Did the Early Christian Fathers Teach Calvinism?

Posted on July 25, 2011 by Jack Cottrell HERE.

QUESTION: Some say that the doctrines of Calvinism did not begin with John Calvin, nor even with Augustine (died A.D. 430). Rather, they claim that the TULIP doctrines are present throughout the writings of the church fathers from the beginning. One Calvinist who says this is Michael Horton, in an appendix to his book, Putting Amazing Back into Grace (Baker, 2002). What do you say about this?

ANSWER: I have read a large portion (not all) of the pre-Nicene, Nicene, and post-Nicene fathers, and have done so with my Calvinist and non-Calvinist sensors on full alert. I believe that my conclusion is valid, that the Calvinist TULIP doctrines originated with Augustine and thus were not present in the pre-Augustinian fathers.

I surveyed the texts cited by Horton, and I saw nothing that moves me to change my mind. It is not easy to evaluate the texts that he cites from the church fathers, since he gives no bibliographical data other than a writer’s name and an approximate date. He does not say what English translation he is using, and he seems to have made no attempt to check the translation against the original Greek or Latin version.

I decided to do some checking myself. Under the cited texts that allegedly support “unconditional election,” Horton quotes Clement of Rome, claiming that Clement’s letter was written in A.D. 69 (several decades earlier than most scholars would put it). Part of the quote says, “Seeing then that we are the special elect portion of a Holy God, let us do all things that pertain unto holiness.”

I found this in chapter 30 of Clement’s letter. The Greek says, hagiou oun meris hyparchontes poiēsōmen ta tou hagias mou panta. The fact is that there are no Greek words corresponding to “special elect” in this statement of Clement. The whole concept of election is read into this quotation. Also, we should note that the context of the statement has nothing to do with election.

Another citation from Clement, in support of perseverance of the saints (the P doctrine), is given thus by Horton: “It is the will of God that all whom He loves should partake of repentance, and so not perish with the unbelieving and impenitent. He has established it by His almighty will. But if any of those whom God wills should partake of the grace of repentance, should afterwards perish, where is His almighty will? And how is this matter settled and established by such a will of His?”

I had a very difficult time trying to find the section from which this quote supposedly comes. The closest I saw is in chapter 8. Here Clement cites several OT texts where God declares his desire for wicked Israel to repent, especially using Isaiah 1. Then Clement says, “Desiring, therefore, that all His beloved should be partakers of repentance, He has, by His almighty will, established….” The text ends here; it does not say what God has established; the translation I used adds the words, “these declarations,” i.e., the OT quotations. The Greek text reads: pantas oun tous agapētous autou boulomenos metanoias metaschein estērizen to pantokratorikō boulēmati autou. The “quotation” as cited by Horton does not even come close to what the original is saying. To say that it supports “perseverance of the saints” is pure fantasy; it also ignores the context.

Another ancient document cited several times by Horton is the so-called Epistle of Barnabas, which he dates as A.D. 70 and attributes to “Paul’s sidekick” in the Book of Acts. (Few scholars, if any, agree with this.) He cites this statement from Barnabas as supporting “Human Inability” (i.e., Total Depravity): “Learn: before we believed in God, the habitation of our heart was corrupt and weak.” This translation seems to be correct, but the only thing it establishes is that “Barnabas” believed that the hearts of men are depraved, which is not the same as TOTAL depravity. The citation thus proves nothing.

Horton says the following quote from “Barnabas” teaches Unconditional Election thus: “We are elected to hope, committed by God unto faith, appointed to salvation.” I could find this statement nowhere in the Epistle of Barnabas. But even if it were there, the description of Christians as “elected” is not Calvinism; this is fairly common NT language. The Calvinist twist is to add the word unconditional, and there is nothing of this nature in the alleged quote which Horton attributes to Barnabas.

To cite one more quote, Horton says this statement from Barnabas shows that he believed in Irresistible Grace: “God gives repentance to us, introducing us into the incorruptible temple.” This translation seems to be correct, but again, this is saying nothing more than what is affirmed in the Bible, i.e., that God gives to us the opportunity to repent. (See my book, The Faith Once for All, pp. 199-200.) To say Barnabas is hereby affirming the Calvinist doctrine of irresistible grace not only reads too much into the statement; it also ignores the context of it.

It is extremely poor scholarship to lay out a string of quotations, as Horton does, with little documentation, with apparently no checking of the wording against the originals, and with no consideration of the contexts of the statements. It is also important to take account of the overall teachings of these writers, which will put the cited quotations into perspective. E.g., while the church fathers certainly speak of Christians as being “elect” or as being predestined to salvation, it is clear from their overall teaching about the subject that they believed God predestines according to his foreknowledge. (See my earlier Facebook note, “When Did Calvinism Begin,” published in early June 2011.)

As a theological student, when I first read the apostolic fathers, I made notations in the margins of all the passages that contradict the doctrines of Calvinism. The margins of my old Lightfoot edition are full of the letters T, U, L, I, and P, indicating statements that show that these writers did NOT believe in the five points. These are the kinds of statements that Horton’s list ignores.

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For some quotes that are much clearer from the Early Church Fathers please CLICK HERE

34 thoughts on “Did the Early Christian Fathers Teach Calvinism?

