Monday, October 22, 2007

Eternal Security Before The Reformation

Roman Catholics sometimes claim that Evangelical beliefs are both highly objectionable and unprecedented in church history prior to the Reformation. But what if it can be shown that those beliefs not only were held before the Reformation, but were even held by Roman Catholic Saints or other people who are well-regarded in Catholic circles?

The concept that a person is certain of going to Heaven if he becomes a Christian (often called "eternal security"), whether in a form that concept takes in Calvinism or in some other form, is frequently criticized by Roman Catholics. In an article at the Catholic Answers web site, we read:

All they [people who believe in eternal security] have to do is "accept Christ as their personal Savior," and it’s done. They might well live exemplary lives thereafter, but living well is not crucial and definitely does not affect their salvation....

Scripture teaches that one’s final salvation depends on the state of the soul at death. As Jesus himself tells us, "He who endures to the end will be saved" (Matt. 24:13; cf. 25:31–46). One who dies in the state of friendship with God (the state of grace) will go to heaven. The one who dies in a state of enmity and rebellion against God (the state of mortal sin) will go to hell.

Elsewhere, in another Catholic Answers article:


It was not until the time of John Calvin that anyone would claim that it was impossible for a true Christian to lose his salvation. That teaching, which was not even shared by Martin Luther and his followers, was a theological novelty of the mid-sixteenth century, a teaching which would have been condemned as a dangerous heresy by all previous generations of Christians....

In time the "once saved, always saved" teaching even degenerated in many Evangelical circles to the point that some would claim that a Christian could commit grave sins and still remain saved: sin did not injure his relationship with God at all....

The early Church Fathers, of course, were unanimous in teaching the reality of mortal sin....

The idea that one could never lose salvation would have been unimaginable to them [the church fathers], since it was evident from the Bible that baptism saves, that the baptized can deny Christ, and that those who deny Christ will not be saved unless they repent, as did Peter.

It was equally unthinkable to predestinarian thinkers, such as Augustine, who, just two years before he died, taught in his book The Gift of Perseverance that not all who were predestined to come to God’s grace were predestined to remain with him until glory. This was, in fact, the teaching of all the high predestinarians (Augustine, Fulgentius, Aquinas, Luther)—until the time of Calvin.

Notice the use of terms like "novelty", "all", "unanimous", and "dangerous heresy". We're being told that eternal security is a highly objectionable doctrine that nobody advocated prior to the Reformation.

A lot could be said about the false or misleading claims, as well as some significant information that's not mentioned, in these Catholic Answers articles. I want to focus on the issue of whether the concept of eternal security, whether defined in a Calvinistic manner or otherwise, was held by anybody prior to the Reformation.

The second article linked above goes on to cite alleged patristic support for the Roman Catholic position on eternal security. Some of the citations are problematic. For example, Hermas of Rome (note the significance of his location) is quoted. But he believed in the concept of limited forgiveness (The Shepherd, 1:2:2). You could lose your salvation without any possibility of regaining it. Roman bishops living shortly after the time of Hermas would oppose the concept, illustrating the diversity of views that could exist even in one city within a relatively short period of time. The patristic sources who deny eternal security in some way widely differ with each other in how they do it.

Patristic scholars often refer to the large variety of views that existed among the church fathers, including on issues related to justification. An individual father will sometimes seem to be inconsistent on an issue, whether knowingly or not, and some fathers acknowledge that they've changed their mind on an issue. The same can be said of Christians who lived in the later centuries prior to the Reformation. We shouldn't conclude that a source couldn't have ever advocated a position on an issue just because he sometimes contradicted that position. People are often inconsistent, and their beliefs develop over time.

As Robert Eno noted:

"Origen of Alexandria (ca. 185-253) is not an easy author to interpret....The theological issues discussed depend very much on the words in front of him at any given moment. Bringing out one theological point here, he may stress another, even a seemingly contradictory point a few verses later." (in H. George Anderson, et al., ed., Justification By Faith [Minneapolis, Minnesota: Augsburg Publishing House, 1985], p. 112)

In the same book, we read of "a bewildering variety" of views related to justification that existed in the late medieval period (p. 21). William Rusch refers to how "a variety of images and strands of thought on salvation existed side by side [in the church fathers] in ways that at least at first reading seem not to be compatible" (p. 134). D.H. Williams refers to "the developing views of soteriology in early Christianity" (Evangelicals And Tradition [Grand Rapids. Michigan: Baker Academic, 2005], p. 141), and he discusses a variety of beliefs, sometimes inconsistent, that existed among the fathers (pp. 127-140).

