Saturday, March 01, 2008
Obviously, I do not endorse Mormonism. Nevertheless, the article may be eye-opening if the only thing you know about Mormonism is that they wear special underwear. (link)
It is key to be aware of the fact that we teach a very different gospel from Mormonism. We teach the pure gospel taught by Jesus and the apostles.
In my reading of the Apostolic Fathers, another gem from the Apostolic Fathers caught my eye, this one from the Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians (opening sentence):
Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus in Asia, deservedly thought happy, blessed in the greatness and fulness of God the Father, predestinated before the worlds to be for ever for a glory abiding, not to be overturned, united and elect in the true passion, by the will of the Father and of Jesus Christ our God, much joy in Jesus Christ and in blameless grace.
The Apostle Paul explains:
Nevertheless, modern liberalism opposes spanking out of a false sense of love, and a false concept of what love is. Most amusing in this opposition to love was an article posted at MSN Health. The article attempted to demonize spanking by trying to link it to bad behavior.
The article made various allegations. Perhaps they are even true. Although I have provided a link, I don't suggest that anyone read it (link). Nevertheless, if one reads it one will find a curious, seemingly anachronistic reference to sexual deviancy.
You see, in general liberalism doesn't like to speak of sexual behaviors as "deviant." After all, liberalism is the largest voice for the sexual deviancy of fornication and especially homosexual fornication. The only reason to use that kind of terminology is to try to confuse non-Liberals.
Why would that be done? Because the piece is essentially an apologetic aimed at drumming up opposition to spanking from social conservatives.
Don't get me wrong: spanking can be abused. We must discipline our children (corporeally when necessary), but we must do so in love, not in rage. Furthermore, we must teach our children what is right and wrong when it comes to sexual behaviors. We cannot oppose liberalism on child discipline but swallow the camel of sexual deviance endorsed by liberalism in the various forms of extramarital sexual relations.
We should not buy the anti-spanking propoganda, but we must learn from the cautions it provides. We must teach our young men how they should behave themselves. Furthermore, we must be cautious to implement spanking and other forms of corporeal discipline for the benefit of our children.
Semi-Pelagianism is a somewhat vague and indefinite attempt at reconciliation, hovering midway between the sharply marked systems of Pelagius and Augustine, taking off the edge of each, and inclining now to the one, now to the other. The name was introduced during the scholastic age, but the system of doctrine, in all essential points, was formed in Southern France in the fifth century, during the latter years of Augustine’s life and soon after his death. It proceeded from the combined influence of the pre-Augustinian synergism and monastic legalism. Its leading idea is, that divine grace and the human will jointly accomplish the work of conversion and sanctification, and that ordinarily man must take the first step. It rejects the Pelagian doctrine of the moral roundness of man, but rejects also the Augustinian doctrine of the entire corruption and bondage of the natural man, and substitutes the idea of a diseased or crippled state of the voluntary power. It disowns the Pelagian conception of grace as a mere external auxiliary; but also, quite as decidedly, the Augustinian doctrines of the sovereignty, irresistibleness, and limitation of grace; and affirms the necessity and the internal operation of grace with and through human agency, a general atonement through Christ, and a predestination to salvation conditioned by the foreknowledge of faith. The union of the Pelagian and Augustinian elements thus attempted is not, however, an inward organic coalescence, but rather a mechanical and arbitrary combination, which really satisfies neither the one interest nor the other, but commonly leans to the Pelagian side.
For this reason it admirably suited the legalistic and ascetic piety of the middle age, and indeed always remained within the pale of the Catholic church, and never produced a separate sect.
We glance now at the main features of the origin and progress of this school.
The Pelagian system had been vanquished by Augustine, and rejected and condemned as heresy by the church. This result, however, did not in itself necessarily imply the complete approval of the Augustinian system. Many, even opponents of Pelagius, recoiled from a position so wide of the older fathers as Augustine’s doctrines of the bondage of man and the absolute election of grace, and preferred a middle ground.
