Contending for THE Faith?

calvinism2Things are slow around here so when I saw this and I just couldn’t resist.

That sound you are hearing?  That is me stirring the pot!

Calvin’s faith is certainly different from the faith of the early church, but is it going to far to say he reinvented or re–delivered a new faith?

You decide.

Play nice, please.

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About Jim

Not For Itching Ears is a blog dedicated to discussing the American Evangelical church. It is a place for people to share their thoughts on a host of issues relating to this subject. Jim is available to speak at weekend services, and retreats at no cost to churches in Florida. Contact us for more information.

Posted on January 7, 2015, in Christianity, Theology and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. Jim

    As you know I have been researching this very topic. Though I would say Calvinism is “contending for the faith re-delivered” in the 5th century by Augustine.

    In regards to this, I would just say Calvinists that claim that their interpretations are correct (for say John 6 or Romans 9) and represent what the Apostles/writers really meant should also give an account as to why there is no evidence anyone interpreted them that way until Augustine.

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    • “In regards to this, I would just say Calvinists that claim that their interpretations are correct (for say John 6 or Romans 9) and represent what the Apostles/writers really meant should also give an account as to why there is no evidence anyone interpreted them that way until Augustine”

      I think this a reasonable expectation and I agree with you. I don’t care where the truth lies or leads me, I just want to know the truth.

      I recognize that the early church writers, the disciple’s of the apostles understood the faith, at least man’s ability to exercise faith, in a polar opposite way than Calvin did. Since that is so demonstrably the case, we should not be quick to sweep it under the theological rug, simply because it doesn’t adhere to our own views. That is being intellectually dishonest, in my opinion.

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    • Restless Pilgrim

      > As you know I have been researching this very topic. Though I would say Calvinism is “contending for the faith re-delivered” in the 5th century by Augustine.

      I’d disagree. Calvinism is a distortion of Augustine’s teaching.

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      • Can you explain further?

        And while it might differ in some ways, Calvinism is certainly grounded on the later Augustine’s theological views.

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        • Mike,

          Do you think Augustine, if we were alive today, would be a Calvinist? Or would he be a Catholic?

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          Calvin certainly made use of Augustine, quoting him in the Institutes over 400 times. However, I think Augustine would be horrified to see how Calvin used his writings and the direction in which he took them.

          To answer Jim’s point, I think it’s safe to say that Augustine would Catholic. Whether it’s the Eucharist, Mary, the Papacy, the role of works in salvation, the Deuterocanon, prayers for the dead, the Saints, Sacred Tradition etc… Augustine held Catholic belief.

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        • Jim,

          Before commenting I must first say that I am not an “expert” in Augustine. I also find that Augustine is a challenge to read as his views change over time. And it can be a challenge to know if he would define terms like “free will” the way we might today.

          Further we would have to know what we mean by Calvinist and Catholic.

          Certainly the modern Catholic church and some of its current stated beliefs are not what the 5th century church would have held. For example, the supremacy and infallibility of the Roman bishop over all others.

          I also think that reading Trent we see some departures that the later Augustine would probably balk at.

          Calvinists, Arminians, and Catholics all see grace as the beginning move in a person coming to Christ.

          I know the later Augustine did not think that this grace was given to all people which would become the basis for Unconditional Election:

          Faith, then, as well in its beginning as in its completion, is God’s gift; and let no one have any doubt whatever, unless he desires to resist the plainest sacred writings, that this gift is given to some, while to some it is not given. (Predestination chapter 16)

          I am not sure if the RCC shares this view. Based on this I am not sure this canon of Trent would be accepted by Augustine either as it calls Predestination into question:

          If any one saith, that the grace of Justification is only attained to by those who are predestined unto life; but that all others who are called, are called indeed, but receive not grace, as being, by the divine power, predestined unto evil; let him be anathema.

          In the Enchiridion he seems to argue against a person’s ability to resist the grace needed for salvation:

          For He is not truly called Almighty if He cannot do whatsoever He pleases, or if the power of His almighty will is hindered by the will of any creature whatsoever. (chap 96)

          I am not sure if the later Augustine would accept this canon of Trent:

          if any one saith, that man’s free will moved and excited by God, by assenting to God exciting and calling, nowise co-operates towards disposing and preparing itself for obtaining the grace of Justification; that it cannot refuse its consent, if it would, but that, as something inanimate, it does nothing whatever and is merely passive; let him be anathema.

          Clear as mud right?

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I guess that was me adding some salt & pepper to the pot…

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  3. I often wonder if some of these Calvin haters actually read the Instuitutes.

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    • I think Calvin was a vey smart kid, but nobody has their theology figured out at 23!

      I think most people who disagree with Calvin have not read his works. But then again, most people who embrace his views haven’t read them fully.

      Most Calvinists who disagree with the early church Fathers understanding of Baptism, have not actually read their works either.

      You have hit on something that is true for many followers of Christ: We believe what we are told or taught, for the most part.

