Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Laymen's Guide to the Thirty-Nine Articles

Article XVII.  Of Predestination and Election

Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.

As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.

Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.


Praedestinatio ad vitam est aeternum Dei propositum, quo, ante iacta mundi fundamenta, suo consilio, nobis quidem occulto, constanter decrevit eos, quos in Christo elegit ex hominum genere, a maledicto et exitio liberare, atque ut vasa in honorem efficta per Christum ad aeternam salutem adducere. Unde qui tam praeclaro Dei beneficio sunt donati, illi, Spiritu eius opportuno tempore operante, secundum propositum eius vocantur; iustificatur gratis; adoptantur in filios Dei; unigeniti eius Iesu Christi imagini efficiuntur conformes; in bonis operibus sancti ambulant; et demum ex Dei misericordia pertingunt ad sempiternam felicitatem.

Quemadmodum Praedestinationis et Electionis nostrae in Christo pia consideratio dulcis, suavis, et ineffabilis consolationis plena est vere piis et his qui sentiunt in se vim Spiritus Christi, facta carnis et membra quae adhuc sunt super terram mortificantem, animumque ad coelestia et superna rapientem, tum quia fidem nostram de aeterna salute consequenda per Christum plurimum stabilit atque confirmat, tum quia amorem nostrum in Deum vehementer accendit: ita hominibus, curiosis carnalibus et Spiritu Christi destitutis, ob oculos perpetuo versari Praedestinationis Dei sententiam perniciosissimum est praecipitium, unde illos diabolus protrudit vel in desperationem vel in aeque pernitiosam impurissimae vitae securitatem.

Deinde promissiones divinas sic amplecti oportet, ut nobis in sacris literis generaliter propositae sunt; et Dei voluntas in nostris actionibus ea sequenda est quam in verbo Dei habemus deserte revelatam.


Fr. Laurence Wells

      When we come to Article XVII, we are bound to remember that the Articles of Religion, like the "forty stripes save one" of 2 Cor. 11:24, are widely unpopular among those who profess and call themselves Anglicans.  At this point the distinction between an Apologia for the Articles and a mere exposition tends to break down.  Predestination and Election are words which are likely to raise chills of horror and howls of wrath in our circles, eliciting the ugliest word in the Anglican lexicon.  Calvinism!  I recall a brother priest who kindly took me aside in a pastoral manner to tell me, in the manner of a physician about to share the diagnosis of a loathsome and terminal disease, that he suspected that "you have leanings in an unfortunate direction."  And then there was the Bible study where a layman exclaimed with dismay, "Why that's Calvinism!"  I explained to him that John Calvin was not the author of Ephesians 1 or of Romans 8 and that St Paul was not trained in Geneva.  Burn the Bible if you wish, but do not stone me for telling you what is in it.

      To deal immediately with one widespread myth, we must emphasize that it was not John Calvin who concocted the doctrines of predestination and election.  His view on these matters was not only shared by Martin Luther (a generation ahead of him), but was aggressively taught by St Augustine of Hippo and the entire tradition which flowed from him, a school which included  St. Anselm of Canterbury, St Thomas Aquinas, and another Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bradwardine (1290--1349).  This, of course, was not without controversy in any period. 

      Article XVII was written in 1553, in the earlier Forty-two Articles.  The only significant change effected in 1571, when the Articles took their final form, was the important addition of the phrase "in Christ," within the larger phrase "those whom he hath chosen in Christ out of mankind."  In the mid-sixteenth century were was no great controversy on this matter. After all, England had a strong Augustinian tradition before the names of Luther and Calvin were heard there, and Article XVII could have been written even if the Reformation had never taken place.

      But before the 16th century was out, controversy had broken out throughout Europe, a controversy never resolved in the non-Roman Churches and a controversy which the Roman Church itself did not escape, with the warfare between Thomists and Molinists, and the brief career of Jansenism.

      To summarize some intricate history with a very broad brush, by the end of the following century (that is, by 1699), were at least five forms of the doctrine of predestination in circulation, which remain current today.  Critics and opponents of this doctrine will probably not trouble themselves to determine which form they dislike most.  But here is the list, with brief descriptions.  We will arrange these from one extreme to the other.

      First, we must mention the view which must be termed "hyper-Calvinism."  This does not mean "real Calvinism fervently held and zealously taught."  A hyper-Calvinist is one who maintains that since his eternal destiny is already determined in an absolute way, it makes no difference what he believes or how he lives.  Since the eternal destiny of all mankind is likewise determined, then preaching the Gospel to the heathen is a waste of time.  There are many who impute such a belief to the Augustinian tradition, and it seems to be a cheap and easy way to refute the Calvinist tradition.  Sad to say, there have been, within the Baptistic churches, some who fit the definition of hyper-Calvinists.

      When William Carey was about to embark on his missionary enterprise, he was told, "Sit down, young man; when God wishes to save the heathen, He will do so in His own time and way."  But this is a caricature of what Article XVII teaches.

      Next, there is the slightly more benign view labeled "Supralapsarianism."  While a Supralapsarian believes that God has authorized the preaching of the Gospel to all mankind, he has a hard time explaining why it makes any difference.  In his view, God, before the creation of the world and as an act of pure sovereignty, determined to send some of the human race to heaven and likewise to send the rest of us to hell.  This decree was without regard to sin or to the fall, hence the name Supralapsarian.  In this view, the Fall of mankind was subsequently permitted in order to achieve the one goal of election and reprobation.  This is the view commonly called "double predestination."  While it has had some highly competent exponents (the doughty Karl Barth spoke highly of it), it has never been taught in any of the Reformed Confessions nor has it been the official position of any Calvinist Church.  Even so, most critics of Calvinism imagine this to be the most authentic form of predestination and election.

      The third position, called "Infralapsarianism” asserts that God, having permitted the Fall as a consequence of Adam's free will, found a remedy for this sad state of affairs by choosing some for eternal life and abandoning the rest to their just deserts. God's decree of Election, therefore, is rooted not merely in brute sovereignty but in His love, forbearance, and determination to rescue a portion of His ruined creation.  God decreed the election of certain people not because of anything in them, nor because of any merits they possess, but purely as an exercise of mercy and loving-kindness to undeserving sinners. The doctrine of Election, therefore, turns out to be a doctrine of grace, the sub-floor to the Gospel itself, This is the view which appears to be the one set forth in Article XVII.  With such a gracious and evangelical concept of Divine election, election can indeed be a matter of "sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons."

      A fourth position, closely related to the third, is called Amyraldianism, "hypothetical universalism," or modified Calvinism.  It largely agrees with the Infralapsarian view, but refuses to draw out the perplexing logical corollary that Christ died specifically for the elect.  If Christ died for all in the same way, then at least hypothetically, all mankind may be saved. 

      The fifth position, certainly the most popular and widespread, is that called Arminianism.  The Arminian seeks to do justice to the Biblical texts that God is willing for all men to be saved and that Christ, the Lamb of God, has taken away the sins of the world.  Equally committed to a philosophical concept of "free will," the Arminian position, rather similar to the semi-Pelagians of the Dark Ages, contrived the ingenious notion that if God elected certain men to be saved, He did so on the basis of a "fides praevisa."  In other words, God foresaw who would believe in Christ, and those He graciously elected. 

      In Anglican theology of the 16th and 17th centuries, we can find representatives of the Infralapsarian, Amyraldian, and Arminian schools.  The hyper-Calvinists and Supralapsarians are mentioned here only for the sake of contrast, necessary because so many caricatures and misrepresentations are in circulation.  Critics of the doctrines of Predestination and Election hardly ever show any knowledge of the differences between Supralapsarianism and Infralapsarianism.  But surely there is a wide chasm between a position which asserts that God's mercy and His wrath are equally ultimate and one which claims that He loved us in His Son before the foundation of the world.

      While it is frequently said that Article XVII does not teach "double predestination," a closer reading of the second paragraph does in fact show a contrast between "godly persons, and such as feel within themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ," on the one hand and "curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ," on the other.  But whereas in the Supralapsarian scheme the decrees of election to salvation and reprobation to eternal death are parallel, in the Infralapsarian, Amyraldian or Arminian view election to salvation to eternal life is rooted in God's own unmerited grace, while reprobation is in fact merited by sin.  Not parallel, but nonetheless double.

      When we narrow the field to the Infralapsarian, Amyraldian, and Arminian positions, it must be noticed that all three hold and teach that "Predestination to Life is the everlasting purpose of God."  Article XVII does not exclude any of these positions.  The key difference, we must declare, is not so much in how "free will" comes into play as it is in the matter of whether God's elect people is a definite number of people, a "numerum clausum" as the Calvinists adamantly maintain, or whether it is an open set, which humans can voluntarily join, as the Arminians would assert.  The apparent weakness of the Arminian position is that it seems to reduce "the Lamb's book of life" to a sign-up sheet for volunteers,  The apparent weakness of the Infralapsarian and Amyraldian positions, on the other hand,  is that they surely seem to verge on philosophical determinism. 

      Perhaps the radical problem, which may tilt the playing-field toward the Infralapsarian position, lies in the question which the disciples put to our Lord (Luke 13:23), "Are they few that be saved?"  It is commonly assumed and sometimes gleefully alleged that theologians of the Pauline-Augustinian-Calvinist tradition teach that only a remnant, a tiny minority of the human race, will be spared God's eschatological wrath and ultimately saved.  While such a view has sometimes been held forth by the gloomier side of Lutheranism, the staunchest defenders of Divine Election have asserted that God's Elect People, those whom He loved before the foundation of the world with an everlasting love, will be a great multitude which no man can number.*  The Princeton theologians were emphatic that the overwhelming majority of the human race will be saved at the last.  Election, after all, is the decree of a truly gracious God.

      While the Arminian emphasis on free well is truly flattering to my prideful ego, I am mindful that my free will has brought me more harm than good, in sin, selfishness and suffering.  When it comes to my own eternal destiny, I feel far safer if it is God's decision and not my own.


*Revelation 7:9


Fr. Robert Hart

      In the above Fr. Wells has been thorough, and has dispelled many myths, and also many simplistic notions. The historical record he has set straight as well, taking the subject out of the exclusive bounds some call “Calvinism.” This is long overdue for many people who imagine that doctrines were newly minted in the Reformation; for, in fact, there were no new doctrines among the Reformers. Old debates were rekindled that had been going on among catholic doctors for centuries.

      Article XVII gives us that special English approach, looking at the old questions with a gracious share of Reason. In words no one can dispute successfully, it teaches us of the grace of God active in the life of a believer, with the words, “such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, etc.” In a very old English manner, it invites each Christian to at least some mystical understanding of what it means to know God, all in terms drawn directly from the clear teaching of Holy Scripture. This it contrasts to the danger for those trapped in the works of the flesh, “curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ.” The contrast should bring to mind the same contrast as St. Paul expressed it in the fifth chapter of Galatians, pitting the works of the flesh against the fruit of the Spirit. The warning that we ought not to set forth continually “the sentence of God's Predestination” before the eyes of carnal persons carries with it the obvious meaning that it is, rather, our duty to urge them to repent and believe; not to presume that we may write them off.

      That the contrast between carnality and walking in the Spirit is related to predestination and election should be indisputable on at least one level. Clearly, no one may simply produce the fruit of the Spirit by an act of free will, for it requires the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Spirit alone creates within each believer His own working, “the working of the Spirit of Christ.”

      Other points in the Article are simply indisputable also. That the doctrine of election “is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort” to people who live by faith, should not be controversial. Against this we may contrast an idea of those who teach that even the greatest saints have had no assurance of salvation. Rather, we see that God has made promises to those who sincerely repent and believe His Gospel, that He provides Absolution within His Church, and bids us come near and receive the spiritual food of the Body and Blood of Christ. These revealed truths should erase all erroneous notions that we may not have some assurance of faith, assurance that “is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort.”

      The Article emphasizes that we have our salvation because we are “in Christ,” echoing the words of St. Paul again: 

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” *

      The emphasis remains one of grace rather than something akin to the ugly notion of Kismet, the picture of an unloving God Who simply delights in exercising power to obtain some distorted and twisted kind of “glory.” It has been argued that western man’s exchanges with Islam in the late Middle Ages created an emphasis of the Divine attribute of power over the emphasis of Divine love. Certainly, that cannot help but distort the Biblical picture of predestination and election, robbing us of the beauty as well as of the comfort. It replaces the God Who so loved the world with a devilish god. Some think of that devilish god and of Kismet, and they throw around words they cannot properly define, such as “Calvinism.” But, our Anglican Article XVII emphasizes the grace of God as the basis of predestination and election, not some unfeeling demonstration of power.

        Finally, we are treated to that particular Anglican grace of the practical and pastoral approach, reminding us at the end that God’s general will is revealed in Scripture for our daily living, which means, if we love Him we will keep His commandments.


* Ephesians 1:3-6



117 comments:

Jack Miller said...

As one who leans to the reformed side of the hallway, I thought this a good and helpful teaching on a much misunderstood article. Thanks to you both.

Of side interest, historian Robert Letham in his book on the history of The Westminster Assembly makes note of the primary role of the English Articles. Upon reading WCF 3: Of God's Eternal Decree, one will notice a strong similarity with this Article 18.

blessings...

Anonymous said...

"These revealed truths should erase all erroneous notions that we may not have some assurance of faith, assurance that “is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort.”

I agree with this statement, in conjunction with with the understanding that assurance is not the same as insurance.

It is also interesting to recall that the Fall of Satan (for the sin of pride, the carnal/fleshly sins of weakness being impossible for spirit beings) occurred before the Fall of man. Why did God allow Satan into the garden in the first place? (We know from 2 Peter 2:4 that there is no redemption for angels.) Why was Satan not barred from entering it by the Cherubim and the flaming sword? Is it reasonable to consider that Satan's activity in the garden, and Adam/Eve's response to it, was predestined according to God's plan? If our Election in Christ is predestined, cannot the same be said for non-Election? I say this because of Paul's words in Romans 11: 25-28: Lest you be wise in your own conceits, I want you to understand this mystery, brethren: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles come in, and so all Israel will be saved... As regards the gospel they are enemies of God, for your sake: but as regards election they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers."

Lastly, we will keep His commandments because we love Him... not because we want anything for ourselves. Christ willingly gave His life; so must we.

Susan

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Susan wrote: Is it reasonable to consider that Satan's activity in the garden, and Adam/Eve's response to it, was predestined according to God's plan?

This theory is part of the thinking of several theologians throughout the ages, and existed long before Calvin was born. I never teach such things for one reason: They belong to a realm of mystery for which I cannot quote any specific passage.

Fr Richard Sutter said...

Another button most Anglo-Catholics leave unfastened.

Unknown said...

Fr Hart replies to Susan's excellent questions on the Garden of Eden with the clergys' cop-out "It is a mystery." Oh, but that the questions of election and predestination were to be given the same wise answer. God says, "My Ways are not your ways".
Yet man, despite his sin, his flawed reason, his pride, his will to power, has presumed to define election and predestination for his own often abusive purposes over 1900 years or more (as Fr Wells explains in at least five different ways).
I have often been asked: Are you "saved"? by people of different denominations who are sure they are. Is a better question: "Are you elected? or perhaps Has God predestined you for eternal life from the beginning of time no matter what you do in this life?"
To which I will answer: It is a mystery. (and it is!)

Canon John

Caedmon said...

Thanks again, Frs. Wells and Hart, for a great exposition.

Yes, anti-Augustinianism is rife in Anglicanism these days, and I wonder if it has anything to do with what Anglican theologian C.B. Moss saw as the British people's traditional hankering for Pelagianism, or at least for a Pelagianizing tendency in soteriology. Fr. Wells, as an Augustinian myself (well, a Paulinist actually), I feel your pain on this one.

