Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Medieval Monks and Alter Calls
I was baptised a Roman Catholic and years later, during an invitation, I walked down the aisle of a Southern Baptist Church and prayed the sinners prayer.

God truly saved me at some point in there. I don't know when, but I do know that I wanted to know Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. I walked the aisle in that church because I loved Jesus Christ. I loved the Lord, because at some point before my heart had been changed by the Holy Spirit.

There are countless Christians who have affirmed they are saved by walking and aisle and praying a prayer. But doing that saves no one. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.

The walk down the aisle motif of modern evangelical Christianity is based on misguided, revivalist thinking. But many Christians today associate it with salvation. However, the alter call is an invention of 19th century revivalism, that has (IMHO) serious theological problems. Still God has used it despite its theological flaws. Of course such flaws, though used by God, also bring error in thier wake as well.

It is like early Medieval monasticism. Monasticism is not biblical and has some theological problems as well, but God used this flawed system to convert Europe to the Gospel and to preserve the Scriptures for us today. This monasticism did great good, and on the other hand, was the breeding ground for great error.

Remember, even in our errors and sins, God will accomplish His will. We are responsible before Him for our errors, but thankfully He is God and none of our frailties (or sins) can thwart His plan and all of them are used to accomplish all His most Holy Will.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, January 08, 2006

John Calvin: Perseverance is not OSAS

I posted these quotes from Calvin's Commentaries here on the blog because of a discussion over the idea of Once Saved Always Saved (OSAS) as against the Reformed teaching of Perseverance of the Saints that I have been engaged in on the Ask a Calvinist section of Christian Forums (CF).

Many in the Reformed Faith today have confused the (non-Calvinist) Baptist view of OSAS with the historic Reformed doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, that was once taught by all Reformed Churches.

OSAS is NOT the same as Perseverance of the Saints. It is a truncated, misguided, imposter of the true Reformed Doctrine of Perseverance.

Below area some samples of what Calvin says in his commentaries on the subject of Perseverance of the Saints. I can produce more if they are needed.

We see too many of this class in our own day, who eagerly embrace the Gospel, and shortly afterwards fall off; for they have not the lively affection that is necessary to give them firmness and perseverance. Let every one then examine himself thoroughly, that the alacrity which gives out a bright flame may not quickly go out, as the saying is, like a fire of tow; for if the word does not fully penetrate the whole heart, and strike its roots deep, faith will want the supply of moisture that is necessary for perseverance. (Commentary Matt. 13:20)

Although, then, the charity of many, overwhelmed by the mass of iniquities, should give way, Christ warns believers that they must surmount this obstacle, lest, overcome by bad examples, they apostatize. And therefore he repeats the statement, that no man can be saved, unless he strive lawfully, so as to persevere to the end. (Commentary Matt. 24:13)

But the general instruction of the parable consists in this, that it is not enough to have been once ready and prepared for the discharge of duty, if we do not persevere to the end. (Commentary Matt. 25:1)

Here Christ warns them, in the first place, that it is not enough for any one to have begun well, if their progress to the end do not correspond to it; and for this reason he exhorts to perseverance in the faith those who have tasted of his doctrine... He distinguishes his followers from hypocrites by this mark, that they who falsely boasted of faith give way as soon as they have entered into the course, or at least in the middle of it; but believers persevere constantly to the end. If, therefore, we wish that Christ should reckon us to be his disciples, we must endeavor to persevere. (Commentary John 8:31)

But as he governs those whom he has elected, all the engines which Satan can employ will not prevent them from persevering to the end with unshaken firmness. And not only does he ascribe to election their perseverance, but likewise the commencement of their piety. (Commentary John 13:18)

He again lays before them the punishment of ingratitude, and, by doing so, excites and urges them to perseverance. It is indeed the gift of God, but the exhortation to fear is not uncalled for, lest our flesh, through too great indulgence, should root us out. (Commentary John 15:6)

In like manner, when Christ exhorts us, in this passage, to perseverance, we must; not rely on our own strength and industry, but we ought to pray to him who commands us, that he would confirm us in his love.
(Commentary John 15:9)

He has laid down the doctrine, and now, with the view of impressing it upon the minds of the Corinthians, he adds an exhortation. He states briefly, that what they had hitherto attained was nothing, unless they steadfastly persevered, inasmuch as it is not enough to have once entered on the Lord’s way, if they do not strive until they reach the goal, agreeably to that declaration of Christ — He that shall endure unto the end, etc. (Commentary 1 Cor 9:24)

Here we have an exhortation to perseverance, by which he admonishes them that all the grace that had been conferred upon them hitherto would be vain, unless they persevered in the purity of the gospel. And thus he intimates, that they are still only making progress, and have not yet reached the goal. (Commentary Col. 1:23)

