Fallacies of Style: White vs. Wilson (Part 2)

The following is from Fallacies of Style. The original article titled “White vs. Wilson (Part 2)”. The article is re-blogged in its entirety.

I’ve just finished reading Ken Wilson’s The Foundation of Augustinian-Calvinism. The book is intended to be a more accessible summary of his longer Oxford dissertation, but in my estimation is still academic enough to make “popular” a poor descriptor. Contrary to White’s characterization of it as some sort of baseless rant filled with “simplistic error” and “forms of argumentation [that] are stunning – stunningly bad“, I thought the arguments generally focused and well-defined.

The main take-away from reading the book is that, in James White’s first four podcasts purporting to deal with it, he doesn’t actually address any of the substantive claims in Wilson’s book. And though Leighton Flowers’ response to White is generally OK, his format doesn’t really lend itself to demonstrating just how pathetic White’s analysis (so far) has been. To do that, we need to dig into (some of) the details of Wilson’s thesis, point by point.

1. Ground zero of Wilson’s thesis is his view that earlier Augustine scholars misdated certain portions of the Augustinian corpus, because those portions were revisions Augustine made to his own works. This line of argument is interesting and pretty well developed in Foundation, but White doesn’t mention it at all.

2. If Wilson is correct about the dates/revisions Augustine made, then it becomes clear that Augustine did not develop the deterministic aspects of his theology that Calvin, et. al. latched onto until after he began his battle with the Pelagians in 412 AD. That would mean Augustine did not write anything Calvin or Calvinists could meaningfully appeal to until at least 16 years after reading Romans and Galatians. Again, White does not address this point.

3. Therefore, if Augustine did not, as was previously thought, develop his deterministic views shortly after reading Romans and Galatians, a scholar might reasonably wonder, “What did cause Augustine to change his views?” Wilson argues that the timeline suggests, quite plausibly, that Augustine’s shift was prompted by his battle with the Pelagians and therefore more rhetorical/polemical than textual/exegetical. Once again, White does not attempt a reply.

4. Now, here’s where it gets interesting: Wilson contends that in order to more effectively fight off the Pelagian heresy, Augustine adopted a deterministic interpretation of key passages of Scripture in a way that no prior (known) Christian had before. But neither was Augustine the first to offer said deterministic interpretations; Fortunatus the Manichaean, to take only a single example cited by Wilson, had previously argued that John 14:6 and Ephesians 2:3, 8-9 imply unilateral determinism. Reformed theologians likewise have appealed to deterministic interpretations of these same key passages that were first offered by pagans.

White’s responses on this point are several, but each attempt rests on a laughably bad argument. Against Wilson’s claim that Augustine’s deterministic interpretations of Scripture were previously unknown within Christianity, White protests:

 We don’t have a tremendous amount of the early church’s writings. For many of the earliest fathers what we have is because somebody quotes them, partially, at a later point in time. If we didn’t have Eusebius’s church history, we wouldn’t even know some of these people existed. But the reality is we have only a small portion of the extant literature. And so, one of the first things that caught me, when I first started looking through this, was how many times [Wilson claims] “It was the universal view…” The only fair way of actually saying that is: In the extant literature that we have, that specifically addresses this issue, it seems that the predominant view prior to would be this, and then Augustine changed it. That’s fair. This has no desire to be fair, does not even try to be fair. It is completely imbalanced, horrifically so, just way out there.

-Taken here around the 32:50 mark

First, either White misspoke several times or he hasn’t quite grasped the meaning of the word “extant”; indeed, the extant literature is precisely all we have. Second, Wilson’s claim is this: “Of the eighty-four pre-Augustinian authors studied from 95-430 CE, over fifty authors addressed the topic [of predestination]. All of these early Christian authors championed traditional free choice against pagan and heretical Divine Unilateral Predetermination of Individuals’ Eternal Destinies”. Sounds pretty unanimous to me.

Third, for Wilson’s conclusion to be “completely imbalanced”, we have to imagine it highly probable that there were many early Christian writers before Augustine who interpreted these passages deterministically, but somehow none of these writings survived. Instead, God – through His meticulous determination of every detail in the universe and in perfect accord with His will – chose to preserve for posterity over fifty early Christian writers arguing the exact opposite (and thirty more who on this issue were silent). This, evidently, is what White considers real scholarship; in reality, it’s just another fallacy.

White tries a different tactic in a separate podcast:

There is no single objective Gnostic doctrine of determinism that is, that could ever, logically or rationally be said to be identical to, parental to, ancestor of, the personal self-glorifying decree of the triune God of the Christian scriptures. That’s the assertion that’s being made. That’s why it’s impossible.

-Taken here around 1:04:50 mark

But, as anyone who has read Wilson’s book will know, Wilson never claims there is a “single objective Gnostic doctrine of determinism”. Nor does any part of his argument depend on this bizarre assertion. Wilson invokes the determinism(s) of Gnosticism in contradistinction to the clear anti-determinism of the early church. This fact is rather inconvenient for White, so he once again offers a fallacious argument.

In yet another podcast, White offers the following:

From a historical perspective, to make a long story short, when [Wilson] says that, basically, if you’re reformed and you believe in the sovereign decree of God, well, that came to you through Calvin, through Augustine, through Manichaeism and Gnosticism… [However] both Manichaeism and Gnosticism have such a fundamentally different worldview and different theological foundations that how can you make that – I mean, to make that connection would require a massive – it would require a demonstration that every exegetical insight, every grammatical insight offered by Reformed theologians from Calvin onward was a brainless, simplistic, [in mock robot voice] “I have to say this because I believe Augustine”. And the vast majority of us today became Reformed before we read Calvin… and we did so on the basis of exegesis.

– Taken here around 24:20 mark

White has really outdone himself on this one, so we’ll have to break it down even smaller. First, it won’t surprise any reasonable person to discover that Wilson makes no claims about how White or anyone else became Reformed. Second, Wilson’s actual argument does not “require a demonstration that every exegetical insight, every grammatical insight offered by Reformed theologians from Calvin onward” is based on slavish devotion to Augustine. White is here attempting to move the goalposts.

Third – and this is key, because on this point White also claims “This kind of simplistic, straight-line stuff is absurd” (here, around 1:02:30), as though Wilson were putting forth a kind of conspiracy theory of ideas with Augustine (or maybe Calvin) right in the middle of the crazy wall. The only sensible reply is to encourage people to read Wilson’s book for themselves and remind White that intellectual history (or history of ideas) is a legitimate academic endeavor that is prone to discover truths that upset people.

Consider a totally unrelated parallel: probably one in 10,000 self-professed capitalists and Marxists alike would consider that the better part of Karl Marx’s economic system was spun out of the economic principle of Adam Smith. This conclusion may shock and disturb, and yet the dedicated historian of economic thought who really understands the development of the labor theory of value has to admit that it’s not an absurd claim by any stretch.