      Now, I don’t see any Calvin haters on this site. I loathe it when one labels you a hater because you disagree with their politics. The great thing about this site, is that we can share our views, courteously argue them back and forth and still be friends!

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        > I think Calvin was a vey smart kid, but nobody has their theology figured out at 23!

        That young whipper-snapper!

        > I think most people who disagree with Calvin have not read his works. But then again, most people who embrace his views haven’t read them fully

        I’d say that’s pretty true on both counts. It’s also worth noting that the guy did quite a bit of writing! I’m reminded of the Latin phrase concerning Augustine “Mentitur qui se totum legisse fatetur”, which roughly translates as “He lies who says that he has read all of the works [of Augustine].”

        > You have hit on something that is true for many followers of Christ: We believe what we are told or taught, for the most part.

        This is true. Every Christian follows tradition…it’s just a question as to whether it’s Sacred Tradition.

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    • Love the person hate the theology right…

      Now seriously, I have read some of the Institutes and have read many Calvinist works as well. There are certainly many great contributions from Calvinist theologians. And I certainly see those holding to these views as brothers & sisters in Christ.

      However, there are some big areas where we disagree.

      Here is a question (assuming from your very brief comment and a quick tour of your blog links that you hold to Calvinism). When one wants to engage in serious study and debate with Calvinists to what works should we turn? Is it the Institutes? Or Westminster Confession? Or Dort?

      I ask because often I am citing from these and told that I am only debating against “Hyper-Calvinism” and need to engage “regular” Calvinism.

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      • Restless Pilgrim

        > Now seriously, I have read some of the Institutes and have read many Calvinist works as well. There are certainly many great contributions from Calvinist theologians. And I certainly see those holding to these views as brothers & sisters in Christ.

        From a Catholic point of view, I see Calvinism as have some intellectual chops, providing some systematic theology when large swathes of Protestantism don’t really have anything too concrete. Now, I think Calvinism is wrong and founded on some bad principles, but in my experience, the Calvinists I have encountered (a) care about the truth (b) care about doctrine and (c) know their faith.

        > When one wants to engage in serious study and debate with Calvinists to what works should we turn? Is it the Institutes? Or Westminster Confession? Or Dort?

        I’d say the Institutes is your first port of call.

        > I ask because often I am citing from these and told that I am only debating against “Hyper-Calvinism” and need to engage “regular” Calvinism.

        I think I’d suggest that, by and large, many people who call themselves Calvinists don’t fully subscribe to all of Calvinism. This isn’t really that surprising since, given the Protestant worldview, I’m not bound by what Calvin says, only by what I understand the Scriptures to mean. For example, I remember meeting one person who identified himself as a Calvinist, but didn’t hold to all points of TULIP. He converted to Catholicism last year.

        I guess you might say it’s kind of like “The Rapture” in that Calvinism is an idea that has embedded itself across different congregations, taking on a distinct flavour in each denomination.

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        • Now, I think Calvinism is wrong and founded on some bad principles, but in my experience, the Calvinists I have encountered (a) care about the truth (b) care about doctrine and (c) know their faith.

          (a) – (c) should describe any disciple of Christ

          I’d say the Institutes is your first port of call.

          Yet, most Calvinists reject reprobation.

          I think I’d suggest that, by and large, many people who call themselves Calvinists don’t fully subscribe to all of Calvinism.

          Maybe you can elaborate on what the basic doctrine would be that makes one a Calvinist vs. say an Arminian.

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          > (a) – (c) should describe any disciple of Christ

          Agreed, but I’m just affirming the good things I’ve seen in Calvinists. In my experience I’ve encountered a lot of Protestants who don’t really intellectually know their faith and who seem very wishy-washy concerning doctrinal truth (“Is the Trinity that important?” etc. ).

          > Yet, most Calvinists reject reprobation

          This is kind of what I mean by most self-identified Calvinists as not really fully embracing Calvinism. Maybe “Calvin-Inspired” would be a better description?

          > Maybe you can elaborate on what the basic doctrine would be that makes one a Calvinist vs. say an Arminian.

          Well, this is really the main difficulty within Protestantism. Each denomination has its own set of beliefs, but even then, membership of a denomination doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual Christian subscribes to all the beliefs and articles of faith of that denomination, potentially holding a matrix of beliefs completely unique to himself. Because of this, I’d say you always have to ask about the individual’s beliefs and not rely too much on the denominational/theological title he uses for himself.

          Personally, I’d say Calvinism is the doctrine of Calvin himself. I might describe those who quote the Institutes and hold to TULIP as having “Calvinistic theology”.

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        • “Now, I think Calvinism is wrong and founded on some bad principles, but in my experience, the Calvinists I have encountered (a) care about the truth (b) care about doctrine and (c) know their faith.”

