Theology Crawl - Do Humans Need "Saving?"

August 22, 2022

Welcome to Theology Crawl

Yes, being in a conversation with drinks is fun, but we need some guidelines as you enter into conversation with one another:

Everyone is not right, and that's a good thing.

The concepts we talk about in theology can have multiple interpretations, but that doesn't mean they're all right. A lot of theology is investigating the words we use to see if they make sense and are if they're adequate for God. Being wrong is how we improve our theology, not by having all the answers.

Pay attention to how people are using words.

We all use words like “love,” “God,” and “grace,” but the the reality is we often mean vastly different things. Try to listen to how people use words and if they're using them the same way you would.

Ask for people to define what they mean.

We can't have a good conversation if we are all talking past each other. It's not embarrassing to ask people for a definitional a new word or concept, it's just how you have a good conversation.

Make this work for you.

Have someone in the group keep an eye on the questions and try to make sure you're staying on topic. At the same time, it's fine to go down the rabbit holes. Sometimes, the rabbit holes can help us clarify something that we missed.

Have fun.

You won't solve world hunger, you probably won't even convince that person in the group you disagree with. Relax, be respectful, and when the questions run out, enjoy yourself and talk about something that isn't theological. Hanging out can actually be pretty important for good theology too!

Discussion Questions

  • If humans are capable of doing good, why don't they do good all the time?
  • What ideas do you associate with the term "sin"? Do you think it is a good term for describing humanity? Why or why not?
  • Does humanity need saving? If so, from what? If not, is there anything humanity does need?
    What do you believe most Christians mean by "salvation"? Do you agree with that conception? Why or why not?
  • Read the definition of "Pelagianism" in the section below. Why do you think Pelagius and many others found this idea attractive?
  • Every doctrine (orthodox and heretical) is proposed in order protect something. What do you think Pelagianism is trying to protect? What is not being protected?
  • What does Pelagianism do to our understanding of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection?
  • Most Christians of Pelagius' time rejected this idea. Why do you think that is?
  • What do you think Pelagius got right? What do you think he got wrong?

Key Definitions

  • Pelagianism (puh-ley-jee-uhn-is-um): the belief that original sin did not taint human nature and that mortal will is still capable of choosing good or evil without special divine aid. It is named after the British monk Pelagius (4th century) who taught that the human will, as created with its abilities by God, was sufficient to live a sinless life, although he believed that God's grace assisted every good work. Pelagianism hascome to be identified with the view that human beings can earn salvation by their own efforts. / Adapted from Wikipedia
  • Orthodox (awr-thuh-doks): sound or correct in opinion or doctrine, especially theological or religious doctrine. Origin: ortho (Greek: upright, correct) + dóxa (Greek: belief, opinion) /
  • Heresy: opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, especially of a church or religious system. Origin: hairesis (Greek: literally, act of choosing) /
  • Doctrine: (a) something that is taught; (b) a principle or position or the body of principles in branch of knowledge or system of belief. / Merriam-Webster
  • Original Sin: (a) the sin that Adam committed; (b) a consequence of this first sin, the hereditary stain with which we are born on account of our origin or descent from Adam. / The Catholic Encyclopedia
  • The Will: the faculty of the mind which selects, at the moment of decision, the strongest desire from among the various desires present... It is considered important in ethics because of its central role in enabling a person to act deliberately. / Wikipedia

Important Scripture

  • The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach / Deuteronomy 30:9b-11 (emphasis added)
  • Just then man came up to Jesus and asked, "Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?" 'Why do you ask me about what is good?" Jesus replied. "There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments."/ Matthew 19:16-17 (emphasis added)
  • Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned... Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, sO also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people. 19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. / Romans 5:12, 18-19
  • Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?" "Yes, Lord," she replied, "I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."/ John 11:25-27

Thoughts from Others

  • "You will realize that doctrines are inventions of the human mind as it tries it CO penetrate the mystery of God. You will realize that Scripture itself is the work of human minds, recording the example and teaching of Jesus. Thus it is not what you believe that matters; it is how you respond with your heart and your actions. It is not believing in Christ that matters; it is becoming like him." / Pelagius
  • "[Research] suggests that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize." / Malcolm Gladwell, Blink
  • As for that grace indeed by which we are justified-in other words whereby the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts', ... that which God promises we do not ourselves bring about by our own choice or natural power, but He himself effects it by grace. / Augustine
  • "If I hadn't spent so much time studying Earthlings," said the Tralfamadorian, "I wouldn't have any idea
    what was meant by 'free will.' I've visited thirty-one inhabited planets in the universe, and I have studied
    reports on one hundred more. Only on Earth is there any talk of free will." Kurt Vonnegut
    Jr., Slaughterhouse-Five

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