Did the Early Church Fathers Teach Calvinism?

In which Dr. Leighton Flowers interviews premier Augustinian scholar Dr. Ken Wilson regarding how the Early Church Fathers saw the depravity and free will of man. They respond to an article by Dr. C. Matthew McMahon of A Puritan’s Mind and quotes used by Dr. Michael Horton in Putting Amazing Back in Grace to claim that Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Chrysostom, Origen, and Ambrose taught a form of Calvinism. In what is a fascinating discussion, they show that these ECFs, taken in their context, similar to the Scriptures, do not actually teach anything resembling Calvinism and indeed clearly affirmed free will theism.

Dr. Ken Wilson’s book
Kindle version: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VTS48L6
Paperback version: https://www.amazon.com/dp/108280035X?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860

261 thoughts on “Did the Early Church Fathers Teach Calvinism?


    During Augustine’s later years and the dramatic reversals of his doctrinal views, there arose a theological dilemma, when it became evident that some baptized infants turned into godly adult Christians while other baptized infants would fall away from the faith and live-out immoral lives. The current doctrine at that time stipulated that infants possessed the Holy Spirit by baptism. So, Augustine the intellectual, and Catholic Theologian, was thus presented with the question of how to explain the difference.

    Augustine deduced that God must give a SECOND gift of grace called perseverance. And that God only gives this gift to a FEW baptized infants. Without this SECOND gift, a Christian, even though they have the Holy Spirit via baptism, cannot persevere. So Augustine deduced – when you see Christians falling away – you can conclude they were not given the SECOND gift.

    This EXPLANATION (somewhat changed today) is known as the “P” in TULIP. The Perseverance of the saints.

    Dr. Ken Wilson – The foundation of Augustinian Calvinism
    But notice how the current doctrine of perseverance differs significantly from Augustine’s theory – which concluded that not all TRUE Christians persevered in faith and good works. For Augustine – baptized babies who received the Holy Spirit and were regenerated – but could fall away if God did not give the SECOND gift of perseverance.

    Augustine’s theoretical invention of a SECOND gift was created for the very purpose of *EXPLAINING* what was then evidenced through observation. That babies who became true Christians through baptism did not in fact persevere despite having the Holy Spirit.”
    -end quote

    How many times have you heard a Calvinist boast – that only Calvinism has the -quote EXPLANATIONS?

    And how many times have you observed that Calvinists often appear to have a never-ending supply of ad-hoc inventions, and the ability to COAX verses from scripture into affirming them?

    I submit to you – this practice of AD-HOC INVENTIONS to come up with EXPLANATIONS – and the COAXING of scripture to affirm a never-ending supply of theoretical inventions – is in fact a Calvinist birthright. It is Augustine’s Modus Operandi.

    This practice thus serves as the very “finger print” of Augustinian-Calvinism.

  2. What about John 6:44???
    As the verse relates to God’s election, to my son-in-law, proof of Election, the truth of “Calvinism”

    1. Hello George and welcome.
      I hope you know that all scripture reading – of necessity – entails some form of interpretation process.

      And I hope you know that any interpretation process – of necessity – entails mental presuppositions embraced as unquestionable truth – which filter and control the way the mind will interpret .

      Take for example the verse: “He stretches out the heavens as a scroll”
      If you lived in the 6th–5th century BC – you were taught to believe – the earth and the universe were flat.
      So when you came upon that verse – that is exactly the way your mind would interpret it.

      All a teacher has to do – is get you to accept certain mental presuppositions – by being an expert at persuading people to accept those presuppositions as unquestionable truth.

      From that point on – the way your mind will interpret scripture is guaranteed.

      Perhaps you would consider watching this video on Youtube?

      Go to Youtube – and type in this search string “Preparation: John 6:44 v. Calvinism”

      1. I’d encourage a thorough examination of scripture regarding the shape of our realm. Many believe The Bible is a flat earth book. Science requires that conclusions be testable and repeatable which doesn’t support heliocentrism. I’d recommend looking at some of the following videos keeping in mind there will be significant cognitive dissonance.

