A young Calvinist discovers grace in Spanish Catholic mystics. (If that’s what it takes.)

Today’s post is by Dr. Chuck DeGroat, the first of 2 posts entitled Reformed and Contemplative: Discovering Both 16th Century Reformations.

And I’ll bet you thought there was only one.

DeGroat is the author of Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness Places, and co-founder and senior fellow at the Newbigin House of Studies, a partnership between City Church San Francisco (where he has served as a teaching pastor) and Western Theological Seminary (where he is Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling) He has also served as a professor and Director of Spiritual Formation at Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando). His forthcoming book is The Toughest People to Love (EerdmansSpring 2014).

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I spent the summer of 1997 trying to prove myself.

I’d been accepted into a graduate studies program at Oxford University, where for six weeks I’d research, write, and sleep in-between.  I was a young, Reformed wanna-be scholar – convinced of grace, but full of exhausting, performance-anxiety – hopeful that this six weeks would prove to my two professors that I could pass muster in a Ph.D. program.  But one of those gatekeepers would teach me about grace in an unexpected way.

Alistair McGrath is regarded as a leading Reformed theologian, and it was Prof. McGrath who taught the Christian Spirituality course I’d need to ace.  I looked for opportunities to raise my hand in order to share some profound insight I had, but McGrath was not in ‘dialogue’ form that summer.

No, I remember his lectures as monologues, painlessly long and beautifully reflective monologues about life, grace, and self-revelation, with wonderfully read passages from Reformation heroes like Luther and Calvin, as well as Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross.

If you just did a double take, imagine the experience in-the-flesh as a renowned Reformed scholar taught grace and union with Christ from a couple of Catholics.

The first leap, for me, was to believe that 16th century Catholics could teach me anything.  After all, hadn’t they produced the Council of Trent?

However, as I’d learn, Teresa and John were far from the controversies in Geneva and Heidelberg.  In fact, they too were under attack and on the run for their own Reforms among the Carmelites in Spain.  And the themes they’d highlight – unmerited grace, union with Christ, a recovery of Scripture for laypeople – all stirred a growing curiosity for these so-called contemplatives.

Raised in the Dutch Reformed tradition, I grew up with one clear narrative – Catholics believe in salvation by grace + works, while Calvinists believe in grace alone.  The 5 sola’s of the Protestant Reformation were, for me, a battle cry echoing into the present, where Catholics continue to convince folks that they need to do stuff to prove themselves to God.

That summer, a young Calvinist named Chuck DeGroat, exhausted from a summer of performing for my academic gatekeepers, discovered grace in the Spanish Mystics.

Tomorrow, I’ll share what happened next, and what continues to happen as grace only deepens.

 

  • mark

    Raised in the Dutch Reformed tradition, I grew up with one clear narrative – Catholics believe in salvation by grace + works, while Calvinists believe in grace alone. The 5 sola’s of the Protestant Reformation were, for me, a battle cry echoing into the present, where Catholics continue to convince folks that they need to do stuff to prove themselves to God.

    Am I missing something? How did we get here from Jesus of Nazareth? Through Saul/Paul of Tarsus? Please!

    Yeah, this is why I go on endlessly about Augustine.

    In my youth I had a pretty complete collection of writings by Catholic “mystics,” which I’ve since given away. But talk about a contrast in style and personality–Luther/Calvin v. Teresa of Jesus/John of the Cross! Try that sometime.

    But for a different take on the breakup of Christianity and the aftermath, a reading about the Jansenist controversy is certainly an eye-opener–at least it is or should be for Catholics. For those of you not up on your Catholic history, the Jansenists were Catholic Calvinists–except that they would have called that a gross slander, probably in incredibly long and convoluted multi-volume treatises. According to them, they were true disciples of the great Saint, Doctor and Father of the Church: Augustine! And the funny thing is, they may well have been right.

    That’s what Leszek Kolakowski concludes in God Owes Us Nothing: A Brief Remark on Pascal’s Religion and on the Spirit of Jansenism. To give you some idea of the riches in this little book, here’s the description:

    God Owes Us Nothing reflects on the centuries-long debate in Christianity: how do we reconcile the existence of evil in the world with the goodness of an omnipotent God, and how does God’s omnipotence relate to people’s responsibility for their own salvation or damnation. Leszek Kolakowski approaches this paradox as both an exercise in theology and in revisionist Christian history based on philosophical analysis. Kolakowski’s unorthodox interpretation of the history of modern Christianity provokes renewed discussion about the historical, intellectual, and cultural omnipotence of neo-Augustinianism.