Augustine wrote about the large variety of views of salvation that existed in his day, including some that involved some form of eternal security:

"I must now, I see, enter the lists of amicable controversy with those tender-hearted Christians who decline to believe that any, or that all of those whom the infallibly just Judge may pronounce worthy of the punishment of hell, shall suffer eternally, and who suppose that they shall be delivered after a fixed term of punishment, longer or shorter according to the amount of each man's sin. In respect of this matter, Origen was even more indulgent; for he believed that even the devil himself and his angels, after suffering those more severe and prolonged pains which their sins deserved, should be delivered from their torments, and associated with the holy angels. But the Church, not without reason, condemned him for this and other errors...There are others, again, with whose opinions I have become acquainted in conversation, who, though they seem to reverence the holy Scriptures, are yet of reprehensible life, and who accordingly, in their own interest, attribute to God a still greater compassion towards men. For they acknowledge that it is truly predicted in the divine word that the wicked and unbelieving are worthy of punishment, but they assert that, when the judgment comes, mercy will prevail. For, say they, God, having compassion on them, will give them up to the prayers and intercessions of His saints. For if the saints used to pray for them when they suffered from their cruel hatred, how much more will they do so when they see them prostrate and humble suppliants? For we cannot, they say, believe that the saints shall lose their bowels of compassion when they have attained the most perfect and complete holiness; so that they who, when still sinners, prayed for their enemies, should now, when they are freed from sin, withhold from interceding for their suppliants. Or shall God refuse to listen to so many of His beloved children, when their holiness has purged their prayers of all hindrance to His answering them?...So, too, there are others who promise this deliverance from eternal punishment, not, indeed, to all men, but only to those who have been washed in Christian baptism, and who become partakers of the body of Christ, no matter how they have lived, or what heresy or impiety they have fallen into. They ground this opinion on the saying of Jesus, 'This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that if any man eat thereof, he shall not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If a man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever.' Therefore, say they, it follows that these persons must be delivered from death eternal, and at one time or other be introduced to everlasting life. There are others still who make this promise not even to all who have received the sacraments of the baptism of Christ and of His body, but only to the Catholics, however badly they have lived. For these have eaten the body of Christ, not only sacramentally but really, being incorporated in His body, as the apostle says, 'We, being many, are one bread, one body;' so that, though they have afterwards lapsed into some heresy, or even into heathenism and idolatry, yet by virtue of this one thing, that they have received the baptism of Christ, and eaten the body of Christ, in the body of Christ, that is to say, in the catholic Church, they shall not die eternally, but at one time or other obtain eternal life; and all that wickedness of theirs shall not avail to make their punishment eternal, but only proportionately long and severe....I have also met with some who are of opinion that such only as neglect to cover their sins with alms-deeds shall be punished in everlasting fire...But, say they [others], the catholic Christians have Christ for a foundation, and they have not fallen away from union with Him, no matter how depraved a life they have built on this foundation, as wood, hay, stubble; and accordingly the well-directed faith by which Christ is their foundation will suffice to deliver them some time from the continuance of that fire, though it be with loss, since those things they have built on it shall be burned." (The City Of God, 21:17-20, 21:22, 21:26)

Some other examples:

"Saint Jerome, though an enemy of Origen, was, when it came to salvation, more of an Origenist than Ambrose. He believed that all sinners, all mortal beings, with the exception of Satan, atheists, and the ungodly, would be saved: 'Just as we believe that the torments of the Devil, of all the deniers of God, of the ungodly who have said in their hearts, 'there is no God,' will be eternal, so too do we believe that the judgment of Christian sinners, whose works will be tried and purged in fire will be moderate and mixed with clemency.' Furthermore, 'He who with all his spirit has placed his faith in Christ, even if he die in sin, shall by his faith live forever.'" (Jacques Le Goff, The Birth Of Purgatory [Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1986], p. 61)

"Jerome develops the same distinction, stating that, while the Devil and the impious who have denied God will be tortured without remission, those who have trusted in Christ, even if they have sinned and fallen away, will eventually be saved. Much the same teaching appears in Ambrose, developed in greater detail." (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 484)

"Like Hilary and Ambrose, Ambrosiaster distinguishes three categories: the saints and the righteous, who will go directly to heaven at the time of the resurrection; the ungodly, apostates, infidels, and atheists, who will go directly into the fiery torments of Hell; and the ordinary Christians, who, though sinners, will first pay their debt and for a time be purified by fire but then go to Paradise because they had the faith. Commenting on Paul, Ambrosiaster writes: 'He [Paul] said: 'yet so as by fire,' because this salvation exists not without pain; for he did not say, 'he shall be saved by fire,' but when he says, 'yet so as by fire,' he wants to show that this salvation is to come, but that he must suffer the pains of fire; so that, purged by fire, he may be saved and not, like the infidels [perfidi], tormented forever by eternal fire; if for a portion of his works he has some value, it is because he believed in Christ.'" (Jacques Le Goff, The Birth Of Purgatory [Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press, 1986], p. 61)

"we find Ambrosiaster teaching that, while the really wicked, 'will be tormented with everlasting punishment', the chastisement of Christian sinners will be of a temporary duration." (J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines [San Francisco, California: HarperCollins Publishers, 1978], p. 484)

In closing, I want to address some potential objections:

- It might be argued that sources like the ones I've cited aren't denying that salvation can be lost, but rather are denying that the loss is permanent. But I see no reason to conclude that all of these sources thought that even a temporary loss of salvation was in view. And even if they did have a temporary loss of salvation in mind, the fact would remain that they believed that one's becoming a Christian made it certain that he would eventually go to Heaven. If the alleged loss of salvation that could occur between becoming a Christian and reaching Heaven was sure to be only temporary, then how is such a scenario significantly distinguishable from a scenario involving God's discipline of His children rather than a loss of salvation? In other words, what a Calvinist or some other proponent of eternal security would classify as discipline is being classified, instead, as a temporary loss of salvation accompanied by a certainty of future restoration. But what significance is there in that distinction?