Now, none of this is to say that I’m completely persuaded by Wilson. To the contrary, the book raises (in my mind, at least) a number of questions that may in the end lead to real difficulties for Wilson’s conclusions about how to understand Augustine and his contributions. If I get curious enough, I might buy Wilson’s dissertation and write about it.

However, it appears White, for the time being, is content merely to take these sorts of pot shots at Flowers’ interviews of Wilson rather than address the factual claims or arguments in Wilson’s book. If that changes, this series may have a part 3. In the meantime, everyone should go buy Wilson’s book! It’s short and it’s only $10, what more do you want?

63 thoughts on “Fallacies of Style: White vs. Wilson (Part 2)

  1. Well done Eric!

    -quote
    Wilson argues that the timeline suggests, quite plausibly, that Augustine’s shift was prompted by his battle with the Pelagians and therefore more rhetorical/polemical than textual/exegetical.

    This is not only Wilson’s suggestion – but a host of other scholars as well.
    For I have heard this about Augustine many times.

    In fact – its more readily stated as Augustine being stumped by Pelagian arguments.
    And not having any logical answer for them – reverts to Gnostic arguments he previously rejected when coming into Catholicism.

  2. Thanks Eric and good point BRD. I’ve heard and read the same in regard to the timing of when Augustine shifted his position.

    One comment that caught my attention. White said…
    “And the vast majority of us today became Reformed before we read Calvin… and we did so on the basis of exegesis.”

    This is interesting because this would be a first. I’ve yet to meet a Calvinist or read the testimony of a Calvinist who became a Calvinist simply by reading his Bible after he was saved. This is an observation that I believe reinforces the fact that Calvinism is a man derived and man-taught systematic. In every case, they were introduced to Calvinism through a Calvinist friend, read a Calvinist book by a Calvinist author, heard it from a Calvinist pastor, etc. They may not have “read Calvin” directly, but they were introduced to Calvinism by a person in some way, They then make the claim that they came to realize this is what scripture teaches and it was “on the basis of exegesis” but initially the concepts were introduced to them by another person. There may be a Calvinist out there somewhere who actually came up with something like Calvinism himself from scripture with no outside introduction to it from another person, but I’ve not yet met him or read his testimony.

    1. ANDYB2015, You are so right. This was my own experience and the experience of every Calvinist friend I have. I found Wilson’s book compelling as I have always believed Augustine to be the cornerstone of the introduction of fatalistic determinism into otherwise orthodox theology, and that is was based on his prior belief systems.

    2. Andy said…

      This is interesting because this would be a first. I’ve yet to meet a Calvinist or read the testimony of a Calvinist who became a Calvinist simply by reading his Bible after he was saved. This is an observation that I believe reinforces the fact that Calvinism is a man derived and man-taught systematic. In every case, they were introduced to Calvinism through a Calvinist friend, read a Calvinist book by a Calvinist author, heard it from a Calvinist pastor, etc. They may not have “read Calvin” directly, but they were introduced to Calvinism by a person in some way, They then make the claim that they came to realize this is what scripture teaches and it was “on the basis of exegesis” but initially the concepts were introduced to them by another person.

      I have frequently made an identical observation. And in the case of White, I would go further. I think he got so caught up in the moment that he stretched the truth. He could not possibly have held to Reformed theology without it being externally enlightened to him.

      Reformed doctrine cannot be reasonably inferred from scripture unaided. You must first be exposed to it and only then can you see hints of it in scripture and finally zealously impose it everywhere you please by wrangling of words. You could never construct that systematic by simply reading the Bible. You first must make a philosophical pronouncement found nowhere in the Bible, such as “God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass” and then force this onto scripture, starting with the “U” in TULIP. “L” “I” and “P” logically follow once you have made this unscriptural demand. “T” is true to the extent that it does not become “Total Inability” but total inability is non-optional under Calvinism because without it, man could innately have the capacity to respond to the gospel, and this cannot be tolerated under the erroneous belief that response is a “work”.

      If nothing else, the systematic is internally logically consistent.

      I find this statement from the Westminster Confession (Ch I, vii) particularly laughable under Reformed theology:

      All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.

      1. To add to my previous post, the reason I find this particular section of the Westminster Confession so ironic is that the doctrines of salvation are precisely the parts of the Bible that Reformed theology has made so non-intuitive for the (to use their words) “unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means”. The non-learned under Reformed Theology cannot “attain unto a sufficient understanding of them” because it requires the “unlearned” to invert what they think they are reading and how they think they should respond:

        Unlearned: it appears I need to respond to the Gospel
        Reformed: You can’t. If someone asks you how to be saved, you cannot tell them to “respond”. They are dead. God must quicken them and resurrect them. You cannot even pray to be quickened unless God foreordained that as well. There is nothing you can do. You cannot ask, you cannot pray, you cannot exercise faith. They are all works, and 100% of what happens must be complete initiated by Christ. If you perform so much as 0.00000000001% of the requirements, you have done the entirety yourself and can take credit.

        Unlearned: it appears there is an if-then proposition being extended throughout virtually every page of the Bible. God says that if I do this, then He will respond in a particular way. This includes salvation. He extends grace. I respond by faith. I can chose to be stubborn or I can choose to be obedient. He can justly punish me accordingly.
        Reformed: There is no such thing as a genuine proposition. Everything you do and say is not simply foreknown – it is foreORDAINED. You cannot do otherwise. You must be very careful in how you understand salvation and how you extend it to others. The word “choice” should never be employed because it then becomes salvation by works.

        UnlearnedIt appears that salvation is not just extended to all, it is AVAILABLE to all, based on my plain reading of John 3:16 and 2 Pet 3:9, Acts 13:70, and 1 Tim 2:3-6. Indeed, it would make no sense to extend something to those who could not benefit from it, nor would it make sense to command people to do that which they cannot.
        ReformedYou don’t properly understand. “All” and “any” in 2 Pet 3:9 and “whosoever” and “world” in John 3:16 mean “the elect”. “All” in 1 Tim 2:3-6 and Acts 13:70 likewise means “the elect”.

        UnlearnedIn Acts 17:30 it appears that I am being commanded to repent, and not just me – but all men, everywhere.
        is not just extended to all, it is AVAILABLE to all, based on my plain reading of John 3:16 and 2 Pet 3:9, Acts 13:70, and 1 Tim 2:3-6. Indeed, it would make no sense to extend something to those who could not benefit from it, nor would it make sense to command people to do that which they cannot.
        ReformedYou don’t need to repent to be saved. This is a work. It is by grace alone, through faith alone. Neither of these gifts come from yourself, and one is not a response to the other. Grace is a gift and so is faith. Asking someone to demonstrate faith by an action is a “work” and we are not saved by “works”. You are no more saved by repenting than you are by being baptized.

