The word “truth” appears over 100 times in the NT while the word doctrine or teaching appears approximately 90 times. Mind you, these are simple English queries not intended to be exhaustive word studies. My point is really quite simple: to show that the Bible places heavy emphasis on both truth and doctrine.
Pelagius was a monk who founded a school of thought that rejected the doctrines of original sin and predestination and that believed in man’s free will and inherent capacity for good. Pelagius was born in Britain or Ireland lived in the fourth century AD. Pelagius was concerned with the laxity he witnessed in Christians living in Rome. After all, he had sold all his possessions to follow Christ. Pelagius blamed this laxity on Augustine’s teaching that man could do nothing to earn his salvation. It is said that Pelagius took an exceptional disliking to Augustine’s pray – Give what thou commandest – and command what thou wilt. Everything was fine until the Goths invaded Rome, forcing Pelagius to migrate to North Africa. This, after all, was Augustine’s territory and Augustine wasted no time in confronting what he considered to be a very dangerous heresy. Pelagius met with two giants in church history in Augustine and Jerome and this led to his excommunication in 417. He vanished into obscurity and was not heard from after this.
Modern evangelical decisionalism actually requires Pelagian theology in order for it to work. Original sin asserts that man was born in sin as David said, in sin I was conceived. Original sin says that men are dead in their trespasses and sins. It does not say they are sick. Original sin says that men slaves to sin, bound by sin, not free to do as they please. If I can decide not to be bound to sin, then I am already NOT bound to sin. Finally, original sin say that men’s eyes are blinded to the light of the gospel, that they are held captive by Satan to do his will.
In the doctrine of original sin, we understand that guilt from the first sin passed to all, that corruption of nature would also pass to Adams progeny, and that as a result, actual transgressions would transpire from the corruption of our nature. This means that all men stand guilty before God, that all men are born with a sinfully corrupt nature, and as a result all men actually transgress God’s law at their first opportunity. Moreover, the logical order is guilt, corrupt nature, and transgression. Pelagianism would reverse the order to transgression and guilt while denying any corrupting of human nature. Pelagius’ exaltation of free will required that human nature remain capable of doing good regardless of the wicked it actually does. When one considers how modern evangelical Christians talk, one cannot help but conclude that Pelagius is everywhere in their thinking.
Pelagianism reduces the work of Christ flattening it out to nothing more than a moral example for Christians to follow. The denial of a penal substitutionary atonement brings Christianity crashing to the ground and makes it no different than any other works-based religion. If I live a good enough life, I can make it to heaven. And in one form or another, many modern evangelicals have adopted this thinking. The works they concern themselves with are more akin to social causes, feeding the poor, painting rooms on missionary trips, cleaning church carpets, etc. If they do enough of these things, they can earn a place in heaven. Of course we do not state it this way, but our behavior, as it so often does, betrays how we really think about these things.