- Some people might object that somebody like Jerome allows for negative consequences to a believer's sin in the next life, not just this life. Thus, since he allows for something along the lines of Purgatory, his view, although wrong, is significantly less objectionable. But, in the context of disputes over eternal security, how significant is it to place some of the negative consequences of sin in the afterlife rather than this life? Critics of eternal security often claim that the certainty of going to Heaven is what's most objectionable, even if the proponent of eternal security allows for negative consequences to sin in this life. If acknowledging such negative consequences in this life doesn't remove the most objectionable element of eternal security, then why would acknowledging negative consequences in the afterlife do so? And what about the negative consequences that Evangelicals often include in the afterlife? For example, Erwin Lutzer, in his book Your Eternal Reward (Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1998), argues for tears at the judgment seat of Christ and loss of rewards as a result of sin. In order to maintain an objection to a view like Lutzer's that wouldn't apply to a view like Jerome's as well, the critic of eternal security would have to develop a more nuanced objection than what we commonly hear.

It should also be noted that the Bible and the earliest church fathers often define the afterlife in a way that doesn't allow for anything comparable to Purgatory. Evangelicals have good reason for disagreeing with any Purgatory-like elements in the views expressed by men like Ambrosiaster and Jerome. Evangelical proponents of eternal security are correct in agreeing with such men about the certainty of a Christian's future in Heaven while disagreeing with them about the means by which God disciplines His children.

Whatever problems there are with some forms of eternal security (a diminished view of the connection between justification and sanctification, for example), the concept that anybody who becomes a Christian is certain of going to Heaven predates the Reformation. As with other doctrines, different people believe in eternal security for different reasons. But much of the same Biblical evidence and reasoning that leads modern Evangelicals to a belief in eternal security led other people to the same conclusions long before the Reformation.

21 comments:

  1. Because the Calvinist system of election didn't exist until Augustine, neither did the Calvinist system of eternal security. The Catholics are being ridiculous in claiming that it didn't exist prior to Calvin, since their half-converted-Manichean is the one who brought in all of Calvin's system from Manicheanism.

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  2. It's sad to see yet another opponent of Calvinism exhibit such a high level of incompetence. Actually, strike that, it's not sad at all. For it demonstrates the inability of rival systems to touch Calvinism.

    Egomakarios accomplishes the exact opposite of what he sets out to do. Instead of mounting convincing critiques against Calvinism, his attempts actually strengthen Calvinistic convictions further.

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  3. Because the Calvinist system of election didn't exist until Augustine, neither did the Calvinist system of eternal security. The Catholics are being ridiculous in claiming that it didn't exist prior to Calvin, since their half-converted-Manichean is the one who brought in all of Calvin's system from Manicheanism.

    Funny how Ego agrees with Perry Robinson an awful lot, but this assertion requires direct quotes, for example, tracing from Manichean sources to Augustine to Calvinism. That requires direct quotes. This theory is about as sound as the theory of evolution.

    That said, Ego, tell us, where you think libertarian freedom has it's origin. The Bible? If so, make the argument. I'd like to see it since Arminians don't generally make that argument from the Bible. Since many pagans of old did, shall we conclude that your libertarianism is of pagan origin?

    As to your statements, I beg to differ:

    How about Iranaeus:

    God hath completed the number which He before determined with Himself, all those who are written, or ordained unto eternal life...Being predestined indeed according to the love of the Father that we would belong to Him forever.

    The pagan Coecilius spoke of the Christian doctrine of election:

    Whatsoever we (pagans) ascribe to fate, so you to God; and so men desire from your sect not of their own free will, but as elect of God, wherefore you suppose an unjust judge, who punishes men not lot or fortune, and not on the basis of their free will.

    There are more, Ego. The Fathers are a mixed bag, but we most certainly can and do find the Calvinist doctrine of election in them.

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  4. You've always got to add the word "libertarian." It's impossible to have a rational discussion on the subject with a Calvinist, because Calvinists define every term different from its normal usage.

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  5. Just to clarify, what I mean is that I don't read philosophy or care one way or another what this or that philosophical term means. I read the Scriptures with what God gave me, and do not impose the volumes of men on it. In my opinion anyone who would ever even use the term "libertarian free will" in a discussion, is tainted with human philosophy to the point of being unable to comprehend the Scriptures. The veil is on their hearts, but not Moses' veil this time, but that of human philosophy. The same goes for all the big words thrown around by our minded seminarians.

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  6. This has to be a joke.