  1. Dr. Flowers writes, “I found this in chapter 30 of Clement’s letter. The Greek says, hagiou oun meris hyparchontes poiēsōmen ta tou hagias mou panta. The fact is that there are no Greek words corresponding to “special elect” in this statement of Clement. The whole concept of election is read into this quotation. Also, we should note that the context of the statement has nothing to do with election.”

    Chapter 30 begins, “Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness,…” So, Horton has added the clarifying term, “special elect.” The need is to determine what Clement meant by writing that believers are the “portion of the Holy One.”

    The previous chapter reads, “Let us then draw near to Him with holiness of spirit,…loving our gracious and merciful Father, who has made us partakers in the blessings of His elect. For thus it is written, “When the Most High divided the nations, when He scattered the sons of Adam,…His people Jacob became the portion of the Lord, and Israel the lot of His inheritance.” And in another place [the Scripture] saith, “Behold, the Lord taketh unto Himself a nation out of the midst of the nations, as a man takes the first-fruits of his threshing-floor; and from that nation shall come forth the Most Holy.” This seems to establish the context for the beginning of chapter 30 so that we could reasonably conclude that Clement, in referring to the “portion” has in mind Jacob who was chosen over Esau. So, Horton reads the “election” from Chapter 29 into chapter 30 based on the opening language, “Seeing, therefore…” That is legitimate.

    I think your analysis is limited and does not support your point – “…the context of the statement has nothing to do with election.”

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  2. Calvinism: Absent Among Pre-Nicene Christians
    http://www.biblequery.org/Doctrine/Predestination/EarlyChristiansNotCalvinists.htm

    I think Calvinism did exist in the days of the early church – in the form of Gnosticism – but not with the church fathers.

    And Calvin himself asserts that he found the church fathers unreliable – which simply means some things they wrote contradicted elements of the Gnostic-NeoPlatonism Augustine synchronized into his Catholic doctrines.

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    1. You are absolutely right, the only “divine determinist” thought that existed in the days of the early church was espoused by the Gnostics (and some philosophical Pagans in the form of “predetermined fate”). Not only did none of the early church fathers write anything that I have yet found in support of a divine determinist theology, but they vigorously fought against it wherever it existed. Here are just a few quotes from early church fathers that I have found in which they are doing battle with the divine determinism of the Gnostics and others …

      “[The Marcionites] say, But God hardened the heart of Pharaoh and of his servants.” [my note …. they said this to support their belief that God made some by nature good before birth and they will be saved but made some by nature bad before birth (hardens them) so that they cannot be saved]. “Now those who allege such difficulties do not read in the Gospel …. So He has given them over to unbelief and turned His face away from men of this character, leaving them in the darkness that they have chosen for themselves. So what is baffling if He gave Pharaoh and those who were with him over to their unbelief? For they would never have believed.” ….Irenaus
      *Marcion was one of the leading Gnostic teachers of the second century. He founded his own church and his followers became known as “Marcionites”.

      “The teaching of both the Old and the New Testaments are unnecessary if a person is saved by nature (as Valentinus would have it) and is a believer and an elect man by nature (as Basilides thinks)”. … Clement of Alexandria
      *Valentinus (100 to 180 AD) was a native of Egypt, who formed his own school of Gnosticism in Alexandria and Rome and was one of the foremost Gnostic teachers of the early second century.
      *Basilides, who lived in Alexandria during the first half of the second century, was one of the foremost Gnostic teachers and probably influenced Valentinus.

      … “For Valentinus, like Basilides, also supposes there is a class who are saved by nature and that this different race has come here to us from above, for the abolition of death.” …. Clement of Alexandria
      *Clement describes the Gnostic teaching that there are a special race, or class, of people who have been predestined and elected before birth to be a believer and be saved

      “Would Celsus then have … God fill the minds of men with new ideas, immediately removing the wickedness and implanting virtue” [my note …. sounds just like the Calvinist idea of regeneration before faith]? “Where, then, is our free will? And what credit is there in agreeing to the truth? Or how is it praiseworthy to reject what is false?” …..-From Origen’s Contra Celsus
      *Celsus was a philosophical pagan (associated with Gnosticism) who wrote a critique of Christianity. Contra Celsus was Origen’s refutation of that critique, speaking against the idea that God “regenerates” men first and implants virtue and righteousness in them before they come to God in repentance and faith.

      …”But as to themselves, they hold that they will be entirely saved for a certainty – not by means of their conduct” [my note added..in other words not conditionally], “but because they are spiritual by nature.” [my note add, but unconditionally by pre-detemination before they were born] ….Origen
      *Origen, speaking of the belief of Valentinus (one of the primary Gnostic teachers) that Valentinus is one of the “pneumatics, spiritual ones” or the “elect” who are saved because they were pre-determined to be born with by nature, to be one of the “spiritual elect”

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      1. This is a wonderful post andyb2015!!!

        Yes, the Gnostic constituents found within Calvinism are discernible for those who take the time to study those constituents as they existed within the Christian Gnostics.

        Calvinists leaders however, are aware of this, so they are very careful to not use the exact same language phrases and the exact same terms the Gnostics used.

        But first and foremost within Calvinism is the highly observable constituent of Gnosticism’s cosmology of “Dualism” which manifests often in the form of “moral-dualism”.

        Gnosticism’s “Dualism” is where “yin-yang” evolved from.

