bears the marks of the traditional Chinese religion of Taoism. Fundamental to Taoism is the belief that “in and behind the phenomenal world lies the Tao, the eternal unchanging principle. The Tao is the original source of everything in the universe; it spontaneously produces everything through harmonious interplay of two forces, yin (the principle of passive receptivity) and yang (the principle of activity). Gnostic influence on New Age thought is also unmistakable, as New Age leaders freely acknowledge. Gnosticism, which was branded a heresy by the early Christian church, maintains that humans are destined for reunion with the divine essence from which they sprang. Those “in the know understand that man is divine, that his divine origin and destiny set him apart from the rest of creation and that there is no limit to his powers. Death itself is an illusion,” explains noted historian Christopher Lasch.
The New Age god is an impersonal, universal force like the Force in Star Wars, or the ocean of supreme consciousness. It is the Ground of Being and non-being, the static eternal, the overmind, the consciousness within all things and sustaining all things. The New Age has depersonalized god into ubiquitous “nature,” but then nature is repersonalized into Gaia or the Godforce. Use of the word ‘god’ is metaphorical, similar to when we talk about Mother Nature.
New Age thought has successfully penetrated nearly every facet of our society and poses a threat to the future of Western thought and culture. The Club of Rome was founded in 1968 as a global think tank that deals with a variety of international political issues from a Malthusian perspective and was influential in the later development of the environmental and population control movements. In the 1980’s it was estimated that 10 – 20 percent of the American population was involved in some facet of the New Age movement. More recently, a poll conducted by American Health Magazine found that 69% of all Americans now accept some or all of the New Age Movement’s occult teachings. One-forth of the adults now living in America say they believe in reincarnation. A fourth believe in the existence of a “non-personal life force” instead of a personal God who loves them. A national poll in 1988 even showed that 10 percent of evangelical Christians believe in astrology. It is found in the Women’s Movement, the Peace Movement, and the Ecological Movement. It is not organized with one single leader but rather happens out of people’s lives. It is a loose network of thousands of groups with a common ingredient of Hindu religion and a common aversion to traditional Christianity. A few of the organizations heavily influenced by the New Age mindset includes: Amnesty International, Zero Population Growth, California New Age Caucus, New World Alliance, World Goodwill, The Church Universal and Triumphant, The Theosophical Society, Planetary Initiative for the World We Choose, and the Club of Rome.
New Age metaphysical groups often co-opt the language and trappings of the traditional Christian churches, thereby making newcomers feel more comfortable in their transition to alternate forms of belief and practice. In the 1980s, the self-improvement, visualization, and guided imagery techniques – including meditational yoga – have percolated into many liberal Protestant denominations (Unity and Religious Science, and some Episcopal, Methodist, and Presbyterian), some Roman Catholic circles, and even a few conservative and Pentecostal/charismatic Christian churches. One of the larger invasions into Christianity is the 1,200 page, three-volume compendium of New Age thought called A Course in Miracles. Within a dozen years, what began as an obscure manuscript has been quietly transformed into a teaching phenomenon sparking sales of more than a half-million copies and spawning hundreds of study groups in churches, institutions, and homes across America. Another bestseller is The Celestine Prophecy by Alabama writer James Redfield. His stated mission is to help humanity evolve into a spiritual culture. Among the messages in the book is the suggestion that humans who increase their “spiritual energy” enough will become invisible and able to pass into Heaven at will.
The rapid spread of this dangerous new philosophy is being fueled in part by the most massive publicity campaign that the world has ever seen. Whether it’s newspapers, magazines, television or the moves, the blatant promotion of the new “gospel of this earth” bombards us almost non-stop every hour of the day. It promotes world peace and unity, love for the planet earth and at the same time it fosters a frenzied hatred of Christianity. New Age philosophies have become the core teaching in public schools. The environmental teaching in our schools, for example, encourage students to discard traditional views of reality and to accept the pagan persepective essential to Deep Ecology. Notice that the beliefs and practices of spiritism, witchcraft, and shamanism fit right into ancient nature worship. According to their promoters, these steps will help our children connect with the earth, with their supposedly divine inner selves, and with each other. The will empower them to rebuild their sick, polluted world.