    You cannot be this clueless. Please tell me this is a parody of fundamentalism or something.

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  7. You've always got to add the word "libertarian." It's impossible to have a rational discussion on the subject with a Calvinist, because Calvinists define every term different from its normal usage.



    And what, pray tell, is the "normal usage" of the term "free will?'" "Free will" is the oldest heresy in the book. It was the very one that Old Nick proposed in the Garden. Notice how, when pressed, you offer no argument for your position, you simply coil up and make assertions, just like a snake.

    You're the one that regularly posits that ability limits responsibility. "Libertarian" freedom is simply the outworking of that principle, so I'm merely using a term that describes your position with accuracy.

    Like all your kind, you can't tell the difference between "choice" and "freedom." One can define the former without recourse to an apriorisitic notion of the latter. This, of course, goes hand in hand with your inability to discern cause and effect. Like I said, you don't need to be running about being critical of Romanism and Orthodoxy when your argumentation agrees with them more often than not.

    You are right about one thing - your ideas about free will find their terminus in "human philosophy" not the Bible. All I need from the Scriptures to prove my views on human freedom is one text ascribing our actions to motives (we can find that in James) and another to prove we are not free from God's actions (we can find that in Proverbs and many other places).

    So,if you want to play "top the heresy" in historical theology, then calling attention to such things will ultimately and always draw attention to your own, as long as you continue reasoning along these lines.

    If you think we don't understand the Scriptures, you need to demonstrate that fact. So, how about demonstrating, from the Scriptures what "free will" is and how we are wrong about it. You can see what we believe in a confession like the Westminster Confession or the 2nd London Baptist Confession under the head, "Free Will."

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  8. The problem with the 2nd London Baptist Confession on "free will" is in part 3 where it says "Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation" -- Why would unsaved men will to do or do things "accompanying" salvation that they don't have? This is a strawman, since you can't "accompany" what you ain't got. If they meant to say that man cannot will to do anything that will result in salvation, then they are mistaken as to why man is unable to be saved apart from grace. It is not a deficiency of the will, but of merit. Whatever good man may do, that good cannot erase past sins, so even if a man wills to do all the good in the world, he cannot save himself because of a deficiency of merit that has nothing to do with the will. A man may very well will to never lie again, and perhaps accomplish it even, but that will not erase the lies he has already told. The will, then, is irrelevant to the reason why man cannot save himself. The confession goes on to say that man "is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto" which again doesn't mean anything, seeing that conversion is not yet the problem since we are talking about something that happened immediately with the fall and not after the sacrifice of Christ. The problem immediately after the fall was not that men were unable to convert themselves to Christ (a thing impossible before his sacrifice anyway, showing it had nothing to do with lack of will but lack of historical occurance) is that man cannot save himself by works. Only therefore, after the sacrifice of Christ takes place is the will to convert relevant. The confession is anachronistic and confused. It begins with the false premise that if man, immediately expelled from the garden, still had "free will" then he could convert himself to Christ and be saved without ever receiving a revelation from God! That argument is not based on a deficiency of will but of a lack of revelation.

    "'Free will' is the oldest heresy in the book. It was the very one that Old Nick proposed in the Garden."

    So, you beleive God predestined Eve to eat the fruit, Yet at the same time "Old Nick" (Satan = Santa Claus) proposed Free Will to her in persuading her to eat the fruit. That sounds rather contradictory.

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  9. Egomakarios said:

    "The Catholics are being ridiculous in claiming that it didn't exist prior to Calvin, since their half-converted-Manichean is the one who brought in all of Calvin's system from Manicheanism."

    Augustine agreed with Roman Catholicism on some issues, but also contradicted some of what Catholicism teaches. He didn't believe in a papacy. Would you explain why somebody who didn't believe in the doctrine of the papacy should be considered a Roman Catholic?

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  10. Ego,

    It would help you to master the art of the paragraph.

    That said:

    The problem with the 2nd London Baptist Confession on "free will" is in part 3 where it says "Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation" -- Why would unsaved men will to do or do things "accompanying" salvation that they don't have

    That's a good question, and only a quandry if you believe in libertarian free will after the fall.

    This is a strawman, since you can't "accompany" what you ain't got

    You should also master the meaning of particular terms.

    Here is a standard definition of the term: The disputant imputes to his opponent a view which his opponent doesn’t hold, or else the worst possible version of a view he does hold, and then proceeds to rebut it.

    Since the opposing position is that man does have the ability of will do this, and this is by your own admission, there is no 'straw man' here.

    If they meant to say that man cannot will to do anything that will result in salvation, then they are mistaken as to why man is unable to be saved apart from grace. It is not a deficiency of the will, but of merit.

    Really? What does John 6:44 say about the ability of men? Is it referring to merit? Where is the supporting argument?

    seeing that conversion is not yet the problem since we are talking about something that happened immediately with the fall and not after the sacrifice of Christ.

    No, the confession is talking about the postlapsarian state of mankind as a whole from the fall to the present day.