He commends them for having begun well; but lest, under the pretext of the grace which they had obtained, they should indulge themselves in carnal security, he says that there was need of perseverance; for many having only tasted the Gospel, do not think of any progress as though they had reached the summit. Thus it is that they not only stop in the middle of their race, yea, nigh the starting-posts, but turn another way…But if he is possessed by faith, we must persevere in it, so that he may be our perpetual possession. Christ then has given himself to be enjoyed by us on this condition, that by the same faith by which we have been admitted into a participation of him, we are to preserve so great a blessing even to death. (Commentary Heb. 3:14)

And, indeed, we see that under the Papacy a diabolical opinion prevails, that we ought to doubt our final perseverance, because we are uncertain whether we shall be tomorrow in the same state of grace. But Peter did not thus leave us in suspense; for he testifies that we stand by the power of God, lest any doubt arising from a consciousness of our own infirmity, should disquiet us. (Commentary Pet. 1:5)

He does not speak here of the constancy of men, but of God, whose election must be ratified. He does not then, without reason declare, that where the calling of God is effectual, perseverance would be certain. He, in short, means that they who fall away had never been thoroughly imbued with the knowledge of Christ, but had only a light and a transient taste of it. (Commentary 1 John 2:19)

I hope you have found these examples useful. OSAS is in imposter. I will stick with Calvin and the great Reformed Creeds and Confessions on this issue and not with my (dear) modern, non-Calvinistic, Baptist brethren who teach OSAS instead of perseverance.

In Christ,

Ps. I spend most of my time at Cf on the Semper Reformanda forum. Come and join the discussion.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Perseverance or Once Saved Always Saved?
I think the only way to rightly understand the 5th point of the Five points of Calvinism is covenantally. If you read a good bit of Calvin you will see that he clearly (rightly) believed in the perseverance of the saints, but at the same time he took the warnings in the New Testament against apostasy fey seriously.

On of the reasons many Calvinist today struggle with the notion of apostasy is many Calvinists confusion the modern Baptist notion of "once saved-always saved" (OSAS) with the true Calvinist position of perseverance. I believe that is because many Calvinists have ceased to understand these things from a Covenantal perspective. We have become individualists (i.e. baptistic) in our thinking and not covenantalists (that is Reformed).

In Calvin's Strasburg Catechism for young Children in the first questions he asks the child these questions:

Teacher: My child, are you a Christian in fact as well as in name?
Child: Yes, my father.
Teacher: How is this known to you?
Child: Because I am baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
All who are baptised are in Covenant, and are part of the outward people of God. The Bible is written to these people. Are they all regenerate? No, some may be in the Church (which is the body of Christ) and therefore a branch that is connected to the true vine.

These people are covenantally attached to Christ, but if they do not persevere in faith iv they do not work out their salvation in fear and trembling they will be cut off. It was the same Old Covenant Israel.

The problem with OSAS is that it does not take the many warning of apostasy seriously, but the Calvinistic doctrine of perverance does. Perseverance is biblical OSAS is not.

Don't misunderstand me. All who are elect, before the foundation of the world, will persevere, but the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament are written to God's Covenant people. They are all, at some point, His people though many of them may not know Him in faith and if they do not come to faith and persevere in faith they will be cut off from the covenant, they will be branches broken off of the true vine (which they were attached to covenantally) and cast into the fire.

So much for my two cents on this subject.

Coram Deo,

Sunday, January 01, 2006

I thoroughly enjoyed reading J.N.D. Kelly’s book Early Christian Doctrine. I found it to be very informative and consider every minute I spent reading, underlining and researching what I read to be time well spent.

This is not an easy book to read and it can be confusing, because the Early Church Fathers arguments/treatises can be confusing as well. I crawled through this book and still I’m not confident that I understand all that Kelly brought up, but I did learn a lot and look forward to reading more of the writings of the Fathers themselves and books on them.

My readings in the Fathers, so far, have shown me that modern Evangelicals need to know something of the Fathers and how they relate to us as our elder brothers in the Lord our God. The Christians Church (past, present, future) is an organic unity. Still, Evangelicals see no need for knowing, nor do they care what the Fathers believed or taught. I believe they are impoverished and ignorant because of this. They also have a grossly truncated understanding of the Church. For most Evangelicals “that old time religion” only goes back a generation or two (if that much). Considering that the New Covenant Church began 2,000 years ago (50 generations) that is pathetic.

Roman Catholics do, far more than Protestants, understand the organic unity of the church. They believe that what the Fathers have to say is important. But my readings of and about the Early Church Fathers have shown me that the Roman Catholic Church claims too much from the Fathers. Roman Catholics understand that the Church is one --past, present and future—but I find that they try to make the Fathers conform to their current teachings, and on many points, certainly not all, they have to distort or exaggerate what was taught or believed by the Fathers to justify some current teachings and practices that I believe to be unbiblical.

Coram Deo,