        UnlearnedIt appears that Joshua’s charge to the people in Joshua 24:15 means that each hearer had the capacity to choose to server the Lord or some other god. If choice to serve God or not was extended in the Old Testament, it must likewise extend into the New Testament. In the New Testament “serving God” must mean obedience to His commands: to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).
        ReformedYou cannot choose to follow God. That is a work and you can thus take credit for following, and by extension for your salvation. Be very careful in the words that you use when extending salvation – the word “choice” should be avoided. Nothing you do is a choice in the strict sense of the word. This would tarnish God’s glory and diminish His sovereignty.

        And we are honestly to believe that “a sufficient understanding of them” can be “attained” by the “unlearned?”

        It is reasonably clear from history that Augustine imposed the determinism he obtained elsewhere onto Christianity. He did not get it from the scriptures, he imposed it onto them.

        It reasonably clear that Calvin did the same, and that Calvin’s determinism came from Augustine – not from the scriptures.

        Once you have brought something not taught in the scriptures (determinism) as a non-negotiable into your theology, you then must construct a system that supports it. You begin by appealing to sovereignty and omniscience. You can then do a sleight of hand and conflate foreknowledge with foreordination / predestination. You then redefine sovereignty to buttress your premise that it necessarily means control of every thought, deed, and decision and thus “whatsoever comes to pass”. Again, because all of this is non-negotiable and you have taken the liberty of defining sovereignty in a way that fits the demands of determinism, you must now mold a doctrine of salvation that satisfies this non-negotiable. And this is precisely what Calvin did. But again, none of this – contrary to the Westminster Confession – is “apparent” by “the unlearned” “in a due use of the ordinary means”.

        Indeed, this is one of the most powerful arguments in my mind against Calvinism – it cannot be ascertained by a plain, unaided reading of scripture by the “unlearned”. It is always taught and acquired in some means external to the scriptures. Always. It was true of Augustine, it was true of Calvin, and it is true of those Christians today that hold to Reformed theology.

      2. mrteebs writes, “the doctrines of salvation are precisely the parts of the Bible that Reformed theology has made so non-intuitive for the (to use their words) “unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means”. The non-learned under Reformed Theology cannot “attain unto a sufficient understanding of them” because it requires the “unlearned” to invert what they think they are reading and how they think they should respond:”

        If by “unlearned” you mean unbelievers, then they don’t care – “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,” or as Paul says later, “if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.”

        If by “unlearned” you mean those who are being saved, then TULIP was developed to present the essentials points of salvation in an easily understandable form.

        T – People are born with corrupt hearts and no faith so that Jesus says, “No one can come to Me…”
        U – God imposes no prior conditions on those who are being saved as Paul says, “God who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”
        L – Christ died for God’s elect. Paul describes this, “In Christ we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…” and “remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh…you were without Christ…having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
        I – God’s work in you is irresistible – Paul writes of himself, “I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. And the grace of our Lord was exceedingly abundant, with faith and love which are in Christ Jesus.”
        P – God preserves His elect as Christ attested, ““All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day.”

        It is precisely because these points are so easily understood that they have become so contested.

      3. rhutchin
        If by “unlearned” you mean unbelievers, then they don’t care….

        br.d
        Never expect a Calvinist to tell the WHOLE truth
        Because the horrible decrees will be recognized as horrifying.

        In Calvinism any unbeliever who doesn’t care is simply not permitted to BE/DO otherwise – at pain of falsifying an infallible decree

        T Totally Predestined Nature:
        The state of man’s nature at any instance in time is totally predestined prior to creation, and absolutely nothing about what is infallibly decreed to come to pass – including man’s nature at any instance in time – is ever up to man.

        U Unconditional Destiny by Design:
        Every aspect of man’s design and destiny is in total-abject-absolute unconditional subjection to an external divine and secret will. Nothing about man’s past, present, or future is ever up to man. And nothing about man’s predestined design or destiny is conditioned upon anything having to do with man.

        L Limited Possibilities and Human Illusions
        All human impulses, perceptions, choices, and desires are exclusively predetermined for each human at the foundation of the world. And any perception of multiple options available for a human to choose from, exist only as human illusions. Illusions of non-predestined events which as such never had any possibility of ever coming to pass – at pain of fasifying what was predestined.

        I Irresistible Human Functionality
        All human functionality, including morally significant functionality, is produced by impulses infallibly actualized within the human brain which occur as irresistible.

        P Possibility of Election
        Any human certainty of election in this lifetime is an illusion. Each believer is promised only the possibility of election.

      4. Rhutchin: “It is precisely because these [TULIP] points are so easily understood that they have become so contested.”

        Umm … yeah … sure, rhutchin, whatever you say!

      5. heather writes: “Umm … yeah … sure, rhutchin, whatever you say!”

        If you did not understand them, you would not get upset. Who gets upset over that which they do not understand?

      6. rhutchin
        If you did not understand them, you would not get upset. Who gets upset over that which they do not understand?

        br.d
        If Heather is not upset – this would be rhutchin’s infallibly decreed FALSE perception #16
        Calvin’s god sure does have fun tinkering with Calvinist brains! :-]

      7. The Calvinist knows you think you understand what you thought he said
        And he also knows that you don’t realize what you heard is not what he meant :-]

      8. Rhutchin: “If you did not understand them, you would not get upset. Who gets upset over that which they do not understand?”

        You know what, rhutchin? You’re right. I’ll give you this one. It’s precisely because we understand them – because we understand what Calvinists are REALLY saying under the deceptive biblical-layers they hide it in and because we understand how different it is from what the Bible REALLY teaches – that we get upset about it. So … you’re right! Those who get upset about Calvinism do so because they truly have understanding.

  3. Thanks Steve. Yes, this was my experience as well. I had already done quite a bit of research into what the early church and early church fathers believed and had come to this conclusion on my own. Wilson’s work has reinforced what I had learned and is a great resource.