    The problem immediately after the fall was not that men were unable to convert themselves to Christ (a thing impossible before his sacrifice anyway, showing it had nothing to do with lack of will but lack of historical occurance) is that man cannot save himself by works.

    If you affirm your version of "free will" then you have a problem, for men's ability to convert arises from a state of nature. Men "convert" for different reasons. So, why does one man believe and not another?

    Only therefore, after the sacrifice of Christ takes place is the will to convert relevant.

    An assertion, not an argument, and an ad hoc restriction.

    This is muddled at best. How were men saved prior to Christ?

    It begins with the false premise that if man, immediately expelled from the garden, still had "free will" then he could convert himself to Christ and be saved without ever receiving a revelation from God!

    Now this IS a straw man. The confession never says this. Rather, it says that in his postlapsarian state man lost all ability to do any spiritual good accompanying his salvation.

    That and having the ability to be saved apart from any divine revelation are not at all convertible principles.

    So, you beleive God predestined Eve to eat the fruit, Yet at the same time "Old Nick" (Satan = Santa Claus) proposed Free Will to her in persuading her to eat the fruit. That sounds rather contradictory.

    Only if you beg the question for your view of free will.

    And note that, throughout your presentation, you make no positive argument from Scripture for your theory of agent causation. I'll take that as a tacit admission you cannot prove it from Scripture.

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  11. When, by God's help, I have replied to all these errors, I shall conclude this (twenty-first) book.
    Augustine, City of God 21:22.

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  12. While it is true most if not just about all of the church fathers agreed that one could lose one's salvation it is ridiculous to state that no one believed in eternal security before Calvin.

    It is a weird statement since many believe that Origen believed that all would be saved. What better eternal security is that? But I do not know if he really did teach this. I have not read enough of Origen to give my own opinion.

    But most church fathers believed that one could lose one's salvation and believed in some sort of doctrine of hte free will of man. But to say all even of the church fathers is a gross overstatement. I think it was done without really researching the Fathers themselves. Instead they read Catholic propaganda.

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  13. it is ridiculous to state that no one believed in eternal security before Calvin

    And that's not what the CA article claimed. The article claimed that no one before Calvin believed "that it was impossible for a true Christian to lose his salvation." IOW, if they lost their faith/salvation they were never really a true Christian.

    Which, maybe the CA article is wrong in claiming this, but Jason hasn't demonstrated it here.

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  14. An anonymous poster wrote:

    "When, by God's help, I have replied to all these errors, I shall conclude this (twenty-first) book.
    Augustine, City of God 21:22."

    Since I didn't claim that Augustine agreed with the people he was describing, since I quoted him expressing his disagreement with them, and since it would be impossible for him to agree with all of the inconsistent views he described, what's the relevance of your response?

    The same anonymous poster or another one wrote:

    "And that's not what the CA article claimed. The article claimed that no one before Calvin believed 'that it was impossible for a true Christian to lose his salvation.' IOW, if they lost their faith/salvation they were never really a true Christian."

    First of all, I was responding to two Catholic Answers articles, not one. And I cited those two articles as examples, not to limit what I was going to be addressing. To the contrary, near the end of the article I referred to "potential objections", "what we commonly hear", etc.

    And you give us no reason to agree with your assessment of the Catholic Answers article you quoted. You just assert your assessment without justification. You'll need to do more than that. The issue of whether "a true Christian can lose his salvation" doesn't inherently involve a consideration of whether somebody who lost his faith, for example, "was never really a true Christian". A person can believe that somebody who loses his faith was a true Christian and remains saved. The Catholic Answers article is about mortal sin, and it doesn't limit its criticism to Calvinism. The comment about John Calvin describes a principle that isn't limited in the manner you've suggested. The article focuses on losing salvation, not losing faith.

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  15. "And that's not what the CA article claimed. The article claimed that no one before Calvin believed "that it was impossible for a true Christian to lose his salvation." IOW, if they lost their faith/salvation they were never really a true Christian."

    What I meant by eternal security was some sense of doctrine of the perserverence of saints. I think some before the reformation believed in something like it. I think it is absurd to think NO ONE did.

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  16. Dear Jason,

    I don’t think those quotes support eternal security. There is a difference a view which states “a believer who sins remains saved” and one that states “someone who has stopped believing remains saved“. These quotes support the former view, albeit in controversy, but not the latter view. Augustine they were building on Christ, not that they had departed from Christ. Jerome is talking about breaking the law, not unbelief of the Gospel.

    Dan

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  17. Godismyjudge said:

    “There is a difference a view which states ‘a believer who sins remains saved’ and one that states ‘someone who has stopped believing remains saved’. These quotes support the former view, albeit in controversy, but not the latter view. Augustine they were building on Christ, not that they had departed from Christ. Jerome is talking about breaking the law, not unbelief of the Gospel.”

    You’re not giving us any evidence to support your assessment. You’re just making assertions.