First the monks of the convent of Adrumetum in North Africa differed among themselves over the doctrine of predestination; some perverting it to carnal security, others plunging from it into anguish and desperation, and yet others feeling compelled to lay more stress than Augustine upon human freedom and responsibility. Augustine endeavored to allay the scruples of these monks by his two treatises, De gratia et libero arbitrio, and De correptione et gratia. The abbot Valentinus answered these in the name of the monks in a reverent and submissive tone.
But simultaneously a more dangerous opposition to the doctrine of predestination arose in Southern Gaul, in the form of a regular theological school within the Catholic church. The members of this school were first called “remnants of the Pelagians,” but commonly Massilians, from Massilia (Marseilles), their chief centre, and afterwards Semi-Pelagians. Augustine received an account of this from two learned and pious lay friends, Prosper, and Hilarius, who begged that he himself would take the pen against it. This was the occasion of his two works, De praedestinatione sanctorum, and De dono perseverentiae, with which he worthily closed his labors as an author. He deals with these disputants more gently than with the Pelagians, and addresses them as brethren. After his death (430) the discussion was continued principally in Gaul; for then North Africa was disquieted by the victorious invasion of the Vandals, which for several decades shut it out from the circle of theological and ecclesiastical activity.
At the head of the Semi-Pelagian party stood John Cassian, the founder and abbot of the monastery at Massilia, a man of thorough cultivation, rich experience, and unquestioned orthodoxy.He was a grateful disciple of Chrysostom, who ordained him deacon, and apparently also presbyter. His Greek training and his predilection for monasticism were a favorable soil for his Semi-Pelagian theory. He labored awhile in Rome with Pelagius, and afterwards in Southern France, in the cause of monastic piety, which he efficiently promoted by exhortation and example. Monasticism sought in cloistered retreats a protection against the allurements of sin, the desolating incursions of the barbarians, and the wretchedness of an age of tumult and confusion. But the enthusiasm for the monastic life tended strongly to over-value external acts and ascetic discipline, and resisted the free evangelical bent of the Augustinian theology. Cassian wrote twelve books De coenobiorum institutis, in which be first describes the outward life of the monks, and then their inward conflicts and victories over the eight capital vices: intemperance, unchastity, avarice, anger, sadness, dulness, ambition, and pride. More important are his fourteen Collationes Patrum, conversations which Cassian and his friend Germanus had had with the most experienced ascetics in Egypt, during a seven years’ sojourn there.
In this work, especially in the thirteenth Colloquy, he rejects decidedly the errors of Pelagius, and affirms the universal sinfulness of men, the introduction of it by the fall of Adam, and the necessity, of divine grace to every individual act. But, with evident reference to Augustine, though without naming him, he combats the doctrines of election and of the irresistible and particular operation of grace, which were in conflict with the church tradition, especially, with the Oriental theology, and with his own earnest ascetic legalism.
In opposition to both systems he taught that the divine image and human freedom were not annihilated, but only weakened, by the fall; in other words, that man is sick, but not dead, that he cannot indeed help himself, but that he can desire the help of a physician, and either accept or refuse it when offered, and that he must cooperate with the grace of God in his salvation. The question, which of the two factors has the initiative, he answers, altogether empirically, to this effect: that sometimes, and indeed usually, the human will, as in the cases of the Prodigal Son, Zacchaeus, the Penitent Thief, and Cornelius, determines itself to conversion; sometimes grace anticipates it, and, as with Matthew and Paul, draws the resisting will—yet, even in this case, without constraint—to God. Here, therefore, the gratia praeveniens is manifestly overlooked.
These are essentially Semi-Pelagian principles, though capable of various modifications and applications. The church, even the Roman church, has rightly emphasized the necessity of prevenient grace, but has not impeached Cassian, who is properly the father of the Semi-Pelagian theory. Leo the Great even commissioned him to write a work against Nestorianism, in which he found an excellent opportunity to establish his orthodoxy, and to clear himself of all connection with the kindred heresies of Pelagianism and Nestorianism, which were condemned together at Ephesus in 431. He died after 432, at an advanced age, and though not formally canonized, is honored as a saint by some dioceses. His works are very extensively read for practical edification.
