Saturday, December 31, 2005

Calvin on Ephesians 2:8-9 "The Return of Ray"

Pictured Above: C. Gordon Olson's magnum opus that attempts to forge a "middle path" between the Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate. The "middle path" is no short cut. The book spans over 500 pages.


I have previously posted two blogs discussing John Calvin, God’s gift of faith, and Ephesians 2:8-9:

Did Jon Calvin Believe Faith is a Gift given From God?

Everybody Loves Raymond.... But Raymond doesn't like Calvin

In the second link, a mystery man named Ray critiqued my analysis, and I responded accordingly. Well, Ray came back for more, and offered some further comments. My apologies for a longer blog entry. I’m trying to keep them short. I’m fairly convinced very few people read long writings.

Ray’s words will be in black, my words will be in blue (pun intended).

*****************************************************************
Ray Says: “Well, it sounds like we’ve hit a sensitive nerve. Mr. Swan (or is it Dr. Swan?) had a ready answer for my objections to his article.”

Swan replies: It’s not a sensitive nerve; it is simply a response to your comments. It is not “Dr. Swan,” but that title sure does have a nice “ring” to it.

Ray Says: “He suggests that I’m the worst of readers of Calvin since I believe Calvin contradicts himself on important issues. Notice how I was misquoted by Dr. Swan at this point. Hopefully, he wasn’t angry. Since he’s a new creation in Christ and no doubt abiding in Him, he can’t sin according to 1 Jn 3:6. I guess this was a simple oversight.”

Swan replies: I suggested previously you weren’t reading Calvin “carefully”. I also expressed amazement in your inability to understand Calvin in context. I don’t see where I misquoted you. You suggested first: scholars have a hard time with Calvin because he “appears” to contradict himself. Second: you affirmed agreement with a pastor who held Calvin did contradict himself on his comments on Ephesians 2:8-9.

Ray says: “But Dr. Swan brings up a good point. Did Calvin believe that faith is a gift from God or is it as I believe, a response to the offer of a gift by God? Dr. Swan showed examples in Calvin's writings other than Eph 2:8-9 that show Calvin believes faith to be a gift."

Swan replies: Calvin does not agree with you. He clearly held faith was a supernatural gift given by God to spiritually dead sinners. Sinners do not have the ability, according to Calvin, to muster up enough of their own faith to accept an offer of salvation without God first doing something supernatural to their spiritual inability to believe.

Ray says: "But wait a minute! Did Olson or Geisler claim that Calvin didn't believe faith was a gift or is it their claim that Eph 2:8-9 cannot be used as proof texts? I think Dr. Swan is guilty of going beyond what Olson and Geisler have said. Notice Dr. Swan's comment, "Both Geisler and Olson assert that Calvin did not believe faith was the gift of God, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves this." What kind of error would you call this Dr. Swan? Neither Olson nor Geisler ever claim that Calvin didn't believe faith is a gift of God. Did you really read them?"

Swan replies: Ok, I think I figured out what going on here. It appears you’re quoting me from John Mark’s blog. John Mark seems to have edited my words, I had sent him a huge document, and he extracted some sections from it to post on his blog. He posted this snippet:

Both Geisler and Olson assert that Calvin did not believe faith was the gift of God, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves this. Geisler says, “But even John Calvin said of this text that "he does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”<26> Olson comments similarly

Actually what I had originally written was that Olson and Geisler’s position was “similar”:

I once talked with a pastor who dismissed the Calvinist assertion that faith is a gift of God. An important facet of his argument was that even Calvin did not teach this, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves it. Both Geisler and Olson assert a similar position. Geisler says, “But even John Calvin said of this text that "he does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”<26>"

On both John Mark’s blog (and my own) I clarified my position:

Thus, Calvinists cannot be said to be “extreme” for holding that faith is the gift of God. It should be obvious that Geisler and Olson are in error if they are intending to assert that modern day Calvinists have gone beyond Calvin in believing faith to be a gift from God. In fairness, neither of these men explicitly asserts this, but the logical deduction is inherent in their comments, and the pastor I spoke with made the deduction. Neither Olson nor Geisler provide any positive statements like the above quotes. The pastor I spoke to seemed quite confident Calvin never believed faith to be a gift from God. When I brought these other Calvin passages to his attention, he had to agree that Calvin did in fact teach this doctrine. He then simply asserted that Calvin contradicted himself with comments on Ephesians 2:8-9, and this contradiction is a clear example of why Christians should never follow a fallible man.”

Ray says: “What they are claiming is that extreme Calvinists have an arsenal of proof texts to show that faith is the gift of God, and that Eph 2:8-9, as one, doesn't hold water. Olson and Geisler both go on to show that the remaining purported proof texts are equally weak. Indeed, their point is that Extreme Calvinism is an egregious example of a system of theology that is quick to read into texts of scripture what they want to hear rather than what it says. Interestingly, you have helped them prove their point with your examples of misquotes, going beyond what writers have said, misunderstanding what they have said, and then trashing them with flawed deduction and your own eisegesis."

Swan replies: What Olson and Geisler do is attempt to prove John Calvin was not a Calvinist. Norman Geisler calls those who (allegedly) go beyond Calvin “extreme Calvinists,” while mediates who interpret him (allegedly) correctly are “moderate Calvinists”:

An extreme Calvinist is someone who is more Calvinistic than John Calvin (1509 – 1564), the founder of Calvinism. Since it can be argued that John Calvin did not believe in limited atonement…then it would follow that those who do are extreme Calvinists.”

Source: Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (1st edition) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 55.

Geisler says also,

At first blush, it may seem absurd to ask whether John Calvin was a Calvinist. But he was not the first in the history of thought to have his views be distorted by his disciples. In fact, many of the great thinkers were misunderstood by their followers.”

Source: Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free (1st edition) (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999), 155.

The example of Calvin’s comment of Ephesians 2:8-9 is used by both Geisler and Olson. I find it extremely curious that neither Geisler nor Olson point out that Calvin explicitly noted Faith was a gift from God, but rather attempt to perpetuate a disharmony between Calvin and modern-day Calvinists by citing his comments selectively. Secondarily, I think they blew it on interpreting Calvin’s comment in context.

Ray says: "Let's look closer at Dr. Swan's review of my comments to his blog. Even though it's obvious that Calvin believes faith is a gift, he clearly does not believe that Eph 2:8-9 show that it's a gift."

Swan replies: As has been pointed out before, Calvin says that the error is restricting the word “gift” to faith alone.

Ray Says: “Amazingly, given the grammar, Calvin, Olson, Geisler and Ray to the contrary, Dr. Swan believes that Eph 2:8-9 does teach that faith is a gift. Let's look at his quote. He says, “Thus, grace, salvation, and faith are all the “gift of God.” It isn’t simply faith. It is the entire phrase. It is spurious logic to suggest that grace and salvation are gifts, but faith isn’t.”

Swan replies: A rendering of the grammar shows that the entirety of the phrase, “For by grace you have been saved through faith” is what the word “that”(touto) refers to. “touto” is a neuter singular demonstrative pronoun, and a proper exegesis would suggest that one looks for a singular neuter noun before it, but there aren’t any in the first part of the phrase in question. “Grace” is feminine singular; “Have been saved” is a masculine participle; and of course, as we all know, “faith” is feminine singular. In Ephesians 2:8-9, the neuter pronoun serves to wrap up the phrase into a single unity.

Ray Says: “Dr. Swan also says, " Note Calvin’s point: many people “restrict the word gift to faith alone.” But Calvin says that the entirety of salvation is the gift of God: that is, grace, salvation, and faith.." This is amazing. Calvin absolutely does not say that faith is included in the entirety of salvation. You are the only who says that. (Is this not eisegesis?) In fact Calvin goes out of his way to point out that to find faith as a gift in Eph 2:8-9 is an error. If what Dr. Swan says is true then I believe I can rest my case on Calvin being hard to pin down since he clearly contradicts himself. In fact, it's so confusing that even Dr. Swan got it wrong, and even suggests that Calvin is confused since he says one thing (Eph 2:8-9 is not teaching faith to be a gift) and believing another (Swan: "Calvin's point is…." and "Thus, grace, salvation, and faith are all the “gift of God.” It isn’t simply faith. It is the entire phrase. It is spurious logic to suggest that grace and salvation are gifts, but faith isn’t."”

Swan replies: Your comments clearly show your unfamiliarity with the historical/theological context in which Calvin wrote, thus you fall victim to anachronism. Those who restricted the word “gift” to “faith” alone were not extreme Calvinists like James Swan, RC Sproul or James White. They were Roman Catholics. Therefore, your interpretation of Calvin will never make sense, and you will always see a “contradiction”. Answer this question: why would a Roman Catholic want to restrict the word “gift” to “faith” alone? If you can answer this, you will grip Calvin in context.

Ray says: "I think Dr. Swan has been reading too much Calvin, White, and Sproul and not enough Olson and Geisler.”

Swan replies: In a situation like this, in which the question is “what did John Calvin believe?” It’s best to simply read Calvin, and reference multiple authors afterwards.

Ray says: "But let's look at the what Eph 2:8-9 really says . Reading the passage without straining, I would say that the grammar is saying that “salvation” is the gift, not grace, not faith, and its unlikely the whole phrase."