Pelagianism and its progeny (Semipelagianism, Arminianism, etc.) have been the bane of the Church throughout its history, as they ever live to undermine sound soteriology. Roman Catholicism, which has had a historical dalliance with Semipelagianism, has remained substantially true to the Augustinianism which resulted in Pelagianism's and Semipelagianism's condemnation. Eastern Orthodoxy, which has no such Augustinian anchor, has largely been protected from the effects of that by its legendary theological inertia and the cultural conservatism of Eastern Europe.

As Augustine scholar Gerald Bonner observed (bolded emphasis mine):

In a study of Augustinian predestination first published in 1855, J.B Mozley, brother-in-law of John Henry Newman and later Canon of Christ Church, Oxford, and Regius Professor of Divinity, theologically orthodox but fair-minded and aware of the limitations of the human intellect, noted the ideas of Divine Power and human free will, while sufficiently clear for the purposes of practical religion, are, in this world, truths from which we cannot derive definite and absolute systems. "All that we build upon either of them must partake of the imperfect nature of the premise which supports it, and be held under a reserve of consistency with a counter conclusion from the opposite truth." The Pelagian and Augustinian systems both arise upon partial and exclusive bases. Mozley held that while both systems were at fault, the Augustinian offends in carrying certain religious ideas to an excess, whereas the Pelagian offends against the first principles of religion: "Pelagianism . . . offends against the first principles of piety, and opposes the great religious instincts and ideas of mankind. It. . . tampers with the sense of sin. . . . (Augustine's) doctrine of the Fall, the doctrine of Grace, and the doctrine of the Atonement are grounded in the instincts of mankind."

Interesting that the Anglican Mozley should write that Pelagianism offends against the "instincts of mankind" in addition to the "first principles of religion." Here is an Anglican who clearly knows what he's talking about. There is no basis for a cheery account for the abilites of human reason unredeemed by grace, whether we're talking about the societal or spiritual realms. All cultural conservatives worth their salt know from mere observation that human nature is dark, unpredictable and unreliable, and they therefore reject the happy-talk of the liberal, whether he is opining on social or spiritual matters. All theologians worth their salt are Augustinians, for with St. Augustine they know from the testimony Holy Scripture that "the human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked", and that without the sovereign grace of God working in a man's life there is neither justification nor any progress in holiness at all. It is all of God. And that is precisely why, as Article XVII says, "the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort. . . ."

Fr. Wells said...

"If our Election in Christ is predestined, cannot the same be said for non-Election?"

That is the reasoning of Supralapsarian position, in which God's degree(s) to save some and damn others is/are perfectly symmetrical and truly "double."
Some brilliant theologians have defended this position (Theodore Beza. Gordon Clark, John Gerstner, for example).

I would respond firmly, No. If a rescue team resues some people from a burning building, but fails to rescue the others, it is not necessarily because they planned it that way.

Why God did not decree the salvation of all mankind, like the question of why He permitted the Fall, must remain in the realm of mystery (i. e., beyond the bounds of Revelation, where it is actually sinful to go.)

Jack Miller said...

Fr. Wells,
"If a rescue team rescues some people from a burning building, but fails to rescue the others, it is not necessarily because they planned it that way."

How would you reconcile that to Eph. 1:11b -
according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his will...

And can't your analogy be taken to imply that Christ intended or wanted to save more sinners than he actually did or could?

Thanks...

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Jack Miller:

That brings us to the idea of Limited Atonement. The problems with that idea are many, including the problem of using the word "limited" at all in relation to God. It is clear that Christ is the One and all the rest of the human race are "the many."

Fr. Wells said...

"And can't your analogy be taken to imply that Christ intended or wanted to save more sinners than he actually did or could?"

That would be the Amyraldian position.

Don't take my analogy too far. I was analogizing from a less-than-omnipotent rescue team to an omnipotent Deity. We both see the weaknesses of that.

Back to your first comment, Robert Letham is a five star Dogmatician. His book on "The Holy Trinity" is pure gold. I have just finished his shorter work "Union with Christ." He also has a book on EO (very appreciative) which I am eager to read.

LIMITED ATONEMENT. This is a teribly misleading label. The issue is NOT whether the work of Christ is "limited" to His Elect (never forget, that's the majority of the human race), but what did His work actually accomplish. Did the atonement merely bring about a possibility of salvation (awaiting completion on man's side through a cooperative response or decision for Christ), or did it actually accomplish our redemption? Was Satan truly defeated, or only wounded? Was the debt of sin paid totally or just partally? When Christ said "It is finished," did He really mean it?

The Calvinist view of the atonement holds that the work of Christ was truly effective and final. The Arminian view means that it only created a new possibility for those who cooperate and respond apppropriately. If the Arminians are right, then most of us are doomed and I will not sleep tonight.

Anonymous said...

Good article, but I feel l need to chime in and defend some misunderstandings regarding the Arminian position (which I lean towards).

People often complain that 'Calvinism' is misunderstood and misrepresented, but this occurs far too often regarding Classic Arminianism. If one reads the works of Arminius himself (or the Articles of Remonstrance, or someone like John Wesley), one doesn't find some glorification of man's free will or ego, but rather the absolute necessity of prevenient grace (and indeed of grace from start to finish). This definitely distinguishes it from the Semi-Pelagianism (let alone Open Theism or worse)that may exist under the 'Arminian' moniker, and with which it is often lumped together by careless writers.

Classic, Reformed Arminianism has rather rightfully been characterized as Semi-Augustinian, and I've found nothing incompatible between the Articles of Remonstrance on one hand and the canons/conclusion of the Synod of Orange (529) on the other. As Fr Wells pointed out, Infralapsarian Calvinists, Amyraldians, and Arminians can all affirm this particular Article on predestination.

Doubting Thomas

Jack Miller said...

Amen, Fr. Wells. Thanks...

Jerry said...

From the 1672 EO Synod of Jerusalem:

"We believe the most good God to have from eternity predestinated unto glory those whom He has chosen, and to have consigned unto condemnation those whom He has rejected; but not so that He would justify the one, and consign and condemn the other without cause. For that were contrary to the nature of God, who is the common Father of all, and no respecter of persons, and would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth; (1 Timothy 2:4) but since He foreknew the one would make a right use of their free-will, and the other a wrong, He predestinated the one, or condemned the other. And we understand the use of free-will thus, that the Divine and illuminating grace, and which we call preventing grace, being, as a light to those in darkness, by the Divine goodness imparted to all, to those that are willing to obey this — for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling — and co-operate with it, in what it requires as necessary to salvation, there is consequently granted particular grace; which, co-operating with us, and enabling us, and making us perseverant in the love of God, that is to say, in performing those good things that God would have us to do, and which His preventing grace admonishes us that we should do, justifies us, and makes us predestinated. But those who will not obey, and co-operate with grace; and, therefore, will not observe those things that God would have us perform, and that abuse in the service of Satan the free-will, which they have received of God to perform voluntarily what is good, are consigned to eternal condemnation.
But to say, as the most wicked heretics do and as is contained in the Chapter answering hereto — that God, in predestinating, or condemning, had in no wise regard to the works of those predestinated, or condemned, we know to be profane and impious. For thus Scripture would be opposed to itself, since it promises the believer salvation through works, yet supposes God to be its sole author, by His sole illuminating grace, which He bestows without preceding works, to show to man the truth of divine things, and to teach him how he may co-operate therewith, if he will, and do what is good and acceptable, and so obtain salvation. He takes not away the power to will — to will to obey, or not obey him."

Anonymous said...

Amen, Doubting Thomas. What's most unfortunate is many folks enamored with post Reformation TULIP theology feel they've hit some kind of hermeneutical gold, whereas the poor Arminians are closet Pelagians who just don't get grace. Warfield and Boettner are sadly considered true expositors of pure Augustinian religion, whereas Melancthon and Tozer are habingers of some defective version of the Gospel. Hogwash.

I for one am glad Anglo-catholics buck overly simplified systems of election. I say this Article is a fine exposition of catholic Augustinianism. It's good to know we Augustinians got on just fine centuries before Hodge, Westminster, or the folks at "Banner of Truth."

With that said, I'll cheer the likes of a J.I. Packer any day over an Anglican priest who teaches moralism.

Just a rant.

ACC Layman

Anonymous said...

Fr Wells,

What do you think Christ was referring to when He said, "It is finished?"

When I look at all the "isms" and "ians" that theologians can ponder without being accused of going "beyond the bounds of Revelation, where it is actually sinful to go," I am led to reflect that "mystery" by its very essence has compelled men down through the ages to contemplate God's Purposes in the world, and that indeed if His works were not "mysterious" mankind may not have bothered to contemplate them at all.

I will leave you with this: that God alone is Infallible, but theologians are not.

Susan

Jon Wilson said...

Or as Wesley taught, the will is not free, but freed. This was the great weakness in the thought of Jacobus Arminius. In Wesley's thought (an Anglican-yes or no?), all humans are born with the stain, brokenness, and disease of original sin, and will sin, thus meriting condemnation. But God, in mercy, is with every sinner born, through God's great grace that "runs before," or the persuading Holy Spirit. This Spirit, God, is always working with every child of Adam to draw them by God's love to Christ. When, in God's providence, the Gospel is proclaimed, the Holy Spirit enables each sinner to hear and to respond (sometimes in a moment, most times over a period)feebly or strongly. But the Spirit grants the ability to believe and to accept or reject (again, sometimes in a crisis experience at once, or over a period of time).
when the person believes, then the Spirit grants justification, cleansing, and a new birth. The gift of faith can be feeble, weak, small and then grow throughout the believer's life, as granted to the now believing child of God who waits on grace (the Spirit) through the Means of Grace. The Means of Grace are God's appointed places to meet the Holy Spirit; i.e, Baptism, Holy Communion, hearing sermons, studying Scripture, gathering with other Christians, doing good works of mercy, etc. And God's election is based on God's knowledge of who is going to believe (or, in eternity, who IS believing!). That election is affirmed through a cooperative walk of the believer with the Holy Spirit in life as faith works through love!
You can disagree and modify Wesley, but, he worked consciously within the Anglican way in controversy with permutations of Arminian/Calvinistic/Lutheran thought. Thus, I for one, wish that Anglicans would spend more time reading Wesley. Albert Outler's magisterial "John Wesley" by Oxford Press is a great place to start, and a blessing to work through.
-Jon W.

Fr. Wells said...

Doubting Thomas: Roger Olson, who teaches in a Baptist seminary and staunchly defends a position he labels "Arminian," claims there are two types of Arminians. These are (1) those driven by a certain for the universality of God's love and for the "well-meant-offer" of the Gospel, the "whosoever believeth" school' and on the other hand (2) those driven by their firm belief in the reality of the human will and our freedom as moral agents. The first school includes "evangelical Arminians" such as John Wesley and Olson himself. The second school, which emerged in the generation after Arminius and his "Remonstrants" included Philip Limborch and others who eventually made common cause with Socinianism/Unitarianism. While I grant Olson has made a valid distinction here, I must observe that most Arminians do not seem aware of it.
"Free Will", and "Decision for Christ" are the typical Arminian mantras.

While Arminius may have had a valid concern, he unfortunately set up a trajectory which inevitably led in a bad direction, which you mention. You might say Calvin set up a trajectory which led to supralapsarianism. But the worst thing to be said about the "supra-" position is that it is hard to believe. Arminianism is very easy to believe, but once we give the final decision to the sinner, then some dire conclusions are ineluctable. How could Arminius or Wesley refute Open Theism? They would be defenceless.

You mention the [second] Council of Orange. As a matter of fact, John Calvin was well aware of that Council and believed that it supported his position. While it seems to have ruled out ther Supra-position, it does not appear to have rejected the Infra- position.

Susan: When Our Lord said from the Cross, "It is finished," He was stating that His work for our redemption had been fully accomplished and nothing whatever was lacking. The debt of our sins had been paid in full and the Divine justice had been completely satisfied at that moment in time.

Unknown said...

John Wesley has been mentioned and might serve as an example of election in real time. Here is an excerpt from a review of the biography mentioned by Edward Oakes found in First Things:

"But Wesley’s contradictions were more than theological; they were personal too, especially in his relations with women. After nearly marrying twice (and leaving both women feeling jilted), Wesley eventually married Molly Vazeille, a widow of French Huguenot descent with four children of her own. The marriage was not happy—indeed, the spouses proved scarcely able to tolerate each other. When Wesley, at a Methodist conference in Bristol, got word that his wife was dangerously ill, he headed back to their London home. Arriving at their apartment at the ungodly hour of one o’clock the following morning, he discovered that her fever had abated—and he turned around and headed back to Bristol an hour later.

When Wesley suspected his wife of reading his private mail, he had his desk outfitted with a secret compartment in which to hide his sensitive papers from her. These presumably must have included portions of his famous Journal, for in one bitter letter to her he explained that his indictment of her character was incomplete because he did not have his journal with him at the moment: “I have therefore only my memory to depend on; and that is not very retentive of evil.” No surprise, then, that he did not attend her funeral, and of her own legacy of five thousand pounds (holdings from her first husband, a wealthy merchant), she bequeathed to him only a ring.

Tomkins does, however, absolve Wesley of the charge of adultery, a charge hurled at him by none other than his ultra-suspicious wife. But while always faithful to his marriage vows, Wesley, as his biographer freely admits, “suffered from a failure to discern between the romantic and pastoral, which blighted his romances and cast a shadow over his pastoring.”

Was Wesley one of God's elect?
If the Holy Spirit inspires and guides His elect, how come Wesley had such difficulties in choosing a Godly wife- jilting at least two, and had such a terrible marriage? Not to mention his unprofessional pastoral "wooing" of the ladies.

Food for thought as Tim Tebow, another of the born again elect, commits to model underwear in the buff and breaks up the marriage of his Olympic skier girlfriend.

Canon John

Anonymous said...

Fr Wells,

I would submit that you might consider reading "Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist" by Brandt Pitre for a fuller understanding of what Jesus was referring to in his words, "It is finished." Briefly, there are 4 cups of wine in the Jewish Passover. Jesus had only celebrated 3 of them before He hung on the Cross. The moment before His death, He said, "I thirst." He was then given a sponge full of wine on hyssop. After He received the wine, he said, "It is finished." What was finished? You are right that His work for our redemption was accomplished in His death on the Cross, but so was the Passover meal which was begun in the Upper Room. He drank the 4th cup, known as the cup of praise, or hallel cup, right before He died. By doing so, He united the offering of His Body and Blood in the Upper Room with the offering of the same on the Cross. He became the new Passover via the Cross.

In Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me..." What cup was He speaking of? The 4th cup. The cup of consummation. The hallel cup.

Christ's work was completed, but He is not finished with us. Through the Holy Spirit, He continues to work in all aspects of our lives, including our queries and struggles, revealing Himself and His Purposes for us in all things and especially in the Eucharist.

Susan

Susan

Caedmon said...

Not to put too fine a point on it, Jerry, but who cares what the EO said at Jerusalem in 1672? The topic of discussion here is Article 17 of the 39 Articles, which implicitly repudiates the Orthodox view.

Anonymous said...

Fr Wells,

The first school of 'Arminianism' of which you speak is in fact the one I was talking about--the Arminianism of Arminius himself along with the Remonstrants; not latter day semi-Pelagians or open theists (or worse) that happen to share the same name. That's the classic Arminianism that Roger Olson defends in his book ARMINIAN THEOLOGY: MYTHS AND REALITIES. Other books defending the same position include Forline's CLASSICAL ARMINIANISM, Picrilli's GRACE, FAITH, AND FREE WILL, and ARMINIUS SPEAKS which is a collection of Arminius own writings on the specific subject (ed. by Wagner)

"How would Arminius or Wesley refute Open Theism" you ask? The same way classic Arminians would today--by affirming God's absolute foreknowledge.

Regarding Calvin believing Orange supported his position, I'm sure he did. The Synod neither affirmed irresistible grace, limited atonement, unconditional election, or inevitable perseverance...but nor did it necessarily explicitly reject these beliefs either. It did clearly affirm the absolute necessity of prevenient grace--something Calvinists and Classic Arminians both believe and which our Article X strongly affirms.