    Sounds a lot like what we were talking about yesterday, only that conversation started with Job and here we are a couple of millenia or so later, still debating the same points as Job. Here’s a portion of a review of the book that presents the paradoxical nature of what went on in the Jansenist controversy. Basically, the Vatican claimed that the Jansenists, as a matter of historical fact, had misunderstood Augustine as a Calvinist. The Vatican then went on to condemn Jansenist positions which to disinterested eyes bore a passing strange resemblance to things that the famous Saint, Doctor and Father had written. Well, they couldn’t very well denounce the famous Saint, Doctor and Father, could they? So the reviewer writes:

    The main points the author makes are:

    * Jansenius correctly interpreted Augustine’s theology of grace. Anybody who says otherwise is in bad faith. …

    * The Church rightly condemned Jansenius. It had to, in order to survive …

    * The Church therefore rightly condemned some Augustinian theological views.

    * The Church began to de-Augustinize itself. “It was a momentous event in the history of the Church when it exploited this occasion, adopting practically the Jesuit (or semi-Pelagian) doctrine in the crucial questions of original sin, grace and predestination, and thereby breaking -tacitly, needless to say – with a very important part of its theological heritage and shaping its teaching accordingly.”

    Another place you can learn about the Jansenists, as well as the influence of Catholic mystics on Protestantism (especially the Wesleys) is Ronald Knox’s delightful Enthusiasm. Here are some excerpts from reviews of the book:

    I read Mgr Knox’s book when I was in high school, but have re-read it several times. I was taken aback by his sympathy & understanding of John Wesley. I haven’t read anything more inspiring about Wesley written by a Methodist.His account of the struggle between Fénelon & Bossuet is masterful. One wonders what he would have thought of the modern televangelists. He would not have made fun of them, but would have discerned the basis of their appeal.This is a work of humanism, grounded on faith, but in no way condescending or superior.

    Knox’s “Enthusiasm” is a survey of the history of certain mystical trends, which the author dubs “ultra-supernaturalist”, throughout the course of Christian history. Knox examines the various outbreaks in detail, especially those of the 17th and 18th centuries. Furthermore, he successfully and profoundly analyzes the psychological basis for all such movements.

    This book is necessary reading for anyone interested in the history of fringe religious movements in general, any of the sects described here specifically, or the psychology of fanaticism.

    I also recommend that students of Eric Voegelin read this book, as it provides much food for thought in light of his comments about the nature of gnosticism. Likewise, anyone who finds the psychological portions of this book interesting should look at Voegelin’s work, which deals with similar issues from a philosophical perspective. I suggest that you begin with “Science, Politics, and Gnosticism” and then move on to “The New Science of Politics” to get a basic grounding in Voegelin. He and Knox share a fundamental insight – that fringe religious groups are motivated by an antinomian hatred for reality and society that seeks to destroy nature rather than to heal it, which is the goal of more mainstream religion. What Voegelin adds to the discussion is a deeper fund of historical examples of such attitudes, an investigation of a paralell set of ideas to be found in modern philosophy, and an understanding of how these ideas have influenced modern culture and politics (for example, Voegelin regards socialism, in all it’s forms, as a secularized version of the same kind of anitnomian millenarianism to be found in, say the Montanists, who Knox investigates at length).

    Anyway, I’ll look forward to tomorrow’s post to learn whether our young Dutch Reformed scholar ultimately discovers Christianity at Oxford.

    • Boze Herrington

      I second your endorsement of Knox and Voegelin. Their understanding of millenarian Gnostic movements (Puritanism, Soviet Communism, etc). is a much-needed antidote to today’s religious insanity.

      • mark

        Tx Boze. It’s a bit of a hard sell to get people to read this stuff, but IMO it is fundamental to understanding not just history but how we got where we are today.

  • J.J.

    Great post. This is why I love the blogosphere… it challenges me to investigate fascinating thoughts & people like these Spanish mystics whom I had overlooked. Thanks for posting.

