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Calvinism Part VII ... Calvinism and The First 1500 Years / The Sins of Augustine

Are we expected to believe that it took 1500 years before someone figured out that predestination was a basic tenet of the Bible?

Carol Brooks.

Index To All Sections

 Part 1: An Introduction to John Calvin and his Doctrines of Grace

Part 2Introduction to the acronym T.U.L.I.P - each letter stands for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism.
  2A. Total Inability
2BUnconditional Election
 2C. Limited Atonement
 2D. Irresistible Grace
  2E. Perseverance of The Saints

 Part 3: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
 Part 4: God’s Sovereignty, Character and Will.
Part 5: Hypocrisy Unlimited
 Part 6: Conclusion

You Are Here 001orange Part 7: The Sins of Augustine. Early Church Theologians



Calvinism and The First 1500 Years
Apparently, apart from Augustine, the first 1500 years of church history was filled with ignoramuses who, in spite of their deep devotion to the Word of God, never managed to figure out that predestination was a basic tenet of the Bible.

Early Christian Theologians
Justin Martyr, Clement Of Alexandria, Irenaeus etc. ALL believed in Free Will

Sins of Augustine
What I will never ever understand is how someone who was so deeply and obviously Catholic in his beliefs and even considered a saint in the Catholic church, has become such as icon in the Protestantism. His writings were the actual source of most of what is known as Calvinism today - his faulty doctrine swallowed hook, line and sinker by Calvin and, in turn, by us.

Calvinism and The First 1500 Years

As said in the introduction, Loraine Boettner, a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary and a well known reformed theologian and author pointed out that Augustine

    taught the essentials of the system a thousand years before Calvin was born, and the whole body of the leaders of the Reformation movement taught the same. But it was given to Calvin with his deep knowledge of Scripture, his keen intellect and systematizing genius, to set forth and defend these truths more clearly and ably than had ever been done before." [00]

 Apparently, apart from Augustine, the first 1500 years of church history was filled with ignoramuses who, in spite of their deep devotion to the Word of God, never managed to figure out that predestination was a basic tenet of the Bible. Somehow this foundational and critical doctrine managed to elude the grasp and understanding of men like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus of Gaul, Clement of Alexandria and countless others. And I am certainly not saying that all these men had their ducks in a row. For example, Novatian was a Roman priest and the second antipope in papal history, and Jerome is still recognized by the Catholic Church as a saint and Doctor of the Church, while his Vulgate is still an important text in Catholicism. Many of them taught some awful tripe.

However, the common factor between them was that they all believed in free will.

It took fifteen centuries before Calvin came along and 'discovered' that predestination 'shone forth clearly' from the pages of Scripture, until which time had only been endorsed by a man who was wrong about almost everything else he believed and taught, but was Catholic to the core. See The Sins of Augustine below.

Note: This is almost an identical situation to that of the doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture, which was not believed by anyone in the church until about two hundred years odd ago. (See The Rapture)

Early Christian Theologians - Justin Martyr, Clement Of Alexandria, Irenaeus etc.
Ignatius of Antioch (born in Syria, around the year 50; died at Rome between 98 and 117.) was Bishop and Patriarch of Antioch.

    Seeing, then, all things have an end, and there is set before us life upon our observance of God's precepts, but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life... If any one is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice [01]

Justin Martyr (c.100-165 A.D) was a 2nd Century Christian apologist.

    But that you may not have a pretext for saying that Christ must have been crucified, and that those who transgressed must have been among your nation, and that the matter could not have been otherwise, I said briefly by anticipation, that God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness; possessing reason, that they may know by whom they are created, and through whom they, not existing formerly, do now exist; and with a law that they should be judged by Him, if they do anything contrary to right reason: and of ourselves we, men and angels, shall be convicted of having acted sinfully, unless we repent beforehand. But if the word of God foretells that some angels and men shall be certainly punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeably [wicked], but not because God had created them so. So that if they repent, all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God: and the Scripture foretells that they shall be blessed, saying, ‘Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputeth not sin;’ [02]

Tatian the Assyrian (c. 120–180) was a pupil of Justin Martyr, an early Christian writer and theologian of the second century.