        Christian Gnosticism asserted a significant presence in its day and the Gnostic sect of Manichaeism flourished in the ancient world. Manichaeism spread with extraordinary speed through both the east and west, from North Africa to China. Being widely promoted by apostles,

        it reached Egypt at around 240 A.D., and Rome at around 280 A.D. The Roman Emporer Galerius issued the Edict of Toleration in 311 A.D., which ended the Diocletianic persecution of Christianity. Manichaean monasteries existed in Rome in 312 A.D. during the time of the Catholic Pope, Miltiades.

        Gnosticism and NeoPlatonism were highly co-mingled doctrines. That is why Augustine in his intense quest for answers embraced elements of them both – believing elements of them divinely inspired.

        The Christian Gnostic, using metaphoric language, might say “Every man is born into a “Field”
        The term “Field” represents what is predestined for that man.
        Some are born in to “Field” of eternal salvation – and others born into a “Field” of eternal damnation.

        Take note of the “Dualism” inherent in this conception – its the same “Dualism” found as the core conception within Calvinism.

        The Calvinist using metaphoric language (avoiding Gnostic terminology) would say
        Every man is born into a “Domain of Providence”.
        But the concept “Domain of Providence” is equivalent to the Gnostic “Field”.

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  3. The fact that the early church fathers clearly, universally, and firmly believed that God interacts with man in a synergistic way that includes both God’s moving upon man by His Holy Spirit and His word and man’s free will is well documented and I’ve not heard it disputed by any (this is the first I’ve heard of Horton trying to make the case).

    The historian Episcopius said,
    “what is plainer than that the ancient divines, for three hundred years after Christ, those at least who flourished before St. Augustine, maintained the liberty of our will, or an indifference to two contrary things, free from all internal and external necessity!”

    Calvin clearly wrote and admitted (with of course an attitude dripping of disdain) that the early church fathers believed in a synergistic working of God with man’s free will in salvation …
    Calvin wrote…
    “As to the Fathers, (if their authority weighs with us), they have the term constantly in their mouths” and “The Greek fathers above others” have taught “the power of the human will” and “they have not been ashamed to make use of a much more arrogant expression calling man ‘free agent or self-manager,’ just as if man had a power to govern himself and “The Latin fathers have always retained the word ‘free will’ as if man stood yet upright.”

    Loraine Boettner, a leading reformed/Calvinist Historian and Theologian, freely admits this as well when he says …
    “It may occasion some surprise to discover that the doctrine of Predestination was not made a matter of special study until near the end of the fourth century… They [church fathers] of course taught that salvation was through Christ; yet they assumed that man had full power to accept or reject the gospel… They taught a kind of synergism in which there was a co-operation between grace and free will.”

    I would certainly disagree with Boettner however that “the doctrine of predestination was not made a matter of special study until near the end of the fourth century.” I’ve accumulated more than 50+ quotes from 15 to 20 various early church fathers from the very earliest (Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaus …c50 to 150 AD) to the latest (Athanasius, John Chrystostom) that all write of and support a synergistic way of God working in man that includes man’s free will and/or fights against a monergistic divine deterministic view. The early church fathers wrote and studied much on the doctrines of predestination and the church was totally unified in this thought. It was not until Augustine that any church father took a different view (by the way, Augustine was a Manichaean (an offshoot of Gnosticism) for 10+ years before he was saved. When he was first saved, he, like all of the early church fathers before him, fought against the Manichaean idea of divine determinism. It was only when he picked up the fight against Palagius that he did a 180 and again adopted a divine determinist viewpoint).

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    1. wonderful post andyb2015!!!

      Very Awesome that you have done this research!!!

      Yes, on Augustine turning from the position of the early fathers and turning to a reliance upon Gnostic arguments.
      It is believed Augustine did this out of frustration as he had no substantive arguments to defeat the arguments of Pelagius.
      Thus he returned to the arguments of the Manichaeans.

      It is an undisputed fact that the lineage of Catholic doctrines evolved in a significantly syncretistic manner. This is a period of time, during which the Roman church was becoming a dominating world power, and in its growth, it consumes and adds to itself, the distinctions of every form of paganism.

      The syncretistic processes of evolution at this time cannot be understated. And the realization of the tree becoming hybrid is inevitable. Rather than wrestle against principalities and powers, the tradition was to co-op them.

      History will then evidence the burning to the stake of young mothers for teaching their children the Lords prayer, or families for reading scripture, and the massacre of whole villages.

      English historian, Theodore Maynard, in The story of American Catholicism writes: “It has often be charged… that Catholicism has been overlaid with many pagan incrustations.

      Catholicism is ready to accept that charge – and to make it her boast. The great god Pan is not really dead, he is baptized.”

      Gnosticism’s constructs would be imbibed by the Catholic NeoPlatonists, and Augustine (following the Catholic model) would carry them forward, and in his eloquent writing, baptize them as Christian, just like the great god Pan.

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  4. Some might argue, why does it matter what the early church fathers believed? Does this prove that Calvinism is wrong? Of course not. But, it matters a great deal what they believed.

