Monday, November 21, 2011

TULIP in the Church Fathers?


If you do some searching on the Internet you will come across more than a couple websites that have quotations from the church fathers that are said to support the doctrines of Calvinism. These quotations are taken from the Appendix of  Putting Amazing Back Into Grace by Michael Horton. Horton is attempting to establish the catholicity of Calvinism. This is important. The Christian church did not start at the time of the Reformation. A Christian group must be able to show that their teachings from the time of the Apostles onward or they are really a new religion. Martin Chemintz ably demonstrated in his Examination of the Council of Trent that Lutheran teachings were not novelties but in fact the historic teachings of the church. He showed that the Roman church's teachings were not based on the historic teachings of the church but were based on relatively new teachings that developed in the middle ages. Unfortunately Horton does not provide references for checking the original context of the quotes, not even the title of the work that is being quoted. This makes tracking the original context of the quotes down difficult and calls the quote itself into question. There are numerous works that have been attributed to different church fathers that were later found to be fraudulent. In addition to the problem of verifying the quote, many of the quotes don't seem to actually support the Calvinist doctrine they are listed under. You have to read Calvinism into the quote and teaching Calvinism doesn't seem to be the original author's intention.

Some of the quotes given in the Total Depravity seem to legitimately support the doctrine of total depravity while others are not quite as clear. The Scriptures teach total depravity and some of the church fathers did. But some of the church fathers quoted did not believe in total depravity. They understood man's will to be weakened by sin but did not teach full blown total depravity.

Some of the quotes listed under Unconditional Election are legitimate, others are not. But you'll notice that none of the quotes teach an election unto damnation. There's nothing distinctively Calvinist about the quotes. They all seem to support the Lutheran position as well.

The LIP section of the TULIP is where the problems really start rolling in. The Bible speaks of the atonement in a number of different ways. Sometimes the Scriptures speak of the atonement applying to everyone. Sometimes the Bible speaks specifically of Christ giving His life for the church--for those who actually end up receiving all the benefits of the atonement. A number of quotes simply speak of the atonement in this second sense. What is needed to prove a Calvinist understanding of the atonement is a statement that Christ did not give his life for certain people and there's only a couple quotes that actually seem to teach that. Horton quotes Justin Martyr as saying:

He endured the sufferings for those men whose souls are [actually] purified from all iniquity...As Jacob served Laban for the cattle that were spotted, and of various forms, so Christ served even to the cross for men of every kind, of many and various shapes, procuring them by His blood and the mystery of the cross.
The first thing you'll notice is the brackets. Horton has inserted the word "actually" into the text. This is from Justin Martyr's Dialogue with Trypho. In the original text the portions separated by the "..." are actually from two different chapters. The first part of the quote comes from chapter XLI where Justin Martyr is teaching that the offering of fine flour in the Old Testament was a figure of the Lord's Supper. He writes:

"And the offering of fine flour, sirs," I said, "which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from all iniquity, in order that we may at the same time thank God for having created the world, with all things therein, for the sake of man, and for delivering us from the evil in which we were, and for utterly overthrowing principalities and powers by Him who suffered according to His will. Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi, one of the twelve [prophets], as I said before, about the sacrifices at that time presented by you: 'I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord; and I will not accept your sacrifices at your hands: for, from the rising of the sun unto the going down of the same, My name has been glorified among the Gentiles, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering: for My name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord: but ye profane it.' He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane . The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.
So the point is that Jesus suffered for those who partake of the Eucharist. There's nothing to suggest that these people could not fall away and nothing that teaches that Jesus did not suffer for others. The second part of the quotation is from chapter CXXXIV. For those who need to brush up on their Roman numerals, Horton is taking a quotation from part of chapter 41 and combining it with a quotation from part of chapter 134. The end of Chapter CXXXIV says:

