Saturday, May 28, 2011

Martin Luther Clearly Taught Double Predestination, Yet Prominent (LCMS) Lutheran Pastor Paul T. McCain Remarkably Denies This

Pastor Paul T. McCain runs the Cyberbrethren website. He has strong (orthodox) Lutheran credentials:

I’m a Lutheran pastor, serving in The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I’m the Publisher at Concordia Publishing House, where I’m also the Executive Director of our Editorial Department. . . .

A Biographical Sketch

He graduated from Concordia University, Chicago, with a B.A. in Biblical Languages and History, becoming member of Phi Alpha Theta national history honor society. From university, he entered Concordia Theological Seminary, receiving his Masters of Divinity Degree in 1988. He stayed on two extra years, the first as a graduate assistant in Systematic Theology, and the second, as an Instructor of Systematic Theology. His additional two years of graduate theological coursework included concentrations in Reformation history and theology. . . . He was called to serve as Assistant to the President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in 1992. He completed his service in this role in 2001, and served as Interim Director of Concordia Historical Institute. He was called to serve at Concordia Publishing House as its Interim President and CEO, a position he filled until 2006, when he became Publisher at CPH, and also Executive Director of the Editorial Division, the position he presently holds. His numerous publications include articles for WORLD Magazine, FIRST THINGS, The Lutheran Witness, Concordia Theological Quarterly, LOGIA: A Journal of Lutheran Theology, Modern Reformation magazine, and various other newspapers and periodicals. He is the general editor of Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions-A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, and a contributor to The Lutheran Study Bible. 

Yet Pastor McCain is -- oddly enough -- unaware that Luther held to the doctrine of double predestination (a doctrine usually associated primarily with Calvinists or those of the Reformed Protestant tradition). He wrote in a post of 16 December 2009 ("Refuting Calvinist Claims that Luther Taught Double-Predestination"):

Whenever the question of why are some saved, and not others, comes up it is common for Calvinists who advocate for the view that God has predestined some to hell, and others to heaven, to try to drag Martin Luther into their argument and claim that they are actually being faithful to what Martin Luther taught. Let this much be clear: Martin Luther did not teach double-predestination.  . . . (1) The doctrine of the Lutheran Church is not determined or normed by every writing of Luther. The proper understanding and interpretation of Martin Luther is reflected in the Book of Concord, [Dave: but this is perfectly irrelevant, because the point at hand is what Luther taught, not what confessional Lutheranism teaches {which on this point does indeed diverge from Luther himself}]. . . . (2) Luther’s Bondage of the Will is not, and was not, his last and final word on the subject of the hidden will of God. When Calvinists appeal to this document in support of their doctrine of predestination, they do so most often taking this document in isolation from the rest of his writings and teachings. [Dave: the latter may be the case at times, yet on the other hand, I shall assert a separate argument (with much documentation) that Luther did not ever forsake this belief; he merely underemphasized it in a pastoral, practical sense: told people not to think about it and to concentrate on piety and moral obedience to God's commands. This is not the same at all as a denial of predestination.]

Moreover, Luther did highly regard Bondage of the Will, over virtually all of his other writings, which is a matter of record. Pastor McCain tries to breezily (but unsuccessfully) dismiss this fact by commenting in the combox of his post:

Luther was fond of saying “this is my best” or “these are my best” writings, and he often had several lists. Not much is to be made of it other than he thought Bondage of the Will was one of his favorite books. It doesn’t prove anything Calvinists try to accuse Luther of believing and teaching. They ignore what Luther said elsewhere and latch on to what they think supports their errors regarding predestination.

Right. Special pleading at its best . . . In fact, Luther wrote on 9 July 1537 to his friend Wolfgang Capito:

I do not recognize any of my writings as genuine, except those on the Enslaved Will and the Catechism.

(Hartmann Grisar, S. J., Martin Luther: His Life and Work, adapted from the second German edition by Frank J. Eble, edited by Arthur Preuss, B. Herder Co., 1930; reprinted by The Newman Press {Westminster, Maryland}, 1950,  p. 303)

[Latin: Magis cuperem eos (libros meos) omnes devoratos. Nullum enim agnosco meum iustum librum, nisi forte De servo arbitrio et Catechismum.]