DT

Anonymous said...

Amen, ACC Layman.

Personally, I agree with what Francis Hall wrote in his Dogmatic Theology, namely that the elect are the baptized. I think that this does the best justice to the Biblical texts and the catholic tradition, especially as taught in the liturgy for Holy Baptism in the 1928 BCP.

(Note to Fr. Sutter, this is an example of anglo-catholics not leaving this unaddressed. Although Hall did not approve of the label "anglo-catholic" his dogmatic theology is clearly identified with the anglo-catholic tradition.)

What does Fr. Wells think of Francis Hall's notion that the elect are the baptized?

JGA

Anonymous said...

Hello Canon John,

I certainly don't see any reason to drag our brother Tim Tebow (or any other brother or sister in Christ for that matter) in the mud based on unsupportable internet rumors (I looked up the olympic skier rumor after reading your post and it definitely appears to be bunk. As for the modeling, I don't have a clue about that one).

Although I often don't have time to keep up with sports and the lives of sports players what I've seen of Tebow has consistently impressed me (particularly given the stardom he has achieved--which has caused the quick downfall of so many other professed Christians).

No doubt he's made mistakes and will make mistakes (and given the public position he's in and his open profession to Christ he certainly will be under a great deal of spiritual attack). As his brothers in Christ we should be praying for his faithfulness so that he can continue to enthusiastically profess the name of Christ publicly (to millions of people) with a good walk to back it up.

God Bless,
W.A. Scott

p.s. His family was part of First Baptist in Jacksonville, and there is a fine Christian family I know (whom I go hunting with when I have the opportunity) that knows the Tebow family through First Baptist (and they can speak from first hand experience to the godliness of the family, Tim Tebow included).

Fr. Wells said...

DT: Am I correct in my impression that the essence of Arminianism is the contention that God's election is based on His "fides praevisa" (His foresight of who would accept the universal offer of the Gospel) rather than a decree arising from mere grace? If I read Orange II correctly, "fides praevisa" is ruled out.

You and Olson would need to explain the fact that Arminianism so quickly drifted into semi-Pelagianism and worse. Ideas do have consequences, and the history of Arminianism illustrates that principle well. It is odd to defend a position by divorcing yourself from the majority of its adherents.

In response to the question about Election and Baptism: Please reflect on the fact that inthe Catholic tradition, Baptism is normally administered to Infants. Our Baptism in time (a rite in which we are utterly passive apart from infantile resistance, which bestows an indelible character), is the sacramental sign of God's sovereign love which was before all things, ":from everlasting to everlasting." The fact that an infant is providentially permitted to be baptized is presumptive evidence that he is truly among the number of the Elect.

Jerry said...

Caedmon:
I think the EO statement offers a legitimate take on the content of the Article, which doesn't preclude the idea of God's foreknowledge of our response to his prevenient grace. Bicknell, commenting on Article XVII, acknowledges that "[w]e are chosen according to God's purpose, not to any merely earthly destiny. But whether we attain it or no depends upon ourselves. Such election is God's method of leading us to salvation, but it needs to be made sure by our own efforts to live up to it".

Also, on this point the EO and Rome are largely in agreement, and Archbishop Haverland has pointed out that such agreement is generally indicative of the Faith of the Undivided Church.

Jerry said...

Fr. Wells:

Arminianism tends toward semi-pelagianism for the same reason that Calvinism tends toward supralapsarianism: each is emphasizing for purposes of discussion one side of what is really a unity. Isn't this the whole tenor of Article XVII? It balances the extremes. Those on either side of the rock tend to roll toward their respective edges.

We murder to dissect, and we must do so, I suppose. But as Calvin and his opponents all admitted, we are dealing here with mysteries which surpass our ability finally to define. What, for example, do terms like "predestination" and "election" mean if God is not in time? We speak, of necessity, as if God on Tuesday looked forward to Friday and decreed what would happen then, or saw what would happen then. But if God is not in time, then Scripture is communicating truths for us in a way that time-bound creatures can understand, much like the use of anthropomorphic terms in relation to the Father.

The Article does an admirable job of putting both feet firmly in the necessary truths of God's sovereignty and man's freedom without rolling off either side.

Unknown said...

Hello W.A. Stott,

Thanks for your post. My intent was not to drag Tim Tebow through the mud. The Patriots may accomplish that tonight. The topic is Election and Predestination which I feel is beyond sinful man's ability to comprehend and which has been much abused by the sects of the church over history. My open question was: Were John Wesley and Tim Tebow elected by God for eternal salvation from the beginning of the world? The second premise is that if they are part of the elect, then their lifestyles should reflect that election. My point is that they, like us all, are miserable sinners unworthy of salvation.
They like us are followers of Jesus Christ. I have no doubt that Tim Tebow will continue to attempt to live a righteous life as a witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. (Go Tebow!) However, whether it is in his underwear or with an Olympic skier is not important, he like we all will continue to sin. That is the cutting edge for me- not whether God has predestined outcomes or separated His sheep for heaven from His goats for eternal damnation from the beginning of time. Much of
Protestantism has become a post-crucifixion triumphal phenomena- no confession necessary - once forgiven always forgiven -. This stems in part from the notion of being elected or "saved" once for all time. I am thankful to JGA for quoting Francis Hall - the elect are the baptized.

Canon John

Anonymous said...

The Oxford College Dictionary: Elect: elected to or chosen for a position but not yet in office.

Who is the elector? Jesus Christ

When will the elect be put in office? At the final judgment, but they may first suffer loss and pain of fire (a purging).

How will the elect be judged at the final judgment? On the basis of their works and intentions. (1 Cor 3: 7-9, 12-15)

Will the elect automatically go to the office of heaven? My Bible notes the following - Some Christian workers, whose efforts are shabby and imperfect, will pass through God's fiery judgment like a man who barely escapes a burning building with his life.

Are the elect (or their works) perfect? No, only Christ is perfect. Therefore although the elect may ultimately avoid eternal damnation, their souls may still be burdened with imperfect repentance and residual selfishness at the time of their deaths.

The bottom line - Although I am baptized in Christ I take nothing for granted, yet hope always for His mercy and trust His Judgment will be perfect. He is the great Inspector. If my works and intentions are defective (and I don't doubt many are) I will not pass the final inspection (my husband is a Building Official). I may need more refining in order to receive a Certificate of Occupancy (a CO) for entrance through those pearly gates.

Praise God for His Justice and Grace. He is not finished with me yet.

Susan

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Fr. Wells. I completely concur.

JGA

Anonymous said...

FrWells,

It's incorrect to say that 'Arminianism drifted into semi-Pelagianism'. Rather, that SOME from Arminian backgrounds drifted into semi-Pelagianism. Conversely, I just as well may ask Calvinists to explain how some on the 'Calvinist' side of things drifted into HYPER-Calvinism and some others have drifted into Unitarianism or Universalism. The fact that not all adherents of either side have drifted into these respective extremes or distortions shows that such drifts are not logically inevitable. Perhaps, then we should be more careful before applying the idea of 'post hoc ergo propter hoc'.

We need stick to the original sources (i.e. Calvin and Arminius) when properly comparing the two movements to avoid mischaracterizations of either side. That way we can see that when one is defending his position, that one is not 'divorcing himself from the majority of the adherents' of said position, since that alleged majority isn't in any meaningful way holding to the original and actual position anyway.

I'll have to look at the canons of Orange again, but I don't recall them ruling out God electing those whom he foreknows that, when enabled by His prevenient grace, respond to His grace by faith. I'll look again.

DT

Fr. Spaeth said...

Fr. Wells,

Actually, there a number of areas where the Council of Orange and Calvin decidedly do not match up:

At Orange it was affirmed that:

(1) Free-will is not destroyed but severely weakened (more reminiscent of "very far gone from original righteousness" than total depravity). (Canon 8)

(2) The Freedom of the will is restored through Baptism (Canon 13). Also, throughout the canons, the assumption is that grace is objectively connected to Baptism. This contrasts sharply with Calvin who sees the purpose of Baptism as being a token of assurance for sins already forgiven through election (Institutes Ch. 15).

(3) There is also the assumption that, after Baptism, Christians are expected to cooperate with grace and that those who truly receive grace can fall away from it (Conclusion to the Canons).

(4) Lastly, those who teach that man is predestined to damnation are declared anathema (Conclusion to the Canons). Actually, this anathema is the first and only mention of predestination in any of the canons of Orange. So there is not only a difference in content with Calvin, but a fundamental difference in method. Orange does not pipe its theology through predestination; frankly, it's more of an afterthought at the council.

Anonymous said...

Quotes from Hall's Theological Outlines:

Page 229 "v. Baptism, validly administered, ipso facto, admits its subjects to the Church, because it incorporates them into the Body of Christ. The Church has inherent spiritual jurisdiction, therefore, over all the baptized. They may indeed fail to accept its authority, and coercion is inconsistent with a purely spiritual authority. But Christ has constituted the Church to exercise discipline over all His members on earth, and the baptized continue to be members of the Church forever, UNLESS CUT OFF BY CHRIST AT THE END OF THE WORLD." (bloggers emphasis)

Page 242-43 "Our justification puts us in a state of salvation, Baptism being the instrument by which we then receive the grace of life eternal. But this mystery initiates and presupposes a process of sanctification and growth in righteousness, WITHOUT THE ACTUALIZATION OF WHICH ULTIMATE SALVATION IS IMPOSSIBLE. And this actualization depends upon our persevering cooperation with justifying grace - a cooperation which WE CAN FAIL TO GIVE, AND WITH FATAL RESULT. (again bloggers emphasis)

Susan

welshmann said...

It took me years to have some minimal grasp of the Real Presence, because it did not fit into my pre-existing categories of thought. I understood crass literalism, and I understood strict symbolism, but those were my only choices, so far as I knew. I could not accept the former, so I arrived at the latter by process of elimination. When I read discussions of divine election, I get the sense that lots of folks are making a similar mistake. They arrive at their conclusions by "rational" analysis, but they were working from a pre-determined list of possibilities of their own making.

I know some folks won't agree with even this much, but I think I can show the following from Scripture:

1) From eternity past, God has ordained all things whatsoever that will come to pass
2) God is not the author of evil;
3) Human beings make real choices and bear real responsibility for their actions;
4) All men are lost in sin apart from the grace of God;
5) God truly desires that all men should be saved, and He is able to save all men, but for good reasons not revealed to us, He has elected to some save some but not all;
6) At the last judgment, all mouths will be stopped, i.e., we will all see that God is entirely justified in all His actions.

When it comes to stringing these together into a coherent system, I am much less certain. It is very difficult to separate the plain statements of Scripture from my own conclusions about those statements. The urge to understand, to explain, is very powerful.

welshmann

Fr. Wells said...

Jerry wrote:
"Arminianism tends toward semi-pelagianism for the same reason that Calvinism tends toward supralapsarianism:..."

I believe we have already established that whereas "supra-" was never more than a minority position within the Calvinist tradition, the semi-Pelagian slide of Armininianism was the majority, if not the preponderance of the Arminian camp. "Classical Arminianism" is the product of an archaeological dig.

DT wrote: "We need stick to the original sources (i.e. Calvin and Arminius) when properly comparing the two movements to avoid mischaracterizations of either side."

Yes, quite, but those original sources must be seen in the conext of what flowed out pf them. "Wisdom is justified by her chuldren."

Fr Spaeth: Calvin, no mean scholar or sloppy thinker, believed that his position was the same as that of Orange II. So perhaps Calvin should be allowed to speak for himself, and not through unfriendly secondary sources. I believe he knew his own position better than some of his friends and most of his critics.

Fr. Spaeth said...

Fr. Wells,

Unfriendly secondary sources? My whole post was from primary sources. I quoted the Institutes as well as the Canons of the 2nd Orange. I was reading both when I wrote my comment.

Right back at you. Show me from the Institutes where I am mistaken (my phrase 'token of assurance' is lifted directly from his explanation of baptism).

Besides, your response was a red herring; I wasn't arguing whether or not Calvin thought that he taught the content of Orange II, but rather that when comparing his Institutes and the canons, a number of things don't line up.

At the end of the day, my concern is not whether Calvin thought he was faithful to earlier tradition, but, when weighing the objective primary sources of both, whether or not he truly was. And I am convinced from the primary sources, that Calvin was seriously mistaken and quite divergent from the catholic tradition of the Church. Think I'm wrong? Show me from the sources.

Besides, your statement "Calvin, no scholar or sloppy thinker..." is a classic example of the false appeal to authority, an informal logical fallacy. Being smart doesn't exempt a person from the possibility of error. It's rather like saying, Dr. X is a professor of theology, therefore I must believe everything he tells me about theology.

Caedmon said...

Jerry writes,

I think the EO statement offers a legitimate take on the content of the Article, which doesn't preclude the idea of God's foreknowledge of our response to his prevenient grace. Bicknell, commenting on Article XVII, acknowledges that "[w]e are chosen according to God's purpose, not to any merely earthly destiny. But whether we attain it or no depends upon ourselves. Such election is God's method of leading us to salvation, but it needs to be made sure by our own efforts to live up to it".

Also, on this point the EO and Rome are largely in agreement, and Archbishop Haverland has pointed out that such agreement is generally indicative of the Faith of the Undivided Church.


Given the Augustinian theological background of the Article (which does *not* see predestination as based on God’s foreknowledge of our response to his prevenient grace), I think it’s safer to say that the EO statement is more of a contrary take on the Article than it is a “legitimate” one. Certainly there are Anglican Arminians who would join or tend to join the Orthodox in their repudiation of the Article, but that is really not the issue. The issue is whether or not the Augustinian doctrines the Article sets forth are authentically Pauline, and hence biblical. I join the chorus of Anglicans who say they are.

Furthermore, it’s hard to say how much agreement there truly is between the Orthodox and the Roman Catholics on these matters. The Orthodox have really never struggled genuinely with the issues of predestination and election, as Augustine and the Augustinian West did. When the Orthodox are not ignoring Augustine’s view of predestination, they’re typically repudiating him for it. The Roman Church, on the other hand, has the indelible imprint of Augustine all over its theology, with Latins throughout the ages either more or less affirming that theology or, with the Greeks and the monks of Southern Gaul, more or less ignoring or repudiating it. So much, then, for the “Faith of the Undivided Church” on this particular doctrinal matter.

That a number of Anglican Catholics desire to join the Greeks in ignoring or repudiating Augustine's theology is certainly no skin off the noses of those who embrace it. However, that theology is indeed reflected in the Article, and those Continuing Anglican bodies that affirm the 39 Articles as an authoritative formulary will be committed to it. For those Continuing Anglican bodies that seek to distance themselves from the Articles, there is no reason why Augustinian predestination shouldn’t be allowed as an acceptable theologoumenon both for laity and clergy to hold nevertheless, just as it has historically been, and still arguably is if we consider such Augustinian scholars such as George Tavard, in the Roman Catholic Church.

Mind you, I am not quite saying here that whether one stands closer to the Augustinian or Pelagian pole is a matter that has to do with the “indifferent things”, because a strong case can be made that this issue affects the very heart of the Gospel, meaning that to get predestination and election wrong is arguably to get the Gospel wrong. I stand with a goodly number of Anglicans whose devotion to exploring with Rome and Orthodoxy a way to reunite under the banner of the Faith of the Undivided Church is subordinate to the exposition of the Gospel as revealed in Holy Scripture. I left Orthodoxy for several reasons, the most important one of which is that I came to believe it bore a compromised Gospel. It does so largely because it ignores or repudiates Augustine, and therefore St. Paul before him, the apostle who was both uniquely suited and uniquely set apart by our Lord to explicate the glorious Gospel of grace to the Church.

Fr. Wells said...

Fr Spaeth: You cited the Institutes? I find a passing mention (once over lightly!) to a statement regarding Baptism. If you continue to read Calvin on Baptism, you might discover his strong affirmation of the relationship between Baptism and Regeneration. So your use of the Institutes is a trifle spotty.

