Pelagian Westminster

Discussion in 'Calvinism & The Doctrines of Grace' started by Justified, Sep 17, 2016.

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  1. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    Many years ago CtC posted the following article, claiming that the Reformed understanding of the Adamic arrangement was Pelagian:

    They rightly note that the Pelagian controversy was about more than just the relation of nature and grace post-lapsum, but also concerned the same relation ante-lapsum.

    My question is how do we skirt the charge of being pelagian without falling into, say, the federal vision error of turning the CoW into a CoG? In what sense can we say that Adam required grace in the garden?

    In one sense the voluntary act of God's condescension was an act of grace on God's part, but I do not think that goes far enough. It still makes grace, as it were, external to Adam-- a relation or disposition toward man. The pelagians themselves always made grace as something purely external to man.

    Could we say that Adam in the garden had a kind of grace, i.e., the activity of the Holy Spirit within him, to as it were, elevate his human nature? If the second Adam had the Spirit without measure (Jn. 3:34), is it not fair to infer that Adam himself was a temple of the Holy Spirit and had the Spirit to assist in his task of subduing the world, keeping God's law, and fulfilling the Covenant of Works?

    I am getting at some of what Ruben was inquiring about in this post:
  2. Afterthought

    Afterthought Puritan Board Junior

    It seems strange to me to speak about "salvation" before the fall. That alone makes it difficult (for me at least) to try and map what they are saying to our system.

    I don't really have time to think further on this right now, but I would note that in one of the footnotes, it is claimed that the author does not understand how the righteousness could merit "supernatural beatitude" from God. I think that our system explains this (we deny the "merit"): the life that God promised man on condition of his obedience far surpassed whatever was requisite to that obedience, especially since man by nature owed God obedience anyway. That is something gracious in the covenant of works.

    I'll be interested in seeing what others say. I would need to think further on it, but the charge of "Pelagianism" seems hollow when one considers the differences, e.g., Adam was a public person, which Pelagians denied.

    "Man is naturally and necessarily under a law to God. This results from the necessary and unalterable relation subsisting between God and man, as the one is the Creator, and the other his creature. God might, therefore, if he had pleased, demanded all possible obedience of man, without making any promise securing his establishment in a state of innocence and enjoyment, and his advancement to a state of still higher felicity, as the reward of his obedience. And though man had gone through a long course of obedience, without a single failure, he could not have laid his Creator under any obligation to him, or been entitled to any recompense. But God graciously condescended to deal with man by way of covenant, and thus gave him an opportunity to secure his happiness by acquiring a right to it - a right founded upon stipulation, or upon the promise."-Robert Shaw
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2016
  3. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    Your are right that Pelagianism denied that Adam was a public person, but there was more to Pelagianism than just that doctrine. For example, if you have JND Kelly's book Early Christian Doctrines, there he gives a nice summary of some of the issues.

    Any one else have thoughts?
  4. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    (1) The super-additum denies the sufficiency of the imago Dei. If man were not equipped by nature for the probation there would be a natural deficiency to which the fall is to be attributed. This cannot be. And at the end of the day the fall still happens, which would mean there was a deficiency not only in the natural constitution but even in the super-additum.

    (2) The idea of "grace" in the Romanist conception differs in kind from the Reformed conception. The Reformed teach the grace is in the "disposition" of the covenant, which promises a reward to Adam's obedience; but there was no "dispensation" of grace because the condition was personal obedience. The Romanist idea conceives of grace as something dispensed personally to Adam to enable him to stand if he would make use of it. Beside the fact that this removes the condition of "personal" obedience in the proper sense of the term, this grace ends up being insufficient for the end it is supposed to accomplish.

    (3) The Reformed draw a distinction between works and grace at the point which conserves the parallel between the two Adams. Adam and Christ are under the condition of personal obedience. The natural posterity of Adam and the believing seed of Christ are the proposed beneficiaries of the gift of grace flowing from their work. The Romanist view effectively makes Adam a beneficiary of grace before he has entered into his work, and removes the representative nature of Adam's obedience. In this scheme the natural posterity of Adam should have been given their own measure of grace to stand their own test, which would effectively remove the possibility of original sin, and of Christ coming to save those who were lost in Adam.
  5. Justified

    Justified Puritan Board Sophomore

    Rev. Winzer, thank you for your helpful input. Was Adam indwelt with the Holy Spirit? Or was that not for until he passed the probation? My own intuition tells me it was before, but I do not have much to go on.

    Also, I wonder if you have any thoughts on the question Ruben posed many years back at the link I posted on the bottom.

  6. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Naturally, Adam had the Spirit as a part of the imago Dei. "Let us make man in our image." The fall entailed spiritual death, which included separation from the presence of the Spirit and being cast out of the garden of God's presence. Corruption of the image involves a loss of this natural spiritual ability. Salvation includes a restoration of the Spirit, which is enjoyed by everyone who is regenerated. This work of the Spirit is typified under the Old Testament shadows, and comes to fulness in the age of the Spirit inaugurated at the resurrection of Christ.

    The question from that old thread is confusing without the background thread which gave rise to it. I would be guessing that the earlier thread concerned the FV teaching which borrows from the Romanist idea of infused grace and undermines the covenant of works; and I would answer that there was no infusion of grace given to Adam to confirm him. It is only in terms of God promising to reward Adam's obedience that we can speak of grace before the fall.
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