    The sources I cited repeatedly refer to people who apostatize or become involved in something like idolatry or heathenism. The implication is that such people no longer have Christian faith. Augustine begins his comments by referring to the universalism of Origen. Universalism isn’t limited to people who have faith. Augustine goes on to refer, as I’ve documented above, to people who hold that those who are baptized are sure of Heaven “no matter how they have lived, or what heresy or impiety they have fallen into”. Why should we think that those people held the view you describe above? Augustine goes on to refer to others who believe that “though they have afterwards lapsed into some heresy, or even into heathenism and idolatry, yet by virtue of this one thing, that they have received the baptism of Christ, and eaten the body of Christ, in the body of Christ, that is to say, in the catholic Church, they shall not die eternally, but at one time or other obtain eternal life; and all that wickedness of theirs shall not avail to make their punishment eternal, but only proportionately long and severe”. Or what about my first citation of J.N.D. Kelly above, which describes Jerome’s view as including those who have “fallen away”? If you want us to conclude that such falling away can’t include a loss of faith, then you’ll have to explain why. Just asserting that Jerome held the position you describe isn’t enough.

    Is it your position that any lack of saving faith causes the loss of justification? For example, is it your position that John the Baptist was unsaved when he questioned Jesus’ Messiahship in Matthew 11? Is it your position that people can’t even have a temporary loss of faith and remain saved?

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  18. Dear Jason Engwer,


    JE: Augustine begins his comments by referring to the universalism of Origen… Augustine goes on to refer, as I’ve documented above, to people who hold that those who are baptized are sure of Heaven “no matter how they have lived, or what heresy or impiety they have fallen into”…Augustine goes on to refer to others who believe that “though they have afterwards lapsed into some heresy, or even into heathenism and idolatry, yet by virtue of this one thing, that they have received the baptism of Christ, and eaten the body of Christ, in the body of Christ, that is to say, in the catholic Church, they shall not die eternally, but at one time or other obtain eternal life…

    I trust you can see the difference between universalism and eternal security. Same with salvation through the sacraments. ES and such views are on different planets, but your title is ES before the reformation.


    But this quote from Augustine might be confused with ES, and it’s the one I was talking about.

    ...But, say they [others], the catholic Christians have Christ for a foundation, and they have not fallen away from union with Him, no matter how depraved a life they have built on this foundation, as wood, hay, stubble; and accordingly the well-directed faith by which Christ is their foundation will suffice to deliver them some time from the continuance of that fire, though it be with loss, since those things they have built on it shall be burned."

    Note the “well-directed faith by which Christ is their foundation“... Do you now see where I am coming from here?

    I only saw two quotes from Jerome:

    This one: 'Just as we believe that the torments of the Devil, of all the deniers of God, of the ungodly who have said in their hearts, 'there is no God,' will be eternal, so too do we believe that the judgment of Christian sinners, whose works will be tried and purged in fire will be moderate and mixed with clemency.'

    But note he is talking about works not faith and also Christian sinners.

    And this one: 'He who with all his spirit has placed his faith in Christ, even if he die in sin, shall by his faith live forever.'

    Note that he shall live by his faith, ie a sinner who is a believer.

    I have yet to find any major theologian, pre-Calvin who taught once saved always saved.

    JE: Is it your position that any lack of saving faith causes the loss of justification? For example, is it your position that John the Baptist was unsaved when he questioned Jesus’ Messiahship in Matthew 11? Is it your position that people can’t even have a temporary loss of faith and remain saved?

    The answer to your first question is no. There are degrees of faith. The answer to your second question is no as well. I don’t think John did what he did in unbelief.

    The answer to your third question is yes. He that believeth not shall not see life. (John 3:36)

    God be with you,
    Dan

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  19. Godismyjudge said:

    “I trust you can see the difference between universalism and eternal security.”

    Whether there’s a difference depends on how eternal security is being defined. And when there is a difference, the significance of that difference depends on the issue under discussion. I addressed these points in my initial post. See my comments near the end about potential objections, for example.

    You write:

    “Same with salvation through the sacraments. ES and such views are on different planets, but your title is ES before the reformation.”

    Apparently, you’re assuming that eternal security requires that justification was attained apart from sacraments. You’ll have to argue for that position rather than just asserting it. A consideration of the issue of whether justification can be lost doesn’t logically require a consideration of how justification is attained. If a person believes that justification is attained through baptism, but he also believes that justification can’t be lost thereafter, then I agree with him about the inability to lose justification, even though I disagree with him about how justification is attained.

    Furthermore, your earlier post claimed that nothing Augustine referred to supports the concept that a person can lose faith, yet remain saved. But, as I’ve documented, Augustine refers to people who held that people can lose their faith, yet still be sure of going to Heaven. For you to now respond by saying that those people believed that salvation is attained through a sacrament is to change the subject. The fact that they believed in attaining salvation through a sacrament doesn’t change the fact that they believed that a person could lose his faith, yet still be sure of Heaven.

    You write:

    “Note the ‘well-directed faith by which Christ is their foundation’... Do you now see where I am coming from here?”