  4. I agree the book not only should be purchased at $10 for yourself, but for others in your life who maybe struggling or confused… White’s attacks are embarrassing he acts so superior it is such a crazy site to see… It makes so much sense that a calvinist would be taught by another calvinist… I absolutley remember when I was first introduced to this and it didn’t sit well and I happened to be in a precept Bible study in a church close to my home (not my home church). Anyway we were studying Colossians and it was around Easter I decided to go to one of their services. Then at the end of this service they had a separate area to inquire of the pastor going in one at a time. (It reminded me a bit of Catholicism not that I was ever aloud to talk to the priest in confession) This pastor was not their main pastor & this church was very large & from my understanding not calvinist leaning nor was this something they normally did. The topic of calvinism of course was my question and how I didn’t see it in Scripture and, that I needed assurance of what I was reading. Next sadly the pastor/guy basically told me he didn’t use to either, but he sees it now and that my sister was right, & he now embraces it…. needless to say I didn’t leave that meeting feeling any joy at all!!, because basically he informed me the good news was essentially bad news for most of humanity in my opinion. I’m glad I didn’t just believe him and concede, but of course he was a pastor who was I… but nah he nor any humble or loud calvinist will ever have the final word only the harmony of God’s Word has that authority period. This site is not a one string bango it has great purpose and basically White is criticizing from a distant platform…, in my opinion this gives him a sense of safety.. I think he comes off as a scared smart guy who doesn’t want to talk to an intellectual man who actually is cordial, because there is substance here and he doesn’t like that… that is only my observation…. It is always refreshing to read others journey’s and how others see this systematic doesn’t harmonize so very many passages of Scripture unless you redefine. Thanks

  5. Eric Kemp writes, “That would mean Augustine did not write anything Calvin or Calvinists could meaningfully appeal to until at least 16 years after reading Romans and Galatians. Again, White does not address this point.'”

    White pointed out that the first have of Augustine’s career was spend dealing with the Donetist controversy and the last half of his career dealing with the Palagian controversy. So, Yes, Calvin would draw from Augustine’s dealing with Pelagius. White did address this point, but I don’t think the point is controversial.

    1. Hutch, it’s an interesting point because White wants to say “Augustine just got it from the Bible”. That Augustine didn’t write anything White would agree with until 16 years after reading Romans and Galatians is evidence against this point.

      And, for the record, I didn’t write this article.

  6. Eric Kemp writes, “Against Wilson’s claim that Augustine’s deterministic interpretations of Scripture were previously unknown within Christianity, White protests:

    “We don’t have a tremendous amount of the early church’s writings….”

    -Taken here around the 32:50 mark”

    This appears at the 43 minute mark if anyone wants to listen to that discussion.

  7. From my understanding, this fraud stuff goes back a lot farther than just Augustine/Calvin. I’ve heard stories of fraudulent writings from the Catholics of church fathers, and the invention of church fathers that never even existed in the first place.

    I remember my attempt to debate with a Catholic once. All he wanted to do was talk church fathers, and what THEY established, therefore, what he believes, without question, is what church fathers established.

    Well, I didn’t want to talk church fathers at all. But he would not tell me what he believed independent from church fathers. So, our debate went no where fast.

    My contention has always been that the Catholic church is a fraud of Christianity. Not much can be PROVEN regarding a missing less then 300 years, so they invented a fake history, by claiming “Saint” Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and his writings, which is the contention of whether thy be real or fake.

    So, this goes much deeper than the fraudulent claims of Augustine/Calvin. But it does show the continued lies that those in religious power wish to have OVER their flock.

    Ed Chapman

  8. Do we know where Augustine ultimately obtained his deterministic ideas? It seems he came to the faith with a belief in free will, and then later changed his posture as a result of debates with Pelagians, but does anyone know for sure that the origin was the Manichaens?

    Wikipedia suggests that determinism wasn’t something Augustine brought with him to Christianity, and was instead a Manichaen concept that he employed as a debate strategy with the Pelagians — and then became so enamored with the concept that he retained it.

    Here is the Wikipedia citation (with my emphasis added):

    Augustine taught variants of these five points of Augustinian–Calvinism the last eighteen years of his life. Previously he had taught traditional Christian views defending humanity’s free choice to believe against the deterministic Manichaeans, to which he had belonged for a decade before converting to Christianity. In this pagan group, a non-relational God unilaterally chose the elect for salvation and the non-elect for damnation based upon his own desires. Early church fathers prior to Augustine refuted non-choice predeterminism as being pagan. Out of the fifty early Christian authors who wrote on the debate between free will and determinism, all fifty supported Christian free will against Stoic, Gnostic, and Manichaean determinism and even Augustine taught traditional Christian theology against this determinism for twenty-six years prior to 412 CE. When Augustine started fighting the Pelagians he converted to the Gnostic and Manichaean view and taught that humankind has no free will to believe until God infuses grace, which in turn results in saving faith.

    Please note that I am not suggesting Wikipedia is an authoritative source. I am merely pointing out that there seems to be evidence that determinism was not something Augustine extracted from the scriptures, or a view that he held originally at conversion. It came sometime after his conversion, and he held to it rigorously thereafter.

    If others reading here disagree with the Wikipedia article, they are invited to start a food fight of posting and reposting with their opponents. It is one of the reasons I no longer trust Wikipedia for many things. “He who posts last, wins” is not the same as “He who posts last, is right”.

    There are some lessons in that statement for some of the commenters here as well.

    1. I think the Wikipedia article is pretty much a consensus from my understanding. Although Augustine is also noted within academia as the primary stream through which NeoPlatonism was brought into Western Christianity. Augustine corresponded with various people – some of whom were personal friends. And there is very specific references to the doctrines of Plotinus in Augustine’s writing. One friend by the name of Nebridius, who praises how Augustine’s letters: “speak of Christ, Plato and Plotinus.

      Plotinus is generally regarded as the founder of Neoplatonism. Plotinus regarded himself simply as an expositor and defender of Plato’s philosophical works.

      Augustine derives his idea of divine immutability from Plato – first documented in Plato’s “Republic” dialog.

      Some scholars suspect that Augustine also plagiarized parts of Plato’s Republic – incorporating them into his “City of God”

      It is also suggested by some authors that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and the Mormons both borrowed various things from Plato to incorporate into their doctrines.

    1. I especially appreciated how concise, to the point, and well stated this page content is

      White Vs. Wilson (Part 3)
      https://fallaciesofstyle.wordpress.com/tag/biblical-greek/

      What it points out to me – is what I observe consistently with Calvinists.

      Logical argumentation is not going to give them what they want – so they divert to SEMANTIC arguments.

      Typically this is done by starting point of creating some ad-hoc definition for some text, or some words or some terms.
      And then working to support that using question begging argumentation.

      This at least gives their position the ability to *APPEAR* rationally based.
      They always want to assume the position of speaking with papal authority.
      And then – when consistent logical fallacies become apparent – they simply try some other means of re-establishing the papal seat.
      But under scrutiny – as Dr. Flowers provides – it becomes obvious – all that papal authority is simply a facade.

      1. Thanks BR.D, I appreciate the encouragement.

        In my experience, a lot of Calvinists are great at laying out their views but not so great at engaging with criticism or defending their views. I think this tends to happen with any theoretical system – theological, political, or philosophical – that relies too much on its own internal consistency as a system. It ends up having too much difficulty dealing with ideas outside its own paradigm and so meaningful argumentation tends to get tossed aside.

