Thursday, June 29, 2006

Did the Biblical Writers Always Know They Were Writing Inspired Scripture? / NT Prophets (vs. Ken Temple)

By Dave Armstrong (6-29-06)

This is from a discussion on my blog. Ken Temple is a Baptist and frequent enthusiastic contributor in my blog discussion threads. His words will be in blue. When Ken cites my words back, they will be in purple.

* * * * *

John (blog contributor): "When Paul talked about scripture, I doubt he included his own writings . . . "

Ken: I absolutely [my emphasis] refute that:

I Corinthians 14:37:

"If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command."

We went through this in our recent debate. This is more of your wishful eisegesis. It doesn't prove that he thought that this particular letter was Scripture. Of course it was, but this doesn't prove that it was Paul's understanding at the time; nor is it necessary that he know that in order for it to be inspired; nor that this sort of thing be present in the writing to "prove" that it is Scripture for later readers.

Context and Scripture cross-referencing mitigate against you. "A command of the Lord" need not be Scripture itself, just as the prophets surely gave many "command of the Lord" which were not recorded in Scripture or anywhere else. In other words, the category of "Lord's commands" is much larger than such commands as have been recorded in Holy Scripture.

Paul mentions a "prophet." But previously in the same chapter he taught about prophesying (14:1,3-5,22,24,29,31-32,39; cf. 12:10,28-29). Paul is by no means the only "prophet" here. Note the implication (in light of context) in 14:6 that anyone who prophesies might "bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching."

Those who prophesy in church may bring a revelation? Try that out in your Baptist service sometime, Ken. Paul is even more clear, referring to "a revelation . . . made to another sitting by" in 14:30). Such "revelation" would be a "command of the Lord" just as much as Paul's letter in which this writing was recorded, since "God's commands" is also a category larger than Scripture itself. You or I could be commanded by an angel this very day if God so willed.

Moreover, four verses later, Paul goes right back to oral proclamation: "I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast - unless you believed in vain." (1 Cor 15:1-2)

Oops! Paul must have flunked Calvinism 0101, Eternal Security 0101, and Sola Scriptura 0101 classes in seminary. Let me correct his teaching here with the RFBV (Revised Fundamentalist Baptist Version):
I presented to you the gospel in this letter which is Scripture, which you received, in which you stand, by which you were saved; therefore you will hold it fast - unless you believed in vain.
Paul goes on to recount how he "delivered" the gospel to the Corinthians (orally), in 15:3-6. Later (15:29) he discusses folks "being baptized on behalf of the dead" - the most difficult verse in the NT for Protestants to interpret.

I Timothy 5:18 - he calls the Law and the Gospel (the phrase is in both Luke and Matthew) as "Scripture".

How is that relevant to the question of whether Paul knew that his own letters were inspired, as he wrote them?

All of these were considered the word of God, and he does not have to say, "What I am writing to you now is also Scripture"; as it was understood by the way he writes with authority, being an apostle, giving commands, teaching about the word of God and that the Holy Spirit is speaking, etc. "These things we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." I Cor. 2:13.

This is very good, and you understand this better than many Protestants, who adopt a radical solo Scriptura position. My main point was to say that Paul may not have necessarily known he was writing Scripture, and that your "prooftext" of 1 Cor 14:37 did not establish that he did. Secondly, one didn't have to even be an apostle to pass along the "word of God." They merely had to be a prophet, or to prophesy; and Paul seemed to think that many would do so and that it would be a routine occurrence.

What's interesting here is how that squares with present-day Christianity, where such prophesying is a rare occurrence, in all the major Christian traditions. Even the pope doesn't claim such a gift, but rather, the far lesser gift of infallibility. So this becomes yet another indirect argument for the biblical plausibility or at least (for the more skeptically-minded) permissibility of papal infallibility, since both inspiration of sinful men and prophesying of sinful men occurred and were instruments through which a sure word of divine prophecy or revelation were received; why, not, then, also the far inferior gift of protection from doctrinal error, so that Christians could be certain of doctrinal truths?

We went through this in our recent debate. This is more of your wishful eisegesis.

I disagree and I don’t think I am eis-o-getting, or "reading into" the text. Paul says "what I am writing" "is the Lord’s command".

This remains to be seen, as the dialogue continues. By the way, the word eisegesis is just as I have spelled it, with the "e" in the middle, not an "o" (though I don't know if you were being tongue-in-cheek here or not). See, for example, the Theological Terminology Dictionary, which defines the word as following: "A methodology of textual study in which a meaning is assigned or 'read into' a passage of text." Exegesis, on the other hand, is defined as: "A methodology of textual study in which the meaning of a passage is explained from within the passage itself. To analyze and interpret a passage by what it says." Exegesis is what all Bible students should strive to do.

It doesn't prove that he thought that this particular letter was Scripture. Of course it was, but this doesn't prove that it was Paul's understanding at the time; nor is it necessary that he know that in order for it to be inspired; nor that this sort of thing be present in the writing to "prove" that it is Scripture for later readers.

Just because there are also other prophetic gifts, oral teachings, revelations, God inspired traditions at the time ( I Cor. 11:2, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:6, etc.) does not speak against I Corinthians 14:37 or the whole book as Scripture.

I didn't say it did. What I argued was that the "prooftext" you produced to show that Paul understood his letters to be Scripture was insufficient for its purpose. The other stuff about prophets and prophesying had to do with a related issue: that inspired utterances are a larger phenomena than just Holy Scripture. So any Pauline reference to "inspiration" need not necessarily and always refer to Scripture. And even if he explicitly claimed inspiration for some piece of his writing, that still wouldn't prove that he thought it was Scripture, as opposed to a sure word from an apostle or a prophecy (though it is obviously consistent with such a notion).

It seems that Paul did know he was writing Scripture, putting both context and cross-referencing together, as will be fleshed out more through as we go along. No, it is not eisogesis.

I maintain that it is, but it is important to note that this is not a tremendously important issue, and reasonable men can differ. I'm not even definitely asserting the contrary. My position here is more of an agnostic one: "you have not proven what you assert by the 'proofs' you adduce."

Context and Scripture cross-referencing mitigate against you.

I disagree, as demonstrated more as we go along.

"A command of the Lord" need not be Scripture itself, just as the prophets surely gave many "command of the Lord" which were not recorded in Scripture or anywhere else.

Yes, Sola Scriptura does not deny this, but just because they were not all written down (at that time and place), does not prove that the writings we do have were not understood at the time as Scripture.

You're missing the point. You used 1 Corinthians 14:37 and Paul's reference to "the Lord's command" in reference to his message as (absolute) "proof" that Paul understood this writing as Scripture. I argued that this phrase can apply to non-Scripture, and you presently agree. Therefore, how can you prove that Paul didn't mean this other sense in this instance, or prove that he definitely meant "biblical inspiration"? I respectfully submit that you cannot do so; therefore, I conclude that you have inadequate information in that verse to substantiate your claim. And context (as I have shown) at the very least suggests that he may have had either apostolic authority or inspired prophecy (not necessarily Scripture or inscripturated) in mind.

I agree with what John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote:

20. If there be at once a divine and a human mind co-operating in the formation of the sacred text, it is not surprising if there often be a double sense in that text, and, with obvious exceptions, never certain that there is not.

Thus Sara had her human and literal meaning in her words, 'Cast out the bondwoman and her son,' &c.; but we know from St. Paul that those words were inspired by the Holy Ghost to convey a spiritual meaning. Abraham, too, on the Mount, when his son asked him whence was to come the victim for the sacrifice which his father was about to offer, answered 'God will provide;' and he showed his own sense of his words afterwards, when he took the ram which was caught in the briers, and offered it as a holocaust. Yet those words were a solemn prophecy.

And is it extravagant to say, that, even in the case of men who have no pretension to be prophets on servants of God, He may by their means give us great maxims and lessons, which the speakers little thought they were delivering? as in the case of the Architriclinus in the marriage feast, who spoke of the bridegroom as having kept the good wine until now;' words which it was needless for St. John to record, unless they had a mystical meaning.

Such instances raise the question whether the Scripture saints and prophets always understood the higher and divine sense of their words. As to Abraham, this will be answered in the affirmative; but I do not see reason for thinking that Sara was equally favoured. Nor is her case solitary; Caiphas, as high priest, spoke a divine truth by virtue of his office, little thinking of it, when he said that 'one man must die for the people;' and St. Peter at Joppa at first did not see beyond a literal sense in his vision, though he knew that there was a higher sense, which in God's good time would be revealed to him.

And hence there is no difficulty in supposing that the Prophet Osee, though inspired, only knew his own literal sense of the words which he transmitted to posterity, 'I have called my Son out of Egypt,' the further prophetic meaning of them being declared by St. Matthew in his gospel. And such a divine sense would be both concurrent with and confirmed by that antecedent belief which prevailed among the Jews in St. Matthew's time, that their sacred books were in great measure typical, with an evangelical bearing, though as yet they might not know what those books contained in prospect.

21. Nor is it de fide (for that alone with a view to Catholic Biblicists I am considering) that inspired men, at the time when they speak from inspiration, should always know that the Divine Spirit is visiting them.

The Psalms are inspired; but, when David, in the outpouring of his deep contrition, disburdened himself before his God in the words of the Miserere, [Psalm 51] could he, possibly, while uttering them, have been directly conscious that every word he uttered was not simply his, but another's? Did he not think that he was personally asking forgiveness and spiritual help?

Doubt again seems incompatible with a consciousness of being inspired. But Father Patrizi, while reconciling two Evangelists in a passage of their narratives, says, if I understand him rightly (ii. p. 405), that though we admit that there were some things about which inspired writers doubted, this does not imply that inspiration allowed them to state what is doubtful as certain, but only it did not hinder them from stating things with a doubt on their minds about them; but how can the All-knowing Spirit doubt? or how can an inspired man doubt, if he is conscious of his inspiration?

(On the Inspiration of Scripture, 1884; bolding added)
So Cardinal Newman agrees with the general principle I am defending as likely ("that inspired men, at the time when they speak from inspiration, should always know that the Divine Spirit is visiting them"). But later in the same section 21 he casually assumes that Paul was aware of his own inspiration in 1 Cor 2:4 and 7:40. It is not clear if he would equate this with writing Scripture, but it could very well be. That doesn't harm my point of view at all, since he agreed with my general principle (as seen in my precise title for this dialogue). I am not dogmatic about applying it across the board in all Pauline or other biblical passages, etc. Don't assume too much about what I am arguing.

The content of the prophecies may be the content of Romans, Galatians, and even Revelation, which the Corinthians probably did not have.

Why must they be restricted to biblical texts (or likely to be same, as you appear to imply)? A prophecy stands on its own as an inspired utterance. Certainly the OT prophets spoke tons and tons of prophecies which didn't end up being recorded. The same would be true of John the Baptist (the last prophet, as it were: Mt 11:13). But these were no less authoritative, if indeed they were true prophecies, because they were equally inspired by God, by definition.

The certainly did not have the book of Revelation, so the oral teachings in all the churches was most probably the content of other letters (and the gospels, that he didn’t write) that Paul wrote.

This is a fallacy, which doesn't follow, from logic, common sense, or biblical teaching. Nowhere does the Bible say that every prophecy is simply a citation of known biblical books, or that the oft-referenced oral preaching is restricted to NT (and OT) writings.

In other words, the category of "Lord's commands" is much larger than such commands as have been recorded in Holy Scripture.

This is true, but it does not refute my point. We don't know what any of them are and there is no evidence of any of those things that were spoken orally, were the word of God, and not written down. We can only guess.

Guess??!! Paul, in the very same chapter (1 Cor 14) repeatedly teaches about prophecy (prophesying). What is there to guess about? Obviously, if there was any significant amount of prophecy given, only an extremely small portion of it made it into the NT, if at all, because the NT is a pretty small book: about as long as an average-sized novel. So there was tons of oral messages by apostles and prophets and evangelists which would have been inspired, but ultimately non-biblical, just as was the case with our Lord Jesus. The NT refers several times to non-recorded speeches or acts of Jesus (Mk 4:33, 6:34, Lk 24:15-16,25-27, Jn 20:30, 21:25, Acts 1:2-3). It's the most elementary common sense.

Prophecy was rather common in NT or apostolic times (Acts 2:18). The Ephesians did it (Acts 19:6), as did the daughters of Philip (Acts 21:9), and the Corinthians (aforementioned passages and 1 Cor 11:4-5). There were even prophets (in terms of a calling or office), in addition to folks who prophesied on occasion. Prophets were listed in lists of ministries (1 Cor 12:28-29, Eph 4:11), and work with teachers, as in Antioch (Acts 13:1). They both proclaimed and predicted (see, e.g., Agabus: Acts 11:28, 21:10-11). Prophets exhort believers (Acts 15:32) and provide edification (1 Cor 14:3). Prophecy is described as revelation (1 Cor 14:30) and as connected with the Holy Spirit (plausible implication of 1 Thess 5:19-20). Prophets were subject to the norm of NT or apostolic tradition (1 Cor 14:29,37-38), just as the OT prophets had to be in conformity with the Law of Moses.