Swan replies: Your heroes say differently. Gordon Olson notes that touto “refers to the whole concept of salvation by grace” (Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism, 221). Norman Geisler says, “…(touto)…refers to the whole process of ‘salvation by grace through faith” (Chosen But Free, 183). I stated a similar position above. Paul is referring to salvation as a whole. Grace most definitely is a gift- it cannot be earned. If it could, it would not be grace. Faith is also a gift, as Philippians 1:29 so plainly teaches, as well as other passages. The entirety of salvation is a gift.

Ray says: "Grace is the means from God’s side (instrumental dative –te chariti), and faith is the meritless mechanism (dia + genitive) by which man appropriates the gift of salvation. (Though meritless we are held accountable for the choice.)"

Swan replies: Interesting choice of words: faith is the “Merit-less mechanism by which man appropriates the gift of salvation.” My Bible states that Jesus is the author and perfecter of faith. He begins it, and He is its goal. This is why it is “merit-less.” This is why it “appropriates the gift of salvation. It is not something that I authored. It has been created by Christ.

Ray says: “That faith is meritless and the means by which anyone can appropriate the gift is well illustrated by John 3:14-15 and the Israelite being immediately healed by simply looking at the brazen serpent. Would anyone consider this “look” a gift? I would say that the healing is the gift? The gift is offered, and the Israelite can either accept it or reject it. The provision of the brazen serpent and all of God’s power to effect the outcome could also be considered the gift, but God does require a volitional response, and that is provided by simply looking.”

Swan replies: John 3:14-15 describes that the crucifixion of Christ would result in the salvation of those who believe. It doesn’t delve into who is able to believe. Earlier, Christ tells Nicodemus that one must be born again to enter the kingdom of God. Look at the passage. No one chooses to be born. You didn’t choose your parents. Christ says, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”

Ray says: "Bottom line: Olson and Geisler are solid in their exegesis. You Dr. Swan, however,………well the above discussion says it all."

Swan replies: Dr Geisler and Mr. Olson are lacking in historical exegesis. Had they taken the time to read Calvin in context, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Popular Calvinist Myths (Part One) Calvin's Warning About Predestination

Pictured Above: Calvinist James Swan cautiously walks past a group of Arminians, Roman Catholic Apologists, and dispensationalists on his way to church this past Sunday.


Believe it or not, most Calvinists don’t hang around talking about predestination or the atonement. Maybe in cyber-space it seems that way, but in real life, this is not the case.

For example, I go to a very Reformed church. If you were to look in the hymnbook rack of the pew, you would find the Psalter hymnal. Flip to the back and you’ll find the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, and the Canons of Dort. These written confessions discuss "Calvinism." What you won’t find though in my church is a lot of people in the lobby before or after the service talking about the 5 points of Calvinism. During the service, you probably wont hear hymns being sung about predestination or limited atonement. Most of the time, the subject doesn’t even come up during the sermons. After the service, people aren't talking about "how great it is to be predestined" etc.

Why? Is it because I go to some liberal backslidden Reformed church? Absolutely not. We are very conservative. The reason actually is: the subjects of predestination, election, etc. are not “Bible basics”. They are not doctrines to discuss flippantly. They are deep and profound doctrines that require great care and handling when being discussed. They aren’t “Bible milk” –they are “Bible meat.” Even John Calvin gripped this. Most folks don’t realize Calvin didn’t really delve into these subjects in the Institutes until Book III. There was much doctrine that needed to come first. Calvin realized this- a good Reformed church will understand this, and a mature Calvinist should as well. I have (for the most part) avoided on-line discussions about predestination /election. It's important to have a healthy respect for the doctrines of Scripture. It's important to not use the Word of God recklessly.

But in cyber-space, this is not the case. These doctrines are thrown around like bouncing rubber balls in a china shop- causing all sorts of damage. Now, most of the time I blame non-Calvinists for doing this. They usually bring the rubber ball to the china shop and start throwing it, while some Calvinist chases after it to try to catch it, and throw it right back at where it came from. Some are pretty good at throwing it back, others end up simply breaking more china.

Here’s an old post I saved from the CARM discussion boards (2001). Check out this anti-Calvinist “rubber ball thrower”:

Why do Calvinists hate the love and mercy of God? Why do they hate the fact that God loves all men and seeks their salvation? Why do they get so upset with scriptures that teach of God's universal offer of atonement? Is it that they need to feel more special and above their non-elect neighbors?”

Now these are the words of someone who doesn't know what they're talking about.

Now, I’ve also heard a lot of negative things about John Calvin as the “originator” of Calvinism. Most of the time, I simply get the feeling those with a strong bent against Calvin never actually read Calvin. To echo the words of Ford Lewis Battles:

I can usually tell, when people speak of Calvin, whether they know him only by hearsay, have read a few pages, or sampled him anthologically. They have no clue to the wonderful interconnectedness of Calvin’s thought. They ask questions which a fuller reading of the Institutes could have answered.”

Source: Ford Lewis Battles, Analysis of the Institutes of the Christian Religion of John Calvin (New Jersey: P&R Publishing, 1980), 23.

I can usually tell also. Well, let’s do a little Calvin 101, with two tiny selections from Book III of the Institutes, chapter 21. Calvin offers a prefatory chapter on how to handle the subjects of predestination and election. Did Calvin just boldly rush into the Bible extracting Predestination and thrusting it onto the world? Read for yourself:

Human curiosity renders the discussion of predestination, already somewhat difficult of itself, very confusing and even dangerous. No restraints can hold it back from wandering in forbidden bypaths and thrusting upward to the heights. If allowed, it will leave no secret to God that it will not search out and unravel. Since we see so many on all sides rushing into this audacity and impudence, among them certain men not otherwise bad, [Probably Zwingli] they should in due season be reminded of the measure of their duty in this regard.

First, then, let them remember that when they inquire into predestination they are penetrating the sacred precincts of divine wisdom. If anyone with carefree assurance breaks into this place, he will not succeed in satisfying his curiosity and he will enter a labyrinth from which he can find no exit. For it is not right for man unrestrainedly to search out things that the Lord has willed to be hid in himself, and to unfold from eternity itself the sublimest wisdom, which he would have us revere but not understand that through this also he should fill us with wonder. He has set forth by his Word the secrets of his will that he has decided to reveal to us. These he decided to reveal in so far as he foresaw that they would concern us and benefit us.”

Source: Calvin's Institutes III.21. 1

Let this, therefore, first of all be before our eyes: to seek any other knowledge of predestination than what the Word of God discloses is not less insane than if one should purpose to walk in a pathless waste [cf. Job 12:24], or to see in darkness. And let us not be ashamed to be ignorant of something in this matter, wherein there is a certain learned ignorance. Rather, let us willingly refrain from inquiring into a kind of knowledge, the ardent desire for which is both foolish and dangerous, nay, even deadly. But if a wanton curiosity agitates us, we shall always do well to oppose to it this restraining thought: just as too much honey is not good, so for the curious the investigation of glory is not turned into glory [Proverbs 25:27, cf. Vg.]. For there is good reason for us to be deterred from this insolence which can only plunge us into ruin.”

Source: Calvin's Institutes III.21.2

These are only small snippets, and these words weren't a one-time-deal. I have other quotes in which Calvin says the same thing. These subjects must be approached with caution. But some go on to argue: these subjects shouldn't be approached at all. In part two, i'm going to look at another aspect of caution from Calvin on predestiantion and election: those who are too cautious.

Master Archive: About James Swan

James Swan was raised in a Christian home, attending a non-denominational church. Like many in the modern church, he never heard of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther or John Calvin. James went on to study philosophy at William Paterson University, being mentored by non-Christians. This had a devastating effect on his life, forcing him to question everything he had been taught in his youth. The evangelical church had not prepared him for the attacks against Christianity he faced.

After graduating with a degree in philosophy, James found answers to his philosophical skepticism in the writings of the great Reformers. Their consistent teaching of Scripture alone, Christ alone, faith alone, grace alone, and the glory of God alone, was a strong antidote to the skepticism of philosophy. The Reformers sent James back into the Scriptures, and in the pages of the Bible, James found Jesus Christ and his perfect work of redemption, irresistibly drawn to Christ, clinging to the words, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

James is now a part time student at Westminster Seminary, involved in teaching ministry at the Pompton Plains Reformed Bible Church, is a member of “Team Apologian” contributing articles to the blog of James White’s Alpha and Omega ministries. He also contributes Reformation articles for Christian apologist Eric Svendsen’s New Testament Research Ministries website. He’s had articles published in the Reformed periodical, The Outlook. He also runs his own daily blog, Beggars All: Reformation and Apologetics, dedicated to historical and Biblical research on the Protestant Reformation.

Because of the emphasis James places on the Reformation, his writing tends to attract defenders of the Roman Catholic Church. He spends considerable time interacting with the arguments and materials they produce, calling them to embrace the sole authority of the Scriptures, and salvation by faith alone through grace alone, because of Christ alone.