          This is my experience with both Calvinists and Arminians who have thought through the issues, as well as a few Catholics like that David Bates guy.:)

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      • Well, I confess that I can be described as a Calvinist, however I subscribed to sovereign grace doctrine before I knew mush at all about Calvin. I have since undertaken much study. I read a lot and am fascinated by the history of the church. I tend not to debate ‘Calvinism’ because I have found that most folks who seem to dislike Calvin seem to be arguing against Calvinism rather than for Scripture. I have seen many a straw man erected in terms of attributing to Calvin that which were not necessarily his beliefs. Thus my brief comment. I have also done much study concerning the Reformation and what all of the Reformers believed and taught. Calvin was not right about everything and neither is anyone else. If I debate the issues, I would rather discuss in terms of ‘monergism’ v. ‘synergism’ from scripture and leave particular people out of the discussion.

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        • “I tend not to debate ‘Calvinism’ because I have found that most folks who seem to dislike Calvin seem to be arguing against Calvinism rather than for Scripture.” BTB

          Debating Calvinism is usually a waste of time in my experience, because most people are set in what they believe. Where you stand an monergism or synergism is almost like a world view. Once a person has thought through the issues and come to a conclusion, one seldom changes.

          However, each side of that discussion embraces the Scriptures and uses them to support their position. Armenians have their proof texts just as Calvinists do. Each side dismisses or interprets the opposing sides texts accordingly. What it often comes down to is how one interprets scripture.

          That is why I care what the early church thought about this stuff.

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  4. Carolyn Aleven

    In regard to early Church fathers, there is a website that give the teachings regarding Calvinism. So to say there was nothing said until Augustine is in error. Having said that, please excuse me if I have misunderstood what you have said. 🙂

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    • Restless Pilgrim

      I think the link you meant was http://www.apuritansmind.com/arminianism/calvinism-in-the-early-church-the-doctrines-of-grace-taught-by-the-early-church-fathers/

      I’m afraid I don’t see anything here that is identifiable as Calvinism here. Those quotations simply assert the fallenness of human nature, God’s election, the redemption of the Church, as well as the need and availability of grace. These are all things which could be affirmed by Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Coptic and Protestants of most denominations. Those quotations don’t prove the specifically Calvinistic doctrines.

      It’s also worth pondering what is to be done with quotations like these which don’t fit at all within Calvinism at all… On what basis would one accept some Early Church Father quotations and not others?

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      • It’s also worth pondering what is to be done with quotations like these which don’t fit at all within Calvinism at all… On what basis would one accept some Early Church Father quotations and not others?

        Jim, I apologize for posting a link here in the comment section. I understand if you want to delete it. I had been trying to quantify my response to the questions (like the one above and those on your own post on tradition). What principles might one use in reading through the early church. Rather than try to type that in comments I offer this post on the principles I use.

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          I don’t think I’d disagree with anything in that article, except perhaps one comment which suggested to me that we must find explicit reference to a doctrine in Scripture (it would obviously have to be in accord with the analogy of faith, but I’m not sure why something would have to be in Scripture). I’d also like to see where exactly the rubber hits the road – how early does something have to be, how explicit etc.

          The Early Church unanimously affirmed from the earliest time that the Eucharist is a sacrifice. Would you assert the same?

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        • I’m not sure why something would have to be in Scripture

          the Scriptures are the only authoritative source for doctrine as they capture what the Apostles were teaching, which Jesus told them to teach to others (see Irenaeus Ad Haer Book 3). When the EC is defending doctrine they almost always appeal to the Scriptures to ground their argument.

          I’d also like to see where exactly the rubber hits the road – how early does something have to be, how explicit etc.

          One of the my next posts will look at this in a bit more detail.

          To whet your appetite I’ll likely provide high level case studies:

          1) synergism (early and high consensus)
          2) the end times (early affirmed a PreMillennial view with less consensus)
          3) Papal infallibility (early affirmation of bishops and translations of Peter as rock does not necessarily require the late view of papal infallibility @ Vatican I)

          The Early Church unanimously affirmed from the earliest time that the Eucharist is a sacrifice.

          if you would like to discuss then topic then I suggest you make that case along these lines:

          1) explain exactly what you mean by “the Eucharist is a sacrifice”
          2) show that the Scriptures affirm (or don’t reject) this idea
          3) provide a synopsis of EC writers that assert that this is the case (w/ references) to show that this was attested early and widely by EC theologians

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        • Well, I look forward to that post. David, I sense a post based on Mikes request will be showing up soon over at RP.

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        • “When the EC is defending doctrine they almost always appeal to the Scriptures to ground their argument.”

          “Almost always” sounds very much like “Usually, Generally, or Typically”.

          If they don’t “always” appeal to the Scriptures, then on the occasions they don’t, what DO they appeal to? Further, should we view what they say with any authority, if its basis is not the Scriptures?

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          > the Scriptures are the only authoritative source for doctrine…

          That’s a presupposition that I wouldn’t hold.

          > …as they capture what the Apostles were teaching, which Jesus told them to teach to others (see Irenaeus Ad Haer Book 3)

          Irenaeus doesn’t assert Sola Scriptura. He doesn’t claim that the entirety of the Deposit of Faith was written in Sacred Scripture.