    I have this question: Did every early church father and every leader in the early church, including the ones who were companions and directly taught by the apostles, misunderstand what Paul and Peter and John taught in regard to the doctrine of election? During the first 400 years after Christ was it the Gnostics and Manicheans, who believed in a form of divine determinism, who had beliefs that lined up more closely and correctly with the apostles teaching on this doctrine? If we have a distinct division between what the early church taught for the first 400 years and what Augustine and the reformers taught, the question is, who should know better what the Apostle Paul, John, Peter, and others meant in their writings in scripture? Was it as Calvin, who, living in the 1500’s, in quite an arrogant way accused the church fathers of arrogance? Between those two groups, who had the advantage in understanding the intent of Paul’s writings, those who ministered along with the apostles and who actually knew Paul and Peter and John and spoke with them and heard them preach and expound on scripture with their own ears (Polycarp, Ignatius, Clement of Rome) and those who were students taught by the men who were taught directly by the apostles (Irenaeus), or those who were six to eight generations removed (Augustine) or 1,500 years removed (Luther, Calvin) from the apostles? Was it those 1,500 years removed from the apostolic age or the early Greek Church fathers who had the advantage of the fact that their native language and culture was the same as that of the apostles and they had no need for interpreting the words or understanding the cultural context or the Greek grammar? Was it those 1,500 years removed from the time of the writing of the epistle or some of the early fathers, such as Clement of Rome, were actually part of the early church in Rome to who Paul wrote his epistle to? Did Calvin, living in Geneva 1,500 years removed from the writing of the book of Romans not understand what Paul meant in Romans or did Clement not understand what Paul meant in the ninth chapter of the book written to him and the other Christians living in Rome? Were all of Paul’s immediate students and subsequent followers over the next few hundred years such poor students and so poor at understanding what Paul meant that they didn’t understand his teachings on the issue of election and free will? Granted, some of Paul’s teachings were hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16), but who had the advantage in understanding Paul’s teaching, those who Paul actually wrote to or were students of the apostles or within a few generations of the apostles or those who were removed from that dynamic by 400 or 1,500 years? I think the answer to these questions is obvious. Does that end the discussion? Of course not. All of the leaders of the early Church could still all be wrong. But you must admit they had many more advantages when interpreting and understanding the teachings of the apostles than those who lived much later and when their understanding differs with those who lived much later one better be careful before dismissing their beliefs in favor of the latter. I believe these men were correct in their interpretation. You can say you believe they were wrong. But you must be honest when you do. In order to say that they were wrong you need to be prepared to say that those four hundred years and 1,500 years after Christ and the apostles knew better what Paul and Peter and John meant than those to whom the letters were written and who lived in the immediate and close time frame to the apostles.
    In order to discount the belief of every early Church Father on this subject, this is the conclusion you have to be prepared to come to if you think that Paul taught Divine Determinism. If Paul taught a doctrine of unconditional election and divine determinism, his immediate students and followers and church leaders apparently didn’t understand one bit of his teaching on this subject. Not only didn’t they understand it, they vigorously opposed it.

    In addition, you will need to believe that the only group that had a doctrine that was anything related to what Paul was really teaching on this subject were the Gnostics and then the Manicheans. Somehow, the Gnostics and Manicheans got the core beliefs about the trinity, God, and the deity of Jesus wrong, but got in the ballpark when it came to the teaching of Paul about predestination. Again, I suppose that it’s in the realm of possibility that this could be true. I don’t believe it’s the case. But if you call yourself a Divine Determinist of any stripe, Calvinist or otherwise, you must believe that the early Church, even though they were the direct recipients of Paul’s teachings and in or very close to the time of the apostles, got Paul’s teaching totally wrong. But predestination as the Gnostics and Manicheans espoused, although certainly not the same theology as what the Calvinist believes, was still a type of divine determinism and included many of the same concepts of predestination before birth and unconditional election as Calvinism includes and therefore much closer to what Paul was really teaching.

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  5. WILLIAM LANE CRAIG ON LIBERTARIAN FREE WILL WITHIN SCRIPTURE:

    I think that the Bible teaches we are libertarian free agents. The Bible is replete with passages that assume that human beings, in their intercourse with God and with one another, are free agents who are held morally responsible for their actions. They are not like machines or puppets that do not have the ability to make free choices, and therefore would be irresponsible for their moral choices. On the contrary, God holds us morally responsible for what we do, and I think that that becomes nonsensical apart from libertarian freedom.

    And in fact the Bible indicates that when a person is in a position of temptation that God will always provide a way of escape so that you do not have to sin. He says you will be able to bear it; God can be counted on to give you a way of escape. So imagine a person who is in a position of temptation and he doesn’t avail himself of the escape route, instead he succumbs to the temptation and gives in and sins. Was he determined to do so?

    Well, not, according to the Scripture. The Scripture says God has provided a way of escape so that you would be able to bear that temptation successfully. So in conditions in which a person sins he does so freely, he isn’t determined to sin, he had the ability to avail himself of the way of escape and resist sin, if he wanted to. So I think as Christians we have every ground for believing that we are free agents who are not determined to do what we do.

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/questions-on-molinism-compatibilism-and-free-will

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    1. br.d quoting WL Craig, “The Bible is replete with passages that assume that human beings, in their intercourse with God and with one another, are free agents who are held morally responsible for their actions. They are not like machines or puppets that do not have the ability to make free choices, and therefore would be irresponsible for their moral choices.”

      This is also the Calvinist position.

      Then, “imagine a person who is in a position of temptation and he doesn’t avail himself of the escape route, instead he succumbs to the temptation and gives in and sins. Was he determined to do so?
      Well, not, according to the Scripture.”

