The Fall & Its Consequences by Pastor John Samson
When Adam fell, how great was the fall? Did all mankind fall with him? How far? What can be done to remedy the spiritual problem? Does man just need a good moral pep talk? ...a good doctor? ...or is man on a gurney at the mortician's with a tag on the toe?
These are not merely isoteric questions reserved for elite theologians. What you and I believe about man's basic nature has radical effects regarding how we view the Gospel itself.
So are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners? In this brief article, I will seek to outline the basic views that are out there, ending with what I believe to be the biblical one:
1. PELAGIANISM - Salvation is all of man (human monergism)
BELIEF: MAN IS WELL
Named after the British monk Pelagius (354 - 418 A.D.)
Pelagius believed that Adam's sin affected no one but himself. Those born since Adam have been born into the same condition Adam was in before the Fall, neutral towards sin. Human beings are able to live free from sin if they want to.
This is a humanistic, man centered teaching and while it is very positive, it limits the nature and scope of sin and flatly denies the necessity of God's grace. This view was condemned as heresy by the Church, as it has no basis in Scripture.
2. SYNERGISM (through the actions of more than one - cooperation)
BELIEF: MAN IS SICK, EVEN MORTALLY SICK
If man was as healthy as the optimists (Pelagians) say, then surely war, disease, starvation, poverty, racial issues and alike would have been eradicated by now. Since such problems are still here, Synergists conclude that something is basically wrong with human nature. Yet, they believe that the situation is not completely hopeless. Its bad, perhaps even desperate, but not hopeless. There's a death sentence on us all because of our sin, but there's no need to call the mortician yet.
Human nature has been damaged by the Fall. The will is NOT enslaved to sin, but is capable of believing in Christ, even prior to regeneration (although not entirely apart from God's grace). Every sinner retains the ability to choose for or against God, either cooperating with God's Spirit resulting in salvation or resisting God's grace resulting in damnation.
Election is conditional, determined by individual choice: the only people God has chosen are those whom He already knew would believe. The faith He forsees is not exclusively a divine gift but partly a human decision. Therefore, the ultimate cause of salvation is not God's choice of the sinner but the sinner's choice of God.
Under this broad heading of synergism, we have two basic schools of thought:
A. SEMI-PELAGIANISM - which teaches that man initiates, God helps.
"... Divine grace is indispensable for salvation, but it does not necessarily need to precede a free human choice, because, despite the weakness of human volition, the will takes the initiative toward God." R. Kyle (Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)
B. ARMINIANISM - which teaches that God initiates by offering grace, and that mankind either does or does not cooperate with that grace. This belief, though quite popular in our day, would still be classed as synergistic because salvation takes place through the cooperation of man with God's grace.
3. AUGUSTINIANISM (Reformation Theology) - God saves by His Divine power alone (Divine monergism)
BELIEF: MAN IS DEAD
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned
Romans 5:19 For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous.
1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
John 6:44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
Augustinianism is named after Saint Augustine of the 6th Century A.D.. As far as his relationship to God is concerned, man is a lifeless corpse, unable to make a single move toward God, or even respond to God, unless God first brings this spiritually dead corpse to life. Every area of the constituent nature of man has been affected by the Fall: man's entire body, soul and spirit has suffered a radical corruption.
This does not mean that man is without a conscience or any sense of right or wrong, nor that every sinner is devoid of all the qualities that are both pleasing to men and useful to society, when those qualities are judged only by human standards. However, it does mean that man is spiritually dead, incapable of coming to Christ by his own power (John 6:44). This we call the doctrine of Total Depravity or perhaps more precisely, total inability.
Although spiritually dead, it is a strange death since he is nevertheless up and about actively practicing sin. He is what horror stories call a zombie - dead but walking around. This is a fair description of what Paul says about human nature in its lost condition. Apart from Jesus Christ, these sinning human corpses are the living dead.
Man has a will, most definitely, but this will never wants God (Rom 3:11; Rom 8:7), without the direct and gracious intervention of God. Man's will is enslaved (John 8:34). The sinner actively practices evil. He is also by nature an object of God's wrath (Eph 2:3). BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy.... even when we were dead... made us alive (by grace you have been saved)... (Eph. 2:4, 5)
The example of Lazarus' resurrection from physical death gives us a very good picture concerning what must take place for spiritual resurrection to occur. Lazarus, being a lifeless corpse in the tomb, did not cooperate with Christ with regard to his own resurrection. Why not? Well obviously, because he was dead. He was unable to aid himself in his own resurrection. Jesus simply cried out "Lazarus come forth!" and this call was powerful and sufficient in and of itself to bring dead and putrifying Lazarus back to life. Christ did not interview the dead man Lazarus and ask if he would like to be resurrected, and once he got the "all clear" went ahead with his plan, now having obtained Lazarus' all important permission and assent. Nor did Lazarus, once brought back to life, immediately take Jesus to court in an attempt to sue him for violating his libertarian free will rights as a dead man to stay dead! No, for the rest of his earthly life, Lazarus was deeply grateful for the unspeakable mercy he had received from the Master.
In our regeneration from spiritual death, those whom He makes alive, having received this grace of regeneration, infallibly respond in repentance and faith to the effectual call of God. This truth is demonstrated in many passages in scripture, but perhaps the clearest is Ephesians 2:1-10.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,
9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Regarding verses 8 and 9, Dr. R. C. Sproul has commented, "Here the Apostle teaches that the faith through which we are saved is a faith that comes to us by grace. Our faith is something we exercise by ourselves and in ourselves, but it is not of ourselves. It is a gift. It is not an achievement. With the graciousness of the gift of faith as a fruit of regeneration, all boasting is excluded forever, save in the boasting of the exceeding riches of Godâ€™s mercy. All man-centered views of salvation are excluded..."
Colossians 2:13 also states, "When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him..."
Notice that both in Ephesians 2:5, and Colossians 2:13, it was "when we were dead" that God made us alive. Not one mention is made of our role in all this, such as, "when you were dead, you decided to cooperate with God's grace, and He then raised you..." I don't know how the Apostle Paul could have taught Divine monergism more clearly. It was when we were dead that God made us alive.
Each of the members of the Trinity are at work in the salvation of sinners. God the Father elects a people for salvation, Jesus the Son redeems them in His atoning work on the cross, and God, the Holy Spirit, regenerates them, bringing them to life.
Augustinianism removes all ground for boasting, demolishes all human pride and exalts God's grace as the sole efficient cause of a sinner's salvation. As Jonah 2:9 says, "Salvation is of the Lord." Therefore the glory for it goes to God, and to God alone.