Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 8 of 13)

This is part 8 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).

Jay Dyer says:

7) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] A Pelagian, in that you have the same view of pre-lapsarian man as Pelagius, and what must be lost is human nature, because nature is grace."

I answer:

a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)

Calvinism teaches that Adam was created upright (Genesis 1:31 and Genesis 5:1), although we must be careful not to speculate excessively over Adam's psyche given the limited Scriptural discussion of the subject. However, Adam fell and the race was cursed because of his sin ("Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:" Romans 5:12). Grace overcomes our fallen nature ("Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)" Ephesians 2:5), so that salvation is by grace, not works ("And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." Romans 11:6). Thus, sin reigned to death, but grace reigns to eternal life ("That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord" Romans 5:21).

Also, see 2(a) previously posted.

A quotation from Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology may be helpful at to explain part of the grace/nature distinction:
Distinction between the Providential Efficiency of God and the Influences of the Holy Spirit
3. The providential agency of God in the government of free agents is not to be confounded with the operations of his grace. These two things are constantly represented in the Bible as distinct. The one is natural, the other supernatural. In the one God acts according to uniform laws, or by his potentia ordinata in the other, according to the good pleasure of his will, or by his potentia absoluta. The control which God exercises over the ordinary acts of men, and especially over the wicked, is analogous to that which He exercises in the guidance of material causes; whereas his agency in the operations of his grace is more analogous to his mode of action in prophecy, inspiration, and miracles. In the former, or in his providential agency over minds, nothing is effected which transcends the efficiency of second causes. In the latter the effects are such as second causes are utterly inadequate to accomplish. The most obvious points of difference between the two cases are,
(1.) In the ordinary operations or acts of free agents, the ability to perform them belongs to the agent and arises out of his nature as a rational creature, and is inseparable from it; whereas the acts of faith, repentance, and other holy affections do not flow from the ability of men in the present condition of their nature, but from a new principle of life supernaturally communicated and maintained.
(2.) The ordinary acts of men, and especially their wicked acts, are determined by their own natural inclinations and feelings. God does not awaken or infuse those feelings or dispositions in order to determine sinners to act wickedly. On the other hand, all gracious or holy affections are thus infused or excited by the Spirit of God.
(3.) The providential government of God over free agents is exercised as much in accordance with the laws of mind, as his providential government over the material world is in accordance with the established laws of matter. Both belong to the potentia ordinata or ordered efficiency of God. This is not the case in the operations of his grace. Holy affections and exercises are not due to the mere moral power of the truth, or its control over our natural affections, but to the indwelling of the Spirit of God. So that it is not we that live but Christ that liveth in us. It is indeed our life, but it is a life divine in its origin, and sustained and guided in all its exercises by a higher influence than the laws of mind, or an influence which operates merely through them, and according to their natural operations. This distinction between nature and grace, between the providential efficiency of God and the workings of his Spirit in the hearts of his people is one of the most important in all theology. It makes all the difference between Augustinianism and Pelagianism between Rationalism and supernatural evangelical religion.

b) The Accusation Disputed

Pelagius was a heretic that opposed Augustine. Pelagius' primary error was denying the necessity of grace - he consequently also denied the sufficiency of grace. Calvinists affirm the necessity of grace, and it is a central aspect of Calvinism to affirm the necessity of grace.

Furthermore, another error of Pelagian was in arguing that people (other than Christ himself) are born without sin. Calvinism, however, affirms the Total Depravity of fallen mankind, making Original Sin a doctrine of central importance in Calvinism. Thus, no consistent Calvinist could be a Pelagian. Any superficial similarity between Calvinism and Pelagius with respect to the state of Adam before the fall would be a trivial matter.

c) The Accusation Redirected

Sadly, rather than being Augustinian, Rome's view of man is semi-Pelagian: affirming the necessity of grace (against Pelagius) but denying its sufficiency. While there are certainly many areas where Calvinists today would find fault with Augustine, on the Pelagian controversy, Calvinists are happy to view Augustine as providing an excellent and Scriptural defense of the truth that God's grace is both necessary for salvation, and sufficient to guarantee salvation for the elect of God. Furthermore, Rome holds to the position (to which we cannot find early documented support than Pelagius) that Jesus was not alone in being immaculately conceived, but that Mary was likewise immaculately conceived.


(Peter Leithart, who I am not endorsing by posting this link, has an interesting related post on Turretin and Pelagius at the link.)

Continue to Part 9


Anonymous said...

With these words:

"....Sadly, rather than being Augustinian, Rome's view of man is semi-Pelagian: affirming the necessity of grace (against Pelagius) but denying its sufficiency."

Peter, the Apostle, so attests and writes:

1Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5 who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Those words are so strong it is a wonder the Papacy continues to argue Grace as inefficient and against the only sufficiency God provides His elect?

Gaetano said...

Thomism clearly accepts that grace, in your terms, is sufficient. Grace is intrinsically efficacious. It is not the will of man which makes grace efficient or merely sufficient (in Thomist vocabulary). This was not condemned by Rome after Trent. Please be careful not to fall into this error.