(Hartmann Grisar, S. J., Luther, Vol. II, translated by E. M. Lamond, edited by Luigi Cappadelta, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 1913, p. 292, footnote 2; from
Brief wechsel, 11, p. 47)

It is beyond any question that Luther taught double predestination in his magnum opus, The Bondage of the Will. I have documented this myself in one of my many Luther posts (my own blue highlighting and subtitles):

God Decrees the Damnation of the Lost From All Eternity

Now, if you are disturbed by the thought that it is difficult to defend the mercy and justice of God when he damns the undeserving, that is to say, ungodly men who are what they are because they were born in ungodliness and can in no way help being and remaining ungodly and damnable, but are compelled by a necessity of nature to sin and to perish (as Paul says: “We were all children of wrath like the rest,” since they are created so by God himself from seed corrupted by the sin of the one man Adam)—rather must God be honored and revered as supremely merciful toward those whom he justifies and saves, supremely unworthy as they are, and there must be at least some acknowledgement of his divine wisdom so that he may be believed to be righteous where he seems to us to be unjust. For if his righteousness were such that it could be judged to be righteous by human standards, it would clearly not be divine and would in no way differ from human righteousness. But since he is the one true God, and is wholly incomprehensible and inaccessible to human reason, it is proper and indeed necessary that his righteousness also should be incomprehensible, as Paul also says where he exclaims: “O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How incomprehensible are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!” But they would not be incomprehensible if we were able in every instance to grasp how they are righteous. What is man, compared with God? How much is there within our power compared with his power? What is our strength in comparison with his resources? What is our knowledge compared with his wisdom? What is our substance over against his substance? In a word, what is our all compared with his?
(translation by Phillip Watson [based on WA 18 600-787]; in Luther's Works [LW], Volume 33, quote from p. 289)

And if you are concerned about this,—that it is difficult to defend the mercy and justice of God, seeing that, he damns the undeserving, that is, those who are for that reason ungodly, because, being born in iniquity, they cannot by any means prevent themselves from being ungodly, and from remaining so, and being damned, but are compelled from the necessity of nature to sin and perish, as Paul saith, " We all were the children of wrath, even as others," when at the same time, they were created such by God himself from a corrupt seed, by means of the sin of Adam,—

(translation by Henry Cole, 1823, p. 370)

But if this disturb us, that, it is difficult to maintain the mercy and equity of God, in that he damns the undeserving, namely, ungodly men who are even of such a sort, that, being born in ungodliness, they cannot by any means help being ungodly, remaining so, and being damned; yea, being compelled by the necessity of their nature to sin and perish (as Paul speaks, "We were all the sons of wrath even as others"), being created such as they are, by God himself, out of a seed which became corrupted through that sin which was Adam's only.
(translation by Edward Thomas Vaughan, 1823, p. 460)

God Hates Many Men From All Eternity

God’s love toward men is eternal and immutable, and his hatred is eternal, being prior to the creation of the world, and not only to the merit and work of free choice; and everything takes place by necessity in us, according as he either loves or does not love us from all eternity, . . .
(LW, vol. 33, 198)

[T]he love and hatred of God towards men is immutable and eternal; existing, not only before there was any merit or work of Free-will, but before the worlds were made; and that, all things take place in us by necessity, accordingly as he loved or loved not from all eternity.
(Cole, p. 240)

We know very well, that God does not hate or love, as we do; since we both love and hate mutably; but he loves and hates according to his eternal and immutable nature: so far is he from being the subject of accident and affection. And it is this very thing which compels Freewill to be a mere no thing; namely, that the love of God towards men is eternal and immutable, and his hatred towards them eternal; not only prior to the merit and operation of Freewill, but even to the very making of the world; and that every thing is wrought in us necessarily, according to his having either loved us or not loved us, from eternity: insomuch that not only the love of God, but even his manner of loving, brings necessity upon us.

. . . the hatred by which we are eternally damned . . .
(Vaughan, p. 306)

This being the case, Luther's Lutheran ostensible "defenders" have to (rather pitifully, from their standpoint) undermine the importance of this work, so as to minimize the significance of such comments. But Luther himself did not do so. Luther being a better interpreter of his own thought than a Lutheran pastor 500 years later, we can safely side with the author himself rather than his reinterpreters who do so for merely polemical purposes. It's a curious phenomenon.