The Protestant assumes that they were various pieces of other important content in other letters of the rule of faith and doctrine and exhortations that are now contained in the other written letters.

This is a huge, non-necessary, and non-biblical assumption.

If the Corinthians did not have Romans or Galatians yet, we assume that Paul and other apostles, teachers, and prophets would be orally teaching those things, until all the churches got all the letters, gospels, acts, Revelation, etc.

The gospel message is not confined to the text of the NT. It cold be expressed in many different ways. We see, e.g., how St. Paul ingeniously crafted his message at Mars Hill in Athens, to effectively reach the philosophically-inclined Greeks. We know that this was his habitual method ("I have become all things to all men, that I may by any means save some of them").

The RCC assumes that it may be that also, but it also assumes much more, such as teachings on Mary, and the Pope and transubstantiation, etc., but that those "oral traditions" did not come out in writings (Early church fathers, councils, traditions, etc.) until centuries later.

They were already all there in kernel form; they merely had to be developed. There was also oral tradition which was around at the same time, and passed down.

For example, the first known statement that says that Mary was pure and undefiled was by Ephraem of Syria. (Died in 373, according to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia) "For in You, O Lord, there is no mark; neither is there any stain in your Mother". (Ephraem the Syrian, Camina Nisibena 27, 8.).

Not quite. It is already taught in the Bible itself, in Luke 1:28, since to be "full of grace" (a quite-permissible literal rendering of kecharitomene) is to be without sin. So when you have biblical revelation, why worry about Church Fathers from the 4th century?

That still does not prove he was actually teaching "immaculate conception", and if he was teaching that, namely sinlessness, it does not make it correct.

That's correct: sinlessness is the doctrinal kernel of the Immaculate Conception, which extends the sinlessness to the matter of original, as well as actual sin. Original sin was slow to develop among the fathers, and they wrote more about purgatory than about that subject. But I don't see Protestants being troubled by the logical implications of that (assuming they even know about it).

There are too many other fathers at his time and before who believed that Mary sinned - Origen, John Chrysostom, Basil, Cyril of Alexandria, and according to J. N. Kelly: Tertullian (On the Flesh of Christ, 7), Ireneaus (Against Heresies, 3, 16, 7) , and Hilary (Tract. In Ps. 118, 3, 2). (ECD, p. 493, 496).

They were wrong (assuming your references really prove that they thought this). Whatever contradicts Scripture must be erroneous.

Of course oral teachings on the gospel and prophetic words are the Lord’s command (from apostles at that time). In order to prove your point, you have to prove that when Paul said, "what I am writing" means "what I am not writing" or "not what I am writing" (which is ridiculous),

It certainly is, but this forms no part of my argument (nor is it required for my case), so it is a moot point.

and the opposite of what he clearly means, namely, "I am writing". It seems it is as if you are saying that Paul is saying: "I am writing something, and it is the Lord’s command, but that doesn't matter, it is not Scripture, even though the word 'scripture' means 'the things written'."

Not at all. I am saying that when Paul refers to his writing being the "Lord's command" he could mean it in the sense of prophecy or apostolic authority; not necessarily that it was Scripture (i.e., a book of the Bible, later recognized as such and canonized). What is so difficult to understand about this? Why does it threaten you so much. This particular discussion doesn't require you to forsake sola Scriptura or biblical inspiration or infallibility. I fully agree with you on the last two questions. Just because Paul may possibly have not always known that he was writing Holy Scripture has no bearing on the doctrines of inspiration or infallibility. Rather, it has to do with the complicated question of the relationship of the biblical authors to divine inspiration and guidance.

Just because oral teachings and traditions are also the word of God at the time, and are yet to be written down, does not mean that at least Paul understood his letters and writings to be Scripture.

This is incoherent. I think you wrote it incorrectly, missing one negative. But I have answered above, anyway, if you mean what I think you mean.

Paul mentions a "prophet."

Yes, so what?

I dealt with this above.

But previously in the same chapter he taught about prophesying (14:1,3-5,22,24,29,31-32,39; cf. 12:10,28-29). Paul is by no means the only "prophet" here. Note the implication (in light of context) in 14:6 that anyone who prophesies might "bring you some revelation or knowledge or prophecy or teaching."

No problem. It does not really directly relate to your argument, as far as I can understand.

I have now explained further how it does, somewhat indirectly.

Those who prophesy in church may bring a revelation? Try that out in your Baptist service sometime, Ken.

What is your purpose here?

To show that a truly biblical view sometimes creates difficulties for some present theologies. ON the other hand, doctrines develop, and we are not required to be exactly like the NT Church in absolutely every way (the Church of Christ futile attempt).

You don't believe in continuing prophesy either, at least prophesy on the level of Scripture, do you? I know you don't.

I think there is such a thing as prophecy (as one of the gifts which Paul mentions), but extremely rare. I agree with you that the canon is closed, and that there is no new revelation. So any prophecy today could not add to that deposit of faith: it can only expand upon it and make it better understood. I hasten to add that I am no expert on current-day prophecy!

There is disagreement today over that the gift of prophesy exactly means, for churches today. Is it "Spirit anointed preaching"? Is it "sanctified insight"? Is it guidance or comfort, or exhortation or edification, warnings? Even doctrinal (not the uniformed popular TV and sensationalistic level, at least until confronted); even doctrinal Charismatics, Pentecostals, and the 3rd Wavers (John Wimber, Wayne Grudem, Jack Deere) all agree that whatever the gift of prophesy entails for today, it does not add to Scripture.

Yes; we Catholics agree.

Now, many charismatics and Penetcostals and 3rd Wavers are sloppy in their applications of the gift of prophesy, and when confronted, they will usually back down and admit that it is not on the same level as Scripture. That is the strongest argument in favor of cessationism (for at least prophetic revelatory gifts that are on the same level of Scripture), it seems to me.

I believe that all the gifts operate today (though clearly less often than in unique apostolic times), and have written about the non-biblical nature of cessationism.

Paul is even more clear, referring to "a revelation . . . made to another sitting by" in 14:30). Such "revelation" would be a "command of the Lord" just as much as Paul's letter in which this writing was recorded, since "God's commands" is also a category larger than Scripture itself. You or I could be commanded by an angel this very day if God so willed.

No problem. All you prove is that there is other revelation, prophesy, teaching, etc. that is going on at the time in oral fashion, and that God’s word was at the time, both oral and written. Sola Scriptura has no problem whatsoever with any of that.

You have to look at my overall argument, in context. You are missing the interconnections that I make.

All of this is the reason why "cessationism" developed, which is the understanding that once the canon of Scripture was written, that is once a book was written whether from AD 49-69 (most, if not all of NT) or 80 (Jude) or 90-96 AD (maybe John, I-3 John, Revelation, but I personally believe that they were all pre-AD 70. (although not necessarily known to all the churches), prophecy and new revelation stopped.

New revelation did, but I see no NT indication that any gift, such as prophecy, would cease thereafter.

That is why Montanism was deemed a aberration and false doctrine. Right?

In part, yes. It was also the excessive rigorism and utopian perfectionism.

By the way, when did the Early church first decide that Monatanism was false and heretical? (I admit I need to study that issue more closely.)

I'd have to look that one up.

Moreover, four verses later, Paul goes right back to oral proclamation: "I preached to you the gospel, which you received, in which you stand, by which you are saved, if you hold it fast - unless you believed in vain." (1 Cor 15:1-2)

Oops! Paul must have flunked Calvinism 0101,

This is no way contradicts Calvinism. Those who are saved, also, if their faith was also in the past and real, were saved, and are being saved, and will be saved.

Then why do Calvinists object so strongly to the Catholic notion of salvation as a process, if this is true? I think they talk out of both sides of their mouths too often. They will give lip service to the threefold temporal senses of salvation, yet when a Catholic talks about "working out your salvation" or brings up one of the many other passages about the salvific process, we get accused of being "synergists" or supposed purveyors of "works-salvation."

But if a person no longer believes, he is not saved, and never was saved.

Exactly. This is the conundrum of Calvinists and Eternal Security advocates, that I have pointed out for years (going back to my Protestant days). What this means is that no one can have assurance now that they are eternally saved, because (simply put) we don't know the future. If you should happen to fall into serious, persistent sin five years from now, this will "prove" that you never were saved. If you don't, then presumably you are, or (more accurately) will be, as a likelihood (not a certainty). But the fact remains that one cannot know that with absolute certainty presently, if the chance always remains that they may "fall away" or cease believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior, and thus prove they never were saved. It's a vicious logical circle (one of many in Protestantism and particularly Calvinism).

The warnings are real warnings; - not to have been saved and then lose real salvation, but they are spoken in such a way so as to have teeth, and not fall into the error of the "easy believe-ism" or a kind of eternal security teaching that says, "you are saved" no matter if you are living in deliberate sin.

We agree that faith and the fruits of sanctification go hand in hand, as a practical matter, however the relationship of sanctification to salvation is viewed.

If someone says "I believe", but later says, "I don’t believe", then that faith was "empty", "in vain", not real faith.

Possibly; possibly not.

Real saving faith perseveres and keeps going.

If someone is truly in God's elect, they will persevere in faith and belief. The trouble is, we don't know for sure who is in this elect camp, so for us there will always be ultimately a lack of knowledge and certainty, even for ourselves. We can have a reasonable moral assurance if we look at ourselves closely and see that we are not in serious sin and rebellion.

Eternal Security 0101,

(see above) Also, some of the best preaching and teaching on this issue is John Piper at, especially his series on Hebrews.

Yes; he is a very good teacher and preacher (within the limitations and errors of Baptist theology).

This is classic Reformation understanding that both preserves God's sovereignty and power to keep us, and also makes the warning real warnings. The typical modern day Baptist teaching on eternal security waters down all the warning to not have any "teeth".

Why is that? Why has bad teaching become "typical"?

and Sola Scriptura 0101 classes in seminary.

How is I Cor. 15:1-2 related to the sola Scriptura argument?

The Gospel was delivered by means of oral preaching, not the written Bible.

As I have shown, it does not teach against oral preaching and teaching and revelation or God-inspired tradition, which later became inscripturated.

Yes, but note that the oral preaching (like any tradition) is only legitimate if it is later inscripturated. This teaching is itself not taught in the Bible; therefore it is a mere tradition of men, inconsistent with sola Scriptura, and yet another evidence of the hopeless incoherence and inconsistency of that rule of faith.

It does say that there is no more of those kind of traditions, that are equal to Scripture or "God's word" in the sense that Paul and others spoke about them, that they are on the level of Scripture – I Cor. 15:1-3 "delivered to you" , I Cor. 11:2, 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:5, Jude 3, 3 John 12.

We all agree that revelation has ceased. It does not follow from that that there is no such thing as a valid Christian tradition or an authoritative, infallible Church.

Let me correct his teaching here with the RFBV (Revised Fundamentalist Baptist Version):

No such thing. (as that version of the Bible)

Thanks for making sure our readers know that. :-) Maybe one day there will be. I would love to add more verses to it. It's so much fun.

"I presented to you the gospel in this letter which is Scripture, which you received, in which you stand, by which you were saved; therefore you will hold it fast - unless you believed in vain."

I understand your sarcasm and pejorativeness and point you are trying to make, but it is not true (that there is such a version, or that even a Fundamentalist would change the text, etc.)

It's called humor Ken. You gotta lighten up a bit. I know you can do it. I've had plenty of laughs with many dear Baptist friends of mine for 25 years. The point, of course, is that (from our perspective), several Protestant teachings are inconsistent with the Bible. You do the exact same thing with us, so it is fun to turn the tables on you: give you a taste of your own medicine.

What they might say is that "you are saved", because "you really were saved" and "if you hold it fast", that means you are saved, and "if you are truly saved, you will hold it fast", but if you don’t, you never were saved, that whatever you thought your experience was, it was an “empty, vain” faith – not real.

I see; so present really means the "real" past and future means the present, and the present "certainty" means that the future will be an inexorable outcome and consequence of the present reality. Right. Gotcha. This is why it makes no sense to speak of being "saved" in the past tense. The only salvation that ultimately means anything is eschatological salvation, and none of us possess that in the present because it is by definition future, and therefore, unknowable with certainty. We can only know if we are right with God right now. If we continue to strive to stay in His grace, by His power, we can have every hope of attaining final salvation. I'm not one whit less confident about my salvation now than I ever was as a Protestant. I know that God is merciful and good and that I am serving Him. If I continue to do so, everything will be great in the end.

Paul goes on to recount how he "delivered" the gospel to the Corinthians (orally), in 15:3-6. Later (15:29) he discusses folks "being baptized on behalf of the dead" - the most difficult verse in the NT for Protestants to interpret.