          > When the EC is defending doctrine they almost always appeal to the Scriptures to ground their argument.

          So do Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Coptics…yet none of these groups believe in Sola Scriptura.

          > 1) explain exactly what you mean by “the Eucharist is a sacrifice”

          I don’t really know how I’d break that down any more. Do you think that the Eucharist is a Sacrifice? Is it an offering to the Father? Would you put it in the same category as Christ’s sacrifice (“thusia”) of Calvary? Do you think that it is the “pure offering”, prophesied in Malachi 1:10-11?

          Or, perhaps a simpler question, have you ever called the celebration of the Lord’s Supper a sacrifice?

          > 2) show that the Scriptures affirm (or don’t reject) this idea

          It wouldn’t be a simple proof-text, but would instead be an assembling of the Eucharistic texts (Corinthians, John 6 and the various last supper passages) as well as the Old Testament background, particularly regarding covenant-making.

          > 3) provide a synopsis of EC writers that assert that this is the case (w/ references) to show that this was attested early and widely by EC theologians

          Off the top of my head, here are the ones I can think of from the first few centuries:

          • Didache (“…break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be pure…” – Chapter 14)
          • Clement (“Our sin will not be small if we eject from the episcopate those who blamelessly and holily offered its sacrifices…” – 1 Clement 44)

          • Ignatius of Antioch (“…there is one flesh of our Lord Jesus Christ…one altar…” – Letter of the Philadelphians, Chapter 4)

          • Justin Martyr (“Hence God speaks by the mouth of Malachi…he speaks of us, who in every place offer sacrifices to him, that is, the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist” – Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 41)

          • Irenaeus of Lyons (“He took…the bread..The cup likewise.. He taught the new sacrifice of the new covenant, of which Malachi…had signified beforehand… By these words…in every place sacrifice will be offered to him, and indeed, a pure one” – Against Heresies 4:17:5)

          • Cyprian of Carthage (“For if Jesus Christ…is himself the chief priest…and has first offered himself a sacrifice to the Father, and has commanded this to be done in commemoration…certainly that priest truly discharges the office of Christ, who imitates what Christ did; and he then offers a true and full sacrifice in the Church to God the Father…” – Letters 62:14)

          By pretty much any standard, I’d say this is early and widespread attestation.

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          > Well, I look forward to that post. David, I sense a post based on Mikes request will be showing up soon over at RP.

          It may become one at some point, but I’m kind of up to my eyeballs at the moment trying to finish the abortion posts for the March For Life, as well as get the video series on Philippians done.

          I’ve copied out my response and stuck it in a draft – I’ll hopefully flesh it out at some point 🙂

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        • Jim

          If they don’t “always” appeal to the Scriptures, then on the occasions they don’t, what DO they appeal to? Further, should we view what they say with any authority, if its basis is not the Scriptures?

          the “almost always” was to note the fact that while the ECF use the Scriptures “most of the time” there are times they assert doctrinal things and do not provide a Scripture reference. We do this all the time as well. As to what they would appeal to, I am sure that varies on case x case basis. I was not thinking of a specific example.

          However, what comes to mind as an example right now is Origen. He will often start or end an assertion with a note that he is about to/has been offering his opinion on a particular idea. In this case I would say that he mostly appeals to himself (or perhaps other thinkers). On these occasions he will often remind the reader that they can accept/reject what he was saying.

          We have brought forward as we best could these points regarding the rational soul, as topics of discussion for our readers, rather than as dogmatic and well-defined propositions … (First Principles Book 2)

          Clearly, Origen has presented ideas that go beyond Scripture or consensus orthodox understanding. He admits as much and basically says you don’t have to accept it.

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        • “Clearly, Origen has presented ideas that go beyond Scripture or consensus orthodox understanding. He admits as much and basically says you don’t have to accept it.”

          How I wish today’s pastors would follow this example!

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        • Mike: the Scriptures are the only authoritative source for doctrine…
          Restless: That’s a presupposition that I wouldn’t hold.

          I know. 🙂

          But here is what I mean.

          if Scripture clearly says X
          and an ECF theologian clearly says not X
          then I would go with X

          A clear teaching in Scripture is > the contradictory teaching in tradition (whether you choose to capitalize the T or not)

          If asked to defend that idea I would appeal to Acts 17 and the commendation to the Bereans as an example of this principle. They were to search the Scriptures to test what Paul was telling them.

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        • Restless:

          Thanks for the reply. You would be correct is noting that there is ample early attestation being cited here.

          Scripture
          In the post I gave you the principles I use. So I am going to look to the Scriptures first.
          If we are going to examine the Lord’s Supper then we must consider these three Scriptures:

          When Jesus was at the Last Supper and called the bread His body and the cup/wine His blood He also said that He was speaking in figurative language (JOhn 16:25)

          Luke 22:19-20 tells us that we are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance of Him” and not as a reoffering of a sacrifice.