Attend therefore to what I say. The marriages of Jacob were types of that which Christ was about to accomplish. For it was not lawful for Jacob to marry two sisters at once. And he serves Laban for [one of] the daughters; and being deceived in [the obtaining of] the younger, he again served seven years. Now Leah is your people and synagogue; but Rachel is our Church. And for these, and for the servants in both, Christ even now serves. For while Noah gave to the two sons the seed of the third as servants, now on the other hand Christ has come to restore both the free sons and the servants amongst them, conferring the same honour on all of them who keep His commandments; even as the children of the free women and the children of the bond women born to Jacob were all sons, and equal in dignity. And it was foretold what each should be according to rank and according to fore-knowledge. Jacob served Laban for speckled and many-spotted sheep; and Christ served, even to the slavery of the cross, for the various and many-formed races of mankind, acquiring them by the blood and mystery of the cross. Leah was weak-eyed; for the eyes of your souls are excessively weak. Rachel stole the gods of Laban, and has hid them to this day; and we have lost our paternal and material gods. Jacob was hated for all time by his brother; and we now, and our Lord Himself, are hated by you and by all men, though we are brothers by nature. Jacob was called Israel; and Israel has been demonstrated to be the Christ, who is, and is called, Jesus.
In the actual passage, Justin is saying that Jesus served for both Jew and Gentile. Trypho was not a Christian but in this passage Justin describes him as one of the Jews for whom Christ "served." In reality the passage speaks against a limited atonement. Horton quotes Tertullian as saying:

"Christ died for the salvation of His people...for the church."
I was not able to locate this in any of Tertullian's actual writings. The quote appears to actually be a combination of what Tertullian wrote and Gill's commentary on what Tertullian wrote. Gill interprets "for the people" as meaning "for the church." In the passage, Tertullian is writing against Marcion.

But (you say) God was even then mean enough in His very fierceness, when, in His wrath against the people for their consecration of the calf, He makes this request of His servant Moses: "Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them, and that I may consume them; and I will make of thee a great nation." Accordingly, you maintain that Moses is better than his God, as the deprecator, nay the averter, of His anger. "For," said he, "Thou shalt not do this; or else destroy me along with them." Pitiable are ye also, as well as the people, since you know not Christ, prefigured in the person of Moses as the deprecator of the Father, and the offerer of His own life for the salvation of the people. It is enough, however, that the nation was at the instant really given to Moses. That which he, as a servant, was able to ask of the Lord, the Lord required of Himself. For this purpose did He say to His servant, "Let me alone, that I may consume them," in order that by his entreaty, and by offering himself, he might hinder (the threatened judgment), and that you might by such an instance learn how much privilege is vouchsafed with God to a faithful man and a prophet.
Turtullian's point is that just as Moses offered to sacrifice himself for the sin of the people, so Jesus actually sacrificed Himself for the sin of the people. Notice that Tertullian doesn't even say "His" people as Horton quotes him. Tertullian says "the people." Tertullian is not writing against a universal atonement but against someone who believes that the Old Testament god is different from the New Testament God.

Horton quotes Cyprian as saying:

"All the sheep which Christ hath sought up by His blood and sufferings are saved...Whosoever shall be found in the blood, and with the mark of Christ shall only escape...He redeemed the believers with the price of His own blood...Let him be afraid to die who is not reckoned to have any part in the cross and sufferings of Christ."
I have not been able to locate the source of this quote. From what I can tell, it seems like Horton took quotations from various letters written by Cyprian, strung them together, and then inserted additional words. The words "are saved" appear to be inserted by Horton. John Gill quotes a passage from Cyprian that says the same thing but he omits "are saved." If "are saved" were included in the original I'm sure he would have included it.  In Cyprian's letter to Father Stephanus he writes:

For although we are many shepherds, yet we feed one flock, and ought to collect and cherish all the sheep which Christ by His blood and passion sought for; nor ought we to suffer our suppliant and mourning brethren to be cruelly despised and trodden down by the haughty presumption of some, since it is written, “But the man that is proud and boastful shall bring nothing at all to perfection, who has enlarged his soul as hell.”
When Cyprian writes a letter to Demetrianus he says:

