I believe it was RC Sproul who first spoke of the "Pelagian Captivity of the Church", perhaps he borrowed it, but that's where I first heard this diagnosis. Dr. Sproul is right you know, evangelicalism in America is indeed captivated by the philosophy of Pelagius. This is bigger than the fact that Calvinists make up less than 10% of American Christendom.
This also goes deeper than your typical Arminian "Whosoever" free will theology. The depths of the captivity can be seen by the types of Christian books are being written, the vast majority of the popular books have self improvement/growth at the center and usually involve a set number of steps. This is a form of law light, that makes the Christian walk, shall we say, "do-able".
Also, the major trends within evangelicalism clang as shackles announcing the sway of Pelagian theology over the mind of American Christianity. Trends such as the Emergent church, with its radically autonomous postmodern theology. (Yes I know the Emergent church is diverse and broad and you can't pigeon hole the whole.) Also, the growing popularity of open theism, and denial of original sin both attest to the prevalence of Pelagianism.
These are the symptoms, and they support what Dr. Sproul has said on the state of American evangelical theology. So what is Pelagianism?
I would summarize Pelagianism as a theological system that elevates the will of man and puts the onus upon man and his resolve in order to be saved. This will take the form of particular denials and affirmations but I want to keep it simple.
So, not to repeat what has been said often, for further clarification as to what Pelagianism is I would refer readers to great articles if they have no idea what I am talking about. I assume knowledge of the debate on the reader's part, so if you don't know don't be lazy, click and learn! These describe the man Pelagius, his theology and his conflict with Augustine over his teaching. It's by Sam Storms and a good intro for someone who has no clue what I am talking about (Link HERE)
I would like to more or less get at what is the connection between Pelagius, and all of the present trends. Take Open Theism for example (a theological system that denies that God knows the future and ordered it). Philosophically Pelagius and all modern Christians must answer the problem of evil (why is there evil in the world, and how can a good God permit it?). If we don't ponder such things and wrestle for answers we will be intellectuals lightweights, giving shallow platitudes as elixirs to those who have fallen ill in our post-modern world.
These shallow platitudes have manifested themselves in theologies such as open theism and it's answer to the problem of evil. The answer the open theist gives to the problem of evil is that God simply doesn't know what is going to happen and therefore can't do anything about it. Evil is due to man's free will, and for man's will to be free God simply can not know his future choices.
What's amazing to me is that when I talk with open theists they want to tell me I am the one leaning on pagan philosophy rather than the Bible. I believe that serves as the definition of delusion. Open theism is born wholly out of a philosophical attempt to answer the problem of evil, the issue is that they seek to answer the PE with Pelagian free will assumptions, and this is the logical end, God doesn't know the future.
That's where open theism comes from, logic applied to Pelagian assumptions of autonomy. Pelagian thought is the root Open Theism is the fruit.
Now I would say that we are by our very nature we are prone to this sort of thinking. We naturally think man is the master of his own destiny, and thus we create rules God has to play by in His dealings with man. Any suggestion of a God who does not abide by our rules is appalling and seen as a monster. This is why we have men in arguing against Reformed theology blasphemously call irresistible grace "Divine rape". Others fearlessly call the God of Calvinists a "Monster".
God wasn't playing by their rules.
What I have described is the more polemical issues of the Pelagian captivity, what I really want to point out is how this mindset is really the underbelly of all the silly trends that are blowing through evangelicalism year after year. (Whether it is Post-Modern "Christian", Books with self improvement steps, Revivalist meetings etc).
All of these genres of silly trends have the same thing in common, man is dead at the center and God is beholden to the beck and call of man.
Partly what I see feeding this radical theological self absorption is the affluence we currently possess in the West. Perhaps if we were abased like some of our other brothers in the world we would think less of ourselves and more highly of the Sovereign One.
I think I will wrap up here, my main argument here is that what the Church needs is twofold Reformation and Biblical God wrought Revival. In this post I have attempted to point to the heart of what needs to be reformed, I see that as the man centered Pelagianism that is the impetus for all of the other things that pop up. So rather than dealing with all of the bullets being fired (Emergentism, Revivalism, Joel Osteenism, Rick Warrenism, TBNism etc) I want to take the gun away, and I see that as an unbiblical view of man, the fall and it's effect, and a shallow view of Christ's accomplished work.
In short the church is captivated by Pelagian thought, she needs to return to her Protestant roots for as of now much of what passes as evangelicalism has more in common with Rome than Luther and Calvin.
I have no answer as to the how of Reform, but our God is gracious and merciful, He likes to shine when things look the bleakest. Let us seek His aid for His Church. "Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints." (Eph 6)
The comming posts shal deal with the marks of a true revival, since there is much debate over the recent Todd Bentley meetings I will weigh in on that.