Against the thirteenth Colloquy of Cassian, Prosper Aquitanus, an Augustinian divine and poet, who, probably on account of the desolations of the Vandals, had left his native Aquitania for the South of Gaul, and found comfort and repose in the doctrines of election amid the wars of his age, wrote a book upon grace and freedom, about 432, in which he criticises twelve propositions of Cassian, and declares them all heretical, except the first. He also composed a long poem in defence of Augustine and his system, and refuted the “Gallic slanders and Vincentian imputations,” which placed the doctrine of predestination in the most odious light.
But the Semi-Pelagian doctrine was the more popular, and made great progress in France. Its principal advocates after Cassian are the following: the presbyter-monk Vicentius of Lerinum, author of the Commonitorium, in which he developed the true catholic test of doctrine, the threefold consensus, in covert antagonism to the novel doctrines of Augustinianism (about 434); Faustus, bishop of Rhegium (Riez), who at the council of Arles (475) refuted the hyper-Augustinian presbyter Lucidus, and was commissioned by the council to write a work upon the grace of God and human freedom; ennadius, presbyter at Marseilles (died after 495), who continued the biographical work of Jerome, De viris illustribus, down to 495, and attributed Augustine’s doctrine of predestination to his itch for writing; Arnobius the younger; and the much discussed anonymous tract Praedestinatus (about 460), which, by gross exaggeration, and by an unwarranted imputation of logical results which Augustine had expressly forestalled, placed the doctrine of predestination in an odious light, and then refuted it.
The author of the Praedestinatus says, that a treatise had fallen into his hands, which fraudulently bore upon its face the name of the Orthodox teacher Augustine, in order to smuggle in, under a Catholic name, a blasphemous dogma, pernicious to the faith. On this account he had undertaken to transcribe and to refute this work. The treatise itself consists of three books; the first, following Augustine’s book, De haeresibus, gives a description of ninety heresies from Simon Magus down to the time of the author, and brings up, as the last of them, the doctrine of a double predestination, as a doctrine which makes God the author of evil, and renders all the moral endeavors of men fruitless; the second book is the pseudo-Augustinian treatise upon this ninetieth heresy, but is apparently merely a Semi-Pelagian caricature by the same author; the third book contains the refutation of the thus travestied pseudo-Augustinian doctrine of predestination, employing the usual Semi-Pelagian arguments.
A counterpart to this treatise is found in the also anonymous work, De vocatione omnium gentium, which endeavors to commend Augustinianism by mitigation, in the same degree that the Praedestinatus endeavors to stultify it by exaggeration. It has been ascribed to pope Leo I. († 461), of whom it would not be unworthy; but it cannot be supposed that the work of so distinguished a man could have remained anonymous. The author avoids even the term praedestinatio, and teaches expressly, that Christ died for all men and would have all to be saved; thus rejecting the Augustinian particularism. But, on the other hand, he also rejects the Semi-Pelagian principles, and asserts the utter inability of the natural man to do good. He unhesitatingly sets grace above the human will, and represents the whole life of faith, from beginning to end, as a work of unmerited grace. He develops the three thoughts, that God desires the salvation of all men; that no one is saved by his own merits, but by grace; and that the human understanding cannot fathom the depths of divine wisdom. We must trust in the righteousness of God. Every one of the damned suffers only the righteous punishment of his sins; while no saint can boast himself in his merits, since it is only of pure grace that he is saved. But how is it with the great multitude of infants that die every year without baptism, and without opportunity of coming to the knowledge of salvation? The author feels this difficulty, without, however, being able to solve it. He calls to his help the representative character of parents, and dilutes the Augustinian doctrine of original sin to the negative conception of a mere defect of good, which, of course, also reduces the idea of hereditary guilt and the damnation of unbaptized children. He distinguishes between a general grace which comes to man through the external revelation in nature, law, and gospel, and a special grace, which effects conversion and regeneration by an inward impartation of saving power, and which is only bestowed on those that are saved.
