Emoting Like Pelagians

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It may seem odd to put it this way, but the only thing that can save us from the sexual revolution now is total depravity. Of course this is shorthand, but it is shorthand with a point.

Of course we know that it is Christ who saves us, and total depravity is not the name of our Savior, but rather a phrase that refers to what we are saved from. Hence the shorthand.

And it is not the most ideal phrase either. It makes people think that we are proclaiming something like absolute depravity, which sounds like we are saying the unsaved are orcs out of hell, already as bad as it is possible for a creature to get, with no common grace whatever. Yeah, that’s not accurate either.

But let’s just go with total depravity for a bit. Work with me here.

Horse Doses of Calvinism

In theology, there are two foundational approaches to human nature out there, and they are the Augustinian and the Pelagian. Calvinism is simply a later nickname given to the Augustinian approach.

According to the Augustinian understanding, moral obligation is created by the Word of God. Morality is defined by the law of God. If Scripture says not to do something, then doing it is sin. Pretty straightforward.

But according to the Pelagian understanding, moral obligation is defined by our abilities. Put another way, there is no moral responsibility that can be assigned to inability. According to Pelagianism, sin is not sin unless it can actually be avoided. Sin is always a function of free choice, and hence cannot be grounded in our nature. There is no such thing as a constitutional or natural depravity.

The Augustinian answer to this, of course, is a raft of Bible verses. We are by nature objects of wrath (Eph. 2:3). Evil men make choices in accordance with their evil hearts (Matt. 12:35). We are slaves to sin (Rom. 6:17). We are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1-2). We could make a much bigger pile of verses if you wanted.

What this means is that the Augustinians believe that the free offer of the gospel is presented as a way of saving us from what we are. We do of course receive forgiveness for the things we have done, but that is downstream. God does forgive us for the dirty water, but He also redeems us from having been a filthy font from which that dirty water came.

In short, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that God gives the gift of true repentance, and when He gives it, we are completely turned. The bad news is that God only gives this gift to cockroaches.

Our dilemma is that we want to be saved, but we want to be saved without admitting the full reality of what we are being saved from. In our rationalizations, when we articulate what we think salvation must be trying to get at (our felt needs, our sense of brokenness, and the fact that we are widdle wambs who have gone astway), we routinely minimize what is actually at stake.

“But when Jesus heard that, he said unto them, They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick” (Matt. 9:12).

So God saves us from what we are, and not simply from the consequences of disembodied deeds out of the past. And because Augustinians believe we must be saved from what we are, this accounts for the disparity in the two different kinds of responses to sin. The Pelagians offer the sinner some lavender water. The Augustinians offer oak-aged Laphroaig, which, as the ad copy puts it, tastes like burning hospital. The Pelagians offer the sinner a teeny little pill, child’s aspirin in a micro-dose. The Augustinians see you are the color of leprous putty and so they go to a vet they know in the neighborhood in order to get some horse doses of antibiotic Calvinism, the kind that could knock out a couple of Clydesdales.

The need of the hour is not for somebody to urge you into your best life now. We need everybody in Judea to head down to the Jordan, and in order to get that to happen we need to ask God to send us some kind of Tishbite Calvinist preacher who will pin our ears back, and not feel sorry about it afterwards.

Relevance to the Same-Sex-Attracted

Let’s pretend for a moment that there actually is a gay gene. I don’t think there is, but it would not trouble me at all if the Pelagian scientists were successful in their hunt for the ultimate excuse. Because they are assuming, at a bedrock level, that inability limits obligation, if they were to find a gene that definitively showed limited ability (such that such a person was genetically bound to desire someone of the same sex), an Augustinian response, after looking at that troublesome gene under the microscope, would be to praise the wisdom and majesty of God. God has told us that we are all of us sinners by nature, and there it is, proof positive, a gene that determines that some people will sin in a particular way. Once again, science vindicates the Scriptures . . .

Such a response provokes outrage, and the fact that it provokes outrage is proof of yet another thing. It proves that we live in Pelagian times. It is the air we breathe. The only possible response to such an Augustinian would be  . . . “but . . . but inability limits obligation.” And the Calvinist response to that would be something along the lines of tough nubbins. What saith the Larger Catechism?

  1. 24. What is sin?
  2. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.

So there is a hidden Pelagianism lurking in any appeal to how early someone found himself attracted to someone of the same sex. A measurement of the sinfulness is somehow being manufactured out of the experience of the sinner, instead of being made out of the objective (and holy) standard of God’s law.

Evangelicals are saps when it comes to testimonies, and so when someone tells us that he was a mere boy of twelve when he realized that he was in love with one of his male teachers at school, and that he couldn’t keep his mind off of that male teacher’s laugh, his confidence, his knowledge, his profile . . . what is happening here? The inability of this young boy to do anything about what is happening to him is to us the trump card. But it is only a trump card to Pelagians, and those who have been trained to emote like Pelagians.

For make no mistake, there are plenty of ostensibly Reformed, gospel-centric, Westminsterian-trained, Calvinism-is-not-a-bad-word types who still emote like they were Pelagians. I have written it twice because I would like you all to remember the phrase. Here, I will do it again—emote like Pelagians.

Speaking of testimonies, for every twelve-year-old boy who fell in love with a male teacher, I can produce twenty twelve-year-old boys who would daydream for hours about being fed peeled grapes by a bevy of nubile houris. In a remarkable turn of events, every last one of these houris thought that the boy in question was brave, and handsome, and intelligent, and brave again, and sexy too.

So we are in a pretty bad way. We have gotten to the point where the moral compass of evangelicalism is now being calibrated by the sex wishes of twelve-year-old boys. What could go wrong?

If you want to see our people delivered, then pray for God to raise up that Tishbite. Pray for a swarm of such preachers, who love the Word of God more than they love our secret lusts.