But more distressing is your remark that Orange II did not "pipe its theology through predestination," presumably insinuating that others do. Since you have your well-worn copy of the Institutes at your finger-tips, you are aware that predestination occupies very little space in those two hefty volumes. Out of 1600 pages, approximately 70 pages (less than 5%) are devoted to this topic. So your tacit claim that Predestination is the over-arching idea in Calvinism is far from the case. (For those interested, the Institutes are organized as an exposition of the Apostles Creed and therefore the organizational principle is the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Predestinbation is treated as a soteriological doctrine.) I am told that Luther wrote more on Predestination than did Calvin.

I am perplexed by your statement that Calvin is "quite divergent from the Catholic tradition of the Church" on this matter. If that be the case, he is in excellent company, since he is at one with Augustine, Anselm, Aquinas, Bradwardine, Luther, John Whitgift, a host o0f Dominican theologians, including the 20th century Dominican Garrigou-Lagrange. Even St Paul's standing is suspect! The problem we all face at this point is simply whether any monolithic "Catholic tradition" even exists on Predestination and Election. And that herring is really red.

Anonymous said...

For those wondering about the Roman Catholic stance on predestination, here are a couple of quotes From the Catholic Encyclopedia: (with blogger's emphasis)

Notion of predestination

Theology restricts the term to those Divine decrees which have reference to the supernatural end of rational beings, especially of man. Considering that not all men reach their supernatural end in heaven, but that many are eternally lost through their own fault, THERE MUST EXIST A TWOFOLD PREDESTINATION: (a) one to heaven for all those who die in the state of grace; (b) one to the pains of hell for all those who depart in sin or under God's displeasure. However, according to present usages to which we shall adhere in the course of the article, it is better to call the latter decree the Divine "reprobation", so that the term predestination is reserved for the Divine decree of the happiness of the elect.

In order to emphasize how MYSTERIOUS AND UNAPPROACHABLE is Divine election, the Council of Trent calls predestination "hidden mystery". That predestination is indeed a sublime mystery appears not only from the fact that the depths of the eternal counsel cannot be fathomed, it is even externally visible in the inequality of the Divine choice. The unequal standard by which baptismal grace is distributed among infants and efficacious graces among adults is hidden from our view by an impenetrable veil. Could we gain a glimpse at the reasons of this inequality, we should at once hold the key to the solution of the mystery itself. Why is it that this child is baptized, but not the child of the neighbour? Why is it that Peter the Apostle rose again after his fall and persevered till his death, while Judas Iscariot, his fellow-Apostle, hanged himself and thus frustrated his salvation? Though correct, the answer that Judas went to perdition of his own free will, while Peter faithfully co-operated with the grace of conversion offered him, does not clear up the enigma. For the question recurs: Why did not God give to Judas the same efficacious, infallibly successful grace of conversion as to St. Peter, whose blasphemous denial of the Lord was a sin no less grievous than that of the traitor Judas? To all these and similar questions the only reasonable reply is the word of St. Augustine (loc. cit., 21): "Inscrutabilia sunt judicia Dei" (the judgments of God are inscrutable).

Susan

Anonymous said...

Hello Fr. Spaeth,

I just wanted to briefly address a few of the points you raised.

"(1) Free-will is not destroyed but severely weakened (more reminiscent of "very far gone from original righteousness" than total depravity). (Canon 8)"

Calvin was in complete agreement with St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, and the 2nd Council of Orange in affirming a very qualified “free will” in the unregenerate. In his book Bondage and Liberation of the Will he confesses this “free will” in the Augustinian (and Pauline) sense, for example: “If one speaks of liberty in opposition to coercion (coactio), I confess and constantly affirm that the will is free (liberum esse arbitrium) and regard as a heretic anyone who thinks otherwise. If, I repeat, one calls it free in the sense that the will is not coerced (coagatur) or drawn violently by some external motion, but acts of its own accord (sponte agatur sua), I have no objection.”

He had very reasonable misgivings about the use of the term “free will” though.

"(2) The Freedom of the will is restored through Baptism (Canon 13). Also, throughout the canons, the assumption is that grace is objectively connected to Baptism. This contrasts sharply with Calvin who sees the purpose of Baptism as being a token of assurance for sins already forgiven through election (Institutes Ch. 15)."

As Fr. Wells noted, Baptism is certainly more than a mere token to Calvin. Also, if Calvin is held to be in contradiction to the Council here, St. Aquinas would also have to be counted at odds with it. St. Aquinas held that in the case of the unbaptized adult believer Salvation (with the resulting freeing of the will) occurs prior to Baptism at the moment that living faith is infused into the soul (he held that the grace of Baptism is received at the moment of belief because of the explicit or implicit desire of Baptism that is necessarily present in a living faith). Calvin likewise held that in such a case forgiveness was actually received at the moment that living faith is infused into the soul.

"(3) There is also the assumption that, after Baptism, Christians are expected to cooperate with grace and that those who truly receive grace can fall away from it (Conclusion to the Canons)."

Calvin stated explicit agreement with St. Augustine in the believer's cooperation with grace (noting with St. Augustine that the cooperation itself was solely the result of God's grace, which infallibly brings our wiling cooperation about).

As to falling away, although there were some differences on the extent that the reprobate partake in grace prior to falling away, Calvin agreed with St. Augustine (and St. Aquinas, etc) that the elect could never fall away utterly.

There's not much to add on the fourth point (that Fr. Wells has not already addressed).

God Bless,
W.A. Scott

p.s. Unfortunately, I likely won't have time to continue further in this discussion.

Fr. Wells said...

It is gratifying that we have arrived at 39 comments on a hot-button topic, with several positions represented, without rancor or vitriol. When one recalls the pamphlet war between Augustus Toplady and John Wesley, this seems truly commendable.

A good discussion of predestination should lead to a discussion of proper theological method. We have escaped (more or less) the "I feel, " or "It seems to me," or "I prefer to think" technique of theologizing. Article XVII itself provides us with the right way of doing business: "We must receive God's promises in such wise, as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture: and in our doings, that Will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared to us in the Word of God." The only proper or scientific theological method is the exegetical method.

While it is of some academic interest, or pleasant to the hobbyist, it ultimately does not matter whether this or that theologian correctly understood some ancient local council, or whether this or that theologian has been correctly understood by his followers or treated fairly by his critics, or whether philosophical solutions have been found for philosophical problems. It is irrelevant to count the number of thinkers and clerics who support the various positions conceivable. The areas of agreement between the two One True Churches are of interest only to their adherents and wannabes.
All that matters at the End is whether we have truly listened and correctly heard the Word of God speaking in the Scriptures.

Welshmann, Caedmon, and WA Scott are using sound methodology and therefore arrive at reasonable comclusions.

Anonymous said...

Welshmann's comments here have the greatest merit and most theologically and scripturally sober.

I have to say, though, Calvin is not "one" with Augustine and Aquinas. Simply believing in unconditional election no more ensures a proper soteriology than simply believing in the Trinity ensures a proper Christology. Calvin strayed insofar as he denied the regenerate could ever fall away. Luther himself denounced any idea that a regenerate man could not fall away as a novel idea. Point is, in Catholic soteriology, even if unconditional election is accepted (and I stand with Augustine and Aquinas on this -- always have, always will), it does not follow that all the regenerate are coterminous with all the elect who are given the grace of perseverance.

I love Calvin (I've spent years reading his commentaries, Institutes, and what not) -- but he has his blind spots and inconsistencies as does any luminary (I've even caught him in a bald-face misrepresentation of an early council regarding invocation of the saints). And he certainly does not line up with Orange II as Fr. Spaeth rightly points out. His theology has many points of agreement, true -- but it's fallacious to assume he's merely echoing "pure" Augustinian doctrine. It's pop-Reformed hagiography to think so, nothing more.

With that said, I wish more Reformed people would actually read Calvin instead of 3 generation distillations of Calvin. His theology was much richer, more catholic, and far better than the later mutations. Yet, it falls short. Hence I am no longer a "Calvinist". Anglo-Catholics can be good biblical Augustinians and uphold unconditional election without following the white rabbit down that fantastic (and torturous) TULIP hole.

ACC Layman,
Steven Badal

Orthodoxdj said...

If Anglicanism is another form of monergism, then I need to leave.

Any system of theology that makes God the author of sin, damnation, evil, is a non-Christian system. God is light and in Him is NO DARKNESS.

Dustin

Anonymous said...

An exceedingly widely- and deeply-read scholar has said, "we may suspect that those who read [Calvin's 'Institutio'] with most approval were troubled by the fate of predestined vessels of wrath just about as much as young Marxists in our own age are troubled by the approaching liquidation of the bourgeoisie. Had the word 'sentimentality' been known to them, Elizabethan Calvinists would certainly have used it of any who attacked the 'Institutio' as morally repulsive."
- C.S. Lewis (OHEL, p. 43).

Semi-Hookerian

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Well Dustin, I'm glad you said "if." Obviously, there is no suggestion in Art. XVII that God could be the author of evil.

Anonymous said...

I think Welshmann has well said,
"It is very difficult to separate the plain statements of Scripture from my own conclusions about those statements. The urge to understand, to explain, is very powerful."

He has also said, "From eternity past, God has ordained all things whatsoever that will come to pass".

St. Augustine is at pains to argue, not that all 'prae-' expressions are illicit, but that things like thinking in terms of "eternity past" are in danger of neglecting that there was no temporal 'before' God's Creation of time, and that 'eternity' is atemporal.

Whether he runs into problems with his own attempts to think clearly about 'eternity' and 'time' and their interrelations, is another matter.

Whatever those interrelations, how God has ordained/ordains the coming to pass of all things, and what His interactions with His conscious (and, so far as one can tell, volitional) creatures sre, are weighty questions.

Welshmann also writes, "God truly desires that all men should be saved, and He is able to save all men, but for good reasons not revealed to us, He has elected to save some but not all" - which for all its care, still (so far as I can see) does not escape appearing to render scrutable something falling under St. Augustine's wise "Inscrutabilia sunt judicia Dei".

Whether St. Augustine is sufficiently careful himself in his attempts to be so in his exegeses of Scripture with respect to 'election' is, again, another matter.

Semi-Hookerian

[Word verification 'coffs'- as in 'ahem!'?]

Jerry said...

Well, Orthodoxdj, if, as Fr. Wells asserts, infralapsarianism is "the view which appears to be the one set forth in Article XVII"I, then God is the author of sin. If God "found a remedy for [the Fall] by choosing some for eternal life and abandoning the rest to their just deserts", and God's decree had nothing to do with his foreknowledge of the response of the individual to grace, then God has become the cause of the sin of the reprobate. Ask an infralapsarian whether any of the chosen can fall away through the use of their free will, and whether any of the reprobate can freely respond in an efficacious way to the offer of grace, and the answer will generally be "no" in both cases. As long as the supposition is that God's decree is prior to and uninfluenced by his foreknowledge, then the reprobate are created that way.

So if Fr. Wells is correct and infralapsarianism is Anglicanism, you'd better pack your bags.

Orthodoxdj said...

Fr. Hart,

I have appreciated your previous comments about Calvinism, one) because I think you're right, two) because it's nice to know that there are Anglican priests who hold what I see as the ancient faith. It would be unsettling to have to leave Anglicanism.

That being said, the recent post about XVII has me concerned. I agree that the article does not SAY God is the author of evil, nor do most Calvinists. My contention is that Calvinism makes God the author of evil, i.e. that's the logically consistent conclusion even if Calvinists say it isn't.

Will you help me see how the article in question does not logically lead to the same conclusion?

Todd A. Stepp+ said...

While it is late, and I do not have anything to add to the conversation, I would say I was happy to find that Arminians were not ruled out of the Article (at least it was generally recognized that Arminians can embrace the Article).

As a Wesleyan, I was pleased to find only one comment that some might consider to be a character assasination of Wesley. That's pretty good in a discussion between Arminians and Calvinists!

Todd A. Stepp+
http://wesleyananglican.blogspot.com

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Jerry:

Your point does not logically follow, at least as you state it.

welshmann said...

Semi-Hookerian:

Your comment about "eternity past" is well taken, but I couldn't think of any other expression that didn't make use of some preposition of space or time and was thus just as inaccurate. "Eternity past", if not a good way to say it, seemed as good a way as any other.

Orthodoxdj:

Fr. Wells can answer for himself, of course, but I'd like to offer the following concerning your observation that Calvinism logically, if unintentionally, makes God the author of evil. Certainly, I'm not Calvin, but I concede that my own comments state the problem; they certainly don't solve it. Briefly, I said "God ordains all things that come to pass," and "God is not the author of evil." Obviously, there is a logical problem there, since there are a number of things that come to pass in this world that are evil. But that's why I made the comment about my own problem understanding the Real Presence. I didn't have a category to understand it, and still don't, but I had to learn that Scripture required me to open my mind to a possibility other than crass literalism or bare symbolism. I'm still left with the problem, but at least I know there is a problem. I no longer try to force the truth into a predetermined and inaccurate category of my own making. Otherwise, I would still end up discarding or misrepresenting one of the plain statements of Scripture because it won't fit into my own scheme.

Likewise, as to predestination, I believe that Scripture tells us that God ordains all things that come to pass, and that He is not the author of evil. All I can say is that apparently, with reference to God, "ordain" and "author" don't mean the same thing. How He can do one without the other, I don't know. But I believe that Scripture says both these things. It does not, however, harmonize them.

To be continued...

welshmann said...

continued from previous post....

Free will, in the sense of the human will being un-coerced, is true as far as it goes, but it doesn't really solve the problem. "God created us, and gave us free will, and we chose to do evil." All well and good, but it just makes God the passive-aggressive author of evil, given His foreknowledge of our actions, unless we make room for an unexplained element of mystery that lies somewhere between God's decision to create us, and our decision to do evil. I think that's why Scripture says God hardened Pharoah's heart. We like to insert "but Pharoah hardened it first", but Scripture does not say that. Certainly, it offends our sense of justice to think that God "made" Pharoah do what was clearly wrong, so we cast about for an explanation of some kind. I don't have one, but neither do I feel competent to insert something into my reading that is unsupported by the text, even if it seems reasonable to do so.

Appeals to foreknowledge don't really help either. "God raised up Pharoah because He knew Pharoah would harden his own heart." When we say that God knows the future, what are we really saying? Is He bound by His own prior knowledge of a future that is already certain, that ultimately arises from something outside Himself? Is He choosing from a pre-existing list of possible futures that exists on its own? Or does He from eternity freely choose His own actions, and thus determine what the future will be? I believe Scripture supports the latter. Of course, that doesn't solve our present problem, but I don't intend to solve the problem by sacrificing God's sovereignty or omnipotence on the altar of His justice.

I notice that we often talk about freedom as the ability to choose between good and evil, to sin if that is our choice. I understand the logic of that analysis, but I don't think it's Biblical. Scripture usually describes freedom as the ability to do God's will; the ability to do sin is normally described in terms of bondage. The drunkard is certainly able to drink, the murderer to kill, but those abilities are not freedoms. God "cannot" lie, but He is certainly, absolutely free.

welshmann

Anonymous said...

One last little insertion:

The 17th Article (like Orange II) does not preclude the Wesleyan Arminian position, as Fr Wells noted in his piece (in fact, the Edwardian and Elizabethan fathers who confirmed the Article included proto-Arminians and King Charles himself, who gave us the famous line that the Articles were to be taken in their literal, grammatical sense, was almost certainly on the Arminian end of the spectrum).

God Bless,
W.A. Scott

Fr. Wells said...

"As a Wesleyan, I was pleased to find only one comment that some might consider to be a character assasination of Wesley. That's pretty good in a discussion between Arminians and Calvinists!"