James Swan: Lutheran, Calvinist, or Wolf? - A Brief Biography On My Interest in Martin Luther (Part One)

A Wild Boar in Cyber-Space: A Brief Biography On My Interest in Martin Luther (Part Two)

Me and my Library


Other:

Movie Reviews

Walk The Line

Music Reviews:

Monday, December 26, 2005

Checking In With The Theologians Of Glory


You’ll notice about halfway down on my sidebar I link to two groups. The first group is titled, “The Theologians of the Cross” and the second group is “Theologians of Glory.” You’ll notice that the second group is comprised of Roman Catholic apologists. Some of you may wonder why I as a Protestant would link to such websites. Is it because I have a spirit of ecumenicalism? The answer is blatantly “no.” I do not believe that the Roman Catholic Church preaches the Gospel, thus by extension, I do not agree with those who devote their lives to defending her. This does not mean I dislike Roman apologists as “persons”- I’m sure some of them are nice people- it means I disagree with them… I disagree with their underlying theological paradigms.

But what do I mean “Theologians of Glory”? I assume, not everyone knows what I’m talking about. The subject of The Theology of the Cross vs. Glory is a lengthy subject, and I plan on delving into it fully later on. These distinctions are stolen…well “borrowed” from Luther. A lot could be said, but brevity is key here.

The Theology of the Cross is a theology of “foolishness.” It denies man’s wisdom and works; it rests totally upon Christ’s work. Indeed, doesn't it really sound silly to think that salvation is found only through faith alone? All the worlds’ religions “reason” that God can only be appeased by some “work” on our part. But a Theologian of the Cross finds it is only in God’s action where we find salvation:

“I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him. But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with his gifts, and sanctified and kept me in the one true faith.”
-Third Article, Luther’s Small Catechism

A Theology of Glory is founded on man’s wisdom and works. It is a theological worldview that seems “sensible and right” by worldly standards. Glory theologians have to understand by the use of "reason", and they have to “do” by their own moral energy to be right with God.

The late medieval church that Luther was confronted with was a church filled with “glory.” By “glory,” Luther meant that the emphasis was not on the achievements of Christ, but on the achievement of the Roman Church, and those achievements were accomplished by the churches’ own power. Luther encountered the Theology of Glory in three different ways.

First he encountered the glory of “human reason” expressed in his earlier scholastic training. Scholastic theology had been strongly influenced by Aristotelian metaphysics, and this influence had misshaped the Biblical method.

Secondly, Luther was confronted with the glory of human effort (works). He encountered this in his monastic order. Neither Scholastic theology nor monasticism helped him escape his psychological burdens and sin.

Thirdly, he also rejected the “glory of the church” and said the church is a suffering church, rather than a church of beauty and splendor. The church is not supposed to be a “glory” of political power and luxury.

A succinct statement espousing The Theology of glory:

The false gospel’s theology is what Martin Luther called a “theology of glory.” It is a theology for the strong. Despite its protests to the contrary, it believes in self-salvation: by my own power or goodness or wits. It looks for God only in symbols of victory. James and John are its patron saints, hustling to sit by Jesus’ right and left hand in glory, unaware that the cup about to be drunk is the cup of suffering (Mark 10:35ff.). To a theology of glory the cross is as much a stumbling block as it was to Greeks and as much a scandal as it was to Jews (1 Cor. 1:18ff.). Little does it know that the cross is the power and wisdom of God.”

Source: H. Stephen Shoemaker “2 Corinthians 11:1-21” Review and Expositor Volume 86 (vnp.86.3.409)

So why link to Roman Catholic apologists on this blog? I do so because I think one of the best ways to understand Protestant theology is to contrast it with Roman Catholic theology. I attempt to keep the contrast of “Glory vs. Cross” always in the forefront of my evaluations. The Reformation exploded onto the scene of history because of the Roman Catholic Church. In my own studies, I have learned a great deal about my own beliefs by comparing and contrasting it with the perspective of Rome. Secondarily, I have also learned about my own beliefs by checking in with those contemporaries who defend Rome: modern-day Catholic apologists. It’s important to see the new ways they defend their beliefs and attack mine. So, from time to time on this blog, I’m going to run a feature called, “Checking In With The Theologians of Glory.”

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Exsurge Domine

CONDEMNING THE ERRORS OF MARTIN LUTHER

Exsurge Domine

Bull of Pope Leo X issued June 15, 1520

Arise, O Lord, and judge your own cause. Remember your reproaches to those who are filled with foolishness all through the day. Listen to our prayers, for foxes have arisen seeking to destroy the vineyard whose winepress you alone have trod. When you were about to ascend to your Father, you committed the care, rule, and administration of the vineyard, an image of the triumphant church, to Peter, as the head and your vicar and his successors. The wild boar from the forest seeks to destroy it and every wild beast feeds upon it.

Rise, Peter, and fulfill this pastoral office divinely entrusted to you as mentioned above. Give heed to the cause of the holy Roman Church, mother of all churches and teacher of the faith, whom you by the order of God, have consecrated by your blood. Against the Roman Church, you warned, lying teachers are rising, introducing ruinous sects, and drawing upon themselves speedy doom. Their tongues are fire, a restless evil, full of deadly poison. They have bitter zeal, contention in their hearts, and boast and lie against the truth.

We beseech you also, Paul, to arise. It was you that enlightened and illuminated the Church by your doctrine and by a martyrdom like Peter's. For now a new Porphyry rises who, as the old once wrongfully assailed the holy apostles, now assails the holy pontiffs, our predecessors.

Rebuking them, in violation of your teaching, instead of imploring them, he is not ashamed to assail them, to tear at them, and when he despairs of his cause, to stoop to insults. He is like the heretics "whose last defense," as Jerome says, "is to start spewing out a serpent's venom with their tongue when they see that their causes are about to be condemned, and spring to insults when they see they are vanquished." For although you have said that there must be heresies to test the faithful, still they must be destroyed at their very birth by your intercession and help, so they do not grow or wax strong like your wolves. Finally, let the whole church of the saints and the rest of the universal church arise. Some, putting aside her true interpretation of Sacred Scripture, are blinded in mind by the father of lies. Wise in their own eyes, according to the ancient practice of heretics, they interpret these same Scriptures otherwise than the Holy Spirit demands, inspired only by their own sense of ambition, and for the sake of popular acclaim, as the Apostle declares. In fact, they twist and adulterate the Scriptures. As a result, according to Jerome, "It is no longer the Gospel of Christ, but a man's, or what is worse, the devil's."

Let all this holy Church of God, I say, arise, and with the blessed apostles intercede with almighty God to purge the errors of His sheep, to banish all heresies from the lands of the faithful, and be pleased to maintain the peace and unity of His holy Church.

For we can scarcely express, from distress and grief of mind, what has reached our ears for some time by the report of reliable men and general rumor; alas, we have even seen with our eyes and read the many diverse errors. Some of these have already been condemned by councils and the constitutions of our predecessors, and expressly contain even the heresy of the Greeks and Bohemians. Other errors are either heretical, false, scandalous, or offensive to pious ears, as seductive of simple minds, originating with false exponents of the faith who in their proud curiosity yearn for the world's glory, and contrary to the Apostle's teaching, wish to be wiser than they should be. Their talkativeness, unsupported by the authority of the Scriptures, as Jerome says, would not win credence unless they appeared to support their perverse doctrine even with divine testimonies however badly interpreted. From their sight fear of God has now passed.

These errors have, at the suggestion of the human race, been revived and recently propagated among the more frivolous and the illustrious German nation. We grieve the more that this happened there because we and our predecessors have always held this nation in the bosom of our affection. For after the empire had been transferred by the Roman Church from the Greeks to these same Germans, our predecessors and we always took the Church's advocates and defenders from among them. Indeed it is certain that these Germans, truly germane to the Catholic faith, have always been the bitterest opponents of heresies, as witnessed by those commendable constitutions of the German emperors in behalf of the Church's independence, freedom, and the expulsion and extermination of all heretics from Germany. Those constitutions formerly issued, and then confirmed by our predecessors, were issued under the greatest penalties even of loss of lands and dominions against anyone sheltering or not expelling them. If they were observed today both we and they would obviously be free of this disturbance. Witness to this is the condemnation and punishment in the Council of Constance of the infidelity of the Hussites and Wyclifites as well as Jerome of Prague. Witness to this is the blood of Germans shed so often in wars against the Bohemians. A final witness is the refutation, rejection, and condemnation no less learned than true and holy of the above errors, or many of them, by the universities of Cologne and Louvain, most devoted and religious cultivators of the Lord's field. We could allege many other facts too, which we have decided to omit, lest we appear to be composing a history.

In virtue of our pastoral office committed to us by the divine favor we can under no circumstances tolerate or overlook any longer the pernicious poison of the above errors without disgrace to the Christian religion and injury to orthodox faith. Some of these errors we have decided to include in the present document; their substance is as follows:

1. It is a heretical opinion, but a common one, that the sacraments of the New Law give pardoning grace to those who do not set up an obstacle.

2. To deny that in a child after baptism sin remains is to treat with contempt both Paul and Christ.

3. The inflammable sources of sin, even if there be no actual sin, delay a soul departing from the body from entrance into heaven.

4. To one on the point of death imperfect charity necessarily brings with it great fear, which in itself alone is enough to produce the punishment of purgatory, and impedes entrance into the kingdom.

5. That there are three parts to penance: contrition, confession, and satisfaction, has no foundation in Sacred Scripture nor in the ancient sacred Christian doctors.