      Craig also says, “Even before the creation of the world, God knew every motion of every single electron that would ever occur in the universe. He knows your very thoughts before you even think them; he knows our free choices before we make them. God has all propositional knowledge.

      Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/defenders-2-podcast/transcript/s3-13#ixzz4sECgm51Y

      Craig doesn’t seem able to make up his mind on this, but he seems to basically agree with the Calvinists.

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      1. rhutchin writes:
        Craig doesn’t seem able to make up his mind on this, but he seems to basically agree with the Calvinists.

        So funny!!! 😀

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  6. Unfortunately, leaning on the so-called apostolic and pre-nicene “Fathers” is like Israel leaning on Egypt against the Assyrians (Is 36:6).

    The writings preserved, altered, and even forged by Medieval RC as their apostolic and pre-nicene “Fathers” were chosen because they supported the magisterial and sacramental Christianity they professed and defended… which is a false Christianity. It was not a Christianity built or established by Jesus! Accept them as authorities concerning synergism in salvation and you give an unwitting nod of approval to their false gospel of salvation, imo.

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  7. THE CALVINIST EPICUREAN PLATONIST STRATEGY

    Ideas about causation were at the focus of attention in the early days of Greek philosophy, and it occurred to some to wonder whether all events are caused/determined by the sum total of all antecedent events. If they are caused – if determinism is true—then our thoughts/choices/actions, are themselves determined by something/someone before we were born, and hence our belief that our thoughts/choices/actions are “up to us”, is an illusion.

    If determinism is true, then our every deed/decision is the inexorable outcome of the sum of causal forces, sequentially triggering one-another, in mechanical fashion, just as a first gear moves a second. Each force coming to pass in the universe, acting at the moment, itself the consequence of an antecedent force, within a causal chain, going back to the beginning of time. And this raises the issue of human events occurring freely.

    Now there are different varieties of human freedom. The man who is locked in a prison cell is free with respect to whatever he can do within the cell. But he is not free with respect to whatever he could do outside the cell. To assert the man is free to stay in the cell or leave the cell is to assert a half-true, half-false statement. Now the determinist insists this variety of freedom qualifies as a rationally/ethically legitimate form of freedom. But this becomes problematic where the determinist insists the man is morally culpable, for actions outside of the prison cell, where such actions are, in-fact, not open to him. And this has been historically, an inherent logical/ethical problem for this variety of freedom.

    Back around 300 BC in Athens, philosophically keen Epicurean Platonists who were theological determinists, tried to find ways of alleviating these conundrums. They postulated, human souls are made up of atoms, and atomic constituents of human souls are moved by the will of the gods, and as such all choices are predestined. One invention to extricate oneself from the nightmare of predestined choice, was to assert there are breaks in the fabric of universal causation here and there. They postulated that atoms occasionally exhibit “random swerves”, affecting a break in the chain of causation, allowing for undetermined events to occur. The philosophically savvy reader here will recognize this as an historical argument *against* determinism.

    Additionally, an Epicurean strategy could be to assert two propositions. 1) That all events universally are determined. 2) That some events, in particular, are not determined. Now the reader familiar with Aristotle’s square of opposition, will recognize these as direct logical contradictions, which can be stated with the following categorical examples:

    ALL [S] ARE [P] – but NOT in such a way that ALL [S] ARE [P].
    ALL [S] ARE [P] – but in such a way that SOME [S] ARE NOT [P].

    The Epicurean Platonist determinist postulated that some atoms can swerve indeterministically, and since human souls are made up of atoms, then human thoughts/choices can come to pass undetermined by any antecedent force. A more inventive Epicurean Platonist may then be brave enough to ascribe to himself the divine right of qualifying, which thoughts/choices are determined by god and which are not – and thus he makes himself the determiner of what his god determines, instead of the other way around.

    The savvy reader will recognize the Epicurean strategy as a model of argumentation within modern theological determinists today, in the form of Calvinism, where we often see the same exact model of categorical thinking:

    Let [S] = Things which come to pass
    Let [P] = First-conceived/determined/decreed by god and then rendered-certain by god.

    ALL [S] ARE [P] – but NOT in such a way that ALL [S] ARE [P].
    ALL [S] ARE [P] – but in such a way that SOME [S] ARE NOT [P].

    Armed with this understanding, the savvy reader can discern when the Calvinist deploys philosophical strategies having been borrowed from the ancient Epicurean Platonists of old.

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    1. br.d writes, “The man who is locked in a prison cell is free with respect to whatever he can do within the cell. But he is not free with respect to whatever he could do outside the cell.”

      In Calvinism, the cell is the person’s depravity that he is unable to escape without God’s help.

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      1. br.d writes, “The man who is locked in a prison cell is free with respect to whatever he can do within the cell. But he is not free with respect to whatever he could do outside the cell.”

        rhuchin writes:
        In Calvinism, the cell is the person’s depravity that he is unable to escape without God’s help.

        More Calvinist red herrings
        In Calvinism, god predestines everything as fated.
        EVERYTHING!
        Which obviously includes the state-of-nature within which every human thought/choice/action is fated to occur.
        So in Calvinism god:
        1) first-conceives/determines/decrees the prison cell and then
        2) renders certain everything inside and outside the prison cell.