          Hebrews 10:11-14 clearly reminds us that Jesus offered a once and for all sacrifice.

          Every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins; but He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

          If we are going to say that the Eucharist is a reoffering of Christ’s sacrifice then we must account for these passages.

          EC Theologians
          Examining the citations – it always helps to get the context of what the writer is saying.

          In Trypho chapter 41, Justin first says

          And the offering of fine flour, sirs, which was prescribed to be presented on behalf of those purified from leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, the celebration of which our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed, in remembrance of the suffering which He endured on behalf of those who are purified in soul from
          all iniquity, in order that we may at the same time thank God for having created the
          world, with all things therein, for the sake of man, and for delivering us from the
          evil in which we were, …

          later as you note he says

          He then speaks of those Gentiles, namely us, who in every place offer sacrifices
          to Him, i.e., the bread of the Eucharist, and also the cup of the Eucharist, affirming both that we glorify His name, and that you profane [it].

          However, this “sacrifice” may not mean a re-offering of Jesus death on the cross but rather the sacrifice of worship that Gentiles offer when they remember what Christ has done. For example Romans 12:1-2 calls our living for God a sacrifice and an act of
          worship yet does not mean that we are re-offering Christ’s sacrifice when we choose to
          obey Him.

          I would take Irenaeus in a similar way. He continues his discussion of the Eucharist
          into the next chapter. Here it is clear that he is talking about the heart of the worshiper as the sacrifice…

          Inasmuch, then, as the Church offers with single-mindedness, her gift is justly
          reckoned a pure sacrifice with God. As Paul also says to the Philippians, “I am full,
          having received from Epaphroditus the things that were sent from you, the odour of a
          sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, pleasing to God.” For it behooves us to make an
          oblation to God, and in all things to be found grateful to God our Maker, in a
          pure mind, and in faith without hypocrisy,

          and

          Now we make offering to Him, not as though He stood in need of it, but rendering thanks for His gift, and thus sanctifying what has been created.

          Now in the interest of full disclosure, Irenaeus does also say that during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper that the bread is changed. He does stop short of saying that the change is into the actual body of Christ.

          I have no doubt that you will disagree with this assessment. But, I think if you are fair you would see that the “sacrifice” does not require the interpretation that it is a reoffering of Christ’s death.

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          > if Scripture clearly says X and an ECF theologian clearly says not X then I would go with X

          Clear…according to whom? This is the problem with simply saying “Scripture says…” when what we really mean is “I read Scripture and understand it to mean…”.

          > A clear teaching in Scripture is > the contradictory teaching in tradition (whether you choose to capitalize the T or not)

          At the Council of Jerusalem, I would say that if one applied this standard one would have to conclude that the Gentiles should be circumcised.

          > If asked to defend that idea I would appeal to Acts 17 and the commendation to the Bereans as an example of this principle. They were to search the Scriptures to test what Paul was telling them.

          Paul is coming to the Berea with an extra-biblical revelation about Jesus and the Bereans are reading the Old Testament, comparing what Paul said about Jesus with the prophecies concerning the Messiah. Did all Jews who did such a comparison reach the same conclusion? Clearly not. They placed their own, fallible interpretation of Scripture above that of the Apostolic Deposit of Faith.

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        • Restless Pilgrim

          Hey Mike, thanks for your reply.

          > When Jesus was at the Last Supper and called the bread His body and the cup/wine His blood He also said that He was speaking in figurative language (JOhn 16:25)

          Are you saying that because at one point in time Jesus said that He had spoken in figures, that we should interpret all of Jesus’ words figuratively? That doesn’t seem right. For example, when Jesus said He was going to give up His flesh for the life of the world and be killed, was He speaking figuratively?

          > Luke 22:19-20 tells us that we are to celebrate the Lord’s Supper “in remembrance of Him” and not as a reoffering of a sacrifice.

          I think you’re misinterpreting the meaning of “remembrance” (“anamnesis”). It isn’t just a recollection, it’s a liturgical proclamation and reliving of the past event.

          If you read the Talmud, this is how the Jews understood the memorial of the Passover, it wasn’t just a remembering, but a mystical participation of God’s saving work.

          > Hebrews 10:11-14 clearly reminds us that Jesus offered a once and for all sacrifice

          Yes, and the Eucharist is that same sacrifice, once for all. Jesus isn’t sacrificed again. No, it is our participation in that sacrifice which is offered to the Father. I’d also turn it around and ask you in what way were you washed in the blood of Jesus if he was sacrificed in the past?

          > If we are going to say that the Eucharist is a reoffering of Christ’s sacrifice then we must account for these passages

          I believe I’ve done that above. However, I noticed that you didn’t speak about John 6 at all. What do you make of that? Did Jesus allow people to walk away from Him through a misunderstanding?

          > However, this “sacrifice” may not mean a re-offering of Jesus death on the cross but rather the sacrifice of worship that Gentiles offer when they remember what Christ has done.

