The Natural Man’s Religion
A while ago, I posted an entry on Pelagianism written by Michael Horton entitled Pelagianism: The Natural Man’s Religion (here’s the link), in which Horton explains that the unsaved man’s religion has always been a religion of works. The Pelagian believes that man’s choices determine his condition. This supposition, although accepted by many professing Christians, is contrary to what the the Lord says about us when He states:
A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
It is man’s condition that determines his choices – the bad tree (unsaved man) can only bear bad fruit (sin) – and that is why Christ tells Nicodemus that in order to even see (i.e. comprehend, grasp, know, etc) the kingdom of God, a man must be born again (John 3:3). The origins, therefore, of my sinful behavior are not due to my responses to external stimuli that compel me to do good or evil, but rather
…each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
– James 1:14-15
Although Pelagianism is pure legalism (see here), it still absolves man of his guilt by assuming that his condition is neutral and is modified by his chosen responses to external stimuli. Everything from pop music to pop-Christianity assumes man’s prior innocence, blaming others for the despicability of man. Compare an afternoon kids cartoon that presents us with a child who is blatantly rebellious and opposed to all authority because he has no friends, to the pop-Christian sermon that teaches that men and women are rebellious and vehemently opposed to the Lord and His Christ because they have only known hurt and disappointment, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Rebellion is not due to a lack of formal education, or the lack of love, or the lack of basic necessities, or, as Adam put it, “the woman you gave to be with me” (cf. Gen 3:12), but is our natural postlapsarian disposition.
Me, You, and Gru
A few weeks ago, my family and I went to see Despicable Me, an animated comedy about a super villain who, in his attempts to steal the moon and become the greatest criminal in the world, adopts three daughters who break through his tough exterior to reveal what he truly is: A man whose character was formed by bad circumstances (in this case, a mother who mocked his dreams when he was a child), but who was really a sweetheart. Gru, the main character, was not inherently bad, he was bad because of an-other. He only needed to love in order to see that his behavior was not good and needed to stop.
The movie was very funny, but throughout the movie the basic assumption that man’s condition was the result of an-other was a concern for me, since my 5 year old son was consuming every minute of the film. How much of this movie is he really getting? I thought. Will this sort of thinking be ingrained in his mind? Is this feeding his natural propensity to think of himself as the victim of external stimuli when he sins against God and others? The movie reminded me that the world is not neutral, and that people are naturally opposed to seeing themselves as rebels against God – and, therefore, we are Pelagians who believe that our sins don’t spring from our own wicked hearts, but are poor responses to bad people and events that force us to behave in a sinful manner.
Despicable Me gave me a lot to think about: How do I combat the errors of the natural man’s ethics and idolatries? To what extent should I, as a Christian, support pop culture, seeing as it only serves to further inculcate these erroneous ideas? Do I preach a Pelagian gospel? Do I tell people that their sins are the result of their living in a fallen world, or do I tell them that they too are fallen and, therefore, sin and love to sin? Do I tell men that all they need is love in order to become better people? Or do I tell them that the love of God leads men to see their own depravity and come to repentance and faith in Christ? Do I tell them that there is nothing lovely in any of us, but God sent His Son to die for sinners like us who are completely undeserving, because HE, and not man, is merciful and good?
Where do you see the origin of despicability? In your own sinful postlapsarian heart, or in an-other (person, place, thing, circumstance, etc)?