Apart from the Anglican Augustus Toplady, I do not recall Calvinists engaging in character assassination of John Wesley. My experience has been the very opposite: the Wesleys are held in high esteem in Calvinist churches. Check the number of Wesley hymns in Presbyterian hymnals. The fine little book "Why I Am Not An Arminian" by Robert A Peterson and Michael D. Williams concludes by quoting John Wesley's marvelous hymn "Jesus, Thy Blood and righteousness" (which does not appear in any Anglican hymnal that I know of).

The character assassination of Calvin by Arminians, on the other hand, is epidemic and has sadly intruded in this discussion. (When he wasnt burning Servetus, he denied the efficacy of baptism and taught that God is trhe author of evil, you know.)

Wesley's Arminianism (which is not incompatible with Article XVII) I can live with. But it is so rarely encountered.

Anonymous said...

Wesley's Arminianism (which is not incompatible with Article XVII) I can live with.

Great! Me too! And I too agree that it's not incompatible with the Article (neither is Arminius' Arminianism, for that matter). :-)


But it is so rarely encountered.

I guess that depends on what you read and who you run into. Thankfully, it's not as rare as you think.

DT

Fr. Wells said...

"Calvinism logically, if unintentionally, makes God the author of evil. "

"I said "God ordains all things that come to pass," and "God is not the author of evil." Obviously, there is a logical problem there,.."

Welshmann, as usual, states the problem neatly, and problem it is. Scholastic theologians, before and after Calvin, solve it partially by drawing a distinction between the "decretive" (or positive) Will of God and His permissive Will. But why did God create the Serpent? Why did Lucifer rebel?


While I have no solution to offer, I would simply point out that this problem had been recognized and wrestled with long before Calvin. I seem to recall that the same unfair accusation had been leveled by Pelagius at St Augustine. The problem had been clearly perceived as early as the Book of Job. But since John Calvin failed to solve this problem to universal satisfaction, he is alleged to have created it.

Todd Stepp said...

Fr. Wells,

I was referring specifically to the comments on this post when talking about character assasinations of Wesley.

I find that the published writings by both sides usually tend not to make such "character assasinations," though they sometimes do make heated arguments.

Certainly Wesley and Whitfield made some very strong statements. As I recall, when questioned as to whether Wesley expected to see Whitfield in heaven, Wesley's response was that he did not expect to see him there. Rather, he expected that Whitfield would be so close to the throne of God and that he (Wesley) would be so far from the throne that he would never see Whitfield.

However, in settings where comments tend to fly free (such as these types of settings), those character assasinations do tend to slip in from time to time so as to nearly unchristianize the "opposing side."

As I was saying (with a smile, not a frown), I was pleased that I only saw one comment, here, that I thought seemed like it might be considered a character assasination of Mr. Wesley.

While I have strong theoogical disagreements with those with Calvinist loyalties (as I'm sure you would have with we Wesleyan/Arminians), I certainly would not seek to unchristianize John Calvin or throw mud on his character.

Your Brother in Christ,

Todd+
http://wesleyananglican.blogspot.com

Caedmon said...

A few responses to certain comments made since I last chimed in:

Steven Badal (Yo, friend!):

I have to say, though, Calvin is not "one" with Augustine and Aquinas. Simply believing in unconditional election no more ensures a proper soteriology than simply believing in the Trinity ensures a proper Christology. Calvin strayed insofar as he denied the regenerate could ever fall away. Luther himself denounced any idea that a regenerate man could not fall away as a novel idea. Point is, in Catholic soteriology, even if unconditional election is accepted (and I stand with Augustine and Aquinas on this -- always have, always will), it does not follow that all the regenerate are coterminous with all the elect who are given the grace of perseverance.

I would agree that simply believing in unconditional election doesn’t guarantee a proper soteriology, just as believing in the Trinity doesn’t guarantee a proper Christology. By the same token, however, just as we can have no proper Christology without the doctrine of the Trinity, so we cannot have a sound soteriology if we reject unconditional election. That’s precisely why Romans 9 – 11 follows on the heels of Romans 8:28-30 (and everything that leads up to that text, beginning at 1:16). As John Piper argues in The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23, Paul seeks to demonstrate in ch. 9 precisely *why* the word of God has not failed (9:6), thus backing up what he tells his readers in 8:29-30 about the certainty of not only their justification, but their transformation and ultimate glorification in Christ. There’s no “good news” in a gospel that leaves the outcome in the hands of man’s supposed “free will.”

As for the differences on this point that we see in Calvin on the one hand and Augustine and Luther on the other, I think that probably boils down to the fact that Reformed Christianity views “regeneration” differently than Augustine and Luther did, the latter two tying it more closely to water baptism and the former to the activity of the Spirit of God in the hearts of the elect.

Semi-Hookerian:

Whether St. Augustine is sufficiently careful himself in his attempts to be so in his exegeses of Scripture with respect to 'election' is, again, another matter.

You noted first of all that whether or not Augustine ran into problems with his own attempts to think clearly about eternity and time is a valid question. I would agree, and am still thinking some of this through for myself. Much of what he writes about this matter was influenced greatly by the Neoplatonistic philosophy in which all of the ECFs were steeped, and the common criticism is that they often confused biblical and Neoplatonistic categories of thought. A case in point that affects the very thing we’re discussing here is that Augustine’s view of “timeless eternity” seems to not comport with biblical utterances about things taking place in heaven “before” the foundation of the world.

As to your other doubt, however, I don’t see any evidence that leads me to any other conclusion than that St. Augustine got St. Paul essentially right on the matters of predestination and election.

In my last comment here, I simply want to echo those who have argued that doing away with predestination doesn’t get God “off the hook” as to the problem of evil. If one begins with 1) omniscience/absolute foreknowledge + 2) creation, as orthodox Arminianism does, he ends up with a situation where God creates a universe knowing full well that the Fall will occur and evil will become a feature of the universe. Necessity, in other words. Just as necessary as if God had preordained it. That’s precisely why modern Arminian types, seeing the logic of it and in a redoubled attempt to get God off the hook for evil, have opted for “open theism”, which denies God’s omniscience/absolute foreknowledge. And that is a real can of worms, right there, to say the least.

RC Cola said...

I recall a few months ago that a complaint about transubstantiation, and the theology of the Roman Catholic and her 20+ other eastern churches in general, is that they attempt to over-analyze and therefore over-define mysteries of the faith such that an over-definition is considered by us Anglicans as an erroneous definition precisely because scripture does not contain enough data to warrant such a precise definition. I think we should consider that when it comes to predestination. Perhaps those who deem themselves able to define exactly how God chooses who to save or not are, by nature of saying that they have "the" answer, dead wrong. I'd even suggest that there may be an inverse correlation between the clean logic of one's system and the correctness of that system. In other words, the more perfect an explanation, the more wrong it is. Perhaps one of the other readers of this blog can find a catchy quatrain written by Elizabeth I and that will be the definitive proof of which side is correct...or not.

Fr. Wells said...

RC Cola, that is a perfectly fair analogy.
So I would ask all readers, Which is the more audacious explanation: Those who see Divine Election of hell-deserving sinners as rooted in the unfathomable mystery of Divine love, or those who see it as caused by Fides praevisa? Can be really trust God to be ultimately gracious, or do we have to allow man to have the final decision? When we say "Almighty God," what passes through our minds?

Anonymous said...

Fr Wells and Todd Stepp+:

From the Free Dictionary:

character assassination
n.
A vicious personal verbal attack, especially one intended to destroy or damage a public figure's reputation.

On what grounds, might I ask, do both of you assume to know and to judge the INTENT of the blogger who simply reminded us that John Wesley (a notable figure you are all familiar with) was also a feeble sinner like every other member of the human race? What makes you think that the blogger's INTENT was to destroy Wesley's reputation? For that is what you accuse him of, and nothing less, by calling his words a "character assassination." Might it not have occurred to you both that he was trying to make a point about the sinfulness that dwells in every man, great or small, elect or not? Your judgment does more to defile your own characters before God and the world than it casts any blame on his commentary.

Practice what you preach and take God's advice:

Judge not, that ye be not judged.

Susan

Anonymous said...

So I would ask all readers, Which is the more audacious explanation: Those who see Divine Election of hell-deserving sinners as rooted in the unfathomable mystery of Divine love, or those who see it as caused by Fides praevisa?

Or the explanation could be that while indeed God's choice to elect hell-deserving sinners is indeed rooted in the unfathomable mystery of His Divine Love, there's no reason why He couldn't sovereingly decide to elect such sinners on the condition of the faith that He foresees to be the divinely enabled response to His gracious initiative.

Can be really trust God to be ultimately gracious, or do we have to allow man to have the final decision? When we say "Almighty God," what passes through our minds?

Perhaps we can trust God to be ultimately gracious while acknowledging His Sovereign perogative in allowing His grace to be resistable.

DT

Anonymous said...

I assume that the initial article and the thread have made it abundantly clear that St. Augustine (and other great Catholic fathers) taught the doctrine of "double predestination" long before Luther and Calvin were around. But just in case anyone missed it, I thought the following quote from St Augustine in his work Enchiridion might be helpful:
These are the great works of the Lord, sought out according to all His pleasure, and so wisely sought out, that when the intelligent creation, both angelic and human, sinned, doing not His will but their own, He used the very will of the creature which was working in opposition to the Creator's will as an instrument for carrying out His will, the supremely Good thus turning to good account even what is evil, to the condemnation of those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace. For, as far as relates to their own consciousness, these creatures did what God wished not to be done: but in view of God's omnipotence, they could in no wise effect their purpose. For in the very fact that they acted in opposition to His will, His will concerning them was fulfilled.
[Chapter 100. The Will of God is Never Defeated, Though Much is Done that is Contrary to His Will.]
http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1302.htm

This is not to say that St. Augustine is correct (I happen to think he is), but it demonstrates the antiquity and presence of the doctrine within Catholic orthodoxy.

God Bless,
W.A. Scott

Fr. Robert Hart said...

Let's notice what Augustine does not say in that passage. Nowwhere does he say the evil itself was the will of God.

If we understand Providence we can also believe that the will of the creature cannot overcome the will of God. To say that sin and rebellion are themselves in accord with God's will is very different from saying that God will use even those things to accomplish His good will. Joseph was sold into slavery and our Lord was betrayed and handed over the the Gentiles. through those things God worked His good will. He did not need any specific evil man such as Judas, or evil men such as the chief priests and Romans. But, their efforts to oppose God were in turn used by Him.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Fr. Hart. God uses our evil but He is never the Author of evil.

W.A.Scott

Unknown said...

So let us look at another real life example of election/predestination:
Abortion

President Obama restored the public financing of abortions. That means that every tax payer is participating in these abortions. Hundreds of thousands of babies have been terminated during his term paid for with tax payer funds.

If a person voted for Obama, it is an direct personal affirmation of abortion. I have been shocked at how many Continuum Bishops and clergy voted for Obama despite his abortion stand. But as part of the presumed elect I guess they rationalize or ignore their sin knowing heaven's gate has been predestined to them.

Are people who voted for Obama part of the elect? Can a person advocate abortion and be part of the elect?
Are aborted babies part of the elect or part of the predestined damned? Even without the benefit of a life, will some babes go to heaven and some go to hell predestined by God from the beginning of the world?

I commend Mrs Tebow for not aborting Tim.


Canon John

PS I quoted a story from a critical review of John Wesley that is a matter of public record. That is not character assassination. It was a reminder that John Wesley was a SINNER. (So am I) JWW3+

Fr Richard Sutter said...

Seen elsewhere on the web:
'You know, speaking disrespectfully of Calvinists is the same thing as speaking honourably of the Church.'— Letter from Lady Mary Wortley Montagu to Mrs Sarah Chiswell, Aug. 13 (O.S.), 1716.

Shaughn said...

Fr. Wells writes,

"When we say "Almighty God," what passes through our minds?"

What passes through my mind, anyway, is how often I am struck that God empties himself and puts restrictions on himself out of selfless love for us. He enters into covenants with Abraham, for example, which restricts his own authority entirely to the benefit of Abraham. (And it was made, as Paul says, prior to the circumcision of Abraham, and so it really was a gift of Grace.) I see a God who "so loved the world" (κόσμος -- and so, the world and everything in it, not just the elect) "that he sent his only begotten son."

A God who must be in charge at all times is not especially omnipotent or free to act. A God who can choose not to be in charge, to limit himself out of love, and to enter into covenants with people is very powerful indeed.

I would say as a Classicist that we make far too much hay out of the English translation of Pantokrator with a suggestion that it means God ipso facto must have the final say in everything, rather than having and demonstrating the freedom to put the ball in our court, as it were, to allow us the freedom to choose what we'll do with the ball.

To imply that such an arrangement renders God "less than almighty" suggests a God that isn't really pantokrator in the first place.

We should probably lean toward a Greek understanding and interpretation of the term, since the Nicene Creed was, er, written in their language. And I'd say it would trump even Augustine's understanding of it, as he mentioned quite readily, with room for rhetorical modesty, that he was not especially fluent in Greek.

For what it's worth, I probably straddle the Amyraldian and Arminian side of things -- More pessimistic than FD Maurice, FAR more optimistic than Jonathan Edwards.

Fr. Wells said...

DT writes:

"there's no reason why He [God] couldn't sovereingly decide to elect such sinners on the condition of the faith that He foresees to be the divinely enabled response to His gracious initiative."

This does not seem to take seriously the emphatic NT teaching concerning what faith is. Faith is God gift, emerging from the miracle of regeneration. In spite of your language "divinely enabled response," you write as if faith were an independent decision on the part of man.

An argument as clever, as sophisticated, as contrived, as heavily qualified, as the one you present here remains unconvincing, but is only a slippery slope into you-know-where.

The Calvinist says, along with St John, "we love [Him] because He first loved us." The Arminian says "He loves us because we first, being Divinely enabled, loved Him." St John's version requires fewer mental calisthenics.

DT, what place does the Bible play in your theological method? Just asking.

Fr. Wells said...

SAhaughn writes,

"He enters into covenants with Abraham, for example, which restricts his own authority entirely to the benefit of Abraham."

Say what? As I read Genesis 15 and 17, I observe God providing amazingly ample blessings for Abraham with aboslutely no restrictions on Himself, apart from being consistent with His own nature. "I will be your God, and you shall be my people, and I will dwell with you" is hardly an example of self- restriction. When you review the story of Abraham, the notion of election on the basis of "foreseen faith" takes quite a beating, doesn't it. More like a story of foreseen faithlessness on Abraham's part, invincible grace on God's part.

btw, Kenoticism is commonly considered a Christological heresy. God did not "empty Himself" in the Incarnation; Ekynwwsen in Phil 2:7 ("he emptied himself") is an allusion to Isaiah 53:12, "he poured out his soul unto death.") The Greek verb is rendered "made himself of no reputation" (AV), "emptied himself" (RSV), "he humbled himself" (ESV). It refers to the Servant's Passion and crucifixion. The suggestion that God emptied Himself contracts the immutability of His nature.

Fr. Wells said...

W. A. Scott writes:

"This is not to say that St. Augustine is correct (I happen to think he is), but it demonstrates the antiquity and presence of the doctrine within Catholic orthodoxy."

Quoting Augustine does not establish the correctness of a doctrine. We know what Book (and which Epistle) Augustine was reading when he heard th voice singing, Tolle, Lege.

But your quote not only show the antiquity of Augustinianism, which can never be refuted on Biblical grounds. It shows that Augustinianism is OLDER than semi-Augustinianism, semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism, etc. Augustine is revered as a Saint and a Doctor of the Church. Pelagius was condemned by the Council of Ephesus and is universally regarded as an especially vile heretic. Yet so much mental energy has been expended in trying to split ther difference between the two.

RC Cola said...

Since I am a dyed-in-the-wool Thomist, I would like to quote portions from Modern Thomistic Philosophy by R.P. Phillips, Vol II (Newman: Westminster, MD) 1935

Any time you see bold the emphasis is mine.