Alvin Toffler says that once we understand the dynamics of revolutionary new insights, we can facilitate a collective change of mind and foster healthy change. “Humanity faces a quantum leap forward,” Toffler writes in The Third Wave, “It faces the deepest social upheaval and creative rstructuring of all time… We are the final generation of an old civilization and the first generation of a new one… Whether we know it or not, most of us are already engaged in either resisting – or creating – the new civilization.” (Quoted in Russell Chandler, Doomsday, pg. 182.) Marilyn Ferguson describes it this way: “New perspectives give birth to new historic ages. Humankind has had many dramatic revolutions of understanding – great leaps, sudden liberation from old limits. We discovered the uses of fire and the wheel, language and writing. We found that the Earth only seems flat, the sun only seems to circle the Earth, matter only seems solid. We learned to communicate, fly, explore.” (Marilyn Ferguson, The Aquarian Conspiracy, pg. 26.) Given that the self is God, then once it is unleased, it can control reality. Indeed, this God-self can remake the world by its own power. The more minds that awaken and tap this reality, the faster the great changes can occur. At a certain critical mass, the process will become a millennial explosion. A critical threshold of collective human minds that have been “awakened” and are working in synchronicity would have the power to transform the world in the twinkling of an eye. If this is done right, a utopian world will emerge. Man can literally wish away the problems that have plagued the earth for millennia, from disease to poverty.
Corporations spend an estimated $4 billion per year on New Age consultants. A California Business survey of 500 companies found that in 1986 more than 50 percent had used ‘consciousness-raising’ techniques. Proctor & Gamble, TRW, Ford Motor Company, AT&T, IBM, Polaroid and General Motors all have signed on New Age trainers and are looking at how metaphysics, the occult and Hindu mysticism might help them compete in the world market. Marilyn Ferguson, the leading New Age theoretician, has lectured at the U.S. Army War College and the Army’s Organizational Effectiveness School has used New Age oriented curriculums in some of its programs. (Russell Chandler, Understanding the New Age, 1991)
Techniques of humanistic psychology and Eastern mysticism are often incorporated into management training in terms more acceptable to those who might be put off by New Age language. If these were presented as openly occult, their views would be discarded, but cloaked in the respectability of self-help, productivity, and creativity, they are reaching a growing audience. Firms such as Merrill Lynch, Ford, Westinghouse, RCA, Boeing, Scott Paper, and Calvin Klein have sent employees to seminars conducted by groups like Innovation Associates, Lifespring, Energy Unlimited, and Transformational Technologies (a 1984 spinoff of Werner Erhard’s est) to develop their “motivation for success.”
“I have not come to found a new religion,” Maitreya says. “I have come to teach the art of Self-realization,” something which is neither an ideology nor a religion, but benefits people of all religions and those who have none. The self-proclaimed messiah of the New age, Lord Maitreya, known by Christians as The Christ, by the Jews as the Messiah, by the Buddhists as the fifth Buddha, by the Moslems as the Imam Mahdi and by the Hindu’s as Krishna, said, “I come to you ‘like a thief in the night’ so that you will not become too excited. Slowly, as you become aware, you can ‘digest’ what is ‘eaten’. “I have not come to create followers”, says Maitreya. “Each of you should continue to develop within your own religious tradition. A real disciple is one who will respect the traditions. Respect your own religions, your own ideologies, in brief, your own thoughtform, and you will experience the Master.” “The Self alone matters,” Maitreya teaches. You are that Self, “an immortal Being.” Suffering is caused by identification with anything and everything which is not the Self. Ask yourself, “Who am I?” You will see that you are identified either with matter (the body), or with thought (the mind) or with power (spirit). But you are none of these. “Mind, spirit and body are the temples of the Lord; the Self experiences in these ‘the supreme Being and Becoming of the Lord'”.
The leaders of the New Age Movement invite all religions to participate, except one – Christianity. They say there is a call to UNITY, “Come, let us be one.” John Randolph Price heads up Quartus Foundation for Spiritual Research and the Planetary Commission for Global Healing, both New Age Organizations. He claims that “more than half-a -billion (New Age) believers are on the planet at this time in various Religious groups” (The Planetary Commission, P. 32). Price goes one to say: “The New age is a universal open-arms religion that excludes from its ranks only those who believe in Jesus Christ and a Personal God. Buddhist, Shintoists, Satanists, Secular Humanists, witches, witch doctors and shamans- All who reject Christianity are invited to become trusted members of the New Age family. Worshippers of separate faiths and denominations are to be unified in a common purpose: THE GLORIFICATION OF MAN.”