    Our free-will has destroyed us; we who were free have become slaves; we have been sold through sin. Nothing evil has been created by God; we ourselves have manifested wickedness; but we, who have manifested it, are able again to reject it. [03l

Irenaeus of Gaul (c.130-200) became Bishop of Lyons in what is now France. His Against Heresies contained a chapter entitled Men are possessed of free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. It is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad, in which he said

    This expression [of our Lord], "How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldest not, forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests (ad utendum sententia) of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves. On the other hand, they who have not obeyed shall, with justice, be not found in possession of the good, and shall receive condign punishment:

    If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give us counsel to do some things, and to abstain from others? But because man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free will, in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God.  [04]


    Just as with men, who have freedom of choice as to both virtue and vice (for you would not either honour the good or punish the bad, unless vice and virtue were in their own power; and some are diligent in the matters entrusted to them by you, and others faithless), so is it among the angels. [05]

    And now the more benevolent God is, the more impious men are; for He desires us from slaves to become sons, while they scorn to become sons. O the prodigious folly of being ashamed of the Lord! He offers freedom, you flee into bondage; He bestows salvation, you sink down into destruction; He confers everlasting life, you wait for punishment, and prefer the fire which the Lord “has prepared for the devil and his angels.” [06]

THEOPHILUS OF ANTIOCH 7th Bishop of Antioch (ca. 169–ca. 183).

    For God made man free, and with power over himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting. For God has given us a law and holy commandments; and every one who keeps these can be saved, and, obtaining the resurrection, can inherit incorruption [07]

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA (c.150-215) was an early Greek theologian and head of the catechetical school of Alexandria counting Origen among his pupils [08]

    But we, who have heard by the Scriptures that self-determining choice and refusal have been given by the Lord to men, rest in the infallible criterion of faith, manifesting a willing spirit, since we have chosen life and believe God through His voice." [09]

    to us who are obedient to the Word and masters of ourselves, who have believed, and are saved by voluntary choice, [10]

    We have believed and are saved by voluntary choice.”

TERTULLIAN of Carthage (c.155-225) was a a prolific early Christian author from Carthage

    I find, then, that man was by God constituted free, master of his own will and power; indicating the presence of God’s image and likeness in him by nothing so well as by this constitution of his nature... For a law would not be imposed upon one who had it not in his power to render that obedience which is due to law; nor again, would the penalty of death be threatened against sin, if a contempt of the law were impossible to man in the liberty of his will. So in the Creator’s subsequent laws also you will find, when He sets before man good and evil, life and death, that the entire course of discipline is arranged in precepts by God’s calling men from sin, and threatening and exhorting them; and this on no other ground than that man is free, with a will either for obedience or resistance. [11]

NOVATIAN of Rome (c.200-258)

    He also placed man at the head of the world, and man, too, made in the image of God, to whom He imparted mind, and reason, and foresight, that he might imitate God; and although the first elements of his body were earthly, yet the substance was inspired by a heavenly and divine breathing. And when He had given him all things for his service, He willed that he alone should be free. And lest, again, and unbounded freedom should fall into peril, He laid down a command, in which man was taught that there was no evil in the fruit of the tree; but he was forewarned that evil would arise if perchance he should exercise his freewill in contempt of the law that was given." [12]

CYRIL of Jerusalem (c. 312-386)  is venerated as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion, yet he wrote...

    18. Know also that thou hast a soul self-governed, the noblest work of God, made after the image of its Creator : immortal because of God that gives it immortality; a living being, rational, imperishable, because of Him that bestowed these gifts: having free power to do what it willeth...

    20. There is not a class of souls sinning by nature, and a class of souls practising righteousness by nature : but both act from choice, the substance of their souls being of one kind only, and alike in all.

    21. The soul is self-governed: and though the devil can suggest, he has not the power to compel against the will. He pictures to thee the thought of fornication: if thou wilt, thou acceptest it; if thou wilt not, thou rejectest. For if thou wert a fornicator by necessity, then for what cause did God prepare hell? If thou were a doer of righteousness by nature and not by will, wherefore did God prepare crowns of ineffable glory? The sheep is gentle, but never was it crowned for its gentleness: since its gentle quality belongs to it not from choice but by nature. [13]

JEROME (c.347-420) was a priest, theologian and historian, whose most important achievement was translation of Greek manuscripts into Latin (the Vulgate). He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, and the Church of England (Anglican Communion).