  • Derek

    This jumped out at me:

    “The first leap, for me, was to believe that 16th century Catholics could teach me anything…”

    I have sadly encountered this attitude amongst some fellow Calvinists and it really boggles my mind. I believe all truth is God’s truth and we need to be humble and actually LISTEN to others before we offer up any disagreements – and when we do disagree we need to correct others from the Scriptures in a spirit of LOVE.

    I didn’t grow up in the reformed tradition, I don’t go to a reformed Church, I read some Arminian scholars, go to a largely Arminian church, but consider myself a Calvinist simply because the Scriptures seem to push me in that direction.

    • mark

      I’m sorry, but you don’t seem to get it. Calvinism is an ideology. Yes, it uses words drawn from Christianity, but at its ideological core it really has next to nothing to do with Christianity. Take a look at some of the links in my comment, below. Calvinism, like Lutheranism, is a type of gnostic experience. Don’t take my word for it, take the word of Eric Voegelin, a lifelong Lutheran.

      • Andrew Dowling

        Mark, as someone who would never be called a fan of Calvinism, ease up brother. Derek is trying to extend an olive branch and you seem to be preoccupied with putting down his faith paradigm.

        • mark

          “Derek is trying to extend an olive branch”

          I dunno. Judging from Derek’s use of caps, he’s upset–as he says up front: “This jumped out at me.”

          I take your point that my comment may have seemed heavy handed, but I do feel strongly (you knew that) that we all need to break out of comfortable thought categories and take a hard look at certain realities.

          Along those lines, earlier today I came across an article about the papacy in a liberal publication–I say “liberal” because I believe the publication embraces that label. Anyway, I found one of the comments refreshing:

          No doubt Francis brings a most powerful dose of the Spirit into the church. But it is a mistake to give all the credit or blame to the papacy. We have to begin a serious re-examination of the Fathers of the Church who, while contributing some significant writings, really presided over the solidification of the Church as Empire. We have to understand that Augustine of Hippo and Athanasius of Alexandria were a big part of the Church as Empire and used the Emperor and the military to reign [sic] in those who disagreed with them. Serious historians assert that Augustine brought mediocrity into the Church. Not to mention his most harmful use of force to compel those who disagreed with him to change their actions and thinking. The same is true with Bernard of Clairvoux who championed the violent Crusades.

          Theologians in the church need to alter their thinking on the matter and help the Church get back to its roots and stop celebrating the Triumphalism that came in the fourth century.

      • labreuer

        Mark, what happens if we analyze Calvinism by its fruits, as compared to other traditions that call themselves ‘Christian’? There is no evidence that there will be a test of doctrine at the Pearly Gates. See Matthew 25:31-46, for example.

        Any and all traditions that call themselves ‘Christian’ will have non-Christian bits. That is what it is to be an alloy of [Pauline] flesh and spirit. I think the most important question is this: can we effectively discern the good from the bad? I’m reminded of Matthew 13:24-30.

        Overreacting is a failure to heed Ecclesiastes 7:15-18, especially v18. Much of history can be seen as an overreaction of one thing to another. Christians are called to not do this, by exercising spiritual judgment, vs. judgment by appearances. One evidence of spiritual judgment is that it is used to build up, not tear down. (Sometimes one can only tear down, but usually there is a way to build up. For example: recognize the good in something being criticized.)

        • mark

          Uhhhhhh …

          • labreuer

            Are you saying there is virtually nothing good in Calvinsim? Note that I’m not a Calvinist; I’m a pretty ardent Arminian. But even I don’t take as strong a stance as you do. I think Calvin got some pretty important things right, like Total Depravity including the intellect just as much as it includes the passions.

          • mark

            Yeah, I guess I am saying that, and “Total Depravity” is at the top of my list of things he got wrong. And I’m also saying that “Total Depravity” has nothing whatever to do with Jesus of Nazareth.

            But beyond that, my big point is that we need to look at “religion” for its experiential basis. It’s very clear to me that the various transmutations of the Augustinian tradition–Calvinism, Jansenism, Medieval thinkers of various sorts–is not based in the experience of Christian faith as it was originally understood. Eric Voegelin ( a Lutheran), to whom I refer in my initial comment here, maintains that Protestantism represents the breaking in to Western institutions of Gnostic styles of thought–in the Middle Ages such movements of thought were confined to the margins of society. IOW, Voegelin is saying that Protestantism is experientially Gnostic, not Christian, even though Protestantism continued to use Christian symbolic language: Bible, etc. He is distinguishing between human experiences that give rise to various religious manifestations. Gnostic experiences of reality are more akin to modern ideologies such as Marxism, even though religious Gnosticism in the West tends to use Christian sounding terminology. As such, however, the Gnostic experience is quite distinct from the Christian experience of faith. IMO, this is already clear in Augustine.