By the late 1970’s and in particular by the 1980 campaign of Ronald Reagan for the Presidency, fundamentalists entered a new phase. They became nationally prominent as offering an answer for what many regarded as a supreme social, economic, moral, and religious crisis in America. Leading this phase was a new generation of televison and print fundamentalists, notably Jerry Falwell, Tim La Haye, Hal Lindsey, and Pat Robertson.The Moral Majority was founded in 1979 by the Reverend Jerry Falwell, a fundamentalist Baptist pastor and Christian television personality. The Moral Majority rallied politically conservative fundamentalist and evangelical Christians. The Moral Majority sought to educate and mobilize the conservative masses to support morally upright candidates for public office. Speaking out against abortion, pornography, drug use, homosexuality and the Equal Rights Amendment, it wanted to reverse the trend of society toward immorality, hence its name. Favoring government vouchers and choice in education, the death penalty, putting prayer back in the schools, the protection of human life in the womb and a strong military, it was responding to the social upheaval in America by digging in its heals and saying no to unbridled liberalism. At every stage, critics in the popular media attacked it for attempting to enact into law a particular religious viewpoint.
|Humanist Manifesto II (1973)
The humanists push for “freedom,” but having no Christian consensus to contain it, that “freedom” leads to chaos or to slavery under the state (or under an elite). Humanism, with its lack of any final base for values or law, always leads to chaos. It then naturally leads to some form of authoritarianism to control the chaos. Having produced the sickness, humanism gives more of the same kind of medicine for a cure. With its mistaken concept of final reality, it has no intrinsic reason to be interested in the individual, the human being. Its natural interest is the two collectives: the state and society.Modern individualism, which is divorced from the moral foundations of Christianity and surrounded by a hedonistic society, has produced a way of life that is neither beneficial to individuals nor productive to society at large. Individualism used to be expressed positively within the context of the family, the community, the church, and the government. Personal rights were subjected to the overall good of society. But individualism today no longer observes such boundaries. The cry is, “I want what I want when I want it!”
The focus on self, auto-centrism, and behaviorism has led our society into a fascination with pleasure, emotional and sexual stimulation, and “personal fulfillment.” What Freud described as the liberation of the id was the first step toward the cult of the self. The cult of self has become an addiction. Some analysts have suggested that self-absorption is actually a defensive reaction against the loneliness and sterility of today’s depersonalized modern lifestyles. We have become urbanized and disconnected. Some people lack family or roots, or any reference to our heritage of faith. Consequently, without the old connections and dependencies that gave life meaning, many have lost their sense of belonging, and many, if not most, have lost all sense of community. Floyd McClung writes: “To most Americans the world is a fragmented place that presents them with a multitude of choices and offers little meaning or comfort. They believe they are basically alone and have to answer only to themselves. Thus they find it very difficult to commit themselves to others. Left without God, the individual’s pursuit of happiness and security is the only source of meaning.”
Gradually, that which had become the basic thought form of modern people became the almost totally accepted viewpoint, an almost monolithic consensus. And as it came to the majority of people through art, music, drama, theology, and the mass media, values died. As the more Christian-dominated consensus weakened, the majority of people adopted two impoverished values: personal peace and affluence.
Personal peace means just to be let alone, not to be troubled by the troubles of other people, whether across the world or across the city – to live one’s life with minimal possibilities of being personally disturbed. Personal peace means wanting to have my personal life pattern undisturbed in my lifetime, regardless of what the result will be in the lifetimes of my children and grandchildren. Affluence means an overwhelming and ever-increasing prosperity – a life made up of things, things, and more things – a success judged by an ever-higher level of material abundance
|The Greeks founded their society – the polis – was not a strong enough final authority to build upon, and it is still not strong enough today. If there are no absolutes, and if we do not like either the chaos of hedonism or the absoluteness of the 51-percent vote, only one other alternative is left: one man or an elite, giving authoritative arbitrary absolutes. Here is a simple but profound rule: If there are no absolutes by which to judge society, then society is absolute. Society is left with one man or an elite filling the vacuum left by the loss of the Christian consensus which originally gave us form and freedom. Absolutes can be this today and that tomorrow. Arbitrary absolutes can be handed down and there is no absolute by which to judge them.