What previously preceded by a figure in the slain lamb is fulfilled in Christ, the truth which followed afterwards. As, then, when Egypt was smitten, the Jewish people could not escape except by the blood and the sign of the lamb; so also, when the world shall begin to be desolated and smitten, whoever is found in the blood and the sign of Christ alone shall escape.
Cyprian appears to be referring to baptism here and warns that only the baptized will be saved. "He redeemed believers with the price of His own blood" is from another section of the same letter. The last part of the quote is take from Cyprian's work On the Mortality where he gives comfort to those who are suffering during a horrible plague:
This trial, that now the bowels, relaxed into a constant flux, discharge the bodily strength; that a fire originated in the marrow ferments into wounds of the fauces; that the intestines are shaken with a continual vomiting; that the eyes are on fire with the injected blood; that in some cases the feet or some parts of the limbs are taken off by the contagion of diseased putrefaction; that from the weakness arising by the maiming and loss of the body, either the gait is enfeebled, or the hearing is obstructed, or the sight darkened;--is profitable as a proof of faith. What a grandeur of spirit it is to struggle with all the powers of an unshaken mind against so many onsets of devastation and death! what sublimity, to stand erect amid the desolation of the human race, and not to lie prostrate with those who have no hope in God; but rather to rejoice, and to embrace the benefit of the occasion; that in thus bravely showing forth our faith, and by suffering endured, going forward to Christ by the narrow way that Christ trod, we may receive the reward of His life and faith according to His own judgment! Assuredly he may fear to die, who, not being regenerated of water and the Spirit, is delivered over to the fires of Gehenna; he may fear to die who is not enrolled in the cross and passion of Christ; he may fear to die, who from this death shall pass over to a second death; he may fear to die, whom on his departure
from this world eternal flame shall torment with never-ending punishments; he may fear to die who has this advantage in a lengthened delay, that in the meanwhile his groanings and his anguish are being postponed.
So, in the original context the quote is not saying that Jesus did not die for some people. Instead the quote is saying that unbaptized will suffer greater torment when they die. Horton quotes Eusebius as saying:

To what 'us' does he refer, unless to them that believe in Him? For to them that do not believe in Him, He is the author of their fire and burning. The cause of Christ's coming is the redemption of those that were to be saved by Him."
The first two sentences are actually separated from one another by some other text Eusebius and even they read somewhat differently than the way Horton quotes them. What Eusebius actually says in Demonstratio Evangelica Book 7 is:

And the prophet expecting this birth of Christ in the aforesaid Psalm, and regarding its postponement and delay as if it were the cause of the fall of David's throne, cries in disgust, "But thou hast refused, and made of no account, and cast off thy Christ." And he prays as though doubting the Divine Being, that the promise may be somehow swiftly fulfilled: "Where is thine ancient pity, Lord, which thou swarest unto David in thy truth? "which same things his prophecy most clearly says will be fulfilled at the birth of the Angel of Great Counsel. "Wherefore they will wish," he says, "to have been burnt with fire, those before named for unto us a child is born, and to us a son is given, the Angel of Great Counsel." To us, that is, who in Galilee of the Gentiles have believed on Him, to whom He has brought light and joy, and the new and fresh drink of the mystery of the new Covenant: according to the prophecy which says:

"First drink this, drink quickly—land of Zabulon, and land of Nephthalim, and the rest who dwell by the coast, across Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: O people that sat in darkness, behold a great light, and to them that sat in darkness and the shadow of death a light is risen."

These are they who from the Gentiles believed in the Christ of God, and the disciples and apostles of our Saviour, whom He called from the land of Zabulon and Nephthalim, and chose for the preachers of His Gospel. To them therefore who believed, the Angel of Great Counsel is given as a son to bring them salvation, but to them who disbelieved fire and burning.

So according to Eusebius Christ brought salvation to the Gentiles and gave the the Eucharist. Christ brings salvation to those who believe but condemnation to those who do not. The third sentence in Horton's quote is actually found a chapter earlier in Eusebius' work:

THIS clearly gives the good news of the Descent of God the Word from heaven, Who is named, and of the result of His Coming. For it says, "He sent his Word and healed them." And we say distinctly that the Word of God was He that was sent as the Saviour of all men, Whom we are taught by the Holy Scriptures to reckon divine. And it darkly suggests that He came down even unto death for the sake of those who had died before Him, and in revealing the redemption of those to be saved by Him it shews the reason of His Coming. For He saved without aid from any one those that had gone before Him even to the gates of death, healed them and rescued them from their destruction. And this He did simply by breaking what are called the gates of death, and crushing the bars of iron.
In context and translated properly the sentence actually speaks of a universal atonement.