Turretinfan said...

"Thomism clearly accepts that grace, in your terms, is sufficient. Grace is intrinsically efficacious. It is not the will of man which makes grace efficient or merely sufficient (in Thomist vocabulary). This was not condemned by Rome after Trent. Please be careful not to fall into this error."

The state of Thomism post-Trent is a very nuanced story that seems to involve a number of contradictions and inconsistencies.

It is, however, contrary to Trent to affirm that grace alone is sufficient, since Trent clearly teaches that it is cooperation that saves.

Gaetano said...

I would be surprised to discover that you actually knew the history of Thomism after Trent. Maybe you do. While you seem to suggest that Trent undermined the Augustinian impulses of Thomism, the opposite in fact is the case. Domingo Banez, Zumel, Medina, and other Dominicans were, according to the vast majority historians of the matter, more radical in their "Augustinianism" than Thomas Aquinas. One important reason for this was their familiarity and submission to the Second Council of Orange, which Aquinas probably did not know about.

If you would actually like to have a discussion about how they reconciled their views of grace with Trent, I'd love to do so. Obviously, they discuss these questions at great length. Incidentally, the Jesuits accused them of the very same thing that you are, using the very same passage on cooperation from the Council of Trent.

The bishops in the decades after Trent were asked by the Jesuits to review whether Thomism contradicted the Council, and it was widely, if not universally, held that Thomism (even of the Banezian variety) was not contrary to Trent and thus (?) that it was not heretical.

If you have other information on the point, I'd love to see it. If you would like to discuss the particulars of the theological controversy, I would be interested in that as well.

Briefly, the Thomists (of course!) affirm cooperation, as it is rooted in Augustine's theology (who distinguished cooperating and operating grace himself!--it shouldn't be hard to find his discussion of that point, but I'll dig up the passages if you'd like). But they were very, very clear that this cooperation was completely an effect of God's grace....

If any notion of cooperation undermines sola gratia, then Augustine is also off the sola-gratia bandwagon, which is a surprising conclusion, no?

Turretinfan said...

As I've mentioned elsewhere, Augustine used the term co-operation rather differently from the way in which Trent used it.

As strange as it would be for me to agree with the Jesuits about anything, it does not seem that the term co-operation in Trent can be legitimately understood in an Augustinian sense.

Whether the Thomists were Augustininan or merely semi-Augustinian, I leave for another day.


Gaetano said...

I look forward to this "other day".

Can you show me this "elsewhere"? Thanks! I don't know about Trent in particular, but (as for the Thomists) they quote this very passage and deal with it quite extensively... Obviously, time changes all things, but it seems that the burden is on the one who wants to say that the Thomists quoting this passage are distorting it in a significant way...

Turretinfan said...

The elsewhere is, I think, the comment box for part 10 of this series.

No, the burden of proof is on the Thomists to show that they are using the term the way Augustine used it, not others to show contrariwise. If they want the cloak of Augustine, they have to do more than claim it.

That said, I'm not going to turn this into a tangential comment-box debate.

I'm not claiming to have proved (here or at the other comment box) that Trent and the Thomists use the term differently from Augustine. If you want to argue that they did use it the same way, I encourage you to do so on your own blog which will:

a) make your position more prominent than being buried here; and

b) permit me to respond in due course, without having to have your comments hidden in moderation until I find time to deal with them.


Turretinfan said...

In your most recent comment, Matt, which I haven't published, you wrote: "I don't have a blog. ... It would be strange to start a blog just to respond to this question, no?"

That elipsis covers a number of assertions regarding the testimony of various historians.

I generally wouldn't publish that kind of comment before I had a chance to check what the historians had to say, because that's generally how I moderate this blog.

I realize that doesn't make it the most reader-friendly blog in the blogosphere, but that's how I roll.

To answer the question about having your own blog. Several companies (wordpress and blogger) offer free blog hosting, and it is not hard to do. Hopefully this is not the only subject on which you wish to speak. Regardless, if you want to continue discussing this issue in this style (of throwing out assertions that I have to track down and confirm/deny), you'll find it much more expedient to go through the hassle of setting up a blog of your own.

If you use a "blogger" blog and link to the post you are challenging/questioning/commenting-upon, the blogger software should (and usually does) automatically create a link in the "comments elsewhere" section of the post's comments, which should permit readers of this blog to find your commentary.

Gaetano said...

Maybe I'll do that... But I don't think I have been throwing out assertions which you have to confirm or deny. I have made it clear that, if there is even the smallest commitment from you to follow up (which there seems to be), I would be glad to show you the passages in the theologians and in the modern scholarship. Some of the claims I'm making, however, may or may not be the conventional wisdom on a certain issue. So...just tell me the claims for which you would like verification, and I'll be sure to get that information to you. I'm sorry, though, that I gave the impression of offering bare assertions. Obviously, the genre of blog commentary has different standards than a peer-reviewed article, but I did not intent to cause any frustration...