            Now, I will freely grant, as I did yesterday, that all individual experiences need to be judged individually. Nevertheless, for purposes of the big picture this type of analysis is very useful and proves its usefulness through the acuity of its insights into the modern crisis of Western civilization.

          • labreuer

            Jesus arguably gets at Total Depravity when he talks about losing our lives in order to save them. Will we let our unregenerate intellect be crucified along with our unregenerate passions? When Adam and Eve looked at the fruit and decided that because it appeared good, that it was good, they committed the sin of judging by appearances. This is an intellectual sin! (I’m not saying there weren’t also sins of the will, emotion, and heart.)

            Is there some place I can learn about Voegelin’s thesis of Protestantism being the new Gnosticism, short of purchasing a book? I’d like to see his thesis and a few of his supporting arguments, born out by doctrine and evidence. It would be interesting to see his treatment of Evangelicalism, which has as one of its main focuses the conversion experience. In particular, I wonder if he acts as a good philosopher does: presenting the arguments he attacks in the best possible light, before showing how they fail to obtain.

          • mark

            Sorry, I just can’t take that first paragraph seriously.

            Re Voegelin, no, I’m sorry, the only place you’ll find his thoughts on the Reformation will be in The New Science of Politics. The book is a classic and is well worth the 20 bucks, but because most of Voegelin’s scholarly work took place in the context of the Cold War he was most concerned to trace the origins of modern ideologies, with a focus on Marx and Hegel. It’s true, Voegelin is well aware of the the role of Protestantism in modern European ideologies, but he is generally more interested to connect thinkers like Hegel to people like Joachim of Fiora (a heterodox Medieval Franciscan). If that interests you, I certainly have references on line.

            However, there is one article that I’m aware of that tries to give a brief overview of what could be called Voegelin’s theory of history: Know Your Gnostics: Eric Voegelin & the Neoconservative Disease.

          • labreuer

            Sorry, I just can’t take that first paragraph seriously.

            What an excellent way to respect the people who take time to write thoughtful comments in response to yours. Thanks at least for linking me to Gene Callahan’s blog post.

          • mark

            The respect that I showed you should be evident in the rest of my comment. What you found objectionable was one line, the remainder totals sixteen lines. Not, of course, that respect can be measured in such a manner–necessarily. However, I did actually go to some amount of trouble looking up and reviewing materials to try to match them up to your criteria–most didn’t seem to fit what you requested. You thanked me for the one article link, but there was more work that went into that than you could have been aware of.

            As to why I wrote that I couldn’t take your first paragraph seriously, Andrew Dowling commented:

            Calvinism scholarship, like conservative evangelical scholarship, relies on its own insulation to survive, as one has to accept certain presuppositions for any of the claims to make any sense.

            I agree with that, and several of my other comments go into some of the reasons why I agree with Andrew’s assessment. That’s not disrespect on either my part or Andrew’s. Rather, it’s an honest attempt to come to a measured, balanced assessment of human experience as manifested in Calvinism and related phenomena.

          • labreuer

            See, you just proved yourself wrong: you could take my comment seriously. Thank you for doing so.

            I’m interested in the Total Depravity thing, because my stereotype* of Catholics is that they think the intellect is either not fallen, or ‘less’ fallen than the passions. I’m not sure what they think of the will. I quickly scanned WP: Total Depravity, and it indicates that Catholics believe the will to be “free but wounded”. If this is the case, why must man lose his life to save it? Why must man deny himself and follow Christ?

            Perhaps you are not aware of the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace? “… prevenient grace allows persons to engage their God-given free will to choose the salvation offered by God in Jesus Christ or to reject that salvific offer.”

            Another way to get at this is: which “certain presuppositions”?

            * By thus labeling it, I am opening up this conception to major revision without requiring much evidence.