Yes, it is a difficult verse, but since the RCC does not do that (baptize for the dead) either, you also have to explain it. Yes, you pray for the dead, but what connection does that have here? How do you interpret I Cor. 15:29?

Just because it is a difficult verse to interpret, does not have any bearing on an argument against Sola Scriptura. I fail to see your connection.

There is no direct connection, other than that it happened to be in the context of the passage we were considering (so I threw it in for no extra charge), and shows how prevalent in the NT are doctrines which contradict Protestantism. Almost everywhere one looks, one can find them.

I Timothy 5:18 - he calls the Law and the Gospel (the phrase is in both Luke and Matthew) as "Scripture".

How is that relevant to the question of whether Paul knew that his own letters were inspired, as he wrote them?

Because, if he puts the gospels on the same Scriptural level as the Law, and he calls the OT sacred Scripture in 2 Tim. 3:15, and then expands it to "all Scripture" in 2 Tim. 3:16 and he is writing all of these things to Timothy "in order that you may know how to conduct yourself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth." ( I Tim. 3:14-15), then it seems pretty clear that Paul understood his own letters as Scripture.

It's clear as mud. This doesn't follow. Paul probably does that, at least some of the time (as Cardinal Newman agreed), but your reasoning here does nothing to show that these particular elements prove this, let alone regarding all of Paul's letters. You seem to often conflate mere possibility or harmony and consistency with "proof."

Also, because he says, in 4:13, "give attention to public reading, preaching, and teaching", and he says to read his letters in the churches, Colossians 4:16.

So what? That doesn't prove that he necessarily knows it is Scripture. He knows for sure, though, that it has authority as the message of an apostle, whether or not it is literally inspired, or inspired Scripture. He knows that simply from the knowledge that he is an apostle.

All of these were considered the word of God, and he does not have to say, "What I am writing to you now is also Scripture"; as it was understood by the way he writes with authority, being an apostle, giving commands, teaching about the word of God and that the Holy Spirit is speaking, etc. "These things we speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words." I Cor. 2:13.

This is very good, and you understand this better than many Protestants, who adopt a radical solo Scriptura position.

Thank you. I finally got something right!

Congratulations! Once in a while I do, too, huh?! :-)

My main point was to say that Paul may not have necessarily known he was writing Scripture, and that your "prooftext" of 1 Cor 14:37 did not establish that he did.

I don't think you disproved that Paul did know his letters were Scripture at the time. All you showed was that oral authoritative "God's word" existed also at the same time at the time that the letters and gospels were being written and the early churches were being founded. (AD 33-70 - 96).

As always, I appeal to the reader to make his own determination as to the better case presented. That's why God gave us this noggin, to apply reason to subjects like this.

That Paul understood himself to be writing Scripture, other evidence is in I Cor. Chapter 7, where he says at one point, "I say, not the Lord" (verse 12)

This is, of course, at least as strong of a proof that there are times when he himself does indeed not think he is writing inspired Scripture (cf. 1 Cor 7:25), when in fact he is (since we all regard this verse as inspired, along with the rest of 1 Corinthians and all of Paul's NT letters). What more do you need to prove that Paul wasn't aware at a particular time that his writing was inspired, besides his saying "I say, not the Lord" (1 Cor 7:12) and "I have no command of the Lord" (7:25). This is particularly effective against your own argument since you claimed (at the beginning of this dialogue) that when Paul said he was presenting the "Lord's command" (1 Cor 14:37), that was "absolute" proof to you that he was writing Scripture. Therefore, if he expressly denies this in other passages, he cannot possibly be conscious of writing inspired Scripture: at the time he writes those things. It's a slam dunk. Thanks! I should have thought of this passage myself.

and then at the end, he says, "I have the Spirit of God" (verse 40).

We discussed something like this before. I think this is most plausibly interpreted to simply mean that Paul is indwelt with the Holy Spirit, as are all regenerate Christians.

Since he clearly said, "I give instructions, not I, but the Lord" (verse 10); the only conclusion to draw from all this is that Paul knows 1. He is quoting and repeating teaching in the gospels from Jesus himself (Matthew 5, 19, Mark 10) 2. Marriage to an unbeliever was a new issue, not addressed by the Lord Jesus, so Paul says he is also giving advice, and that this advice is from the Holy Spirit. (verses 12-40)

Those portions are quite consistent with his knowledge of inspiration, but 7:12 and 7:25 are not (which seems to be a pretty compelling proof for what I am arguing). You want to look at one thing (a rather weak argument) but strangely ignore the other (a rather strong one).

Secondly, one didn't have to even be an apostle to pass along the "word of God." They merely had to be a prophet, or to prophesy; and Paul seemed to think that many would do so and that it would be a routine occurrence.

That is true, that is why Ephesians 2:19-20 says "the household of God, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone." But that is also not an argument against Sola Scriptura.

Go back and look at the context, and my argument as a whole.

What's interesting here is how that squares with present-day Christianity, where such prophesying is a rare occurrence, in all the major Christian traditions. Even the pope doesn't claim such a gift, but rather, the far lesser gift of infallibility.

I understand this point you are making, but in effect, the infallibility dogma, even though saying that it does not add new revelation, in a practical sense does function as prophecy, because the Bodily Assumption of Mary does not even have any material sufficiency of Scripture behind it, which is like adding new revelation, no matter who much you claim that it was already deposited in the first century, there is no evidence for this.

See my next comment.

And, as I heard Gerry Matatics and, I think Tim Staples declare, this dogma is part of the gospel, (even though not in I Corinthians 15:1-9, where Paul comes close to defining what the gospel is; and it is not in any other text.) Is it part of the "gospel"? If it is de fide dogma, something one is oblibated to believe as a RC, then that means the RCC says it is part of the gospel. this is adding things to Scripture, seems to me, as many others think also.

Catholics tend to define the "gospel" as the entire teaching of Christianity, whereas Protestants tend to define it as a particularly soteriology (TULIP, sola fide, etc.). We can all agree, however, on the stricter definition of the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus, and the Good News which flows out of the incarnation and sacrificial death on our behalf.

So, even as many admit, there is not material sufficiency for it,

There is, indirectly and deductively. If Mary was without original and actual sin (as we believe is made clear in the second sense, in Luke 1:28), then she would not be subject to bodily decay, or death (Gen 3:16-19). It is also fitting that the Mother of Jesus Who is God, would be the "firstfruits" (1 Cor 15:20) of the general resurrection (15:35-58). We also have the biblical precedent of certain persons not undergoing death, such as Enoch (Heb 11:5; cf. Gen 5:24), Elijah (2 Kings 2:1,11), and Paul being taken up to heaven, possibly in the body (2 Cor 12:2-4), and of those who are alive when Christ returns, who will not have to die (1 Cor 15:23; 1 Thess 4:15-17: the latter falsely regarded as the "rapture" by dispensationalists). None of that "proves" the Assumption of Mary, but rather, shows that the notion is not at all incompatible with the biblical worldview. So, coupled with Luke 1:28, we see it as altogether plausible from Scripture itself, that Mary could be assumed bodily into heaven.

and that is one reason why there are arguments between RCs as to the Partim-Partim theory of Scripture and Tradition and the material sufficiency view. John 20:30 or 21:25 hardly counts as a text for this doctrine to promote material sufficiency.

It does in the sense I have just described.

So this becomes yet another indirect argument for the biblical plausibility or at least (for the more skeptically-minded) permissibility of papal infallibility, since both inspiration of sinful men and prophesying of sinful men occurred and were instruments through which a sure word of divine prophecy or revelation were received; why, not, then, also the far inferior gift of protection from doctrinal error, so that Christians could be certain of doctrinal truths?

2 Timothy 3:16 says that the writings are God-breathed, and therefore, infallible. It does not say the prophets or apostles as people are "inspired" or "God breathed".

That's correct. The Bible teaches that in Acts 15:28, regarding the Jerusalem Council. One inspired Scripture is as authoritative as another, right Ken?

They were controlled and carried along to write what God wanted them to write, as taught in 2 Peter 1:20-21.

And the Council was "controlled and carried along" to decide what the Holy Spirit (God) wanted it to decide, too.

Once the ink dried on the last NT book, inspiration of Scripture stopped, and so did infallibility, because only God and His Word, now written is without error.

We see no indication in the Bible itself that the Jerusalem Council was sui generis.

Yes, the prophets and apostles were sinful, and God used them to write Scripture, but Scripture's quality of being "without error" and includes necessarily that it is without sin. Scripture is without error because it is without sin, because God cannot lie.

Scripture is without sin because only creatures can sin, not books and words. But sinners wrote inspired Scripture. Since that could happen, it is even more plausible that sinning popes can be merely infallible, not inspired. Jesus also promised us that the same Holy Spirit would "guide [us] into all the truth" (Jn 16:13), and it is not stated that this is solely through the biblical books, or any book. But this is perfectly consistent with what we see in Acts 15:28.

You cannot separate infallibility from impeccability in the writings. It is the product of Scripture that was inspired or God-breathed, not the people themselves.

It was the product of men who were sinners, being used as inspired, infallible instruments of God. Therefore, it takes far less faith to believe that sinners can be non-inspired, infallible instruments of God.

Their sins or mistakes did not make it into the Scriptures.

That's right, just as pope's sins or even (theoretically) heresies do not make it into their definitive pronouncements.

Thanks for the meaty debate. I enjoyed it and was excited, as always, to delve (along with you) more deeply into Holy Scripture, where we find inexhaustible riches and treasures of knowledge and wisdom.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Apologetics and Lay Apostolates: Approval and Encouragement from Popes Paul VI and John Paul II

By Dave Armstrong (6-28-06)

All red-colored emphases are added.

* * * * *

Thanks, Dave, for usurping the role of the Catholic bishops. The bishops are the shepherds of the flock, not a lowly layman. Dear old Dave really can't get over being Protestant at heart. He really can't leave it to the Magisterium to get the job done. Instead, we have this self-anointed shepherd of the Catholic flock. Thanks, Dave, for reminding us of how little faith you have in the hierarchy. Thanks for taking it upon yourself to out-Pope the Pope.

* * *

Yes, the papacy encourages a lay apostolate the way a principal encourages student government. Just as student government gives a gullible junior high or high school student the illusion that he has a real say in the process, papal encouragement of the laity gives them the illusion that a layman has a real say in the process.

The policy-makers learned along time ago that the best way to avert a grassroots insurrection is to give a gabby member of the hoi polloi his own office - preferably a windowless room in the subbasement - with his own name on the door, his own letterhead, and a fancy title; then steer a lot of busywork his way - like polishing the brass plaque with his name on the door, sharpening departmental pencils, and filing departmental memos on interdepartmental pencil-sharpening protocols.

(Anti-Catholic Protestant Sophist-blogger Steve Hays: 2-19-06 and 6-29-06)

This makes more evident the role given to the laity in catechesis today . . . We must be grateful to the Lord for this contribution by the laity, . . . lay catechists must be carefully prepared for what is, if not a formally instituted ministry, at the very least a function of great importance in the Church.

(Pope John Paul II, 1979 - see below)

Lay people also play their part by consecrating the world to God, and many of them are coming to a deeper sense of their indispensable role in the Church's evangelizing mission. . . . lay people can and must be a true leaven in every corner of society in Oceania. Upon this, the success of the new evangelization depends in large part . . . There is a need too for a new apologetics in keeping with the words of Saint Peter: "Be ready to give reasons for your hope" (1 Pt 3:15). In this way, the faithful will be more confident in their Catholic faith and less susceptible to the allure of these groups and movements, . . .

(Pope John Paul II, 2001 - see below)

[T]his sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen - each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning - to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church.

(Pope Paul VI, 1965 - see below)

Pope John Paul II

Apostolic Exhortation Catechesi Tradendae ("On Catechesis In Our Time")
16 October 1979

18. . . . All in all, it can be taken here that catechesis is an education of children, young people and adults in the faith, which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life. Accordingly, while not being formally identified with them, catechesis is built on a certain number of elements of the Church's pastoral mission that have a catechetical aspect, that prepare for catechesis, or that spring from it. These elements are: the initial proclamation of the Gospel or missionary preaching through the kerygma to arouse faith, apologetics or examination of the reasons for belief, experience of Christian living, celebration of the sacraments, integration into the ecclesial community, and apostolic and missionary witness.

[ . . . ]

Lay Catechists

66. I am anxious to give thanks in the Church's name to all of you, lay teachers of catechesis in the parishes, the men and the still more numerous women throughout the world who are devoting yourselves to the religious education of many generations. Your work is often lowly and hidden but it is carried out with ardent and generous zeal, and it is an eminent form of the lay apostolate, a form that is particularly important where for various reasons children and young people do not receive suitable religious training in the home. How many of us have received from people like you our first notions of catechism and our preparation for the sacrament of Penance, for our first Communion and Confirmation! The fourth general assembly of the synod did not forget you. I join with it in encouraging you to continue your collaboration for the life of the Church.