Prominent Luther biographer Julius Köstlin (himself a Lutheran) observed:

In the resoluteness with which Luther accepts the most rigorous consequences of the doctrine of predestination, he is essentially one with Zwingli and Calvin, the other leaders of the Reformation.

(M. Luther, Vol. I, p. 664; cited in Grisar, Martin Luther: His Life and Work, p. 303)
From all that we know with certainty of Luther, it is plain that he stuck to his earlier views as to the hidden God and Divine predestination. Nor does Luther make any attempt to solve the difficulty, which must appear to us a contradiction ; he simply discourages reflection on the subject.
(cited in Grisar, Luther, Vol. II,  293)

Grisar elaborates:

Although Luther did not put forth his rigid doctrine of predestination to hell either in his popular or strictly theological writings, yet, to the end of his life, he never surrendered it; that he "never retracted it" is emphasised even in Kostlin and Kawcrau's Life of Luther. [Vol. I, 664] . . . In his later years he is fond of speaking of the power of sin over man's interior, and though he does not allude so decidedly or so frequently to man's "absolute and entire dependence upon God's Omnipotence," yet he has by no means relinquished the idea. Thus the "difference between his earlier and later years" is one only of degree, i.e. he merely succeeded in keeping his theory more in the background.
 (Grisar, Luther, Vol. II, 292)

Köstlin's collaborator Gustav Kawerau noted the unfortunate tendency among Lutherans to overlook this aspect of Luther's teachings out of distaste for it:

. . . we must not seek to hide or explain them away, as was soon done by Luther's followers and has been attempted even in our own day . . .

(Kostlin-Kawerau, 1, p. 663 f.; cited in Grisar, Luther, Vol. II, 264)

[Bondage of the Will] was a stumbling-block to his followers, and attempts were made to explain it away by all the arts of violent exegesis; cp. Walch (in his edition of Luther s works), 18, Introduction, p. 140 ff.
(Kawerau in W. Moller, "Lehrbuch der Kirchengesch.," 3 3, 1907, p. 63; cited in Grisar, Luther, Vol. II, 264, footnote 4)

Protestant scholar M. Staub (Das Verhaltnis der menschhchen Willensfreiheit zur Gotteslehre bei Luther und Zwingli, Zurich, 1894), although an admirer of Zwingli, excoriated Luther and thought that his view here:

". . . leads to the destruction of all evangelical belief, not only of the personal assurance of salvation but also of Holy Scripture, which itself knows nothing of an arbitrary and faithless God in the matter of man's salvation" (p. 30). "What then is left of Luther's Deity?" "A Divine Person Who dispenses His grace and mercy according to His mood" (p. 37). "God appears and acts as a blind, naked force, fortuna, fatum," because what He does is "beyond good and evil" (p. 38). "Why invent the fable of God s justice and holiness? . . . We do nothing, God works all in all. . . . This religion, which is the logical outcome of Luther's work De servo arbitrio, is surely not Christianity but Materialism"; only the name is wanting for morality and law to become "foolish fancies" (p. 39).

(cited in Grisar, Luther, Vol. II,  293)

Protestant scholar F. Kattenbusch, in the preface of his study on this work noted that:

. . . quite rightly it caused great scandal and wonder . . . the hard, offensive theory [was] no mere result of haste or of annoyance with Erasmus, coupled with the desire clearly to define his own position with regard to the latter [but really] expresses the matured conviction of the Reformer.

("Luthers Lehre vom unfreien Willen und von der Predestination," Gottingen, 1875 [Anastatischer Neudruck, Gottingen, 1905]; cited in Grisar, Luther, Vol. II, 264)

Catholic Luther biographer Grisar comments:

Luther here throws to the winds the will of God Almighty for the salvation of all men, and he does so, with regard to those who are delivered over to eternal death, with a precision which is quite shocking. They were incapable of being saved because God did not so will it. Owing to the reprobate, God has "an Oeternum odium erga homines, not merely a hatred of the demerits and works of free-will, but a hatred which existed even before the world was made." 1 Hence He inflicts eternal punishment upon those who do not deserve it (immeritos damnat). . . . The severity of his doctrine does not here differ in any way from Calvin's cruel views, though, as the fact is less generally known, Luther's name has not been so closely associated with predestination to hell as Calvin's. Luther's doctrine on this matter did not come so much to the front as that of Calvin, because, unlike the latter, he did not make capital out of it by means of popular and practical exhortations, and because the early Lutherans, under the influence of Melanchthon, who became an opponent of the rigid denial of free-will and of Luther's views on predestination, soon came to soften their master's hard sayings. Yet there can be no doubt that the book De servo arbitrio does contain such teaching quite definitely expressed.

