Like a lost treasure, genuine biblical Christianity has been buried beneath the sands of time. Down through the centuries, much of Christendom has become a synthesis of humanism and Biblical semantics--an unholy alliance, symbolized above by Leonardo da Vinci's Renaissance man, (who signifies man as the "measure of all things") holding the Christian Pax emblem. Nearly all twentieth century Christianity has erroneously embraced the foundational tenet of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment--the sovereignty of man. Let's explore the consequences.
Were you shocked by the 1978 Jonestown Massacre in which 900 sect members followed an ex-Pentecostal preacher, Jim Jones, into mass suicidal death? Or have you been appalled through the years by the outrageous claims and fleshly antics of the Tulsa, Oklahoma based charismatic Methodists--Oral and Richard Roberts? Have you provided an adequate explanation for yourself and others concerning the sex scandals and financial fiascos of Jim and Tammy Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, or numerous other Pentecostal or charismatic 'lesser lights'? Then finally, was your curiosity stirred by Jim Bakker's confession of his sins "from childhood to this minute" to a Roman Catholic priest? Are these events somehow related? Were certain religious ideas or concepts common amongst those mentioned above? Or, are they simply cases of "individual moral failure" as the secular news media so often report?
The remainder of this Web page is designed to explain, at an unfortunate but necessarily technical level, the historical union which developed between humanism and numerous Christian denominations in the West. In addition, you'll be introduced to some biblical truths which are extremely vital to a sound and healthy Christian life. Follow along, and you'll gain a better understanding of the link between religious belief and behavior, the difference between truth and error.
Throughout this web page, you'll notice words ending with the suffix "ism." Typically, their usage denotes a system of religious or philosophical tenets, or a scientific theory. An "ism" represents a group of related ideas bundled together to form an overarching point-of-view--a worldview. However in contrast to "isms," you'll be primarily dependent upon God's written revelation--the 66 Books of the Bible, for guidance and instruction in safe and sound doctrine. Today, the Bible is the primary means by which sovereign God illuminates and teaches us about Himself as well as gives mankind the only honest and accurate diagnosis of the human condition.
Created in God's image
Contrary to popular thinking, there is a God--and we are not Him. Further, God is not an impersonal force. God is a Spirit who possesses personality with attributes of unlimited intellect, emotions, and absolute, immutable self-determination--free will. He is Love, Light, and the Creator of all things, including the Creation in which you are sitting.
Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, were created in the "image" of God. God was the Creator, Adam and Eve were the created. This was not a physical likeness, rather it was one of personhood. Adam and Eve resembled God in that they possessed intellect, emotions, and volition or will. God created the first couple so that they, and consequently the entire human race which would spring from them, could share in God's life, love, and purpose...'a nurtured relationship', a fellowship with God. Throughout this web page, quotations taken from God's Word--the Bible (New King James Version) are shown as follows:
While God is: infinite, uncreated, heavenly, and the Source of life; Adam and Eve were: finite, created, earthly, and dependent upon their Creator for life. God is Sovereign and Supreme (above all) and Omnipotent (all powerful). Sovereign means above all, which by definition cannot be shared with any another. He alone is Autonomous, and freedom in its purest form belongs only to Him. All other creatures (men and angels) possess only a secondary form of self-determination--accurately referred to as volition or power of choice. Only God possesses free will!
The FALL -- "...and you can be even more like God"
Adam and Eve were created in fellowship with God and their wills were inclined toward God. This inclination or propensity for behavior was the Creator's product and the creature's activity--i.e., obedience. God issued a warning that disobedience would result in grave consequences--"you will die." Neither Adam nor Eve clearly understood that to "die" meant both spiritual separation from God as well as physical and material decay. Consequently, through temptation and their disobedience (read Genesis chapter 2, verses 16 and 17 and all of chapter 3) Adam and Eve died in relation to God. Instantly, they suffered spiritual separation and their wills changed and became inclined toward or 'enslaved' to disobedience. They retained their self-determination (i.e. volition or power of choice), but their propensity for behavior changed!! Adam and Eve passed from a state of obedience toward God to an innate desire to act independently and contrary to God's will. The Bible defines this state of rebellion as sin and individual acts of independence as sins.
Universal physical death is proof that all mankind are sinners. The historical event of Adam and Eve's disobedience to God is commonly referred to amongst Christians as the "Fall". The First Couple 'fell' from their original position, incurred corruption, and became alienated from their Creator--the Source of Life.