6. Contrition, which is acquired through discussion, collection, and detestation of sins, by which one reflects upon his years in the bitterness of his soul, by pondering over the gravity of sins, their number, their baseness, the loss of eternal beatitude, and the acquisition of eternal damnation, this contrition makes him a hypocrite, indeed more a sinner.

7. It is a most truthful proverb and the doctrine concerning the contritions given thus far is the more remarkable: "Not to do so in the future is the highest penance; the best penance, a new life."

8. By no means may you presume to confess venial sins, nor even all mortal sins, because it is impossible that you know all mortal sins. Hence in the primitive Church only manifest mortal sins were confessed.

9. As long as we wish to confess all sins without exception, we are doing nothing else than to wish to leave nothing to God's mercy for pardon.

10. Sins are not forgiven to anyone, unless when the priest forgives them he believes they are forgiven; on the contrary the sin would remain unless he believed it was forgiven; for indeed the remission of sin and the granting of grace does not suffice, but it is necessary also to believe that there has been forgiveness.

11. By no means can you have reassurance of being absolved because of your contrition, but because of the word of Christ: "Whatsoever you shall loose, etc." Hence, I say, trust confidently, if you have obtained the absolution of the priest, and firmly believe yourself to have been absolved, and you will truly be absolved, whatever there may be of contrition.

12. If through an impossibility he who confessed was not contrite, or the priest did not absolve seriously, but in a jocose manner, if nevertheless he believes that he has been absolved, he is most truly absolved.

13. In the sacrament of penance and the remission of sin the pope or the bishop does no more than the lowest priest; indeed, where there is no priest, any Christian, even if a woman or child, may equally do as much.

14. No one ought to answer a priest that he is contrite, nor should the priest inquire.

15. Great is the error of those who approach the sacrament of the Eucharist relying on this, that they have confessed, that they are not conscious of any mortal sin, that they have sent their prayers on ahead and made preparations; all these eat and drink judgment to themselves. But if they believe and trust that they will attain grace, then this faith alone makes them pure and worthy.

16. It seems to have been decided that the Church in common Council established that the laity should communicate under both species; the Bohemians who communicate under both species are not heretics, but schismatics.

17. The treasures of the Church, from which the pope grants indulgences, are not the merits of Christ and of the saints.

18. Indulgences are pious frauds of the faithful, and remissions of good works; and they are among the number of those things which are allowed, and not of the number of those which are advantageous.

19. Indulgences are of no avail to those who truly gain them, for the remission of the penalty due to actual sin in the sight of divine justice.

20. They are seduced who believe that indulgences are salutary and useful for the fruit of the spirit.

21. Indulgences are necessary only for public crimes, and are properly conceded only to the harsh and impatient.

22. For six kinds of men indulgences are neither necessary nor useful; namely, for the dead and those about to die, the infirm, those legitimately hindered, and those who have not committed crimes, and those who have committed crimes, but not public ones, and those who devote themselves to better things.

23. Excommunications are only external penalties and they do not deprive man of the common spiritual prayers of the Church.

24. Christians must be taught to cherish excommunications rather than to fear them.

25. The Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter, is not the vicar of Christ over all the churches of the entire world, instituted by Christ Himself in blessed Peter.

26. The word of Christ to Peter: "Whatsoever you shall loose on earth," etc., is extended merely to those things bound by Peter himself.

27. It is certain that it is not in the power of the Church or the pope to decide upon the articles of faith, and much less concerning the laws for morals or for good works.

28. If the pope with a great part of the Church thought so and so, he would not err; still it is not a sin or heresy to think the contrary, especially in a matter not necessary for salvation, until one alternative is condemned and another approved by a general Council.

29. A way has beeri made for us for weakening the authority of councils, and for freely contradicting their actions, and judging their decrees, and boldly confessing whatever seems true, whether it has been approved or disapproved by any council whatsoever.

30. Some articles of John Hus, condemned in the Council of Constance, are most Christian, wholly true and evangelical; these the universal Church could not condemn.

31. In every good work the just man sins.

32. A good work done very well is a venial sin.

33. That heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit.

34. To go to war against the Turks is to resist God who punishes our iniquities through them.

35. No one is certain that he is not always sinning mortally, because of the most hidden vice of pride.

36. Free will after sin is a matter of title only; and as long as one does what is in him, one sins mortally.

37. Purgatory cannot be proved from Sacred Scripture which is in the canon.

38. The souls in purgatory are not sure of their salvation, at least not all; nor is it proved by any arguments or by the Scriptures that they are beyond the state of meriting or of increasing in charity.

39. The souls in purgatory sin without intermission, as long as they seek rest and abhor punishment.

40. The souls freed from purgatory by the suffrages of the living are less happy than if they had made satisfactions by themselves.

41. Ecclesiastical prelates and secular princes would not act badly if they destroyed all of the money bags of beggary.

No one of sound mind is ignorant how destructive, pernicious, scandalous, and seductive to pious and simple minds these various errors are, how opposed they are to all charity and reverence for the holy Roman Church who is the mother of all the faithful and teacher of the faith; how destructive they are of the vigor of ecclesiastical discipline, namely obedience. This virtue is the font and origin of all virtues and without it anyone is readily convicted of being unfaithful.

Therefore we, in this above enumeration, important as it is, wish to proceed with great care as is proper, and to cut off the advance of this plague and cancerous disease so it will not spread any further in the Lord's field as harmful thornbushes. We have therefore held a careful inquiry, scrutiny, discussion, strict examination, and mature deliberation with each of the brothers, the eminent cardinals of the holy Roman Church, as well as the priors and ministers general of the religious orders, besides many other professors and masters skilled in sacred theology and in civil and canon law. We have found that these errors or theses are not Catholic, as mentioned above, and are not to be taught, as such; but rather are against the doctrine and tradition of the Catholic Church, and against the true interpretation of the sacred Scriptures received from the Church. Now Augustine maintained that her authority had to be accepted so completely that he stated he would not have believed the Gospel unless the authority of the Catholic Church had vouched for it. For, according to these errors, or any one or several of them, it clearly follows that the Church which is guided by the Holy Spirit is in error and has always erred. This is against what Christ at his ascension promised to his disciples (as is read in the holy Gospel of Matthew): "I will be with you to the consummation of the world"; it is against the determinations of the holy Fathers, or the express ordinances and canons of the councils and the supreme pontiffs. Failure to comply with these canons, according to the testimony of Cyprian, will be the fuel and cause of all heresy and schism.

With the advice and consent of these our venerable brothers, with mature deliberation on each and every one of the above theses, and by the authority of almighty God, the blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and our own authority, we condemn, reprobate, and reject completely each of these theses or errors as either heretical, scandalous, false, offensive to pious ears or seductive of simple minds, and against Catholic truth. By listing them, we decree and declare that all the faithful of both sexes must regard them as condemned, reprobated, and rejected . . . We restrain all in the virtue of holy obedience and under the penalty of an automatic major excommunication....

Moreover, because the preceding errors and many others are contained in the books or writings of Martin Luther, we likewise condemn, reprobate, and reject completely the books and all the writings and sermons of the said Martin, whether in Latin or any other language, containing the said errors or any one of them; and we wish them to be regarded as utterly condemned, reprobated, and rejected. We forbid each and every one of the faithful of either sex, in virtue of holy obedience and under the above penalties to be incurred automatically, to read, assert, preach, praise, print, publish, or defend them. They will incur these penalties if they presume to uphold them in any way, personally or through another or others, directly or indirectly, tacitly or explicitly, publicly or occultly, either in their own homes or in other public or private places. Indeed immediately after the publication of this letter these works, wherever they may be, shall be sought out carefully by the ordinaries and others [ecclesiastics and regulars], and under each and every one of the above penalties shall be burned publicly and solemnly in the presence of the clerics and people.

As far as Martin himself is concerned, O good God, what have we overlooked or not done? What fatherly charity have we omitted that we might call him back from such errors? For after we had cited him, wishing to deal more kindly with him, we urged him through various conferences with our legate and through our personal letters to abandon these errors. We have even offered him safe conduct and the money necessary for the journey urging him to come without fear or any misgivings, which perfect charity should cast out, and to talk not secretly but openly and face to face after the example of our Savior and the Apostle Paul. If he had done this, we are certain he would have changed in heart, and he would have recognized his errors. He would not have found all these errors in the Roman Curia which he attacks so viciously, ascribing to it more than he should because of the empty rumors of wicked men. We would have shown him clearer than the light of day that the Roman pontiffs, our predecessors, whom he injuriously attacks beyond all decency, never erred in their canons or constitutions which he tries to assail. For, according to the prophet, neither is healing oil nor the doctor lacking in Galaad.

But he always refused to listen and, despising the previous citation and each and every one of the above overtures, disdained to come. To the present day he has been contumacious. With a hardened spirit he has continued under censure over a year. What is worse, adding evil to evil, and on learning of the citation, he broke forth in a rash appeal to a future council. This to be sure was contrary to the constitution of Pius II and Julius II our predecessors that all appealing in this way are to be punished with the penalties of heretics. In vain does he implore the help of a council, since he openly admits that he does not believe in a council.