        Cutting through the Calvinist beguiling double-talk, Calvinism has god setting the house on fire and then:
        1) Knows the house is on fire by his omniscience
        2) Restrains or does not restrain the house from being on fire
        3) Helps or does not help the house escape from being on fire
        4) Makes the house on fire a “naturally occurring” event.

        (1-4) Are simply good examples of superfluous red herrings the Calvinist invents to draw your attention away from the fact that his god sets the house on fire – as Calvin would say “for his good pleasure”.

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      2. br.d writes, “Calvinism has god setting the house on fire”

        rhutchin responds – quoting br.d
        “In Calvinism, every human thought/choice/nature/destiny – is predestined by god to occur as each human’s unavoidable fate.
        God’s omniscience verifies this”

        Then rhutchin follows that with: No. Adam set the house on fire.

        Wonderful! Another wonderful example of Calvinism’s beguiling language!!

        Thanks rhutchin for all of these excellent examples. 😀

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    1. Lori Hall writes, “He methodically dismantles the “schemes” of Calvinism, Arminianism and Nationalism showing that none of these doctrines were held by the earliest church fathers.”

      Were the issues raised in the doctrines of Calvinist/Arminians even on the radar screen of the earliest church fathers? I suspect that they might not. Given that you have read the book, and the citations of the church fathers, what do you see as the issues that they had to deal with. In the NT period, these were some issues: (1) Are the Gentiles to be saved?, (2) Does one have to be circumcised?, What is the role of sacrifices?, What does it mean to under grace and not under the law?, Did Jesus rise from the dead?, What about the kingdom promised to the Jew? So, what issues prevailed between the first century and the fourth/fifth century when Augustine came on the scene and dealt with, presumably, unique teachings that had not risen before that time as with Pelagius and the Donatists? Anyone know??

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      1. There is nothing new under the sun! My view is that all the views we see today were around in the first century during the time of the apostles, in similar forms. Read how much the apostles dealt with false doctrine and bad leadership in their NT writings. But they focused on establishing the church in necessary sound doctrine, 2Tim 3:16-17. So if they did not elaborate on something that today is very contentious, it was because of such elaboration, or their speculation about it, was not important, or they would have made it clear in their Scriptures. That is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture “for every good work”.

        To think they didn’t ask the same questions about determinism and free will that we ask is just foolishness. There is sufficient record of those issues being around in the first century! But God chose not to have the apostles clarify what many of us might wish would have been clarified. But He did give us clear instructions about such doubtful things – Rom 14:1.

        What we have to research from the first four centuries is limited to what was preserved, sometimes falsely emended, and sometimes even fabricated by RC leadership to support their magisterial sacramental Christianity. This is conceded by all unbiased historical surveys. RC outlawed everything else and usually destroyed what they could get their hands on. Look into the Epistles of Ignatius and the Donation of Constantine for how emendations and forgeries were made and used to consolidate RC power.

        Those examples alone make suspect anything for which there is no manuscript evidence available to us before AD 800, and that limits greatly what is “supposedly” from the first four centuries outside of the NT documents themselves. And, of course, that doesn’t mean there were not emendations and forgeries even early, as the Gnostic gospels prove.

        There is no authority in Ignatius any more than in Sproul, or in Polycarp any more than in Boyd. The authority for doctrine and practice must be tied only to Scripture.

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      2. brianwagner writes, “There is nothing new under the sun!”

        Just scanning through the cited book, the conclusion of the author seems to be that the issues of predestination and election were not substantively addressed by the early church fathers – suggesting that they were not controversial – and that they are a matter of interpretation between Calvinists and Arminians. I don’t see anything in what you wrote to dispute this conclusion.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you Lori!

      Let me provide a small section of the book – so SOT101 readers get a preview.

      PREFACE: (During the debate with Pelagius)

      When Augustine fully propounded his own views of Election and Predestination, he was immediately charged with innovating upon the ancient doctrine of the Church. He was assured by the complainants that they had never before heard of such speculations. He was referred to the current system of the existing Catholic Church. And he was challenged to produce evidence that his new opinions had ever been advanced as the mind of scripture by any of his ecclesiastical predecessors.

      Additionally, this very charge of unauthorized innovations was respectfully brought by persons, who concurred with Augustine in his opposition to Pelagianism, and whose doctrine in regard to Original Sin and Human sufficiency and Divine Grace he himself acknowledged to be sound and correct. Such, then, was the charge: and, as the charge rested upon the allegation of a fact, it clearly could not be set aside save by the process of showing the allegation of the fact to be altogether false and unfounded.

      Of this, Augustine was conscious: and, being driven to a reply – out of the whole mass of earlier ecclesiastical writers he ventured only even to attempt to produce three. These were quotations from Cyprian, Gregory-Nazianzen and Ambrose: which were all, far too modern, even if they had been to his purpose. But all, either useless, or worse than useless, to him, in the way of evidence, even comparatively modern as they were.

      As for Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch, (adduced, as they have recently been by Mr. Milner, in the capacity of witnesses,) he does not appear so much as for a moment to have imagined, that they could in any wise be made useful to him in the way of testimony. Most important as they doubtless would have been in the character of witnesses, could they have been cogently and availably brought forward. In any case, Augustine passes them over, in total, though perfectly intelligible silence.

      The charge, therefore, we may pronounce to be fully established and as an unquestionable point of fact. The System, now denominated Calvinism, was unheard of, until the beginning of the fifth century. It was first promulgated and defended by Augustine.