    It is in vain that you misrepresent me and try to convince the ignorant that I condemn free-will. Let him who condemns it be himself condemned. We have been created endowed with free-will; still it is not this which distinguishes us from the brutes. For human free-will, as I said, depends upon the help of God and needs His aid moment by moment, a thing which you and yours do not choose to admit. Your position is that once a man has free-will he no longer needs the help of God. It is true that freedom of the will brings with it freedom of decision. Still man does not act immediately on his free-will but requires God's aid who Himself needs no aid." [14]

    But when we are concerned with grace and mercy, free-will is in part void; in part, I say, for so much depends upon it, that we wish and desire, and give assent to the course we choose. But it depends on God whether we have the power in His strength and with His help to perform what we desire, and to bring to effect our toil and effort." [15]

The Sins of Augustine
(All Emphasis Added)
Also See Section on Catholicism

Salvation Is Not To Be Found Outside Of The Catholic Church

    A man cannot have salvation except in the Catholic Church. Outside the Catholic Church he can have everything except salvation. He can have honor, he can have Sacraments, he can sing Allelulia, he can answer Amen, he can possess the Gospel, he can preach faith in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: but never except in the Catholic Church will he be able to find salvation. (Augustine, Discourse to the People of the Church at Caesarea, A.D. 418]

    "By the same word, by the same Sacrament you were born, but you will not come to the same inheritance of eternal life, unless you return to the Catholic Church." [Sermons, 3, 391 A.D.]

The Catholic Church

is Pure...

    "This Church is Holy, the One Church, the True Church, the Catholic Church, fighting as she does against all heresies. She can fight, but she cannot be beaten. All heresies are expelled from her, like the useless loppings pruned from a vine. She remains fixed in her root, in her vine, in her love. The gates of hell shall not conquer her." [Sermon to Catechumens, on the Creed, 6,14, 395 A.D.]

It Is The Supreme Teaching Authority Because Of Apostolic Succession...

    "If the very order of Episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them [the bishops of Rome] from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, 'Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.' Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement ... In this order of succession a Donatist bishop is not to be found" (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).

    "The Catholic Church is the work of Divine Providence, achieved through the prophecies of the prophets, through the Incarnation and the teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the suffering, the crosses, the blood and the death of the martyrs, through the admirable lives of the saints. When, then, we see so much help on God's part, so much progress and so much fruit, shall we hesitate to bury ourselves in the bosom of that Church? For starting from the Apostolic Chair down through successions of bishops, even unto the open confession of all mankind, it has possessed the crown of teaching authority." [The Advantage of Believing, 391 A.D.]

 ...And Can Forgive Sins

    "Let us not listen to those who deny that the Church of God is able to forgive all sins. They are wretched indeed, because they do not recognize in Peter the rock and they refuse to believe that the keys of the kingdom of heaven, lost from their own hands, have been given to the Church." [Christian Combat 31,33, 396 A.D.]

Tradition is on Par With The Authority Of The Scriptures

    "But in regard to those observances which we carefully attend and which the whole world keeps, and which derive not from Scripture but from tradition, we are given to understand that they are recommended and ordained to be kept either by the Apostles themselves or by plenary Councils, the authority of which is quite vital to the Church." [Letter to Januarius 54,1,1, 400 A.D.]

    "I believe that this practice comes from apostolic tradition, just as so many other practices not found in their writings nor in the councils of their successors, but which, because they are kept by the whole Church everywhere, are believed to have been commended and handed down by the Apostles themselves." [Baptism 1,12,20, 400 A.D.]

Baptism and the Lord's Supper Are Necessary for  Salvation

    "[According to] Apostolic Tradition . . . the Churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal. This is the witness of Scripture too" (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:24:34 [A.D. 412]).

    "Baptism washes away all, absolutely all, our sins, whether of deed, word, or thought, whether sins original or added, whether knowingly or unknowingly contracted" (Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 3:3:5 [A.D. 420]).

