Skip to comments.Luther and Erasmus: The Controversy Concerning the Bondage of the Will
Posted on 01/01/2006 4:48:03 PM PST by HarleyD
At the time of the Reformation, many hoped Martin Luther and Erasmus could unite against the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. Luther himself was tempted to unite with Erasmus because Erasmus was a great Renaissance scholar who studied the classics and the Greek New Testament. Examining the Roman Catholic Church, Erasmus was infuriated with the abuses in the Roman Catholic Church, especially those of the clergy. These abuses are vividly described in the satire of his book, The Praise of Folly. Erasmus called for reform in the Roman Catholic Church. Erasmus could have been a great help to the Reformation, so it seemed, by using the Renaissance in the service of the Reformation.
But a great chasm separated these two men. Luther loved the truth of God's Word as that was revealed to him through his own struggles with the assurance of salvation. Therefore Luther wanted true reformation in the church, which would be a reformation in doctrine and practice. Erasmus cared little about a right knowledge of truth. He simply wanted moral reform in the Roman Catholic Church. He did not want to leave the church, but remained supportive of the Pope.
This fundamental difference points out another difference between the two men. Martin Luther was bound by the Word of God. Therefore the content of the Scripture was of utmost importance to him. But Erasmus did not hold to this same high view of Scripture. Erasmus was a Renaissance rationalist who placed reason above Scripture. Therefore the truth of Scripture was not that important to him.
The two men could not have fellowship with each other, for the two movements which they represented were antithetical to each other. The fundamental differences came out especially in the debate over the freedom of the will.
From 1517 on, the chasm between Luther and Erasmus grew. The more Luther learned about Erasmus, the less he wanted anything to do with him. Melanchthon tried to play the mediator between Luther and Erasmus with no success. But many hated Erasmus because he was so outspoken against the church. These haters of Erasmus tried to discredit him by associating him with Luther, who was outside the church by this time. Erasmus continued to deny this unity, saying he did not know much about the writings of Luther. But as Luther took a stronger stand against the doctrinal abuses of Rome, Erasmus was forced either to agree with Luther or to dissociate himself from Luther. Erasmus chose the latter.
Many factors came together which finally caused Erasmus to wield his pen against Luther. Erasmus was under constant pressure from the Pope and later the king of England to refute the views of Luther. When Luther became more outspoken against Erasmus, Erasmus finally decided to write against him. On September 1, 1524, Erasmus published his treatise On the Freedom of the Will. In December of 1525, Luther responded with The Bondage of the Will.
Packer and Johnston call The Bondage of the Will "the greatest piece of theological writing that ever came from Luther's pen."1 Although Erasmus writes with eloquence, his writing cannot compare with that of Luther the theologian. Erasmus writes as one who cares little about the subject, while Luther writes with passion and conviction, giving glory to God. In his work, Luther defends the heart of the gospel over against the Pelagian error as defended by Erasmus. This controversy is of utmost importance.
In this paper, I will summarize both sides of the controversy, looking at what each taught and defended. Secondly, I will examine the biblical approach of each man. Finally, the main issues will be pointed out and the implications of the controversy will be drawn out for the church today.
Erasmus On the Freedom of the Will
Erasmus defines free-will or free choice as "a power of the human will by which a man can apply himself to the things which lead to eternal salvation or turn away from them." By this, Erasmus means that man has voluntary or free power of himself to choose the way which leads to salvation apart from the grace of God.
Erasmus attempts to answer the question how man is saved: Is it the work of God or the work of man according to his free will? Erasmus answers that it is not one or the other. Salvation does not have to be one or the other, for God and man cooperate. On the one hand, Erasmus defines free-will, saying man can choose freely by himself, but on the other hand, he wants to retain the necessity of grace for salvation. Those who do good works by free-will do not attain the end they desire unless aided by God's grace. Therefore, in regard to salvation, man cooperates with God. Both must play their part in order for a man to be saved. Erasmus expresses it this way: "Those who support free choice nonetheless admit that a soul which is obstinate in evil cannot be softened into true repentance without the help of heavenly grace." Also, attributing all things to divine grace, Erasmus states,
And the upshot of it is that we should not arrogate anything to ourselves but attribute all things we have received to divine grace that our will might be synergos (fellow-worker) with grace although grace is itself sufficient for all things and has no need of the assistance of any human will."
In his work On the Freedom of the Will, Erasmus defends this synergistic view of salvation. According to Erasmus, God and man, nature and grace, cooperate together in the salvation of a man. With this view of salvation, Erasmus tries to steer clear of outright Pelagianism and denies the necessity of human action which Martin Luther defends.
On the basis of an apocryphal passage (Ecclesiasticas 15:14-17), Erasmus begins his defense with the origin of free-will. Erasmus says that Adam, as he was created, had a free-will to choose good or to turn to evil. In Paradise, man's will was free and upright to choose. Adam did not depend upon the grace of God, but chose to do all things voluntarily. The question which follows is, "What happened to the will when Adam sinned; does man still retain this free-will?" Erasmus would answer, "Yes." Erasmus says that the will is born out of a man's reason. In the fall, man's reason was obscured but was not extinguished. Therefore the will, by which we choose, is depraved so that it cannot change its ways. The will serves sin. But this is qualified. Man's ability to choose freely or voluntarily is not hindered.
By this depravity of the will, Erasmus does not mean that man can do no good. Because of the fall, the will is "inclined" to evil, but can still do good. Notice, he says the will is only "inclined" to evil. Therefore the will can freely or voluntarily choose between good and evil. This is what he says in his definition: free-will is "a power of the human will by which a man can apply himself to the things which lead to eternal salvation." Not only does the human will have power, although a little power, but the will has power by which a man merits salvation.
This free choice of man is necessary according to Erasmus in order for there to be sin. In order for a man to be guilty of sin, he must be able to know the difference between good and evil, and he must be able to choose between doing good and doing evil. A man is responsible only if he has the ability to choose good or evil. If the free-will of man is taken away, Erasmus says that man ceases to be a man.
For this freedom of the will, Erasmus claims to find much support in Scripture. According to Erasmus, when Scripture speaks of "choosing," it implies that man can freely choose. Also, whenever the Scripture uses commands, threats, exhortations, blessings, and cursings, it follows that man is capable of choosing whether or not he will obey.
Erasmus defines the work of man's will by which he can freely choose after the fall. Here he makes distinctions in his idea of a "threefold kind of law" which is made up of the "law of nature, law of works, and law of faith." First, this law of nature is in all men. By this law of nature, men do good by doing to others what they would want others to do to them. Having this law of nature, all men have a knowledge of God. By this law of nature, the will can choose good, but the will in this condition is useless for salvation. Therefore more is needed. The law of works is man's choice when he hears the threats of punishment which God gives. When a man hears these threats, he either continues to forsake God, or he desires God's grace. When a man desires God's grace, he then receives the law of faith which cures the sinful inclinations of his reason. A man has this law of faith only by divine grace.
In connection with this threefold kind of law, Erasmus distinguishes between three graces of God. First, in all men, even in those who remain in sin, a grace is implanted by God. But this grace is infected by sin. This grace arouses men by a certain knowledge of God to seek Him. The second grace is peculiar grace which arouses the sinner to repent. This does not involve the abolishing of sin or justification. But rather, a man becomes "a candidate for the highest grace." By this grace offered to all men, God invites all, and the sinner must come desiring God's grace. This grace helps the will to desire God. The final grace is the concluding grace which completes what was started. This is saving grace only for those who come by their free-will. Man begins on the path to salvation, after which God completes what man started. Along with man's natural abilities according to his will, God works by His grace. This is the synergos, or cooperation, which Erasmus defends.
Erasmus defends the free-will of man with a view to meriting salvation. This brings us to the heart of the matter. Erasmus begins with the premise that a man merits salvation. In order for a man to merit salvation, he cannot be completely carried by God, but he must have a free-will by which he chooses God voluntarily. Therefore, Erasmus concludes that by the exercise of his free-will, man merits salvation with God. When man obeys, God imputes this to his merit. Therefore Erasmus says, "This surely goes to show that it is not wrong to say that man does something ." Concerning the merit of man's works, Erasmus distinguishes with the Scholastics between congruent and condign merit. The former is that which a man performs by his own strength, making him a "fit subject for the gift of internal grace." This work of man removed the barrier which keeps God from giving grace. The barrier removed is man's unworthiness for grace, which God gives only to those who are fit for it. With the gift of grace, man can do works which before he could not do. God rewards these gifts with salvation. Therefore, with the help or aid of the grace of God, a man merits eternal salvation.
Although he says a man merits salvation, Erasmus wants to say that salvation is by God's grace. In order to hold both the free-will of man and the grace of God in salvation, Erasmus tries to show the two are not opposed to each other. He says, "It is not wrong to say that man does something yet attributes the sum of all he does to God as the author." Explaining the relationship between grace and free-will, Erasmus says that the grace of God and the free-will of man, as two causes, come together in one action "in such a way, however, that grace is the principle cause and the will secondary, which can do nothing apart from the principle cause since the principle is sufficient in itself." Therefore, in regard to salvation, God and man work together. Man has a free-will, but this will cannot attain salvation of itself. The will needs a boost from grace in order to merit eternal life.
Erasmus uses many pictures to describe the relationship between works and grace. He calls grace an "advisor," "helper," and "architect." Just as the builder of a house needs the architect to show him what to do and to set him straight when he does something wrong, so also man needs the assistance of God to help him where he is lacking. The free-will of man is aided by a necessary helper: grace. Therefore Erasmus says, "as we show a boy an apple and he runs for it ... so God knocks at our soul with His grace and we willingly embrace it." In this example, we are like a boy who cannot walk. The boy wants the apple, but he needs his father to assist him in obtaining the apple. So also, we need the assistance of God's grace. Man has a free-will by which he can seek after God, but this is not enough for him to merit salvation. By embracing God's grace with his free-will, man merits God's grace so that by his free-will and the help of God's grace he merits eternal life. This is a summary of what Erasmus defends.