Adam and Eve did not have any children before the Fall. After the Fall, all their children (which includes you and me) inherently share in all the consequences of their sin. We are all born into this world in the image of Adam--a corruption of the original "image of God." We all bear Adam's likeness--chips off the old First Block. Since the Fall, every human being (except One) has been born in a state of independence and alienation from God. Born spiritually "dead in transgressions and sins" we all progressively journey toward physical death.
P.S. Keep in mind, some forms of sin may not necessarily seem morally offensive to us or to society. However, sin's basic or underlying essence is independence from or rebellion against God, which can appear quite upright, good and noble at times.
The New Birth and New Nature
Mankind remains in a state of spiritual death, having only one propensity or 'nature', and inclined toward sin...until the Spirit of God initiates a 'new birth' and recreates an individual "in Christ." The new birth places us in union with the life of Christ, a Life which is immutably inclined toward righteousness and holiness. Contrary to time-worn theory, the Christian does not receive or regain autonomous "free will" at the new birth. However, the born-again believer does possess two propensities. For a thorough explanation of the believer's two natures, read The Ground of Growth, THE COMPLETE GREEN LETTERS, Miles J. Stanford, (Zondervan, 1983), available at Amazon or through your local Christian bookstore.
The Blinding of the Minds
There are two erroneous systems of belief simultaneously devastating the Church and paralyzing Christians today. As mentioned in the introduction above, one is Christian humanism which is further explained in detail below. The other is the age-old Legalism, which is championed by the Protestant Reformed/Covenant theology movement, law-based Christian denominations, and other law-centered, para-church organizations.
FAQs - Questions and Answers
Christian humanism is a religious philosophy which utilizes a biblical vocabulary, but is built on the philosophical and sociological myth that man is autonomous and possesses free will. It is a devastating error which deceptively draws sinners into falsely believing they are saved (i.e. Christian) when in fact they are religious and lost. It is one widespread means by which the unbelieving mind is blinded to the Gospel--the true message of Christian redemption.
BEWARE! - Read 2 Corinthians 4:3-4
Religious humanism is centuries old. It fueled the core of hatred and opposition toward the Lord Jesus Christ when he walked the earth over 2,000 years ago. The Jewish religious leaders of his day (and ours) denied their congenital inheritance from the First Adam, rejected their condition of bondage to sin, and erroneously believed that they possessed unbounded free will. The account of this conflict is recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 8:31-47. As this error continued its infectious spread, the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Christians living in Rome,
Going forward however, Christianity would always struggle to stand free from the corrupting influence and damaging effects of religious humanism.
Early in the Fifth century, an English lawyer and moralist, Pelagius sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. His concern justifiably centered on the behavior of morally lax clergy and church members who used the fact of human frailty as license for immorality. His influence is illustrated below through the use of the small arrow. Throughout the remaining graphics, arrows are used in this fashion to denote an intellectual influence, either modifying or corrupting.
Pelagius taught that man did not inherit Adam's propensity toward sin, possessed free will, and consequently constructed a system of rationalistic moralism. While accepting the Bible's account of Adam and Eve, but relying on reason and experience, he insisted that a good and just God would not command of fallen man that (moral imperatives) which were impossible to perform and that anyone could live free from sin, if they just chose to. According to Pelagius, man was autonomous, unhindered, and free to choose for or against God. Further, he also erroneously believed that man's mental abilities were unaffected by the Fall. He and his followers became the life-long theological antagonists of Augustine, Bishop of Hippo (354-430 C.E.), who unsuccessfully sought to defend the truth of man's ruin at the Fall as recorded by God in the Bible. Pelagius and his teachings were formally condemned by various early Catholic councils; however, this was not the end of the matter.
By the end of the Fifth century, through a process of compromise and conciliation with the teachings of the Bible, Pelagianism spawned Semi-Pelagianism. It has been described by Dr. Kenneth Good in these words:
Semi-Pelagianism was ineffectively condemned by Rome's leaders at The Council of Orange (529 C.E.). However, it gained sufficient popularity to be confirmed at the Council of Trent (1547 C.E.) and adopted as an official religious doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church. Both Councils argued that man possessed free will, although corrupted. Both Councils minimized the extent of the corruption. Throughout the centuries to this very day, the Roman Church has defended and institutionalized their dogma of autonomous "free will". Recent books by Pope John Paul II affirm the semi-pelagian position of modern-day Catholicism. Curious about who constitutes a Roman Catholic? See WHO IS A ROMAN CATHOLIC.
