The first group is a flock of homeschooling lesbians who attack us relentlessly on the web, and they call every church that we are to speak in, telling the pastor that they are going to come and protest our presence. They never have, and we have never had a meeting canceled because of them. The last church we were in just hired four security guards who were prepared to put on latex gloves and throw them out. The cowards never showed. They just hide behind the keyboard and represent themselves as homeschooling moms who oppose us. They are homeschoolers. They are moms and moms teaching children, but no dads. Sad to say, some “straight” moms have been snookered by their web diatribes and have joined them in accusing us. But, all in all, it is a small minority that is of no significance.
The second group that unsuccessfully tries to throw a cloud over our ministry publishes lies about our doctrine and practice. Since they first started, our mailing list has more than tripled. Out of thousands of letters, about once a month, we receive notification about our self-appointed enemies. Since we have extra space in the magazine this issue, I thought I might amuse you with their charges and our answers. I won’t bother responding to the lesbians. They are out in left field—somewhere under the bleachers.
“Michael Pearl Teaches the Heresy of Sinless Perfection.”
One noted critic states on his web site:
“The most grievous error that I found in No Greater Joy Ministries is the heresy of sinless perfectionism or “entire” sanctification. We see this in the article “Living Parallel Lives in the Same Space” from the Jan./Feb. 2005 issue of No Greater Joy. The doctrine of perfectionism is first of all clear from what Michael Pearl plainly states. He has entitled his teaching “Sin No More” (p. 21). He says the doctrine of sanctification does not consist of “principles for you to apply” (p. 11), meaning there is nothing to do to achieve sinless sanctification but to understand and accept one’s position in Christ.”
Michael Answers: I am falsely accused of teaching the doctrine of sinless perfection, but I plead guilty to teaching that “the doctrine of sanctification does not consist of ‘principles for you to apply’, meaning, there is nothing to do to achieve… sanctification but to understand and accept one’s position in Christ.” Sounds good to me!
The accuser put the word “entire” in quotes as if he were quoting me. I have never used the terms “sinless perfection” or “entire sanctification,” nor have I taught anything that is remotely similar. All one need do is search the web, or a good church history book, to determine the specifics of that heresy in history. The doctrine of sinless perfection is the belief that believers can have a second work of grace whereby the old nature is eradicated, making it impossible for them to sin again. There is nothing in my teaching that is similar in any way.
Either he has not familiarized himself with my teaching, or he has another agenda that provokes him to deliberately slander my Biblical doctrine. What could prompt a man to attack a ministry on such false premises?
My accuser admits in his diatribe against me that it is the name of the series that led him to conclude that I taught the old Salvation Army doctrine of “sinless perfection.” He did not listen to the audio teaching. He just read the title. My teaching on ceasing to sin is exactly what Baptists and other Bible-believing Christians have taught for 1900 years. It is not new, and it is certainly not heretical, except in a modern church that preaches that there is no provision in Christ for overcoming all sin.
My series, Sin No More, does not teach that it is possible in this life to achieve a “state” whereby it is impossible to sin—as does the doctrine of sinless perfection. I teach that through our death with Christ and participation in his resurrection, it is possible in this life, moment by moment, temptation by temptation, to reckon one’s self dead indeed unto sin but alive unto God and, thereby, to fulfill Christ’s command to “sin no more”. There is no such condition as being unable to sin, but the Christian is able not to sin. Why does that bother some people? Shouldn’t we expect our ministers to obey God in all things, to walk in holiness both publicly and privately—all the time?
In this age of carelessness and antinomian Christianity, where preachers walk after the flesh, embezzle money, commit adultery or sodomy, and where worship leaders are found guilty of fornication, I am gratified to be accused of teaching a “heresy” that we should and can sin no more. It is an honor to be criticized for saying that I have been enjoying the blessing of the sanctifying power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have never said I am sinless. How could I? I have a wife and family who know me too well!
If my material is read and understood, the only thing you could accuse me of is helping people to stop sinning. So what is the problem? The women whose husbands have ceased pornography or adultery are not complaining about their husbands listening to the series “Sin No More.” The men who have overcome their anger and lust through reckoning themselves to be dead to sin are not accusing me of heresy. The murderers and rapists in prison who have listened to my teaching and then been released back onto the streets to sin no more are not accusing me of heresy. It is people who are comfortable with the modern belief and practice that we are all slaves to sin and cannot overcome temptations in this life, who are hasty to draw false conclusions about what I teach, simply based on the title of an audio message. I take the misinformed criticism as a compliment to my teaching, an honor to God, and a recommendation for the gospel of deliverance from sin.
“Michael Pearl is a Pelagian.”