Erasmus also deals with the relationship of God's foreknowledge and man's free-will. On the one hand, God does what he wills, but, on the other hand, God's will does not impose anything on man's will, for then man's will would not be free or voluntary. Therefore God's foreknowledge is not determinative, but He simply knows what man will choose. Men deserve punishment from eternity simply because God knows they will not choose the good, but will choose the evil. Man can resist the ordained will of God. The only thing man cannot resist is when God wills in miracles. When God performs some "supernatural" work, this cannot be resisted by men. For example, when Jesus performed a miracle, the man whose sight returned could not refuse to be healed. According to Erasmus, because man's will is free, God's will and foreknowledge depend on man's will except when He performs miracles.
This is a summary of what Erasmus taught in his treatise On the Freedom of the Will. In response to this treatise, Luther wrote The Bondage of the Will. We turn to this book of Luther.
Luther's Arguments Against Erasmus
Martin Luther gives a thorough defense of the sovereign grace of God over against the "semi-Pelagianism" of Erasmus by going through much of Erasmus' On the Freedom of the Will phrase by phrase. Against the cooperating work of salvation defended by Erasmus, Luther attacks Erasmus at the very heart of the issue. Luther's thesis is that "free-will is a nonentity, a thing consisting of name alone" because man is a slave to sin. Therefore salvation is the sovereign work of God alone.
In the "Diatribe," Luther says, Erasmus makes no sense. It seems Erasmus speaks out of both sides of his mouth. On the one hand, he says that man's will cannot will any good, yet on the other hand, he says man has a free-will. Other contradictions also exist in Erasmus' thought. Erasmus says that man has the power to choose good, but he also says that man needs grace to do good. Opposing Erasmus, Luther rightly points out that if there is free-will, there is no need for grace. Because of these contradictions in Erasmus, Luther says Erasmus "argues like a man drunk or asleep, blurting out between snores, 'Yes,' 'No.' " Not only does this view of Erasmus not make sense, but this is not what Scripture says concerning the will of man and the grace of God.
According to Luther, Erasmus does not prove his point, namely, the idea that man with his free-will cooperates in salvation with God. Throughout his work, Luther shows that Erasmus supports and agrees with the Pelagians. In fact, Erasmus' view is more despicable than Pelagianism because he is not honest and because the grace of God is cheapened. Only a small work is needed in order for a man to merit the grace of God.
Because Erasmus does not take up the question of what man can actually do of himself as fallen in Adam, Luther takes up the question of the ability of man. Here, Luther comes to the heart of his critique of the Diatribe in which he denies free-will and shows that God must be and is sovereign in salvation. Luther's arguments follow two lines: first, he shows that man is enslaved to sin and does not have a free-will; secondly, he shows that the truth of God's sovereign rule, by which He accomplishes His will according to His counsel, is opposed to free-will.
First, Luther successfully defends the thesis that there is no such entity as free-will because the will is enslaved to sin. Luther often says there is no such thing as free-will. The will of man without the grace of God "is not free at all, but is the permanent prisoner and bondslave of evil since it cannot turn itself to good." The free-will lost its freedom in the fall so that now the will is a slave to sin. This means the will can will no good. Therefore man does and wills sin "necessarily." Luther further describes the condition of man's will when he explains a passage from Ezekiel: "It cannot but fall into a worse condition, and add to its sins despair and impenitence unless God comes straightway to its help and calls it back and raises it up by the word of His promise."
Luther makes a crucial distinction in explaining what he means when he says man sins "necessarily." This does not mean "compulsion." A man without the Spirit is not forced, kicking and screaming, to sin but voluntarily does evil. Nevertheless, because man is enslaved to sin, his will cannot change itself. He only wills or chooses to sin of himself. He cannot change this willingness of his: he wills and desires evil. Man is wholly evil, thinking nothing but evil thoughts. Therefore there is no free-will.
Because this is the condition of man, he cannot merit eternal life. The enslaved will cannot merit anything with God because it can do no good. The only thing which man deserves is eternal punishment. By this, Luther also shows that there is no free-will.
In connection with man's merit, Luther describes the true biblical uses of the law. The purpose of the law of God is not to show men how they can merit salvation, but the law is given so that men might see their sinfulness and their own unworthiness. The law condemns the works of man, for when he judges himself according to the law, man sees that he can do no good. Therefore, he is driven to the cross. The law also serves as a guide for what the believer should do. But the law does not say anything about the ability of man to obey it.
Not only should the idea of free-will be rejected because man is enslaved to sin, but also because of who God is and the relationship between God and man. A man cannot act independently of God. Analyzing what Erasmus said, Luther says that God is not God, but He is an idol, because the freedom of man rules. Everything depends on man for salvation. Therefore man can merit salvation apart from God. A God that depends on man is not God.
Denying this horrible view of Erasmus, Luther proclaims the sovereignty of God in salvation. Because God is sovereign in all things and especially in salvation, there is no free-will.
Luther begins with the fact that God alone has a free-will. This means only God can will or not will the law, gospel, sin, and death. God does not act out of necessity, but freely. He alone is independent in all He decrees and does. Therefore man cannot have a free-will by which he acts independently of God, because God is immutable, omnipotent, and sovereign over all. Luther says that God is omnipotent, knowing all. Therefore we do nothing of ourselves. We can only act according to God's infallible, immutable counsel.
The great error of free-willism is that it ascribes divinity to man's free-will. God is not God anymore. If man has a free-will, this implies God is not omnipotent, controlling all of our actions. Free-will also implies that God makes mistakes and changes. Man must then fix the mistakes. Over against this, Luther says there can be no free-will because we are under the "mastery of God." We can do nothing apart from God by our own strength because we are enslaved to sin.
Luther also understands the difficulties which follow from saying that God is sovereign so that all things happen necessarily. Luther states: "If God foreknows a thing, it necessarily happens." The problem between God's foreknowledge and man's freedom cannot be completely solved. God sovereignly decrees all things that happen, and they happen as He has decreed them necessarily. Does this mean that when a man sins, he sins because God has decreed that sin? Luther would answer, Yes. But God does not act contrary to what man is. Man cannot will good, but he only seeks after sinful lusts. The nature of man is corrupted, so that he is turned from God. But God works in men and in Satan according to what they are. The sinner is still under the control of the omnipotent God, "which means, since they are evil and perverted themselves, that when they are impelled to action by this movement of Divine omnipotence they do only that which is perverted or evil." When God works in evil men, evil results. But God is not evil. He is good. He does not do evil, but He uses evil instruments. The sin is the fault of those evil instruments and not the fault of God.
Luther asks himself the question, Why then did God let Adam fall so all men have his sin? The sovereignty of God must not be questioned, because God's will is beyond any earthly standard. Nothing is equal to God and His will. Answering the question above, Luther replies, "What God wills is not right because He ought or was bound, so to will, on the contrary, what takes place must be right because He so wills it." This is the hidden mystery of God's absolute sovereignty over all things.
God is sovereign over all things. He is sovereign in salvation. Is salvation a work of God and man? Luther answers negatively. God alone saves. Therefore salvation cannot be based on the merits of men's works. Man's obedience does not obtain salvation, according to Luther. Some become the sons of God "not by carnal birth, nor by zeal for the law, nor by any other human effort, but only by being born of God." Grace does not come by our own effort, but by the grace of Jesus Christ. To deny grace is to deny Jesus Christ. For Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Free-will says that it is the way, the truth, and the life. Therefore free-will denies Jesus Christ. This is a serious error.
God saves by His grace and Spirit in such away that the will is turned by Him. Only when the will is changed can it will and desire the good. Luther describes a struggle between God and Satan. Erasmus says man stands between God and Satan, who are as spectators waiting for man to make his choice. But Luther compares this struggle to a horse having two riders. "If God rides, it wills and goes where God goes . If Satan rides, it wills and goes where Satan goes." The horse does not have the choice of which rider it wants. We have Satan riding us until God throws him off. In the same way, we are enslaved to sin until God breaks the power of sin. The salvation of a man depends upon the free work of God, who alone is sovereign and able to save men. Therefore this work in the will by God is a radical change whereby the willing of the soul is freed from sin. This beautiful truth stands over against Erasmus' grace, which gives man a booster shot in what he can do of himself.
This truth of the sovereignty of God in salvation is comforting to us. When man trusts in himself, he has no comfort that he is saved. Because man is enslaved to sin and because God is the sovereign, controlling all things according to His sovereign, immutable will, there is no free-will. The free-will of man does not save him. God alone saves.
The Battle of the Biblical Texts
The battle begins with the fundamental difference separating Luther and Erasmus in regard to the doctrine of Scripture. Erasmus defends the obscurity of Scripture. Basically, Erasmus says man cannot know with certainty many of the things in Scripture. Some things in God's Word are plain, while many are not. He applies the obscurity of Scripture to the controversy concerning the freedom of the will. In the camp of the hidden things of God, which include the hour of our death and when the last judgment will occur, Erasmus places "whether our will accomplishes anything in things pertaining to salvation." Because Scripture is unclear about these things, what one believes about these matters is not important. Erasmus did not want controversy, but he wanted peace. For him, the discussion of the hidden things is worthless because it causes the church to lose her love and unity.
Against this idea of the obscurity of Scripture, Luther defends the perspicuity of Scripture. Luther defines perspicuity as being twofold. The external word itself is clear, as that which God has written for His people. But man cannot understand this word of himself. Therefore Scripture is clear to God's people only by the work of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.
The authority of Scripture is found in God Himself. God's Word must not be measured by man, for this leads to paradoxes, of which Erasmus is a case in point. By saying Scripture is paradoxical, Erasmus denies the authority of God's Word.
Luther does not deny that some passages are difficult to understand. This is not because the Word is unclear or because the work of the Holy Spirit is weak. Rather, we do not understand some passages because of our own weakness.
