This book was a wonderful eye-opener for me.
I had no idea that the debates of these doctrines date back to the post apostolic age and have been thoroughly critiqued by so many.
Almost all of Protestantism has solemnly rejected what has for years been classified as "Hyper-Calvinism".
This is well known.
What is scantly known however to most Christians today is that which was classified throughout centuries of Christian scholasticism as "Hyper-Augustinianism", and rejected as unbalanced, extreme and tainted doctrine, is what is we today recognize as "Fundamental-Calvinism".
Interestingly, within Augustine's later teachings on predestination, he believed that God predestined the exact number of the elect according to the exact number of the fallen angels. Biblical or extra-biblical.....you decide.
The author provides a book full of quotations from church scholastics before and after Augustine showing a continual rejection of the extreme teachings of the Jansenists, pelegianism and manicheism as well as doctrines we recognize today as double-predestination and irresistible grace. And yet, Plato's espousal of the doctrine of full DDI (divine immutability), Neo-Platonism, pelegianism, manicheism and Hyper-Augustinianism have had their effect on our view of God and our interpretation of scripture.
Some quotes from the ancients pulled out of the book:
- The principle of free moral agency is preserved in and through the doctrine of sufficient grace (Nemesius "on the nature of man")
- Sin is never unilaterally imputed, but chosen, re-chosen, and transmitted historically and intergenerationally by repeated social choice. (Ephraim Syrus "Nisibene Hymns")
- To no one, not even the recalcitrant unfaithful, does God deny grace sufficient for salvation (Clement of Rome "First Epistle Corinthians")
- God antecedently wills that salvation of all, and no one is rejected by God except through the exercise of his or her own freedom (Cassian "Conferences")
- All of the descendants of Adam and Eve have Jesus Christ as their mediator (Prosper of Aquitaine "Grace and free will")
- God compels not, for compulsion is repugnant to God, but He supplies to those who seek, and bestows on those who ask, and opens to those who knock (Clement of Alexandria)
- God enlightens all so far as in Him lies. But some, willfully closing the eyes of their mind, would not receive the rays of that light, their darkness arises not from the nature of the light, but from their own wickedness, who willfully deprive themselves of the gift. All depends indeed on God, but not so that our free will is hindered (Chrysostom)
- The sin within man has not abolished his free will but it surely has depraved it, and no inward transformation can be effected without the assent of mans free will. (Victorin Strigel "The Weimar Disputation of 1560")
- The reception of God's electing love hinges upon man's yes or no decision, foreknown by God from eternity, but without coercively predetermining their human freedom (Cyprian "treatise")
- God has neither predestined anyone to evil, nor saved anyone unwillingly (Council of Quiersy)
- The intent of God to save all does not imply that God absolutely wills to save all whether they want to he saved or not, but that God wills that all may be saved by means appropriate to the nature of human freedom and moral integrity (Irenaeus "Against Heresies")
Calvinism is much much more though than a theology or a lens through which exegesis is extruded.
Calvinism is a tree. And every tree, coming from its own seed, bears fruit after its own kind.
Instead of examining every jot and title within this theological labyrinth, I beg the reader to first critically examine the fruit.
Take a good look at the characteristics that this plant produces in the lives of its advocates.
The scripture tells us that man can honor God with his lips, when in fact, his heart is far from it.
Rather than being courted by high and lofty ingenious arguments, stand back and quietly examine the fruit.
Do you see grace and mercy or do you see self-focus, self-assurance and self-boasting.
And just remember, if you eat of the tree, you will reproduce its fruit.