The heresiarch Pelagius wrote, “We distinguish three things, arranging them in a certain graduated order. We put in the first place ‘ability;’ in the second, ‘volition;’ and in the third, ‘actuality.’ The ‘ability’ we place in our nature, the ‘volition’ in our will, and the ‘actuality’ in the effect. The first, that is, the ‘ability,’ properly belongs to God, who has bestowed it on His creature; the other two, that is, the ‘volition’ and the ‘actuality,’ must be referred to man, because they flow forth from the fountain of the will. For his willing, therefore, and doing a good work, the praise belongs to man; or rather both to man, and to God who has bestowed on him the ‘capacity’ for his will and work, and who evermore by the help of His grace assists even this capacity.” (NPNF 5:219)
Pelagius taught that man has the capacity of willing and doing good without God’s special aid. But so that it would be easier, God gave the Law and Christ’s good example. Pelagius’ version of grace was merely a gracious influence that God gives to those who deserve it because they have faithfully used their own powers. Hence “grace” can be resisted. So as to not sound completely Satanic, Pelagius smuggled God in through the back door by hastening to add that freewill is a gift from God.
This is a verbose way of saying, like Finney said, that God will not command what man cannot do. Finney draws an image of a father who commands a small child something that is clearly beyond the child’s ability and threatens to whip the child if he doesn’t obey. This is his despicable, vile, evil caricature of Gospel truth! The commands of Scripture are not only outside man’s ability to obey, they actually serve to demonstrate man’s inability, depravity and hatred of all that is holy. This unregenerate hatred of imputed righteousness is why Pelagius protested when Augustine said, “Grant what You command and command what You will.”
One need not search for more than a minute the writings or recordings of men like John Wesley, Charles Finney, Chuck Smith, Norman Geisler, Billy Graham, Bill Bright, Robert Schuller and Rick Warren to find Pelagian statements bolder than those of Pelagius himself. The same could be said for men like Max Lucado, Chuck Swindoll, Charles Stanley, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Louis Palau, and anyone else who appears on the Trinity Broadcast Network.
John Owen wrote, “The church of Jesus Christ cannot wrap in her communion Austin (Augustine) and Pelagius, Calvin and Arminius.” Owen also wrote, “Many at this day will condemn both Pelagius and the doctrine that he taught, in the words wherein he taught it, and yet embrace and approve of the things themselves which he intended.” The sad thing today is that many ministers have no idea what Pelagianism even is. They simply believe Pelagian or Arminian tenets and unabashedly proclaim this hogwash from the pulpit week after week without a clue to which side of the fence they are on.