In Regards to Bullinger’s Second Helvetic Confession

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Benjamin, Sep 19, 2006.

  1. Benjamin

    Benjamin
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    In Bullinger’s dealing with the emerging points of Protestant reformation in this confession as he deals with predestination and election seems to be condemning some of the things that many of those who call themselves “Calvinist” are seemingly espousing today in their “doctrines of grace” that often when hearing I find offensive by sounding in exclusion of the rest of the Gospel, but not so much in him. Anyway, I just wanted to point out that I think his writings show more neutrality by inclusion of the other matters in the subject of what we call the C/A debate as it is presented today within the labeling of the two sides and the claiming of preaching the “doctrines of grace” by the Calvinist side while discounting the “doctrines of grace” away from those who do not call themselves Calvinist, today it seems to have grown to be more extreme than in the way Bullinger did it back in his day. He certainly seems to be aware of these arising problems; what do you think?
    Whether Few Are Elect. And when the Lord was asked whether there were few that should be saved, he does not answer and tell them that few or many should be saved or damned, but rather he exhorts every man to "strive to enter by the narrow door" (Luke 13:24): as if he should say, It is not for you curiously to inquire about these matters, but rather to endeavor that you may enter into heaven by the straight way.

    What in This Matter Is To Be Condemned. Therefore we do not approve of the impious speeches of some who say, "Few are chosen, and since I do not know whether I am among the number of the few, I will enjoy myself." Others say, "If I am predestinated and elected by God, nothing can hinder me from salvation, which is already certainly appointed for me, no matter what I do. But if I am in the number of the reprobate, no faith or repentance will help me, since the decree of God cannot be changed. Therefore all doctrines and admonitions are useless." Now the saying of the apostle contradicts these men: "The Lord’s servant must be ready to teach, instructing those who oppose him, so that if God should grant that they repent to know the truth, they may recover from the snare of the devil, after being held captive by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:23 ff.)

    Admonitions Are Not in Vain Because Salvation Proceeds from Election. Augustine also shows that both the grace of free election and predestination, and also salutary admonitions and doctrines, are to be preached (Lib. de Dono Perseverantiae, cap. 14 ff.).

    Whether We Are Elected. We therefore find fault with those who outside of Christ ask whether they are elected.* And what has God decreed concerning them before all eternity? For the preaching of the Gospel is to be heard, and it is to be believed; and it is to be held as beyond doubt that if you believe and are in Christ, you are elected. For the Father has revealed unto us in Christ the eternal purpose of his predestination, as I have just now shown from the apostle in 2 Tim. 1:9-10. This is therefore above all to be taught and considered, what great love of the Father toward us is revealed to us in Christ. We must hear what the Lord himself daily preaches to us in the Gospel, how he calls and says: "Come to me all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28). "God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). Also, "It is not the will of my Father that one of these little ones should perish" (Matt. 18:14).

    Let Christ, therefore be the looking glass, in whom we may contemplate our predestination. We shall have a sufficiently clear and sure testimony that we are inscribed in the Book of Life if we have fellowship with Christ, and he is ours and we are his in true faith.
    *The 1568 edition changes this to read: "whether they are elected from eternity."

    Temptation in Regard to Predestination. In the temptation in regard to predestination, than which there is scarcely any other more dangerous, we are confronted by the fact that God’s promises apply to all the faithful, for he says: "Ask, and everyone who seeks, shall receive" (Luke 11:9 f.). This finally we pray, with the whole Church of God, "Our Father who art in heaven" (Matt. 6:9), both because by baptism we are ingrafted into the body of Christ, and we are often fed in his Church with his flesh and blood unto life eternal. Thereby, being strengthened, we are commanded to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, according to the precept of Paul.
     
  2. J.D.

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    I just read the entire Helvetic Confession for the first time. I don't see your point. Bullinger, in regards to salvation, expounds nothing more than what we know today as orthodox calvinism. He deals more with what had already arisen than with what he thought might arise in the future. For good reason. The arguments go back at least to Augustine and very likely beyond.

    Can you say more specifically what part of the Helvetic Confession you regard to be "neutral"?
     
  3. Benjamin

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    Neutral was probably a poor choice of word as I realize he is espousing something similar to what one would call orthodox Calvinism today as far as predestination goes, but not so sure if he saw it exactly the same way, and I see that he was dealing with a lot of the same type issues, although differently as he is not carrying on about predestination but gets immediately into other aspects such as, Jesus exhorts “every man” saying it is as if, “It is not for you curiously to inquire about these matters” what I meant to express is that I doubt by reading his writings that he would sign off as it is being taught today.

    Also, for instance he condemns poor speech as he does not approve of the “impious” speeches; I’m referring to him reprimanding those saying (Few are chosen, nothing can hinder me from salvation, no faith or repentance can help me,) and finishes saying:



    Bullinger is teaching about the importance to those who “oppose Him”, as compared to a lot of the attitude I’ve seen, that God will grant salvation regardless of what I (Calvinist) will do since it’s predestined; I have the feeling that if one were to say that in front of him they would be in for a lecture, but wouldn’t see that today, may be it’s just me perceiving it that way. Then he says, (so that “if” God “should” grant that they repent to know the truth) he does not put the emphases to sound so rapped up toward unconditional election.

    Bullinger speaks to the temptations in regards to predestination being dangerous saying, “we (those holding to predestination) are confronted by the fact that God’s promises apply to all the faithful, for he says: "Ask, and everyone who seeks, shall receive".

    Even when Bullinger speaks of Augustine he speaks of both grace and free election and how it should be preached.

    Anyway, I realize that he believes in predestination, but I wonder about election being the same in unconditional, and I like the way he teaches his doctrine by where he puts his heart in these matters. I guess you could claim him as a “Calvinist” if you wish but I would presume to believe he would have a bone to pick about that.