(Luther, Vol. II, 268; italics added for Latin citations and titles)

The Protestant Kattenbusch states:

Luther expressly advances it as a theory that God has two contradictory wills, the secret will of which no one knows anything, and another which He causes to be proclaimed . . . [God makes use of His] exemption from the moral law which binds us [by] not being obliged actually to strive after what He proclaims to be His intention [the salvation of all men] in other words, that He is free to lie.

(Ibid., p. 17; cited in Grisar, Luther, Vol. II, 269, footnote 1)

Luther wrote in The Bondage of the Will:

It is indeed an offence to sound common sense and to natural reason to hear that God is pleased to abandon men, to harden and to damn them, as though He He, the All-Merciful, the All- Perfect took delight in sin and torment. Who would not be horrified at this ? . . . and yet we cannot get away from this, notwithstanding the many attempts that have been made to save the holiness of God. . . . Reason must always insist upon the compulsion God imposes on man.

(cited in Grisar, Luther, Vol. II, 270; Latin original available on the same page: footnote 4)

Famous Protestant Luther biographer Roland H. Bainton cited the same passage as follows:

Common sense and natural reason are highly offended that God by his mere will deserts, hardens, and damns, as if he delighted in sins and in such eternal torments, he who is said to be of such mercy and goodness. Such a concept of God appears wicked, cruel, and intolerable, and by it many men have been revolted in all ages. I myself was once off ended to the very depth of the abyss of desperation, so that I wished I had never been created. There is no use trying to get away from this by ingenious distinctions. Natural reason, however much it is offended, must admit the consequences of the omniscience and omnipotence of God.

(Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther, New York: Abingdon-Cokesbury Press, 1950, 253; p. 196-197 in Mentor / New American Library paperback edition)

Kattenbusch, (p. 11 f.) observes (in effect) that Luther's position was so extreme that it was even essentially supralapsarian: a position many Calvinists regard as extreme, and one that they deny was John Calvin's own view (I have long since asserted that it was Calvin's own position):

Adam's sin, from which springs the depravity of the human race, was [according to Luther] called forth by God Himself . . . Adam could not avoid acting contrary to the command.

Nor did Luther forsake his utter denial of human free will (a notion commensurate and very closely allied with with double predestination) in later years, as is the contention of Lutheran polemicists like Pastor McCain, who complain about over-reliance in this regard, on The Bondage of the Will:

In a Disputation of December 18, 1537, for the sake of debate the objection is advanced, that there is no purpose in making good resolutions owing to the will not being free: "Man," says the opposer, "has no free-will, hence he can make no good resolutions, and sins of necessity whether he wishes to or not." The professor s reply runs : "Nego consequentiam. Man, it is true, cannot of himself alter his inclination to sin; he has this inclination and sins willingly, neither under compulsion nor unwillingly. Man's will, not God, is the author of sin."

[Footnote 1: Disputationen M. Luthers, 1535-1545," edited for the first time by Paul Drews, Gottingen, 1895, p. 279 f. 2 Ibid., p. 75]

(Grisar, Luther, Vol. II, 287)

On another occasion, on January 29, 1536, the objector refers to the opinions of great Churchmen of olden times, that some freedom of the will exists. The reply is : "What such men say is not to be accepted as gospel-truth ; they often gave proof of weakness . . ."
[Footnote 2: Ibid., p. 75]

(Grisar, Luther, Vol. II, 287)

In the same year we read the following in the theses of the School: "It is godless philosophy, and censured by theology, to assert that liberum arbitrium exists in man for the forming of a just judgment and a good intention, or that it is man's business to choose between good and evil, life and death, etc. He who speaks thus does not know what man really is, and does not understand in the least what he is talking about."