        Consistency is like a circle. All circles are similar, but some circles are larger than others. Calvinism draws a small circle – too small, in fact, to properly account for God’s love.

  9. “Second, Wilson’s claim is this: “Of the eighty-four pre-Augustinian authors studied from 95-430 CE, over fifty authors addressed the topic [of predestination]. All of these early Christian authors championed traditional free choice against pagan and heretical Divine Unilateral Predetermination of Individuals’ Eternal Destinies”.”

    White makes two arguments” (1) determinism and free will were not at issue during the first four centuries after Christ, and (2) the determinism espoused by the pagan philosophies was different than the determinism espoused by Augustine. This occurs at the 47 minute mark. White has a general complaint that Wilson fails to substantiate his statements. When Wilson writes, that “over fifty authors addressed the topic [of predestination]” he does support that claim because he does not cite where they did this. The early church fathers would not even have known what “traditional free choice” was. The traditional – presumable libertarian – view would have been completely unknown to the early church fathers. Thus, we have Wilson imposing his views onto the early church fathers and getting the conclusion he wanted in the first place.

    1. rhutchin
      White makes two arguments” (1) determinism and free will were not at issue during the first four centuries after Christ

      brd
      Well that would be obviously false – based on the statements of the early church writers in which they did enunciate free will.

      What is legitimate in White’s argument is that the early church writers would have framed their arguments using terminology that was common to them in their context and within their current language. And since Ken Wilson reads the early church writers in their original languages – and presented evidence as to how their terminology would be commonly understood, and presented findings to that effect – to peer reviewed body. Thus it goes without saying – differences in terminology within ancient writings are an automatic expected consideration in such scholarly works.

      rhutchin
      (2) the determinism espoused by the pagan philosophies was different than the determinism espoused by Augustine.

      br.d
      Its already been established that White consistently falls into the fallacy of FALSE DILEMMA (i.e., all or nothing thinking)
      And this is just another example.

      rhutchin
      Thus, we have Wilson imposing his views onto the early church fathers and getting the conclusion he wanted in the first place.

      br.d
      This conclusion of course remains as nothing more than a claim made White – along with the logical weaknesses of his own reasoning.

      1. To follow up on this – no one in scholarship is looking for exact parallels between different generations and different cultures of believers.
        Exact parallels between Gnostic Christianity in Augustine’s day and Augustine himself.
        Or exact parallels between Gnostic Christianity in Augustine’s day and Calvinists today.

        What scholars are looking for – is what is typically called “continuity”.

        So or example – the ancient Gnostic Christians might say – the ELECT are born-into a “field of salvation” – while D.A. Carson would say the ELECT or born-into a “domain of providence”. And John Calvin would say the NON-ELECT or “doomed from the womb”.

        These are obviously not exact parallel conceptions – but there is obvious continuity between them.

        Current Gnostic today will tell you that the ancient Gnostic argued that faith was a gift – and the Irenaeus (against heresies) argued against them.

        So scholars aren’t silly enough to expect exact parallels
        Just points of continuity – which set Gnostic Christianity apart from the norm and which today set Calvinism apart from the norm.

      2. brdmod writes, “What scholars are looking for – is what is typically called “continuity”.”

        That continuity comes from a common reference to the Scriptures. That continuity ends when other non-Scriptural sources come into play.

      3. brd
        “What scholars are looking for – is what is typically called “continuity”.”

        rhutchin
        That continuity comes from a common reference to the Scriptures. ….

        br.d
        Almost but not quite.
        The continuity in this case has to do with how Gnostic’s and Calvinists use the exact same verses as proof texts – to reach conclusions – the Early Church Fathers considered heretical.

        Henry Longueville Mansel – The Gnostic Heresies of the First and Second Centuries
        -quote
        The followers of Basilides, an early Christian Gnostic (117-138 AD) moreover maintain that…. by the consequence of supermundate election, the mundane faith of every nature is determined, and that correspondent to the hope of each, and as such faith is a gift.

      4. br.d writes, “The continuity in this case has to do with how Gnostic’s and Calvinists use the exact same verses as proof texts – to reach conclusions – the Early Church Fathers considered heretical.”

        The continuity is derived from the appeal to the Scriptures. An appeal to something other than the Scriptures does not provide continuity. Whether the early church fathers viewed Calvinism as heretical is your opinion to which you are entitled. Given that Calvinism is monotheistic and gnosticism is polytheistic, they are not comparable. It would be like saying Arminianism and Calvinism are the same because they both agree on the Total Depravity of man.

      5. rhutchin
        The continuity is derived from the appeal to the Scriptures.

        br.d
        thank you for affirming what I stated.

        rhutchin
        An appeal to something other than the Scriptures does not provide continuity.

        br.d
        Which isn’t the case – so is a red-herring

        rhutchin
        Whether the early church fathers viewed Calvinism as heretical is your opinion to which you are entitled.

        br.d
        Brushing off the examination of historical evidence to someones opinion – serves as a RED-FLAG for easy believe-ism.
        As we can see – Calvinism has it own forms of easy-believe-ism :-]

        rhutchin
        Given that Calvinism is monotheistic and gnosticism is polytheistic, they are not comparable.

        br.d
        This was the black-or-white fallacy (i.e. false dichotomy) James White’s position is based on.
        Why are we not surprised.

        Syncretism – Wikipedia
        Syncretism is the combining of different constituents of different beliefs.

        AUGUSTINE, MANICHAEISM AND THE GOOD – Kam-Lun Edwin LEE
        -quote
        Augustine’s notion of concupiscentia is also linked directly to the Manichaean idea of evil as a disturbance of a person’s inner tranquility. By the time he wrote De uera reliqione, Augustine had imported into that notion a strong sexual overtone by equating concupiscentia with the Manichaean term libido, which implies sexual desire.

        But gradually, due to his conviction that personal evil is inevitable (a view shared by the Manichees and demonstrated in his conceptions of consuetudo and concupiscentia), Augustine assigned determination of one’s destiny to the jurisdiction of God.
        -end quote

      6. rhutchin: “Whether the early church fathers viewed Calvinism as heretical is your opinion to which you are entitled.”
        br.d: “Brushing off the examination of historical evidence to someones opinion – serves as a RED-FLAG for easy believe-ism.”

        Until br.d can produce the historical evidence, it remains his opinion.

        Then, “AUGUSTINE, MANICHAEISM AND THE GOOD – Kam-Lun Edwin LEE”

        Good example of someone expressing his opinion.

      7. He has his opinion – and you have yours.
        Good example of a Calvinist expressing his opinion about the conclusions of a scholar! :-]

    2. Hutch,

      “(1) determinism and free will were not at issue during the first four centuries after Christ”

      Demonstrably false.

      (2) the determinism espoused by the pagan philosophies was different than the determinism espoused by Augustine.