"Divine Knowledge...is altogether independent, and is, as we shall see, causative with respect to the world which it knows." p 312

He then goes on to a lengthy discussion about how God, knowing Himself perfectly, therefore knows all created things, and that His Divine Knowledge is the cause of those creatures, otherwise his knowledge would be at least partially dependent on the creatures, which must obviously be false; God is dependent on no one and no thing. I continue scanning for the relevant passage which I have lost...

"There must, therefore, be some self-originated motion in the man which seizes a particular motive and makes it a determining one for him, and since this motion cannot be absolutely self-originated-- otherwise man would be the first cause, not a secondary cause-- it must be originated in the first cause, who, in causing it, knows it, and the consequent action of the man. In the Thomist view, therefore, God's premotion and predetermination, far from destroying man's liberty, causes it." p. 326

Phillips is clear that Thomists maintain that even with this explanation their view does not remove all obscurities. He continues...

"For indeed freedom does not imply random action in any direction, but rather self-mastery, in accordance with which man is able to choose what appears to him good..." p 327

And then to protect God from being the cause of evil or sin:
"In the case of a sinful act no motion is required from God to constitute the act as sinful, since sin is a defect or privation in the act, morally considered." p 327.
Phillips doesn't come out and say it (yet) but good acts do require motion from God, bad acts do not. Entirely consistent with what we know about Grace, but since that is a theological issue, he doesn't treat Grace in his philosophy book. He quotes someone named von Hugel 'The scheme of God plus man, grace plus nature, predestination plus free-will-- all this putting alongside of each other, as though they were two separate material bodies, what really are two living energies, completely interpenetrating each other' is 'utterly misleading... the grace is in the free-will, and the free-will in the grace. Here again I think the clarifying business (of which we are so immensely proud) misleads and impoverishes us...'

I think that is a nice way to end my comment. I do not know if I clarified anything, but that may not be such a bad thing. I find it coincidental that I happened to read these chapters at the time this discussion emerged.

By the way, I am headed to Kenya for two weeks. Please pray for my safe return home.

Anonymous said...

Fr. Wells,

First of all, Augustinianism is easily predated by the early church's theology of human freedom in light of pagan beliefs about fate.

Secondly, all this "mental energy" people expend to dissociate Arminianism (Semi-Augustinianism) from Pelagianism is a valid endeavor; just as the Church fights virtuously against the Modalists and Arians and Tritheists to uphold the doctrine of the Trinity. If a few Calvinists are willing to have their feathers ruffled over this, so be it -- free will theology is a permanent fixture in ancient Christianity, and it's not going away (not from here, not from Rome, and not from the East).

I resolutely and vigorously disagree with the Arminian and Orthodox Christian about predestination (I stand with Augustine on this), but heretics they are not, neither are they harboring doctrines of demons or a theology that will destroy the essence of the Gospel. We should save that rhetoric for folks who think they can leverage God's love or favor by their actions, or who think grace is an optional component to salvation.

Finally, Arminians will agree with Orange II that the operation of grace must precede man's action. That's the most important part of the theology of the fall and of grace.

-- Steven Badal (ACC Layman)

Fr. Wells said...

Steven Badal explodes:

"but heretics they [Semi-Augustinians] are not, neither are they harboring doctrines of demons or a theology that will destroy the essence of the Gospel."

I have never said they are. It is disingenuous of you (there are stronger adjecives which come to mind) to impute such an opinion to me. I have been at pains to say that I can live with genuine Wesleyan or classical Arminianism, as rare as it is.Please watch your tone.

If free-will theology was in circulation before Augustine (undeniable), was it in circulation before St Paul? Was it really a considered position or just an attitude? And what was the source of the "free will" attitude? Biblical revelation or pagan philosophy?

The origins of the "liberum arbitrium" notion need to be investigated. It is not a self-evident concept. Ask B. F. Skinner.

Todd Stepp said...

Fr Wells said:

"The Calvinist says, along with St John, 'we love [Him] because He first loved us.' The Arminian says 'He loves us because we first, being Divinely enabled, loved Him.'"

With respect, I know of no Arminian who would say such a thing. Rather, they (we) would deny that our theology even implies such a thing. - It's a good quick contrast that a Calvinist might make to "score some points" in a debate where people are looking for "sound-bites," (and we all love those; I'm smiling, because it's pretty good!), but it's not accurate, as I'm sure you know. :0)

Peace, my brother!

Todd+
http://wesleyananglican.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

Fr. Wells,

I wasn't aiming that comment specifically at you, as if you were of the mindset that Arminians are heretics. That's sloppy posting on my part (and so I am heartily sorry for the misunderstanding). I was taking a more general aim at the hardline Calvinists who are dismissive of Arminians as if they were trucking with dangerous theology and on the fast track to Open Theism. My background with these types of Reformed folks is due to the fact that I live down here near Knox Seminary, and we've got a brimful of cock-sure Calvinists who treat Arminians as barely Christian.

On top of that, I was in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church for some years wherein the theological culture was one of hostility and antagonism toward Arminians. It was in that cauldron I figured out their grand narrative about the pure line of Paul to Augustine to Calvin was overblown if not outright mistaken.

So this topic makes me a bit sensitive. I love my Reformed brothers and sisters, and I take no aim at you personally as if you are guilty by association. I was more generally responding. I should have not prefixed your name to the comments.

Pax,
Steven Augustine Badal
(ACC Layman)

Todd Stepp said...

My Sr., Susan,

What a strong response!

I certainly apologize for evoking such a response with my comments.

However, please note a few things that your first read might have not picked up.

First, I was careful not to name names. Still, it is obvious that you were able to pick up on which comment I was referring to (able to give a reasonable, alternative explanation about what was be said).

The fact that you were able to identify the comment seems to show that I may be correct when I originally said, "As a Wesleyan, I was pleased to find only one comment that some might consider to be a character assasination of Wesley."

Please note that I said "some might consider" the comment to be a character assasination. - I did not attack the individual making the comment. I did not say that I thought he was attempting a character assasination. Yet, my comment did give the opportunity for him to reply, if he would so choose (even though, again, I did not name him). Perhaps he did not realize that what he said might be considered a character assasination by some. Who knows?

But, I stand by my statement that (for right or wrong) "some might consider" it to have been a character assasination.

Please also note that in my second comment (my reply to Fr. Wells) my wording there, while slightly less cautious was still consistent: "seemed like it might be considered .. .," and that, in order to express my own tone, I indicated that I was making that comment "(with a smile, not a frown)."

Nevertheless, I would also point out that, even if I had been outright accusing someone (which, again, I deny), your accusation of me, by name, would not hold true (by your own definition).

That is, you said, "What makes you think that the blogger's INTENT was to destroy Wesley's reputation? For that is what you accuse him of, and nothing less"

Yet, I said nothing of his intent (not even supposing that "someone" might identify his intent). And your own definition stated that a character assasination is, "A vicious personal verbal attack, especially one intended to destroy or damage a public figure's reputation." - Please note the word "especially," which indicates that "a vicious personal verbal attack," even without the intent to destroy . . . could be considered to be a character assasination. - So, even by your own definition, if I were accusing someone (which, again, I deny), your accusation of me would not hold true.

Therefore, I confess that I was taken aback by your comment directed straight at me (and Fr. Wells), and especially the part where you state forthrightly, "Your judgment does more to defile your own characters before God and the world than it casts any blame on his commentary.

"Practice what you preach and take God's advice:

"Judge not, that ye be not judged."

Again, I apologize for upsetting you.

Pax,

Todd+
http://wesleyananglican.blogspot.com

Fr. Robert Hart said...

One of my favorite treatments of Article XVII is by the retired bishop of South Carolina in the Episcopal Church, Fitz Allison. The emphasis is on grace & salvation.

I believe that is far as we can go with its actual content. The discussion about the issues it addresses are largely a discussion around the Article.

Todd Stepp said...

I note that Canon John (oops! cat's out of the bag!) has, since, posted a "p.s." note about his previous comment that referred to Mr. Wesley.

I publicly ask Canon John's forgiveness if I have offended him by my previous comments, and I hope that my comments to Susan clarify my own intent.

Pax,

Todd+
http://wesleyananglican.blogspot.com

Supra Argentum said...

SUPRALAPSARIANISM: THE ONLY CHOICE

I'm rather surprised to find that such discussion so far has made very little direct mention of Christology.

Was the Incarnation--and all that it inaugurated--somehow not the everlasting purpose of God? I cannot accept that Jesus Christ, the God-man in His dual nature, was anything less. The narrative arc of Holy Scripture, which opens with a good creation and closes with an even better New Creation devoted to the Lamb of God, demands the same: The Supremacy of Jesus in all things is the end for which God wrought the world.

The New Testament depicts election and reprobation as ontological characteristics: Wheat and tares, sheep and goats, vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy. Each of these dialectical pairs "is what it is"--the qualities that distinguish sheep from goats are a fixed part of their very makeup. ("Clean different things," to borrow a phrase Charles I used to describe ruler and ruled.) The difference is written into, and therefore preceding, creation itself.

Fr. Wells said...

Steven Badal writes:

"It was in that cauldron...."

And futher,

"I love my Reformed brothers and sisters,"

Words fail.

Caedmon said...

Steven Badal wrote:
First of all, Augustinianism is easily predated by the early church's theology of human freedom in light of pagan beliefs about fate.

Fr. Wells replied, in part:

If free-will theology was in circulation before Augustine (undeniable), was it in circulation before St Paul? Was it really a considered position or just an attitude? And what was the source of the "free will" attitude? Biblical revelation or pagan philosophy?

Alister McGrath is one notable theologian I’ve read who answers that question:

Part of the fascination of the patristic era to the scholar lies in the efforts of its theologians to express an essentially Hebraic gospel in a Hellenistic milieu: the delights of patristic scholarship must not, however, be permitted to divert our attention from the suspicion voiced by the Liberal school in the last century - that Christ's teaching was seriously compromised by the Hellenism of its earlier adherents. The history of the development of the Christian doctrine of justification lends support to such a suspicion. In particular, it can be shown that two major distortions were introduced into the corpus of traditional belief within the eastern church at a very early stage, and were subsequently transferred to the emerging western theological tradition. These are:

1. The introduction of the non-biblical, secular Stoic concept of autoexousia or liberum arbitrium in the articulation of the human response to the divine initiative in justification.

2. The implicit equation of tsedaqa, dikaiosune and iustitia, linked with the particular association of the Latin meritum noted earlier (p.15), inevitably suggested a correlation between human moral effort and justification within the western church.

The subsequent development of the western theological tradition, particularly since the time of Augustine, has shown a reaction against both these earlier distortions, and may be regarded as an attempt to recover a more biblically orientated approach to the question of justification. . . .

The emerging patristic understanding of such matters as predestination, grace and free will is somewhat confused, and would remain so until controversy forced full discussion of the issue upon the church. Indeed, by the end of the fourth century, the Greek fathers had formulated a teaching on human free will based upon philosophical rather than biblical foundations. Standing in the great Platonic tradition, heavily influenced by Philo, and reacting against the fatalisms of their day, they taught that man was utterly free in his choice of good or evil. . . . (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, Vol. I, pp.18-19)


In other words, this “early church's theology of human freedom”, which was employed in opposition to “pagan beliefs about fate”, was itself more informed by pagan philosophy than anything else. And this is exactly why Fr. Wells' question to DT is so important: “What place does the Bible play in our theological method?” As I read Holy Writ, I see no compelling case for Greek-style free will supported anywhere. I do see, however, ample testimony therein to the sovereignty of God, which is manifest in many ways, but most importantly to those of us who are being saved in the fact that He has indeed “constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour.”

Caedmon said...

Steven Badal wrote:
First of all, Augustinianism is easily predated by the early church's theology of human freedom in light of pagan beliefs about fate.

Fr. Wells replied, in part:

If free-will theology was in circulation before Augustine (undeniable), was it in circulation before St Paul? Was it really a considered position or just an attitude? And what was the source of the "free will" attitude? Biblical revelation or pagan philosophy?

Alister McGrath is one notable theologian I’ve read who answers that question:

Part of the fascination of the patristic era to the scholar lies in the efforts of its theologians to express an essentially Hebraic gospel in a Hellenistic milieu: the delights of patristic scholarship must not, however, be permitted to divert our attention from the suspicion voiced by the Liberal school in the last century - that Christ's teaching was seriously compromised by the Hellenism of its earlier adherents. The history of the development of the Christian doctrine of justification lends support to such a suspicion. In particular, it can be shown that two major distortions were introduced into the corpus of traditional belief within the eastern church at a very early stage, and were subsequently transferred to the emerging western theological tradition. These are:

1. The introduction of the non-biblical, secular Stoic concept of autoexousia or liberum arbitrium in the articulation of the human response to the divine initiative in justification.

2. The implicit equation of tsedaqa, dikaiosune and iustitia, linked with the particular association of the Latin meritum noted earlier (p.15), inevitably suggested a correlation between human moral effort and justification within the western church.

The subsequent development of the western theological tradition, particularly since the time of Augustine, has shown a reaction against both these earlier distortions, and may be regarded as an attempt to recover a more biblically orientated approach to the question of justification. . . .

The emerging patristic understanding of such matters as predestination, grace and free will is somewhat confused, and would remain so until controversy forced full discussion of the issue upon the church. Indeed, by the end of the fourth century, the Greek fathers had formulated a teaching on human free will based upon philosophical rather than biblical foundations. Standing in the great Platonic tradition, heavily influenced by Philo, and reacting against the fatalisms of their day, they taught that man was utterly free in his choice of good or evil. . . . (Iustitia Dei: A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification, Vol. I, pp.18-19)

Caedmon said...

(Continued)

In other words, this “early church's theology of human freedom”, which was employed in opposition to “pagan beliefs about fate”, was itself more informed by pagan philosophy than anything else. And this is exactly why Fr. Wells' question to DT is so important: “What place does the Bible play in our theological method?” As I read Holy Writ, I see no compelling case for Greek-style free will supported anywhere. I do see, however, ample testimony therein to the sovereignty of God, which is manifest in many ways, but most importantly to those of us who are being saved in the fact that He has indeed “constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour.”

Anonymous said...

Fr. Wells,

The Reformed Bible studies I currently attend have a charitable disposition towards Arminians. Our fellowship is sweet.

The OPC I was in did not. Sorry you can't relate, but that's the reality of things.

In Christ,
Steven Badal

Anonymous said...

To Todd:

Thank you for your apology.

Again, here is the Free Dictionary definition (it is not my definition, for who am I to define such?):

character assassination
n.
A vicious personal verbal attack, especially one intended to destroy or damage a public figure's reputation.

Although you noted the commentary without specific mention of the commentator, your reference to Wesley made it perfectly clear who you were speaking of, for only one blogger detailed portions of Wesley's life story. Since it was you (and Fr Wells) who chose to utilize the words "character assassination" you pinpointed a direct judgment on the comment and the commentator, for the cause and affect inherent in character assassination cannot be separated. That you were cautiously oblique (in your words,"some might consider") was not lost on me. You need not have mentioned the blogger's "intent," nor did you, for it is an integral part of the very meaning of character assassination... and the intent is to destroy someone's reputation.

Character assessment is something we all do when considering the words and actions of others, despite our decidedly-limited capacities to do so. How much better it would have been had you chosen those words!

Your shrewdness was not, and is not off of my radar. Nor is your humility, and I accept your apology.
Susan

Anonymous said...

Not that anyone is interested :-) but a little bird told me this:

In 1622 James I ordered that sermons were to be confined to Scriptural exposition and particularly forbade sermons on 'Predestination, the Royal Prerogative, and "bitter invectives or undecent railing speeches against the Papists or Puritans"'. (E.C.E. Bourne, The Anglicanism of William Laud), pp. 150f.)

Susan

Fr. Wells said...

Thanks to Caedmon for an excellent quote from an excellent theologian which traces the concept of "free will" back to its source in classical philosophy.

So now we see the interplay of two ideas in tension: God's sovereign choice of a nation, a universal Church, and certain individuals as the objects of His grace, on the one hand; and the "free will" of man on the other. One idea is Hebraic and Biblical, the other is pagan and secular. Do they have equal rights in the Church's proclamation and reflection?