    I think I understand where you’re coming from. But the more significant issue is whether you’re coming from the right place. And you aren’t. Apparently, you’re assuming that Augustine is referring to people who maintain their faith. But where does he say that?

    You write:

    “I only saw two quotes from Jerome”

    I also cited what scholars who have studied Jerome have written about his views. You haven’t interacted with the relevant portions of what those scholars said.

    You write:

    “But note he is talking about works not faith and also Christian sinners.”

    The fact that Jerome mentions works doesn’t prove that he isn’t including the loss of faith. The three categories of people he refers to who go to Hell don’t seem to include people who were Christians, then lost their faith. Is it your position that Jerome didn’t believe that any such people exist? It seems more likely that he included them among “Christian sinners”.

    You write:

    “Note that he shall live by his faith, ie a sinner who is a believer.”

    You’re assuming, without argument, that the faith must continue. Where does Jerome say that?

    You write:

    “I have yet to find any major theologian, pre-Calvin who taught once saved always saved.”

    Why should we think much of what you “have yet to find”? And what’s the significance of your “major theologian” qualifier? A position doesn’t have to have been held by a theologian you consider major in order for that position to have been held prior to the Reformation.

    You write:

    “The answer to your first question is no. There are degrees of faith. The answer to your second question is no as well. I don’t think John did what he did in unbelief.”

    Are you saying that belief in Jesus’ Messiahship isn’t part of saving faith? John the Baptist could doubt whether Jesus was the Messiah, yet be exercising saving faith at the same time?

    You write:

    “The answer to your third question is yes. He that believeth not shall not see life. (John 3:36)”

    Again, you’re assuming your position without an argument for it. How do you know that John 3:36 is addressing whether a person continues to have faith without ceasing rather than whether he’s had faith at all?

    And why are you using the King James rendering of John 3:36? Why not the Updated New American Standard, for example, which has “he who does not obey the Son”? Should we take the term “obey” to mean that any sin causes the loss of justification? Other modern translations render the passage similarly. If the remainder of the verse is referring to God’s wrath “abiding” or “remaining” in the sense of continuing to be there as before, then the person in question isn’t going from belief to unbelief. Rather, he’s somebody who remains an unbeliever. The larger context of the passage is acceptance of Jesus, not whether a person remains saved if he goes through a loss of faith after initially believing (like John the Baptist apparently did).

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  20. Dear Jason,

    Me: I trust you can see the difference between universalism and eternal security. Same with salvation through the sacraments. ES and such views are on different planets, but your title is ES before the reformation.

    Thee: Whether there’s a difference depends on how eternal security is being defined…. Apparently, you’re assuming that eternal security requires that justification was attained apart from sacraments. You’ll have to argue for that position rather than just asserting it.

    You are correct that ES share in common with the view point that salvation is through the sacraments alone that those who are saved never loose their salvation. But there agreement is limited to that aspect. I just don’t think evangelicals would identify such a view as ES. ES is a term originating from and used by evangelical Christians. It’s perhaps most commonly taught in Baptist churches who would hold to justification by faith alone and deny salvation is through the sacraments. It’s foundation is the idea that justification through faith alone cannot be reconciled with the loss of salvation. As such, they would want to differentiate their views with those who teach salvation through the sacraments. They would not define ES so broadly.

    Thee: Apparently, you’re assuming that Augustine is referring to people who maintain their faith. But where does he say that?

    Augustine said: But, say they [others], the catholic Christians have Christ for a foundation, and they have not fallen away from union with Him, no matter how depraved a life they have built on this foundation, as wood, hay, stubble; and accordingly the well-directed faith by which Christ is their foundation will suffice to deliver them some time from the continuance of that fire, though it be with loss, since those things they have built on it shall be burned."

    First, the burden of proof is on you to prove these guys taught eternal security. You should provide proof that Augustine said they lost there faith. I can’t prove a negative, I can simply point out that there are alternative ways to view the support you provided for your assertion.

    Second, look at the verb tenses Augustine uses. They “have” Christ for a foundation. Augustine didn’t say “had”. the well directed faith by which Christ “is” their foundation “will” suffice to deliver them. Augustine didn’t say “was” their foundation. Further he says their faith “will” suffice, not “did” suffice. Viewing faith as past tense and one time really cuts across the grain of what Augustine is saying.

    Third, there is simply no broader historical context with which to read Augustine in such a manor. It’s not like these people were taught by Zane Hodges and attended Charles Stanley’s church. There is no one around them clearly teaching that a one time act of faith, which is not perpetuated through life suffices for salvation. As such, trying to read this view into what Augustine is saying doesn’t make sense.

    As for the Jerome quote, do you know where it’s from? I searched for it to see if the context gives some insight, but couldn’t find it.

    God Bless,
    Dan

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  21. Godismyjudge said:

    “You are correct that ES share in common with the view point that salvation is through the sacraments alone that those who are saved never loose their salvation. But there agreement is limited to that aspect.”

    That aspect is the subject of the thread.

    You write:

    “I just don’t think evangelicals would identify such a view as ES.”