Michael Answers: Sounds downright scary—a Pelagian! I remembered studying this when I was in Bible College, but I had forgotten the details of what Pelagius taught, so I looked it up in several books and on the web to see if Pelagius was also a Bible believer and taught the truth as I do. If so, I would be proud to be identified with him or anyone else who believes the Word of God. But, no, sorry, I am not a Pelagian, and if someone today taught what it is reported that he taught, I would be among the first to condemn the teaching.
So, the person who charges me with this ancient, fifth-century heresy shows complete ignorance of Pelagianism or of my Biblical doctrine.
In 411 A. D., Paulinus of Milan came up with a list of six heretical points in the Pelagian message. Keep in mind as you read these six charges, that they are the historical record of what he believed.
(1) Adam was created mortal and would have died whether he had sinned or not;
(2) The sin of Adam injured himself alone, not the whole human race;
(3) Newborn children are in the same state as Adam was before his fall;
(4) Neither by the death and sin of Adam does the whole human race die, nor will it rise because of the resurrection of Christ;
(5) The law as well as the gospel offers entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven; and
(6) Even before the coming of Christ, there were men wholly without sin.
The above list is the historical doctrine of Pelagius. I do not agree with any of the 6 points.
A historian has written: “It is purported by those who charged Pelagius with heresy that he taught that the human will, tempered in good deeds and rigorous asceticism, was sufficient to live a sinless life. According to historical documents, he told his followers that right action on the part of human beings was all that was necessary for salvation. To him, the grace of God was only an added advantage; helpful, but in no way essential. Pelagius disbelieved in original sin, but said that Adam had condemned humankind through bad example, and that Christ’s good example offered humanity a path to salvation, not through sacrifice, but through instruction of the will. Jerome emerged as one of the chief critics of Pelagianism, because, according to Jerome, Pelagius’ view essentially denied the work of the Messiah; he personally preferring ‘teacher’ or ‘master’ to any epithet implying divine power.”
That is so far from what I teach that it makes one wonder what it is in my teaching that really bothers my critics. So, you can tell the parrots who repeat this false charge that they are falsely accusing the brethren—normally Satan’s job.
“Michael Pearl is an Arminian.”
Michael Answers: That doesn’t mean from Armenia, a republic in western Asia. It means different things to different people, but to a Calvinist, it is anyone who is not a five-point Calvinist. But I can emphatically state that I am not a follower of Jacobus Arminius (1560-1609), any more than I am a follower of Augustine or Calvin.
Arminianism was started by Jacobus Arminius, who was born slightly before John Calvin died. He was actually taught by Calvin’s son-in-law and adhered to Calvinist teachings until one day, when forced to defend his beliefs, he found that his opponent could more ably defend his views against Calvinism. This caused Arminius to reject his Calvinistic background and seek to modify Calvinism so that God might not be considered the author of sin, nor man an automaton in the hands of God.
We read on a Calvinist’s web site: “Arminianism is the theological basis for the Methodist, Wesleyan, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Free Will Baptist, Holiness, and many charismatic churches.”
Arminius was just a backslidden Calvinist who tried to modify Calvinism. He is too Calvinistic for me. So my detractors will have to find someone far more to the right if they want to identify me with some historical position.
Only Calvinists call people Arminians, because they find it easier to build a straw man than to deal with a Bible believer’s true position. So, to them it is an “either/or” position that one must take. Either you are a Calvinist who believes in God’s sovereignty, or you are an Arminian who believes in salvation by works and eternal insecurity.
“At the heart of the controversy between Calvinism and Arminianism is the emphasis on the sovereignty of God by the Calvinists and on the free will of man, or human responsibility, by the Arminians. Arminian theology teaches that man has free will and that God will never interrupt or take that free will away, that God has obligated Himself to respect the free moral agency and capacity of free choice with which He created us. Calvinism, on the other hand, emphasizes that God is in total control of everything, and that nothing can happen that He does not plan and direct, including man’s salvation. Both doctrinal positions are logical, both have Scriptures to back up each of their five points, and both are, in my opinion, partially right and partially wrong.” (Larry Taylor).
As Philip Schaff put it in his History of the Christian Church, “Calvinism emphasizes divine sovereignty and free grace; Arminianism emphasizes human responsibility. The one restricts the saving grace to the elect; the other extends it to all men on the condition of faith. Both are right in what they assert; both are wrong in what they deny. If one important truth is pressed to the exclusion of another truth of equal importance, it becomes an error, and loses its hold upon the conscience. The Bible gives us a theology which is more human than Calvinism and more divine than Arminianism, and more Christian than either of them.”
Although I am not a Calvinist, many Calvinists who hear me preach say that I sound like one. I am just a Bible believer. I don’t need to reduce it to a philosophy. I believe all that it teaches. I am not uncomfortable with any passage. I don’t find it necessary to switch translations to prove my point or to ignore some Scripture while emphasizing others.