      2. br.d
        Hello Woody and welcome
        And good one!
        I got a chuckle out of it! 😀

      3. Sorry to hear the unwillingness to examine the evidence, BR. I scoffed at the flat earth claim too until deciding to eliminate any doubt by examining it for myself. Very similar to evaluating the claims of the Calvinist. I agree it takes a willingness to leave the comfort zone. All I know is what the evidence dictates and that freedom from the devils schemes will be the fruit. God bless.

      4. Woody, this site is for discussion of Soteriology, not ignorant conspiracy theories. I hope you’ve adequately dealt with each of these evidential questions –

        From Matt Hennessy, FB friend –
        “1. Please explain how a flight from Sydney to Santiago (7000 miles) in 12:45 min can happen on the FE model. On the FE map, Sydney to Santiago is a 20,500 mile trip. First there is not one commercial plane that can fly nonstop 20,500. Second, to do the trip in 12 hours 45 minutes the plane would be traveling over 1,600 mph.

        2. Please explain how a person in Santiago at 11 pm and a person in Cape Town at 4am (Same exact time just 2 different time zones) can both look due south and see the same pole star (Sigma Octantis), On the FE map South for Santiago is about 90 degrees different than South for Cape Town. You cannot see the same star at the same time looking due south as due south is at right angles for these countries on an FE model.

        3. Why is the earth shadow on a lunar eclipse a curve? How does the earth even cast a shadow on the moon if the moon is above us on the dome?

        4. Why does the sun and moon not follow the laws of parallax? Both rise and set and travel through the sky without changing size. According to parallax, as they move away from us they should be shrinking. This is not observed. They rise and set, they do not expand and shrink as parallax would predict.

        5. Why when you climb a tower, the higher you go the further you can see? FE says that we can only see as far as the vanishing point. How does the vanishing point change based on how high you are?

        6. Why do all the surveyors using Geodesy say the earth is curved? Are they in also in conspiracy with NASA and the Government as well?

        7. Why is the moon inverted in the southern hemisphere vs the northern hemisphere?

        8. How does the sun work like a spotlight? Light streams out in all directions. The sun is not directional in how it spreads light. If the sun is above us and does not set no matter where on the FE you are you should be able to see it. Light does not have a limit on travel.

        9. If both the sun and moon are above us on the dome, how do we explain a lunar eclipse? Would not the earth have to be between the sun and the moon for the earth to cast a shadow?

        10. How do stars rotate around the southern pole star? (Sigma Octantis)

        11. Find a webcam from Antarctica and watch how part of the year it is in total sunlight for days. Explain how this works on an FE model when Antarctica surrounds the earth. How can all the outside of the earth in the antarctic summer be bright with sunlight and yet the interior has a dark area for half of the inhabited earth?

        12. As FE do not believe in Gravity, please explain how tides happen on a flat earth.”

      5. You go Brian!

        I’m gonna save that post in my “debunking FE file” just like I save most of what you write in my “debunking Calvinism” file!

      6. Sorry FOM – I forgot to share the reference where I got that list. I edited and added it.

        FE is akin to gnosticism or Calvinist total depravity, imo… only the “perfect” or “elect” ones can see the truth! Most people would have to be blinded by either Satan or by the government by divine permission or divine predeterimination, it would seem to me, for FE to be true. 🙄

      7. br.d
        Always enjoy your posts Brian!
        I also take note of the fact – that in Calvinism – per the doctrine of decrees – all PERCEPTIONS which exist within the domain of a human mind – are established by decree which is infallible and immutable – and as such cannot be countervailed.
        Thus – all FALSE PERCEPTIONS which exist within the domain of the Calvinist mind – are determined solely and exclusively by a divine decree – and at any instance in time cannot be other than what they were decreed to infallibly be.
        Additionally – a FALSE PERCEPTION is a perception the human mind does not discern as FALSE.
        Thus as long as the decree is in effect – those FALSE PERCEPTIONS will infallibly “Persevere” within the Calvinist
        Which means – the Calvinist mind is not granted the function of discerning them as FALSE – because doing so would countervail the decree – which is not granted to the creature.
        Thus the Calvinist mind – has two subsets of perceptions:
        1) TRUE perceptions – fixed by infallible decree
        2) FALSE perceptions – fixed by infallible decree – which the brain is not permitted to discern as FALSE
        Thus – on EDD it follows – the Calvinist brain is not granted the function of discerning TRUE from FALSE on any matter – because his brain has no way of knowing if his perception on that matter is not a FALSE perception.
        So it makes perfect sense to me that someone would show up here – who is both an FE and a Calvinist.
        That individual is simply manifesting the fact that the Calvinist brain (per his doctrine) is not granted the function of discerning TRUE from FALSE on any matter.
        Calvinists are so blessed to have that! 😀