          • mark

            Your linking leaves much to be desired but, yes, I have heard of “prevenient grace.” You should presume that I would be familiar with that from my frequent references to the Jansenist controversy.

            Your other questions get back to fundamentals of Augustinian style thought. The state of Catholic thought on these matters is in flux, but I can offer you these links that will give you a pretty good idea:

            Adam, Eve and Original Sin

            For my part, I think I’ve made my positions quite clear. As to your Why questions, my answer is that man is called to this way of life because it makes him more truly human, because that way of life–as exemplified by Jesus–conforms most closely to human nature as God created it. “Total Depravity” is simply useless Augustinian (and now Calvinist) baggage that serves no useful purpose, has no foundation in Christian origins and is riddled with logical problems.

          • labreuer

            It seems to me that prevenient grace actually brings total depravity to something awfully close to the Catholic position. Who cares what human will can and cannot chose before prevenient grace? The question is, what has God made us able to choose, think, and feel properly, only via his grace. The Calvinist thinks this grace goes to only the elect, while the Arminian thinks it goes out to everyone. It seems like you are lumping Arminians in with Calvinists expressly when you should not.

            Total Depravity is not only a Calvinist doctrine; it was affirmed by the Remonstrants—Article III. Indeed, that’s the only article where complete agreement was reached! Are you stereotyping all Protestants as Calvinists?

          • mark

            labreuer, this is a complicated topic. You’re quite right to point out what appear to be similarities to Catholic positions re “prevenient grace,” but in this area of Augustinian influences nothing is simple in Catholic thought–mainly because, for Catholics as well as for Arminian style Protestant thought (crypto-Catholic?) it’s a matter of retaining Augustinian terminology while evading its logical consequences. In modern Catholic thought you won’t find the term “prevenient grace,” although it figured largely in the Jansenist controversy. Here’s what the Catholic Catechism says on this topic. Note the way in which it appears to give with one hand while taking away with the other–a sure sign of Augustinianism in the background:

            2022 The divine initiative in the work of grace precedes, prepares, and elicits the free response of man. Grace responds to the deepest yearnings of human freedom, calls freedom to cooperate with it, and perfects freedom.

            That’s actually essentially the same as Trent:

            The Synod furthermore declares, that in adults, the beginning of the said Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation, whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace.

            The reason all this looks so similar to Arminianism is because they share identical concerns–to evade the predestinarianism entailed by authentic Augustinian thought (Calvin among Protestants, Jansen among Catholics) while still honoring Augustine’s theological tradition. Again, I recommend Kolakowski’s book on all this.

            For the Catholic, God does not make us able to do anything–beyond what our God created human nature enables us to do. Our human nature allows us to freely accept and cooperate with or to reject God’s grace. Of course, the Church maintained–against Jansen–that this is the authentic thought of Augustine. However, while it is a mistake to try to systematize everything Augustine said, there seems little doubt that Calvin and Jansen were, in fact, drawing out the logical implications of important parts of Augustine’s thought–not just obiter dicta.

            Anyone who thinks this stuff has all been resolved in Catholic thought needs to think again, btw. Following the Jansenist controversy the Vatican basically ordered the various parties (Jesuits and Dominicans) to simply shut up: stop talking about Nature and Grace. In 1950 Henri de Lubac, a Jesuit, was essentially silenced for his book on Nature and Grace, Surnaturel. De Lubac–a neo-Augustinian–apparently had thought that the time was ripe to start yacking about all this again. After Vatican II de Lubac was rehabilitated by his admirers in Rome, who prominently included JP2 and B16–he was even made a cardinal, so he could wear one of those cool red hats. However, within the last few years I’ve seen articles attacking de Lubac’s views–rightly, IMO.

            So, this is complicated and it hasn’t gone away. Unless you make a study of the history of Augustinianism in the West you’ll simply miss what’s been going on for the better part of 1600 years. It won’t really make sense.

            I hope this will convince you that I’m not stereotyping all Protestants–I’m trying to see all these differences in a proper historical context, which is something most (!) Protestants are averse to doing. Hey–Catholics, too.

          • labreuer

            For the Catholic, God does not make us able to do anything–beyond what our God created human nature enables us to do. Our human nature allows us to freely accept and cooperate with or to reject God’s grace.