      Consequently, still in point of fact, the mere unauthoritative and private interpretation of one single individual who was flourishing at the commencement of the fifth century, is the sole ultimate basis upon which the system (i.e. Calvinism) reposes.

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      1. Part of the quoted material, “The System, now denominated Calvinism, was unheard of, until the beginning of the fifth century. It was first promulgated and defended by Augustine. ”

        What does this tells us – that the early church fathers did not write on the issues that were raised in the conflict between Pelagius and Augustine. Those issues do not appear to have been of importance to the early church fathers, thus, they did not expound on them. That led the author to say that those issues are driven by the interpretations of the Scriptures first by Pelagius and then in response, by Augustine that then carried over later to the Calvinists and the Arminians. The issues are still debated today. They are not trivial issues today, but they were before the fourth century when there was no Pelagius or Arminius to provoke the early church fathers.

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      2. What I believe is important is not whether the early church fathers debated Calvinism which they obviously did not but what they believed regarding the free will of man. If they believed man has free will then there is no debate, in my mind free will and the belief in free will dismantles Calvinism. If you spend time reading all of the early church father’s writings and do a search for the term “free will” you will find examples like this:
        Origen: “This also is clearly defined in the teaching of the Church, that every rational soul is possessed of free-will and volition; that it has a straggle to maintain with the devil and his angels, and opposing influences, because they strive to burden it with sins; but if we live rightly and wisely, we should endeavour to shake ourselves free of a burden of that kind. From which it follows, also, that we understand ourselves not to be subject to necessity, so as to be compelled by all means, even against our will, to do either good or evil. For if we are our own masters, some influences perhaps may impel us to sin, and others help us to salvation; we are not forced, however, by any necessity either to act rightly or wrongly, which those persons think is the case who say that the courses and movements of the stars are the cause of human actions, not only of those which take place beyond the influence of the freedom of the will, but also of those which are placed within our own power.

        Quasten writes, “The Slavonic version [of The Treatise on Free Will] bears the title On God, Matter and Free Will, and this corresponds more to the contents. It aims to prove in the form of a dialogue that the free will of man is responsible for evil. The bad cannot be thought of as originating in God nor is it uncreated matter nor eternal like God. In the course of the discussion, Methodius rejects origen’s idea of an indefinite succession of worlds. It seems that the treatise is directed against the dualistic system of the Valentinians and other Gnostics. the greater part of the work is extant in Greek in fragments, and the whole text, except for a few lacunae, in the Slavonic version. Furthermore, it is extensively quoted by Eznik of Kolb, the Armenian apologist of the fifth century, in his Refutation of the Sects, and thus large passages are preserved for us translated into his native language.” (Patrology, vol. 2, pp. 133-134)

        This below links doctrine antagonistic to free will to Gnosticism and specifically Saturninus:

        With the myth, told by Saturninus, of the animation of a previously lifeless man by a spark of light; from above, he connected the doctrine, in which he was followed by almost all Gnostic sects, that there would be no resurrection of the body, the spark of light being taken back on death to the place whence it had come, and man’s material part being resolved into its elements. Saturninus is said to have taught the doctrine, antagonistic to that of man’s free will, that there were classes of men by nature essentially different, and of these he counted two-the good and the wicked. The doctrine became common to many Gnostic, systems that the human frame contained a heavenly element struggling to return to its native place.

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      3. Hi Lori,
        Calvinist’s also claim to promote a notion of free will. But it is a different free will than what you are probably conceiving.
        The Calvinist’s notion of free will is classified as “compatiblist” free will.

        A person is free to think/desire/do ONLY what Calvin’s god determines him to think/desire/do.
        So the person’s “will” in respect to those things is “said” to be free.

        Like a rock is “free” to fall under the influence of gravity, the person’s will is “free” to think/desire/do under the influence of divine decrees.
        In other words, the person is ONLY “free” to will what Calvin’s god wills the person to will.

        However, Calvinists also assert that Calvin’s god gives humans the ILLUSION they are free to “do otherwise”.
        And the Calvinist reasons that because this ILLUSION of “do otherwise” exists, then “do otherwise” also exists.
        But of course this is a Calvinist ILLUSION.
        One they are happy to embrace as real. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      4. thank you for clarifying that to me…. they have a way out of every argument….
        Something I’d like to discuss which others may be able to add to and shed more light on is that it is Jesus’s faith that saves us….Calvinists make it all about their faith. I feel strongly that new translations have skewed this truth. If this should be in another thread , let me know. Also if others are interested in exploring this? This to me is the bedrock of grace, we must believe in what Jesus did to Justify, sanctify and eternally save us from our sin. He did it, we must believe. (simple) I’ve gone round and round with my sister and now she won’t discuss scripture any more but she literally believes all humanity was under the law and as Christians we still are. Nothing will open her eyes it seems and there is so much pride wrapped up in this doctrine.

        example: (but it goes much deeper than these verses ) How I wish I could highlight and underline but hopefully everyone can see the difference.

        (KJV) Romans 3:22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:
        (NIV) Rom. 3:22 This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile,

        (KJV) Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (NIV, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.)

        (KJV) Galatians 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
        (NIV) Gal 3:22 22 But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

        (KJV) Ephesians 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.
        (NIV) Eph 3:12 12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

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      5. Thank you Lori!
        I appreciate the sincerity and emphasis on Jesus in your post.