[Footnote 3: Ibid., p. 92, n. 29 ft.; my italics]

(Grisar, Luther, Vol. II, 287)  


Nathan Rinne said...


It is not only Paul McCain who denies this, but basically every LC-MS Lutheran (and WELS, ELS). In fact the Confessions of 1580 deny this as well.

Here is a really good summary of the current LC-MS view:

The last 10 minutes of this talk are really good to, as a standout young LC-MS pastor answers questions about the Bondage of the Will.

In sum, Pastor Heath Curtis says that Luther, in the Bondage of the Will, essentially says: "It looks like Calvin [i.e. double predestination] is right. It looks like God is a jerk. Our response?: Jesus died on the cross for everyone.

Curtis maintains that Luther sends us this seeming "contradiction" in order that faith may abound. It doesn't make sense and that is why salvation is by faith...

In short, if we are saved it is God's "fault". If we are damned, it is our fault. Then "we duck the tomatoes the philosophers throw at us" as Curtis says.

Not to say that Luther was against reason, just the magisterial use of reason. This is a post I wrote here:

I will check in again, but my time is short, so I apologize upfront for not having too much time to talk about this more. Thanks for dealing with theses issues though - I enjoy looking at your blog.

Jordanes551 said...

In sum, Pastor Heath Curtis says that Luther, in the Bondage of the Will, essentially says: "It looks like Calvin [i.e. double predestination] is right. It looks like God is a jerk. Our response?: Jesus died on the cross for everyone.

The problem here is that Luther was not responding to Calvin at all. Rather, he was attempting to rebut Erasmus who had published a work explaining the Catholic doctrine of free will. Luther wrote his tract before Calvin had published anything on double predestination.

It's inevitable that Lutherans would wrestle with Luther's views on double predestination, because Lutheranism, Deo Gratias, does not teach what Luther believed on this point. There's no point in trying to force Luther's views into the later Melanchton-influenced confessional Lutheranism. It can't be done.

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for your input. I'm not exactly sure what you are arguing. If you are saying that LC-MS and WELS, ELS Lutherans deny double predestination, most theological students, I think (esp. those up on Christian doctrinal history), know that.

Pastor McCain maintained that Luther also did so, which I deny. He clearly affirmed double predestination in Bondage of the Will, so the only question, really, is whether he changed his mind later. I have shown evidence that he did not.

Is there a portion in the Lutheran Confessions where not just double predestination is denied, but also the (alleged) fact that Luther held to it? I would like to see that.

In any event, Pastor McCain's lengthy citation of late Luther did not prove at all what he claimed. It only proved that Luther urged Everyman to not ponder predestination much. That's far from denying the thing itself.

Nathan Rinne said...


You might be right. This paper is pretty compelling (regarding what Luther believed):

Still, Luther also did say the following:

"A dispute about predestination should be avoided entirely... I forget everything about Christ and God when I come upon these thoughts and actually get to the point to imagining that God is a rogue. We must stay in the word, in which God is revealed to us and salvation is offered, if we believe him. But in thinking about predestination, we forget God . . However, in Christ are hid all the treasures (Col. 2:3); outside him all are locked up. Therefore, we should simply refuse to argue about election"
(not sure about source of quote, but it has been widely quoted on the internet, so it must be true : ) ).

Regarding one of the Luther quotes you use in your blog post to prove your point, see footnote 12 in this article:

Finally, if it really is "double or nothing" as the article above says, then Luther is rightly left behind by the Lutheran Confessions, given the full range of Scriptural data.

Best regards,

Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks for your input. I'm delighted that on this point, confessional Lutheranism decided to be far closer to the traditional Catholic position than to Calvinism.

It did the same regarding the canon of Holy Scripture itself: with Luther's position being far more radical and subjective (as I have also written about).

Dave Armstrong said...