If Scripture is obscure, then this opposes what God is doing in revelation. Scripture is light which reveals the truth. If it is obscure, then why did God give it to us? According to Luther, not even the difficult to understand doctrines such as the Trinity, the Incarnation, and the unpardonable sin are obscure. Therefore the issue of the freedom of the will is not obscure. If the Scripture is unclear about the doctrine of the will of man, then this doctrine is not from Scripture.
Because Scripture is clear, Luther strongly attacks Erasmus on this fundamental point. Luther says, "The Scriptures are perfectly clear in their teaching, and that by their help such a defense of our position may be made that our adversaries cannot resist." This is what Luther hoped to show to Erasmus. The teaching of Scripture is fundamental. On this point of perspicuity, Luther has Erasmus by the horns. Erasmus says Scripture is not clear on this matter of the freedom of the will, yet he appeals to the church fathers for support. The church fathers base their doctrine of the free-will on Scripture. On the basis of the perspicuity of Scripture, Luther challenges Erasmus to find even one passage that supports his view of free-will. Luther emphasizes that not one can be found.
Luther also attacks Erasmus when he says what one believes concerning the freedom of the will does not matter. Luther sums up Erasmus' position this way: "In a word, what you say comes to this: that you do not think it matters a scrap what any one believes anywhere, as long as the world is at peace." Erasmus says the knowledge of free-will is useless and non-essential. Over against this, Luther says, "then neither God, Christ, Gospel, faith, nor anything else even of Judaism, let alone Christianity, is left!" Positively, Luther says about the importance of the truth: "I hold that a solemn and vital truth, of eternal consequences, is at stake in the discussion." Luther was willing to defend the truth even to death because of its importance as that which is taught in Scripture.
A word must also be said about the differing views of the interpretation of Scripture. Erasmus was not an exegete. He was a great scholar of the languages, but this did not make him an able exegete. Erasmus does not rely on the Word of God of itself, but he turns to the church fathers and to reason for the interpretation of Scripture. In regard to the passage out of Ecclesiasticas which Erasmus uses, Luther says the dispute there is not over the teaching of Scripture, but over human reason. Erasmus generalizes from a particular case, saying that since a passage mentions willing, this must mean a man has a free-will. In this regard, Luther also says that Erasmus "fashions and refashions the words of God as he pleases." Erasmus was concerned not with what God says in His Word, but with what he wanted God to say.
Not only does Erasmus use his own reason to interpret Scripture, but following in the Roman Catholic tradition he goes back to the church fathers. His work is filled with many quotes from the church fathers' interpretation of different passages. The idea is that the church alone has the authority to interpret Scripture. Erasmus goes so far in this that Luther accuses Erasmus of placing the fathers above the inspired apostle Paul.
In contrast to Erasmus, Luther interprets Scripture with Scripture. Seeing the Word of God as inspired by the Holy Spirit, Luther also trusts in the work of the Holy Spirit to interpret that Word. One of the fundamental points of Reformed hermeneutics is that Scripture interprets Scripture. Luther follows this. When Luther deals with a passage, he does not take it out of context as Erasmus does. Instead, he examines the context and checks other passages which use the same words.
Also, Luther does not add figures or devise implications as Erasmus does. But rather, Luther sticks to the simple and plain meaning of Scripture. He says, "Everywhere we should stick to just the simple, natural meaning of the words, as yielded by the rules of grammar and the habits of speech that God has created among men." In the controversy over the bondage of the will, both the formal and material principles of the Reformation were at stake.
Now we must examine some of the important passages for each man. This is a difficult task because they both refer to so many passages. We must content ourselves with looking at those which are fundamental for the main points of the controversy.
Showing the weakness of his view of Scripture, Erasmus begins with a passage from an apocryphal book: Ecclesiasticas 15:14-17. Erasmus uses this passage to show the origin of the free will and that the will continues to be free after the fall.
Following this passage, Erasmus looks at many passages from the Old Testament to prove that man has a free-will. He turns to Genesis 4:6, 7, which records God speaking to Cain after he offered his displeasing sacrifice to God. Verse 7 says, "If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door." Erasmus says that God sets before Cain a reward if he chooses the good. But if he chooses the evil, he will be punished. This implies that Cain has a will which can overcome evil and do the good.
From here, Erasmus looks at different passages using the word "choose." He says Scripture uses the word "choose" because man can freely choose. This is the only way it makes sense.
Erasmus also looks at many passages which use the word "if" in the Old Testament and also the commands of the Old Testament. For example, Isaiah 1:19,20 and 21:12 use the words "if then." These conditions in Scripture imply that a man can do these things. Deuteronomy 30:14 is an example of a command. In this passage, Israel is commanded to love God with all their heart and soul. This command was given because Moses and the people had it in them to obey. Erasmus comes to these conclusions by implication.
Using a plethora of New Testament texts, Erasmus tries to support the idea of the freedom of the will. Once again, Erasmus appeals to those texts which speak of conditions. John 14:15 says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments." Also, in John 15:7 we read, "If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you." These passages imply that man is able to fulfill the conditions by his free-will.
Remarkably, Erasmus identifies Paul as "the champion of free choice." Referring to passages in which Paul exhorts and commands, Erasmus says that this implies the ability to obey. An example is I Corinthians 9:24,25: "Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible." Man is able to obey this command because he has a free-will.
These texts can be placed together because Luther responds to them as a whole. Luther does treat many of these texts separately, but often comes back to the same point. Luther's response to Genesis 4:7 applies to all of the commands and conditions to which Erasmus refers: "Man is shown, not what he can do, but what he ought to do." Similarly, Luther responds to Deuteronomy 30:19: "It is from this passage that I derive my answer to you: that by the words of the law man is admonished and taught, not what he can do, but what he ought to do; that is, that he may know sin, not that he may believe that he has any strength." The exhortations and commands of the New Testament given through the apostle Paul are not written to show what we can do, but rather, after the gospel is preached, they encourage those justified and saved to live in the Spirit.
From these passages, Erasmus also taught that man merited salvation by his obedience or a man merited punishment by his disobedience, all of which was based on man's ability according to his free-will. Erasmus jumps from reward to merit. He does this in the conditional phrases of Scripture especially. But Luther says that merit is not proved from reward. God uses rewards in Scripture to exhort us and threaten us so that the godly persevere. Rewards are not that which a man merits.
The heart of the battle of the biblical texts is found in their treatment of passages from the book of Romans, especially Romans 9. Here, Erasmus treats Romans 9 as a passage which seems to oppose the freedom of the will but does not.
Erasmus begins his treatment of Romans 9 by considering the hardening of Pharaoh's heart. He treats this in connection with what Romans 9:18 says, "Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will, he hardeneth." To interpret this passage, Erasmus turns to Jerome, who says, "God hardens when he does not at once punish the sinner and has mercy as soon as he invites repentance by means of afflictions." God's hardening and mercy are the results of what man does. God has mercy "on those who recognize the goodness of God and repent ." Also, this hardening is not something which God does, but something which Pharaoh did by not repenting. God was longsuffering to Pharaoh, not punishing him immediately, during which Pharaoh hardened his heart. God simply gave the occasion for the hardening of his heart. Therefore the blame can be placed on Pharaoh.
Although Erasmus claims to take the literal meaning of the passage, Luther is outraged at this interpretation. Luther objects:
Positively, Luther explains this hardening of the heart of Pharaoh. God does this, therefore Pharaoh's heart is necessarily hardened. But God does not do something which is opposed to the nature of Pharaoh. Pharoah is enslaved to sin. When he hears the word of God through Moses which irritates his evil will, Pharaoh's heart is hardened. Luther explains it this way:
Once again, Luther objects. Luther defends the necessity of consequence to what God decrees. Luther says, "If God foreknows a thing, it necessarily takes place." Therefore, in regard to Jacob and Esau, they did not attain their positions by their own free-will. Romans 9 emphasizes that they were not yet born and that they had not yet done good or evil. Without any works of obedience or disobedience, the one was master and the other was the servant. Jacob was rewarded not on the basis of anything he had done. Jacob was loved and Esau was hated even before the world began. Jacob loved God because God loved him. Therefore the source of salvation is not the free-will of man, but God's eternal decree. Paul is not the great champion of the freedom of the will.
In defense of the literal meaning of Romans 9:21-23, Luther shows that these verses oppose free-will as well. Luther examines the passage in the context of what Paul is saying. The emphasis in the earlier verses is not man, but what God does. He is sovereign in salvation. Here also, the emphasis is the potter. God is sovereign, almighty, and free. Man is enslaved to sin and acts out of necessity according to all God decrees. Luther shows that this is the emphasis of Romans 9 with sound exegetical work.
After refuting the texts to which Erasmus refers, Luther continues to show that Scripture denies the freedom of the will and teaches the sovereignty of God in salvation. He begins with Romans 1:18 which says, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." Luther says this means all men are ungodly and are unrighteous. Therefore, all deserve the wrath of God. The best a man can do is evil. Referring to Romans 3:9, Luther proves the same thing. Both Jews and Greeks are all under sin. They will and do nothing but evil. Man has no power to seek after good because there is none that doeth good (Ps. 14:3). Therefore, men are "ignorant of and despise God! Here is unbelief, disobedience, sacrilege, blasphemy towards God, cruelty and mercilessness towards one's neighbors and love of self in all things of God and man." Luther's conclusion to the matter is this: man is enslaved to sin.
Man cannot obtain salvation by his works. Romans 3:20 says that by the works of the law no man can be justified in God's sight. It is impossible for a man to merit salvation by his works. Salvation must be the sovereign work of God.
Luther thunders against free-will in connection with Romans 3:21-16 which proclaims salvation by grace alone through faith.58 Free-will is opposed to faith. These are two different ways of salvation. Luther shows that a man cannot be saved by his works, therefore it must be by faith in Jesus Christ. Justification is free, of grace, and without works because man possesses no worthiness for it.
Finally, we notice that Luther points out the comprehensive terms of the apostle Paul to show that there is no free-will in man. All are sinners. There is none that is righteous, and none that doeth good. Paul uses many others also. Therefore, justification and salvation are without works and without the law.