        But I’m not sure what you mean by “It is Jesus’s faith that saves us….Calvinists make it all about their faith. I feel strongly that new translations have skewed this truth.”

        Firstly, we understand up front that Calvinists are all about playing word games.
        Once we recognize that – they lose their ability to lead us down rabbit holes.
        So we let them chase their own tails all by themselves and we’re not seduced into their double-think.

        But can you clarify what you mean by “Jesus’ faith saves us” – does this infer we do exercise faith?

        Oh – btw: I’m not sure how familiar you are with rhutchin here at SOT101 but if not, you should be forewarned he’ll draw you into dialog posturing as being open minded – while simply waiting for an opportunity to get in a jab. And if he can jab you such that it makes you leave SOT101 – so much the better for him.

        Forewarned is forearmed. :-]

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      6. ponder these verses and see if it becomes more clear…. google “faith of Christ vs faith in Christ” to get a full scriptural distinction. This was mind blowing to me when I first saw it and gives grace a deeper meaning.

        Galatians 2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

        (Galatians 2:20) “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.”

        Galatians 3:22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

        Philippians 3:9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:

        Ephesians 3:12 In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.

        to answer your question, ” But can you clarify what you mean by “Jesus’ faith saves us” – does this infer we do exercise faith?”

        I’m not sure I can adequately convey, but simply we believe in what Christ did and that it was his faith and obedience that saves us. We are “in Christ” if we believe and have faith in what he did for us. His perfect faith saves , justifies , etc. We cannot have perfect faith. I picture HIM, THE ELECT ONE…… we are part of him by belief in what HE did for us and therefore corporately become part of his body and therefore of the elect.

        a few good links :
        https://thegospelofgod.wordpress.com/2007/11/14/the-faith-of-jesus-christ-romans-321-22/
        http://www.gracebiblestudy.net/TheFaithofChrist.html

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      7. Thank you very much Lori :-]

        Yes, I do understand what you mean now – Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit and faith.

        And this language is reiterated later in regard to certain believers described as “full of the Holy Spirit and of faith”
        The scripture also calls Jesus the πρωτότοκος “prototokos” = firstborn of many brethren.
        It goes without saying that Jesus was full of the Holy spirit had wonderful faith in the living God.
        And that we who believe are also called into the riches of his glorious inheritance.

        Wonderful Jesus!! :-]

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      8. Lori Hall writes, “Calvinists make it all about their faith.”

        Calvinists make it about faith – per Ephesians 2 – with this faith being a gift from God to His elect. Thus God saves His elect by grace and the means that God uses to accomplish this is the faith He gives to them.

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      9. Roger – I thought you agreed with my assessment! 🙂 But then you said – “They are not trivial issues today, but they were before the fourth century when there was no Pelagius or Arminius to provoke the early church fathers.” My view is that there have always been false teachers concerning the gospel and sound doctrine and there have always been false teachers with a right view of the gospel but a wrong view of sound doctrine. Just because we have little surviving evidence of some positions does not mean they didn’t exist.

        And I don’t acknowledge any as church “fathers” that RC has chosen from the first three centuries, though I do acknowledge as brothers the ones whose writings bear a true testimony to the gospel, with an asterisk noting their works might not accurately represent their views in everything.

        Both Augustine and Pelagius held to the false gospel of baptismal regeneration for the forgiveness of sins. Both Calvin and Arminius held to the unsound doctrine of completed foreknowledge before creation, which doctrine then became elevated in their circles, in different definitions, to the level of sound doctrine for ordination, and even in some cases to defining the gospel to declare the other side as unsaved.

        But I believe all these variants teachings existed in some form before AD 400… it is just harder to find the record of these positions, not just before the 5th century but after, until the 15th, because of the evil control of the manuscript preservation by RC.

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      10. brianwagner writes, “I thought you agreed with my assessment!”

        No problem with your assessment – I did not see that it added to the discussion because you could not identify any issues.

        Then, “I believe all these variants teachings existed in some form before AD 400… it is just harder to find the record of these positions, not just before the 5th century but after, until the 15th, because of the evil control of the manuscript preservation by RC.”

        OK. We know of 1st century issues because we find them in the NT Scriptures. Later issues were brought up at various councils. and from what I could find, the major issues involved Christological matters and Arianism. So, even if you are correct, who cares! Such things were not so important as to merit a council to resolve the matters. This suggests to me that you are wrong in your speculation – .that all these variants teachings existed in some form before AD 400. If they did, no one seems to have gotten excited about them.

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      11. The book Lori pointed to, written by Faber pointed to the evidence of difference in opinions concerning foreknowledge… proving there wasn’t agreement even among the writings preserved by later RC from those centuries.

        There wasn’t much anathematizing before AD 325, because there was instead a solidarity since all were under common persecution. And the first anathemas and attacks after 325 were mostly for those rejecting to join the state church started by Constantine. It became easy to come up with new theological reasons for damning others who wouldn’t submit to the established hierarchy by the emperor, imo.

        If you read the defintions and canons of each of the 7 RC councils into the 8th century, you realize they didn’t look to the earlier writers before 325 for theological authority. They hardly even mentioned Scripture as a authority in their decision making. The most they mentioned Scripture was in the 7th.

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