This was a conversion I had some time back. I thought I would record it here.
Pelagian: The fact is that the soul must be willing to enter Heaven. It must be an act of the soul, as much as an act of God.
Me: i don’t think anyone disputes the necessity of the soul being willing to enter heaven, the question is how is this soul so made willing, even Aquinas, with a certain spirit of generosity, would have affirmed that the soul is made willing by efficacious grace, and that regenerative grace does not destroy the freedom of the will but establishes it, to enable it to will Christ.
Pelagian: It is up to the individual whether or not he enters Heaven after being judged worthy by God. Freewill was a gift of God Almighty.
Me: [Let’s] just say it must be as much the act of the individual as it is an act of God, it is both-and, not either-or
Me: therefore the individual is willing, and he is made willing by God’s act or grace
Pelagian: Let me put like this
Me: very well, just to be clear that this therefore simply isn’t just a matter of calvinism or reformed theology. it’s simply which strikes at “traditional” Christian doctrine
Pelagian: That’s fine
Me: it depends a lot on what we mean by grace in this case.
anyway, i would ask if you believe in common grace
Pelagian: meaning that God’s grace falls on everyone?
Me: nope, as in the grace of, say, having access to good preachers of the Gospel, food, water, security, education, empirical goods necessary for our flourishing, etc
Pelagian: I’m not sure what you’re asking me. Yeah, everyone deserves a shot at what you said.
Me: I’m asking you if you believe all these are God’s gifts, we possess them by God’s grace, our health, food, civil order, having good Christian friends and pastors, etc.
Pelagian: Oh… well, I don’t know
Me: are you kidding me
Pelagian: I’d refer you to the Book of Job… The Lord giveth, and, the Lord taketh away. I think that God’s grace is still upon me
Me: doesn’t that precisely point to the fact that we possess them by God’s grace?
Pelagian: despite having a lack of good Preacher’s… No, having God’s grace means you’re going to get into Heaven.
Me: so you don’t accept that God sends the preacher? your God is starting to look more and more deistic by the minute
Pelagian: That’s not really a profession that I trust completely. No, he’s personal. God is on my side
Me: but he just has a completely hands off approach to our historical events
Pelagian: That’s not how God works
Me: except for sending his son, he does not providentially coordinate any other events
Pelagian: God didn’t remove Daniel from the Lion’s den, he simply gave him the grace to get through it
Me: and stopped the lion’s mouths. i think i have to ask an even more basic question
Pelagian: gracefully, he stopped them
Me: do you even believe in providence?
Pelagian: but, yes, having a good life is a sign of God’s blessing. Although, I’d hate to let that interfere with Charity. I believe that God has a master plan. And, that most things are predestined
Me: so, the food on your table, the bible in your hands, the money you are able to earn to be able to buy it, all God’s gifts?
Pelagian: but, because God gave us the gift of freewill, human conflict disrupts his plans, which is why he made an infinite number of back up ones. All that I have is from the Lord
Me: right, so you accept that, alot of things you currently possess are due to conditions anterior to your specific agency, like being born in a place where there are bibles sold, where food is of sufficient quantity available to enable you to address more theological and spiritual concerns, where the economy is sufficiently good to enable you to get a job, yes?
Pelagian: well, That happened because I’m English, although, I was created as an Englishman at the beginning of time
Me: you were created at the beginning of time?
Pelagian: All souls were
Me: are you serious? are you an origenist?
Pelagian: I am serious. No, not all souls get back to Heaven, because of freewill, but, to suggest otherwise would be to suggest that not all Human Beings have Souls
Me: okay, i’m not going to argue with that. regardless of how souls are made, the point is, you agree that you did not choose your place of birth
Pelagian: I agree. Although, I would have, I would have chosen it, so, that might be a moot point
Me: are you saying that we are born where we are because we choose to be born there from the beginning in our pre-natal state?
Pelagian: no. God planned that out, but, if He had given me a choice, I would have chosen the place I was born. I agree with God’s choice as to the place of my birth. To the actual place of my birth. More than one citizenship = more than one official place of birth.