      Kinda true but not in the way White wishes. There were many different forms of determinism in pagan philosophies. This is true. Augustine takes the one espoused by Cicero and imports it, whole hog, into Christianity. So while Cicero disagreed with many other pagan philosophies, Augustine agreed with this Stoic father.

      Both of these points are directly addressed, and White is shown to be completely mistaken on both counts, by Dr. Wilson during the latest broadcast with Dr. Flowers.

    3. If White is correct that Wilson has not substantiated his claim that “over fifty authors addressed the topic [of predestination]”, it should be quite easy for him (or any other scholar) to have his or her rebuttal published in an academic journal. Since peer-reviewed publishing is life for ambitious academics, Wilson failing to adequately cite such a bold claim would be like dropping a suitcase full of cash in the middle of a slum.

      What we call “traditional free choice” just IS the view ECF took against all the various pagan determinisms. We call it traditional free choice because we inherited it from ECF.

      You are right about the ECF view not being exactly the same as “libertarian” free will, but that’s because 20th/21st century secular debates about free will have a different philosophical and scientific context. And you’re absolutely right that we have to be careful not to read ECF anachronistically. I don’t see how Wilson himself has done this though, but again, if he has then it’s a GREAT opportunity for any academic to get an easy career boost by publishing a refutation.

      1. I agree manor rabbit

        White appears to be going after very low hanging fruit.
        If indeed it is that simple – others within that peer reviewed arena will certainly pick it apart easily.
        But the fact that Wilson’s conclusions are pretty well acknowledged means the there is a low probability of that.
        I think what Wilson brings to the discussion that is somewhat new is question of whether Augustine modified his own previous writings – and anachronistically updated them so as to remove some of the more apparent self-contradictions between his original agreement with the ECF and then later departure from it.

      2. manor rabbit writes, “If White is correct that Wilson has not substantiated his claim that “over fifty authors addressed the topic [of predestination]”, it should be quite easy for him (or any other scholar) to have his or her rebuttal published in an academic journal.”

        White’s complaint was that Wilson made the statement without supporting documentation – like a nice appendix. Who knows? Did you spring the $100 to buy Wilson’s dissertation?

    4. RHUTCHIN: White makes two arguments” (1) determinism and free will were not at issue during the first four centuries after Christ, and

      AB: So what if that wasn’t an issue in the first four centuries? Enlighten us then and inform with documentation what was the predominant soteriological belief in the first four centuries relative to free choice?

      RHUTCHIN: (2) the determinism espoused by the pagan philosophies was different than the determinism espoused by Augustine.

      AB: Again, so what! Wilson never claimed they are identical in *every respect.* The overlapping concept is that your choices are caused by external antecedent factors which explains why one chooses as he does. That concept runs in Stoicism, Neo-platonism, and Manicheism, which Augustine was an ardent disciple. These pagan philosophies taught a necessity for which choice was causally determined, which is true irrespective if the cause were mechanistic, physical, monistic, or even personal. As Wilson recently pointed out, that’s a non-sequitur.

      RHUTCHIN: the traditional – presumable libertarian – view would have been completely unknown to the early church fathers.

      AB: That is simply a smear. There is no written evidence that Wilson anachronistically tacked on modern “libertarian” views of freedom back into the early church fathers. Again, you should tell us, with documentation, what was the consensus on freedom of the will in the early church with respect to soteriology??

  10. This has been a fascinating thread.

    Mr. Teebs makes an interesting point and essentially asks, “could the unlearned reasonably infer the doctrines of grace by simply reading the scriptures?” The Westminster Confession is so certain that the answer is “yes” that they literally put it in writing. But it is instructive of us to challenge this. Is it really true?

    I don’t think that even Calvinists would assert that your must understand TULIP in order to be saved. TULIP is sort-of retroactively applied to the saved person, explaining to them how and why they were saved, but they can certainly become saved without understanding a systematic theology, no matter how simple or complex.

    If I’m reading correctly, rhutchin seems to miss the point entirely, but even this is instructive. He simply restates 5-point Calvinism using TULIP, insisting that even a child can understand TULIP. But the question was not, “if you present TULIP to someone, can they understand it?” The question was, “if you allow someone to simply read the Bible without coaching / tutoring in the doctrines of grace, will they come away from their reading with this understanding?”

    Instinctively, most would say “no”. Indeed, if there was a way to poll people that had been saved less than a month – and not exposed to Reformed theology – to see if their understanding of scripture matched that of a Calvinist, I would venture to say that nearly 100% would conclude exactly the opposite of what Calvinism asserts. I’m being generous here and allowing rhutchin to use his own definition of “unlearned” as being “saved – buy untaught” instead of just “untaught – whether saved or unsaved.”

    The scripture quoted by rhutchin does not say that the unsaved don’t understand the gospel. It says they consider it foolishness. rhutchin actually embodies this very idea quite well. He understands the non-Calvinist position, but he dismisses it as foolishness. So I think it is a mistake to conflate “foolishness” with “unable to understand”. Foolishness is defined as “lack of good sense or judgement” and I find nothing in the word that implies inability.

    I have noticed that Calvinists have a difficult time separating their theology from the gospel. I saw in a couple other places on the web that some have actually proposed the acrostic “GOSPEL” instead of “TULIP” so this seems to further underscore that they conflate their doctrine with the gospel. Still others have proposed the acrostic “ROSES”. I haven’t looked closely enough to see how they map 5-point Calvinism onto six letters. Or maybe they have a 6-point systematic theology. Not sure and not really curious to know. TULIP seems to have won in the court of popular Reformed opinion.

    What the Westminster Confession seems to be saying is that a plain reading of scripture will allow the unlearned to understand the doctrines of salvation (or doctrines of grace in their vernacular). Like Mr. Teebs, I’m questioning whether that is really the case. It would be interesting to see some hard data on this. Almost like an exit poll administered as soon as possible after someone became saved.

    1. You know what I find as a really good laugh?
      When one asks a Calvinist how they came to believe an external mind – before they were born – determined them to believe in Calvinism.

      Not one of them will say: “An external mind – before they were born – determined them to believe in Calvinism”.

      They always speak *AS-IF* they weren’t determined to believe it.

      So what in fact did they come to adopt through reading scripture?
      That everything in every part is determined *AS-IF* nothing in particular is determined in any part!

      And that is “supposedly” what the Bible teaches them!

      What a hoot! :-]

      1. br.d writes, “When one asks a Calvinist how they came to believe an external mind – before they were born – determined them to believe in Calvinism.
        Not one of them will say: “an external mind – before they were born – determined them to believe in Calvinism.”

        They will say that God chose to save them before the foundation of the world. Calvinists refer to God; those with a humanist philosophy refer to an external mind.

