Friday, March 14, 2008

Nelson Price's attack on John Calvin. XI

So we continue with Dr. Price's article. We believe that we have already demonstrated that it is stuffed with inaccuracies and misrepresentations. For a man who has claimed in a private e-mail to us to have studied Calvinism for more than fifty years, his knowledge of Calvin's life is woefully bad and seems to be based on a few Calvin-bashing articles.

"The most controversial teaching of Calvin regarded predestination."

We agree that predestination is controversial. How can it be anything else when it lays in the dust the Dagon (pictured) of man's boasted free-will, the great Diana of the Arminians? Men will not have God to rule over them, and as a result they hate the idea of his rule. But it is no wonder that rebels hate the rule of the one they rebel against! That a teaching is controversial is no test of whether or not it is true! Indeed, if a teaching is not opposed by the pride of men, it is highly unlikely to be of God. The LOrd Jesus Christ 'came unto His own, and His own received Him not', will it be any different with His Word?

"The early church and moderate Protestant churches had taught God had not predestined salvation for certain ones while predestining others to hell."

Dr. John Gill in his Cause of God and Truth, Part IV, chapter i, gives chapter and verse proving that many of the Church Fathers taught predestination, and in chapter 3 he shows their low views of the power of man's will. But here we would notice a manifest inconsistency in anti-Calvinists. If we quote the Church Fathers, they reply that the Fathers were Catholic, and therefore agreement with them proves that Calvin was not Biblical. Yet we can only know the views of the early Church from the writings of the Fathers! At the same time we would push the date back. When a free-willer can explain Romans 9 without violating every rule of context and good exegesis, we will be happy to accept his theology. The Fathers are not infallible (we are not Romanists!!!), and the Bible is always above them. Like all theological writers, the Fathers are at their best when they stick closely to the Bible.
So Dr. Price thinks that "the early church and moderate Protestant churches" did not teach predestination and total depravity. What, then , does he think they did teach?

"It was commonly held that salvation was a gift of God based on man’s free will in responding positively to God’s love initiative."

Sorry, but this is simply not true. Martin Luther, in his Bondage of the Will, if anything, out- Calvins Calvin himself! The Lutherans were also scathing about Free Will. The Lutheran Musculus called the idea that man's free-will could frustrate the saving purposes of God "manifestly wicked", and John Laurence Von Mosheim, the great Lutheran Church Historian, said:
"whatever the Arminians may say, the doctrines taught since the Synod of Dort by their principal doctors respecting grace and the points connected with it, approach much nearer to the sentiments of those called Pelagians and Semipelagians than to those professed by Lutherans." (Institutes of Ecclesiastical History, Century XVII, Sect. ii., Part 2.)

The Lutheran Augsburg Confession of 1530 states:
"Of Free Will they [Lutherans]teach that man's will has some liberty to choose civil righteousness, and to work things subject to reason. But it has no power, without the Holy Ghost, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness; since the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, 1 Cor. 2,14; but this righteousness is wrought in the heart when the Holy Ghost is received through the Word."

The Reformed Confessions, the Second Helvetic Confession of 1566, Belgic Confession of 1561 and the French Confession of 1559, all deny that man's will is freely able to obey God.
There were certain Anabaptists, many of whom also denied Justification by Faith and the total depravity of man, and who held that Christ's body was composed of 'heavenly flesh' (i.e. that He did not take flesh of the seed of David, but that His humanity was an entirely new creation that passed through Mary's body as water through a pipe), who would have agreed with Price, but they were in a decided minority. ROME might have been more favourable to the teaching, but he does not want to go there, and nor do we. Of the mainstream of the Reformation, both Lutheran and Reformed branches rejected this teaching of free-will. As Anglicanism is often taken as a third stream we append the statement of the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England on Free Will (article 10):
"The condition of Man after the fall of Adam is such, that he cannot turn and prepare himself, by his own natural strength and good works, to faith; and calling upon God. Wherefore we have no power to do good works pleasant and acceptable to God, without the grace of God by Christ preventing us, that we may have a good will, and working with us, when we have that good will."

And finally the Waldensis, in their Confession of 1655, article 9, said of man: "Our free will has become a servant and a slave to sin."

Hardly a ringing endorsement of Free-willism, all things considered. Apart from a few fringe groups, the moderate Protestants of the Reformation all joined with Calvin and Luther in the Biblical teaching that man's fallen will is a slave to sin.

Next time, God willing, we shall continue.

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