The first quote that Jerome provides that actually seems to support a limited atonement is from Jerome:

"Christ is sacrificed for the salvation of believers...Not all are redeemed, for not all shall be saved, but the remnant...All those who are redeemed and delivered by Thy blood return to Zion, which Thou hast prepared for Thyself by Thine own blood...Christ came to redeem Zion [a metaphor for the church] with His blood. But lest we should think that all are Zion or every one in Zion is truly redeemed of the Lord, who are redeemed by the blood of Christ form the Church...He did not give His life for every man, but for many, that is, for those who would believe."
But again, this is a mishmash of quotes that are combined into one. Gill provides references for most of these. Unfortunately the works that these come from have not all been translated, so its difficult to establish context. Gill does provide more context than Horton does. From the longer quotation that Gill provides, its apparent that when Jerome says that "Christ is sacrificed from the salvation of believers" Jerome is talking about the Eucharist. Horton appears to be compiling various quotations that Gill provides. Unfortunately I don't believe that the documents that Gill is quoting from are available in a full English translation. You can read the Latin of the middle section that Horton quotes here. My Latin is a little bit rusty but it does not appear that Jerome is saying that Jesus not die for everyone, instead he's saying that not all are redeemed. In fact this same language is used by the Council of Quierzy in 853 against Gottschalk. Gottschalk is perhaps the first Calvinist. He taught double predestination and a limited atonement. Against Gottschalk, the Council of Quierzy said:

Christ's blood was shed for all, although not all are redeemed by the mystery of the passion.
I was unable to locate the source of the last part of Horton's quote which says, "He did not give His life for every man, but for many, that is, for those who would believe." My suspicion is that this is actually Horton's summary of Gill's commentary on the Jerome quote and not something found in Jerome's actual writings.

Horton quotes Anselm as saying:

If you die in unbelief, Christ did not die for you.
I have not been able to find this in any of Anselm's writings. I found an Erwin Lutzer book that made the same claim but without quotation marks and without a reference.

Horton quotes Remigius as saying in 850:

Since only the elect are saved, it may be accepted that Christ did not come to save all and did not die on the cross for all.
I was able to find this same statement without quotation marks in Historical Theology by Geoffrey Bromiley. The statement appears to be Bromiley's summary of what Remigius taught rather than a quotation from Remigius. I have been unable to locate any primary source material and there is conflicting information as to what Remigius's position actually was. Remigius's writings on predestination and the limited atonement seem to be primarily written against the treatment of Gottschalk. Some claim that Remigius was not arguing for the theology of Gottschalk but only the treatment that Gottschalk received while others argue that Remigius was arguing in defense of the theological position of Gottschalk. Based on the various articles that I've read, it seems most likely that Remigius did in fact support Gottschalk on the limited atonement but had some differences with him on the issue of free will.

In 840 Gotteschalk was accused of teaching double predestination and a limited atonement. It's still not entirely clear if he actually taught these things. But if he did, he would be the first known theologian to teach a limited atonement and double predestination. Some have argued based on some of Gotteschalk's writings that Gotteschalk actually taught that predestination was the result of God foreknowing that some men would die in sin and that Christ's death would not be of any benefit to those who die in sin. While Gottschalk's actual position on the atonement and predestination remain in dispute, it seems clear that he held to a rather bizarre form of Tritheism where each person has his own separate deity.

In order to avoid making this post extraordinarily long, I will not go through all the quotes that Horton provides for Irresistable Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints. But none of them prove Calvinism in the church fathers. The quotes for Irresistable Grace really only prove that the church fathers believed that faith is a gift from God. But these church fathers believed that a person could fall away from the faith and resist God's grace. In order to prove Irresistable Grace and the Perseverance of the Saints, Horton would have to provide quotes that say that once a person is given true faith they will never all away.

Horton fails to prove the catholicity of the Calvinist tradition. He doesn't provide the kind of substantial quotations from the church fathers that Martin Chemnitz provides for Lutheranism or that can be found on the Lutheran Catholicity Blog.

1 comment:

Acroamaticus said...

Thanks for kindly linking to my blog, Lutheran Catholicity. My primary intention is apologetic in response to Roman Catholic and Orthodox claims, but I also would like students and theologians to use my blog as a reference source - but I do advise that they check the quotations in context. My view is not that the early church was Lutheran - that would be anachronistic and there is just to much doctrinal variety in the early and medieval church prior to Aquinas and then Trent to pin it down - but that Lutheranism is catholic in that its doctrinal tenets have precedents in the catholic tradition..