Therefore we can, without any further citation or delay, proceed against him to his condemnation and damnation as one whose faith is notoriously suspect and in fact a true heretic with the full severity of each and all of the above penalties and censures. Yet, with the advice of our brothers, imitating the mercy of almighty God who does not wish the death of a sinner but rather that he be converted and live, and forgetting all the injuries inflicted on us and the Apostolic See, we have decided to use all the compassion we are capable of. It is our hope, so far as in us lies, that he will experience a change of heart by taking the road of mildness we have proposed, return, and turn away from his errors. We will receive him kindly as the prodigal son returning to the embrace of the Church.

Therefore let Martin himself and all those adhering to him, and those who shelter and support him, through the merciful heart of our God and the sprinkling of the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ by which and through whom the redemption of the human race and the upbuilding of holy mother Church was accomplished, know that from our heart we exhort and beseech that he cease to disturb the peace, unity, and truth of the Church for which the Savior prayed so earnestly to the Father. Let him abstain from his pernicious errors that he may come back to us. If they really will obey, and certify to us by legal documents that they have obeyed, they will find in us the affection of a father's love, the opening of the font of the effects of paternal charity, and opening of the font of mercy and clemency.

We enjoin, however, on Martin that in the meantime he cease from all preaching or the office of preacher.

{And even though the love of righteousness and virtue did not take him away from sin and the hope of forgiveness did not lead him to penance, perhaps the terror of the pain of punishment may move him. Thus we beseech and remind this Martin, his supporters and accomplices of his holy orders and the described punishment. We ask him earnestly that he and his supporters, adherents and accomplices desist within sixty days (which we wish to have divided into three times twenty days, counting from the publication of this bull at the places mentioned below) from preaching, both expounding their views and denouncing others, from publishing books and pamphlets concerning some or all of their errors. Furthermore, all writings which contain some or all of his errors are to be burned. Furthermore, this Martin is to recant perpetually such errors and views. He is to inform us of such recantation through an open document, sealed by two prelates, which we should receive within another sixty days. Or he should personally, with safe conduct, inform us of his recantation by coming to Rome. We would prefer this latter way in order that no doubt remain of his sincere obedience.

If, however, this Martin, his supporters, adherents and accomplices, much to our regret, should stubbornly not comply with the mentioned stipulations within the mentioned period, we shall, following the teaching of the holy Apostle Paul, who teaches us to avoid a heretic after having admonished him for a first and a second time, condemn this Martin, his supporters, adherents and accomplices as barren vines which are not in Christ, preaching an offensive doctrine contrary to the Christian faith and offend the divine majesty, to the damage and shame of the entire Christian Church, and diminish the keys of the Church as stubborn and public heretics
.}* . . .

* Webmaster comment: This added text in italics was obtained from a secondary source, translator Hans J. Hillerbrand, ed. "The Reformation in its own Words" (London: SCM Press Ltd., 1964), pp80-84

Checking In With The Theologians of Glory: Catholic Apologists

You’ll notice about halfway down on my sidebar I link to two groups of people. The first group is titled, “The Theologians of the Cross” and the second group is “Theologians of Glory.” These distinctions are stolen…well “borrowed” from Luther. You’ll notice that the second group is comprised of Roman Catholic apologists. Some of you may wonder why I as a Protestant would link to such folks (by the way, I have more i'd like to link to eventually). Is it because I have a spirit of ecumenicalism? The answer is blatantly “no.” I do not believe that the Roman Catholic Church preaches the Gospel, thus by extension, I do not agree with those who devote their lives to defending her.

But what do I mean “Theologians of Glory”? I assume, not everyone knows what i'm talking about. The subject of The Theology of the Cross vs. Glory is a lengthy subject. Here though, is the briefest overview I can put forth, (based on my notes from the lectures of Robert Kolb):

In 1518 Martin Luther was invited to Heidelberg to present his teaching. He presented his paradigm: “The Theology of the cross” vs. “Theology of Glory”. This disputation of 1518 created quite a stir and attention.

The Theology of the Cross is a theology of “foolishness.” It denies man’s wisdom and works; it rests totally upon Christ’s work. Indeed, it really does sound silly to think that salvation is found only through faith alone. All the worlds’ religions “reason” that God can only be appeased by some “work” on our part. But a Theologian of the Cross finds it is only in God’s action where we find salvation.

The Theology of Glory is founded on man’s wisdom and works. It is a worldview that seems “sensible and right” by worldly standards. Glory theologians have to understand by the use of reason, and they have to “do” by their own moral energy to be right with God.

The late medieval church that Luther was confronted with was a church filled with “glory.” By “glory,” Luther meant that the emphasis was not on the achievements of Christ, but on the achievement of the Roman Church, and those achievements were accomplished by the churches’ own power. Luther encountered the Theology of Glory in three different ways.

First he encountered the glory of “human reason” expressed in his earlier scholastic training. Scholastic theology had been strongly influenced by Aristotelian metaphysics, and this influence had misshaped the Biblical method.

Secondly, Luther was confronted with the glory of human effort (works). He encountered this in his monastic order. Neither Scholastic theology nor monasticism helped him escape his psychological burdens and sin.

Thirdly, he also rejected the “glory of the church” and said the church is a suffering church, rather than a church of beauty and splendor. The church is not supposed to be a “glory” of political power and luxury.

So why link to Roman Catholic apologists on this blog? I do so because I think one of the best ways to understand Protestant theology is to contrast it with Roman Catholic theology. The contrast of “Glory vs. Cross” is always in the forefront of my evaluations. The Reformation exploded onto the scene of history because of the Roman Catholic Church. In my own studies, I have learned a great deal about my own beliefs by comparing and contrasting it with the perspective of Rome.

Secondarily, I have also learned about my own beliefs by checking in with those contemporaries who defend Rome: modern-day Catholic apologists. It’s important to see the new ways they defend their beliefs and attack mine. So, from time to time on this blog, I’m going to run a feature called, “Checking In With The Theologians of Glory.”

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Luther, Christmas, and Complacency




Do you find yourself a bit bored with Christmas? I don’t think many Christians would admit it. Of course, we all hate the secularization and mass marketing of a sacred holiday. But what about the spiritual nature of this holiday? If you’ve been a Christian for a long period of time, have you become so familiar with the story of Christ’s birth that you’re “just going through the motions”? You know, you “space out” during sermons about the birth of Christ, or you simply mouth the words to the “Christmas” hymns? This is unfortunately the way we are as humans. We tend to become complacent with what is very familiar to us.

Martin Luther enjoyed Christmas day with full vigor. The thoughts of Christ’s birth filled his mind the entire day. Luther though often commented about man’s inability to fully appreciate the joy of Christmas:

Ah, we poor people, to be so cold and sluggish in the face of the great joy that has clearly been prepared for us! This great benefaction exceeds by far all the other works of creation; and yet our faith in it is found to be so weak, although it is preached and sung to us by angels, who are heavenly theologians and who were so glad for our sake! Their song is very, very beautiful and describes the entire Christian religion. For giving glory to God in the highest heaven is the supreme worship. This they wish and bring us in the Christ."

Source: Ewald Plass (editor) What Luther Says Volume 1 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing house, 1959) 154..

Really, the story of Christ’s birth is an offense to sinful man. It is our sin nature that breeds complacency. Luther says sinful man “...cannot bear to have God speak to us in His majesty with countless thousands of angels.” To confound our sinfulness and ability to turn away from the praises of angels, God comes to us in Christ. Luther says,

God says: Now I shall hide my majesty most thoroughly, shall allow My Son to become man, born of a virgin; let Him do good to men and preach them the forgiveness of sins. He shall act in the kindest manner possible; only bear in mind that this man is the same God who spoke in the desert at Mount Sinai to the Children of Israel. Believe, therefore, that it is He whom you are hearing. He has hidden His majesty in humanity, does not appear with lightning, thunder, or angels, but as one born of a poor virgin and speaking with men of the forgiveness of sins. But this makes men mad and irrational, and they nail Him to the cross. What shall we do? If God were to come with His angels, no one could listen to Him. Now he says: I will come in a simple and humble form, in the person of a man; therefore believe Me now. But we want to hear Him still less and despise Him. We hold He should by all means come in majesty, and yet we are unable to bear Him in this form. This we cannot bear, and that we do not want to bear. When He comes as the son of a poor virgin we say: Alas, this is to be the Messiah?”

Source: Ewald Plass (editor) What Luther Says Volume 1 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing house, 1959) 154-155.

Stop for a few moments and try to be honest with your complacency this holiday season. Realize, it is the inherent sinfulness of man that not only secularizes this holiday, but also causes those of the faith to be a little….bored. The cure? For me, by stopping for a while, meditating on my sinful life and the holiness of God, provokes a deep joy for the birth of a perfect Savior. The thought of my sins in the light of the holiness of God terrifies. Luther's advice: stay with God as He has revealed Himself in the lowly Christ. The lowly Christ offers forgiveness and salvation, peace with God. These cannot be attained by works, but grasped by faith.

Indeed, the most important stories of our lives are the stories of salvation. If you're married, you probably tell the "story" of your "salvation from singleness." If you have a great job, you probably tell the "story" of your "salvation from poverty." If you have wonderful friends who've been there for you, you probably tell your "story" of "salvation from isolation." I believe the babe in the manger is a mighty savior who forgave all my sins. The story of Christ's birth becomes the most important story of my life. I never tire of telling about the things i've been saved from- If you're struggling with boredom of the story of the birth of Christ, perhaps it isn't your story yet.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Everybody Loves Raymond...but "Raymond doesn't like Calvin"

As a follow-up to my last post about Calvin and the gift of faith, I’d like to respond to some comments directed towards me in the “comments section” on my friend John Mark’s blog found here.