      8. Brian,
        This is great; only the “perfect” or “elect” ones can see the truth!”
        and i agree with FOH as well I’ll hang on to that if ever needed!! Honestly most of it was over my head, but also i don’t have the esoteric knowledge to comprehend FE.

        –And i like what Brd. says; So it makes perfect sense to me that someone would show up here – who is both an FE and a Calvinist.
        That individual is simply manifesting the fact that the Calvinist brain (per his doctrine) is not granted the function of discerning TRUE from FALSE on any matter.

        You guys are great watchman thank you🌻

      9. As a sailor from the USN, who has actually been out to sea, where land cannot be seen anywhere around the ship, it is astonishing to look at the horizon, then to look to the left, then the right, and back to the left again. You can actually see the curvature of the earth, just in that alone. So, I’m surprized how flat earthers made their conclusions. I mean, they look at the moon and the sun for crying out loud.

      10. br.d
        Perhaps when they look at the moon – what they see is a plate of cheese puffs!
        And perhaps they can’t see the sun – because for them – the sun is located directly under the flat earth and is what keeps the flat earth from falling and flipping over!
        If too many humans walk over to the edge of the earth – it will loose its balance and fall off the sun into cold space.
        So don’t push them! ;-D

      11. I’m reminded of the 70’s Saturday morning show called “Land of the Lost”. They fall off the edge, and land in the Land of the Lost, with the Sleestack to be afraid of, and dinasaurs as pets.

        Or, to go back in time and meet Martin Sheen on the USS Nimitz going thru WW2 (One of the ships I was stationed on in Bremerton), from the movie The Final Countdown.

      12. I’m not sure which thread to post this comment on so…I picked this one.

        Who said the quote below?

        “Prayer is the slender nerve that moveth the muscle of Omnipotence.”

        Calvinist Charles Spurgeon.

        Can Calvinists help here, cuz the rest of us thought that God cannot be “moved” by us. He is impassible and immutable. But Spurgeon seems to teach that our prayers can move him (a very non-reformed idea!).

      13. br.d
        Hey FOH!
        Great to hear from you!!
        I was thinking today of the Calvinist as a poker player.
        The cards that are dealt him – are IMMUTABLY FIXED by divine sovereignty
        And those are the only cards he is given.
        However – Calvinists typically do not like the cards their doctrine deals them.
        They typically desire to NOT have some of the cards the doctrine deals them.
        And they typically desire to have cards which the doctrine does NOT deal them.
        They typically want to have at least one single CHOICE in the matter of something within their life.
        What they do then – is what most poker players do.
        They will bluff!
        They will act *AS-IF* they weren’t dealt some of the cards the doctrine dealt them
        They will act *AS-IF* they were dealt cards which the doctrine did not deal them
        They will act *AS-IF* they are granted CHOICE in the matter of at least some things.
        They are not bluffing us.
        They are bluffing themselves
        Because they don’t like the cards the doctrine deals them.
        I think its pretty much acknowledged today – that Spurgeon as afflicted with Calvinism’s DOUBLE-SPEAK.
        He’s a Calvinist poker player
        And every Calvinist poker player lives out his moment by moment day bluffing himself.
        Acting *AS-IF* the doctrine gives him things which it doesn’t – and doesn’t give him things which it does!
        There but for the Grace of God go we! :-]

      14. Brian,
        Before responding to some of these questions which appear to be a cut and paste allow me to correct your presupposition that I’m the one off track here by failing to stay on the topic of soteriology. I said what I said about FE because of the following comment which essentially claims heliocentrism is true and the old guys including students of Hebrew cosmology were just ignoramuses..…. (If you lived in the 6th–5th century BC – you were taught to believe – the earth and the universe were flat. So when you came upon that verse – that is exactly the way your mind would interpret it.) Needless to say I don’t believe people who used the fixed stars and sun to navigate and tell time with precision were ignoramuses. Google Hebrew Cosmology for clarification. Many in the early 20th century believed the earth was flat.