But the term "catechists" belongs above all to the catechists in mission lands. Born of families that are already Christian or converted at some time to Christianity and instructed by missionaries or by another catechist, they then consecrate their lives, year after year, to catechizing children and adults in their own country. Churches that are flourishing today would not have been built up without them. I rejoice at the efforts made by the Sacred Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to improve more and more the training of these catechists. I gratefully recall the memory of those whom the Lord has already called to Himself. I beg the intercession of those whom my predecessors have raised to the glory of the altars. I wholeheartedly encourage those engaged in the work. I express the wish that many others may succeed them and that they may increase in numbers for a task so necessary for the missions.

. . . 67. . . . That is why every big parish or every group of parishes with small numbers has the serious duty to train people completely dedicated to providing catechetical leadership (priests, men and women religious, and lay people), to provide the equipment needed for catechesis under all aspects, to increase and adapt the places for catechesis to the extent that it is possible and useful to do so, and to be watchful about the quality of the religious formation of the various groups and their integration into the ecclesial community.

[ . . . ]

70. Lastly, encouragement must be given to the lay associations, movements and groups, whether their aim is the practice of piety, the direct apostolate, charity and relief work, or a Christian presence in temporal matters. They will all accomplish their objectives better, and serve the Church better, if they give an important place in their internal organization and their method of action to the serious religious training of their members. In this way every association of the faithful in the Church has by definition the duty to educate in the faith.

This makes more evident the role given to the laity in catechesis today, always under the pastoral direction of their Bishops, as the propositions left by the synod stressed several times.

71. We must be grateful to the Lord for this contribution by the laity, but it is also a challenge to our responsibility as pastors, since these lay catechists must be carefully prepared for what is, if not a formally instituted ministry, at the very least a function of great importance in the Church. Their preparation calls on us to organize special centers and institutes, which are to be given assiduous attention by the Bishops. This is a field in which diocesan, interdiocesan or national cooperation proves fertile and fruitful. Here also the material aid provided by the richer Churches to their poor sisters can show the greatest effectiveness, for what better assistance can one Church give to another than to help it to grow as a Church with its own strength?

Pope John Paul II
Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania
22 November 2001

19. . . . With the Bishops, all Christ's faithful - clergy, religious, and laity - are called to proclaim the Gospel . . . Lay people also play their part by consecrating the world to God, and many of them are coming to a deeper sense of their indispensable role in the Church's evangelizing mission. (69) Through the witness of love in the Sacrament of Matrimony or the generous dedication of people called to the single life, through their activity in the world whatever it might be, lay people can and must be a true leaven in every corner of society in Oceania. Upon this, the success of the new evangelization depends in large part.

[ . . . ]

Fundamentalist Groups

24. Ecumenism needs to be distinguished from the Church's approach to fundamentalist religious groups and movements, some of which are Christian in inspiration. In some missionary areas, the Bishops are concerned about the effect that these religious groups or sects are having on the Catholic community. Some groups base their ideas on a reading of Scripture, often employing apocalyptic images, threats of a dark future for the world, and promises of economic rewards for their followers. While certain of these groups are openly hostile to the Church, others wish to engage in dialogue. In more developed and secularized societies, concern is growing about fundamentalist Christian groups which draw young people away from the Church, and even from their families. Many different movements offer some form of spirituality as a supposed remedy for the harmful effects of an alienating technological culture in which people often feel powerless. The presence and activity of these groups and movements are a challenge to the Church to revitalize her pastoral outreach, and in particular to be more welcoming to young people and to those in grave spiritual or material need. (89) It is also a situation which calls for better biblical and sacramental catechesis and an appropriate spiritual and liturgical formation. There is a need too for a new apologetics in keeping with the words of Saint Peter: "Be ready to give reasons for your hope" (1 Pt 3:15). In this way, the faithful will be more confident in their Catholic faith and less susceptible to the allure of these groups and movements, which often deliver the very opposite of what they promise.

Pope Paul VI
Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity
18 November 1965

1. To intensify the apostolic activity of the people of God,(1) the most holy synod earnestly addresses itself to the laity, whose proper and indispensable role in the mission of the Church has already been dealt with in other documents.(2) The apostolate of the laity derives from their Christian vocation and the Church can never be without it. Sacred Scripture clearly shows how spontaneous and fruitful such activity was at the very beginning of the Church (cf. Acts 11:19-21; 18:26; Rom. 16:1-16; Phil. 4:3).

Our own times require of the laity no less zeal: in fact, modern conditions demand that their apostolate be broadened and intensified. With a constantly increasing population, continual progress in science and technology, and closer interpersonal relationships, the areas for the lay apostolate have been immensely widened particularly in fields that have been for the most part open to the laity alone. These factors have also occasioned new problems which demand their expert attention and study. This apostolate becomes more imperative in view of the fact that many areas of human life have become increasingly autonomous. This is as it should be, but it sometimes involves a degree of departure from the ethical and religious order and a serious danger to Christian life. Besides, in many places where priests are very few or, in some instances, deprived of due freedom for priestly work, the Church could scarcely exist and function without the activity of the laity.

An indication of this manifold and pressing need is the unmistakable work being done today by the Holy Spirit in making the laity ever more conscious of their own responsibility and encouraging them to serve Christ and the Church in all circumstances.(3)

In this decree the Council seeks to describe the nature, character, and diversity of the lay apostolate, to state its basic principles, and to give pastoral directives for its more effective exercise. All these should be regarded as norms when the canon law, as it pertains to the lay apostolate, is revised.

[2. cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Nature of the Church, nos. 33 ff.: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 39 ff.; cf; also Constitution on the Liturgy, nos. 26-40; A.A.S. 56 (1964) pp. 107- 111; cf. Decree on Instruments of Social Communication: A.A.S. 56 (1964) pp. 145-158; cf. Decree on Ecumenism: A.A.S. 57 (1965) pp. 90-107; cf. Decree on Pastoral Duties of Bishops, nos. 16, 17, 18; cf. Declaration on Christian Education, nos. 3, 5, 7; cf. Decree on Missionary Activity of Church, nos. 15, 21, 41; cf. Decree on Priestly Life and Ministry, no. 9.]

2. . . . In the Church there is a diversity of ministry but a oneness of mission. Christ conferred on the Apostles and their successors the duty of teaching, sanctifying, and ruling in His name and power. But the laity likewise share in the priestly, prophetic, and royal office of Christ and therefore have their own share in the mission of the whole people of God in the Church and in the world.(2)

They exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel. In this way, their temporal activity openly bears witness to Christ and promotes the salvation of men. Since the laity, in accordance with their state of life, live in the midst of the world and its concerns, they are called by God to exercise their apostolate in the world like leaven, with the ardor of the spirit of Christ.

3. The laity derive the right and duty to the apostolate from their union with Christ the head; incorporated into Christ's Mystical Body through Baptism and strengthened by the power of the Holy Spirit through Confirmation, they are assigned to the apostolate by the Lord Himself. They are consecrated for the royal priesthood and the holy people (cf. 1 Peter 2:4-10) not only that they may offer spiritual sacrifices in everything they do but also that they may witness to Christ throughout the world. The sacraments, however, especially the most holy Eucharist, communicate and nourish that charity which is the soul of the entire apostolate.(3)

[ . . . ]

5. . . . There are innumerable opportunities open to the laity for the exercise of their apostolate of evangelization and sanctification.

[ . . . ]

6. . . . Since, in our own times, new problems are arising and very serious errors are circulating which tend to undermine the foundations of religion, the moral order, and human society itself, this sacred synod earnestly exhorts laymen-each according to his own gifts of intelligence and learning - to be more diligent in doing what they can to explain, defend, and properly apply Christian principles to the problems of our era in accordance with the mind of the Church.

[ . . . ]

15. The laity can engage in their apostolic activity either as individuals or together as members of various groups or associations.

16. The individual apostolate, flowing generously from its source in a truly Christian life (cf. John 4:14), is the origin and condition of the whole lay apostolate, even of the organized type, and it admits of no substitute.

Regardless of status, all lay persons (including those who have no opportunity or possibility for collaboration in associations) are called to this type of apostolate and obliged to engage in it. This type of apostolate is useful at all times and places, but in certain circumstances it is the only one appropriate and feasible.

There are many forms of the apostolate whereby the laity build up the Church, sanctify the world, and give it life in Christ. A particular form of the individual apostolate as well as a sign specially suited to our times is the testimony of the whole lay life arising from faith, hope, and charity. It manifests Christ living in those who believe in Him. Then by the apostolate the spoken and written word, which is utterly necessary under certain circumstances, lay people announce Christ, explain and spread His teaching in accordance with one's status and ability, and faithfully profess it.

[ . . . ]

24. . . . Finally, the hierarchy entrusts to the laity certain functions which are more closely connected with pastoral duties, such as teaching of Christian doctrine, certain liturgical actions, and the care of souls. By virtue of this mission, the laity are fully subject to higher ecclesiastical control in the performance of this work.

See also: Evangelii Nuntiandi ("On Evangelization In The Modern World"): Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Exhortation of 8 December 1975.

Many more related links (including several articles from Catholic bishops).

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Dialogue with a Calvinist: Was Calvin a Supralapsarian? (vs. David W. Ponter)

By Dave Armstrong (1996)

[My dialogue partner's words will be in blue]

* * * * *

It's absurd to say that Calvin was a supralapsarian, even in kernel form.

It's far less absurd than the claim that Augustine was a Reformed Protestant, in kernel form, or closer to Protestantism than to Catholicism. :-) Development takes place within Protestantism, and Calvin was too early for the most developed thought on that issue; yet things he wrote can certainly be harmonized with the notion, though speculative debate on his meaning is surely warranted. I have provided several primary citations from Calvin, and cited several Reformed and Protestant scholars - far more acquainted with the topic than I am - who take exactly this position (so it is not merely my Catholic wishful thinking, special pleading, and creation of straw men):

For, firstly, those theological categories were not present in Calvin's theological organum.

I know that (at least the word was not), but they don't have to be, any more than the Chalcedonian terminology of the Two Natures not being present in the early Fathers. Yet they had views consistent with it, or rightly categorized as the developmental precursors of it.

Secondly, in many of his statements he expressly has an election out of a fallen and corrupt mass. Whereas supralapsarian has election out of a pure mass, as Beza later argued.

See the citations above. You can argue against Berkhof, Berkouwer, Bavinck, Hodge, et al, in addition to me. This is quite obviously a dispute within Calvinist circles, as well as with those outside that circle.

And please its better to cite the primary sources.

I have plenty above, and the Calvinists I cite are well familiar with them, I'm sure.

Its about getting back to the sources. That was the great call of both the Renaissance and the Reformation. My memory here is faulty, but was not the phrase ad fontis? It may be that just trusting in secondary sources is why folk go off into error (hint hint ;-). And I still think that a person who makes the claim, which in this context is very important, as it's really about the veracity of the Reformation vs. the veracity of the Roman tradition, ought to seek the primary sources.

As I said before, there were plenty of Calvin's own words in my paper. But you have repeatedly overlooked that.

. . . Add to that that even some of the secondary sources insist that 1, Calvin followed an infra line as well, and 2, there is no fundamental disagreement with Aquinas.

The obvious point here is: what Calvinist worth his salt could care less about what I think about anything Calvin wrote? It won't carry any weight whatever with them. To many Calvinists, I'm not even a Christian, yet you think they will place credence in my opinions as to the interpretation of extraordinarily complex and paradoxical matters of predestination and sovereignty, as discussed in Calvin's writings? No, of course they won't. So why should I bother? Therefore, I cite people whom they will respect. It's common sense. If you would come down from your abstract theological heights for a second you would see this. Don't get me wrong, I love speculative theology, but it tends to mitigate against common sense at times.

Not to mention the fact that I wouldn't claim to possess anywhere near the skills or abilities to pronounce authoritatively on such matters anyway. These things are obvious. If I don't know enough about a subject (this one definitely requires more theological education than I have), and have a good inkling that my opinions won't matter anyway to people who think I can't even figure out what the Gospel and Christianity is, then there is no reason to act as if I do know something I don't, or to pretend that my opinions will matter at all to those I am communicating to. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure all this out. One thing I do know quite a bit about is rational argumentation, and what works and what doesn't, depending on the target audience. As Paul said (paraphrasing, and applying his sage advice to this situation), "to the Calvinist I became as a Calvinist."

My advice to you in the light of all this would be that you adopt a healthy of measure of agnosticism ("I personally dont know" sort of thing) rather than assert statements that so far have not been sustained from the originals, yet that were also refuted from the originals in a previous interaction over the exact same topic, and wherein subsequent assertions have been based on only secondary (and tertiary sources, so to speak, that is sources who quote other secondary sources) you might be more cautious in bringing up the point.

