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Posts Tagged ‘church history’

I ran across a gorgeous little ditty from John Calvin today. It fits into the discussion about God’s will and the salvation of people. Calvin’s little tract is called “Articles concerning Predestination”; it’s found in a volume translated and edited by J.K.S. Reid entitled Calvin: Theological Treatises. In that the article is short, I will reproduce the whole thing below and then add some comments afterward.

Articles concerning Predestination

Before the first man was created, God in his eternal counsel had determined what he willed to be done with the whole human race.

In the hidden counsel of God it was determined that Adam should fall from the unimpaired condition of his nature, and by his defection should involve all his posterity in sentence of eternal death.

Upon the same decree depends the distinction between elect and reprobate: as he adopted some for himself for salvation, he destined others for eternal ruin. (more…)

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Too often (mostly all the time) we gauge God’s power by our own impotence. If God can conquer one sinner, he can conquer every one of them. If God can take one soldier from the kingdom of darkness and transfer him into the Kingdom of his own dear Son, he can take ALL that’s Satan’s and give it to his Son. If you’re reading this post, chances are very high that God has done exactly this for you. If he’s done this for you, why not your recalcitrant neighbor who hates Christ? Why not your whole neighborhood? How about your whole town or county? Too much to think? Really?!

Let’s do an experiment. Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of our Christian brothers in Rome in the year AD 64. This was the year that Nero began persecuting the Christians, lighting them up in his gardens, feeding them to beasts in the Coliseum, and generally terrorizing the Christians for almost five years. Nero was the head of the Roman Empire, the greatest force in the world. This Empire was opposed to Christ and purposed (on and off) to stamp out Christianity. Okay, now we’re back in Rome, hidden underground, praying for our brothers that have been arrested, and praying that the Roman authorities do not find us. How absolutely unthinkable is it that the Roman Empire should be a Christian Empire? What kind of pipe dream is it that Caesar should become a Christian, and that Christianity should become the official religion of the Empire? That could NEVER happen… (more…)

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Cur Deus HomoCur Deus Homo by St. Anselm of Canterbury
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Anselm’s famous book was on one hand exactly what I thought it’d be, and on the other hand refreshingly different from what I expected.

Cur Deus Homo is often referenced in discussions of why the incarnation of the Son of God factored into the atonement which he purchased. It is quite common (praise the Lord) for people to speak of the Savior needing to be man because only a human could pay for human sin and also needing to be God, as only God could do the job of reconciling sinful men to an infinitely holy God. I totally expected to find this explained in Anselm’s book, and I was not disappointed.

I was also refreshed by a few things that I did not expect. The first thing that I didn’t expect was Anselm’s lucid style. This book is set as a dialog ‘twixt Anselm and Boso, a curious and educated inquirer. I think the style of the dialog is excellent and should be used more often. What’s more, I’ve heard Anselm referred to as the Augustine of the Middle Ages. With his clear writing style and the way in which he handles ideas, I can understand why Anselm enjoys that high distinction. Augustine, too, was a fabulous and lucid writer. I find that usually the great ones are far easier to understand than their handlers. Finally, the way in which Anselm conceives of the redemption purchased by the God-man is at once very similar, but also quite foreign to the contemporary discussion of the matter. I don’t want to go into detail here in this short review, but suffice it to say that there is great benefit in reading ancient writers. If nothing else, they can help us to see how our thinking is both modern and all-too-provincial.

One weakness of Anselm’s approach, it seems to me, is that he’s self-consciously and explicitly attempting to give a rational accounting of how the incarnation factors into the atonement. Thus, while he does occasionally refer to Scripture, and even call it the only rock on which we’re to build a sturdy house, reason is his guiding light in this book. In Cur Deus Homo he’s trying to show how the biblical doctrine and the church teaching regarding atonement through the God-man is rational. To that degree, I guess I have no beef. I would just like to see him root his work more deeply in the Scripture, which is, after all, the sword of the Spirit. His reliance upon reason, however, is part of what’s earned him another one of his titles (valid or not): the father of scholasticism.

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Wittenberg

I wrote a little ditty a while back on how I fancy myself a Protestant who’s self-consciously both catholic and orthodox. That post provoked some good and interesting discussions. In the midst of those discussions, an Eastern Orthodox brother mentioned something along the lines that Roman Catholics would think of themselves as orthodox and the Eastern Orthodox think of themselves as catholic, but that neither think of themselves as Protestants. That had me thinking. What I’ve come up with is that Christianity is, from its origins, inherently and inescapably protestant every bit as much as it catholic and orthodox. Let me see if I can’t sort this out.

First thing is that you’ll want to pay attention to my use of CAPITAL LETTERS (for those of you educated in the state University system [like me], you’ll know these as “upper case” or simply “the big letters”). (more…)

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I have a friend who did not want to teach her child a catechism saying that she’d rather have her daughter learn the Bible. (Come to think of it, I have scores of friends who don’t even know what a catechism is or how it could be of any value!) What are we to think when the Bible (the inspired, inerrant Word of God) is opposed to the great creeds and catechisms of the church? Doesn’t historic Protestantism (indeed, historic Christianity) take the Bible as the only standard of faith and practice? In a word: NO! Not even Protestants have a single standard, but we do have a single ABSOLUTE standard, the Bible. I’ll elaborate on the value of subordinate standards another time. For now, I want to show that the Bible itself moves toward a condensation of doctrine and, in that vein, toward subordinate standards.

The Bible can be a big and confusing book. There is, to be sure, a number of difficult things in it, some of them are downright strange (to modern readers). (more…)

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Augustine & Calvin

I’m always amused when people say that the majority of church history is not “Calvinistic.” I’m amused because it’s both true and false. It’s true in that the Reformation put a fine point on issues of divine sovereignty and human inability. Take note that I said the Reformation, not Calvin. If by “Calvinism” we mean a commitment to the utter helplessness of humanity and a profound commitment to the sovereignty of God in the salvation or damnation of sinners, then we might just as well call it by a name reminiscent of any of the Reformers. Arminius himself was absolutely committed to the utter and absolute helplessness of humanity. If, however, by “Calvinism” we (anachronistically) mean the five points of Calvinism, then a great deal of the church is not Calvinistic… that is, completely Calvinistic.

When I think of the “Calvinism” of the church in broad historical terms, I’m thinking of it in a general sense: a commitment Augustinian anthropology and soteriology. (more…)

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Dear child, do you wish to lead a Christian life and to live according to the will of God our heavenly Father?

Yes, dear father, for I have been baptized in the name of God, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit….

These are the opening words from Martin Bucer’s catechism from 1534. Note that the child’s identity is wrapped up in their baptism. “Do you want to live in a way that pleases God?” “Yes, for I am baptized.” That’s not a full answer, but it’s a fine start. We train up our children to grow up into who they are: children of God. Further, note the strong connection between discipleship and baptism, which is drawn from (among other places) Mt 28. Bucer’s commitment to Christian pedagogy also made Strasbourg a thriving center of evangelical education.

(Drawn from Hughes Oliphant Old’s The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth Century [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992], 186.)

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