We see two effects of our loss of meaning and values. The first is degeneracy. Think of New York City’s Times Square – Forty-second and Broadway. If one goes to what used to be a lovely Kalverstraat in Amsterdam, one finds that it, too, has become equally squalid. The same is true of lovely old streets in Copenhagen. Pompeii has returned! The marks of ancient Rome scar us: degeneracy, decadence, depravity, a love of violence for violence’s sake.
The second result is that the elite will exist. Society cannot stand chaos. Some group or some person will fill the vacuum. An elite will offer us arbitrary absolutes, and who will stand it its way? In recent years we have heard cries of “tolerance” with no definition of what tolerance means. What has emerged in a total arbitrary tolerance built on what is politically correct – a similar concept of how Adolph Hiltler built the Third Reich that eventually led to the “final solution”.George Orwell, that famed British author and former member of the British secret intelligence, speculated about things probably from what he know then as an intelligence insider. His 1984 is a classic, with graphic insights that have been almost prophetic. From the forties, when Orwell wrote 1984, he envisioned a collective semiglobal system. People were slaves without free will. They were the brainwashed masses who had no concept of history, since all books were destroyed. And what passed the censors had been rewritten to fit the confines of permitted thought. History was skewed with new interpretations yearly. His classic tale of foreboding to humankind has come true in so many ways:
The populace of 1984 were surrounded by subliminal messages and the centralized eyes and ears of the state. Double-think slogans were everywhere – slogans that went against the natural gut sense of the conscience and common sense, just like so many of the high-sounding social agendas of today. Orwell’s “antisex league” brilliantly foresaw the anti-sexism leagues of today – that liberal collective who have invaded college campuses with their nonsexist and antifamily agenda; this new consensus of today comprised of gays, lesbians, and “minorities.”
Beyond the Year 2000
Older Americans have yet to face up to the despair faced by Europeans. Many are riding on a wave of philosophical naivete, the false borrowed optimism of former eras, as Allan Bloom brilliantly articulates in The Closing of the American Mind. We are dealing with unbacked paper money in the realm of ideas. As MTV and statistics on teen alcoholism and suicide should illustrate, American youth are encountering whole new levels of meaninglessness and alienation.
In Time’s special edition entitled “Beyond the Year 2000: What to Expect in the New Millennium,” following is what they say we can expect in the 21st. century:
John Lennon sung of those who have this dream: “You may think I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.” Lennon, of course, would include those countless contemporary idealists on his wavelength. His most famous and influential song, “Imagine,” pictures a world with no heaven or hell. Then the key refrain soon follows: “And the World Will Be as One.” Lennon’s song sums up the one-world dream. One thinks of the father of American progressive education, John Dewey, and his ideas to influence youth in state schools through textbooks – schools, mind you, with no prayer and no God. Like Lennon’s “Imagine,” it would be a world without heaven and hell, with only exalted man to govern his own affairs.
|So, why is all this important? What difference does it make?
Most of the people in the world, with the exception of the atheistic humanists, all agree that there is a God in heaven. Beyond that, there is little agreement.
Can a truly born-again Christian be found in these semi-Pelagian denominations and movements mentioned above? The answer is–yes. There has always been a number of young or idealistic Christians who are either uninformed or assume God is interested in reforming these institutions and are generally unaware that church history testifies against the success of such efforts. Then 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 why make an issue of something like this?
The basic philosophies of Pelagius survives today not as a trace or tangential influence but is pervasive in the modern church. Indeed, the modern church is held captive by it. How we think of our relationship to God and to our fellow man has been heavily influenced by these teachings and ultimately influences our behaviors.
There is the influence of the numerous Arminian and Arminian-like denominations: Assembly of God, Foursquare Gospel, Pentecostal-Holiness, Nazarene, Church of God, Mennonite, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Free Methodist, Free Will Baptists, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and numerous other Baptist churches who abandoned their early doctrinal heritage. Further, Arminian error has permeated scores of nondenominational and interdenominational churches and organizations.
There has been a dramatic change in the theology of the Christian church within the last century. As a whole, we have drifted away from the God of the Bible.