    I just found Bullinger’s confession myself and read it, but I could tell you if it had come across something in that length that went off of predestination and unconditional election the way they do today I wouldn’t have finished it.
     
    #3 Benjamin, Sep 19, 2006
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  4. J.D.

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    You have said much here I would like to respond to, but my limited time necessitates that I do it in small portions. First let's look at your first paragraph broken down by answerable statements.


    Similar is not the word I would use - he does in fact espouse orthodox calvinism, except that he might have been somewhat hypercalvinist on some points, such as when he admits that God is not necessarily bound to means to work his will in man.


    Exactly the same way as whom? No two people, yea no two calvinists, see everything exactly the same. But I can tell you that his confession comes real close to what I believe. But yes, Bullinger had his own particular views in the secondary details that might not have been in agreement with other reformers.



    Yes, because these are the same issues that theologians have been dealing with since creation.



    I don't see any difference. Predestination is a key doctrine in the Helvetic. But it is also intended to be a comprehensive statement of faith, so naturally it's going to accelerate into other areas. Full treatises on predestination can take up volumes and it wasn't his design in the confession to dwell on predestination alone. Not only that, but predestination is but one of the aspects of understanding the calvinist soteriology. The doctrines of election, predestination, regeneration, justification, redemption, atonement, etc., all share an equal role in the understanding of God's plan of salvation.




    Again, you would have to be more specific. What exactly is being taught today that he would not "sign off" on? Your brush is too broad.

    There is a buzz-word that's being coined these days - "neo-calvinism", which is being done to subtly undermine the teaching of today's calvinists by falsely pitting them against their theological forefathers. Is this what you are implying? If so, I think you're way off the true course. Granted, one may differ with Bullinger on a point, and differ with Calvin on a point, and differ with Luther on a point, and so on, but that doesn't qualify one to be labeled a "neo-" as if a whole new theological system were being developed. To the contrary, what's happening today is that more and more bible students are discovering the purity and truth of the old masters, and are converting to their system. At least that's the way it was for me.
     
  5. npetreley

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    I don't see the point, either. The things against which he protests are not unique to Calvinism. For example:

    "I am predestinated and elected by God, nothing can hinder me from salvation, which is already certainly appointed for me, no matter what I do."


    This is just an excuse for licentiousness. The problem here is licentiousness, not Calvinism. It's just someone using Calvinism as an excuse to be licentious. There are plenty of other excuses people have for being licentious.
     
  6. Benjamin

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    Well, I was looking into some history in the wikipedia concerning the ECF’s, (Early Church Fathers), don’t even remember where I started, but read some about Bullinger’s upbringing and found it interesting and while seeing he was involved in the reformation I came across that he had wrote the Helvetic Confession so I googled it to maybe find out more about where he was at. I found it a good read, not that I agreed with everything he said, but I liked the way he presented it.
    I’m more asking than telling here as I am no scholar on early church history, but I can truly tell you I found his writings to be quite a bit toned down from what I’ve read off of Calvinists sites or on this board. You may be correct that he didn’t design this confession to dwell on predestination. However, he did seem to dwell on the dangers, temptations, and matters to be condemned and I personally found that admirable.

    I’m a bit surprised that you suggest you don’t see any differences especially in the way he addresses election from your perspective. How more clearly I could have pointed to it from my perspective and as it is right here above to read I guess we will have to agree to disagree for I can’t rightly speak for his actual thoughts, but I did think it was worth noting.




    I wasn’t familiar with the term “neo-calvinism” so looked it up seeing it has been described in this way:

    Neocalvinism is postmodern Calvinism. Neocalvinism is a global cultural movement that is the result of people motivated by the religious dynamic of the Reformation trying to get to grips with the historical consequences and implications of modernity.”

    Obviously the term is offensive to you but I didn’t bring it up or even know about it and can see your motive in objection; although curiously I did truly note a different sounding theology whether you see it that way or not and that was my point in suggesting it sounded more neutral and/or less offensive to my own ears, and was my purpose for bringing up the subject to see what others think. This was my own observation from my own experience with the doctrine; it may not coincide with yours.

    Maybe Bullinger was very much in line with the “orthodox calvinism” of today, I don’t know enough about him to say for sure either way and since he is not around to ask it would just be speculation on my part from reading some history and his Helvetic Confession which we seem to interpret differently in how it sounds compared to today.

    Peace

     
  7. J.D.

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    I think as you continue to study the history surrounding the Helvetic, you'll begin to see that there's nothing neutral or "toned down" about it. On the contrary, it includes, repeatedly, condemnations of opposing views, even naming the people birthing or espousing those views. That's pretty controversial in any age.

    As far as neo-calvinism, I was speaking in terms of the way it's being commonly used by opponents of calvinism. It's only offensive to me in as much as it is used as a pejorative, much lilke the term calvinist or hypercalvinist itself.

    Now, thinking some more about what you're saying and after reading npetreley's post, maybe the reason you view the Helvetic as "neutral" or "toned down" is because of it's statements against those that are truly "hyper" in their understanding of predetermination. There were some then, just as their are some now, that sieze on to the idea of predestination as an excuse for either licentiousness, as npet pointed out, or spiritual indifference and lethargy. In this regard, Bullinger reflects the view of all orthodox calvinists - we (if I may include myself in the orthodox class) do not see God's sovereignty as an excuse for sin, but rather, we are exceedingly motivated to follow Him by the knowledge of his grace and His works in us.

    In your studies, be sure to look at the Westminster Confession. It is the king of confessions. The London Baptist Confession of 1644 and the one of 1689 are important also. As a baptist, you want to be sure to study them.
     
    #7 J.D., Sep 21, 2006
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