        I’d also add that Leighton constantly and correctly admonishes James White and Steve Lawson et al for ad homonyms rather than stay on topic. Consider following suit to avoid a Romans 2:1 dilemma.

        Last comment prior to the list how do you decide which is a conspiracy theory and which is legitimate? Is evolution legitimate because like globe earth theory it’s celebrated in academia and the media? How about statism which is nothing more than Romanism 2.0? Global warming? Covid plandemic? 911? Woman’s ‘right to choose’? The truth described by Jesus in John 18:37 is objective not amorphous.

        Rather than go through the list 1 by 1 here are a few of the big issues. I too was a bigtime skeptic until I examined the data and couldn’t unsee what my eyes and critical skills told me. Of course, you’re free 😊 to reject. This is a surface scratch that goes much deeper for anyone who wants to look. For those who prefer to cast stones like the Pharisees …..

        The Bible. Reading of scripture there are 200 verses that teach the earth is fixed, set on pillars, under a dome (firmament), water above and below, stars and planets moving, earth unmoving (Google Hebrew cosmology). Two verses are debated Job 26:7 and Isa 40:22. Circle doesn’t necessarily mean ‘globe’ as a pizza which is flat can also be called a circle.

        Curvature. This leads into the flight path question. I’m not sure where the 20,000 miles from Santiago to Sydney comes from. Most flat earthers agree with 7K and show the line that must be taken which doesn’t work on the globe which would be a straight shot. Pilots who have the courage to risk losing their jobs by speaking up say the earth is flat as a pancake from all altitudes.

        Antarctica. Globers claim Antarctica is a continent 12K miles in circumference. If that were true it’d be easy to prove by pointing 2 boats in opposite directions and after 6K miles they’d intersect. Instead Antarctica has been off limits since 1959 after Admiral Byrd had made 2 trips. It’s the only treaty signed by hostile nations. FE’ers believe it’s to keep the truth that the ice wall there is the outer edge of the realm and would be easily discovered.

        NASA. After the Antarctic Treaty NASA was formed. The NASA logo is a serpent’s tongue, was founded by Freemasons and spends over $60 million PER DAY of taxpayers dollars. Wires seen on space walks, bubbles in space, astronauts proven Masons, van Allen belts disproven, so called moon landing data lost etc. There’s much more on government funded ‘space’ agencies for those interested.

        Tides. What’s clear is the tides aren’t related to the moon as sold. Highest tides are in the northern hemisphere and the lowest near the equator which would make moon gravity peculiar to geography. Many believe tides operate according to electro magnetism the earth is magnetic water is diamagnetic.

        George Orwell. Orwell was a frustrated Marxist sympathizer and said in 1984 “…power is power over human beings….over their minds. Orwell describes ‘doublethink’ and uses heliocentrism as the central deception to mind control.

        Kabbalah. Who are the true conspiracy controllers behind the curtain? One of the principal satanic movements propagated by Zionist Jews is communism paragraph three of protocol two of the protocols of the learned elders of Zion states: “think carefully of the successes we arranged for Darwinism (evolution)Marxism (Communism) Nietzsche ISM (Socialism). To us Jews at any rate, it should be plain to see what a disintegrating importance directives have had upon the minds of the Goyim.” The Kabbalah has been ongoing since Solomon betrayed his heritage (1 Ki 11).

        Observation. We’re told the earth is spinning at 1000 MPH, circling the sun at 66K MPH (Satanic) and torpedoing through ‘space’ at 460K MPH yet the clouds remain motionless while the stars and planets move yet remain fixed in the sky. As previously stated the stars have been used for navigation for centuries. The new world order (globalism) is based on disinformation with heliocentrism being central.