      2. br.d
        When one asks a Calvinist how they came to believe an external mind – before they were born – determined them to believe in Calvinism.
        Not one of them will say: “an external mind – before they were born – determined them to believe in Calvinism.”

        rhutchin
        They will say that God chose to save them before the foundation of the world.

        br.d
        Which doesn’t answer the question now does it!
        Thank you for proving my point!

        rhutchin
        Calvinists refer to God; those with a humanist philosophy refer to an external mind.

        br.d
        A wonderful example of how Calvinists fall into the ditch of their judgments!
        In this case making believe that treating TRUTH *AS-IF* FALSE is not humanistic! :-]

      3. br.d: “Not one of them will say: “an external mind – before they were born – determined them to believe in Calvinism.”
        rhutchin: “They will say that God chose to save them before the foundation of the world.”
        br.d: “Which doesn’t answer the question now does it!”

        You gave the negative side, “Not one of them will say:…” I gave the positive side, “They will say…” What’s left?

      4. br.d
        Not one of them will say: “an external mind – before they were born – determined them to believe in Calvinism.

        rhutchin
        They will say that God chose to save them before the foundation of the world

        br.d
        Which doesn’t answer the question now does it!

        rhutchin
        You gave the negative side, “Not one of them will say:…” I gave the positive side, “They will say…” What’s left?

        br.d
        Well – Jonathan Edwards explains this for you:

        In Calvinism – good and evil are undifferentiated.
        The “negative” side is what glorifies the “positive” side
        Calvin’s god uses evil to glorify himself.

        Therefore – with Calvinism’s “negative” side – one also gets Calvinism’s “positive” side.
        “What’s left” is what Calvin’s god created the “negative side” for – to glorify himself.

        Now typically the Calvinist doesn’t mind Calvin’s god glorifying himself at someone else’s expense.

        But its different – when its at the Calvinist’s expense. :-]

      5. br.d writes, ‘Not typically the Calvinist doesn’t mind Calvin’s god glorifying himself at someone else’s expense.
        But its different – when its at the Calvinist’s expense.”

        How is it different?

      6. br.d
        Not typically the Calvinist doesn’t mind Calvin’s god glorifying himself at someone else’s expense.
        But its different – when its at the Calvinist’s expense.”

        rhutchin
        How is it different?

        br.d
        Just as you said – the Calvinist in this case – doesn’t give the “negative” answer.

        Here is an easy answer for the Calvinist to give:
        An External mind – at the foundation of the world – determined me to believe that all things are determined in every part *AS-IF* nothing in particular is determined in any part”.

        In other words
        Calvin’s god determined my mind to treat things TRUE *AS-IF* FALSE
        And to treat things FALSE *AS-IF* TRUE.
        That’s a psychological consequence of my “scriptural theology” :-]

      7. Calvinist:
        (TRUE *AS-IF* FALSE) and (FALSE *AS-IF* TRUE)

        That’s my “scriptural theology” and I’m stick-en to it! 😉

  11. br.d (and others),

    Do you read that section of the Westminster Confession as I do? That “unlearned” means “those not formally schooled in the doctrines of grace”?

    And that “in a due use of ordinary means” means just reading the scriptures or perhaps listening to them being proclaimed through preaching – without a rigorous systematic theology to explain them?

    rhutchin seems to imply that TULIP was developed to make the scriptures easy to understand, yet the Westminster Confessions (WC) states unequivocally just the opposite: “those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”

    I’m detecting a tone deafness by him. The WC makes it clear that the scriptures (not TULIP) are what are being referred to. See bold highlights above. I quite agree with the WC in that sense: the scriptures are very clear about what one must do to be saved and whether learned or unlearned, even a person of the lowest intelligence can understand them. The question on the table is this: is TULIP easily elicited from the scriptures if the pupil is not given a carefully curated trail of scriptural breadcrumbs? If reading only the Bible without anyone to coach you, would most people arrive at the same conclusions as TULIP, or nearly opposite conclusions? My contention is the latter.

    What is indeed laughable to me is that the clear teachings of scripture necessary for salvation are so thoroughly inverted by Reformed theology. Cause and effect are nearly reversed. Simple words like “all” and “any” must be meticulously qualified in ways that are simply not going to be discovered by the “unlearned”.

    I’m also thrown off by this language in the WC: “those things with are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation.” Sounds an awful lot like works under the strict Calvinist definition of “works”. Faith is a work. Observance is a work. Even belief is a work under their rubric. This is why verses like Eph 2:4-8 are so important to them. Everything must be shown to be a gift, and originating in God. And if only grace is a gift – and not faith – the boat has sprung a leak.

    This thing positively screams “man made” and those who authored the WC were clearly not able to generate a document that wasn’t itself contradictory. When you read Reformed theology long enough, it becomes an endless parade of statements that contradict themselves, require further clarification, redefinition of words, invention of new phrases, etc.

    It gives new meaning to what “wrangling about words” looks like in the 21st century. I get the impression that 1st century Timothy had his fair share of such people. Paul nailed it: it leads to the ruin of the hearers.

    1. Over the years I’ve known RH – I’ve come to the point of not taking him seriously.
      I think Calvinism exists in shades of gray a lot more than any of us probably realize
      And Calvinists have to do a whole lot of work applying cosmetic masks over it.
      And so for me – most of it is simply one mask or another.

      Sometimes I feel sorry for Calvinists.
      But I also think something lures a person into it.
      And the Lord has to put his finger on that thing before there can be deliverance.

      1. br.d writes, “Over the years I’ve known RH – I’ve come to the point of not taking him seriously.”

        We seem to have two entirely different worldviews.

      2. br.d
        Over the years I’ve known RH – I’ve come to the point of not taking him seriously.”

        rhutchin
        We seem to have two entirely different worldviews.

        br.d
        There certainly is a difference in thinking!
        Within the Calvinist brain – everything in every part is determined *AS-IF* nothing in particular is determined in any part!

        And Its always interesting to observe when Calvin’s god has predestined your mind to have another FALSE perception – perceived as TRUE.

        I still think God gave Solipsism and Calvinism to mankind as a form of entertainment. 🙂

      3. br.d writes, “Within the Calvinist brain – everything in every part is determined *AS-IF* nothing in particular is determined in any part!”

        Calvinism says that God is omniscient and has perfect knowledge of the future based on the counsel of His will – in creating the universe, God determined all that was to follow.

      4. br.d
        Within the Calvinist brain – everything in every part is determined *AS-IF* nothing in particular is determined in any part!

        rhutchin
        Calvinism says that God is omniscient and has perfect knowledge of the future based on the counsel of His will – in creating the universe, God determined all that was to follow.

        br.d
        And that is why – Calvin’s god’s ENUNCIATED will is so often a FALSE REPRESENTATION of his SECRET will.