            Does this really work, though? In Romans 7, we have the Apostle Pauls struggling to successfully will actions that in his mind he wants to do. He needs delivery from “this body of death”. God-created human nature is not a dead body. Something critical has changed to the God-created human nature. What is that change, in your view? (I know Catholics are sometimes allowed some leeway from standard doctrine, and you mentioned some doctrine being in flux. Hence the “your view”.) I could also mention Ephesians 2:1-10, which speaks of bieng “dead in our trespasses”.

            One way to bring clarity to the issue is to ask: did Adam, pre-fall, need any grace? I would say that he at least needed continual interaction with God—whether or not we call this ‘grace’ is perhaps a mere matter of defintions. What I want to know is this: what does man need in addition to what Adam needed?

            Surely you agree that having false beliefs hinders one’s freedom? Having false beliefs can prevent one from even realizing some choices are options. For example, there was a North Korean prison camp escapee who just didn’t know what love was. Is it possible that man could have so many false beliefs that there is no way he would choose God’s grace of his own accord?

            I hope this will convince you that I’m not stereotyping all Protestants–I’m trying to see all these differences in a proper historical context, which is something most (!) Protestants are averse to doing. Hey–Catholics, too.

            I think you were doing a bit of overgeneralizing, but if you’re willing to articulate fully a post later, it’s no big deal. I agree that most Christians aren’t interested in history. It’s a shame. It’s a weakness of mine that I am trying to slowly rectify. A friend of mine is a historian and he often tells me when I’m missing critical historical factors that were quite formative of various doctrines.

          • mark

            Sorry, here again I can’t take any of this seriously as exegesis. And to offer/adopt another generalization, Andrew Dowling wrote:

            Calvinism scholarship, like conservative evangelical scholarship, relies on its own insulation to survive, as one has to accept certain presuppositions for any of the claims to make any sense.

            This is why I called Calvinism and “ideology.” Its followers use a predesigned paradigm or framework, into the round holes of which they attempt to shove the square pegs of Christian faith. That attempt is motivated by the demands of ideology, not by the experience of Christian faith in any meaningful sense–which is reasonable belief that does no violence to the evidence.

            No, I don’t accept the notion of a “fall” in any sense similar to yours. I find the notion that man by his actions can fundamentally alter a divinely created nature frankly absurd. We sin, but we sin as human beings and remain humans no matter how depraved.

          • labreuer

            You’re avoiding direct responses to what I’ve said. You say that Calvinists need presuppositions; everyone needs presuppositions, so might you outline explicitly the ones you think are unbiblical? To say this a different way: everyone looks at the world through a grid of presuppositions/theory. There’s no such thing as a neutral point of view.

            I wasn’t really doing exegesis so much as asking you how you deal with two passages in the Bible that seem pretty straightforward. Can you explain how you understand the bit about us being dead in Eph 2:5?

            I’m not sure what you mean by “remain humans no matter how depraved”; I have never come across a Calvinist who said that we stopped being human after Adam sinned. Something drastic has happened if Paul can say that people “became futile in their thinking” (Rom 1:21). They didn’t become subhuman, but something drastic happened. How would you describe that change?

          • mark

            This follows a pattern. Your first paragraph simply isn’t serious:

            You’re avoiding direct responses to what I’ve said. You say that Calvinists need presuppositions; everyone needs presuppositions, so might you outline explicitly the ones you think are unbiblical? To say this a different way: everyone looks at the world through a grid of presuppositions/theory. There’s no such thing as a neutral point of view.

            There’s no point in addressing non-serious statements like that.

            I’m not sure what you mean by “remain humans no matter how depraved”; I have never come across a Calvinist who said that we stopped being human after Adam sinned.

            Then what could it possibly mean to say that human nature is “fallen” or somehow “changed”?

            And who’s this guy “Adam” you’re talking about? Everyman? Or having you been paying no attention to the discussions here re Genesis?

          • labreuer

            This follows a pattern. Your first paragraph simply isn’t serious

            If you think that you don’t have presuppositions, you’re deluded.

            Then what could it possibly mean to say that human nature is “fallen” or somehow “changed”?

            The introduction of falsity into the human mind has corrupting influences. Mixing dross in with pure metal changes it. The metal is still there. The character of the metal gets completely transformed, for the worse.

            And who’s this guy “Adam” you’re talking about? Everyman? Or having you been paying no attention to the discussions here re Genesis?

