Total Depravity & Salvation Outside the Church (vs. Calvinist)

Total Depravity & Salvation Outside the Church (vs. Calvinist) April 4, 2017


Photograph by “MemoryCatcher” (6-14-13) [Pixabay / CC0 public domain]


Erik is a thoughtful, amiable Calvinist who commented under my blog paper, Total Depravity (“None is Righteous”): Reply to James White. His words will be in blue.


I honestly cannot comprehend your intentions here.

That’s extraordinary, since I laid them out in the most painstaking detail. No one could possibly misunderstand my intent. But somehow you manage to do so. Strong presuppositions cause that to happen.

Are you saying there are some who, apart from God, seek after him and find him?

No. Again, how are the following words of mine in the post so difficult to grasp?:

I wholeheartedly agree that the unregenerate man is utterly unable to save himself or do the slightest thing to turn to God and be justified or regenerated, but (and always but) for God’s grace. The Council of Trent (surprise! for many who have been told otherwise by anti-Catholics!!!!) teaches all of this: [documentation then provided]

You denied any Pelagianistic tendencies!

Indeed. Catholics aren’t Pelagian. Nor are Arminians (who haven’t gone liberal).

Are you saying that the unregenerate can actually have pure motives in their deeds?

I wasn’t arguing about “absolutely pure” (I know that is what Calvinists hone in on), but rather, “good deeds” and “good / righteous men.”

(Have you even glanced sidewise for an instant and ruminated on the motives of earthly do-gooders of our day and age? On the unbelievable destruction brought down on the poor, marginalized, and vulnerable by worldly social justice and social ministry?)

Yeah; that’s why I am a political conservative and an orthodox Catholic.

Those whom Scripture describes as seeking after God…are there any instances where they are said to have done so on their own, in their own strength?

That wasn’t my argument anyway, so it is a red herring. I say that they could do good things, before regeneration, by God’s grace. I deny total depravity, as described by Charles Hodge:

. . . entire inability of the natural man to what is spiritually good. . . . the entire absence of holiness; . . . a total alienation of the soul from God so that no unrenewed man either understands or seeks after God; . . . The apostasy from God is total or complete. . . . They are destitute of any principle of spiritual life.

Are there any who do so and then are described as eternally lost? (Not just sick or in trouble within the span of their lifetime.)

In my paper, I gave examples of strongly implied, or at least plausible damnation: of Kings Uzziah, Jehoshaphat, and Asa. And they were all described as doing good things or being good to some extent. At this point, I wonder if you even read my paper. You keep asking things that it plainly dealt with.

The New Testament is much more clear about it:

Hebrews 3:12-14 (RSV) Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day . . . that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end.

Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God, and the powers of the age to come, if they then commit apostasy . . .

2 Peter 2:15, 20-21 Forsaking the right way they have gone astray; they have followed the way of Balaam, . . . For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overpowered, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them.

Romans 2 is problematic for everyone. If they are saved, they are saved not only apart from the gospel but apart from the church, not exactly something a Catholic would admit to before the last century or so. Calvinists are allowed to speculate on the possibility of postmortem evangelism and the like. So perhaps these enlightened pagans are elect in the final analysis. At any rate, this passage shouldn’t be used in the debate (if you ask me).

Of course you wouldn’t want to use it because it doesn’t exactly support Calvinist TULIP.

You are incorrect (off by 1500 years or so) about the latitude of Catholic views on salvation outside the Church. Fr. William Most has shown that there were simultaneous restrictive texts of the fathers about salvation outside the Church, and more open, broad texts (thus the latter tradition does exist).

In my book of St. Augustine quotations, I have four citations from two of his works about baptism of desire.

In my book of Eastern fathers’ quotations I have one from St. Gregory Nazianzen (d. c. 390).

St. Thomas Aquinas had an extensively developed line of thought about this sort of thing as well:

Salvation Outside the Church?: Alleged Catholic Magisterial Contradictions & St. Thomas Aquinas’ Views

Lastly, the Council of Trent expressly sanctioned baptism of desire.

God is love…and the source of all love. No one else is a source. No one seeks unless they are drawn. You cannot simply deny Pelagianistic tenets. You must somehow argue FOR Sola Gratia being compatible with your take on passages concerning apparent works righteousness.

I agree with all this, and nothing in my paper denies it. I suggest you go read it again and try to take off your Calvinist glasses and strong “filter” for a half hour. :-)

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