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

241 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”

    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.

Leave a Reply