From approximately the Fifth to the Fourteenth century, most of Europe lay under feudalism and the pervasive civil influence and ecclesiastical control of the Roman Catholic Church. This period is known as the Middle or 'Dark' Ages and was generally characterized by ignorance, immorality, and barbarism among the peasantry. 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. This was a serious abuse of power and authority.
However, following the linguistic translation work of William Tyndale (1494-1536 C.E.) and black market efforts to make the Bible widely available in the language of the common people, the spiritual and religious darkness of Europe began to lift. The people were eager to explore the contents of the Bible and found that the Book could act as its own interpreter, contrary to Rome's claim. Also reflecting the growing willingness to question religious authority, England's King Henry VIII (1491-1547 C.E.) challenged Pope Clement the VII's claim to papal infallibility. King Henry took steps to formally separate the Church of England from the corrupt Roman system, and by 1534 had fully established the independent, national Church of England, also called the Anglican Church. Later, the American version of Anglicanism would be known as the Episcopal Church. However, in spite of the institutional separation, Anglicanism also retained a semi-pelagian position.
Contemporaries to this era, Martin Luther (1483-1546 C.E.) and John Calvin (1509-1564 C.E.) also raised protests against Semi-Pelagian heresy and Rome's claim to ultimate authority. For these Reformers or 'Protest'ants as they were called, the Bible (under the sovereign illuminating control of God the Holy Spirit) was the sole and final authority for faith and life, not corrupt tradition or perverse church leaders. These individuals and their followers left their mark, many times with their own blood, on medieval history by progressively freeing northern Europe from the tyranny, but not the presence of the Roman Catholic hierarchy and Semi-Pelagianism.
Contrary to common thinking, the banner of the Protestant Reformation was not "justification by faith." Rather, it was "justification by grace through faith" built upon a solid foundation of God's sovereign electing grace and man's ruin as recorded in the Bible (Ephesians 2:8,9). No Pelagian error would be tolerated here! The original Protestants taught that man did not possess free will, but was bound in sin as previously discussed. God's grace (unmerited favor) was the cause of redemption, faith but the means. While this may seem like a subtle or unimportant semantic difference, the religious consequences of this distinction are profound. Listen to the concluding remarks of Martin Luther as he argued against the Dutch humanist scholar, Desiderius Erasmus and Semi-Pelagianism in his magnum opus work--The Bondage of the Will.
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 Christian Gospel, and that its absence had formed the seedbed for various false forms of Christianity. As one brother has keenly said, "The world was never the same following God's testimony through this faithful servant." For a contemporary account of this issue, see SOVEREIGNTY PLUS RESPONSIBILITY & THE NEW CATHOLIC COUNTER-REFORMATION.
Note: Arminian is not to be confused with Armenia and/or Armenian, a small country located in the modern Near East which now borders: Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Iran.
Arminianism is another humanistic religious system generally accredited to the sixteenth century theologian--Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609 C.E.), and his followers. Who was this man whose ideas influence Christendom today more than those of any other? Some detailed church history will prove helpful. Born in Amsterdam, Holland, he received his education in the European mainland. Later, he returned to the Netherlands as a Protestant minister. In time, he became a strong advocate of Dutch Reformed theology--a system of teaching held by the followers of John Calvin in Holland. Ultimately chosen to write a defense against attacks upon these beliefs, Arminius concluded that some of Calvin's tenets were indefensible. However, in rejecting the excesses of Calvinism, and in the attempt to construct his own system of beliefs, Arminius drew upon both Semi-Pelagianism and the Bible to create a new theological hybrid--subsequently labeled Arminianism.
While Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism more or less denied the effects of Adam's sin on his posterity, Arminius sought to further modify and construct some middle ground on the subject. Similar to his Catholic predecessors, he labored to create a consistent interpretation of the Christian religion without forfeiting the free will foundation. According to his theory, man's will was hindered in the Fall, but God restores to all men adequate freedom (free will) so that they can determine their own destinies.
The followers of Jacob Arminius, called Arminians, set forth their views in a document called the Remonstrance which can be summarized as follows:
Appropriately, Christian theologian Dr. A.H. Strong wrote:
While these Arminian tenets were added to, expanded, and further developed, their essence has remained the same. Christian author Miles J. Stanford succinctly states:
As a synthesis of humanistic Semi-Pelagianism and the Bible, Arminianism insists that any movement toward God is man's ultimate decision, and that God simply acts in response to that decision. Consequently, man is sovereign!