You many call me what you like. What is important to me is that my kids call me often, and that my grandkids call me Big Papa, and the inmates in hundreds of prisons call me a saint. But best of all, God has called me, and continues to call me His without distinction.
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Dear Mr. Pearl, You and your ministry are like a breath of fresh air in a world that is gasping for it. The last two paragraphs in the above article are profound. They give me such happiness to know that I am not alone in just believing what God hath said. Every jot and tittle. I have never really known what to call myself, so I had resorted to exactly what you stated. I am a Bible believer. Thank You also for having an answer for the naysayers. May the LORD continue to bless your ministry and your family.
Dear Pearls, I am so personally grateful for your wisdom---I am currently reading Debi's book about being my husband's help meet and it is totally changing my perspective on my marriage and character. Your convictions and beliefs on marriage and parenting truly convict me. While what you are teaching is mostly biblical there is one thing I would like to bring to your attention, not because of my profound wisdom--I have certainly not lived long enough on this earth to claim I have any--but because of what the Bible speaks of as to how one becomes saved or has a true conversion. I would encourage you to look in Acts 2 as to what a biblical conversion looks like so as not to malign the Word of God and in 1Tim. 4:16 it talks of watching our life and our doctrine and persevering in them so as to save ourselves and our hearers. I felt I would be going against my conscience if I didn't share this with you because you have a ministry that stands out as a light--you just want to make sure you are preaching the correct doctrine. Thank you and many blessings to you and yours.
I don't know if you read comments or not but I am new to this site and this is one of the first 10 pages I read on your site. The first was your Doctrinal statement. I must say that I feel blessed to have come across this site and am thrilled to find people who are of the same mind as I am on all the important issues! I can't wait to explore more! I am married but I have yet to be blessed with a child. Despite that I find all the child rearing articles superbly helpful. Thank you very much!
Hi Mr. Pearl. I just wanted to point out that "Calvinism" does not emphasize the sovereignty of God to the exclusion of human free will. Arminianism, however, does deny the final sovereignty of God, making it give way to the will of man, ultimately positing a god who is not able to accomplish what he set out to do. I don't like being called a "Calvinist". I, like you, prefer to be called a Biblicist. I think those who adhere to Calvin and/or the Westminster Confession as though Calvin is the fourth Person of the Trinity and the Westminster Confession is Scripture are bordering on idolatry. But the God of the Bible seems to indicate that He planned (predestined) all that comes to pass (else He becomes subject to the contingencies of a free-wheeling Universe) and, because He is all powerful, He is able and, in fact, will, bring to pass the redemption of all whom He purposed to redeem.
I'm new to your website, but you look pretty good to me. Congrats on your stand on the KJV. Keep up the good work.
If God did not overstep our wills not one of us would be saved. Non of us would ever choose Christ if left entirely to our own will. But in grace He works with us so that we cry out for Him who alone can satisfy our need. He alone can make us willing.
I believe God is sovereign enough (sovereign is not in the KJV-it's Lord God) to allow whatever He chooses to accomplish His purposes. He certainly can "turn" from those, as the Old Testaments speaks of His repenting. It is the Holy Spirit using the Law to work on our God given consciences that brings repentance (a change of mind in the New Testament). The book of John is all about "believing on" the Lord Jesus Christ. If God can MAKE us believe, what glory does that bring Him?
Amy I appreciate your response, as you say "I believe God is sovereign enough to allow whatever He chooses to accomplish His purposes" They will be accomplished for He is God. It brings more glory to God to have His own walk with Him because THEY want to, not because they have no choice. It is perhaps the greatest show of Divine Power to change lives from what they are by nature, self seeking, to be like the apostle Paul "Christs bondman" Gal 1:10. (Darby trans) To some this may seem like double speak, to me it is the evidence of a greater power than any other on earth, to accomplish a change at such a foundational level, changing the entire direction of life and purpose. Perhaps it would be correct to say that God does not "make" us believe, but He does make us "want" to believe. So in the end it is a change of desire according to the foreknowledge of God and worked out in us by the Spirit. I don't pretend to make God's sovereignty and mans responsibility agree together, both are true, but no man will ever be able to claim that his blessings came as a result of his performance, (that would be by law).
In the part of Michael Pearl Teaches the Heresy of Sinless Perfection, who is the "One noted critic"?
I only recently came accros some of your books (and think it is good), but to be sure I have to read both sides of the story and would like to see wat the "One noted critic " said about this?
I do not want to get into deception ever again in my life, thus I would like to see the whole story about this.
Hope you understand.
Dear Mr. Pearl,
"Partially right and partially wrong" is so what I needed to read today as I have been thinking and trying to discern about heresy and the people who bring it to the world. I do not believe in Calvinism or any "ism" created by men. I believe in the Scripture. Thank you, thank you for your great efforts in bringing us God's Truth.