I think it is a valid consideration to perhaps temper my language a bit in the paper (I probably did, as it was, but you know how apologetics and polemics can lead to excessive claims at times). I will look at it again and make sure my conclusions are stated more tentatively or in "agnostic" terms [I did indeed revise the first half of this paper - the original portion -, following this suggestion].

I am labouring this because in this context, this is really serious stuff. Your aim is to defend the Roman faith - you are using this as part of an overall polemic.

In an overall sense, yes, just as you defend so-called "Reformed" Christianity, but at the moment, to me it is an interesting point of historical theology. I love history of ideas and development of doctrine, so when I am discussing those things, oftentimes (as presently) "Catholic apologetics" is far from my mind, though I don't deny that as a grand scheme and outlook, it would always be there underneath everything. This discussion would have been just as interesting to me when I was an Arminian evangelical, and I would have argued in almost exactly the same fashion. So "Catholicism" is not all that related to the topic at hand.

Its not about two academics bantering, yet who hold the same fundamentals. You know this. So in that light, I will prosecute counter-reformational arguments with all the truth at my disposal. I will call for the highest level of intellectual-historical-scriptural rigor that is possible . . . primary sources.

You know as well as I do that one's interpretation colors what they write. You - or so it seems - have an agenda, too (probably more than I do). I would imagine that it's very important to you that Calvin is seen as an infralapsarian, so that would bias your conclusions in that direction. Most of the scholars I cited are also infras. But they are fair and objective enough to concede a point of historical fact, as to Calvin's views. To them, the question isn't "absurd" at all, but a live question and a respectable one.

You are subject to interpretational presuppositions and bias, just as everyone else is. And that means I don't have to take your word as Gospel truth. Is this so difficult to understand? So you think you proved x and y and z. Some other Calvinist comes along and demonstrates otherwise. You yourself said there were a million different views on Calvin's Calvinism, yet you want me to hang on your every word as an inspired oracle from God, as if all dispute is ended? You know better than that. But perhaps you are the proverbial fish in the fish bowl in this instance and can't see the logical dilemma here.

The very fact that Calvin's view (like Aquinas's) has paradoxical elements in it (as you suggest) would tend to support their interpretation. That being the case, your characterization of "absurd" strikes me as a desperate recourse to strong language, where it isn't warranted. I know enough about this to suspect that this is the case, even though I don't pretend to understand all the nuances and particulars of the discussion itself.

By absurd, I mean it's folly, it's irrational. I am not saying it's dumb. I am sorry if I gave that impression.

I understand that, but I think that too is absurd, based on what I've found.

As for what Catholics must believe on this, they are at liberty, because the subject is regarded as unable to be resolved, given our human limitations. Thus, I come down on the Molinist side, because that seems most plausible to me, after much pondering and debating the subject. I don't claim that my view is either self-evident, or highly certain (as Calvinists routinely - and in my opinion, foolishly - do with regard to their views on predestination). I view the whole thing as an amazingly complex and fascinating aspect of philosophical theology, having to do with the nature and attributes of God, just as my Church does.

I don't think it has all that much to do with the Christian life, and coming to serve God with a fuller commitment and resolve; loving Jesus and our fellow men. We assert predestination dogmatically, but not active reprobation, as a decree of God without regard for the sins of the damned. If that is also Calvin's position, then I rejoice in that. He has more than enough error for which he will stand accountable before God. The more truth he accepts, the better for his own soul.

To restate my argument, I dont believe from reading Calvin that he thought in terms of the decrees being divided up into the sort of logical ordering demanded by the lapsarian schemas. For Calvin, God's will was ultimately a unity, tho it appeared diverse to our finite minds. He was content to rest in the tension created in this dialectic. He never went beyond the stating of this apparent dialectic. Thus he will speak in terms of the unity of God's will, and here "sound" supralapsarian. But then when the issue came to means of the causation of sin and the means of reprobation, he used infralapsarian concepts, such as a rejection of sinners, men out a corrupt mass, and the proximate and remote grounds for condemnation, and the willing permission of sin. He never expressed himself in lapsarian nuances or categories that later came to characterise the various lapsarian theologians. Thus, all the facts together, the claim that he was a supralapsarian is folly.

I hope this is the case, as it sounds much like the Catholic / Thomist position, which incorporates paradox, and acknowledges mystery.

I would like to see you interact with the man himself and with the greats of the Scholastic tradition. Otherwise, there is a sense you are just perpetuating a myth, an untruth - just as much as if I was to distort Thomas, as so many in the Reformed camp do.

I don't claim to know enough to be able to make my own judgments on such complex matters, even satisfactorily to myself, let alone to anyone else.

. . . But once again in your two replies you don't post primary source material. You post material that has an interpretation, and a grid therein already established.

Everyone has an interpretation, including you, so I fail to see how that is a relevant matter. That being the case, I favor 10-12 mostly Calvinist (and all Protestant) scholars who believe one thing, over against your different point of view. You can quibble about "generalists" and Schaff's anti-Reformed bias (he's no great friend of Catholicism, either) and all that until the cows come home, but that can't overcome the "general" soundness of my approach of finding many Calvinists who agree with my (layman's, relatively uninformed) position.

. . . generalist works are prone or liable to error . For example, you cite Walker's work. I have read that work. Its a generalist work. It does not go into detail. Pelikan too, while being far superior to almost anything published of that genre, is also a generalist. He makes clear cut mistakes. He takes a pro-liberal line on modern theologians.

Duly noted, but it won't make me remove quotes. These folks are still scholars, whatever you think of them, or wherever their specialties lie.

My default position, by the way, is that any articulate apologetic Romanist, is by default, defending salvation by faith and self-generated meritorious works.

It's "Catholic apologist," thank you. This is where you don't understand our position in the first place. There is no such thing in Catholic theology as "self-generated meritorious works." To be meritorious at all, works must be "generated" entirely by God and His grace. We merely cooperate. Cooperation is not the same as origination and invention. That is your logical fallacy.

Hey, as a side-line, Thomas did not teach salvation by merit in the normal popularist (or Tetzelian fashion:-). For him all good works were gifts of grace from first to last. They "merited" reward in that they were the complete fruit of the Spirit working in us, on the basis of Christ's justification.

This is the Catholic position. Great. You just need to put two and two together.

. . . Now here is the lesson. So many read Thomas, for example, through the lens of later semi-Pelagianism Romanist merit doctrines,

You read Tridentine and Vatican II Catholicism (and our view of merit) through the lens of semi-Pelagianism, when in fact it is no such thing. It is precisely in line with Thomas. The quicker you can learn that, the sooner I can become your brother in Christ. :-)

. . . say of the Jesuits and other orders and the general semi-Pelagianism of what historians call the "secular" clerics even those who were contemporaries of Thomas. The moment you insert free will you collapse Thomas' careful framwork and then establish a new grid of self-salvation.

Nonsense. But that's an entirely different discussion.

It's obvious that some folk have an agendum and wish to make Calvin a supralapsarian.

And that some folk "obviously" wish to make him purely an infralapsarian. No one in particular in mind . . . :-)

I'll let our anti-Catholic Calvinist friend have the final word:

I still maintain that to lump Calvin in with the supralapsarians, or to import those categories into his thinking is absurd. Its a folly. That he may "sound" supra is not an issue. That means nothing to me. For I know many read Thomas as if he SOUNDS as if he has self-generated merit, or that he SOUNDS like a foundationalist theist; etc etc Secondly, the defining criteria listed below of what it takes to make one a supra are way to inadequate, even in error in some places.

That you quote all this [Bavinck] is odd. :-) Look at the way Bavinck characterises Calvin, he is this way then he is that way. He follows the infra line. You leave out where Bavinck says that essentially they were in accord with Augustine and Thomas. Bavinck defines supralapsarianism as the idea that rejection logically precedes the fall, p 359, and that even Thomas taught that rejection, negative reprobation precedes the fall p 361, 362. Now will you concede that Thomas was thus a supralapsarian at this point? Bavinck then seems to add that positive reprobation, the decree or determination to actually punish the rejected on account of known sin is what Calvin added. Now is that objectionable? Positive reprobation is the idea that God says, okay, because of your sin, on account of your sin, you will be punished at the final judgement.

Its funny you paste all this. Amazing. Bavinck is essentially right. I would debate his opening definition - else I must admit that in this sense Thomas was a supralapsarian too, Calvin expressly has an election to glory logically posterior to the divine conception of sin. It's never election or rejection apart from sin, absolutely speaking, as if either was grounded or caused by sin or lack thereof. Election is unconditional in the sense that sin is not the ground of rejection, though it is not absolutely apart from sin. God rejects "sinners" not the sinless. But he rejects the sinner not on account of his sinfulness. Augustine taught that if sin is the cause of rejection, then given the equal ultimacy of Romans 9, good merit must be the cause of election.

Do you understand this? For Calvin, God always rejects sinners. He passes by sinners. He chooses to deny sinners electing grace. He never passes by innocent men, men in the pure mass. He never chooses to deny men in their pure mass electing grace. He never condemns men on any other grounds than their own sin. Do you understand this point? Supralapsarianism has God rejecting men in the pure mass, created or creatable, but in the pure mass.

Now remember also, reprobation is twofold for the Reformed. It contains the unconditional passing by, (preterition, rejection), of some sinners. This part is negative, or privative. It denies them something. Its a choice not to save. Then positively, its the determination to condemn (damn and condemn are synonyms here) those rejected sinners, but always on account of known sin of the sinners.

Then add that sin is never efficiently caused. None of this is supralapsarianism. Infralapsarians hold to this exactly. And this is exactly what Calvin always taught. He never taught that rejection is of the innocent, or that sin is caused as symmetrically as is faith. Some hypers have taught this, for sure, and in this they sin against God. But never did Calvin teach this.

Lets be clear, even if Bavinck said it to my face, and cited only the stuff that has been cited so far, I would still say it's absurd to say that Calvin was a supralapsarian.

The other problem is that there are a few secondary sources who insist that Calvin was an infralapsarian. Should I just assume they have more weight than you and so go with them? Should I just decide by counting up the theological beans and boffins and decide by majority opinion?

Calvin, Supralapsarianism, and God's Sovereignty

By Dave Armstrong

[originally compiled in 1996 / revised and expanded: 21 October 2001 / slightly revised again on 6-27-06]

The following observations are intended as an exploration of what are - in my humble opinion - difficulties within the system of Calvinism (i.e., classical Protestantism). I am open to correction, and fully realize that these are very deep theological and philosophical waters.

John Calvin's words will be in blue; cited scholars' words in green. Emphases throughout (bolding and CAPITALS) are added. Italics are in the original.

* * * * *


I. Introduction

II. Summary of Catholic (and Arminian) Critique

III. Supralapsarianism: Definition

IV. Double and Single Predestination: Definitions and Calvin's View

V. Supralapsarianism and Positive Reprobation in Calvin (Including Opinions of Several Reformed and Other Protestant Scholars)

VI. Secondary Cause

VII. The Catholic Solution

VIII. God as the Author of Evil in Supralapsarian Calvinism

IX. St. Thomas Aquinas and Predestination

X. Molinism: An Explanatory Slight Digression

I. Introduction

John Calvin wrote:

. . . whence does it happen that Adam's fall irremediably involved so many peoples, together with their infant offspring, in eternal death unless because it so pleased God? . . . The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess. Yet no one can deny that God foreknew what end man was to have before he created him, and consequently foreknew because HE SO ORDAINED BY HIS DECREE . . . God not only foresaw the fall of the first man, and in him the ruin of his descendants, but also METED IT OUT IN ACCORDANCE WITH HIS OWN DECISION.

(Institutes of the Christian Religion, III, 23, 7, McNeill / Battles edition, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, Vol. 2, 955-956)

It is held by many Calvinist scholars that at least some elements of Calvin's teachings suggest supralapsarianism (i.e., the belief that God predestined the Fall itself), though the majority of his followers must be classified as infralapsarians. Calvin's own thought, it should be noted, recognizes paradox and mystery, and is not expressed in the more technical, philosophical, "scholastic" terminology which has characterized many Calvinists in the next generation after Calvin and thereafter.

God - in the supralapsarian view - would appear to be the author of sin and of evil, since He decreed it from eternity. Luther and Zwingli also held similar views. But God need not be the author and cause of sin. Neither omnipotence nor the doctrine of creation require it. And God's omnibenevolence precludes it.

The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church states:

According to him [Calvin], before the Fall and even before creation, God, in his eternal counsels, predestined some of His creatures to salvation and others to damnation. This entails that God wills not only the reprobation of the damned but also the sin which leads to it, as he who wills the end must will the means. This doctrine was later, however, rejected by the more moderate Calvinists.

(edited by F.L. Cross, Oxford Univ. Press, revised edition, 1983, 224, "Calvinism")

Alister McGrath, who published a biography of Calvin in 1990, writes:

Predestination, for Augustine, refers only to the divine decision to redeem, not to the act of abandoning the remainder of fallen humanity.

