Should we put much stock in relatively NEW doctrine?

Discussion in 'Calvinism/Arminianism Debate' started by Skandelon, Mar 8, 2014.

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  1. Skandelon

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    It may occasion some surprise to discover that the doctrine of Predestination was not made a matter of special study until near the end of the fourth century. The earlier church fathers placed chief emphasis on good works such as faith, repentance, almsgiving, prayers, submission to baptism, etc., as the basis of salvation. They of course taught that salvation was through Christ; yet they assumed that man had full power to accept or reject the gospel. Some of their writings contain passages in which the sovereignty of God is recognized; yet along side of those are others which teach the absolute freedom of the human will. Since they could not reconcile the two they would have denied the doctrine of Predestination and perhaps also that of God’s absolute Foreknowledge. They taught a kind of synergism in which there was a co-operation between grace and free will. It was hard for man to give up the idea that he could work out his own salvation. But at last, as a result of a long, slow process, he came to the great truth that salvation is a sovereign gift which has been bestowed irrespective of merit; that it was fixed in eternity; and that God is the author in all of its stages. This cardinal truth of Christianity was first clearly seen by Augustine, the great Spirit-filled theologian of the West. In his doctrines of sin and grace, he went far beyond the earlier theologians... --Calvinism in History: Before the Reformation by Loraine Boettner​


    Even Boettner, a notable Calvinist, admits the Reformed theological perspective doesn't appear until the 4th century. Does that matter? If not, why not?
     
  2. Greektim

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    I'm not saying it doesn't matter, but that it took 300 years for the doctrine to be hashed out is not necessarily a testament to its validity or lack thereof. Needless to say, the church had bigger fish to fry. Predestination is an "in house" issue. The church was dealing w/ its own identity, orthodoxy, and apologetic from those outside. So it is not surprising that the development of these doctrines came later in the 4th century.

    With that in mind, I might argue that "in house" issues of theology from the 4th century on are more reliable than first century (think eschatology here). Being so focused on defending its truth claims of the gospel, deity of Jesus, and the Trinity (as well as a host of other issues including heresy infiltrating); "in house" issues were put on the back-burner so to speak. Until Christianity was a religio licita, it couldn't really develop itself but rather had to defend itself.
     
  3. Skandelon

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    Does anyone find it significant that this debate is virtually non-existent in Eastern Orthodoxy. Not that they don't have other issues of their own, but isn't it interesting that this is a uniquely Western point of debate?

    My Eastern friends tell me its because of the Westerns overly individualistic mindset...as if everything is about us individually, rather than corporately. Most Eastern cultures are more tribal and thus they would interpret passages from the more corporate point of view than the ego-centric perspective.

    Just something to consider....
     
  4. The Biblicist

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    This is a ridiculous argument! It was not until the fourth century that the doctrine of the Trinity was completley hashed out theologically. This can be equally said about the doctrine of justificaiton by faith without works or baptism. It was not until the fourth century that the doctrine of the church was theologically hashed out IF the Ante-Nicene Fathers are excepted as valid representatives of New Testament Christianity (and I do not accept them as such).
     
  5. Inspector Javert

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    Good grief!!!
    Relax Biblicist, you've already got your undies in a bunch:

    1.) No one was really making an "argument". Skan was asking an open-ended question for discussion.

    2.) This was simply a statement by Boettner (hardly an evil Arm. humanist attacking Calvinism)

    3.) Boettner didn't say that it was "completely hashed out" by the 4th century, only that it wasn't made a "matter of special study"....that's hardly the same as "completely hashed-out".


    That being said:

    I agree in general with Greek Tim:
    The relative "newness" of those ideas (as they were expressed) is not sufficient reason to mistrust them or deny them. The ante-Nicene fathers were kept quite busy defending the deity of Jesus Christ and other doctrinal essentials.

    They didn't always have time to scream about the "RIDICULOUSNESS!" of an Arminian quoting a Calvinist on an online forum and asking the honest question of whether it is a matter for concern or not. They didn't have that luxury.
     
  6. The Biblicist

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    I realize who was being quoted and why it was being quoted. Skandelon was not quoting him to support Calvinism but to introduce a discussion against Calvinism.