    You don’t give us any reason to agree with that opinion. And the issue isn’t just what Evangelicals think. I was responding to claims made by Roman Catholics, such as the assertions made in some Catholic Answers articles I cited. If those Catholics don’t limit their claims in the manner you’re suggesting (only people who rejected justification through sacraments are to be included), then why should I respond to them in a way that takes your suggested limitations into account?

    You write:

    “ES is a term originating from and used by evangelical Christians.”

    I’m more concerned with a concept than the origins of a term commonly used in modern English. In my first post in this thread, I acknowledged that different groups hold different beliefs, but that a term such as “eternal security” can be used to reflect some general principles they hold in common. I didn’t commit to the sort of narrow definition you’re arguing for. And you have yet to give us any good reason to include the issue of whether justification is attained through sacraments in a consideration of whether people believed that those justified are sure of going to Heaven. The fact that the people who most often use the term “eternal security” don’t believe in attaining justification through sacraments doesn’t mean that I have to include that issue in a consideration of eternal security.

    You write:

    “It’s foundation is the idea that justification through faith alone cannot be reconciled with the loss of salvation. As such, they would want to differentiate their views with those who teach salvation through the sacraments.”

    As I said before, we can have reasons for wanting to differentiate what one group believes from what another group believes without that differentiation involving a denial of similarities on other issues.

    You write:

    “They would not define ES so broadly.”

    So you claim, without supporting evidence. But, even if we assumed that you’re correct on that point, I’m not obligated to follow their definition, and I was responding to some claims I’ve heard from Catholics. Their claims aren’t defined by what you perceive to be common Evangelical beliefs about eternal security.

    You write:

    “First, the burden of proof is on you to prove these guys taught eternal security.”

    You’ve made assertions about the people we’re discussing, so you have a burden to carry as well.

    You write:

    “I can simply point out that there are alternative ways to view the support you provided for your assertion.”

    Then I can point out that there are ways to view the evidence that are different from what Catholic Answers and others have proposed.

    You write:

    “Second, look at the verb tenses Augustine uses. They ‘have’ Christ for a foundation. Augustine didn’t say ‘had’. the well directed faith by which Christ ‘is’ their foundation ‘will’ suffice to deliver them.”

    Using your reasoning, we should conclude that Augustine was referring to people who held that future faith isn’t necessary. Their present faith (“have”, “is”) is enough to make their future salvation (“will”) sure.

    But your appeal to the tenses isn’t as significant as you’re suggesting. If somebody believes that a person remains saved, even if he loses his faith, then he would believe that Christ remains that person’s foundation. You’re assuming that having Christ as a foundation is equivalent to having ongoing faith. That’s not a conclusion Augustine states, and it’s not implied.

    What Augustine does say is that these people hold that the person in question remains saved “no matter how depraved a life they have built on this foundation”. Why are we supposed to assume that the depravity in question can’t include any loss of faith? The foundation was laid in the past. The building that occurs on that foundation would occur after the foundation is laid. Augustine goes on to distinguish between faith and works, citing James 2, but, again, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the faith involved was ongoing. It may have been, but I don’t think that’s the more natural way of reading “no matter how depraved a life they have built on this foundation”.

    Again, though, even if we assume your reading, some of the other people Augustine refers to seem to have included a loss of faith as a possibility, and the Catholic claims I’m interacting with aren’t limited to whether a loss of faith causes the loss of salvation. One of the Catholic Answers articles I cited is about mortal sin, not just loss of faith. Even if we assume your interpretation of this one group of people Augustine describes, that group would still have some relevance to the claims I’m interacting with.

    You write:

    “Third, there is simply no broader historical context with which to read Augustine in such a manor. It’s not like these people were taught by Zane Hodges and attended Charles Stanley’s church. There is no one around them clearly teaching that a one time act of faith, which is not perpetuated through life suffices for salvation.”

    As I’ve documented, there were people at the time who even went as far as to argue for universalism or for remaining saved even if a person falls into idolatry after being baptized. In that sort of environment, we wouldn’t need the presence of somebody like Zane Hodges or Charles Stanely to conclude that it’s plausible that somebody would hold the view you’re arguing against. If people believed that everybody will go to Heaven, even Satan, or that getting baptized would make it certain that a person will go to Heaven, then why are we to think that the view that having come to faith makes a person sure of Heaven would be too unprecedented?

    You write:

    “As for the Jerome quote, do you know where it’s from? I searched for it to see if the context gives some insight, but couldn’t find it.”

    I don’t have the books I cited with me at the moment (I’m away from home), but, if I remember correctly, one of the passages cited is Jerome’s Letter 119. I’ve looked for an English translation of that letter, but have yet to find one. I think another passage cited is from his commentary on Isaiah, which I also haven’t seen. And I don’t know just how his views compare in those two documents (whether he changed his views over time, etc.). That’s why I’ve put so much emphasis on what the scholars I cited have said about what Jerome believed. Those scholars might be wrong. But I don’t have any reason to believe that they’re wrong at the moment, and I think I’m reading those scholars correctly.

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