To quickly summarize, John Calvin has been in the theological laboratories of some recent anti-Calvinist authors. After twisting, turning, and poking at Calvin’s writings, they’ve reinvented John Calvin to be a non-Calvinist.

For those of you who want to play along at home, one of the arguments against Calvinists and John Calvin goes like this:

1. Calvinists believe faith is a gift from God, given only to specific people.

2. Some Calvinists appeal to Ephesians 2:8-9 as proof that faith is a gift from God.

3. John Calvin did not believe Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches faith to be a gift from God.

4. Therefore, those Calvinists who do believe Ephesians 2:8-9 teach faith is a gift from God perpetuate an extreme form of Calvinism, one that John Calvin himself would not affirm.

A "mystery guy" by the name of Ray stopped by John Mark’s blog and took some shots at me. He was determined to defend the work coming out of the anti-Calvinist theological laboratories. Particularly, he was intent on the notion that Calvin contradicted himself on his comments on Ephesians 2:8-9.

Since this post is a bit of a brawl, Ray’s words will be in black; my words will be in blue.
****************************************************************

Ray says: “This was an interesting article and shows what many who've tried to get a fix on John Calvin's beliefs on a subject have found, viz., that Calvin is hard to pin down since he appears to contradict himself on important issues.”

Swan replies: I’m curious to who the “many” are you’re referring to. Which many conclude, “Calvin contradicts himself”? I've read dozens of books discussing Calvin. Only the worst of them say silly things like "John Calvin contradicted himself on his comments on Ephesians 2:8-9."

Ray says: “Swan's pastor is correct when he said, ‘Calvin contradicted himself with comments on Ephesians 2:8-9, and this contradiction is a clear example of why Christians should never follow a fallible man.’ Clearly a wise pastor.”

Swan replies: First of all, this pastor was not my pastor. Secondly, Reformed people do not “follow a fallible man.” They follow Christ. Thirdly, you have not demonstrated a contradiction in Calvin’s writings, but only asserted it. Nor have you demonstrated the error of my analysis of Calvin. For Calvin’s complete commentary on Ephesians see: Calvin's Ephesians Commentary. Here is the relevant section from Calvin:

“Ought we not then to be silent about free-will, and good intentions, and fancied preparations, and merits, and satisfactions? There is none of these which does not claim a share of praise in the salvation of men; so that the praise of grace would not, as Paul shews, remain undiminished. When, on the part of man, the act of receiving salvation is made to consist in faith alone, all other means, on which men are accustomed to rely, are discarded. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ. And so he adds, not of yourselves; that claiming nothing for themselves, they may acknowledge God alone as the author of their salvation.... This passage affords an easy refutation of the idle cavil by which Papists attempt to evade the argument, that we are justified without works. Paul, they tell us, is speaking about ceremonies. But the present question is not confined to one class of works. Nothing can be more clear than this. The whole righteousness of man, which consists in works, — nay, the whole man, and everything that he can call his own, is set aside. We must attend to the contrast between God and Man, between grace and works. Why should God be contrasted with man, if the controversy related to nothing more than ceremonies? Papists themselves are compelled to own that Paul ascribes to the grace of God the whole glory of our salvation, but endeavor to do away with this admission by another contrivance. This mode of expression, they tell us, is employed, because God bestows the first grace. It is really foolish to imagine that they can succeed in this way, since Paul excludes man and his utmost ability,—not only from the commencement, but throughout,—from the whole work of obtaining salvation. But it is still more absurd to overlook the apostle's inference, lest any man should boast. Some room must always remain for man's boasting, so long as, independently of grace, merits are of any avail. Paul's doctrine is overthrown, unless the whole praise is rendered to God alone and to his mercy. And here we must advert to a very common error in the interpretation of this passage. Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”

Note Calvin’s point: many people “restrict the word gift to faith alone.” But Calvin says that the entirety of salvation is the gift of God: that is, grace, salvation, and faith.

Ray says: “This brings me to my point. Since it's clear that basing one's argument on Calvin is risky, why doesn't Swan go to the heart of the argument, i.e., the grammar of Eph 2:8-9. This passage teaches clearly that salvation and not faith is the referent to gift.”

Swan replies: You’ve misunderstood the nature of my statements. I have never argued, “Faith is a gift from God because Calvin says so”. Rather, the nature of my comments are historical, and are intended to disprove the historical analysis of Dr. Geisler and Mr. Olson. The grammar shows that the phrase “for it is by grace you have been saved through faith” is what the word “that” refers to. Thus, grace, salvation, and faith are all the “gift of God.” It isn’t simply faith. It is the entire phrase. It is spurious logic to suggest that grace and salvation are gifts, but faith isn’t.

Ray Says: “Swan appears to ignore this important, even crux argument. Instead, he goes back to quoting Calvin to support the fact that Calvin didn't really mean what Calvin said directly in addressing this very same grammatical point. Amazing!”

Swan replies: No, what I did was show that Calvin consistently believed faith was a gift, and then I offered some minor explanations about the immediate context of Calvin’s comments. Simply, Calvin’s words are not that difficult to understand here if one simply reads them in context. Geisler, Olson, and Ray come to inaccurate conclusions because you’re not reading carefully.

Ray says: “Swan apparently didn't take to heart the wise counsel of his pastor.”

Swan replies: This man was not “Swan’s pastor.” Swan’s Pastors would never make such silly arguments. They know how to read books and understand contexts correctly.

Ray says: “In reading Olson, I was very impressed with his strategy that shows Calvinism to be a deductive theology.”

Swan replies: I was not impressed with Gordon Olson’s book. Quite frankly, the book is an awkward read and in need of severe editing. He basically regurgitates the anti-reformed arguments of Geisler and Laurence Vance. He sets up a false caricature. Calvinists (as well as non-Calvinists) use both inductive and deductive reasoning. We do so because we are human, and God's truth is consistent and knowable.

Ray Says: “Interestingly, one doesn't have to look far to find an illustrative example. Swan provides just that when he quotes White's comments on Calvin's response to Rome's claims in the Potter's Freedom: "nay, the whole man, and everything that he can call his own, is set aside. We must attend to the contrast between God and Man, between grace and works;" and "since Paul excludes man and his utmost ability, - not only from the commencement, but throughout, -” from the whole work of obtaining salvation." We suggest that the person who honestly wishes to know where Calvin would stand on the debate today would find these to be the key affirmations, for if Geisler's position is correct, and "anyone can believe," then Calvin's entire position is overthrown. WOULD NOT SUCH A FAITH BE SOMETHING THE MAN COULD "CALL HIS OWN"? CALVIN SAYS IT IS SET ASIDE. WOULD THIS NOT BE PART OF MAN'S "UTMOST ABILITY" ESPECIALLY AT THE VERY "COMMENCEMENT" OF SALVATION"? Paul excludes it from the whole work of obtaining salvation, Calvin teaches.” (Emphasis mine) Notice that White is going way beyond what Calvin SAYS, and telling us what he believes (based on White's Reformed Theology) Calvin MEANT. White hangs his hat on it. If this is not deductive theology, I don't know what else it is.

Swan replies: Ray, I suggest you put Dr. Olson’s book away because it seems to be confusing you. What James White pointed out was simply what any good Calvin scholar would point out: John Calvin believed in the bondage of the will, consistently throughout his writings. You seem to want to imply that John Calvin forgot about the bondage of the will when he wrote his Ephesians commentary. All of sudden, Calvin believed in free will. This is simply ludicrous. Go back and re-read Calvin. Read the entire commentary on Ephesians. If you want to argue that Calvin “contradicts himself”- do so by reading Calvin, not Gordon Olson or Norman Geisler.

Ray says: In fact, I'm always struck by the consistency of Reformed writers in reading their theology into text of scripture. If there were ever a hallmark of a false religion, deductive reasoning is it. I'm also equally struck by the Reformed writer's inability to see it. If you post any additional argument in the future, I would ask that you pay particular attention to tracing your argument from its inductive roots. If you don't I will and will certainly call you on it. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." Or is it? "Be saved, and thou shalt believe." Ray --

Swan replies: I’m always struck by the inability of people to understand simple material in context. You’ve demonstrated this repeatedly, both in your understanding of Calvin and of my comments. During the next few months on this blog, I will take a closer look at Olson’s attack of “deductive reasoning” (I find it funny that Olson’s book argues using deductive reasoning at points).

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Did John Calvin Believe Faith is a Gift given From God?

Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ. And so he adds, not of yourselves; that claiming nothing for themselves, they may acknowledge God alone as the author of their salvation…”
-John Calvin


I once talked with a pastor who dismissed the Calvinist assertion that faith is a gift of God. An important facet of his argument was that even John Calvin did not teach this, and his commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9 proves it. He based his opinion on the work of two recent anti-Reformed writers: Norman Geisler’s Chosen But Free (Minneapolis: Bethany House Publishers, 1999) and C. Gordon Olson’s Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism: An Inductive Mediate Theology of Salvation (New Jersey: Global Gospel Publishers, 2002). These authors hold that modern-day Calvinists who hold faith is a gift of God are “extreme Calvinists”, because not even John Calvin believed this.