Today we speak of God as a doted old man. We act as though we do Him a favor by becoming Christians. We have relegated Him to our human-made box and re-image Him in “our” image. We perceive Him as our “genie in a bottle”, ever ready to mete out health and prosperity to placate the whimsical desires of our fallen nature. We reduce Him to a celestial psychologist whose only purpose is to enhance our self image and to boost our human nature.
John MacArthur wrote in his Grace To You Newsletter on March 22, 1994, “Blame shifting, guilt bashing, and the cult of self-esteem have found their way into many congregations. Sins are no longer offenses against God, they’re diseases. Words like sin, remorse, and repentance are considered too abrasive, too likely to scare off potential church members who may deduce that Christianity actually places demands on one’s life. As a result, churches are creating “converts” who have never heard of guilt or repentance. With no awareness of their sinfulness and therefore, nothing from which to be saved, the gospel of our Savior is irrelevant to them. And without biblical teaching on sin, believers are unable to recognize and deal with its presence in their lives or gain victory over temptation. Sin goes unchecked, personal holiness is compromised, spiritual growth is stunted, and person by person, the body loses its effectiveness.”
In Charles Colson’s book, Against the Night, he described “barbarians in the pews.” These are people who basically come to church on Sunday morning to get their strokes to be made to feel good, but live during the week by pagan values. And they don’t even realize it. They think they are doing their spiritual duty by showing up at church on Sunday morning and hearing a sermon that makes them feel good to get through the week. And then the rest of the week they live like everbody else.
The gospel is being compromised and even denied by many professing Christians. Our society has been moving away from practicing the 10 Commandment model outlined in Scripture, and instead practice the 10 Planks of Communism model created by “enlightened” man.
U.S. President Bill Clinton, who claims to be a Christian, said when his #2 legal aide, Vincent Foster, Jr., died, “My deepest hope is that… [his] soul will receive the grace and salvation that his good life and good works earned (emphasis added). President George W. Bush, also claiming to be a Christian, was known to defend his membership in satatic organizations such as the Skull & Bones Society. President Barack Obama was lifted by his followers to be a miracle-working Messiah of change, promising to cure all ills for everyone.
New World Order One World Religion
I believe the end game of the evolution of Pelagianism is a one world religion where all people’s of all nations will come together in one ecumenical religion headed by the Antichrist. We have witnessed throughout history and evident even today the “divide and conquer” strategy of injecting conflict within the worlds major faiths. Science and technology is actively discrediting faith in a transcendent God and labels faithful believers as “intolerant” and “bigots”. The end game is to remove the distinctions that seperate various religions and replace them with an all inclusive, non-judgmental humanist religion.
Is the complete Separation of Church and State good for humanity?
George Santayana was quoted as saying, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” As we have traversed through history above regarding the relationship of man to God, I do believe it’s important to understand there are consequences to our choices.
As we choose our leaders in government, they too have a world view that falls somewhere within the above continuum between Augustine and Pelagius. And, that world view will most definitely influence their decisions regarding policies that govern a nation. As such, I believe it’s an important ingredient in our choice of leaders to have some idea what their spiritual influences might be.
|Where you stand in relationship to the original sin issue will determine what your perspective of God is and whether or not you are in need of salvation. Arminianism is a devastating error which draws sinners into falsely believing they are saved (i.e. Christian) when in fact they are religious and lost. It is the means by which unbeliever’s minds are blinded to the Gospel, the true message of Christian redemption. Those who embrace the humanistic religion will sooner or later join rank with those who are “enemies of the cross of Christ” (Philippians 3:18).|
Focus on God
Focus on God plus Man
Focus on Man
|If man is spiritually dead, that original sin has so corrupted man that he is unable to be righteous by his own effort, then only a supernatural act of God can save him and the Savior in the person of Jesus Christ provides the means of salvation. Only by God’s grace, only by divine intervention in changing the nature of man’s fallen soul, is a person able to put his faith in Christ and set his mind on what the Spirit desires.||If man is spiritually sick, then he doesn’t need a savior necessarily, he just needs a doctor to help him get well. If sin has not totally corrupted your nature, then you do not need God’s grace in salvation, or at least you are not solely dependent upon God’s grace to put your faith in Christ. Since it is Christ plus the additional efforts of man, and there are many different people, then there must be many paths to God.||If man is spiritually well, then he doesn’t need God, let alone a Savior to save him from anything. As Pelagius said, man has the natural ability to be righteous.|