    "There are three ways in which sins are forgiven: in baptism, in prayer, and in the greater humility of penance; yet God does not forgive sins except to the baptized" (Sermons to Catechumens, on the Creed 7:15 [A.D. 395]).

Mary's Perpetual Virginity

    Mary "remained a virgin in conceiving her Son, a virgin in giving birth to him, a virgin in carrying him, a virgin in nursing him at her breast, always a virgin." (Sermon 186)

    "Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband" (Heresies 56).

The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist

    "I promised you [new Christians], who have now been baptized, a sermon in which I would explain the sacrament of the Lord's Table, which you now look upon and of which you last night were made participants. You ought to know that you have received, what you are going to receive, and what you ought to receive daily. That bread which you see on the altar, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Body of Christ. That chalice, or rather, what is in that chalice, having been sanctified by the word of God, is the Blood of Christ" (Sermons 227 [A.D. 411]).

Purgatory and Praying for the Departed

    "We read in the books of the Maccabees [2 Macc. 12:43] that sacrifice was offered for the dead. But even if it were found nowhere in the Old Testament writings, the authority of the Catholic Church which is clear on this point is of no small weight, where in the prayers of the priest poured forth to the Lord God at his altar the commendation of the dead has its place" (The Care to be Had for the Dead 1:3 [A.D. 421]).

And finally this little Gem

    "I would not believe in the Gospel myself if the authority if the Catholic Church did not influence me to do so." [Against the letter of Mani, 5,6, 397 A.D.]

Augustine and Force:
In the book The Historians' History Of The World, Henry Smith Williams says

    "300 bishops, with many thousands of the inferior clergy, were torn from their churches, stripped of their ecclesiastical possessions, banished to the islands, and proscribed by the laws, if they presumed to conceal themselves in any of the provinces in Africa. Their numerous congregations were deprived of the rights of citizens and of the exercise of religious worship. By these severities, which obtained the warmest approbation of Saint Augustine, great numbers of Donatists were reconciled to the Catholic Church." [Page 577. The Outlook Company, 1904]

End Notes

[00] Loraine Boettner D.D.a. The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination. Chapter I. Introduction. http://www.fivesolas.com/01.htm

[01] Ignatius. Epistle to the Magnesians: Shorter and Longer Versions. Chapter V.—Death is the fate of all such.

[02] Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew. Chapter CXLI.—Free-will in men and angels.

[03] Tatian’s Address to the Greeks. [Translated by J. E. Ryland. Chapter XI. The Sin of Men Due Not to Fate,

[04] Against Heresies Book IV. Chapter XXXVII.— Men are possessed of free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. It is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf01.ix.vi.xxxviii.html

[05] Athenagoras. A Plea for the Christians. Chapter XXIV.—Concerning the Angels and Giants.

[06] Athenagoras. A Plea for the Christians. Chapter IX.—“That Those Grievously Sin Who Despise or Neglect God’s Gracious Calling.” http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf02.vi.ii.ix.html

[07] Theophilus To Autolycus. Book II. Chapter. XXVII.--The Nature Of Man.

[08] http://www.ccel.org/ccel/nutter/hymnwriters.ClementA.html

[09] The Stromata, or Miscellanies. Bk II. Chapter IV. Faith the Foundation of All Knowledge. 

[10] The Instructor Chapter VI. http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/clement-instructor-book1.html

[11] Chapter V.—Marcion’s Cavils Considered. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/anf03.v.iv.iii.v.html

[12] http://www.jarom.net/novatian.php. Quote taken from God's Strategy in Human History by Roger T Forster & V Paul Marston. First British Edition 1989 published by Highland

[13] Lecture IV On the Ten Points of Doctrine. http://www.trueorthodoxy.info/cat_stcyril_jer_cat_04_Doctrine.shtml

[14] Letter CXXXIII. To Ctesiphon. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/npnf206.v.CXXXIII.html

[15] Against the Pelagians Book III, 10. http://www.jarom.net/jerome.php. Quote taken from God's Strategy in Human History by Roger T Forster & V Paul Marston. First British Edition 1989 published by Highland


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