For Calvin, logical rigour demands that God actively chooses to redeem or to damn. God cannot be thought of as doing something by default: he is active and sovereign in his actions. Therefore God actively wills the salvation of those who will be saved and the damnation of those who will not.

(Reformation Thought, 2nd edition., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1993, 125)

Salvation thus lies outside the control of the individual, who is powerless to alter the situation.

(Ibid., 127)

Likewise, his description of Zwingli's belief seems to me to illustrate that he held to essentially the same idea:

Whether an individual is saved or condemned is totally a matter for God, who freely makes his decision from eternity.

(Ibid., 121)

II. Summary of Catholic (and Arminian) Critique

How is this not an "efficient source" of evil, seeing that God "actively wills" the damnation of the reprobate (assuming McGrath's correctness in his summary), and also seeing that - this being the case - the actuality of events cannot be otherwise?

My critique is not that Calvinism isn't logical or consistent; rather, that it is consistent to the detriment of God's goodness (especially in its supralapsarian variety). Its logic flows - unfortunately - consistently from its premises, by and large. It is primarily an issue of God's goodness and justice.

I deny the premises of Calvinism, and indeed I reject all five points of TULIP (although "U" and "I" are somewhat close calls, and I believe the Thomistic position would approximate those). Calvinists attempt to apply nuances and qualifications to this matter, but the fact remains that the "condemned" are utterly powerless to act or choose otherwise. The end result is the same, however God brings it about by His alleged decree to reprobation. It is the end result which is reprehensible, given Calvinist premises, not the means, whatever they are. Hell, it seems to me, can only be consistent with God's all-loving, all-merciful character if it is a place / condition / state which creatures freely choose of their own volition.

I say double predestination is unjust because it doesn't apply to all men equally. The only reply to that seems to always be (from my reading Luther and Calvin, and talking to Calvinists): "who are YOU to judge what God does or doesn't do?" To which I would reply: "Who are YOU to turn God into a capricious, unjust tyrant?" God cannot be in conflict with the laws of morality which He has revealed to us. God is love.

III. Supralapsarianism: Definition

According to this view, God in order to manifest His grace and justice selected from 'creatable' men (i.e., from merely possible men whom He had not yet purposed to create) a certain number to be vessels of mercy and certain others to be vessels of wrath. In the order of thought, election and reprobation precede the purposes to create and to permit the fall. Creation is a means to the end of redemption. God creates some to be saved and others to be lost.

This scheme is called supralapsarianism because it supposes that men before the fall were the objects of election to eternal life and foreordination to eternal death . . . [On the other hand,] those who adopt the Augustinian system are infralapsarians. That is, they hold that it was from the mass of fallen men that some were elected to eternal life and others, in just punishment for their sins, were foreordained to eternal death . . .

A further objection to the supralapsarian scheme is that it is not consistent with the Scriptural exhibition of the character of God. He is declared to be a God of mercy and justice. But it is not compatible with these divine attributes that men should be foreordained to misery and eternal death before they apostatized from God. If they are passed by and foreordained to death for their sins, it must be that in predestination they are contemplated as guilty and fallen creatures.

(Charles Hodge [5-Point Calvinist], Systematic Theology, adridged edition, Edward N. Gross, ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988, orig. 1873, 326, under heading, "Supralapsarianism")

We hold the Sublapsarian view, as distinguished from the Supralapsarianism of Beza and other hyper-Calvinists, which regarded the decree of individual salvation as preceding, in the order of thought, the decree to permit the Fall. In this latter scheme, the order of decrees is as follows: 1. the decree to save certain, and to reprobate others; 2. the decree to create both those who are to be saved and those who are to be reprobated; 3. the decree to permit both the former and the latter to fall; 4. the decree to provide salvation only for the former, that is, for the elect.

Richards, Theology, 302-307, shows that Calvin, while in his early work, the Institutes, he avoided definite statements of his position with regard to the extent of the atonement, yet in his latter works, the Commentaries, acceded to the theory of universal atonement [Strong cites, e.g., his commentary on 1 Jn 2:2]. Supralapsarianism is therefore hyper-Calvinistic, rather than Calvinistic. Sublapsarianism was adopted by the Synod of Dort (1618, 1619) . . .

(Augustus H. Strong [4-Point Calvinist, or Amyraldian], Systematic Theology, Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1907, 777)

IV. Double and Single Predestination: Definitions and Calvin's View

Single predestination refers to God's election to glory (for Calvinists, this election is unconditional) of those who will eschatologically be saved. Catholics (whether Thomist, Molinist, or Augustinian) have no objection to this view (Molinists take into account the place of foreseen merits or demerits in this election, in which God is still absolutely the primary Cause), so it need not detain us.

Double predestination involves an unconditional positive decree of reprobation and the resolve of God to punish these non-elect eternally in hell. Many Calvinists seem to think that this is a caricature of Calvin's position, but it was part and parcel of his theology, just as it was of Luther's and Zwingli's. Many Protestant and/or Calvinist sources corroborate this:

But to recognize that Calvin taught double predestination . . . is not to say that this must be taken to be the very centre of his teaching . . .

Calvin was never content with the statement that God, in his goodness, elected to salvation a certain number of men taken from the mass of sinners; he thought that those who had not been chosen had also been the object of a special decree, that of reprobation . . . on this particular point Calvin diverges from St. Augustine, for whom the elect alone are the object of a special decision which withdraws them from the 'massa perditionis,' while the reprobate are simply abandoned by God to the ruin they have incurred by their sins (De correptione et gratia, 7,12, M.L. xliv, 923).

(Francois Wendel, Calvin: The Origins and Development of His Religious Thought, tr. Philip Mairet, New York: Harper & Row, 1963, 264, 280)

Calvin advanced beyond Augustine in two ways. The great African theologian had represented God as active in election to life only. The lost were simply passed over and left to the deserved consequences of sin. To Calvin's thinking, election and reprobation are both alike manifestations of the divine activity. In Augustine's estimate, not all believers even are given the grace of perseverance . . . Calvin's severe logic, insistent that all salvation is independent of merit, led him to assert that damnation is equally antecedent to and independent of demerit . . . The sole cause of salvation or of loss is the divine choice.

(Williston Walker, John Calvin, New York: Schocken Books, 1969 [orig. 1906], 417)

Probably no one knew better than Calvin himself that the doctrine of double predestination is not popular . . .

Calvin emphatically contended that sinful works are not the cause or basis for God's eternal decree of reprobation . . .

What is the cause of God's decree of reprobation? Calvin's answer is, the sovereign good pleasure of God. No cause other than His sovereign will can be adduced . . .

For Calvin, then, God's sovereign will is the ultimate cause of Adam's fall and of reprobation, while human sin is the proximate cause.

(Fred H. Klooster, Calvin's Doctrine of Predestination, 2nd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1977, 55, 61, 63, 70)

The dogma of a double predestination is the corner-stone of the Calvinistic system . . .

Predestination, therefore, implies a twofold decree - a decree of election unto holiness and salvation, and a decree of reprobation unto death on account of sin and guilt. Calvin deems them inseparable.

(Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 8, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1910, 545, 551)

The Reformers of the 16th century all advocated the strictest doctrine of predestination . . . Calvin firmly maintained the Augustinian doctrine of an absolute double predestination.

(Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 4th ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1949, 110)

[Speaking of Calvin's view]: Reprobation to damnation by the eternal will of God was an ineluctable corollary of election to salvation by the same eternal will of God; it was not based on God's foreknowledge of human conduct any more than salvation was . . .

[Calvin argued] that the only possible doctrine of predestination was a doctrine of double predestination.

(Jaroslav Pelikan, The Christian Tradition, v. 4: Reformation of Church and Dogma {1300-1700}, Univ. of Chicago Press, 1984, 222, 224)

Thomists hold to a negative, rather than absolute or positive reprobation (just as Augustine did, as described above). The question at hand isn't the existence of reprobation, but the nature of it.

V. Supralapsarianism and Positive Reprobation in Calvin (Including Opinions of Several Reformed and Other Protestant Scholars)

At least three of the five scholars cited below are prominent Calvinists, and the other two are evangelical Protestants of some sort, as far as I can tell (Philip Schaff being one). Thus far, I have taken my definition of supralapsarianism from prominent Presbyterian (Calvinist) theologian Charles Hodge, and have backed up my contention that the "Reformers" held to double predestination. Calvin himself shall be cited in in conclusion:

According to Dr. Dijk the two views under consideration were in their original form simply a difference of opinion respecting the question, whether the fall of man was also included in the divine decree. Was the first sin of man, constituting his fall, predestinated, or was this merely the object of divine foreknowledge? In their original form, Supralapsarianism held the former, and Infralapsarianism, the latter. In this sense of the word CALVIN WAS CLEARLY A SUPRALAPSARIAN.

(Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 4th rev. ed., 1949, 118)

Only in the later DEVELOPMENT of the doctrine of election the element of succession began to play an important part.

Originally it was a matter of different interpretations of the relationship between predestination and the fall. The question arose whether in the counsel of God the fall of man had been willed by Him. According to Dijk, two different answers were given: the answer of Luther, Zwingli and CALVIN, who all taught that the fall was comprised in the counsel of God, and the answer of Bullinger, who did not dare to go that far, but wanted to speak only of 'praescientia' . . .

According to the first view, rejection was ultimately based on the good pleasure of God, while according to the second view it was primarily connected with sin ('praevisio peccati'). 'And this,' says Dijk, 'is the fundamental difference between SUPRA and infra.' He calls the view according to which the problem is a matter of succession 'incomplete.' Bullinger, as a representative of the original INFRA position, saw rejection as an act of God's justice against sin, which therefore preceded the 'justitia,' and upon which the divine answer of the 'justitia' followed. This shows clearly that the relation between predestination and the fall is at stake . . .

Dijk writes: 'Although THE SUPRA PRESENTATION IS THE ONE OF THE REFORMATION, no one will maintain that the infra presentation is contrary to Calvin's teachings.

(Gerritt Berkouwer, Divine Election, tr. Hugo Bekker, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960, 257, 260-61)

Presbyterian Calvinism is best represented by the theological systems of Charles Hodge, W.G.T. Shedd, and Henry B. Smith . . . they DISSENT from Calvin's views by their INFRALAPSARIANISM . . . CALVIN was claimed by both schools. HE MUST BE CLASSED RATHER WITH THE SUPRALAPSARIANS, like Beza, Gomarus, Twysse, and Emmons. He saw the inconsistency of exempting from the divine foreordination the most important event in history, which involved the whole race in ruin. 'It is not absurd,' he says, 'to assert that God not only foresaw, but also foreordained the fall of Adam and the ruin of his posterity.' He expressly rejects the distinction between permission ('permissio') and volition ('voluntas') in God, who cannot permit what he does not will. 'What reason,' he asks, 'shall we assign for God's permitting the destruction of the impious, but because it is his will?' [Inst., III, 23, 7-8] . . .

In 'Inst.' III, ch. XXIV. 12, Calvin uses STRONG SUPRALAPSARIAN LANGUAGE [this will be cited below] . . . In the 'Consensus Genevensis' (Niemeyer, p.251), he says that the fall was ordained by the admirable counsel of God ('admirabili Dei consilio fuisse ordinatum'). BEZA UNDERSTOOD CALVIN CORRECTLY.

(Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 8, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 3rd rev. ed., 1910, 544, 553-554)

The reprobate like the elect [i.e., acc. to Calvin] are appointed to be so by the secret counsel of God's will and by nothing else (Instit, II. xxii. 11). Though their life justifies that will, their rejection is not determined originally because of their life. Rather the life is the outcome of the decree, the decree necessitating that the life should be such as justified it . . . .

Calvin . . . held that their fate was the direct immediate appointment of God, justified indeed by their life but not its necessary consequence . . . that doom was fixed from all eternity and nothing in them could transfer them to the contrary class any more than anything in the elect could result in their becoming reprobate . . .

Calvin was compelled to attribute this Fall also to the divine decree . . . It was not merely foreseen but deliberately foreordained . . .

Calvin himself, ever imbued with practical religious aims and dogmatic only when authorised by Scripture, seems to have given the question little definite thought. His position is certainly sufficiently undefined to allow of BOTH PARTIES claiming him as a sponsor for their view . . .

The Consensus Genevensis (1552) assumes the SUPRALAPSARIAN view, while the French Confession, of which Calvin was practically the author, is infralapsarian in affirming that God chose out of the universal corruption and damnation in which all men were submerged some to eternal life. Cunningham strongly asserts that the latter more truly represents the Reformer's real opinion, YET IT WAS SIGNIFICANT THAT BEZA, WHO SO LARGELY ECHOED CALVIN, WAS A SUPRALAPSARIAN . . .

The Westminster Confession attempts a compromise on this as on so many points, assigning the Fall of Adam to a permissive decree, but nevertheless including it in the eternal purpose of God who ordered it for his own glory. It is highly probable that Calvin himself would have objected to such phraseology. He declined to accept the distinction between the permission of God and His volition, on the ground that God cannot permit what He does not will; to permit is for Him synonymous with willing.