Semi-Pelagianism prevailed in Gaul for several decades. Under the lead of Faustus of Rhegium it gained the victory in two synods, at Arles in 472 and at Lyons in 475, where Augustine’s doctrine of predestination was condemned, though without mention of his name.
(source) (emphasis added)
That provides a very lengthy explanation, but you will find that at other places Schaff simply uses Semi-Pelagian as a synonym for synergistic. For example, "in reference to the freedom of the will and predestination he adopted synergistic or Semi-Pelagian views," (source) (emphasis added) or "The position of the Greek church upon this question is only negative; she has in name condemned Pelagianism, but has never received the positive doctrines of Augustine. She continued to teach synergistic or Semi-Pelagian views, without, however, entering into a deeper investigation of the relation of human freedom to divine grace." (source) (emphasis added) "And yet we must say that the Reformers, following the lead of the great saint of Hippo, went to a one-sided extreme. Melanchthon felt this, and proposed the system of synergism, which is akin to the semi-Pelagian and Arminian theories. Oecolampadius kept within the limits of Christian experience and expressed it in the sound sentence, "Salus nostra ex Deo, perditio nostra ex nobis." We must always keep in mind both the divine and the human, the speculative and the practical aspects of this problem of ages; in other words, we must combine divine sovereignty and human responsibility as complemental truths. There is a moral as well as an intellectual logic,—a logic of the heart and conscience as well as a logic of the head. The former must keep the latter in check and save it from running into supralapsarianism and at last into fatalism and pantheism, which is just as bad as Pelagianism." (source) (emphasis added)
Friday, February 29, 2008
What we do not mean:
1) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism teaches that man unassisted by grace merits salvation.
2) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism denies the necessity of grace.
3) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism is fully Pelagian.
4) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism denies a role for grace at every stage of salvation.
5) We do not mean that Roman Catholicism denies any role for Christ's sacrifice in salvation.
1) We admit that Roman Catholicism teaches that grace is necessary for salvation.
2) We admit that Roman Catholicism teaches that grace is involved at every point in salvation.
3) We admit that Roman Catholicism ascribes great importance to grace.
4) We admit that Roman Catholicism condemns Pelagianism.
5) We admit that Roman Catholicism views good works as the product of grace.
6) We admit that Roman Catholicism has a role for the sacrifice of Christ in salvation.
We criticize the Roman Catholic position as teaching works-salvation, because of a semi-Peligian error: the ascription of a role for human cooperation in salvation. We view Roman Catholicism as teaching works-salvation because:
1) Roman Catholicism teaches that cooperation with grace is also necessary for salvation. ("by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace" - Trent, Session 6, Chapter 5, see also Canons IV and IX on Justification)
2) Roman Catholicism teaches that cooperation with grace is necessary at many points in salvation. (Ibid, chapters 7 ("the Holy Ghost distributes to every one as He wills, and according to each one's proper disposition and co-operation") and 10 ("they, through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, increase in that justice which they have received through the grace of Christ, and are still further justified"),
3) Roman Catholicism condemns monergism ("CANON IX.-If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema." - "CANON IV.-If any one saith, that man's free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.").
4) Roman Catholicism teaches the meritorious value of good works performed by mere men ("CANON XXXII.-If any one saith, that the good works of one that is justified are in such manner the gifts of God, as that they are not also the good merits of him that is justified; or, that the said justified, by the good works which he performs through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, does not truly merit increase of grace, eternal life, and the attainment of that eternal life,-if so be, however, that he depart in grace,-and also an increase of glory; let him be anathema.").