    It is a ridiculous basis for discussion as it proves nothing, one way or the other.
     
  7. Inspector Javert

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  8. The Biblicist

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  9. Inspector Javert

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  10. The Biblicist

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  11. Inspector Javert

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    Well, he won't argue that it's having taken 400 years is a PLUS for Calvinism...so it isn't a simple either/or.
    :laugh:
    Well, for me it is, inasmuch as I am no Calvinist, but I don't think that it's having taken 400+ years to articulate that view is a sufficiently powerful argument against it, so...

    I have no reason to make assumptions.

    I'm a pre-trib, pre-millennial Dispensationalist (that's not an antinomian for anyone who thinks that's cute)

    So....picking on a Calvie for their 400 years vs. my 1700 years isn't exactly an argument I'm interested in taking up.

    However, do I believe it is of NO SIGNIFIGANCE that no one came up with such an explanation for so long?

    No, I think it does weigh a little bit against Calvinism actually.
    I think it's a chink in it's armour.....
    Just not a sufficiently damning one.

    Similarly, I accept that the relatively young articulation of Modern Dispensational Eschatology as I take it is MUCH YOUNGER is indeed an annoying chink in the armour....

    I just don't think it's sufficient enough to abandon it as I maintain that there is sufficient Biblical evidence to counter that.....

    So, do I believe that the 400 years is of NO IMPORTANCE?
    No, it doesn't help the Calvinist schema....
    It hurts it actually, and I think any honest Calvinist should admit that.
    It certainly doesn't HELP it by any means.

    But, it hurts it only a little.

    My view of Dispensational Eschatology is far more wounded by the time-frames involved....but, I still hold to it.
     
  12. JonC

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    I do not see an issue with the theological perspective not appearing until the 4th century.

    The reason is that the appearance of the perspective does not necessarily reflect a change in doctrinal understanding but may indicate a change in human reasoning. For example, when you look Paul journey as related in Acts, you see both human action/choice and divine providence. Luke presents both, but makes no attempt at reconciling the two. The “Reformed theological perspective” takes into account theological issues that became prominent throughout church history. Another example is the doctrine of the Trinity. Just because it developed centuries after Christ does not mean that the early church had no concept of the Godhead. Calvin did not deal with the scope of the Atonement because it was not an issue of his day - but after Beza the doctrine became an issue of hot debate. Theology meets the challenges of the day - it answers questions that may not have been asked before.

    So, no, it doesn’t matter that it was not spelled out before the 4th century - it may have been readily accepted without question or a sense of incompatibleness before it was articulated into a theological doctrine. OR It may represent error to deal with questions that arose throughout reasoning through Scripture (I believe the former). But either way, the appearance in history has no bearing on the truthfulness of the doctrine.
     
  13. ktn4eg

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    With regard to some of the major events of eschatology (especially the timings of both of the "comings" of Jesus Christ to this earth), some of the prophetic passages concerning them are not particularly clear as to which of His "comings" they are referring.

    In fact, many reliable conservative Bible scholars tend to see a "dual-fulfillment message" in some of the passages that describe His "coming to this earth."

    One such prophetic passage is that mentioned by the Apostle Peter in Acts 2:16-20 in his Day of Pentecost sermon where he quotes the OT prophet Joel's writings that are found in Joel 2:28-32.

    The events described by Joel in chapter 2:28a-29 were those that actually occurred on the Day of Pentecost (and, perhaps, very shortly thereafter).

    BUT, OTOH, what Joel describes in chapter 2:30-32 certainly did not occur on that same Day of Pentecost.

    This very same Apostle Peter (who was the principal spokesperson on the Day of Pentecost) summarizes Joel's description of the events in Joel 2:30-32 in First Peter 3:7.

    These events have yet to take place.

    I, for one, tend to believe that a person needs to exercise great caution when analyzing such prophetic passages as have been mentioned above.

    Failure to do so will result in one coming up with some rather bizarre and confused ideas concerning both His first and His second "comings" to this planet.
     
  14. Winman

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    Is it really true that the early church did not write on Predestination? I think they did, although they wrote AGAINST it. They did not directly say this, as predestination did not really enter their minds. They wrote in support of Free Will which argues against predestination.