Over against the idea of free-will stands the clear teaching of Scripture. Luther clearly exegetes God's Word to show this. In summary, the truth of predestination denies the free-will of man. Because salvation is by grace and faith, salvation is not by works. Faith and grace are of no avail if salvation is by the works of man. Also, the only thing the law works is wrath. The law displays the unworthiness, sinfulness, and guilt of man. As children of Adam we can do no good. Luther argues along these lines to show that a free-will does not exist in man. Salvation is by grace alone.
The Main Issues and Implications of Each View
Luther is not interested in abstract theological concepts. He does not take up this debate with Erasmus on a purely intellectual level. The main issue is salvation: how does God save? Luther himself defines the issue on which the debate hinges:
So it is not irreligious, idle, or superfluous, but in the highest degree wholesome and necessary, for a Christian to know whether or not his will has anything to do in matters pertaining to salvation . This is the hinge on which our discussion turns, the crucial issue between us.
Luther finds it necessary to investigate from Scripture what ability the will of man has and how this is related to God and His grace. If one does not know this, he does not know Christianity. Luther brings this against Erasmus because he shows no interest in the truth regarding how it is that some are saved.
Although the broad issue of the debate is how God saves, the specific issue is the sovereignty of God in salvation. The main issue for Luther is that man does not have a free-will by which he merits eternal life, but God sovereignly saves those whom He has chosen.
Luther is pursuing the question, "Is God, God?" This means, is God the omnipotent who reigns over all and who sovereignly saves, or does He depend on man? If God depends on man for anything, then He is not God. Therefore Luther asks the question of himself: Who will try to reform his life, believe, and love God? His answer, "Nobody." No man can do this of himself. He needs God. "The elect, who fear God, will be reformed by the Holy Spirit; the rest will perish unreformed." Luther defends this truth so vigorously because it is the heart of the gospel. God is the sovereign God of salvation. If salvation depends on the works of man, he cannot be saved.
Certain implications necessarily follow from the views of salvation defended by both men. First, we must consider the implications which show the falsehood of Erasmus' view of salvation.
When Erasmus speaks of merit, he is really speaking as a Pelagian. This was offensive to Erasmus because he specifically claimed that he was not a Pelagian. But Luther rightly points out that Erasmus says man merits salvation. According to the idea of merit, man performs an act separate from God, which act is the basis of salvation. He deserves a reward. This is opposed to grace. Therefore, if merit is at all involved, man saves himself. This makes Erasmus no different from the Pelagians except that the Pelagians are honest. Pelagians honestly confess that man merits eternal life. Erasmus tries to give the appearance that he is against the Pelagians although he really is a Pelagian. Packer and Johnston make this analysis:
Another implication of the synergistic view of salvation held to by Erasmus is that God is not God. Because salvation depends upon the free-will of man according to Erasmus, man ascribes divinity to himself. God is not God because He depends upon man. Man himself determines whether or not he will be saved. Therefore the study of soteriology is not the study of what God does in salvation, but soteriology is a study of what man does with God to deserve eternal life.
This means God's grace is not irresistible, but man can reject the grace of God. Man then has more power than God. God watches passively to see what man will do.
Finally, a serious implication of the view of Erasmus is that he denies salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone. In his Diatribe, Erasmus rarely mentions Jesus Christ. This shows something is wrong. This does follow from what Erasmus says. The emphasis for Erasmus is what man must do to be saved and not on what God has done in Jesus Christ. Therefore Jesus Christ is not the only way of salvation and is not that important.
Over against the implications of Erasmus' view are the orthodox implications of Luther's view. God is sovereign in salvation. God elects His people, He sent Jesus Christ, and reveals Jesus Christ only to His people. It is God who turns the enslaved wills of His people so that they seek after Him. Salvation does not depend upon the work of man in any sense.
The basis of salvation is Jesus Christ alone. Because man is enslaved to sin, He must be turned from that sin. He must be saved from that sin through the satisfaction of the justice of God. A man needs the work of Jesus Christ on the cross to be saved. A man needs the new life of Jesus Christ in order to inherit eternal life. The merits of man do not save because he merits nothing with God. A man needs the merits of Jesus Christ for eternal life. A man needs faith by which he is united to Christ.
The source of this salvation is election. God saves only those whom He elects. Those who receive that new life of Christ are those whom God has chosen. God is sovereign in salvation.
Because God is sovereign in salvation, His grace cannot be resisted. Erasmus says that the reason some do not believe is because they reject the grace which God has given to them. Luther implies that God does not show grace to all men. Instead, He saves and shows favor only to those who are His children. In them, God of necessity, efficaciously accomplishes His purpose.
Because man cannot merit eternal life, saving faith is not a work of man by which he merits anything with God. Works do not justify a man. Salvation is the work of God alone in Jesus Christ and through the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift of God whereby we are united to Jesus Christ and receive the new life found in Him. Even the knowledge and confidence as the activity of faith are the gifts of faith.
Finally, only with this view of salvation that God is sovereign can a man have comfort that he will be saved. Because God is sovereign in salvation and because His counsel is immutable, we cannot fall from the grace of God. He preserves those who are His children. Erasmus could not have this comfort because he held that man determines his own salvation.
The Importance of This Controversy Today
Although this controversy happened almost five hundred years ago, it is significant for the church today. The error of "semi-Pelagianism" is still alive in the church today. Much of the church world sides with Erasmus today, even among those who claim to be "Reformed." If a "Reformed" or Lutheran church denies what Luther says and sides with Erasmus, they despise the reformation of the church in the sixteenth century. They might as well go back to the Roman Catholic Church.
This controversy is important today because many deny that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. A man can worship heathen gods and be saved. This follows from making works the basis of salvation. Over against this error, Martin Luther proclaimed the sovereignty of God in salvation. He proclaimed Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. We must do the same.
The error of Pelagianism attacks the church in many different forms. We have seen that in the history of the Protestant Reformed Churches. The sovereignty of God in salvation has been attacked by the errors of common grace and a conditional covenant. Over against these errors, some in the church world have remained steadfast by the grace of God. God does not love all. Nor does He show favor to all men in the preaching of gospel. Erasmus himself said that God showed grace to all men and God does not hate any man. The Arminians said the same thing at the time of the Synod of Dordt. Yet, men who defend common grace claim to be Reformed. They are not.
Also, in this synergistic view of salvation, we see the principles of the bilateral, conditional covenant view which is in many "Reformed" churches. If God and man work together in salvation, then the covenant must be a pact in which both God and man must hold up each one's end of the agreement. Over against this we must proclaim the sovereignty of God in salvation especially in regard to the covenant. The covenant is not conditional and bilateral. God works unconditionally and unilaterally in the covenant of grace.
Finally, we must apply the truth of the sovereignty of God defended by Luther to ourselves. We could say there is a Pelagian in all of us. We know God sovereignly saves, but we often show by our practice that we proudly want to sneak a few of our works in the back door. We must depend upon God for all things.
May this truth which Martin Luther defended, the truth of the sovereignty of God in salvation, be preserved in the church.
LOL! If I willfully sin (commit mortal sin), I am "unsaved". Again. Pretty clear - but we disagree! Wow, if we only had an authoritative interpretation on this. I guess we'll never know what if we can willfully sin and still enter heaven...
I don't understand your reaction at all. I was merely pointing out our difference. You would say that such a defiant sin changes a person from saved to unsaved. I would say such a sin means the person was never saved in the first place.
FK: "Habitual behavior like some of those Jews would be good evidence that they were not saved yet."
That sounds like something a "works" salvation person would say! Isn't this so interesting? So when you make the sinner's prayer, you don't really know you are saved, because you first must see the "habitual behavior"? Hmm. :-)
No, no, no. :) I meant that it would be good evidence to those of you all who NEED evidence, along with the Protestant believers who have not reached a certain level of sanctification. The mature Christian needs no evidence, he lives the evidence.
I will fully admit that probably most Protestants who say the sinner's prayer have no full clue what they really have after it's over. That was the case with me. It was years before I could say with confidence that I was 100% saved. I now know that I have no need to see any further evidence that isn't already a sure thing.
Being disqualified does not entitle a person who raced a prize, does it? Again, either a person is judged worthy for full entrance into heaven, or he is disqualified to hell. You are reading what is not there, even using your NIV (I presume), which is not the best of translations, being it is not a literal one.
I thought you were focusing on the "not running to an uncertain thing" part. I don't see Paul at all being unassured, I see him teaching that we should be mindful not to take a OSAS attitude, lest we be disqualified. I don't see how this SHOWS that Paul was unassured. What am I reading that isn't there?
Yes, I am using the NIV. I like it expressly because it isn't word for word, but rather idea for idea. I believe Kosta used a similar argument several posts ago to defend the belief in the Bible's inerrancy even given the various translations, sources, etc.
It seems to me that you got me going in circles, after so many posts. Do you believe you are saved during the sinner's prayer or not? What role (if you are saved on that day) do actions play, then?
Well, I may have explained what I mean better in a future post to yours that I'm responding to now, but I would say that salvation is complete in one moment "as far as we're concerned". God PROMISES that Christ will continue the good work that He began in us, so the future actions WILL happen.
We are not "concerned" about our salvation, it is complete from God's POV from the beginning of time. From our POV, it is complete at the sinner's prayer, SINCE the future included actions are automatically included in a true salvation. So, we don't WORRY about whether we will do them, we WILL, if the salvation was true. This is how we "rest".
Are future actions part of the picture? Yes. We don't wonder at all if they will occur because God already promises us that they will, if we are truly His children. God promises to keep us, as He loves His children. If I believe I can reasonably put myself into this picture of salvation, including all of God's promises, then I have assurance.
FK: "There is no choice involved, there is no free will involved to do good. God runs everything."
Man has no free will? Oh, I hope we aren't going down that road again...
This just goes to my holding that God deserves all the credit for all good done. We PERCEIVE in our existence that we participated in doing good, and even that we chose to do it. That doesn't make it real. Just like in your cookie story with the daughter.