5) Roman Catholicism teaches final justification based on actual (infused) righteousness ("For, whereas Jesus Christ Himself continually infuses his virtue into the said justified,-as the head into the members, and the vine into the branches,-and this virtue always precedes and accompanies and follows their good works, which without it could not in any wise be pleasing and meritorious before God" ... "Thus, neither is our own justice established as our own as from ourselves; nor is the justice of God ignored or repudiated: for that justice which is called ours, because that we are justified from its being inherent in us, that same is (the justice) of God, because that it is infused into us of God, through the merit of Christ. ").
6) Roman Catholicism teaches that it is possible for human beings to expiate sin through acts of contrition. (Trent, Fourteenth Session, Chapter 5, "For venial sins, whereby we are not excluded from the grace of God, and into which we fall more frequently, although they be rightly and profitably, and without any presumption declared in confession, as the custom of pious persons demonstrates, yet may they be omitted without guilt, and be expiated by many other remedies.")
7) Roman Catholicism teaches that Purgatory removes the guilt of sin (Trent, Twenty-Fifth Session, Decree Concerning Purgatory: "there is a Purgatory, and that the souls there detained are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar;" "CANON XXX.-If any one saith, that, after the grace of Justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise, that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world, or in the next in Purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him); let him be anathema.").
Therefore, for these reasons, we hold that Rome teaches salvation by works, in contravention of the Scriptural doctirnes of sola gratia and sola fide. We criticize the Roman Catholic position as teaching works-salvation, because of a semi-Peligian error: the ascription of a role for human cooperation in salvation. We, of course, do not conflate that particular semi-Pelagian error with historic Semi-Pelagianism in all its minutiae, nor is the label the point. The point is that works salvation is not the gospel and will not save.
We preach a different gospel: a gospel of salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, and
To the glory of God alone,
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Legend: MP (Me, i.e. TurretinFan, Previously); O (Orthodox); G (Gene Bridges) and TF (TurretinFan)
MP: A command is not an offer. The imperative command to repent and believe is consequently neither false, nor an offer.
O: Repent, believe and you will be saved is an offer by any reasonable definition thereof.
TF: It can be viewed as an offer, it can be viewed as a warning, and it can even be viewed as a threat. It can even be viewed as an opportunity. Just about any command can be viewed those various ways, especially commands with promise (compare, for example, the fifth commandment: Honor thy father ... that thy days may be long ...).
MP: Furthermore, no one is able to be sinless, and yet the law does command that. The law is not a "false offer" because it commands what man cannot do.
O: Where is the evidence that man cannot be sinless? Man chooses not to be sinless, I don't see the evidence that man cannot be sinless. Christ commands "be perfect". It remains the aim. That nobody has done it doesn't prove that man cannot do it. Men would find it very difficult to do it, but not impossible.
TF: The fact that nobody has done it is strong evidence that man cannot do it. But the proof is in Scripture. Scripture explains that the natural man is at emnity with God.
MP: An affirmation of man's ability to obey the commands is an affirmation of Pelagianism.
O: No, Pelagianism says that man can do it without the assistance of grace. Since God promises grace to those who ask, clearly this has nothing to do with Pelagianism.
TF: It is has "nothing to do with" Pelagianism in the same way that semi-Pelagianism has nothing to do with Pelagianism. But, of course, that's not a defense of man's ability. If you are saying that grace is required, you are affirming man's natural inability.
MP:. If one recognizes that grace is necessary for man to obey, then one must realize that man's ability to obey commands has nothing to do with whether the commands are fair, reasonable, or the like.
O: Not so, because God freely gives grace to those who ask. God is not asking for anything for which he doesn't provide the means.
TF: That's a bit different position. Nevertheless, if the question is whether God provides the means, then the question is whether God must provide such means, given the command. If so, then he does not provide the means freely, and consequently it is not properly called grace, since man would have a right to demand such means.
MP: a) Men are condemned for their sins. It would be no excuse if salvation were not offered, just as it is no excuse that not all have the gospel preached to them
O: Paul says that God's qualities are made manifest so that men are without excuse. According to you it is unnecessary because men are without excuse anyway. Well, go argue with the apostle.