    There are MANY quotes by early church fathers that disagree with Predestination.

    http://www.pfrs.org/calvinism/calvin12.html
     
  15. Jkdbuck76

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    Hardly surprising since some EO like Augustine and some do not. Also, in the EO church, there are only THREE great theologians or doctors of the church. That indicates to me that they are not interested in slicing n dicing theology newer than the Nicene creed.
     
  16. Skandelon

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    Yet, I have little doubt you and other Calvinists would be quick to make the exact same point if indeed the Early Church Fathers HAD clearly taught a doctrine similar to the one you hold.

    But there wasn't a lot of clearly opposing statements made about the triune nature of God by the early church fathers...it just hadn't been 'systematized' by that time. It's one thing to systematize something they DID teach, and another to systematize something they blatantly disagreed with...

    Plus, Augustine had some pretty strange views on many issues that most of us on this forum would disagree with, even among the 'reformed' folks here.
     
    #16 Skandelon, Mar 11, 2014
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2014
  17. ktn4eg

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    If you take the time to study the major "flow of events" in the history Western (i.e., primarily that of the "developed" areas of Western Europe), you'll most likely realize that down through the centuries there were different conflicts over different theological issues that our "Spiritual Forefathers" attempted to resolve.

    For the first three or four centuries (i.e., from about c. 100 - c. 400 A.D.), one of the major issues with which they have to contend was that of the conflict between the biblical concept of "saving grace" vs. the more humanistic/Gnostic ideas of man's so-called "Free Will."

    There were several "Church Councils" located in different areas and at different times during the early centuries whose main agenda was to come up with written declaration(s) that summarized these beliefs/tenets of the varying conflicting "camps."

    Most notable of these "camps" was that of the "Arian" [humanistic-centered and very "agnostic-based Free Will" advocates] vs. the "Athanaistic" [more "Biblically-centered advocates of God's sovereign grace"].

    Both groups attempted to formalize their conflicting viewpoints by developing both written "Church Council 'Decrees'" and/or "Catechisms" with varying degrees of success.

    As the centuries progressed these "camps" were referred to as [1] "Free-Willers" (such as the proponents of early Methodism); and [2] "Calvinists" (such as John Calvin and John Knox).

    During the Latter Middle Ages (c. A.D. 1100 - c. A.D. 1600's), other conflicts arose, especially in Western Europe such as what role(s) (if any at all) the so-called "Sacraments" and/or "Church Ordinances" as Baptism and the Lord's Supper had to play in a person's salvation. (NOTE: This debate is still an ongoing issue in some "camps" [e.g., the 'Church of Christ' denomination, and even within some Baptist groups].

    From about the late 1700's onward, "organized Christianity" has also had to deal with such other conflicts as that of the ever-encroaching theological Liberalism and biblical "Higher/Textual Criticism" vs. the more Evangelical Conservative and/or Fundamentalist viewpoints on these issues.

    So, as you can readily see, down through the centuries there have always been rather divisive conflicts within the ranks of "Organized Christianity."

    And, if the past is any indication of the future, most likely there will always be divisions within the ranks of believers.
     
  18. Yeshua1

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    Would say the rel question should be whether the Bible teaches that or not, not what the church fathers taught, as early on they tended to drift away from Apsotic truth/doctrines of the faith!

    Would be akin to reformers, did they introduce new doctrines out of the blue?
    no, rather they resiscovered and taught what the bible satted concerning salvation, as Rome had mangled that badly!
     
  19. Greektim

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    I think it needs to be pointed out that Christianity is not the first monotheistic religion to wrestle w/ this issue of God's sovereignty. 2nd temple Judaism has its debates too. Much of their apocalyptic literature assumes a more "calvie" view of God's sovereignty. There is no reason to not think that such a mentality wouldn't not have leaked over to early Christianity especially considering that it was considered an apocalyptic movement. Just b/c we don't have literature surviving that records the debate doesn't mean it didn't happen. And I would bet it does show up in Eusebius. But alas, my church history is very VERY weak.
     
  20. Yeshua1

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    Actually, regardless what any source cited/stated, it still comes back to 'does the bible itself teach that truth or not?"
     
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