        Why the lie? The simple answer is to White Out Rom 1:21 from the Bible. The controllers behind the lie want people to believe they’re nothing more than a byproduct of a big bang random nothingness rather than the crown jewel of an all powerful Creator who died for them. There are financial reasons too.

        Again, I’m responding because of the statement that Hebrew cosmology is false. I’ll stay on soteriology going forward unless you’d prefer to ban me which is up to you. As Paul said to the Corinthian church during the politicking with Cephas and Apollos my conscience is clear which doesn’t make me innocent 1 Cor 4:4. If you decide to evaluate the claims in a serious way I’d recommend The Greatest Lie on Earth by Edward Hendrie a fellow Disciple and an app called The Flat Earth Sun, Moon and Zodiak.

        As Leighton would say I’ll consider you a brother in Christ regardless. God bless you.

      15. Thank you Woody for your thoughtful reply. You still are not really dealing with Soteriology.

        You really think you see rejection of FE as a worldwide satanic conspiracy that only a few can know, who think they are rare brave souls with exceptional reasoning of evidence and a proper interpretation of Scripture. I think you should look again at all the evidence and try harder to have answers for each of the points made in the list I gave.

        For that worldwide conspiracy to be successful there cannot be any true believers working at NASA or at one of the now independent space firms that send up satellites that orbit, or pilots who regularly circumnavigate the globe. And it takes too much faith to believe the believers that are in those organizations are all cowards and not willing to expose the supposed lies against FE that they see being produced.

        Also, Satan didn’t just start feeding popular lies, like the ones you mentioned used recently. Infant baptism for salvation is still a popular lie based on faulty interpretation that many Christians believe trusting their “authorities” in spite of the evidence. Determinism for salvation is still a popular lie, not just in Christianity.

        But he also uses unpopular lies to keep people from serving God effectively. FE was a popular lie to keep mankind from exploring and filling and subduing the earth as commanded. Now it’s just an unpopular lie that he can still use effectively on some.

        You won’t be banned from this site if you stick to discussing Soteriology topics. You probably will have a future response, like your last one, promoting FE, not added to our discussions unless you show how it relates to salvation topics.

      16. Woody – you are new here so you did not know – we do not allow links to other web-sits within posts.
        I removed them from your post for you.

      17. I have literally been around the world while in the navy. Literally. I drove from Bremerton, Wa, too Pittsburgh, PA. Took a bus from Pittsburgh, PA to Philadelphia, PA. Flew from Philadelphia, PA to the Azores for a layover. Flew from the Azores to Siganella, Italy. Flew from Siganella, Italy to my ship outside of Rome Italy. On the ship,
        went thru the Suez canal to the Persian gulf. From the Persian gulf, went to Perth, Australia. From Perth to Hawaii, from Hawaii to San Diego.

        Around the world. Literally.

        This was in 1997. At no time was the earth flat. I can assure you, the world is not flat.

        Ed Chapman

      18. Besides…if the earth was flat, we would have no time zones. It would be sunny on all parts of the flat earth at the same time…just like a heat lamp for your flat round piping hot PIZZA. And then it would be dark on all parts of your flat earth at the same time like storing your COLD PIZZA in a fridge.

        There would be no seasons that are opposite of each other. For example, Winter in the US is Summer in Australia. We would all have the SAME season, whether summer or winter, but we would not have spring or fall.

        You talk about OBSERVATION, yet, what the blank are you actually observing? Brian asked the right CUT AND PASTE questions, and it seems that you are the one avoiding them from YOUR observations that you can’t unsee.

        As I said, I’ve been around the world…on an easterly direction…and that can’t happen on a PIZZA. If I want a SLICE of your PIZZA…what are you going to do, cut one inch around the outer edge to give me a circle of pizza instead of a slice? What I’m getting at, is that there is no such thing on a PIZZA for NORTH, SOUTH, EAST, and WEST in those terms.