FK: "We don't know what's going to happen so we don't know how our sanctification is going to take shape, but we do know that it will happen. [Along with] Sure, Christ carrying on His work until completion is necessary, but since it's a lock for the truly saved, I see it as being wrapped up for all intents and purposes initially."
AHHHHHH! (Hair being pulled out). I'll never figure out this if you keep going back and forth! I thought you KNEW you were of the Elect! You are starting to sound Catholic - you don't know what will happen, but rely on God's graces to sanctify us. Well, let's keep talking!
Please, save your hair! If I had any to spare I would give it to you. :) I am being perfectly consistent. If you look at my first statement, the key word is "so". That connects the first part to the second part. In the first part I am saying that we cannot tell the future in terms of specific events.
THEREFORE, I continue, we can't know exactly how our sanctification will play out. (I think I was saying this to show the usefulness of sanctification from our POV.) In the third part of my first statement I confirm the idea that we don't know HOW or WHEN we will do whatever good deeds we will ever do, BUT THAT they will happen for all those of the elect.
My second statement just backs this up. Yes, we do KNOW we are of the elect. We can't read the future in terms of specific events, but we know that whatever saving events or actions that are required to reach heaven will be achieved by God's elect. God promises us that this will happen. So, we can "rest", but not turn away. God promises that He won't let that (permanently fall away) happen either.
I think your characterization of what I'm saying is very accurate, Kolo, AND, I think I know where Kosta is coming from in his objection. From what I have learned about theosis, I would put that at the end of our life-long sanctification process. When I said my sinner's prayer, I was not mature or whole or fully Christ-like, or any of those types of things. Sanctification brings us toward that goal.
AND, in the same breath I say that at the sinner's prayer I was "saved". So, if I had died the day after saying the prayer, with no sanctification, I'm still in. Or, if years later I raised my fist and cursed God defiantly and on a permanent basis, then my sinner's prayer was false and I was never saved in the first place. (Based on what I know now, I don't worry that this is a possibility because of God's promises.)
I have been saying that salvation is a one time event, WITH future included actions that are certain to occur. Not to be too legalistic, but I believe that these future included actions are both a "guarantee" by God through scripture, and a "guaranty" by God's authority. Jesus clearly teaches us what the saved man looks like. God will ensure that all of His elect look like that.
I agree with FK and he is perfectly consistent in what he is saying. Calvinists do NOT believe that man has no will. Calvinists believe man's will is bound to sin. The Son sets us free from that bondage. Once God has set us free His work is perfect and complete and WE WILL make the decision to follow Christ. But one we are set free we will ALWAYS make the decision to follow Christ.
God enlightens the mind and we choose to follow Christ. Where we disagree from Orthodox, Catholics and many Protestants is over this issue. Everyone else feels that somehow God enlightens and we sit around thinking, "Hmmmm, heaven, hell, heaven, hell????" The fact of the matter is that once God shows us the road to heaven, we have found the pearl of great price and truly desire it.
This was the whole concept of being a "bond servant" which the apostles compared themselves to. We WANT God to put a ring in our ear to be His servant forever more. It doesn't mean servants don't do stupid things. It means that we are now the property of a King.
So, now we are introducing yet another twist to theology, according to FK, that has heretofore not been mentioned on a permanent basis. I won't go into what "permanent" means, maybe we can discuss that on another thread.
But, I suppose, you can raise your fist and curse God every now and then and still be saved? Is that what it means?
However, you still fail to tell me who is doing all this your will or God's will. If it is God's will, as I would imagine you will say, then why worry about it? Right? You are doing God's will either way, correct?
Since God is just, then your damnation from all eternity is just as well. It makes no difference in your theology whether you accept Jesus Chirst as your Savior (the "accept" here is only illusiory anyway, since it is God who makes the decision whether you will accept Christ or not): you are doing God's will either way and are therefore always obedient to God (there is no choice in this at all according to your theology), even if you are enslaved by sin (again, only if God wants you to be enslaved by sin!).
So, even if you shake your fist at God, "on a permanent basis" instead of pray sinner's prayer (why pray, God does not change His mind!?), be glad that it's all in the Plan.
Either way, you are where God wants you to be and will end up where God already determined you will end up. The rest is gravy. That's Calvinism for you. Saved or unsaved, it's none of your doing, you are in God's hands! So, wherever you end up, don't worry, be happy.
I still don't see any "twist" in FK statement. Peter denied Christ three times well after saying Jesus was the Christ. Certainly we would all agree he didn't lose his salvation. If anything he was made more stronger for the situation.
People see people fall away all the time and misconstrued they've "lost" their salvation. This is man's perspective. If God is "out of time" as many of you claim (and I would agree) then God knows when that person is going to raise their fist and fall away. Why then would we believe they had salvation and then lost it? God never granted it to them in the first place. John states that "They went out from us for they were not of us, for if they had been of us they would have continued with us." That sums it up nicely.
Thank you for all of your answers on this, they are very consistent. As I was thinking about this I slapped my head and said "Forest, you idiot! You're an evangelical!" :) It's funny, at this very moment our Youth Minister has a small team in Torino for the main purpose of riding around on shuttle buses, wandering through the Olympic Village, etc. and striking up conversations with whomever. He's been doing this every two years since 1996. He then blogs back to us how it's going and they really are interesting stories.
Even in every normal Sunday service, we will ask that any visitor tear out a portion of the worship guide, write down their contact info, and leave it in the collection plate. One of the staff will then follow up with a phone call to visit with them and answer any questions, etc. It's a pretty "soft sell". :)
True, liturgical tradition is not considered "Apostolic". But the "sense of the faithful" is often expressed in the Liturgy, even if unknowingly. For example, I believe it was St. Athanasius who argued vs. Arius that Jesus MUST be God BECAUSE even the Arians were worshiping Jesus as God during the Mass! Lex orendi, lex credendi, right? I would agree with you, that the various rituals are indeed subject to change, the language, and so forth. But the overall "scheme" of the Divine Liturgy is a teaching moment that extends back to the Apostles, I believe.
Brother in Christ
+Peter never stopped believing in Christ, nor did he ever curse God. There is a slight difference there, counselor.
My point is, from the Calvinist perspective, "why does it matter?" Peter's denial of Christ was only what God wanted him to do. Just as Judas' betrayal of Christ was obeying God's will. Just as Pontius Pilate and the Pharaoh were doing God's work and, ultimately -- to reiterate the belief held by Judaism -- that satan is but God's obedient servant which, by necessity, Calvinism must admit too.
It doesn't matter, because regardless which role you play in this "plan" you keep brining up, all the actors on the stage of this world are God's obedient servants, whether they be villains or heroes. All are God's chosen one way or another.
Which begs the question: why pray, why repent; why redeem; why save? Your prayers could not possibly be of hep, because you say God doesn't change His mind; he sealed everyone's fate from the beginning. Your repentance is spiritually void because you say that whatever you do is simply because it's God's will. Our redemption is unnecessary because we never sinned; we simply obeyed God. We don't need to be saved, because we did not sin; we only did and do and will do what God and no one else pre-ordained to be done.
If everything is is God's will, lest we "thwart God," then nothing is our will. If nothing is our will, then we are always slaves to righteousness, since either way is God's will, and His will is always righteous and just.
The "Gospel" is an oral proclamation first. Certainly, it is recorded in Scripture, but I don't see the necessity to say that the Scriptures have encapsulated ALL of the Apostolic Teachings in clear format. Much of the Christian teachings through history were given by a person's knowledge of Christianity, not by necessarily reading a book, but by one's actions and the proclamation - that Jesus is Lord and is Risen!
Acceptance is only meaningful if we understand at least the basics of what Christianity is
History has proven that men can know God WITHOUT the Bible in hand, true? Now, we probably are arguing a moot, meaningless point - the Bible IS available to many people. But even in third world countries were illiteracy is high, we see Christianity IS expanding. I believe that even in the case of Protestant Evangelists, they are able to spread the Good News more by their actions, by being a light of Christ, rather than reading about some 2000 year old Jews. It is one's witness that brings people to the Bible, not vice versus.
Maybe I have been misinterpreting what "tradition" is all along. I pinged you to a post a little while before this one on this topic. I have been thinking that tradition is extra-Biblical, not automatically wrong, but not in the Bible.
We divide Tradition into two components: Apostolic, and Ecclesiastical. The latter is changeable. Things that the Church instituted to promote piety or virtue, etc. Things such as Fasting on Friday during Lent. That is not set in stone, but we obey it because the Church has given it to us as a means of advancing our sanctification. The former, Apostolic, are Traditions that are not EXPLICITLY in the Scriptures - but are NOT EXCLUDED by Scriptures, either. They ARE written and expounded on, but not within the Scriptures. Latter Christians witness to their source - the Apostles.
A good example of this is infant Baptism. It is not EXPLICITLY mentioned in Scriptures. One COULD see it - Christ said do not keep the children away from Him, the Scriptures say that whole families were baptised. By Scripture ALONE, the issue is unclear, is it not? However, by looking to the first few generations of Christian writers, we DO see that THEY considered the practice as holy, pious, and taught by the Apostles! Thus, we have an Apostolic Tradition, a teaching of the Apostles that is not clearly laid out in Scripture, but was considered EQUAL to Scripture by the first Christians.
Why can't the Church, theoretically, flourish under either of our views? What, God can't handle forgiving sin Himself? :)
We believe that Christ passed along a power ONLY to the Apostles - the power to bind and loosen, the power to forgive sins, and the power to confect the Eucharist. As in the Old Testamant, they passed this power (the Spirit) through the visible laying of hands. Thus, a visible sign was given that others could see - an authority was given, a power, to another to continue Christ's Church. We believe that such things, called sacraments, are visible signs of God's graces that continue to come to us. Christ continues His ministry of men here on earth through the successors of the Apostles, the men whom they had laid hands upon. If Christ had intended for all men to have such power, He would have given it to them. We follow what we see in Scriptures, not what our democratic society tells us that we should do (let women be priests, etc.)