Me: Right. Good. The question of whether one would agree with God’s choice *after the fact* is irrelevant, there are many people who don’t agree with it. The point is that the facts of our circumstance were given to us anterior to our decision or choosing a lot of our external circumstances are simply given to us whether we would have chosen it or not
Pelagian: I suppose
Me: some people, like you, like your circumstance, other people understandably, wouldn’t… [and] that a lot of what we have are the result of God’s grace, anterior to our freewill agency or choice
Pelagian: No. I disagree
Me: but you have granted that you did not choose your nation’s economy, which economy enables you to earn money to buy bibles
Pelagian: God’s grace has a play in it, but, I could easily have, through my own freewill, chosen to squander my personal fortune. I believe in both predestination and free-will. How they interact is what makes things happen
Me: sure, you could have chosen to squander that money, but i’m merely trying to establish something a lot more modest
Me: whether or not God’s grace is ultimately determinative of your specific decision, to buy a bible. a lot of things needs to happen in the background for that to happen, things which isn’t in your control and which we rightly attribute to God’s providential grace. would you grant me at least this?
Pelagian: I would
Me: so it is fair to say that the fact that you are able to earn your keep is the product of God’s grace and that if God didn’t provide the conditions for you to do so, you would not be able to choose it?
Pelagian: Right, if God hadn’t granted me free-will, I wouldn’t be able to choose anything
Me: well, you would have freewill whether or not your nation’s economy is crap or flourishing, the point is the background conditions. anyway, to continue, is it fair to say that you would not be able to believe or come to faith if you did not have access to sound Christian teachings?
Pelagian: would I have been a Christian if I had never heard of it? well, as I said earlier, my parents…weren’t the church type. But, then, my good family was. So, maybe. Yeah, that makes since…
Me: parents aren’t the only means whereby the Gospel is communicated… since?
Pelagian: …Christianity is the Western religion, and, I’m a Westerner. If I were Japanese, I’d be Japanese. (They blend Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, formal National Shintoism, and, regional/local Shintoism, in a perfect Japanese blend)
Me: not necessarily, there are Japanese Christians, but it would just be a lot harder to be Christian in such an environment
Pelagian: yeah, I wonder if they’re Christians in a Western way, or in a Japanese way, I would think a Japanese way, but, who knows?
Me: That’s another discussion altogether. Anyway, so you would agree that one’s ability to become a Christian is dependent on these factors which are anterior to one’s agency?
Pelagian: I would, but, many still reject the Faith
Me: let’s not get ahead of ourselves
Pelagian: I feel like your an Inquisitor, not really, not a Roman. 🙂
Me: lol, we’re just having a friendly discussion. 🙂
Pelagian: Okay, I won’t imagine you as that, then
Me: So let’s recap what we have established. We agree that becoming a Christian is dependent upon a lot of factors which are anterior to our specific agency. However, even the presence of these conditions, e.g. having access to the Bible, does not itself necessitate faith, yes?
Pelagian: I agree
Me: Now, is it not true that even with access to the Bible, there are other factors which might impede us putting our faith in it, such as the presence of very bad Christian witnesses. Let me give an extreme example. If you were an altar boy and you were screwed by a paedo priest, that would definitely dramatically reduce your ability to believe that Christianity truly contains the Gospel yes? … i’m not saying that it would make it impossible to believe in the Gospel. i’m just saying that it would make it a lot harder
Pelagian: Yeah, I could see how it would make things difficult. They’d probably never be that denomination, though
Me: [so] t you do agree that having bad christian witnesses can make it harder to believe in the Gospel, while having good Christian witnesses, like someone who helps you out materially when you are in need, could move you to believe?
Pelagian: I do
Me: would you say that whether or not we believe is dependent on a lot of factors which are beyond our agency, e.g. material conditions like being able to afford a bible, having access to Christian truth, having good witnesses of the Gospel, etc,? taken individually and separately, these factors do not determine whether or not we ultimately believe, but is it not fair to say that before we make the decision to believe, a lot of things have been going on in the background, which we could call God’s providential grace?
Pelagian: well, If we’re purely emotional beings, they would dictate our beliefs outright, however, once exposed to the reason of scripture, one may feel that they believe
Me: again, let’s not rush, i am trying to establish something a lot more modest than whether our faith is dictated…
Pelagian: what are you getting at, exactly?
Me: that God’s grace, in providing us with the predconditions for faith, prepare us for belief
Pelagian: I agree
Me: Good then, so you have modified your position whether or not you realise it. At the start you implied that grace is purely offered to our freewill and our will alone decides to accept it, but now at least you agree that before we can accept the Gospel grace a lot of “gracious providence” has already went into it
Pelagian: Maybe, or, perhaps we were less than clear in our understanding of each other. Well, yeah, God leads one to believe, but, does not make him believe.
Me: at least now you’re just an arminian
Arminian: I actually do like the Arminian Remonstrance, I agree with that
Me: you should check out Bishop Joseph Hall’s “Via Media: The Way of Peace”, where he attempts to reconcile Dort with the Arminians
Arminian: shall do.