Later scholastic Calvinists . . . tried to eliminate from the doctrine what was repulsive by stating it in a negative way, characterising God's act as of the nature of a 'praeteritio' (passing over) or an 'indebitae gratiae negatio' (the denial of unmerited grace) in contradistinction from 'praedamnatio' or 'debitae poenae destinatio' (appointment to merited punishment) . . . This is the term adopted by the Westminster Confession . . . Calvin would again have declined to see any real distinction. To pass by the reprobate was equivalent to permitting them to suffer the merited penalty of their sins, and with God permission amounts to volition.

(A. Mitchell Hunter [New College, Edinburgh], The Teaching of Calvin, Westwood, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 2nd rev. ed., 1950, 108-110, 119, 127-128)

Calvin goes beyond Augustine in his explicit assertion of double predestination, in which the reprobation of those not elected is a specific determination of God's inscrutable will . . . He feels under obligation to close the door to the notion that anything happens otherwise than under the control of the divine will . . .

He is not content to confine the function of God's will to his having 'passed by' the nonelect in bestowing his saving grace: the action of his will is not 'preterition' but 'reprobation' . . .

This passage briefly shows Calvin as FAVORING THE SUPRALAPSARIAN as opposed to the infralapsarian view of the decrees of God. The issue became controversial in the Netherlands shortly after Calvin's death.

(John T. McNeill, editor of Calvin's Institutes, from his own edition, tr. Ford Lewis Battles, Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960, Vol. 1, lviii-lix, 469)

The Calvin "passage" to which McNeill refers above is the following (II, 12, 5, v.1, p. 469):

Here, surely, the fall of Adam is not presupposed as preceding God's decree in time; but it is what God determined before all ages that is shown, when he willed to heal the misery of mankind.

Other Calvin utterances which in my opinion lend themselves strongly to a supralapsarian interpretation include the following, from the same edition of the Institutes:

If, then, we cannot determine a reason why he vouchsafes mercy to his own, except that it so pleases him, neither shall we have any reason for rejecting others, other than his will. For when it is said that God hardens or shows mercy to whom he wills, men are warned by this to seek no cause outside his will . . .

Those whom God passes over, he condemns; and this he does for no other reason than that he wills to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines for his own children . . .

we have by now been taught that hardening is in God's hand and will, just as much as mercy is [Rom 9:14 ff.] . . . This plainly means that all those whom the Heavenly Father has not deigned to plant as sacred trees in his field are marked and intended for destruction . . . "God aroused Pharaoh [Rom 9:17]; then, 'he hardens whom he pleases' [Rom 9:18]. From this it follows that God's secret plan is the cause of the hardening . . .

(III, 22, 11 / III, 23, 1, Vol. 2, 947-949)

It is not in itself likely that man brought destruction upon himself through himself, by God's mere permission and without any ordaining. As if God did not establish the condition in which he wills the chief of his creatures to be! . . . Besides, their perdition depends upon the predestination of God in such a way that the cause and occasion of it are found in themselves . . .

Man falls according as God's providence ordains, but he falls by his own fault.

(III, 23, 8, Vol. 2, 956-957)

In order to attain logical harmony, Calvin must adopt some notion of God's permissive will. But Schaff, Hunter, and McNeill alike state above that Calvin declines to accept such a distinction. So he is left with a seeming severe inconsistency. Thus, infralapsarians have softened this very position by retreating somewhat to a "permissive" / preterition stance hardly different from the Catholic Thomistic and Tridentine understanding.

As God by the effectual working of his call to the elect perfects the salvation to which by his eternal plan he has destined them, so he has his judgments against the reprobate, by which he executes his plan for them. What of those, then, whom he created for dishonor in life and destruction in death, to become the instruments of his wrath and examples of his severity? . . .

The supreme Judge, then, makes way for his predestination when he leaves in blindness those whom he has once condemned and deprived of participation in his light.

(III, 24, 12, Vol. 2, 978-979)

Dr P.N. Archbald: the Minister of the Reformed Church of Masterton, who has recently completed his PhD thesis on Beza through the Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia:

Mind you, there are places where Calvin sounds rather supralapsarian himself. The whole debate is difficult and complex. It is clear from Beza's letter to Calvin that he raised questions that went further than Calvin down the supralapsarian road. What is not entirely clear to me is where Beza ended up. His published statements are rather ambiguous, in my opinion. But even if Beza did end up a fully-fledged supralapsarian, let us keep in mind that this view has always been considered acceptable in Reformed circles, even if it is not the majority opinion.

Herman Bavinck, History of the Doctrine of the Decree of Predestination:

The three Reformers: Luther, Zwingli, and Calvin, arrived at the supralapsarian view: election and reprobation are deeds of God's sovereignty, logically preceding God's decree concerning the fall. Nevertheless, Calvin often follows the infralapsarian reasoning . . .

. . . many Thomists, Alvarez, the Salmanticenses, Estius, Sylvius. etc., taught that negative reprobation precedes the fall and that it is purely an act of God's sovereignty and good pleasure. Nevertheless, this supralapsarian reprobation was viewed as wholly negative, i.e., as God's purpose not to elect certain individuals, to permit them to fall, and afterward to ordain them to everlasting punishment (positive reprobation). Essentially, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, and all supralapsarian Reformed theologians never went beyond this point. They neither taught a "predestination unto sins" nor did they represent God as the author of sin, as is falsely charged by Roman Catholics, . . .

. . . all three Reformers arrived at the so-called supralapsarian view of the doctrine of predestination, according to which both election and reprobation are to be viewed as acts of God's sovereignty, logically preceding God's decree concerning the fall, sin, and redemption through Christ. But it is especially Calvin who often purposely refuses to go beyond the secondary causes of salvation and perdition, and therefore often reasons in an infralapsarian manner . . .

. . . when Pighius answers Calvin by objecting that according to the latter's view there would have been in the divine mind a "distinction between elect and reprobate previous to the fall of man," Calvin indeed answers that Pighius fails to distinguish between "proximate and remote causes," that every reprobate must consider his own sin to be the direct cause of his perdition, and that the opposite view is handicapped with the same objections, he does not deny the validity of the conclusion drawn by Pighius: there is a "secret divine decree" anteceding the fall, The final and deepest cause of reprobation as well as of election is the will of God. Hence, with Calvin the supralansarian and infralapsarian representation alternates. This is also true of most of the later theologians who embraced supralapsarianism. They regard the supralapsarian view to be admissible they do not think of condemning infralapsarianism or of demanding that their view be embodied in the official confession of the church as the only standard of truth. They do not ask that their own view he substituted for the infralapsarian representation but they plead for actual recognition of both views . . .

. . . the Synod [of Dort] purposely refused to condemn supralapsarianism; for, various theologians, among whom were Calvin, Beza, Piscator, Perkins, Hommins, Bogerman, etc., had at times used strong expression; e.g., "that some men are created in order that they may be damned; that men viewed as innocent are reprobated or damned; that God hates men irrespective of sin; that men were predestinated unto sin; that God has need of man as a sinner; that God willed and brought about the fact that men sinned; that God acted insincerely in the calling of certain persons," etc. At the conference held in the Hague the Remonstrants had made ready use of these expressions and of the difference between infra- and supralapsarianism; consequently, the members of the synod were intent on avoiding such "phrases that were too harsh." But when the delegates from England, Bremen, and Hesse insisted that these expressions be condemned, the Synod refused to grant this request. In defence of this refusal Synod stated that Scripture also uses very strong expressions at times, that such phrases may have a much milder meaning when examined in their context than they appear to have when considered apart from their context, and that the responsibility for them rests with the respective authors.

12. "John Gill and the Charge of Hyper-Calvinism," Baptist Quarterly, October 1995.

Hoad links Hyper-Calvinism closely with Supralapsarianism and seems to suggest that the one is a definition of the other. Whether Gill was a Superlapsarian or not, however, is irrelevant to the question of whether he was a Hyper-Calvinist or not. This is especially the case as many writers look upon Calvin as a Supralapsarian himself! Schaff dismisses the relevancy of such theory-building, nevertheless, he argues guardedly that because Calvin taught that the Fall cannot be excluded from God`s decrees and that it is futile to distinguish between what God wills and what God permits, Calvin "must be classed rather with the Supralapsarians ."

Louis Berkoff, in his standard work Systematic Theology, agrees fully with Schaff about the speculative nature of both terms. Berkoff, however, is prepared to state dogmatically that "Calvin was clearly a Supralapsarian ." He says this because of Calvin's teaching that the Fall was included in the divine decrees. Thus rather than being "more Calvinistic than Calvin", to use Naylor`s definition culled from Fuller, in the point of Supralapsarianism, if Gill were a Supralapsarian he would be quite "as Calvinistic as Calvin" and because of this could hardly be called a Hyper-Calvinist or even High-Calvinist.

13. Michael Sudduth; Reformed philosopher:

That Calvin actually held to the supralapsarian position of later Calvinists is difficult to determine (since that debate made many conceptual distinctions that Calvin did not explicitly make). Nevertheless, his treatment of the potter-clay analogy of St. Paul, his numerous references which suggest a special decree of reprobation, and his refusal to speak of God permitting the fall as something conceptually distinct from God's willing the fall (see III, xxii, 8) provide good grounds for the later assertion that Calvin himself was supralapsarian in his predestination doctrine.

(From: "John Calvin's Doctrine of Predestination," McGrath Tutorial, Paper 5, February 16, 1993)

Michael Sudduth again:

Moreover, Calvin is quite aware that man of his contemporaries (such as Pighius) wanted to make predestination conditioned by foreseen actions (free actions) of men, such as foreseen faith or merits. Calvin stresses that there can be no cause outside God which determines the divine decree. God predestines neither on the grounds of what he foresees men will do in themselves or even on the grounds of what He will do in them. Hence, neither foreseen merit nor foreseen grace (given by God) is the ground of election to life. And it is highly probable that the freedom of God thus conceived leads Calvin to double predestination. If non-election is strictly parallel, then both must be unconditionally. Consequently, God predestines to life or to death without reference to merits or demerits. The allowance of sin in the picture has been suggested by some (Beza, Zanchius, and Gomarus) to indicate supralapsarian--God predestines men considered as unfallen, out of the pure mass of mankind, so that the decree of election and reprobation logically precede the decree of the fall. In this scheme sin is a means (instrumental cause) to the one end of God's glory. In other terms, Calvin's double predestination may well be a solid basis for viewing his conception of the logical order of the divine decrees as supralapsarian in structure.

(From: "Theology in Western Europe From Gabriel Biel to John Calvin": University of Oxford, M.Phil. Exam in Philosophical Theology, History of Christian Doctrine).

Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, PART III. Soteriology / CHAPTER I. The Plan of Salvation / 2. Supralapsarianism:

The position of Calvin himself as to this point has been disputed. As it was not in his day a special matter of discussion, certain passages may be quoted from his writings which favour the supralapsarian and other passages which favour the infralapsarian view. In the Consensus Genevensis, written by him, there is an explicit assertion of the infralapsarian doctrine.

VI. Secondary Cause

I maintain that supralapsarianism (whether or not one thinks Calvin himself espoused it, in kernel, or primitive form) amounts to the proposition that God is the author of evil and sin. Infralapsarianism escapes this inherent difficulty. Supralapsarianism seems to me to be a more logically coherent but morally objectionable Calvinism, and damaging to the true doctrine of God.

Calvin taught concepts of various types of Aristotelian causation. In Inst. 2.17.2 Calvin accepts formal, secondary, proximate, causation. In 1.16.2 he cites formal, material, intrumental and principal causes. In 1.17.1 he has intermediaries, which are essentially second causes. Indeed, in 1.17.6, he discusses principal and secondary causes, and in 3.14.21, he notes efficient, material and instrumental causes.

But then, what does Calvin mean, when he says (I.17.1; Vol. 1, 210): "God's providence . . . is the DETERMINATIVE principle of all things . . .?" The mere existence of secondary causes doesn't necessarily resolve the difficulties inherent in supralapsarianism, vis-a-vis God's character. Does such a position, then, mean that Calvin acknowledges a "permissive will" in God, contrary to various Protestant scholars cited above? If not, Calvinists need to explain the logical distinction between "permissive will" and these nuances presently under consideration. The problem comes when Calvin delves into positive reprobation, not positive election, which is Thomistic and Catholic indeed. Does Calvin apply the same reasoning to reprobation that he does to election in this section?:

These do not prevent the Lord from embracing works as inferior causes. But how does this come about? Those whom the Lord has DESTINED by his mercy for the inheritance of eternal life he leads into possession of it . . .

