Summary: The role of the prophet today and how to discern between true & false ones.
Sermon: False Prophets and the Three Confessions
Text: Matt 7:15-21-23 & Ro 8:12-17
Occasion: Trinity VIII
Who: Mark Woolsey
Where: Providence REC
When: Sunday, July 29, 2007
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Before I start, I do want to say I must be absolved from any responsibility for a possibly poor sermon today. That must sit squarely on Joshï¿½s shoulders. While I was in the middle preparation yesterday, Josh called me with some questions. That took a valuable 5 minutes from my work, and I think it only fair to lay blame where blame is due! ;-)
Long ago an obscure priest/monk from northern Europe journeyed south to Rome. He was an idealistic man who was greatly concerned with ideas concerning salvation, heaven, etc. When he arrived in Rome he quickly realized this was not the place he had anticipated. Traveling from the edges to the very epicenter of Christianity, he anticipated a holiness and spiritual vitality that greatly exceeded his experience back home. In this he was sorely disappointed. Not only was he struck by the townï¿½s great moral laxity, he traced this fault directly back to gross spiritual error. Saint Peterï¿½s chair was preaching heresy and practicing perversion! He began writing about what he saw as the great problems of the faith, especially concerning how one gains a right standing with God. All of this was in opposition to much of the church hierarchy of the day. He rose to such prominence that some of the most famous and learned bishops of the day replied to him in writing, attempting to refute his arguments. Nevertheless, our monkish friend gained many followers and became a sizable force in the church. Needless to say, the Pope at the time was not happy with this turn of events and set about to punish this rascal. He managed to escape, finding refuge among powerful like-minded friends. Rome and the Popeï¿½s opposition continued to grow until worldwide meetings of bishops and other clergy were called to deal with his teaching. Eventually the Council of Orange condemned him. He was excommunicated. To this day Rome stands in opposition to what this man taught. In fact, this manï¿½s teachings became the most condemned in all of the church. Who was this man?
If you answered Martin Luther, you would be 180 degrees wrong. Our mystery man preceded Fr. Martin by more than 1000 years. In fact, Luther and Rome agree on his condemnation. This great traveler, preacher, Roman ex-communiquï¿½, and, I hate to admit, proto-"Anglican", was the British monk, Pelagius.
Many of you may not be familiar with this name, but it is actually one of the most infamous names in all of church history. Just as there are angels and archangels, so there are heretics and arch-heretics. Pelagius was one. Other than Arius, I donï¿½t know of any others. More church councils condemn this man and his teachings than any other in the history of the church. St Augustine was his greatest opponent, and occasioned some of his greatest writings. Today, the greatest insult we Calvinists can lay on a person is to call him a "Pelagian". The eight letters of the word are like two "four-letter" words back-to-back.
In fact, when Calvinist fathers get together to talk about ï¿½man-thingsï¿½ without the womenfolk around, the conversation goes something like this:
Calvinist 1: ï¿½So when he made his final offer for the house whatï¿½d you say?ï¿½
Calvinist 2: ï¿½I said, ï¿½Thatï¿½s a pile of pelagian! I wouldnï¿½t take that pelagian offer if you doubled it!ï¿½ï¿½
Like 17th century New England witch-hunters, Reformed folk are continually finding "Pelagianism" in much of what passes for Christianity today. For example, Charles Finney, the great 19th century evangelist and hero of the likes of Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell, can really be categorized as nothing other than an out-and-out Pelagian. And if we canï¿½t tie the albatross of full-throated Pelagianism around our opponentï¿½s neck, weï¿½ll call him semi-pelagian, as we do many so-called evangelicals today. And we are right. Some of the greatest "Christians" of history were Pelagian, and most of todayï¿½s faith is no better than semi-pelagian. And yet this much-maligned name comes down to us from a man whose life was full of good works. His disciples were noted for their piety and care for the poor. What was so dangerous about this man? Listen to some of what he taught:
1. Children are born innocent. IE, sin is not counted against us until some kind of "age of accountability".
2. If we are damned, it is because of our own sin, not Adamï¿½s.