10.29.2021 – The Semi-Pelagianism of Chutes and Ladders

Is that the best post title ever or what? Semi-Pelagianism is a soteriological heresy and I am not sure the children’s board game Chutes and Ladders is primarily concerned with instruction in soteriology, but still it makes for the best post title of all time.

As our children grew older, we (Becky) decided to save some of their toys and games for that someday when we might have grandchildren around the house. Well, that someday has arrived and what a good decision it was to hang on to some of those games and toys. Old Legos are better than new Legos, and there is something about a vintage doll that makes her all the more precious. The boards on old board games are sturdier and the spinners on the dials are still spinning well after all these years.

Among the games we saved is Chutes and Ladders.

In case you have forgotten, Chutes and Ladders is a simple game of getting to the finish line first. Each player spins the dial and moves the appointed spaces. Start at square one and end at square one hundred. You may spin a one or you may spin a six or anything in between. At first it seems like winning the game is nothing more than a matter of the luck of the spin. But then there are those chutes and ladders randomly located across the board. Land on a square with a ladder and you may gain as many as fifty spaces or more by climbing the ladder to its top. Land on a square with a chute, and you may lose more than sixty spaces as you slide down the chute to its bottom.

The pictures on the chute and ladder squares are what make the game Semi-Pelagian. It is not the luck of the spin that gets you up a ladder or down a chute. It’s your good work.

Soteriology is the study of the doctrine of salvation and Semi-Pelagianism argues that while God’s grace grows our holiness in Christ, our decision to seek and come to Christ is wholly our own. It is a kind of works theology, that is, our good or bad works, including our wise or foolish decisions regarding Christ, determine whether we receive salvation or not.

Chutes and Ladders teaches Semi-Pelagianism. The longest of all the ladders is climbed by a little boy who rescues a cat trapped out on a limb. At the top of the ladder the cat is purring and the little boy is up 56 spaces. Or consider the young girl at square 62. She slips and falls, breaking the too-tall stack of cups, saucers, and dishes she is unwisely carrying and slides all the way down to square 19, a serious dash to her hopes of winning. Other ladder climbers eat well, do household chores, and help strangers, while chute sliders disobediently snatch cookies from cookie jars, rides their bikes with no hands, and color with crayons on white walls. The rewards of virtue and the consequences of sin.

Our granddaughters love playing Chutes and Ladders, but how much longer can they play until the doctrine of grace alone is supplanted by the incipient Semi-Pelagianism promulgated by Milton Bradley?

Come to think of it, though, a grace-alone board game would be kind of boring.

Chutes and Ladders it is.

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