Western Christian Culture and Irresistible Grace
In the history of the Church there has probably been no more pernicious heresy than Pelagianism. On-the-surface the heretical view of the monk Pelagius may seem to have little to with Irresistible Grace. However, his errant views are inextricably linked to the resistance of this facet of sound doctrine.
Pelagius, laboring under the weariness of people excusing their sin as a product of their nature, rejected original sin. So how does this tie into Irresistible Grace? As a product of his rejection of Original Sin, Pelagius had to also reject other doctrinal and theological positions.
Consequently, Pelagius began to teach that man was possessed of libertarian freewill. Definitionally speaking this meant that all people are born morally good at best, and at worst they are morally neutral. This inherit libertarian freewill meant that men could at any time choose to do good or evil, sin or not sin, completely independent of their nature.
Pelagius’ rejection of the doctrine of original sin was soundly refuted and declared heretical by the Council of Carthage in AD 418 and again by the Council of Ephesus in AD 431. However, the damage was done and the idea of libertarian freewill had embedded its roots into the culture of the Church even then.
Subsequently, this heresy morphed into other forms and variations. By the mid-1800s in the USA the teachings of Pelagius had gained such a foothold on WCC the time was ripe for the ascendency of Charles Finney. Finney, a full-on Pelagian, openly taught against original sin. He also taught the complete moral libertarian freewill of all people.
Make no mistake, the debate on freewill had raged for hundreds of years. However, every time it reared its heretical head it was soundly refuted biblically by a godly man of the times.
Irresistible Grace and Bondage of the Will
The contention of the debate on freewill comes down to one’s understanding of such terms. When any person throws out the phrase “freewill” it means libertarian freedom. When pressed this person will almost-without-fail, argue that man is free to do whatever he chooses without external or internal influences.
This understanding becomes apparent in conversations with the majority of professing Christians. I was recently following a thread on social media. I observed a well-meaning person, intent on defending God from doubters, explain the presence of evil in the world by blaming man’s freewill. Somehow, in their reading and understanding of Scripture, the defense attorney for God, failed to understand what Luther called the bondage of the will.
The question remains, are Christians allowed presuppositions about Scripture? Furthermore, are they allowed to keep those presuppositions without subjecting them to sound doctrine taught?
The answer to that query is an emphatic no. It is imperative that all believers discard their presuppositions at the door of orthodoxy. This is not to say that we cannot study and shape our theological views and approach Scripture from a well-studied position. However, those positions need to be thoroughly biblical.
Irresistible Grace is biblical. Man, according to Scripture, and argued by the great Dr. Luther, is in bondage to sin. God must act on man in an irresistible way, or man’s will, will carry him to damnation.
“…it was not of the merits of Jacob or Esau, ‘but of Him that Calleth that it was said of Sara: the elder shall serve the younger’ Paul is discussing whether they attained to what was spoken of them by the power or merits of ‘free-will”; and he proves they did not, but that Jacob attained what Esau did not solely by the grace of “Him that Calleth”
Irresistible Grace and Man-centered Tactics
The spirit of Finneyism is alive and well in the church today. What Charles wrought by teaching his Pelagian beliefs in the 1800s has come to roost in modern WCC. The dregs of his heresy are everywhere. Several years ago, I had traveling evangelist in my home (I mentioned him in a previous article). As we sat eating lunch together I asked him who he thought was the greatest evangelist of all time. His answer was Charles Finney. He went on to state that he had read all of Finney’s works.
This answer left me aghast. Even then I knew that Finney was a rank heretic. It was a shock to my mind to hear this man, so well respected by my local church, espouse such a love for Finney. Hindsight being what it is, I can see Finney’s influences all over this man’s methodologies.
Furthermore, he isn’t alone in being misled. Within WCC there are literally thousands of congregations and pastors that have succumbed to the manipulation tactics of Finneyism. Remember that Finney was the inventor of the modern altar call and such things as the worry bench and the sinner’s seat.
Today the tactics of those who believe whole-heartedly in the freewill of man are maybe more modern, but they are no less manipulative. There are entire denominations designed around meeting the felt needs of the “unchurched”. We have Biker Church, Cowboy Church, Heavy Metal church and church for the non-believer.
The now disgraced Perry Noble, once said that his church wasn’t for believers, it was for unbelievers. He sat in a stage prop giant highchair and acted a fool to make a point. It was disgusting.
To summarize, the refusal to believe in Irresistible Grace has led to a willing abandonment of sound Gospel preaching in WCC.
Irresistible Grace and the Gospel
As hard as it is for us to understand how God can choose, through Unconditional Election, to save all who will believe irresistibly, the fact remains that He does.
When we look to the Word for assurances we often look to all the promises of God found there. No promise is more comforting to the Christian than “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” And rightly so. To know that our God, our Lord and Savior, promises to be with us always and through all things, is of great comfort.
Yet, are promises such as that more important than the promise Christ tells us about in John 6? When he tells his disciples that everyone who the Father has given Him will come, He is making a promise. Furthermore, this promise isn’t just to Christ, it is to us as well.
Every person who has the responsibility to preach the Gospel (meaning all Christians) has the promise of John 6:37. Granted those who have been given are not coming to us, but to Christ. Consequently, they are coming because of the promise from the Father. This should build confidences in us.
It is my contention that there are two compelling reasons that most professing Christians do not advance the Gospel. The first, is the lack of understanding the prescriptive nature of the command. The most common perception of the command is of it being descriptive. This is erroneous.
The second reason that most fail to obey the command comes down to failure to properly apprehend the significance of the promise that all who are given will come. Freewill theology has so permeated and damaged WCC that it has silenced many Christians. A proper apprehension of Irresistible Grace will build confidence in those who desire to Advance the Gospel obediently.
The command to Advance the Gospel into the world, is an imperative for all believers. God never allows for an excuse to refuse the preaching of the Good News. Yet, what I readily admit, is that most do not evangelize for lack of sound doctrine and proper training.
Starting with core doctrines, such as Irresistible Grace, will grant the Christian boldness in proclaiming Christ crucified for the forgiveness of sins. If we can rest on some promises from God in some areas, then we should be able to rest on and trust in all promises from God.
We are reminded that it is God who began the good work in us and will be faithful to complete it in the end. There is no greater confidence than Gospel confidence. We are best served in serving our fellow man, when we are not looking to meet his felt needs, but instead are looking to point him to Christ.
Gone will be the desire to placate the angry person who hates you for pointing out their sin. Gone will be the fear that you didn’t preach the Gospel in exactly the right tone and tenor to prevent offense.
Instead, you will be able to preach with weeping in your voice and tears streaming down your face. As you seek to compel sinners to come in from highways and hedgerows you will be resting not in what you have done, but instead in the promise of God to deliver all He has promised His Son.
This is the confidence that comes with believing sound doctrine. Irresistible Grace is not merely an optional doctrine, it is the great equalizer in the work of Advancing the Gospel. It allows us to preach boldly in truth and love.
Soli Deo Gloria!