October 25, 2008

Nailing Down Adrian Rogers' Theology

I don't consider myself a specialist in theology. Unless you think that studying five years to earn a four year degree in Biblical Education with a minor in Missions ("minor in missions so you will not have to study a biblical language," said my advisor. He knew I could not pass those subjects) in a Pentecostal Liberal Arts College qualifies you to be a theologian. That was almost 40 years ago.

My pastor says that there are some questions that have to be answered in heaven! After I listened to the pastor of my home town church, I announced to him that I was a Calvinist! His short and to the point answer was, " a smart man had said to him years ago that such things should not be discussed by common people, just theologians!" That was after hearing a long rambling Sunday morning sermon about "Conditional Security" (part one had been preached the previous Sunday) It was actually a denial of unconditional security. He proudly held up the book he was using as a guide, "Unconditional Eternal Security Myth or Truth?" by French Arrington. He could preach for forty five minutes against Eternal Security but we could not discuss Calvinism over the dinner table! The odds are stacked against you if you want to defend Calvinism but you can freely attack Calvinism. To make it even more difficult there are Calvinist who will not converse with you if you defend "high Calvinism." So we are stuck this side of heaven about the truth!

Should I discuss theology? Am I qualified? All this said, can I make the claim that Adrian Rogers was Pelagian? Pelagians would be offended by this! Religious Pelagians are by definition Unitarian and Arianist if they can be called "Christian" at all. Rogers retains pelagian views in his belief in free will, though he is trinitarian. That would make him semi-pelagian. The problem is can you be a trinitarian and still hold to pelagian views? Most theologians say, no. I tend to agree with them. Strangely the Second Council of Orange in 529 AD settled this. It was heretical and the council ruled in favor of the views of Augustine of Hippo. This was the position of the Catholic Church, though it never complied in practice with the ruling.

However Adrian Rogers' self-driven goodness assumed upon himself and reassured by his wife and followers was a product of some sort of pelagianism. There was some goodness that allowed free will in choosing. He espoused a personal goodness that could not be attained by mere common men! He nor his wife would allow his goodness to be stained by others less righteous than themselves. This did not come about by the grace of God but a lifelong discipline to each other. Dr and Mrs Rogers carved a place for themselves in a hostile wilderness and evolved loving practices to suit the circumstances. They created an insular world for themselves even as teenagers with a strong self-determination that denied any hold that original sin or depravity had on the common man. They would not allow the corruption of their own Church to soil themselves! Death had a hold on this new order and it unraveled quickly!

It is not correct to say he is Pelagian though in part and principle he is. He was not a heretic. He could be called a semi-Augustinian but that seems just another way of saying he is semi-Pelagian. He called himself a "Biblicist" but aren't we all? Unitarians call themselves "Biblicist"!

I think he was a pseudo-Trinitarian! He was a dysfunctional Trinitarian. Now there is a term that carries a bite!


Phillip Bassman said...

I'm not trying to insult you, but I, like Adrian Rogers, am a baptist with an MTh, and I think you're crazy! How you can interpret a rejection of 5 point Calvinism as equalling plagiarism is beyond me. Technically, anyone who holds to the fact that all are born in sin and totally devoid of God's righteousness in body, soul and spirit is not a pelagian. Total depravity does not mean one is as bad as he can be, but that he inherently misses the mark of God's perfect righteousness in the whole of his being. You need to study and brush up on your hamartiology! All 5 point Calvinists need to do this.

Adrian was neither a Calvinist nor Arminian:He was a baptist. Calvinists do not teach unconditional eternal security: they hold to security conditioned upon perseverance. That is anything but unconditional. It is so close to Arminianism it is amazing.

Phillip Bassman said...

Sorry, my phone corrected "pelagianism" to plagiarism.

Phillip Bassman said...

And he was most definitely a Trinitarian. Why do you accuse him of not holding to the doctrine of the trinity? I just don't get your logic and reasoning at all. I have studied hundreds of his sermons and never did he say anything that could be interpreted as anything but orthodox, Christian evangelical theology, including a bull dog stance on trinitarianism.

Phillip Bassman said...

Your criticism sounds as if you knew Adrian Rogers from his teen years on. I suppose it takes a lot of work to criticize a Christian in love with Jesus who wants to live a holy life to honor his Savior, but the world did that to Jesus as well.

Anonymous said...

Phillip is certainly correct when he says:

"Total depravity does not mean one is as bad as he can be..."

I'm pretty sure that most Calvinists would even agree with this. Most Calvinists I know believe in the doctrine of Common Grace, which states that whereas we are all born with total depravity, or the natural inclination to lean toward sin and wickedness, we are not as wicked in practice as we have the potential of being because of the Grace of God which is common to all men and restrains us from destroying ourselves and those around us.

That point aside, I am curious to know if Adrian Rogers did believe in total depravity or the perseverance or preservation of the saints. I would hope that all Baptist, whether Calvinist or not, whether consistent in their theology or not (on both sides) would agree on these two points of doctrine at the least. To reject either one seems, to me, to point the object of salvation towards the potential goodness of mankind or towards a works based salvation. I look forward to your insights.