Article: The Heresy of Perfectionism by R C Sproul (original source here)
An ancient heresy of the distinction between two types of Christians, carnal and Spirit-filled, is the heresy of perfectionism. Perfectionism teaches that there is a class of Christians who achieve moral perfection in this life. To be sure, credit is given to the Holy Spirit as the agent who brings total victory over sin to the Christian. But there is a kind of elitism in perfectionism, a feeling that those who have achieved perfection are somehow greater than other Christians. The “perfect” ones do not officially—take credit for their state, but smugness and pride have a way of creeping in.
The peril of perfectionism is that it seriously distorts the human mind. Imagine the contortions through which we must put ourselves to delude us into thinking that we have in fact achieved a state of sinlessness.
Inevitably the error of perfectionism breeds one, or usually two, deadly delusions. To convince ourselves that we have achieved sinlessness, we must either suffer from a radical overestimation of our moral performance or we must seriously underestimate the requirements of God’s law. The irony of perfectionism is this: Though it seeks to distance itself from antinomianism, it relentlessly and inevitably comes full circle to the same error.
To believe that we are sinless we must annul the standards of God’s Law. We must reduce the level of divine righteousness to the level of our own performance. We must lie to ourselves both about the Law of God and about our own obedience. To do that requires that we quench the Spirit when He seeks to convict us of sin. Persons who do that are not so much Spirit-filled as they are Spirit-quenchers.
One of the true marks of our ongoing sanctification is the growing awareness of how far short we fall of reaching perfection. Perfectionism is really antiperfectionism in disguise. If we think we are becoming perfect, then we are far from becoming perfect.
I once encountered a young man who had been a Christian for about a year. He boldly declared to me that he had received the “second blessing” and was now enjoying a life of victory, a life of sinless perfection. I immediately turned his attention to Paul’s teaching on Romans 7. Romans 7 is the biblical death blow to every doctrine of perfectionism. My young friend quickly replied with the classic agreement of the perfectionist heresy, namely, that in Romans 7 Paul is describing his former unconverted state. Continue reading