        Ed Chapman

      19. br.d
        I am reminded of the story of the man who claimed he had conclusive evidence the earth is flat and he could prove it.
        Someone took him up on his claim and asked him to provide his evidence.
        His evidence was – he had traveled around the earth – and measured its circumference – and now knows its exact diameter . And those provide conclusive evidence – the earth is flat.
        Its good to have fun!
        Blessings! ;-D

    2. Hi George. Here’s a lot to digest. But hopefully it will help you.

      And John 6:44 is not a gotcha verse if one recognizes that the one drawn is not logically guaranteed in that grammatical construction to either come or to be raised up just because he is drawn. Only the one drawn and who comes is promised to be raised up. Even if “drag” is used here or in John 12:32… the meaning is only to drag to a location… There is no guaranteed change made in the person’s nature just by being drawn. Once they are brought to the location or before the person, like Christ… they have to make a decision what to do next and how to respond to the options and information they now have in that location or before that person!

      The same Greek word for “drawn” is used in the LXX in Neh 9:30… and that group of Israelites, though drawn by God to the opportunity to obey Him, did not do it. The Hebrew word for “drawn” used in Neh 9:30 is also used in Hos 11:4-5, which again is showing that Israel was “drawn” by God with love to Himself, but they refused Him. Paul recalls this kind of drawing with love, using the words of Isaiah where God said – “All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people” Rom 10:21. Does God only play act His love already knowing it only can and will be rejected? Not my God.

      Paul and Silas were “drawn” before the rulers of Philippi and then thrown into prison (Acts 16:19)… There they were free and able to either groan and complain or pray and sing! We know what they freely chose to do! I actually prefer the idea of “drag”. God graciously “drags” us to a place of decision. We cannot escape that “grace”, and we are now able and responsible for how we freely respond to it… making us clearly without excuse at the final judgment of God!

      Are you familiar with identifying distributed and non-distributed terms when premises are being evaluated as to what is logically valid to prove from them? In 6:44 the “no one can come” is a distributed term… but “the Father draws” is a non-distributed term. The “will be raised up” is non-distributed also.

      In brief Jesus is saying that all who come will be raised up. But the verse is not logically proving that they are the only ones to be raised up (deceased infants maybe also).

      And being drawn is necessary to enable coming, but the premise doesn’t prove it is the only thing necessary to enable coming (the context reveals looking at the Son and believing are also part of those coming). Nor does the verse guarantee that all who are drawn, and who therefore are now enabled to come, will actually come.

      The emphasis on coming and believing is throughout this passage. It fits the purpose of the book…that unbelievers reading would be enabled/drawn to come and believe and then receive the everlasting life of the new birth (20:31). But reading doesn’t cause coming and believing.

      Reading determinism into these verses that don’t clearly prove it and whose purpose even contradicts determinism is just sad!

      Drawing is necessary to be “able” to come. But the “him” that is raised up is not logically connected to just being drawn or just to being “able” to come, but to the one who actually comes.

      There is an assumption being made by both sides who argue this verse. One side thinks drawing must result in coming and the other side thinks drawing only enables coming but that there are also other conditions that must be met before his coming and being raised up. The context reveals those other conditions.

      John 6:40, 44, 54 NKJV – “I will raise him up at the last day”
      40 “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” …
      44 “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. …
      54 “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

      What are the prerequisites for being raised up at the last day? Seeing the Son, Believing in Him, Having everlasting life, Being drawn by the Father, Being able to come to Christ, [Coming to Christ], Eating Christ’s flesh, Drinking His blood, Having everlasting life… right?

      I added in brackets, Coming to Christ. Was that appropriate and assumed in Jesus’ words? Isn’t it false to assume just being drawn by the Father guarantees being raised up, and just being able to come to Christ guarantees being raised up? Isn’t Jesus saying those drawn who do come are the ones that will be raised up? And is He really saying that all who are drawn and made able to come must irresistibly end up coming, or is that open to question in Jesus’ words?

      I believe the listeners would have never thought – “Oh Jesus just promised that all who are drawn will have to come and then will be raised up”. They would have thought, I believe, “Jesus just said the Father must draw if we are going to be able to come… and if we come (responding to and not resisting that drawing), we will be raised up.”

      Let me know if you have other questions.

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