The early 20th century founder of Dallas Theological Seminary, L. S. Chafer, wrote:
Again, hear Stanford's description:
John Wesley (1703-1791 C.E.), son of an Anglican minister, also became a Protestant minister in the Anglican Church (Church of England). While on a voyage to America for service in the Episcopal Church of Georgia, he came in contact with a Christian sect, the Moravian Brethren, who impressed him with their certainty and assurance of salvation. Religious but lost, Wesley became deeply concerned regarding the uncertainties in his own life and lack of religious "experiences." After laboring under the pretense of being a Christian and consequent failure in mission work, he returned to England in distress and sought out the Moravian community. There he again caught a glimpse of the effects of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith, free of Semi-Pelagian error. After Wesley had studied the subject, he subsequently testified of having undergone a religious experience which partially resembled a true conversion. In his diary he wrote:
If John Wesley was truly saved at Aldersgate, he remained confused regarding what occurred or why. However in time and with aid of theologian John W. Fletcher, Wesley embraced and incorporated both Arminianism and the spirit of the Enlightenment (Europe's intellectual awakening) into his Wesleyan movement--Methodism. While several aspects of both the Renaissance and the Enlightenment eras were culturally positive, their progressive reliance on human reason in religious matters and denial of divine, supernatural revelation proved spiritually ruinous. In 1790, shortly before his death, Wesley published Fletcher's biography in The Arminian Magazine as a tribute to, in Wesley's words, the "Theologian of Methodism."
Note closely the contemporary remark of Duke University Divinity School professor, Thomas A. Langford:
Lanford's "modern sensibility" is nothing less than the "free will" autonomy of man. Is this not where Pelagius began over 1,500 years earlier?
The Wesleyan/Holiness Movement & Pentecostalism
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, accurately described the relationship as follows:
Christian Humanism Today
Christian humanism has gripped the English-speaking world by means of the Wesleyan movement (Methodism), and Methodism's first and second generation heirs--the Holiness and Pentecostal movements, the out-of-control Charismatic Movement, and last but not least, the errant teachings of the now deceased revivalist, Charles G. Finney. Most 'Christian' churches have been engulfed by Arminianism in one form or another. To name a few, there is the: Assembly of God, Foursquare Gospel, Pentecostal-Holiness, Nazarene, Church of God, Brethren in Christ, Mennonite, Quaker, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Lutheran, Free Methodist, Free Will Baptists, Churches of Christ, Disciples of Christ, and numerous Baptist churches who abandoned their early doctrinal heritage. Further, Arminian error is the basis for or has permeated scores of nondenominational and interdenominational churches and organizations. For example, see Campus Crusade for Christ, International and the Promise Keepers.
Recently, new variations of Christian humanism have emerged--e.g. the Word-Faith & Kingdom Now, Latter Rain, Third Wave Movement and 'New Age' Christianity, so-called. Strangely, a convergence is beginning to form between secular humanists who are dabbling in New Age occult spirituality and 'New Age' Christians. For an introduction to New Age Christianity see: The United Religions Organization, THE NEW GNOSTICS - Resurrecting Pagan Rites, and Peter Jones' THE GNOSTIC EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg, NJ, 1992.
The 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries have witnessed further evolution of the original Pelagian heresy. The Enlightenment's tenet of the total self-sufficiency of man formed a foundation for the Deism of John Locke, the Unitarianism of William E. Channing, and the Transcendentalism of Ralph Waldo Emerson. These movements formed the foundations for both Modernism and Liberalism. Also see: The Roots of Religious Liberalism and Christian Agnosticism. It is these forces, rooted in Christian humanism, which have corrupted America's understanding of personal freedom, and have led to widespread abandonment of respect for authority (particularly the Divine), irresponsibility, and social decay. In our lifetime, Secular Humanism has become the dominant philosophy of Western culture. This anti-Christian perspective largely controls both education and mass media in America and is responsible for the growing tide of anti-religious bigotry.
