Doctrinal issues - 1647

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So Calvin taught wrongly ‘Moreover although the Greek Fathers, above others, and especially Chrysostom, have exceeded due bounds in extolling the powers of the human will, yet all ancient theologians (those taught by the Apostles themselves and those they in turn taught), with the exception of Augustine, are so confused, vacillating, and contradictory on this subject, that no certainty can be obtained from their writings.’ - John Calvin, Institutes, book 2, chapter 2, section 4

Because in reality Augustine held the exact same not confused at all is the completion (which Calvin ignored or missed)

From "On Grace and Free will"

Chapter 1 [I.]— The Occasion and Argument of This Work.

With reference to those persons who so preach and defend man's free will, as boldly to deny, and endeavor to do away with, the grace of God which calls us to Him (Pelegians), and delivers us from our evil deserts, and by which we obtain the good deserts which lead to everlasting life: we have already said a good deal in discussion, and committed it to writing, so far as the Lord has vouchsafed to enable us.

But since there are some persons who so defend God's grace as to deny man's free will, or who suppose that free will is denied when grace is defended (those who became Calvinists), I have determined to write somewhat on this point...

Chapter 2 [II.]— He Proves the Existence of Free Will in Man from the Precepts of God.

Now He has revealed to us, through His
Holy Scriptures, that there is in a man a free choice of will. But how He has revealed this I do not recount in human language, but in divine (that is, from Scripture alone). There is, to begin with, the fact that God's precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards. For they are given that no one might be able to plead the excuse of ignorance, as the Lord says concerning the Jews in the gospel: If I had not come and spoken unto them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.

John 15:22 Of what sin does He speak but of that great one which He foreknew, while speaking thus, that they would make their own— that is, the death they were going to inflict upon Him? For they did not have no sin before Christ came to them in the flesh.

The apostle (Paul) also says: The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold back the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him are from the creation of the world clearly seen— being understood by the things that are made— even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are inexcusable.

Romans 1:18-20 In what sense does he pronounce them to be inexcusable, except with reference to such excuse as human pride is apt to allege in such words as, If I had only known, I would have done it; did I not fail to do it because I was ignorant of it? or, I would do it if I knew how; but I do not know, therefore I do not do it? All such excuse is removed from them when the precept is given them, or the knowledge is made manifest to them how to avoid sin.

Chapter 3.— Sinners are Convicted When Attempting to Excuse Themselves by Blaming God (He made me to do it!), Because They Have Free Will. (in other words they cannot blame God)

There are, however, persons who attempt to find excuse for themselves even from God.

The Apostle James says to such: Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempts He any man. But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then, when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, brings forth death. James 1:13-15

Solomon, too, in his book of Proverbs, has this answer for such as wish to find an excuse for themselves from God Himself: The folly of a man spoils his ways; but he blames God in his heart. Proverbs 19:3.

We see this also in Paul (Romans 1) and fact the story of Cain illustrates this perfectly if you would like to discuss it...

The scholar Mako A. Nagasawa, quoting J.N.D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines (New York, NY: Harper One, 1978), p.352, 356, says “‘The Greek, and particularly the Alexandrian fathers, in opposition to the dualism and fatalism of the Gnostic systems, which made evil a necessity of nature (the variation of the view Calvin held), laid great stress upon human freedom, and upon the indispensable cooperation of this freedom with divine grace; while… Cyprian, Hilary and Ambrose, guided rather by their practical experience than by speculative principles, emphasized the hereditary sin and hereditary guilt of man, and the sovereignty of God’s grace, without, however, denying freedom and individual accountability

All parentheses mine

Furthermore, Calvin is suggesting something which is historically implausible: That the earliest theologians, including those who reportedly knew the apostles personally, and including those who were one or two generations removed, completely fell away from them on this very central issue.” God forbid!
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Ignatius (student of John who sat at the feet of Peter in Antioch) says "If anyone 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."

Irenaeus (student of Polycarp, a disciple of John’s, who sat at the feet of the Apostles) was taught and also taught “Man is endowed with the faculty of distinguishing good and evil; So that, without compulsion, He Has the power, by his own will and choice, to perform God's commandments, by doing which he avoids the evils prepared for the rebellious.

"How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou would not,” set 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 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.

As Justin Martyr (taught by the Jerusalem church) “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.

We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and rewards are rendered according to the merit of each man's actions. Otherwise, if all things happen by fate, then nothing is in our own power. For if it is predestined that one man be good and another man evil, then the first is not deserving of praise or the other to be blamed. Unless humans have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions—whatever they may be.... For neither would a man be worthy of reward or praise if he did not of himself choose the good, but was merely created for that end. Likewise, if a man were evil, he would not deserve punishment, since he was not evil of himself, being unable to do anything else than what he was made for.”

Also “Men and angels have free will. The human race, which from Adam had fallen under the power of death and the guile of the serpent, so that each one of us has committed personal transgression.”

And Clement of Alexandria (the offshoot of the Markan church, who was sent from Peter) we read “Neither praise nor condemnation, neither rewards nor punishments, are right if the soul does not have the power of choice and avoidance, if evil is involuntary.”

And also “Christians teach saving faith is a gift that starts with God and is accepted by free choice.”

All of these are from centuries before there ever was a Pelagius…so “Semi-Pelegian”? NO! But rather the doctrinal understanding of the scriptures passed on from the Apostles who were taught by Christ.
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