From the excellent first paper Nathan cited above:

"[Luther's] assertions that Wycliffe was correct to maintain that all things happen by absolute necessity, and that God is the author of all man's evil deeds, have proved serious obstacles to those who wish to suggest that Luther was merely restating an Augustinian or scriptural position....Luther explicitly teaches a doctrine of double predestination, whereas Augustine was reluctant to acknowledge such a doctrine, no matter how logically appropriate it might

(Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei: A History of The Christian Doctrine of Justification, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.) pp.15-16)

Precisely. I've been arguing the same point for nearly 20 years. So we have the following choices, as usually presented:

1) Lutherans denying that Luther taught double predestination.

2) Calvinists claiming that he did indeed teach that, and followed St. Augustine in so doing.

3) Catholics asserting that he did indeed teach that, but did NOT follow St. Augustine in so doing.

Alister McGrath (Anglican and arguably the foremost Protestant Church historian writing today) supports position #3 above. Protestant apologist Norman Geisler has also noted that Luther departed from Augustine on the issue of free will and double predestination.

Dave Armstrong said...

From the same paper:

"In his Commentary on
Romans, written around 1515, he wrote,

'All things whatever arise from, and depend on, the divine appointment; whereby it was foreordained who should receive the word of life, and who should disbelieve it; who should be delivered from their sins, and who should be hardened in them; and who should be justified and who should be condemned.'

Dave Armstrong said...

Author Brian G. Mattson writes about McGrath:

"In light of this quote McGrath certainly disagrees that Luther was a consistent Augustinian. McGrath actually reverses here the positions most Lutherans assume: that Augustine was the double predestinarian, while Luther taught single. Not so, claims McGrath, it is actually the very opposite! This author would certainly take issue with McGrath in that it is his reading of Augustine that is questionable, but not his reading of Luther. However, that issue is not critical to the thesis of the present work. McGrath is correct, as shall now be demonstrated, that Luther's work without question teaches double predestination."

Dave Armstrong said...

From footnote 12 of Nathan's second cited article:

"The citation brought up to demonstrate that Luther held to double predestination speaks of God's eternal love and hatred. This is not the same as God's predestination and causing evil."

Yes; I agree, in terms of a strict logical equation.

On the other hand, when Luther mentions this hatred (as cited in my post), he himself directly ties it in to the related view of necessity by divine decree:

"God’s love toward men is eternal and immutable, and his hatred is eternal, being prior to the creation of the world, and not only to the merit and work of free choice; and everything takes place by necessity in us, according as he either loves or does not love us from all eternity, . . ."

(LW, vol. 33, 198)

Also in another translation of Bondage of the Will:

". . . the hatred by which we are eternally damned . . ."

(Vaughan, p. 306)

Nick said...

This is not to bash Lutherans (or Protestants in general), but I'm always amazed at the deity status Luther is given by them, while all the while they cringe at certain things he taught.

Seriously: what would it take for them to realize how dangerous and off the wall Luther and his ideology was?

And let's not forget this is the same movement that abhors the out of control and unchecked "Papacy". But the question is: what doctrine did the Papacy ever assert that came anywhere near the 'cringe level' of Luther's extreme claims? That's the question they wont ask/answer.

Some of the most significant errors Luther taught which would make most Lutherans blush or cringe:

(1) Double Predestination, and more extreme than Calvin;

(2) That Jesus endured hellfire as He took the Father's Wrath;

(3) Radically and subjectively judged the canonicity of various OT and NT books;

(4) That certain views on the Sacraments were damnable heresies and even worthy of death penalty;

(5) Exercised stronger and more radical ecclesial authority than virtually any Christian in history;

(6) That he had a notoriously filthy mouth, unbecoming of a true Saint or true Christian Reformer who had tight reign on their passions.

What Christian in history ever came anywhere close to this? Is this the type of 'father figure' that one is to be proud of? To me, Lutherans accepting Luther as a hero is akin to Catholics canonizing a priest who molested children - such simply cannot be done.

The only answer is that there is a lot of white-washing of history on the Protestant end, such that most Protestants, especially Lutherans, have no idea about the 'real' Luther - just like how most women going for an abortion don't get the chance at an ultrasound - because if they did, they'd run away.

Nathan Rinne said...


Thought you might find this interesting as well:


Dave Armstrong said...

Thanks for that link, Nathan. Very good!

William said...

Hello, I'm not a Lutheran or a Calvinist (I'm just an old school predestinarian who agrees with Luther and St. Augustine-contra Calvin-in affirming that the non-elect may temporarily partake with the elect in Salvation).