Geisler says of Ephesians 2:8-9, “But even John Calvin said of this text that "he does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”(CBF, 182).

Gordon Olson comments similarly:

Calvinists have a ready arsenal of proof-texts for the idea that faith is the direct, immediate gift of God. By far the most frequently referred to is Ephesians 2:8-9 (need I quote it?). The exegetical flimsiness of using this passage in this way should be common knowledge. Apparently it is not……Calvin… [is] among the host who reject such isogesis since they recognized that the relative pronoun touto (this) is neuter and pistis (faith) is feminine and cannot serve as its antecedent. Although Calvin doesn't explain the grammar, he is very explicit about this error: “And here we must advert to a very common error in the interpretation of this passage. Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God.”… Is there any question that all those who continue to ignore the unambiguous grammar and scholarly opinion of even Calvin himself are rightly called extreme or hyper-Calvinists.” (p.221)

Both Geisler and Olson believe Calvin explicitly denied Ephesians 2:8-9 teaches faith to be the gift of the God. Putting the Ephesians passage aside for a moment, what they do not point out is that Calvin did teach faith is a gift from God, given only to certain people. Calvin said this numerous times throughout his writings:

“[Paul] exhorts the Ephesians to remember (Ephesians 2) that they were saved by grace, not by themselves nor by their own works.... Faith, moreover, precedes justification, but in such a sense, that in respect of God, it follows. What they [Roman Catholics] say of faith might perhaps hold true, were faith itself, which puts us in possession of righteousness, our own. But seeing that it too is the free gift of God, the exception which they introduce is superfluous. Scripture, indeed, removes all doubt on another ground, when it opposes faith to works, to prevent its being classed among merits. Faith brings nothing of our own to God, but receives what God spontaneously offers us. Hence it is that faith, however imperfect, nevertheless possesses a perfect righteousness, because it has respect to nothing but the gratuitous goodness of God.” (John Calvin Acts of the Council of Trent With its Antidote, in The Comprehensive John Calvin Collection (Ages Digital Library, 1998), 110) .

Now we understand that we are made partakers of all his blessings by means of faith; for this it is which brings us into communication with Christ, in order that he may dwell in us, that we may be ingrafted into him as our root, that we may be members of his body, that we may live in him, and he in us, and possess him, with all his benefits. And that it may not be thought strange that we attribute such virtue to faith, we do not take it fox a fleeting opinion, but for a certainty which we have of the promises of God, in which all these blessings are contained, and by which we embrace our Lord Jesus Christ as the surety of all our salvation, and apply to our own use what he has received of God his Father to impart unto us. This faith we likewise know that we cannot have if it be not given us from above, and as Scripture declares, (Ephesians 2:9; 1:18,) till the Holy Spirit enlightens us to comprehend what is beyond all human sense, and seals in our hearts what we ought to believe.”[John Calvin, Selected Works of Calvin Volume 2, in The Comprehensive John Calvin Collection (Ages Digital Library, 1998), 138].

"Since, therefore, Abraham is at this time the father of all the faithful, it, follows that our safety is not to be thought otherwise than in that covenant which God established with Abraham; but afterwards the same covenant was ratified by the hand of Moses. A difference must now be briefly remarked from a passage in Jeremiah, (Jeremiah 31:32,) namely, because the ancient covenant was abolished through the fault of man, there was reed of a better remedy, which is there shown to be twofold, namely, that God should bury men’s sins, and inscribe his law on their hearts: that also was done in Abraham’s time. Abraham believed in God: faith was always the gift of the Holy Spirit; therefore God inscribed his covenant in Abraham’s heart. (Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:3; Ephesians 2:8.)”[ John Calvin, Commentary on Ezekiel, in The Comprehensive John Calvin Collection (Ages Digital Library, 1998), 574]).

Dearly beloved brethren we must not be amazed if the article of the everlasting predestination to God, be so assaulted and fought against by Satan’s maintainers, seeing it is the foundation of our salvation, and also serveth for the better magnifying of the free goodness of God towards us. On the other side those Dogs which bark against it thinking to have a good and favorable cause are therein more hardy: as in very truth there is nothing more contrary to man’s understanding, than to place the cause of our salvation in the good will of God, in saying, that it belongeth to him alone to choose us: without finding of anything in us wherefore he should choose us: and after he hath chosen us, to give us faith through which we should be justified.”[ John Calvin, Sermon on Election and Reprobation, in The Comprehensive John Calvin Collection (Ages Digital Library, 1998), 225.]

Thus, Calvinists cannot be said to be “extreme” for holding that faith is the gift of God. It should be obvious that Geisler and Olson are in error if they are intending to assert that modern day Calvinists have gone beyond Calvin in believing faith to be a gift from God. In fairness, neither of these men explicitly asserts this, but the logical deduction is inherent in their comments, and the pastor I spoke with made the deduction. Neither Olson nor Geisler provide any positive statements like the above quotes. The pastor I spoke to seemed quite confident Calvin never believed faith to be a gift from God. When I brought these other Calvin passages to his attention, he had to agree that Calvin did in fact teach this doctrine. He then simply asserted that Calvin contradicted himself with comments on Ephesians 2:8-9, and this contradiction is a clear example of why Christians should never follow a fallible man.

As to Calvin’s comments on Ephesians 2:8-9, Calvin did not contradict himself with his comments on these verses.
First, let's do a little "alternate reality" type of analysis: it would not be a contradiction for Calvin to hold that faith was a gift from God, and that Ephesians 2:8-9 did not explicitly teach this truth.

Second, back to reality, I do think Calvin held Ephesians 2:8-9 implicitly taught that faith was the gift of God for the following reasons:

(a) In other quotes as shown above, Calvin includes Ephesians 2 when discussing faith being a gift from God.

(b) The immediate context of his comments show that Calvin believed free will (in regards to salvation) was a theological error- Salvation is obtained by faith alone, and that salvation is entirely the work of God. Calvin does not hold that depraved man has the ability to exercise saving faith without God’s gift of faith. As James White has pointed out,

“…[M]ake special note of two of the phrases provided by Calvin in response to Rome's claims: "nay, the whole man, and everything that he can call his own, is set aside. We must attend to the contrast between God and Man, between grace and works;" and "since Paul excludes man and his utmost ability, — not only from the commencement, but throughout, — from the whole work of obtaining salvation." We suggest that the person who honestly wishes to know where Calvin would stand on the debate today would find these to be the key affirmations, for if Geisler's position is correct, and "anyone can believe," then Calvin's entire position is overthrown. Would not such a faith be something the man could "call his own"? Calvin says it is set aside. Would this not be part of man's "utmost ability" especially at the very "commencement" of salvation"? Paul excludes it from the whole work of obtaining salvation, Calvin teaches.” (James White, The Potter’s Freedom (New York: Calvary Press, 2000), 318-319)

(c) Olson is correct when he asserts that “Calvin doesn’t explain the grammar.” However, Calvin does say that the error is restricting the word “gift” to faith alone. One must remember Calvin wrote in response to the errors of medieval Catholic theology, that posited a synergism in salvation, in which initial “faith” (or grace) was bestowed on a person and then one kept oneself saved by allowing grace to be infused in their works. Hence, the explanation that faith, grace, and salvation are all the gift of God harmonizes Calvin’s point that the word "gift" should not be restricted to faith.

The primary source that Olson and Geisler for this stuff is from R.T. Kendall’s book, Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (No time to get into this now- maybe another time!) . While Geisler and Olson continue to use the phrase “extreme Calvinists” in a somewhat less-than-charitable fashion, perhaps designating both these authors “extreme-Kendall-ists” is appropriate. They have gone beyond their own source for Calvin research by attributing a position to Calvin that he did not hold. Kendall explains Calvin: “…we cannot turn to God or do anything that pertains to obedience until first we have been given faith.”(Kendall, p. 26) For these writers to use any comment from Calvin to prove that faith is not the gift of God is simply historical slight-of-hand.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Calvin, The Church Fathers, and The Roman Church


Every so often I read someone asserting that Protestants don't "know" the Church Fathers. Protestants are said to be completely ignorant of Church History. Well, maybe there is some truth here. I suspect many modern-day evangelicals begin their "study" of church history with the birth of Billy Graham.

Such cannot be said of John Calvin.

The following is a brief excerpt from: John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion Vol. 1 (Philadelphia: Westminster Press), 18-23. Read for yourself how familiar Calvin was with the church fathers in relation to the 16th Century Roman Catholic Church. Calvin contrasts the church fathers with the Roman Church. Calvin's words will be in blue.

Moreover, (The roman church) unjustly set the ancient fathers against us (I mean the ancient writers of a better age of the church) as if in them they had supporters of their own impiety. If the contest were to be determined by patristic authority, the tide of victory — to put it very modestly —would turn to our side. Now, these fathers have written many wise and excellent things. Still, what commonly happens to men has befallen them too, in some instances. For these so-called pious children of theirs, with all their sharpness of wit and judgment and spirit, worship only the faults and errors of the fathers. The good things that these fathers have written they either do not notice, or misrepresent or pervert. You might say that their only care is to gather dung amid gold. Then, with a frightful to-do, they overwhelm us as despisers and adversaries of the fathers! But we do not despise them; in fact, if it were to our present purpose, I could with no trouble at all prove that the greater part of what we are saying today meets their approval.