          That’s not what the text says. Also, what exactly is a “sacrifice of worship”? I really don’t think that’s a First Century category, but is instead a rather a comparatively modern Protestant notion. In the ancient world, something has to be sacrificed.

          Also, if there’s only one sacrifice (Jesus on the cross), then what is the value of this sacrifice of praise?

          > I would take Irenaeus in a similar way.

          I’d disagree in the same way as above.

          > Now in the interest of full disclosure, Irenaeus does also say that during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper that the bread is changed. He does stop short of saying that the change is into the actual body of Christ

          I’d say he goes all the way, but having said that, I think he’s even more explicit here:

          “So then, if the mixed cup and the manufactured bread receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, that is to say, the Blood and Body of Christ, which fortify and build up the substance of our flesh, how can these people claim that the flesh is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life, when it is nourished by Christ’s Blood and Body and is His member? As the blessed apostle says in his letter to the Ephesians, ‘For we are members of His Body, of His flesh and of His bones’ (Eph. 5:30). He is not talking about some kind of ‘spiritual’ and ‘invisible’ man, ‘for a spirit does not have flesh an bones’ (Lk. 24:39). No, he is talking of the organism possessed by a real human being, composed of flesh and nerves and bones. It is this which is nourished by the cup which is His Blood, and is fortified by the bread which is His Body. The stem of the vine takes root in the earth and eventually bears fruit, and ‘the grain of wheat falls into the earth’ (Jn. 12:24), dissolves, rises again, multiplied by the all-containing Spirit of God, and finally after skilled processing, is put to human use. These two then receive the Word of God and become the Eucharist, which is the Body and Blood of Christ.”
          – “Five Books on the Unmasking and Refutation of the Falsely Named Gnosis”

          > I have no doubt that you will disagree with this assessment. But, I think if you are fair you would see that the “sacrifice” does not require the interpretation that it is a reoffering of Christ’s death

          I do disagree with your assessment, not least because I think your interpretation isn’t very sustainable against the weight of the entire patristic literature which include the other texts which I referenced, as well as all those which follow in the subsequent centuries.

          Not only that, the Fathers keep harking back to Malachi’s “pure offering” and I don’t see how a sacrifice of praise could account for that. Why did Jesus need to die on the cross for that to happen? Gentiles could sing the psalms before then. No, something new comes with the Messianic era and it’s what was foreshadowed in the Passover and Todah sacrifice, the Eucharist.

          I see it as problematic that we find complete continuity in the Church for over a millennia concerning the Eucharist’s sacrificial nature and the Real Presence, that we have many, extremely early attestations…and yet these are so quickly dismissed because they don’t jibe with your interpretation of the Scriptures.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Restless:
        I appreciate the dialogue too.

        I think your interpretation isn’t very sustainable against the weight of the entire patristic literature which include the other texts which I referenced, as well as all those which follow in the subsequent centuries.

        That may account for some of the differnce between us. I am following the doctrinal path forward starting with Scripture and then onto the early church writers as I try to understand what is meant.

        I think you may be reading backwards along that same path. That may be why you are seeing later theological developments in the texts.

        Are you saying that because at one point in time Jesus said that He had spoken in figures, that we should interpret all of Jesus’ words figuratively?

        No. The context for this particular saying is during the Last Supper. Thus we may assume that some of what Jesus said during that event was figurative rather than literal.

        I think you’re misinterpreting the meaning of “remembrance” (“anamnesis”).

        The word also appears in 1 Cor 11:24-25 where Paul tells us that the Lord’s Supper is to be done in remembrance. And in Heb 10:3 where we are told that the OT sacrifices are a rembrance made of our sins.

        Not sure if that helps us flush out the word since they are all dealing with sacrifices.

        I checked the Greek Lexicons.
        — BDAG gives the following definition: reminder, remembrance of something
        — Louw-Nida Lexicon gives this: the means for causing someone to remember – ‘means of remembering, reminder.

        In our passage we have the noun. The verb form (which is not in out passage) means
        — BDAG: remind someone of something
        — Louw-Nida Lexicon: to cause to recall and to think about again – ‘to remind, to cause to remember, to cause to think about again.

        Among many passages we see the verb in Heb 10:32 where it starts off “But remember the former days, …” and again in Mark 14:72 where it reads “And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said…”

        I think the normal way we understand remembering is the meaning of this word.

        I’d also turn it around and ask you in what way were you washed in the blood of Jesus if he was sacrificed in the past?

        When I called on the name of Lord and accepted the gift of eternal life. It was then that I enjoyed the benefits of my cancelled debt.

        I noticed that you didn’t speak about John 6 at all. What do you make of that? Did Jesus allow people to walk away from Him through a misunderstanding?

        More like hard hearts, but yes. Jesus just spent a significant time trying to explain that He was the bread of Life and they needed to stop focusing on the bread that they eat. He as trying to get them to understand that He was the Messiah and that they must come to Him (ie believe). He was using the bread analogy b/c the people wanted Him to give them actual bread to eat and were more interested in that than what Jesus had to say.

        the Eucharist is that same sacrifice, once for all. Jesus isn’t sacrificed again. No, it is our participation in that sacrifice which is offered to the Father.