I saw the following quote in the thread:
"Luther explicitly teaches a doctrine of double predestination, whereas Augustine was reluctant to acknowledge such a doctrine, no matter how logically appropriate it might appear."

I definitely agree that Luther taught double predestination (Chemnitz himself affirmed "double predestination" in his Loci Theologici--though certainly not in the severe "supralapsarian" manner that Luther affirmed it).

I question, though, the statement that St. Augustine was reluctant to acknowledge double predestination--he is very explicit in his affirmation of it (with sentiments that at times surpass the mild "infralapsarian" position of all the official Calvinist Confessions--Dordt, Westminister, Helvetic).

St. Augustine's Enrichidion:
These are the great works of the Lord, sought out according to all His pleasure, and so wisely sought out, that when the intelligent creation, both angelic and human, sinned, doing not His will but their own, He used the very will of the creature which was working in opposition to the Creator’s will as an instrument for carrying out His will, the supremely Good thus turning to good account even what is evil, to the condemnation of those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace. For, as far as relates to their own consciousness, these creatures did what God wished not to be done: but in view of God’s omnipotence, they could in no wise effect their purpose. For in the very fact that they acted in opposition to His will, His will concerning them was fulfilled.
[Chapter 100. The Will of God is Never Defeated, Though Much is Done that is Contrary to His Will.]

According to St. Augustine (in the above quote and throughout his writings), God uses even evil to "good account," not only in bringing to Salvation those whom He has predestined to grace, but also in in bringing to "condemnation [] those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment."

God Bless,
W.A. Scott

William said...

Er, perhaps I should clarify:
"God uses even evil..." i.e. I meant this in the same way that St. Augustine states in the quote--not that God is in anyway the Author of evil--rather, even the wickedness of His creatures (above all, in crucifying Christ) is Sovereignly used by God for "good." (And under "good" he includes both the predestination to grace and the predestination to punishment).

I should also note that overwhelmingly St. Augustine (like St. Aquinas, the Calvinist Confessions, etc--and unlike Luther) expresses double predestination in "infralapsarian" terms.

God Bless,
William Scott

Dave Armstrong said...

Hi William,

Of course God uses evil for good. That is simply an aspect of His Providence. Predestining folks to hell apart from any choice of their own is another matter entirely. See my paper:

St. Augustine: Are Reformed Protestants or Catholics Closer Theologically to His Teaching? (section II)

William said...

Hey Dave,

Unfortunately I don't have time for a serious discussion.

I will note, though, that St. Augustine's position of predestining to hell was essentially the same (if not more extreme) as that expressed by all the official Calvinist confessions (which did not follow the more extreme "supralapsarian" expressions used by Luther, for instance).

For St. Augustine (like the official Calvinist confessions), predestination to punishment is only in view of our sin (i.e. "infra-lapsarian"). "Our sin" includes "original sin" even without "actual sin" for St. Augustine--Hence, his common illustration of predestination in the Baptism of one infant while another infant dies without Baptism and is condemned. St. Augustine states how this shows God's completely unconditional predestination to Salvation of the one and His just passing over the other (on account of original sin), in spite of the absence of actual sin in both.

Of course, I happen to disagree with St. Augustine on a necessary foreordained destination of the unbaptized infant and hold out strong hope for God's mercy on all those who die without Baptism.

God Bless,
William Scott

p.s. Corrections to typos in my first post:
"St. Augustine was reluctant to acknowledge double predestination--he is very explicit in his affirmation of it (with sentiments that at times surpass the mild "infralapsarian" position of all the official Calvinist Confessions--Dordt, Westminister, Helvetic)."

1. I love to add an extra "i" when spelling "Westminster." 2. I didn't mean to limit the official Calvinist confessions to Westminster, Dordt, Helvetic--the list should include all the others like the Heidelberg Confession, Belgic Confession, etc). 3. It would be more accurate for me to say that the Calvinist confessions only use either "infralapsarian" or ambiguous expressions on predestination while clearly avoiding severe "supralapsarian" expressions.

William said...

One last clarification:
"..and hold out strong hope for God's mercy on all those[that is, infants or unborn] who die without Baptism."