The Biblical mind is more than aware, sometimes painfully aware, that human beings make real decisions which have genuine moral value, for which we are fully accountable. Yes, there is a Biblical notion of free will. When we see how "free will" functions i9n Scripture, more often than not it is the source of our woe. Think of Adam., Cain, Judas Iscariot. Peter exercised his will in denying Christ, but was pardoned through no decision of his own. Paul never caimed credit for a "decision for Christ" but emphasized that grace excludes all boasting.

But the human free will must be understood within the context of the Divine Free Will. The distinction between Creator and creature must not be forgotten for an instant (as it seems to be in the notion of "foreseen faith"). Whatever free will we have is ours (1) by the Creator's gift, and (2) is ours only temporarily and briefly. His Free Will is inherent in His being and is "from eternity to eternity." To the Arminian of all stripes I would have to say, "Your God is too small." The distance between the Eternal and the temporal is vast. As Karl Barth reminded us, there is an infinite qualitative distinction between God an man. "Qualiter? Totaliter aliter!"

Anonymous said...

DT writes:

"there's no reason why He [God] couldn't sovereingly decide to elect such sinners on the condition of the faith that He foresees to be the divinely enabled response to His gracious initiative."

This does not seem to take seriously the emphatic NT teaching concerning what faith is. Faith is God gift, emerging from the miracle of regeneration.


Where in Scripture does it say regeneration precedes faith? To the contrary, Paul teaches one is raised and made alive with Christ through faith (Col 2:12-13).

In spite of your language "divinely enabled response," you write as if faith were an independent decision on the part of man.

Not sure where you got this from, for I have repeatedly affirmed that no man can have faith apart from the prevenient work of the Holy Spirit. That doesn't sound like an "independent decision" to me.

An argument as clever, as sophisticated, as contrived, as heavily qualified, as the one you present here remains unconvincing, but is only a slippery slope into you-know-where.

Something you continue to assert, yet fail to prove. I could just as easily rejoin that the dogmas of 5-point Calvinism are a slippery slope into the domain of hyper-Calvinism and theological fatalism...but I won't. :-)

The Calvinist says, along with St John, "we love [Him] because He first loved us." The Arminian says "He loves us because we first, being Divinely enabled, loved Him." St John's version requires fewer mental calisthenics.

FrWells, you are simply making a false accusation here based on a false assumption about what I or other classic Arminians believe. It is because God loves us that He divinely enables us to have faith in Him, a faith which works in love. (If God had not loved us, He would not have enabled us to have faith in Him and love Him back, now would He?)

DT, what place does the Bible play in your theological method? Just asking.


The Bible plays a central place in my theological method, but I believe we should take into account ALL the biblical data, not just those parts which may on the surface seem to jive with 5-point Calvinism.


DT

Todd Stepp said...

Earlier, Fr Wells had said:

"The Calvinist says, along with St John, 'we love [Him] because He first loved us.' The Arminian says 'He loves us because we first, being Divinely enabled, loved Him.'"

And I replied (with a smile!), that while ". . . I know of no Arminian who would say such a thing. Rather, they (we) would deny that our theology even implies such a thing," nevertheless, "It's a good quick contrast that a Calvinist might make to'score some points' in a debate where people are looking for "sound-bites," (and we all love those; I'm smiling, because it's pretty good!)."

In a similar spirit of sharing "a good qick contrast" that an Arminian might make to "score some pionts where people are looking for sound-bites," I offer this one that we Wesleyans sometimes throw out.

This actually came to mind while praying The Litany this morning and the prayer that says, "That it may please thee to have mercy upon all men; We beseech thee to hear us, good Lord."

And so, here it goes:

The Arminian says, along with St. John, "For God so loved THE WORLD, that he gave his only begotten Son, the WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." The Calvinist says, "For God so loved ONLY A SMALL PART OF THE WORLD, that he gave TO THEM his only begotten Son, that ONLY THAT SMALL GROUP THAT HE DETERMINED should not perish, but have everlasting life."

I think that's as good of a "sound bite" as the one Fr. Wells gave us earlier! (Though a little longer, which isn't as good for sound bites!)

Again, my brothers and sisters, please recognize my spirit and tone before any responses. I'm smiling!

Pax,

Todd+
http://Wesleyananglican.blogspot.com

Unknown said...

A quote from the 18th Century American Plains migration from Shelby Steele's Civil War: A Narrative:

"The Lord spares the fittin,
the rest He seen fitting to
let die"

Canon John

William said...

Peter Lombard articulated the classic "sufficient" and "efficient" distinction of the Atonement in his Sentences:
"He offered himself on the altar of the cross not to the devil, but to the Triune God, and he did so for all with regard to the sufficiency of the price, but only for the elect with regard to its efficacy, because he brought about salvation only for the predestined."

This was the position that was affirmed on all sides at the time of the Reformation and Calvin himself explicitly acknowledged the truth of Peter Lombard's "sufficient for all"/"efficient for the elect" articulation of the atonement.

It also is the official "Calvinist" position stated in the Synod of Dordt:

Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ's Death

This death of God's Son is the only and entirely complete sacrifice and satisfaction for sins; it is of infinite value and worth, more than sufficient to atone for the sins of the whole world.

Article 4: Reasons for This Infinite Value

This death is of such great value and worth for the reason that the person who suffered it is--as was necessary to be our Savior--not only a true and perfectly holy man, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. Another reason is that this death was accompanied by the experience of God's anger and curse, which we by our sins had fully deserved.

Article 5: The Mandate to Proclaim the Gospel to All

Moreover, it is the promise of the gospel that whoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be announced and declared without differentiation or discrimination to all nations and people, to whom God in his good pleasure sends the gospel.

Article 6: Unbelief Man's Responsibility

However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient,, but because they themselves are at fault.
...
Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ's Death

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son's costly death should work itself out in all his chosen ones..."

God Bless,
W.A. Scott

Fr. Wells said...

DT writes:

"I have repeatedly affirmed that no man can have faith apart from the prevenient work of the Holy Spirit. That doesn't sound like an "independent decision" to me."

But I thought you said that "prevenient grace" was extended equally to all men without distinction. Do you have an explanation as to why some accept the good news of salvation while others reject it?

DT also writes:

"Something you continue to assert, yet fail to proves."

Statistics, my friend, statistics. Of all the Arminian hordes, your "classical Arminians" are about as common as Two-seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists. Calvinists have not shown a similar tug toward hyper-Calvinism or Supralapsarianism.

And yes, regeneration precedes and enables faith, it is not the effect of faith. That is precisely the reason we baptize infants, and precisely the reason Arminian churches eventually opt for believers' baptism.


This has been an interesting exchange, but it is time to wrap it up. While you represent your position well, you have advanced no arguments I have not heard and asked no questions I have not pondered. Nothing new. But it has confirmed me in the feeling that Calvinism gives greater glory to God, is more faithful to Scripture, and exhibits greater logical coherence. It also allows me to sleep easier at night, knowing that the ultimate decision concerning my salvation does not lie in my own sinful heart but in His unbounded mercy, "who loved me and gave Himself for me."

Fr. Wells said...

Todd Stepp attempts a rejoinder based on John 3:16. The problem for both positions (Arminianism and Calvinism) is how to coordinate "the world" with "all that believe in Him." (Please remember that I read that verse every time I celebate the Holy Communion.)

"The world," we surely agree, refers to the entire creation, even in its rebellious and ruined state. This is the entire creation which was called "very good" but which rejected and even murdered its own Redeemer.

"Pas ho pisteuwn" (every believer) is where we must disagree. Is it a sign-up sheet, on which each autonomous man may voluntarily add his name and willfully strike it off? Of is it a list prepared in advance, by the One who invites unworthy sinners to His banquet? For my own safety, I prefer the latter option, and I cannot think of any via media position.

A good friend in an off-line discussion offered the suggestion that the gospel is like God throwing life-preservers to drowning sinners. My response is that the Gospel is not addressed to unlucky swimmers; the Gospel is about God raising the dead.

William said...

(As I continue my monologue...)
Fr. Todd and DT,

I think it's pretty cool how the Arminian Olson has explicitly affirmed St. Aquinas' distinction between the "antecedent will" of God that all men be saved(expressed in such passages as 2 Peter 3:9) and the "consequent will" of God (which is actually fulfilled). Of course, Olson has a different way of understanding it than the monergistic approach of St. Aquinas (and St. Augustine, and Calvin, etc.), but it's great to see any agreement.

As a monergist I likewise believe that God sincerely wills or desires the Salvation of all men even as He sincerely willed that all men would give the honor due to His Son in the first advent. Clearly, the "consequent will" of God was far different (in both cases accomplishing His eternal plan through justly and Sovereignly giving men over to their own sinful desires).

St. Aquinas is rather severe in expressing this "consequent will" of God for the vessels of wrath.

Summa, Part 1, Ques 23, Article 3. Whether God reprobates any man?
Objection 1. It seems that God reprobates no man. For nobody reprobates what he loves. But God loves every man, according to (Wisdom 11:25): "Thou lovest all things that are, and Thou hatest none of the things Thou hast made." Therefore God reprobates no man.
...
On the contrary, It is said (Malachi 1:2-3): "I have loved Jacob, but have hated Esau."

I answer that, God does reprobate some...reprobation implies not only foreknowledge, but also something more...Therefore, as predestination includes the will to confer grace and glory; so also reprobation includes the will to permit a person to fall into sin, and to impose the punishment of damnation on account of that sin.

Reply to Objection 1. God loves all men and all creatures, inasmuch as He wishes them all some good; but He does not wish every good to them all. So far, therefore, as He does not wish this particular good--namely, eternal life--He is said to hate or reprobated them.
...
Later, St. Aquinas notes that "although anyone reprobated by God cannot acquire grace, nevertheless that he falls into this or that particular sin comes from the use of his free-will."
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1023.html

God Bless,
W.A.Scott

p.s. This will need a to be my last post--too many God-given responsibilities are bearing down on me.

Anonymous said...

DT writes:

"I have repeatedly affirmed that no man can have faith apart from the prevenient work of the Holy Spirit. That doesn't sound like an "independent decision" to me."

But I thought you said that "prevenient grace" was extended equally to all men without distinction. Do you have an explanation as to why some accept the good news of salvation while others reject it?


Apparently some resist the Spirit's work, stopping short of saving faith, because they love their sin too much and would prefer not to repent and submit to the Lordship of Christ.

We might as well ask why some angels rebelled against God in the beginning and some didn't.

DT also writes:

"Something you continue to assert, yet fail to proves."

Statistics, my friend, statistics. Of all the Arminian hordes, your "classical Arminians" are about as common as Two-seed-in-the-Spirit Predestinarian Baptists. Calvinists have not shown a similar tug toward hyper-Calvinism or Supralapsarianism.


Then can you show me these statistics of which you speak?

And yes, regeneration precedes and enables faith, it is not the effect of faith.

Again, where's the biblicalproof?

That is precisely the reason we baptize infants, and precisely the reason Arminian churches eventually opt for believers' baptism.

Really? Then why do Methodists continue to baptize infants and Reformed Baptists do not?

This has been an interesting exchange, but it is time to wrap it up. While you represent your position well, you have advanced no arguments I have not heard and asked no questions I have not pondered. Nothing new. But it has confirmed me in the feeling that Calvinism gives greater glory to God, is more faithful to Scripture, and exhibits greater logical coherence.

And it has confirmed in me the opposite conclusion.

It also allows me to sleep easier at night, knowing that the ultimate decision concerning my salvation does not lie in my own sinful heart but in His unbounded mercy, "who loved me and gave Himself for me."

Well, I sleep easier at night knowing my salvation is in Christ, but I also know to take the ample warning passages seriously about my need to remain in Christ.

Ironically, if one logically follows the tenets of Calvinism, true assurance is impossible, since one can never know if one is truly part of the elect or if the grace on experiences and the faith he believes he has is evanescent. In other words if one does fall away this would be taken as proof (according to Calvinism) that he was never really saved to begin with regardless of how real he thought his relationship to God was.

DT

Caedmon said...

DT:

Ironically, if one logically follows the tenets of Calvinism, true assurance is impossible, since one can never know if one is truly part of the elect or if the grace on experiences and the faith he believes he has is evanescent. In other words if one does fall away this would be taken as proof (according to Calvinism) that he was never really saved to begin with regardless of how real he thought his relationship to God was.

Theoretically this is true. But it is also the case, theoretically, that if it’s simply a matter of “some resist(ing) the Spirit's work, stopping short of saving faith, because they love their sin too much and would prefer not to repent and submit to the Lordship of Christ”, then God’s eternal plan of salvation could have been thwarted by human free will. For what if all had resisted the Spirit’s work? Or what if Mary had said “no”? I asked an Orthodox acquaintance of mine these questions, and he was stumped. He really did not seem to understand that Christ’s life, ministry and propitiatory sacrifice could have been all for naught, a price he was nonetheless willing to pay in order to retain free will. That is a state of affairs, I would submit, which is far more problematic than the one DT raises about unconditional election.

Positing God’s foreknowledge of foreseen faith doesn’t rescue the view, for as several of us have pointed out here, a foreknown event is just as predestined as an eternally decreed one. If free will is in, foreknowledge is out. The open theists are right about that one.

But let’s get out of the realm of theory and focus rather on the text, as Fr. Wells has suggested we need to do. What do we find there about the relationship between election and assurance? Plenty. And what we find there nowhere says anything about apostasy being the outcome of non-election (unless I John 2:19 is the sole exception). Rather, the essential teaching is that one’s election is evidenced by the grace of the Spirit operative in a believer’s life, and the presence of that grace, in turn, is a “seal” and a “guarantee” of a future inheritance (which is exactly what Calvin said, if memory serves). All of that teaching has this promise as the backdrop:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.”

Caedmon said...

(Continuing from above)

To be sure, we all need to “take the ample warning passages seriously about (our) need to remain in Christ”, as DT says. But that doesn’t mean Pelagian/Arminian-style contingency follows. A biblical “compatibilism” – a contingency that exists alongside of necessity -- could just as easily follow, and based on what the NT says about predestination and election, I would argue that this is precisely what we have there. I often point to the account of the shipwreck at Malta (Acts 27) as an example of necessity and contingency being affirmed in almost the same breath:

After they had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. 22 But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. 23 Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me 24 and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ 25 So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. . . .

Fearing that we would be dashed against the rocks, they dropped four anchors from the stern and prayed for daylight. 30 In an attempt to escape from the ship, the sailors let the lifeboat down into the sea, pretending they were going to lower some anchors from the bow. 31 Then Paul said to the centurion and the soldiers, “Unless these men stay with the ship, you cannot be saved.”

Anonymous said...

DT,

Thank you for your thoughtful responses. Would you mind emailing me at
anglicanthomist >>at<< gmail.com ???

I would love to continue discussing these things more offline.

Blessings,
Steven Augustine Badal
(ACC Layman)

Anonymous said...

Caedmon & Fr. Wells,

And that's precisely the strength of classical Augustinianism: any talk of permissiveness still collapses into His willingness for one free event to occur over against another, so that His purposes would be fulfilled. We need to keep the language of "permission" because it is reasonable, but it still falls under the umbrella of His decrees, and so the foreknowledge folks don't escape much of this difficulty no matter how much they want to.

Good posts, all.

Steve Badal
(ACC Layman)

Anonymous said...

Positing God’s foreknowledge of foreseen faith doesn’t rescue the view, for as several of us have pointed out here, a foreknown event is just as predestined as an eternally decreed one. If free will is in, foreknowledge is out. The open theists are right about that one.

Ironically this is the assumption that Calvinists and Open Theists both share against classic Arminianism, but it is incorrect. The assumption confuses 'necessity' and 'certainty', but these are not the same. 'Necessity' refers to causality; 'Certainty' refers to knowledge. God's omniscience (which includes His 'foreknowledge') encompasses things that happen by necessity and things that are contingent--however His knowledge is absolutely certain in both cases.