TF: God's qualities are not the gospel. Thus, this is a fallacy of equivocation. It is also fallacy of denying the antecedent: as a logical matter, simply because they are without excuse because God has manifested Himself to them, does not imply (as a matter of logic) that they would have been with excuse if God had not revealed Himself to them.
MP: b) Men are condemned for their sins. Lack of atonement is simply the fact of the matter for those who are not "at one" with God.
O; Again, go argue with the apostle. Apparently he thinks that knowing the basics about God is a prerequisite to not having an excuse.
TF: Same fallacies here as in the previous paragraph: and perhaps even more aggravated. The apostle doesn't address the issue of the atonement, and does not deny that men are condemned for their sins.
MP: I answer: That's not an accurate picture of Reformed theology. If anyone truly repents and believes, they will be saved. End of story.
O: You have to [add] that "truly"  in order to exclude a whole lot of people who sincerely believe that they repented and believe but later fall away. You are forced to make "truly" to have a special meaning . Except that the bible never lists such a group.
TF: The apostle James in his catholic epistle discusses that group: the group with a "dead" faith.
MP: I answer: That's a misrepresentation of the Reformed position as well as of Scripture.
a) The categories of hypocrites, self-deceived, and wolves-in-sheep's-clothing are Biblical categories; and
O: Hypocrites are not the categories under discussion. Don't distract from the topic by bringing in something else. What was under discussion was people who were sincere but then fell away.
TF: It seems O wants to discuss only the self-deceived.
O: As for "self-deceived", since repentance and belief are something that the self does within oneself, it's not a sensical object of self-deception. By putting that in there you open the floodgates to everything and everyone potentially being self-deceived.
TF: First of all, to deny self-deception generally would be foolish.
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
Since sin is something that one does within oneself, any categorical barrier as proposed would necessarily conflict with the apostle's teaching.
To argue that this is a slippery slope, one must establish not only that there is a slope, but that it is steep and slippery. This argument can be defeated if there are fences in places to prevent the slope from being considered steep and slippery. In this case there are several fences: one is the various testimonies adduced in John's first catholic epistle, another related one is the discussion in James' catholic epistle.
O: And again, you introduce this wholly unbiblical category of people who think they believe but don't. A scary category to have in a theological system indeed.
TF: James addresses people in that category in his epistle. Those with "dead" faith. Also, we see that category in the parable of the sower.
MP: b) The parable of the sower provides a great lesson in the distinction between false and true faith.
O: In the parable of the sower, seeds grow up and then are choked and die. There's no suggestion they weren't valid seeds to begin with.
TF: You don't seem very familiar with the parable. In the parable, the seed is the Word of God. The various hearts are the various grounds. The good ground is one, but there are several types of bad ground.
MP: I answer: It's really not dependent on any Reformed order of salvation
O: Yes it is, because your claim is that since the ice-cream man controls who steps into his shop he can put out the sign offering to all. But if that ordering is challenged, your argument ceases.
TF: I honestly don't understand this objection - perhaps it is because the context is missing.
MP: but even if it were, that would be fair game, given the nature of the counter-objection.
O: When you are trying to prove a doctrine not explicitely taught in scripture, it doesn't look good when you use as justification another doctrine not explicitely taught in scripture. That's why I say you've got so many precepts built upon precepts you can't see the bottom any more.
TF: That remark is not accurate or handy. The hidden assumption that every doctrine has to be found explicitly in Scripture is not a tenant of either yours or mine. And - as well - it seems you are mistaking rebuttal for proof.
G: This is a classic case of Orthodox utterly ignoring what he has been told in the past
O: No, it's a case of you having an incomprehensibly complicated system that isn't taught in the bible.
TF: Sometimes incomprehensibility is in the mind of the beholder. I think this is such a case, because I know plenty of people who comprehend the system. As for it not being taught in Scripture, we both know that arguments have presented showing that it is taught in Scripture. Simply stating to the contrary is a dispute, but not argument.
Monday, February 25, 2008