        I guess I am not sure exactly what you mean by sacrifice then. And that is why I asked you to define what you meant by that term at the start. In response to my question you asked in return: if the Eucharist is an offering to the Father that would be in the same category as Christ’s sacrifice of Calvary?

        To that I would say no. We are not sacrificing Christ again. Something you apparently agree with. Therefore I don’t think the Eucharist is in the same category as Christ’s sacrifice. And I am not sure how you do either.

        When Jesus died on the cross He really suffered, bled, and died. That happened one time as was sufficient to save all people. Of course only those who respond in faith will be blessed with eternal life.

        In the Lord’s Supper we are participating in an ordinance. An ordinance which is the means by which we are to remember the actual sacrifice and what it means. We are sinners and our sins are atoned for by the once for all sacrifice that occured once nearly 2000 years ago.

        That said, I am still not sure how you are using the term “sacrifice” in relationship to the Lord’ Supper and the actual sacrifice made on the cross.

        what exactly is a “sacrifice of worship”? I really don’t think that’s a First Century category, but is instead a rather a comparatively modern Protestant notion. In the ancient world, something has to be sacrificed.

        I gave Rom 12:1-2 as the basis for that term.

        But for our given discussion we need to re-look at Irenaeus. In Ad Haer IV.17.1 right before the part you cite we are going to find Irenaeus defining “sacrifice” for us:

        The sacrifice of God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart the Lord will not despise (quoting Ps 51:17)

        and a few sentences later he writes:

        He continues, giving him (man) counsel: “Offer unto God the sacrifice of praise, and pay thy vows to the Most High; and call upon Me in the day of thy trouble, and I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify Me

        and a few sentenes later:

        The sacrifice to God is an afflicted heart: a sweet savour to God is a heart glorifying Him who formed it.

        and again in 17.4

        From all these it is evident that God did not seek sacrifices and holocausts from them, but faith, and obedience, and righteousness, because of their salvation.

        I don’t think I am that far off when I think Irenaeus had a “sacrifice of worship” in mind.

        Now we see this coming together in chapter 18

        Inasmuch, then, as the Church offers with single-mindedness, her gift is justly reckoned a pure sacrifice with God

        Not only that, the Fathers keep harking back to Malachi’s “pure offering” and I don’t see how a sacrifice of praise could account for that. … [it’s] the Eucharist.

        the pure sacrifices offered by Gentiles in Malachi based on the context of that OT book is a “pure heart”.

        Malachi 1:10 — I am not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you … the book goes on to list how the Jews offer blemished animals, marry foreign wives, divorce, fail to tithe etc. The people are going through external motions but their heart is far from God. God is calling them to offer the “pure sacrifice” of serving Him with their full heart and conviction.

        And it is in Irenaeus that we see him grab that theme and latch on to it.

        And isn’t it the heart and actions of the people that Paul rebukes in 1 Corinthians 11? They are treating each other unfairly and thus disgrace the celebration of Lord’s Supper. Paul says that they must examine themselves before participating. This is so they can make sure they are ready to offer the pure sacrifice of worship that comes from the heart.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Restless Pilgrim

          >>I think your interpretation isn’t very sustainable against the weight of the entire patristic literature which include the other texts which I referenced, as well as all those which follow in the subsequent centuries.

          That may account for some of the differnce between us. I am following the doctrinal path forward starting with Scripture and then onto the early church writers as I try to understand what is meant.

          I think you may be reading backwards along that same path. That may be why you are seeing later theological developments in the texts

          I broadly agree with your assessment, but for me this begs the question: why read the Fathers at all?

          If the entire weight of the patristic witness can be discarded based on your personal understanding of the Bible…what’s the point in reading the Fathers? Just to hear another theological opinion which you’re free to reject, based on your own interpretation of the Scriptural texts? If so, what real weight do the words of the immediate successors to the Apostles really have?

          The Early Church Fathers were closer in time, language and proximity to the Apostles. What advantage do you have over them? Why do you think they, en masse, got such crucial doctrines wrong, whereas you have found the true doctrine?

          There is a sense in which you are right, that I look backwards, but I would suggest that is what all Christians do. We come to faith within a community and that community teaches us from within the perspective of that faith tradition. For example, long before I began any serious theological studies, I was taught the doctrine of the Trinity. I didn’t start by sitting down with a Bible and a blank piece of paper to decide for myself the exact nature of the Godhead. It would be rather unusual for someone to come to faith(?) in Jesus and then to sit down with the Bible to work out all doctrines from scratch.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Restless

          If the entire weight of the patristic witness can be discarded based on your personal understanding of the Bible…what’s the point in reading the Fathers?

          I think you misunderstand what I meant.

          We are both examining the case for the Eucharist being a sacrifice.