So to speak more accurately, one should say 'a foreknown event is as CERTAIN as an eternally decreed one'. The reason why the former is preferable theologically, is not because we seek to egotistically exalt man's autonomy (as some Calvinists allege) but rather to defend God's Holy CHARACTER as revealed in Scriptures. For you see, if there is no room for contingency in God's foreknowledge, especially with respect to the sins of our first parents and of the fallen angels, then I don't see how one can escape the conclusion that God is the author of their sin. If they (Adam, Eve, Lucifer/fallen angels) sinned necessarily and couldn't do otherwise according to God's eternal decree, then one must conclude that it's God who is actually responsible for the creature's sin, regardless of what distinction may be alleged regarding 'primary' and 'secondary causes'. The 'secondary causes' are only doing what they do by necessity in the the framework of exhaustive determinism, so the primary cause is ultimately the only true actor in the universe. (And appealing to compatibilism doesn't let God off the hook, for if Adam/Eve's and Lucifer's fall were rendered necessary then there would be no real contingency to speak of.)

Far be it from me to ascribe this authorship of sin to our Holy God who is Light and in whom is no darkness at all.

DT

Caedmon said...

Ironically this is the assumption that Calvinists and Open Theists both share against classic Arminianism, but it is incorrect. The assumption confuses 'necessity' and 'certainty', but these are not the same. 'Necessity' refers to causality; 'Certainty' refers to knowledge. God's omniscience (which includes His 'foreknowledge') encompasses things that happen by necessity and things that are contingent--however His knowledge is absolutely certain in both cases.

At the end of the day, DT, the distinction you draw here is one without a difference. First, necessity need NOT imply causality. It just as well carries the meaning of inevitability with no reference whatsoever to causality, and St. Augustine himself did not shy away from the term. Second, if a foreknown action is “certain”, then its outcome is not in doubt. There is no chance whatsoever that the subject will make any other choice than the foreknown one. Third, if God’s foreknowledge of the Fall renders it “certain” (but not “necessary”), how does this any more get God off the hook for the problem of evil in a way that using the term "necessity" does not?

No, I am not saying that God is the “author” of evil. But nor can I embrace the answer of open theism, which actually does absolve God from any “complicity” in evil’s existence. If Christianity goes down that route theologically, it is done for, for it essentially makes God into one the Greek deities. Better simply to appeal to the mystery of it all, and hold on to God’s perfect omniscience and everything that follows from that, however problematic, but without attributing any “evildoing” to Him.

Anonymous said...

Re. DT (9:28 AM) and Caedmon (9:46 PM): I don't think I ever heard of "open theism" before this post-&-comments, though the Wikipedia article (as of 16 Jan.) describes as adherents or examples people some of whose work I have read or whom I have heard lecture with interest and often gratitude (if by no means always with agreement): Polkinghorne, Peacocke, Lucas, Ward, Swinburne, Geach, and Walterstorff (a number whom are very deliberately and thoughtfully 'Anglican' though not 'Continuing').

I do not see that or how "God’s foreknowledge of the Fall renders it 'certain'": surely the actualization of the unnecessary but possible 'Falling' would 'render to' God (fore)knowledge? (Consider in this context St. Augustine, Enchiridion, ch. 104.)

Nor do I see how "open theism [...] actually does absolve God from any 'complicity' in evil’s existence." How is the Creator of the possibility of evil action, and the Sustainer of its effects in the Fallen Creation not in some sense 'complicit' - though without (so to put it) 'primarily intending' the unnecessary but possible actualization?

Nor do I see how 'open theology' "essentially makes God into one the Greek deities". Can it not be a question of 'ktisiology': that God in the Power of His Sovereign Goodness and Love can - and has - Created - "brought into a 'becoming-existence'" - a Creation that does not exist to be known until it has (to whatever extent) indeterminately, freely actualized as it's been going along Graciously Sustained by Him in keeping with His (minutely particular) Good Intention(s) and Care in their 'interaction' as "two living energies, completely interpenetrating each other" (to apply Von Hügel as quoted by RC Cola from Phillips)?

I like Fr. Hart's saying of this Article (2:21 PM), "The emphasis is on grace & salvation.

"I believe that is far as we can go with its actual content."

Semi-Hookerian

Caedmon said...

Semi-Hookerian:

I am somewhat familiar with the neo-Calvinist Wolterstoff and the panentheist Peacocke, have heard of Swinburne, but know nothing of the others. There is nothing in Wolterstorff’s anti-Hellenism that I find particularly interesting or which evokes any gratitude from me, and Swinburne is Eastern Orthodox, which means that his view on the matter will necessarily lean in a Pelagian direction. Nor does it matter to me that a number of Communion Anglicans (e.g., Peacocke; Pittenger) are process/open theologians. What matters is whether or not open theology is Catholic and apostolic.

I’m not sure I understand the point of the paragraph in which you reference Enchiridion, ch. 104. Augustine’s compatibilism is evident; he nowhere “reconciles” divine predestination/foreknowledge and free will. I simply don’t see how the text you cite bears on the issue here.

The sense in which open theology makes God into one of the Greek deities is that essentially what we have here is a God who says, “Oops!” That God is too small. Not to mention too closely identified with the expanding universe and evolving life. Panentheism isn’t the Catholic religion. No sir, not at all.

Anonymous said...

'Better simply to appeal to the mystery of it all, and hold on to God’s perfect omniscience and everything that follows from that, however problematic, but without attributing any “evildoing” to Him.'

Caedmon,

It appears we will continue to disagree on some things, including the definitions/implications of words such as "certainty" (which is a referent to knowledge) and "necessity" (which refers to causality and which is the opposite of "contingency") in regards to God's foreknowledge/election/decrees, etc. However, I do concur with your above statement (that I quoted), and with that I will finally leave this long discussion.

DT

Anonymous said...

Caedmon:

My impression is that 'open theism' covers considerably various 'positions' or 'perspectives' or whatever, though from what little more sense I have of 'process theology', your 'process/open theology' seems a brush too broad for what I remember of what I have encountered of the thinkers I name.

I have the impression that 'panentheism' can be used in various senses, so I do not feel confident in ageeing with your "Panentheism isn’t the Catholic religion. No sir, not at all" without knowing more of what you mean by it, here (as perhaps some sense(s) is/are 'within the Catholic faith').

I still am not sure I follow your "Greek deities" point: doe you include the God "Good-Beyond-Being" of 'The Republic', here, or do you mean the effectively 'angelized' Olympians of 'The Phaedrus' ?

Nor am I sure what, exactly, you mean by "Augustine's compatibilism" in 'Enchiridion', ch. 104, but your expression "what we have here is a God who says, 'Oops!' That God is too small" seems a not unapt characterization of the image of his exposition, there (about which I may try to say more, soon).

-Semi-Hookerian

RC Cola said...

I hate to keep whipping this poor dead horse, but I just want to add the simple observation that one of our problems discussing this topic is the inability of our language to express the reality of God.
There is no, and there cannot be, "foreknowledge" since all knowledge that God has is present. God has no past or future tense. So to talk of pre- or post- (i.e. temporal language) is, in fact, nonsense since God being eternal knows all things at once. I defer further and better explanation of this fact to St. Thomas and his disciples.
I believe that this observation preserves both "pre-"destination and free will without compromising either.

RC Cola

Caedmon said...

The only problem, brother Cola, is that the Bible speaks in terms of God's "fore" knowledge and ordination. So much then for your assertion that to speak of God's relation to His creation in such temporal terms is "nonsense." While it is indeed necessary to view the space/time continuum an aspect of the created order and that God as its creator is "other", it does not necessarily follow from this (as, for example, the late theologian Carl Henry noted) that He exists in the kind of timeless eternity imagined by the Neoplatonist theologians. We are charged here with the task of avoiding the Scylla of Neoplatonist philosophical speculation and the Charybdis of open theism and panentheism (and yes, Semi-Hookerian, these are related theologies and both are heretical). In the final analysis, Holy Scripture must be our guide; we are not permitted any recourse to philosophical subtleties in an attempt to escape those things related to God's sovereignty that we don't happen to like.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

God does not exist in time or space, but He fills all things. Nonetheless, "foreknowledge" is a bit of a necessary anthropomorphism, as are many other words used for Divine attributes.

A. T. Cross said...

I personally find Molinism a more Biblical and logical view of predestination as it focuses more on the knowledge of God rather than the Calvinistic decrees of God. It also seems to me more in line with Article 17. I know this entry is quite late, but I'd be delighted to hear your view on a molinistic take on Article XVII.

RC Cola said...

In the final analysis, Holy Scripture must be our guide; we are not permitted any recourse to philosophical subtleties in an attempt to escape those things related to God's sovereignty that we don't happen to like.

So now we have one leg of our Anglican stool: tradition and reason be damned. Excellent, Caedmon.

Making note of God's timelessness is a protection of God's sovereignty, not an escape. No need for philosophical subtlety to prove that. It's clear as day and quite commonsensical.

Fr. Hart's last comment sums it up well: a necessary anthropomorphism.

Anonymous said...

My apologies not to have continued sooner: what follows was written after my previous comment without having read anyone else’s further comments, and is presented as drafted.

Semi-Hookerian

I. Creation is not necessary, so there must be a sort of (‘causal’ rather than temporal) ‘creational prior’. C.S. Lewis, at an early point in his theologizing in ‘Mere Christianity’ (I.4) calls “a Something […] directing the universe […] more like a mind than it is like anything else we know”, which remains relevant to “the God of Christian theology.” We can speak of the ‘creational prior’ in terms of God’s ‘intention’.

In his ‘Enchiridion’, St. Augustine says of this intention as touching man, “prius hominem fieri ut et bene velle posset et male” (ch. 105) adding “non tamen iustitiae retinendae sufficiebat liberum arbitrium” (ch. 106). But it would seem what might be called ‘His initial primary intention’ was “primum hominem […] in ea salute in qua conditus erat custodire [...], eumque opportuno tempore post genitos filios sine interpositione mortis ad meliora perducere” (ch. 104). God is not seen as equally, indifferently intending “bene […] et [or ‘aut’] male” exercise of “free will”.

[continued]

Anonymous said...

[Semi-Hookerian, continued]

II. But then, in ch. 104, St. Augustine seems to produce an ‘oops’. God somehow with respect to this ‘intended-but -not- “yet”-created man’ “praesciebat” “eum male usurum libero arbitrio, hoc est peccaturum esse”. And, in response to this ‘praescire’ of the ‘non-enacted “act” of the non-existent because not created “agent” ’, God is depicted as altering His creational intention by the additional of a sort of ‘secondary intention’, “ad hoc potius praeparavit voluntatem suam ut bene ipse faceret etiam de male faciente”.

Here, St. Augustine seems inescapably to compound his first ‘oops’ in that the ‘knowable act of the existent because created “free agent” ’ presumably takes place in the actually created ‘revised version of creation’, revised on the basis of ‘praescire’ of the first version ‘never’ created as such.

[continued]

Anonymous said...

[Semi-Hookerian, concluded]

III. Another sort of ‘oops’ lies in the ‘content’ which St. Augustine assigns to the ‘bene facere’ before and after ch. 104, namely the depiction of God deciding only to allow, by withholding help He could as easily give (cf. chs. 98, 95), the majority of this agent’s descendants (ch. 99), including an unspecified number who never become agents at all themselves (ch. 93), to suffer everlasting punishment (ch. 112), instead of the totality of them (ch. 99).

So far as I can see, none of the some twenty-odd verses or passages of Scripture which (scholars tell us) he cites, discusses, or echoes in the course of twenty-one chapters (93-113) require anything like this, nor are they obviously served by it, exegetically.

The road to unconvincing theologizing can be as paved with good intentions as another.

I write, as always, very consciously ‘under correction’. My general impression of St. Augustine is that, if he were still ‘among us’ (his ‘dies natalis’ not yet having arrived), he would, if appropriate, as readily correct his own work as another’s response to it.

Caedmon said...

RC Cola writes,

So now we have one leg of our Anglican stool: tradition and reason be damned. Excellent, Caedmon.

I have nowhere denied the other two legs. It's just that it's Scripture, Tradition and Reason in that order. At least that's consistent with what I read in Article VI.

By the way, there's just a hint of some animosity or condescension in your comment here. There's no need for that, is there?

Fr. Hart's last comment sums it up well: a necessary anthropomorphism.

Well, I'm having a little difficulty with the idea that it
a *mere* anthropomorphism. That God "repented" is an example of a clear (and mere) anthropomorphism to me. That God knows something before it happens, however, seems to me to fall under the category of His omniscience, and there's nothing anthropomorphic about His
knowing exhaustively all things. And this is exactly why a number of theologians argue that there's a real problem entailed in saying that God sees all things as an "eternal now". There was a "time" when the universe was not. Then there was a time when it was spoken into existence by the creative Word. What was God doing "before" he created the cosmos. The Scriptures do tell us a little something about that, and it uses temporal language in telling it. Anthropomorphism? Or simply logically necessary, because there was in fact a "time" when the universe was not and when God was planning it all?

But this all drives me, once again, to the point Mozley made. We cannot derive definite and absolute systems from either predestinarian or free will starting points, but it is far better to err in the Augustinian direction than the Pelagian one.

Fr. Robert Hart said...

The anthropomorphism is in the use of a word that suggests time; i.e. foreknowledge suggests someone in time, unless we see it as somewhat metaphorical. But, even that is not the answer; it goes to a deeper level still. There could not have been a "time" without the universe, because time is part of creation, and indeed, one with space. God created time with everything else. The great I AM knows everything eternally, which from our standpoint, with the knowledge that God fills all things, we can call foreknowledge. In our time and at any point in history as we know it, even two hundred or two million years ago, God's knowledge already included everything each of us would do today.

Anonymous said...

Caedmon (2:53 PM):

Before accepting your conclusion that "open theism and panentheism [...] are related theologies and both are heretical" in its full sweep, I would like to read:

Andrew Louth,“The Cosmic Vision of Saint Maximos the Confessor”, pp. 184–196; Alexei V. Nesteruk, “The Universe as Hypostatic Inherence in the Logos of God: Panentheism in the Eastern Orthodox Perspective”, pp. 169–183; and Kallistos Ware, “God Immanent yet Transcendent: The Divine Energies according to Saint Gregory Palamas”, in, pp. 157–168, in 'In Whom We Live and Move and Have Our Being: Panentheistic Reflections on God's Presence in a Scientific World', P. Clayton and A. Peacocke, eds.(Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 2004) -

which I found in the Bibliography of John Culp, “Panentheism” (19 May 2009), Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy [Plato.Stanford.edu] for I have encountered 'panentheism' used in a (Patristic) context so far as I can recall quite orthodox - though a lot of what Culp summarizes as 'panentheism(s)' is quite clearly heretical (and some more - due to brevity? - not clearly not heretical)!

Semi-Hookerian

Anonymous said...

Now about 7 or 8 months after this thread was active--I'd like to chime in with a great quote from Calvin which touches on the scope of the atonement and the salvific will of God.

Calvin's Commentary on Galatians.
Gal 5:12. Would that they were even cut off. His indignation proceeds still farther, and he prays for destruction on those impostors by whom the Galatians had been deceived. The word, “cut off,” appears to be employed in allusion to the circumcision which they pressed. “They tear the church for the sake of circumcision: I wish they were entirely cut off.” Chrysostom favors this opinion. But how can such an imprecation be reconciled with the mildness of an apostle, who ought to wish that all should be saved, and that not a single person should perish? So far as men are concerned, I admit the force of this argument; for it is the will of God that we should seek the salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world.
http://sacred-texts.com/chr/calvin/cc41/cc41009.htm

As was noted earlier in this thread--Calvin (along with Rome and the other reformers) explicitly affirmed Peter Lombard's "sufficient"/"efficient" definition of the atonement.

God Bless,
W.A. Scott