In other words, nuances and causal complexities notwithstanding, God still "destined" (not just foreknew) certain ends. This is no problem with regard to the elect, as it involves no injustice or violation of God's goodness, but when it comes to reprobation, if this "destiny" doesn't flow from God's permissive will only, the logical conclusion would seem to entail a blasphemous notion of God as the author and active agent of sin, as condemned at the Council of Trent, in its Canon 6 on Justification:

If anyone says that it is not in man's power to make his ways evil, but that the works that are evil God works as well as those that are good, not permissibly only, but properly and of Himself, in such wise that the treason of Judas is no less His own proper work than the vocation of Paul; let him be anathema.
It appears quite difficult to deny that this is the supralapsarian view. What Catholics object to is God actively "willing" and "causing" sin, in any sense. He can permit it, but He need not (and must not) will it in the sense of a predetermined, predestined, preordained decree wholly independent of man's demerits, will, and actions. In Inst. III, 22, 11 and III, 23, 1-2, Calvin strongly asserts that there is no cause for reprobation other than God's "will," a reprobation which is "solely by his decision," etc. God either takes into account man's demerits and sinful actions (as in the Catholic and Arminian views) or He doesn't.

VII. The Catholic Solution

There exists another option, which is the Catholic (Molinist or Congruist) one: God knows beforehand how men will respond to His grace and decrees accordingly. If they will to be disobedient and spurn His grace and righteousness (e.g., Satan, the Chaldeans, Pharaoh, Judas), He will indeed actively use them for his purposes, but this doesn't entail His being the cause of their sin; rather, He uses it to achieve His ends by virtue of His Providence and foreknowledge. The supralapsarian view, to the contrary, reduces to God predetermining sin, whether or not the person committing it is said to be "free" in a voluntaristic sense.

A fish born in a ten-gallon aquarium believes itself to be quite "free," but it doesn't really know "freedom" until it gets freed out into a lake. Merely acting out what I must do "voluntarily" according to nature doesn't make me any more "free" than the fish in the tank. "Freedom" is thus by nature a relativistic term. God is big enough to include our freedom of will and action in His eternal Providence. It poses no problem for Him, only for man-made systems such as supralapsarianism.

Merely removing the efficent cause from God (as many Calvinists attempt to do) does not overcome the ethical and logical objection, if the person could not in any reasonable sense have done otherwise, and was predetermined by God's "secret" decree and alleged active "will" to do what he did. No one is denying God's Providence and Superintendence of all things. That is not at issue between Catholics and Calvinists (much as the latter falsely imply that free will is somehow contrary to God's sovereignty).

God doesn't will evil or harm upon His creatures any more than I would will such a thing for my own children. That He allows it is clear, so then He can "will to allow" things, rather than "be pleased to allow evil by His will." Surely all can agree that God takes no pleasure in allowing (or predetermining?) evil.

These are deep waters indeed. I certainly don't have all the answers as to the excruciating dilemmas that evil creates for the Christian of any stripe. I've long regarded it as the most troublesome objection the non-believer can offer to theism, and I look forward to finally understanding this in the next life, where we will no longer "see through the glass darkly." The difficulty is readily seen in the proposition that this is the best of all possible worlds, because the all-Good, all-Powerful God created it, yet the "best of all possible worlds" would seem to be one in which no sin and evil were present at all.

In light of that, it would appear that God highly valued human freedom indeed, and must have thought it worthwhile enough to allow evil, even to an extent incomprehensible to the human mind. If human freedom of will is in actuality that important to God, then it is foolish for Calvinism to take great pains to diminish and qualify it - almost define it out of existence in certain senses. Catholics assert that God working in men, and men therefore working in cooperation with God, is no contradiction, but rather a biblical mandate and a necessity.

VIII. God as the Author of Evil in Supralapsarian Calvinism

The Supralapsarians, more logically, include the fall itself in the efficient and positive decree; yet they deny as fully as the Infralapsarians, THOUGH LESS LOGICALLY, that God is the author of sin . . .

But while his [Calvin's] inexorable logic pointed to this abyss, his moral and religious sense shrunk from the last logical inference of making God the author of sin; for this would be blasphemous, and involve the absurdity that God abhors and justly punishes what he himself decreed. He attributes to Adam the freedom of choice, by which he might have obtained eternal life, but he wilfully disobeyed. Hence his significant phrase: 'Man falls, God's providence so ordaining it; yet he falls by his own guilt' [Inst., III, 23, 8]. Here we have supralapsarian logic combined with ethical logic . . .

Here is, notwithstanding this wholesome caution, the crucial point where the rigorous logic of Calvin and Augustine breaks down, or where the moral logic triumphs over intellectual logic . . . The most rigorous predestinarian is driven to the alternative of choosing between logic and morality.

(Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 8, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 3rd rev. ed., 1910, 553-555)

Notwithstanding its seeming pretensions, it [supralapsarianism] does not give a solution to the problem of sin. It would do this, if it dared to say that God decreed to bring sin into the world by His own direct efficiency. Some Supralapsarians, it is true, do represent the decree as the efficient cause of sin, but yet do not want this to be interpreted in such a way that God becomes the author of sin. The majority of them do not care to go beyond the statement that God willed to permit sin. Now this is no objection to the Supralapsarian in distinction from the Infralapsarian, FOR NEITHER OF THEM SOLVES THE PROBLEM. The only difference is that the former makes greater pretensions in this respect than the latter . . .

Infralapsarianism really wants to explain reprobation as an act of God's justice. It is inclined to deny either explicitly or implicitly that it is an act of the mere good pleasure of God. This really makes the decree of reprobation a conditional decree and leads into the Arminian fold.

(Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 4th rev. ed., 1949, 121, 123)

Abraham Kuyper, too, has reflected on the difference between supra and infra. His criticism of supra is sharp: it is a theory which is open to severe criticism, especially because thus the fall into sin is not only deduced from man, but forms a link in the divine decree; moreover, it evokes the idea of a divine creating in order to destroy. Kuyper speaks of this as a horrible thought, in flagrant opposition to the concept of God's inscrutable mercies.

But that does not mean that Kuyper therefore chooses the infra presentation. For, says Kuyper, the infra presentation entails almost equal objections, because it seeks the solution in the 'praescientia,' the foreseen fall. Neither in supra nor in infra does he see a solution, and he further mentions the unyielding fact 'that the connection between God's eternal decree and the fall is inscrutable to us.' . . . "According to Kuyper, we must conclude with the acknowledgement that the connection between God's sovereignty and man's sin 'is not revealed to us.'

(Gerritt Berkouwer, Divine Election, tr. Hugo Bekker, Eerdmans, 1960, 262)

Earlier, I noted that Charles Hodge had criticized supralapsarianism on grounds that "it is not consistent with the Scriptural exhibition of the character of God," who is "declared to be a God of mercy and justice." (Systematic Theology, abridged ed., 326)

Calvin deals with related issues in Institutes, III, 23, 2,4,5 and III, 24, 14 (Battles / McNeill ed.):

. . . devote to DESTRUCTION whomever he PLEASES . . . they are PREDESTINED to eternal DEATH SOLELY by his decision, APART from their own MERIT . . .

(III, 23, 2, Vol. 2, 949)

For when it is said that God hardens or shows mercy to whom he wills, MEN ARE WARNED BY THIS TO SEEK NO CAUSE OUTSIDE HIS WILL.

(III, 22, 11, Vol. 2, 947)

Those whom God passes over, he CONDEMNS; and this he does FOR NO OTHER REASON THAN THAT HE WILLS TO EXCLUDE THEM . . .

(III, 23, 1, Vol. 2, 947)

. . . we must always at last return to theSOLE DECISION of God's will, the cause of which is hidden in him.

(III, 23, 4, Vol. 2, 951)

With Augustine I say: the Lord has created those whom he unquestionably foreknew would go to destruction. This has happened BECAUSE HE SO WILLED IT. But WHY he so willed, it is not for our reason to inquire, for we cannot comprehend it.

(III, 23, 5, Vol. 2, 952)


(III, 24, 12, Vol. 2, 978)

. . . his immutable decree had once for all DESTINED THEM TO DESTRUCTION.

(III, 24, 14, Vol. 2, 981)

. . . the fall of Adam is not presupposed as preceding God's decree in time, but IT IS WHAT GOD DETERMINED BEFORE ALL AGES . . .

(II, 12, 5, Vol. 1, 469)

There is much we can't comprehend in this area, as all parties readily admit, and much fine-tuning and nuance in Calvinist thought, yet we aren't forced to make positive pronouncements that God is acting with regard to the reprobate in a way which makes Him the active, "sole" cause of their damnation, and thus the author of sin, whether or not such logical implications are acknowledged or not. For all Catholics, Arminians, Wesleyans, and other non-Calvinist Christians, this belief is utterly unacceptable.

IX. St. Thomas Aquinas and Predestination

Fr. William Most has shown how Aquinas' view was not a Calvinist-type one, but a synthesis or paradoxical view, which incorporated different elements, in tension:

Thomas' attempt at a synthesis of the two points:

1) In his Commentary on Romans, Chapter 8, lessons 1,2,3 we find
indications of both tendencies:

a) Tendency to the massa damnata view: "Since all men because
of the sin of the first parents are born exposed to damnation,
those whom God frees through His grace, He frees out of mercy
alone. And so He is merciful to certain ones whom He delivers; but
to certain ones He is just, whom He does not deliver."

b) Tendency to the opposite view:"...foresight of sins can be
some reason for reprobation... inasmuch as God proposes to punish
the wicked for sins which they have of themselves, not from God, but
He proposes to reward the just because of merits, which they do not
have of themselves. Osee, 13:9:' Your ruin is from yourself, Israel;
only in me is your help.' ... Those whom He hardens, earn that they
be hardened by Him."

2) In Contra gentiles 3.159,161,163:

a) Universal salvific will in general: CG 159: "They alone
are deprived of grace who set up in themselves an impediment to
grace, just as when the sun shines on the world, he deserves blame
who shuts his eyes, if any evil comes thereby even though he could
not see without having the light of the sun."

COMMENT: A broad statement: God offers help to all; only they do not get it who shut themselves off from it.

b) Massa damnata: CG 163: "...some by the divine working are
directed to their ultimate end, being helped by grace, but others,
deserted by the help of grace, fail to reach the ultimate end.
Because all things that God does are provided and ordained from
eternity by His wisdom, it is necessary that the difference of men
mentioned be ordained by God from eternity....Those whom He planned
from eternity that He would not give grace, He is said to have
reprobated or to have hated, according to what is said in Malachi
1:2,3: 'I have loved Jacob, but hated Esau.'"

COMMENT: Here the difference in men is not that they voluntarily close or do not close their eyes: it is something God planned for from eternity. He hated some as He hated Esau.

X. Molinism / Congruism: An Explanatory Slight Digression

Molinism (my own view) is not Semi-Pelagian. It is only regarded as such (like the similar view Arminianism) because the Calvinist tendency is to falsely and unbiblically dichotomize any human participation or free will whatsoever as inexorably opposed to God's sovereignty. This is clearly false. God is quite capable of remaining sovereign and allowing human free will so that man can cooperate with his entirely free, unmerited grace. The biblical view requires mystery and paradox. It doesn't exist in a neat little logical circle or system. Molinism does not undermine God's sovereignty. Let me give an illustration:

Suppose God utilizes his foreknowledge, specifically what is called Middle Knowledge, or scientia media, to determine which tree would withstand hurricane winds and save a servant of His from being killed by falling branches. God knows not only everything that does happen, but everything that could or would have happened in any number of possible situations or potential outcomes.

So God "predestined" "strong tree #2" to save His servant, rather than "weak tree #1." He does this by knowing how each tree will react to hurricane winds. He chooses tree #2 because in fact it did not get blown over by the winds; He didn't "directly cause" it to not fall. That was determined by particular instances (the tree's "free will," so to speak) of natural laws of biological development or nutrition, where, for whatever reason, tree #1 was weaker.

Yet the natural laws themselves were caused and created by God (sovereignty). At the appointed time, then, the servant was under the strong tree (by his own free will, yet mysteriously under the overriding sovereignty of God), so that his life was saved.

It works the same with people, in Molinism. God looks at how people will react to His absolutely free grace. He sees X rejecting it (in X's future, but God's constant "now"). And He sees Y accepting His grace, and partially on that basis, "predestines" and elects Y to salvation. God gives the very ability to both to accept His grace, yet He won't force them, because they have free will.

When X rejects the grace, he is rightly damned, but it is of his own accord, not by some unalterable divine decree. On the other hand, when Y accepts the grace, it is entirely due to God's enabling grace. He simply cooperates with the grace, and doesn't reject it. That is no credit to him; nor does it detract in the slightest from God's ultimate causative agency, because it was only because of God's grace that Y could so choose in the first place.

And that's why neither Arminianism nor Molinism are Semi-Pelagian, rightly understood. That conclusion derives from the mistaken and illogical assumption that man's free will and God's sovereignty and free grace are mutually exclusive. They are not. They exist in paradox, but there is no inherent logical contradiction, as Calvin and Calvinists seem to so easily assume.