            I mean some initial relationship between God and humans where they actually trusted him 100% and therefore didn’t have to suffer in the various ways we have to suffer.

      • Derek

        What I am saying is really simple. When I read the Scriptures on topics such as election, predestination, Jesus’ words, for example, in John 10:26 – “you do not believe because you are not my sheep”, etc. I just get the impression that Calvinism is the most accurate, faithful interpretative grid that encompasses the totality of the Scriptures.

        Of course Arminians, Molinists and every thing in between disagree and read the same Scriptures, that I believe support Calvinism, in a different light. Well, that’s OK with me because the ultimately the gospel message stays intact and that’s what really should matter whether one uses the label Arminian, Calvinist, etc. etc.

        • Andrew Dowling

          Derek, I’d highly recommend delving into the history and critical scholarship of the Gospel of John. John is probably the most “quoted out of place and context” work in the NT. I can assure you it doesn’t support a Calvinist soteriology (nor does the rest of the NT for that matter).

          • mark

            Agreed.

          • Derek

            I think you are making some unwarranted assumptions, such as assuming that I haven’t looked into the history and scholarship of John’s gospel simply because I am a Calvinist.

            Moreover, as you aware, there are numerous scholars well versed in the history/scholarship of John’s gospel, who happen to be Calvinists.

          • mark

            This is exactly why I stated that Calvinism is an ideology, and not a response in faith–reasonable belief. As you say,

            I just get the impression that Calvinism is the most accurate, faithful interpretative grid that encompasses the totality of the Scriptures.

            Eric Voegelin, writing in 1950 in The New Science of Politics, used the work of the Anglican Divine Richard Hooker to analyze the nature of Gnostic Revolution. Voegelin saw in Hooker’s introduction to Ecclesiastical Polity an exemplary case study of Gnostic Revolution–The Puritan Case. Voegelin, following Hooker, takes up the question of the use of Scripture by Gnostic revolutionaries:

            Hooker discerned that the Puritan position was not based on Scripture but was a “cause” of a vastly different origin. It would use Scripture when passages torn out of context would support the cause, and for the rest it would blandly ignore Scripture as well as the traditions and rules of interpretation that had been developed by fifteen centuries of Christianity. In the early phases of the Gnostic revolution this camouflage was necessary–neither could an openly anti-christian movement have been socially successful …

            From this dilemma between chaos and tradition emerged the first device, that is, the systematic formulation of the new doctrine in scriptural terms, as it was provided by Calvin’s Institutes. A work of this type would serve the double purpose of a guide to the right reading of Scripture and of an authentic formulation of truth that would make recourse to earlier literature unnecessary. For the designation of this genus of Gnostic literature a technical term is needed; since the study of Gnostic phenomena is too recent to have developed one, the Arabic term koran will have to do for the present. The work of Calvin, thus, may be called the first deliberately created Gnostic koran. A man who can write such a koran, a man who can break with the intellectual tradition of mankind because he lives in the faith that a new truth and a new world begin with him, must be in a peculiar pneumopathological state. 138-139

            And, of course, as I’ve already said, there are Catholics who share that Gnostic experience as well–all the while claiming to be Christians and to have “faith.”

          • Andrew Dowling

            Not to “pull scholastic rank,” but no Johaninine scholar outside the closed world of Calvinist scholarship supports that conclusion. Calvinism scholarship, like conservative evangelical scholarship, relies on its own insulation to survive, as one has to accept certain presuppositions for any of the claims to make any sense.

          • mark

            Hammer, nail … Bang!

            This is typical of a Gnostic approach–it provides what Derek has called an “interpretative grid” not just for Scripture but for all reality. This makes it very similar to modern ideologies, which provide an a priori framework through which to experience reality by forcing the facts to fit the framework, rather than vice versa. Because the “interpretative grid” satisfies experiential needs of the adherent, factual refutations rarely have much effect.

  • Don

    And there are some who would call you a heretic for listening to the Spanish mystics. A google search will show you plenty. ;^)

  • Lothat

    To my mind, the most important aspect of Calvinism is that God predetermines everything, which means he also predetermines people to act badly and will condemn them for their sins.