What, God can't handle forgiving sin Himself? :)
Of course, but why did He give men the power to forgive sins in the first place in John's Gospel? Note, this is AFTER the Resurrection! The Sacraments (Reconciliation in this case) was given to men so that we could SEE God's work within us. We are body and soul, made that way by God, so we are more effectively worshiping God and following Him when we give our entire selves to Him and when He blesses us through the material world (as well as the spiritual world).
Do you mean chronologically, or in importance? If the latter, then the interpretations of men, even God aided, supersede the inerrant word of God?
As I said, theologically speaking, the Traditions of the Apostles came first, the Scriptures came next. God gave His Gospel orally first. The Apostles gave it to others orally first. The Scriptures didn't come until AT LEAST ten years later, if we believe that an Aramaic version of Matthew was written in the early 40's. Thus, the first ten years at least saw Christianity spread without any Gospel writings, any Epistles, etc. Later, when these same men of God wrote letters and the narratives of the Gospels, they naturally taught the SAME thing that they taught orally earlier to others. Thus, the oral teachings preceded the written ones, and the written ones did not overturn the oral ones. Nor does it say anywhere that oral teachings are encapsulated completely within the Scriptures. This is a Protestant assumption that is proven incorrect based on the writings of the first Christians.
I believe the Spirit has led me to make the advancement from the Arminian view to the Calvinist one.
Then who was leading you to the Arminian view 2 months ago? How do you know that the "Spirit" won't lead you to another view next month? See, there can only be ONE Truth, and you cannot KNOW it in this manner! I find this means of determining proper doctrine as totally dependent on one's current opinion, a subjective matter, rather than an objective one coming from outside of one's self. As a Catholic, if I take on the opinion that there is no Purgatory, and I want to remain a faithful Catholic, understanding that Christ established a Church and protects it, then I MUST submit my opinion to Christ's, and put aside that non-belief of Purgatory. I begin to read WHY the Church defends Purgatory. But I don't make things up and then try to prove them with bits of Scripture, tossing out verses that don't match.
I'm really starting to get the idea that there is something about the Eucharist's importance to Catholics that I don't understand. If it is, why is it different from the importance of other sacraments?
Well, hold on, here is your chance to learn, as I am preparing to give a class on just that subject this Thursday. The Eucharist is THE source of our Christian walk. Christ comes to us and abides within us in visible form. From this abiding, we believe that Christ sanctifies us in a most perfect manner - when we are open to receiving Him. Yes, the Eucharist is of primary importance to us.
Brother in Christ
By all means! The core of the Divine Liturgy (you Latins used to call it Holy Mass, if I am not mistaken, not just Mass) is the Eucharist. That was the core when the Apostles were still ministering on earth, and when their first generation bishops took over the apostolic ministry by ordination form the Apostles in person (+Ignatius, +Polycarp, etc.).
So, the essence or nature of the Divine Liturgy has not changed from the beginning (1st century) while the outward expression of it certainly has, in colorful and different rites and traditions and cultures of the people who make up the the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
People who are not familiar with the Eucharist, as in the case of FK (and by no fault of your's FK, nothing personal here), and even of some of the people who partake of the Gifts, often think the Eucharist is a means of achiving some kind of unity or right of passage. The Eucharist can only be an expression of unity of faith, and never a means of achiving such unity. That is why, close as we are, we cannot partake in each other's celebrations of the Precious Body and Blood.
Thank you Alex. I think you said it very well. We don't want to compel anyone. Since we believe God does all the saving anyway, we couldn't even if we wanted to. :)
If that were true, brother, than we can NEVER know that the sinner's prayer is effective! Catholics believe that God's grace in Baptism is ALWAYS effective. But then, some people later in life refuse God's graces given to them during Baptism - acting as the Prodigal Son when he left his father's house. If a person cannot know he was saved in the first place, then how do you know you are saved at all?
It was years before I could say with confidence that I was 100% saved. I now know that I have no need to see any further evidence that isn't already a sure thing
YOU determine whether you are saved or not? That doesn't strike me as a Biblical idea. It defies the idea of perseverance to the end! It defies the possibility of falling back into our former lives, as Peter mentioned. I reject the idea of absolute salvation because a person can ALWAYS choose evil - he can yield to temptation to return to that life of the flesh. Thus, Paul calls it spiritual warfare, not spiritual mopping up. Warfare presumes that one can lose the war.
I don't see Paul at all being unassured, I see him teaching that we should be mindful not to take a OSAS attitude, lest we be disqualified
If Paul thought that he could be disqualified, despite being "saved", that doesn't bode well for some Protestants who have said the sinner's prayer and rest on their laurels. Being disqualified means not receiving ANYTHING from the Lord. Does this not sound like hell?
We are not "concerned" about our salvation, it is complete from God's POV from the beginning of time. From our POV, it is complete at the sinner's prayer, SINCE the future included actions are automatically included in a true salvation. So, we don't WORRY about whether we will do them, we WILL, if the salvation was true. This is how we "rest".
If you are not concerned with your salvation, you are not of the same mind as Paul, who told the Phillipians to work out their salvation in fear and trembling. He told the Corinthians to beware, lest they fall. He told the Galatians that if they did certain things, they would NOT inherit the Kingdom of God - despite their baptised status. He told the readers of Hebrews that they could have their salvation taken away if they willfully sinned. Thus, if taken away, they MUST have had salvation to begin with (versus your idea that "a person never was saved to begin with). Paul tells the Romans that they will be judged based on what they do. I don't know about you, but even Paul seems to think along Catholic lines on this subject.
This just goes to my holding that God deserves all the credit for all good done. We PERCEIVE in our existence that we participated in doing good, and even that we chose to do it. That doesn't make it real. Just like in your cookie story with the daughter.
I don't think it is necessary to have God "pretend" anything with us. Everything that God gives to us is a gift. We return it back to Him - and He appreciates the use of His gifts in such a manner. Thus, we are not "fantasizing" in our participation. It MUST be participation, because we can't do it alone, and yet, God made us secondary causes. God doesn't need to fake our participation in His works, but He loves to share with us His divine nature (as Peter says).
I am being perfectly consistent. If you look at my first statement, the key word is "so". That connects the first part to the second part. In the first part I am saying that we cannot tell the future in terms of specific events.
It's OK, I have lots of hair! We don't know what's going to happen so we don't know how our sanctification is going to take shape, but we do know that it will happen.
When you say, "we don't know what is going to happen", what are you refering to? The process of sanctification, or the idea that we are saved? And "we do know that it will happen", again, the sanctification process, or being saved?
we don't know HOW or WHEN we will do whatever good deeds we will ever do, BUT THAT they will happen for all those of the elect.
Previously, you said we cannot know we are of the elect - since the sinner's prayer may not have "worked". So if "x" work of love occurs, it doesn't mean you are of the elect, does it? I think it only tells of our CURRENT status.
Yes, we do KNOW we are of the elect.
SEE! (More hair flying around. Beginning to look like a barber shop in here!) Thus, my confusion. If the sinner's prayer didn't take, you were never saved. This might occur after years of specific and daily loving actions done under the influence of the Spirit. But then the falling away occurs - and the reason - because you never were saved to begin with! And now you KNOW you are of the Elect...How??!! Those loving deeds by the "saved" person told him NOTHING of his future falling away!
If the possibility exists that you can fall away in the future, then potentially, you were never saved to begin with (which is what you are saying - although this line of reasoning is foreign to a Catholic - we ARE saved upon our Baptism - and become UNSAVED by willingly turning from God, as Hebrews 10:27 states).
Either you are saved irrevocably during the Sinner's Prayer, (making all talk about perseverance and sanctification worthless) or you don't really know, based on your future response to God. (making one's knowledge of the elect suspicious or uncertain at best).
That is not true, as John tells us Christians that we continue to sin - despite being released from bondage. Paul in Romans 7 continues to fight against the flesh. We WILL make the decision to follow Christ? Then no one can ever fall away - a thought that is proven wrong by experience...
If that is true, then you can NEVER know you are of the elect, as NOTHING you do, even say the sinner's prayer, is enough to know that God has you as one of the elect. Nothing you do can guarantee that you are of the elect. And if a person falls away, as you mention, then that person never had salvation to begin with???
"For if we sin wilfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful hope of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries. (Heb 10:26-27)
Paul disagrees with that idea. When we are baptised, we are saved (healed). But we are told to persevere - that our status with Christ and in Him is not permanent - there is the potential of falling away, of losing His sacrifice for sins applied to us. Since we cannot know the future, we cannot know we are of the elect. Our actions today do not necessarily mean we will continue in them in five years.
God works salvation within us, first during our Baptism. THIS is effective assuredly. But this salvation doesn't imply that we will continue to run the race and not be disqualified later on.
"If God is "out of time" as many of you claim (and I would agree) then God knows when that person is going to raise their fist and fall away. Why then would we believe they had salvation and then lost it? God never granted it to them in the first place. John states that "They went out from us for they were not of us, for if they had been of us they would have continued with us." That sums it up nicely."
Harley, your remark points up the disingenuousness of proof texting. What does 1 John 2:18 talk about? The AntiChrist and "antichrists". And those "antichrists" are the ones who were in The Church but then left it and by their leaving manifested that they were not of The Church but in fact were "antichrists". These antichrists were and are the heretics through whom the AntiChrist does his work. Those people, those heretics, were apparent even when +John wrote this epistle. +Ignatius of Antioch's Epistle to the Ephesians gives us a good report about this situation...and Harley, you remember who +Ignatius of Antioch was.
Only a Calvinist, and a Calvinist with absolutely no knowledge of the history of the very earliest days of The Church, could see that as proof that if you are "saved" you can never be unsaved.
We believe that when we are born there is no actually resident and indwelling Holy Spirit within us. We would say that at the point of regeneration, not baptism, the Holy Spirit literally takes up residence within us, as a "brand" of God. We are marked and identified as members of the elect for life.