Yet we are so versed in their writings as to remember always that all things are ours, to serve us, not to lord it over us, and that we all belong to the one Christ, whom we must obey in all things without exception. He who does not observe this distinction will have nothing certain in religion, inasmuch as these holy men were ignorant of many things, often disagreed among themselves, and sometimes even contradicted themselves.


1. It was one of the fathers who said that our God neither drinks nor eats, and therefore has no need of plates or cups. (Acacius, bishop of Amida, addressing his clergy as he was about to melt the gold and silver vessels of the church to obtain food for captive Persians. Socrates, Ecclesiastical History 7:21 (MPG 67. 781-784; tr. NPNF 2 ser. 2. 164).

2. Another (father), that sacred rites do not require gold, and those things not bought with gold do not please with gold. (Ambrose, De officiis clericorum 2:28 (MPL 16. 140; tr. NPNF 2 ser. 10. 64). (The Roman Church) therefore transgress this limit when in their ceremonies they take so much delight in gold, silver, ivory, marble, precious stones, and silks; and think that God is not rightly worshiped unless everything swims with untoward splendor, or, rather, mad excess.

3. It was a father who said that he freely ate meat on the day others abstained from it, because he was a Christian. (From Sozomen’s description of Spyridion, bishop of Trimithus in Cyprus, Ecclesiastical History 1.11; Cassiodorus, Historia tripartita 1.10 (MPL 69. 895; tr. NPNF 2 ser. 2. 247). (The Roman Church) transgress the limits, therefore, when they execrate any person who has tasted of meat in Lent.

4. There were two fathers, one of whom said that a monk who does not labor with his hands must be considered equal to a thug, or (if you prefer) a brigand ( Serapion, head of a monastery near Arsinoe in Egypt, who required his monks to earn their food by labor. Sozomen, op. cit., 6:28; Cassiodorus, Historia tripartita 8. 1 (MPL 69. 1103; tr. NPNF 2 ser. 2. 365); the second, that it is not lawful for monks to live off the goods of others, even though they be assiduous in contemplation, in prayer, and in study (Augustine, On the Work of Monks 14-17 (MPL 40. 560-564; tr. NPNF 3. 511-513). They have also transgressed this limit when they have put the lazy, wine-cask bellies of monks in these stews and brothels to be crammed with substance of others.

5. It was a father who termed it a dreadful abomination to see an image either of Christ or of some saint painted in the churches of Christians (“Epistle of Epiphanius to John of Jerusalem,” translated by Jerome, in his Letters 51:9 (CSEL 54. 411; tr. NPNF 2 ser. 6. 89). Epiphanius, bishop of Salamis in Cyprus, tells how in a church at Anablatha he tore up a curtain bearing an image and replaced it by a plain curtain. He declares images in churches “contrary to our religion” (A.D. 394). Cf. 1. 11. 11, 16; 1. 12. 2). “What is reverenced is not to be depicted upon walls” was not the mere declaration of one man but the decree of an ecclesiastical council (Council of Elvira (Illiberitanum) in Spain, ca. A.D. 305, canon 36: ‘That there ought not to be images in a church, that what is worshiped and adored should not be depicted on the walls.” Hefele-Leclercq 1. 240; Mansi 2. 264). They are far from remaining within these limits when they leave not a corner free of images. Another father counseled that, after having exercised in burial the office of humanity toward the dead, we should let them rest (Ambrose, De Abraham 1. 9. 80 (MPL 14. 472). They break these limits when they stir up perpetual solicitude for the dead.

6. It was one of the fathers, who testified that in the Eucharist the substance of bread and wine remained and did not cease to be, just as in Christ the Lord the substance and nature of man remained, joined to the divine nature (Gelasius, Tract. 3. 14 (Epistolae Romanorum pontificum, ed. A. Thiel, 1. 541). Therefore, (the Roman Church) overstep(s) the bounds in pretending that when the Lord’s words are repeated the substance of bread and wine ceases and is transubstantiated into body and blood (Canon 1 of the Fourth Lateran Council, A.D. 1215, declares that in the sacrament of the altar the bread is by divine power transubstantiated into the body and the wine into the blood of Christ. (Mansi 22. 954; Hefele-Leclercq 5. 1325; tr. H. J. Schroeder, Disciplinary Decrees of the General Councils, p. 338.).

7. They were fathers who, as they set forth only one Eucharist for the whole church and consequently excluded wicked and criminal persons, most gravely condemned all those who though present did not receive it (Chrysostom, Commentary on Ephesians, ch. 1, hom. 3. 4, 5 (MPG 62.28-30; tr. NPNF 13. 63-65), and Calixtus as quoted by Gratian, Decretum (De consecratione) 3. 2:18 (Friedberg 1. 1320; MPL 187. 1759). How far have they removed the boundaries when they fill not only churches but also private houses with their Masses, admitting anyone at all to observe them, each one the more willingly the more he pays, however impure and wicked he may be! They invite no one to faith in Christ and believing communion of the sacraments; rather, they put their work on sale, as the grace and merit of Christ.

8. There were two fathers, one of whom decreed that those content with participation in one kind, but abstaining from the other, were to be excluded entirely from participation in the Sacred Supper of Christ (In a passage dubiously attributed to Pope Gelasius and found in Gratian (Decretum 3. 2:12; Friedberg 1. 1318; MPL 59. 141; 187, 1736), communicants are required to take the wine with the bread or abstain from both: “aut integra sacramenta percipiant, aut ad integris arceantur.” The withdrawal of the wine from the laity called forth the protests of Scriptural sects, especially the Hussites); the other strongly contends that one must not deny the blood of their Lord to Christian folk, who, in confessing him, are bidden to shed their own blood (Cyprian, Letters 57. 2 (CSEL 3. 2. 651 f.; tr. ANF 5. 337). They have removed these landmarks when they have commanded by an inviolable law the very thing that the former father punished by excommunication and the latter reproved with a valid reason (Council of Constance, session 13 (1415), definition on communion in both kinds. This was confirmed by Martin V’s bull In eminentis (1418) (Texts in Mansi 27. 727 f., 1215, 1219).

9. It was a father who affirmed it rashness, when judging of some obscure matter, to take one side or another without clear and evident witness of Scripture (Augustine, De peccatorum meritis et remissione et de baptismo parvulorum 2. 36, 59 (MPL 44. 186; CSEL 60. 128; tr. NPNF 5. 67f.): “In obscure matters where the Scriptures do not give guidance, rash judgment is to be avoided.” Cf. Augustine, Letters 140. 37. 85 (MPL 33. 576; tr. FC 20. 135). They forgot this limit when they established so many constitutions, canons, and doctrinal decisions, without any word of God.

10. It was a father who reproached Montanus for, among other heresies, being the first to impose laws of fasting (Apollonius, cited in Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5. 18 (MPG 1:472; tr. NPNF 2 ser. 1. 235 ff.). They also passed far beyond those limits when they ordained fasts by very strict law (Gratian, Decretum 3. 3. 9 (MPL 187. 1734; Friedberg I. 1354 f.).

11. It was a father who denied that marriage should be forbidden to the ministers of the church, and declared cohabitation with one’s wife to be chastity. And other fathers agreed with his opinion (Sozomen (Ecclesiastical History 1:23) records that Paphnutius the Confessor, an ardent ascetic, swayed the decision of the Council of Nicaea (325) against requiring clerical celibacy by the declaration here reported. Calvin probably used Cassiodorus’ text, op. cit., 2. 14 (MPL 69. 933; tr. NPNF 2 ser. 2. 256). By severely enjoining celibacy for their priests, they have gone beyond this limit.

12. It was a father who deemed that one must listen to Christ alone, for Scripture says, “Hear him” (Matthew 17:5); and that we need not be concerned about what others before us either said or did, but only about what Christ, who is the first of all, commanded (Cyprian, Letters 63:14 (CSEL 3. 2. 712; tr. ANF 5. 362).When they set over themselves and others any masters but Christ, they neither abode by this boundary nor permitted others to keep it.

13. It was a father who contended that the church ought not to set itself above Christ, for he always judges truthfully, but ecclesiastical judges, like other men, are often mistaken (Augustine, Contra Cresconium Grammaticum Donatistam 2:21 (MPL 43. 482; CSEL 52.385).When this boundary is also broken through, they do not hesitate to declare that the whole authority of Scripture depends entirely upon the judgment of the church (This view, asserted by John Eck, Enchiridion (1526), ch. 1:(1541, fo.76).

14. All the fathers with one heart have abhorred and with one voice have detested the fact that God’s Holy Word has been contaminated by the subtleties of sophists and involved in the squabbles of dialecticians (Tertullian, De praescriptione haereticorum 7 (CCL Tertullianus 1. 192; tr. LCC 5. 35 f.); Augustine, On Christian Doctrine 2. 31 (MPL 34. 57; tr. NPNF 2 550; also FC 4. 102-103). When they attempt nothing in life but to enshroud and obscure the simplicity of Scripture with endless contentions and worse than sophistic brawls, do they keep themselves within these borders? Why, if the fathers were now brought back to life, and heard such brawling art as these persons call speculative theology, there is nothing they would less suppose than that these folk were disputing about God!