    I don’t understand how they can worship such a being, this really puzzles me.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/

    • ctrace

      God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is one of the great mysteries of the word of God. Explaining the Reformed/Calvinist view as determinism or fatalism as you have is not just simplistic, or reductionist, but it is just simply off-the-mark. It is also the product of a mind/being that is perhaps yet to become God-centered rather than man-centered.

      • Lothat

        Hi Ctrace, thanks for your answer!

        Does being “God-centered” mean we have to submit ourself unconditonally to him because he’s almighty, like most muslims do?

        Does it mean, for example, that if God ordered under certain circumstances men to rape women, we ought to consider that good?

        I fail to see how man can be responsible if God determined in adavance everything he would do.

        And if you reject determinism, you shouldn’t consider yourself a Calvinist.

        Kind regards,

        Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

        http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/

        • mark

          I think this is the point at which Calvinists begin to complain that you’re being disrespectful.

        • ctrace

          Calvinists believe God is the first cause, yet He works through secondary causes which are either determined, contingent, or free. This is stated clearly and succinctly in the Westminster Confession of Faith. Because we can’t know which cause is determined or contingent or free we don’t assume – like Muslims – a fatalist attitude and we don’t experience that either. Ours is an experience where effort is meaningful, prayer is meaningful. The causal matrix formed by the combination of determined, contingent, and free secondary causes is such that God has put us in a living environment of cause and effect and will and inspiration where the wild care is always the living word of God.

          • ctrace

            Make that ‘wild card’ is always the living word of God.

  • ctrace

    Marks writes: “But talk about a contrast in style and personality–Luther/Calvin v. Teresa of Jesus/John of the Cross!”

    You obviously haven’t read Calvin. You are obviously operating on popular mythology of who Calvin was. Read the Institutes then see if you can write that sentence above in good conscience.

    • mark

      No desire to defend Luther? How do you feel about Teresa of Jesus/John of the Cross, based on your reading of them? And why would you think that my opinion that Calvin differs from those Catholic “mystics” in style and personality is, what, untrue? DeGroat offers little to suggest that the three were kindred spirits. I wonder what Michael Servetus would say about this?

      • ctrace

        I’m just simply not as familiar with Luther as with Calvin, but one is struck when first reading the Institutes, especially Book 3, how much his actual writing doesn’t conform to the stereotype of Calvin popular in media and the more shallow waters of history.

        Much writing of the unio mystica (mystical union) between believers and Christ will bring out the similarities between even a Reformed theologian (a school known for it’s scholastic approach after Calvin’s day) and mystics of the universal Church in general. Calvin falls into this category, as do many Puritans and Dutch Puritans and others.

  • James

    As the pendulum swings–funny how God-human talk widens the farther from the pivot (Christ event and other reforms) we travel. Yet, we keep coming back to themes left behind as archaic or extreme. Hopefully our experience of Christ is enriched as we revisit often our theological roots–German, Dutch, Swiss, Spanish…

  • Steve finnell

    INCLUSIVE SALVATION

    Who are those who are included in salvation? All men who believe and obey what the apostle Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost are saved. It does not make any difference what denominational name is written on the church building where you worship, if you obey the gospel preached by Peter, then, you are saved, you are a member of the Lord’s church, you are part of the church of Christ, you a member of the body of Christ, you are a Christian.

    What did Peter preach?
    1. Peter preached that Jesus was a miracle worker. (Acts 2:22)
    2. Peter preached that Jesus was resurrected from the dead by God the Father.(Acts 2:24-35)
    3. Peter preached that Jesus was both Lord and Christ.(Acts 2:36)
    When the three thousand believe Peter, they asked “What shall we do?”(Acts 2:37)
    4. Peter told them to repent and be baptized in order to have their sins forgiven.(Acts 2:38)

    This is the same message Jesus preached. (Mark 16:16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved….)

    THE TERMS FOR PARDON ARE: Faith-John 3:16, Repentance-Acts 2:38, Confession-Romans 10:9-10, Baptism (immersion in water) 1 Peter 3:21

    All who meet the terms for pardon are saved regardless of the denominational name on the church building.

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY CHRISTIAN BLOG. Google search>>> steve finnell a christian view

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  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un

  • Pingback: I have this other, relentless, competing identity, too. A “sin” nature entitled, hedonistic, self-preserving, frequently aggrandized, capable of blithe selfishness and disturbing disregard. The unvarnished, unedited, undefended, unexplained un


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