At the same moment sanctification begins and the Spirit guides us through the life long process, including scriptural interpretation (I know, I know :), and prayers on our behalf. Another interesting benefit is that the Spirit prevents demons from entering into us. "There's no room at the inn." That makes watching movies like "The Exorcist" a lot easier. :)
So, when I spoke of "the moment" I meant the time that the Holy Spirit enters the body and sanctification begins.
"Another interesting benefit is that the Spirit prevents demons from entering into us"
Interesting. FK, have you ever been at a service in your parish, praying mightily, when suddenly some salacious thought enters your head? I suspect you have; if not you are the only human being I've ever heard of who hasn't had this experience. Those thoughts are placed there by little demons called "Logismoi". I suspect further that those thoughts might have thrown you completely "off task" at the service. That's why they do it.
Throughout the history of The Church, the Fathers and other holy people have continually warned us of the truly astonishing power of The Evil One over all of us and advise us that our lives will be a constant struggle with him and his minions. Your belief as outlined above, is just about the most dangerous thing any Christian can believe.
Think on these comments:
"Nor should it astound anyone that the Devil is reported in this Book as having first spoken the Name of Jesus of Nazareth (cf. Lk. 4:32-34). But Christ did not receive from him the Name which the Angel brought down from Heaven to the Virgin (cf. Lk. 1:31): it is a mark of the Devil's impudence that he first usurps something among men and brings it down to men as if new, in order to instill terror of his power. Then, in Genesis, too, he is the first to proclaim God to man, for thus ye have: "And he said to the woman, 'Why hath God commanded that ye should not eat of every tree'" (Gen. 3:1)? So each is deceived by the Devil, but healed by Christ." +Ambrose of Milan
"When the sly demon, after using many devices, fails to hinder the prayer of the diligent, he desists a little; but when the man has finished his prayer, he takes his revenge. He either fires his anger and thus destroys the fair state produced by prayer, or excites an impulse towards some animal pleasure and thus mocks his mind....You should also know the following subterfuge of the demons: at times they divide themselves into groups. Some come with a temptation; and when you ask for help others come in the guise of angels and chase away the first, to make you believe that they are true angels, and fall into vainglory, through having been granted such a thing." +Nilus of Sinai
"The whole essence and effort of the devil is to separate and remove our attention from God and entice it toward worldly concerns and pleasures. He works interiorly, in the heart, suggesting good works and resolutions and reasonable, or rather unreasonable, thoughts. We must not pay the slightest attention to these things. The spiritual combat consists in keeping the mind fixed on God, in not entertaining or approving impure thoughts, and in not paying any attention to the phantasms which the detestable, diabolic picture maker stirs up in our imagination." +John Chrysostomos
"The devil also transfigures himself into an angel of light, not that he may reascend to where he was, for having made his heart hard as an anvi, he has henceforth a will that cannot repent; but in order that he may envelope those who are living an Angelic life in a mist of blindness, and a pestilent condition of unbelief." +Cyril of Jerusalem
The men who wrote these words were among the holiest of Christians, and yet they struggled daily with demons and sometimes lost those struggles, at least temporarily. Now unless you are willing to announce that none of these men, nor virtually any other Father or holy person in The Church, were not saved as per your understanding, you really should re-think your position on demons.
Good points and perfectly in line with Paul's warnings in Romans 7 - that so few Calvinists enjoy reading about. Where does Logismoi come from, by the way? Thanks,
Brother in Christ
"Where does Logismoi come from, by the way?"
I suppose its from the plural of "Logismos" which means reasoning or thought, but it does mean as sort of demon or demonic thought in the context I used it in.
I wasn't using 2 Cor. to prove the fact of how the Romans understood Paul, I was using it to show Paul's state of mind. I assumed you would not argue that Paul changed his mind from the time of his letter to the Corinthians, therefore, he must have meant the same thing to the Romans. If you believed that Jesus is naturally excluded, then why did you use that as an argument? Why do you equate a "righteous" man to a man who has never sinned? You are changing the argument.
Other Christians who preceded the Letter to the Romans MUST have taught them differently - that Christ was without sin, etc. This is why I contend that Paul did not imply that ALL men are evil and cannot come to God. First, he is quoting from OT Psalms that speak of the wicked, not a universal claim for all men. Secondly, the Scriptures themselves call other people righteous - in the OT and the NT...
I'm sorry, I don't follow what you are saying here. I don't think that Paul is saying that all are perpetually wicked, but that all have been wicked "All have sinned..." All men are born in evil and cannot come to God of their own account. Do you say that a "righteous" man as referenced in the Bible never sinned? I'm just not sure where you are coming from.
Do you think Paul thought that HE wasn't turning towards God?
No, but I do know that Paul said there was no good in him. You are veering off the argument.
We don't know what Paul thought about Mary. However, we DO know that two generations later, men were writing about Mary as the New Eve and referring to Romans 5.
We do know what Paul thought about Mary. In all of his Biblical writings he never made a single exception for her being sinless. Wouldn't Paul have thought that was important if true?
Paul is not making a point that men sin. He is saying that the wicked will not turn to God. If Paul's point in Romans 1-3 was that all men sin, it wouldn't make sense to say that some men are spiritually circumcised, or that men will can follow the Law written on their hearts.
So, when Paul says "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God", Paul doesn't mean at all that all have sinned. He means something COMPLETELY different. Paul was pretty miserable at saying what he meant, wasn't he? I mean, if he agreed with your explanation, why didn't he just say that? Instead, he chose words that to the casual reader sound just the exact opposite of what he meant. It must have been a God-established secret code only decipherable by the Church hierarchs.
I appreciate that you are forced to argue this, but on this kind of stuff, I will forever be invincibly ignorant. :) I also note that you have chosen to reframe the argument for some reason. The majority of your argument is against things I never alleged. I never argued that Paul was saying that all men are in a perpetual state of sin. You chose to build that in. Paul was saying that upon our first sin, we were unfit for heaven, but for what Jesus did. AND, that ALL have sinned and are in need of Jesus.
BTW, I do agree with you about Abraham and I also agree that Christ was active in people before the incarnation. So, at least we have something on this round! :)
That is what the scriptures states.
Which begs the question: why pray, why repent; why redeem; why save?
It is precisely because salvation is from the Lord that we can pray for the salvation of others. If man has God given free will then there is no point in praying. God will not intervene in a person's free choice. Consequently, you can't pray for Sam's salvation simply because Sam is exercising his divine right.
When one stops and think about prayer, it is a great mystery for God's knows all our needs, takes care and watches over us, etc and then ask us to pray for things. The only thing I can tell you about prayer is that it helps us to know God's will. If you pray for something and regardless if your prayer is answered or not, you know what is God's will. God answers our prayers (or not answers them) to show us His will.
Your repentance is spiritually void because you say that whatever you do is simply because it's God's will.
Our repentance is not void. We repent because God brings us to a point of repentance.
Our redemption is unnecessary because we never sinned; we simply obeyed God.
I believe I'm on record to say man does sin, even after becoming a Christian. Christians just don't practice sin.
If everything is of God's will, lest we "thwart God," then nothing is our will.
We don't "thwart" God. God "thwarts" us.
Why? God won't change His mind according to your theology. Their fate has already been sealed.
God will not intervene in a person's free choice
Oh? And you know that how?
Our repentance is not void. We repent because God brings us to a point of repentance
What are you repenting for? Everything you did -- whether good or evil you did because it was God's will which you cannot resist in your theology (BTW, Scriptures clearly state that men can reject God).
So, you are repenting for something you have not done of your own volition. That makes sense!
I believe I'm on record to say man does sin, even after becoming a Christian. Christians just don't practice sin
That's not what I said. I said we haven't sinned, according to your theology, because all we did was obey God. How can obedience to God be a sin?!
So, if we have not sinned, but simply obeyed God's will, as your theology claims, than why do we need to be redeemed?
Your answer makes no sense whatsoever, I hope you realize that. What is the difference between sinning and practicing sin? What is sin in your theology anyway? Obviously we use the same word but not the same concept.
So, to recap Reformed theology to which you and FK subscribe and describe so far: everything is God's will; we have no choice but to obey; we do good or evil as God wants us to; even satan, by necessity, is God's faithful servant; God saves some, destroys others not because they did something on their own but just because; we do nothing outside of God's will, yet we sin (?), and repent (again by God's will) for something we have not done on our own; and God needs to redeem us for our sin (?) which we committed by His will; God is the author of evil.
Have I missed something? Oh, yes, we pray for the salvation of others but really to know God's will, and because He wants us to pray to Him although He will never change His mind or what He has pre-ordained.
1Jo 3:9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. (e.g. slave to righteousness)
Paul in Romans 7 continues to fight against the flesh.
Romans 7 has for almost 1700 years (if not longer) been interpreted that Paul was speaking in regards to a non-Christian. "Who will rescue me...? Thanks be to Christ." It was only within the last several hundred years that this has been translated in the cardinal sense of a believer falling away.
On the contrary. I would say that if God took the time to give you grace and faith wouldn't He give you ENOUGH grace and faith to keep you going? I would suggest that anything outside of this reasoning is inconsistent unless one wants to say that it is man's works that saves him. Then you get into another sticky issue.
As far as the heretics in the early church, Johns plainly recognized this fact and states that they were NEVER part of us because if they had been of us they would have continued with us. The reason God gives us heretics is so that we can see what is false gospel. Our Lord Jesus has always stated there would be the wheat and the tares. (1 John 2:19) It is my personal belief that we all hold errors and God's divine reasoning for mixing genuine Christians up with tares is so that we CAN sort out the truth if we are honest with ourselves.
Those who are of the true Christian faith will continue with Christ simply because of God's grace and mercy in His bestowing upon His chosen His faith. Would you disagree with this last sentence?
This isn't a message of "perseverance" to Christians. This is a message to the Hebrews that if they reject the truth of the message of Christ to go back to their legalistic laws, there remains no longer a sacrifice for sin. The Law was swept away with Christ.