During the last decade of the 20th century, a radical philosophy termed Post-modernism has risen to ascendancy in America. Like Modernism before it, the average individual is regularly bombarded by these viewpoints through television, newspapers and magazines, academic and social interest groups, and even churches. For an outstanding explanation of this phenomena from the Christian perspective, see the book THE DEATH OF TRUTH, WHAT'S WRONG WITH MULTICULTURALISM, THE REJECTION OF REASON, AND THE NEW POSTMODERN DIVERSITY , Dennis McCallum, General Editor. The book does an excellent job in contrasting the ideologies of modernism and postmodernism with the Judeo-Christian theistic tradition and should be read by every thinking Christian.
To return to any of the subjects listed below in the table, click on the appropriate box.
For a more in-depth look at so-called "New Age Christianity" (albeit tedious due to the hydra-like nature of the subject) and the coming One World Church, see THE NEW WORLD RELIGION, The Spiritual Roots of Global Government by Gary H. Kah, Hope International Publishing, Inc., 1998.
Similar to the heresy dealt with by the Apostle Paul at the ancient Mediterranean city of Colosse, Arminianism/Wesleyanism/Pentecostalism, etc. either reject or twist the truth concerning God's redemption through identification with Christ and are consequently characterized by fleshly lawlessness and/or self-righteous hypocrisy (read Colossians 2:23). Hence, there is an established link between these groups and the religious beliefs and behavior of the individuals cited at the beginning of this paper. Each embraced humanistic error in one form or another.
The most frightening aspect of the unholy alliance has been the rapid accommodation of the Anglo-Catholic denominations to modernist/liberalism in the first half of the 20th century and to postmodernist thought during the later half. Many of these so-called "Christians" advocate a new form of "tolerance" and "love" unknown in the Bible. For a detailed explanation, see my review and read THE NEW TOLERANCE.
For additional insight into religious humanism, visit our Where They Stand, and Fall Gallery page to see how various individuals (Best, Chafer, Custance, Darby, Feinberg, Stanford, Verduin, Bright, Dobson, Finney, Graham, McCartney, Neuhaus, Robertson, Wimber, John Paul II) line up on these issues. And for the best explanation ever written on the Pentecostal/charismatic errors, see - THE LINE DRAWN, written by Miles Stanford.
Miles Stanford has observed,
While this is true, a far more solemn fact is that Christian humanism has lulled tens of thousands, possibly millions, of unregenerate individuals into a comfortable religiosity, intoxicating them with a false hope of redemption, while in fact they are deluded and lost. Further, those who embrace these humanistic religions sooner or later join rank with those who are "enemies of the cross of Christ" (Philippians 3:18). Some of the most intense persecution of true members of the Body of Christ has come from adherents to Christian humanism and other religions based on free will (John 16:2). As with Paul (formerly Saul of Tarsus), may God grant them mercy unto salvation (1 Timothy 1: 13).
Again, we state:
This statement is supported by the Bible, church history, and the testimony of individuals whom God has saved out of these errors. From time to time, new-creation Christians (2 Corinthians 5:17) will testify of how they previously "thought they were Christian" and how God subsequently brought them to the scriptural realization of their sinfulness and subsequent genuine salvation. The question is often asked, Can a truly new-creation Christian be found in these denominations and movements you've mentioned above? The answer is--assuredly yes. History has proven that there will always be a large number of Christians who are uninformed or idealistic, and assume that the Lord Jesus Christ is interested in reforming Christendom. They are generally unaware that church history testifies against the success of such efforts. Further, there are those who due to tradition, family, friends, or other cares of this world, have rationalized their affiliation, most likely under the banner of "love," and have tragically compromised truth for the sake of peace, so-called.
However on occasion, beleaguered by resistance to sound doctrine from leaders and drawn by the Holy Spirit, the growing Christian wisely withdraws to establish a positive testimony in a safe and doctrinally sound local Bible church, assembly or fellowship, or will gather with other like-minded believers in small home meetings.
The First Adam / The Last Adam
When the truth of our condition "in Adam" has been diminished or lost, it is inevitable for that denomination, group, or Christian individual to drift into other errors and manifestations of immoral behavior. Consequently, the truths ministered by the Holy Spirit through the Epistles penned by the Apostle Paul are critically important. For a reliable, scriptural study guide to these truths, obtain and read: THE COMPLETE GREEN LETTERS, by Miles J. Stanford, (Zondervan, 1983), available via mail order or through your local Christian bookstore.
Copyright © 1985-2013. All rights reserved. Raised Roman Catholic until the age of twenty, Dan R. Smedra, became a new-creation Christian in October 1969. A personal testimony is available at http://withChrist.org/dan.htm.
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