          You provided a list of mostly very early writers (Clement, Ignatius, Justin, Irenaeus) which is good. I engaged you in regards to their writings.

          You see the word “sacrifice” in these writings and assume it means a sacrifice in the same category as Jesus’ death on the cross. That said I am still unclear as to what you mean when you say that the Eucharist is an actual sacrifice, yet is not a re-offering of Christ. I await your clarification.

          I am reading the citations and looked to understand how they used the term “sacrifice”. I am holding off on assuming that what they meant by the term “sacrifice” is what I hope to prove. Basically I am reading the early theologian in context. What is he doing with the term? What was the purpose of writing the overall section that I find my passage?

          I laid out my guidelines in a post noted above.

          Following the chain of the doctrinal development.
          1. Scripture can be interpreted to mean that Jesus was using figurative language when He called the bread His body and the wine His blood.
          2. Scripture asserts that the Lord’s Supper was to remember or call to mind the actual sacrifice that took place.
          3. Scripture describes worship and a humble heart as a pure sacrifice
          4. When examining the context of what Justin and Irenaeus, two of the earlier writers, wrote they used “sacrifice” in a way that refers to the heart of the worshipper.

          When later theologians (let’s say a 5th century writer) comes along and writes something that explicitly means what you mean by the term sacrifice (ie an actual sacrifice) that does not mean that all the early writers meant that as well.

          This later theologian could have taken the doctrine and developed it beyond what was actually taught by the Apostles or the earlier theologians.

          why should I accept your interpretation of Irenaeus when he defined sacrifice prior to using it as a contrite heart, a broken spirit, an afflicted heart, and praise?

          when you celebrate your birthday (any of them except the first) what are you doing?
          – remembering the day you were born?
          – celebrating the fact that you are alive now b/c of what happened in the past?
          – being actually born again?

          Liked by 1 person

        • I am really enjoying this conversation! You guys are a great example of how to conduct a disagreeing dialogue.

          Liked by 1 person

    • There was a lot said before Augustine. What specifically are you referring to?

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  5. Carolyn Aleven

    Whoops, the website is apuritansmind.com under heading Calvinism in the Early Church

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m still waiting for those who so assuredly prattle on and on either for or against “calvinism” to give evidence that they have an exhaustive knowledge and understanding of God’s Word, and His Story (=history), something I wonder if even angels have! Until that happens (i.e. only in eternity) I will only sigh each time another salvo is fired from either or any direction at another party; sadly I’m used to BOTH sides firing either at me, or through me to get the other side. Comment was made about “calvinism” supposedly being different from the beliefs of the early church before Augustine, but this conveniently begs the question of how one could possibly pretend to have acquired the voluminous knowledge that would require in view of how little information we have (or even that exists!) from that period of the pre-Augustinian faith! It’s a sign of childish egotistical & selfish immaturity when one must paint with the broad brush of absolutes, like the spouse that whines about how their spouse NEVER does or doesn’t do something.

    I’m ashamed to have to confess that I was once a proud and vain Wesleyan-Arminian who was totally sure about how bad “calvinism” was. Of course our group conveniently never actually READ anything by “calvinists” to show how foolish we really were, or if we did it was so highly edited as to obscure how badly twisted the grossly out-of-context citation really was. For the proof-texters who imagine they have a handle on a “Biblical understanding” of proper doctrine, in ithe fear of God that is but the beginning of wisdom please realize that it’s frighteningly easy to so twist God’s Word to fit my notions that I can even supply words that aren’t there or delete those that are, e.g. this miscitation of the very words of Jesus:Matthew 23:37/Luke 13:34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, that killeth the prophets, and stoneth them that are sent unto her! how often would I have gathered thee together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

    This kind of misbegotten attempt to assert man’s “free will” fantasy by Scripture-twisting proof-texting (resoundingly refuted by Luther’s De Servo Arbitrio and Jonathan Edwards’s “Freedom of the Will”) conveniently replaces the “thy children” of the original that refers to the people in the Pharisees’ charge with “thee” to prop up the truly absurd notion that a man can thwart Almighty God so resoundingly indefensible from God’s Word rightly understood and exegeted (it’s a good reason for avoiding using any Scripture passage smaller than at least a chapter, if not larger). As John Piper has wryly observed, of course God is resistible, until he makes it so that he’s not, e.g. as God ordained to come to pass with Rehoboam and his people in 1 Kings 12 and as it was with Saul/Paul, a wrathful enemy of Christ for years until God knocked him off his donkey as he did me!

    Some careless people would foolishly label me a “calvinist” like I once proudly and blindly labeled myself a “Wesleyan-Arminian” but would fail to realize the many differences, not the least of which is my careful honoring of Calvin’s own devout self-effacement his alleged “followers” often seem to fail to observe, as with many groups’ founders followers that sadly ironically are so enamored of the founder they fail and often even REFUSE to observe what he taught, as James sternly warns: 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deluding your own selves. God save us. Soli Deo gloria!

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