How can the elect of God, God's chosen people, reject the truth of the message of Christ? Or are some elect predestined to reject?
Not all of the Jews are "elected". Paul states this in several places.
Those who are of the true Christian faith will continue with Christ simply because of God's grace and mercy in His bestowing upon His chosen His faith.
The sticking point is the understanding of the word chosen. While I can't speak for everyone who believes in free will, I think most in that camp would say that God chooses everyone for communion with Himself, that is the experience of grace, theosis, salvation, sanctification. But this is an encounter that involves reciprocity--a relationship of person to Person. Personhood requires freedom of response. And that also entails the freedom to fail and miss the mark.
If God wanted all men to be saved, all men would be saved.
I understand that that is the Calvinist position. But does Calvinism give a reason as to why God wants some men not to be saved?
To think the Jews are somehow elected by God and carries a special place in His heart is despensationalism.
So would it be correct in Calvinism to say that some Jews are God's chosen people and some Jews are not God's chosen people? Or that no Jews are God's chosen people?
18 Therefore, as by the offence of one, unto all men to condemnation; so also by the justice of one, unto all men to justification of life. 19 For as by the disobedience of one man, many were made sinners; so also by the obedience of one, many shall be made just.
Verse 18 says, all condemned and all justified. Verse 19 says, many are sinners, and many are justified. Unless "all" is used in the sense of "many" in Verse 18, St. Paul contradicts himself in these two verses. But verse 18 picks up from verse 12. I do not see how verse 12 should be read as "absolutely all", when verse 18 must be read as "many".
That's a nice try, but I don't think it gets you all the way home. :) The way I see it is that "many" is used in the sense of "many others", as in all others following Adam. Of course, all are not justified, but from our point of view, all have a chance to be justified. From our POV, every human is in the mission field. God is the only who knows the names of the chosen and the passed over. So it is "many" that is really like "all" rather than the other way around.
If you say that all really means "many" are you arguing that "many" really means billions and billions and billions EXCEPT MARY? Or, do you believe that others were also sinless? Are you rejecting original sin? Paul obviously knew who Mary was. All he would have to do is give her a pass in one verse, one time in all his writings and then I'd be with you. We would know to properly interpret all of his other writings because the Bible must be consistent. Yet he does not.
In fact, I thought this wasn't even an infallible declaration until 150 years ago. That tells me there must have been some disagreement about, even among Catholics, until that time.
Is Paul saying in verse 12 that since all, including Mary, die, then all, including Mary and John the Baptist, sin? Verse 14 explains that not all sinned in a similar way. Paul makes clear that death came from one man, Adam. The implication is that the sin of Adam alone is sufficient to cause death of all. It is not logically necessary for all to sin in order for all to die.
I think the death Paul spoke of was spiritual death, but yes, I think he was saying that everyone after Adam, including Mary and John the Baptist had sinned and were therefore unworthy of heaven without Christ.
I see the distinction Paul is making in verse 14 as meaning that the theater of sin is greater than breaking the Commandments, because people sinned before there were any Commandments. Adam received a specific commandment from God so it is the same thing. I also see part of this idea being that man cannot be saved by simply following the Commandments. Jesus was clear on this.
I agree that the sin of Adam is sufficient to cause all of our spiritual deaths (original sin). Being created with the sin nature is enough to doom us, we will sin if it is physically possible. We would both agree that aborted babies, etc. are given a special dispensation by God, even though they may not have "sinned" in any way that we understand it.
"Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me." -- Isaiah 43:10
Chosen so that we believe, not because we believe.
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" -- Ephesians 1:4 "But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" -- 2 Thessalonians 2:13 "So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." -- Romans 9:16 "Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." -- John 1:13
"Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you." -- John 15:16
"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love" -- Ephesians 1:4
"But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth" -- 2 Thessalonians 2:13
"So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy." -- Romans 9:16
"Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God." -- John 1:13
Saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Scripture gives the reason.
"Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.
Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will?
Nay but, O man, who are thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?
Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?
What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction:
And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory,
Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?
As he saith also in Osee, I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved.
And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God.
Esaias also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved:
For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth.
And as Esaias said before, Except the Lord of Sabaoth had left us a seed, we had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrha.
What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith.
But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness.
Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone;
As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed." -- Romans 9:18-33
Thank you for the Bible quotes. What I am asking is, does Calvinism give any reason why God chooses not to elect some people?
Again, thank you for the Bible quotes. But I am asking if you can put your reasons in your own words, that is for clarification of how you understand those quotes from the Bible.
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" -- Isaiah 46:9-10
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure" -- Isaiah 46:9-10
Why do you think He didn't elect all people?
Or are you a universalist who thinks all people are God's elect?
I believe that is your position isn't it, that God didn't elect all people? Are you trying to say that I am a Calvinist?
Or are you a universalist who thinks all people are God's elect?
What I am saying is that every person is created uniquely by God, and therefore has the invitation to respond with thanksgiving to the Love of the Holy Trinity.
Did God elect anyone?
You and I preach the Gospel to all men, but only those who have been reborn by the Holy Spirit can and will respond, according to His will for His glory as ordained from before the foundation of the world.
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them." -- Mark 4:11-12
"And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them." -- Mark 4:11-12
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded. (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day." -- Romans 11:5-8
"Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then it is no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded.
(According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day." -- Romans 11:5-8
But, HD, if the devil, by your theology, is necessarily God's obedient servant doing simply God's will, why would God come to destroy him?
It is clear to me why a Calvinist would phrase a question in those terms. But most Christians who believe in free will don't think in terms of election because it seems to them that the word has taken on a specialized meaning defined only by Calvinism.
So I think the question for us would be, is it possible for someone to have communion with God? The answer is yes, and involves entering into a relationship with the Holy Trinity characterized by Love. It is a journey, but I don't have a precise road map to offer.
That's sad. I do.
If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." -- John 14:6-18
"Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.
If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him.
Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us.
Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?
Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.
Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.
If ye love me, keep my commandments.
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.
I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you." -- John 14:6-18
That is why you are a Calvinist and I am not.
No doubt. Too bad.
I would suggest you return to Scripture and find the comfort and assurance God has given His sheep.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. " -- John 10:26-28
"But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. " -- John 10:26-28
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -- John 16:33
By the grace of God alone.
No king but Christ.
I am glad to learn that the elect are capable of pity for those who are ordainded by God before the creation of the world for eternal damnation.
When a righteous person sins, is he then wicked? Does he then become as Paul describes in Romans 3:10-13 "...There is no one righteous, no, not one; there is no one that understands; there is no one that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way; they are together become unprofitable; there is no one that does good, no, not one. Their throat [is] an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit"
Does Paul literally mean that no men are righteous, or is he merely quoting from the Psalms to PROVE the beginning of Romans 3:1 "What advantage then has the Jew? or what profit [is there] of circumcision?" If you will recall, David was writing against the JEWS who opposed him. Paul is ALSO PRIMARILY opposed by JEWS. They were wicked. Being circumcised did not make one righteous, as Paul mentions at the end of Romans 2 "...but he [is] a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision [is that] of the heart, in the spirit [and] not in the letter, whose praise is not of men, but of God."
Again, Paul is making an argument, as David did, against those self-righteous Jews who thought that they were saved on account of their rituals, esp. circumcision. Paul then continues that we are not saved by works of the law, and uses Abraham as an example of righteousness BEFORE circumcision. To say that Paul is tallking about something else, that ALL men are wicked, is to miss the point of Paul's context. If Paul literally means what he is saying, as you claim, then no one is righteous, vs. what other Scriptures say that men ARE righteous. And certainly, Jesus is ALSO righteous. By this argument, then, we don't understand Paul as saying that all men are wicked and no man seeks out the Lord. Time and time again, the Scripture exhorts and rewards those who do. Now, suddenly, no one seeks out the Lord?
I do know that Paul said there was no good in him.
Humility. Paul claims the opposite in other cases when he defends his apostleship - realizing it is the Lord who lives in Him.
We do know what Paul thought about Mary. In all of his Biblical writings he never made a single exception for her being sinless.
An argument from silence is a lousy argument. Especially when we rely on a 2000 year old person and we don't have very much information on what Paul said or felt about such issues that he didn't discuss in his epistles. If Christians believe that Mary was sinless - and no one disagreed, then perhaps Paul did teach that she was - or perhaps Mary was still alive and Paul wouldn't teach it out of humility for Mary's sake.
Paul was saying that upon our first sin, we were unfit for heaven, but for what Jesus did. AND, that ALL have sinned and are in need of Jesus.
I have made this clear in the past. I don't disagree with that. However, some Protestants have decided to read much more into this passage - that Mary couldn't have been sinless. My point was that if Paul accounts for no exceptions, than Paul must not have excluded Jesus. Because Paul DOES make provision for Christ, we don't know if there is another exception in God's plans. Paul himself never makes the claim that he knows all of God's plans - in the very same letter. But because the Spirit is guiding Paul, Paul does NOT say that Jesus is the only sinless person in Romans 3. Thus, Paul (and the Spirit) leave room for exceptions to the universal "all".
Well, if that's true then I suppose I could give you half a point and say it's possible. :) I know there are places in the Bible when "brother" means biological brother and others where it means spiritual brother. I wonder how one would go about identifying only his bio-brother to someone who didn't know?
If you have sinned, you have practiced it, have you not? You are putting words into John's writings that are not there. He doens't say "if you sin once, you are ok, only 10 times per month - then you are from the devil".
Romans 7 has for almost 1700 years (if not longer) been interpreted that Paul was speaking in regards to a non-Christian
The chapter uses the first person pronoun "I", indicative of his own personal struggle with sin and the reliance in the end on Jesus Christ to save us from the flesh. According to you, the "non-Christian" won't be making the choice between good and evil, and will always choose the evil, correct? According to Reformed theology, isn't that the anthropology of man? That he can never choose good? There is no such contest within the non-Christian - all are wicked and no one seeks out the Lord? Correct? Now, you are saying something different in that Romans 7 refers only to non-Christians...
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