Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Extrabiblical, Pre-Reformation Support For Eternal Security (Part 4)

Jerome wrote, regarding Jovinian, a monk who was a contemporary:

"He endeavours to show that 'they who with full assurance of faith have been born again in baptism, cannot be overthrown by the devil.'…The second proposition of Jovinianus is that the baptized cannot be tempted by the devil. And to escape the imputation of folly in saying this, he adds: 'But if any are tempted, it only shows that they were baptized with water, not with the Spirit, as we read was the case with Simon Magus.'…Does any one think that we are safe, and that it is right to fall asleep when once we have been baptized?…And we flatter ourselves on the ground of our baptism, which though it put away the sins of the past, cannot keep us for the time to come, unless the baptized keep their hearts with all diligence." (Against Jovinianus, 1:3, 2:1, 2:3-4)

Whether Jerome was consistent in his beliefs on these matters and how to reconcile them with the later comments he made about mercyism, discussed in my last post, are distinct issues from what I'm focused on in this post. My focus here is on Jovinian's views, not Jerome's.

The Protestant historian Philip Schaff wrote:

"Jovinian's second point has an apparent affinity with the Augustinian and Calvinistic doctrine of the perseverantia sanctorum. It is not referred by him, however, to the eternal and unchangeable counsel of God, but simply based on 1 Jno. iii. 9, and v. 18, and is connected with his abstract conception of the opposite moral states. He limits the impossibility of relapse to the truly regenerate, who 'plena fide in baptismate renati sunt,' and makes a distinction between the mere baptism of water and the baptism of the Spirit, which involves also a distinction between the actual and the ideal church." (History Of The Christian Church, 3:4:46)

Gregory Lombardo, a Roman Catholic scholar, wrote:

"Jovinian exaggerated the justifying efficacy of baptism, so much so that he asserted that it was impossible for a baptised person to commit sin…What Jovinian was really teaching was salvation by faith alone, without works. All that is necessary is to receive baptism with a full faith. The rest - marriage, virginity, fasting, and any other good work - mattered little, since one was no better than the other in merit, and since it was really not necessary to perform them to be saved. Baptism and a full faith made it impossible for a person to fall away." (St. Augustine: On Faith And Works [New York, New York: The Newman Press, 1988], n. 10 on p. 65; n. 34 on p. 75)

In the eighth century, Bede wrote against "those who understand by this [justification apart from works] that it does not matter whether they live evil lives or do wicked and terrible things, as long as they believe in Christ, because salvation is through faith" (cited in Gerald Bray, ed., Ancient Christian Commentary On Scripture: New Testament XI: James, 1-2 Peter, 1-3 John, Jude [Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2000], 31). He made those comments in his commentary on James. I've read that commentary, and the version I've read renders Bede's comments in a way that suggests that Bede is placing the individuals in question in the first century (David Hurst, trans., Bede The Venerable: Commentary On The Seven Catholic Epistles [Kalamazoo, Michigan: Cistercian Publications, 1985], 30). Hurst's translation suggests that Bede was attributing the view in question to some people the apostles were correcting in the first century, whereas the translation used by Bray leaves the timeframe unspecified. Whichever translation is correct, Bede thought that such a view had been held by some people by the time he wrote.

As I have time for it in the future, I may discuss further examples of partial or full support for eternal security among extrabiblical, pre-Reformation sources. But the examples I've provided over these last few posts are enough to demonstrate some significant problems with the documentary I'm responding to.

Sunday, April 28, 2024