        And also why – within the Calvinist brain – everything in every part is determined *AS-IF* nothing in particular is determined in any part!

        I still think God gave Solipsism and Calvinism to mankind as a form of entertainment! 🙂

    2. WCF
      but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them

      br.d
      Consider the possibility here:
      The term unlearned is euphemistic language for those not yet indoctrinated.
      And the phrase ordinary means is euphemistic language for the indoctrination process

      1. WCF: “but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them’

        Even the atheist can understand salvation otherwise, how could Paul say that they consider it foolishness. It is those who are given faith that then believe the gospel unto salvation. Thus, WCF says, “we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:”

      2. WCF
        but the unlearned (i.e., un-indoctrinated), in a due use of the ordinary means (i.e., indoctrination), may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them’

        rhutchin
        Even the atheist can understand salvation

        br.d
        Even the TOTALLY DEPRAVED has understanding of divine things! :-]

        rhutchin
        otherwise, how could Paul say that they consider it foolishness.

        br.d
        Like the Roman Catholic church in Copernicus’s day – had understanding of the solar system – and so considered the earth rotating around the sun as foolishness. :-]

        rhutchin
        It is those who are given faith that then believe the gospel unto salvation.

        br.d
        The Gnostic Christians Basilides and Valentinus totally agree with you here- because they also have the GNOSIS!

        rhutchin
        Thus, WCF says, “we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word:

        br.d
        AH! But John Calvin is more TRUTH TELLING
        -quote
        sometimes he also causes those whom he illumines only for a time to partake of it

        But the Lord… instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption.
        (Institutes)

        -quote
        He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. (Institutes)

        -quote
        then he …..strikes them with even greater blindness (Institutes)

    3. Steve Sabin writes, ‘rhutchin seems to imply that TULIP was developed to make the scriptures easy to understand, yet the Westminster Confessions (WC) states unequivocally just the opposite…”

      We all know that TULIP was developed in response to the five points listed by the Remonstrants in contesting doctrines relater to salvation advanced by Calvin. and as such, as with the Remonstrant points, TULIP present the issues of salvation in a easily understood form. The WCF says that the essential doctrines of salvation are easily understood just from hearing (or reading) the Scriptures without any prior knowledge of TULIP. However, to have salvation taken seriously requires that the Holy Spirit illumine the mind. Hope this clarifies this point.

      I agree with you (and WCF) that, “the scriptures are very clear about what one must do to be saved and whether learned or unlearned, even a person of the lowest intelligence can understand them.”

      Then, ‘The question on the table is this: is TULIP easily elicited from the scriptures if the pupil is not given a carefully curated trail of scriptural breadcrumbs?”

      TD says that people are born with a depraved heart and without faith. As one receives faith through hearing the word, I think most people would grasp the notion that a person lacking faith would have no interest in God and would not have such interest until faith were present. Once that point is understood, the remaining points follow in describing the necessity for God to take certain actions (choose some to save, provide for the atonement of their sins, change their hearts (regeneration) and give them faith, and preserve them to the end). I think those points are easily established by the Scriptures. So, we disagree.

      Then, ‘Simple words like “all” and “any” must be meticulously qualified in ways that are simply not going to be discovered by the “unlearned”.”

      Probably correct – but is this necessary to salvation. In Ephesians 3, Paul explains that the gentiles are heirs of salvation. He does the same in Romans 9. I don’t see a problem in the Reformed defining “all” and “every” to mean “Jew and gentile” in certain verses where context allows it. I suspect that you get your definitions of “all” and “every” from the Dictionary so that you define terms that relate to salvation in a non-salvation context. Is that kosher?

      Then, ‘Faith is a work. Observance is a work. Even belief is a work under their rubric.”

      Faith is a work where that faith is inherent to the sinner and excited by the Scriptures to action. Faith is not a work if it arises from the illumination of the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit and does not otherwise exist.

      Then, “[To Calvinists] Everything must be shown to be a gift, and originating in God.”

      Yep. Do you think you have any good thing that is not given to you by God?

      1. In the marketing world – advertisements can be designed to produce a “Macro” view (i.e., the big picture)
        However, more often than not – advertisements are designed to produce a “Micro” view. (i.e., select parts of the big picture)

        The TULIP functions this way
        It serves as a “Micro” view
        A select presentation of the product designed to maximize its marketability.

        Marketing strategies of this sort are designed to produce a highly selective “IMAGE” of the product – while at the same time – hiding aspects of the product which make it less marketable.

  12. RHUTCHIN: Calvinism says that God is omniscient and has perfect knowledge of the future based on the counsel of His will – in creating the universe, God determined all that was to follow.

    AB: So God cannot know the future unless he “determined all that was to follow”. Doesn’t this reduce that sort of god to the human level?! Even humans can somewhat guarantee future outcomes by micro-managing the necessary state of affairs to ensure the intended outcome. Calvin’s god is too anthropomorphic. As Wilson stated on his recent interview, roughly “Only a puny god is unable to have knowledge and control billions of free agents unless he micro-manages them”.

  13. As we start to approach the cultures and times that would have more influenced Augustine, we have Basilides, (117 AD), who taught a Gnostic dualistic Christianity. Basilides claimed to have inherited his teachings from Matthew.

    But the dualistic system that would have been of greatest influence to Augustine, would be the Zoroastrian system, incorporated into Manichaeism, with its representations of divine-evil and divine-good. Manichaeism taught that the cosmos contains an opposition of two principles, good and evil, each equal in relative power and necessity. And thus we have a dualistic cosmos in which good and evil share equal divine status.

    When a good-evil dualistic cosmology and a NeoPlatonic view of God, are synchronized with the monotheistic God of Christianity, what will appear is an immutable God whose relationship to good and evil are utilitarian.

    Scriptures, which speak of God repenting of making man, or giving man the choice between life and death, become a curiosity, because the NeoPlatonic God is immutable, and therefore cannot change his mind or allow his creatures un-predetermined choices.

    Such scriptures must be allegorized or interpreted with complex non-explicit distinctions in order to be rightly understood.

    Scriptures in the New Testament that speak of predestination can readily be interpreted in the framework of the Gnostic good-evil dualism, where those individuals who are predestined to the light are awakened, as if by some kind of divine spark, while non-elect remain predestined to the dark. Both acts of predestination are equally holy, because both manifest the glory of the “one”.

    The believer would learn how to compartmentalize a good-evil dualism, embrace a Christianized form of stoicism, and learn to love and desire a god who speaks “ostensible” words of possible-divine-benevolence – while withholding his “veiled” will of possible-divine-malevolence.

  14. Youtube – Ken Wilson Rebuts James White
    Minute 1:02:25

    Paraphrased:
    Calvinists assume god decrees everything [without exception]. Why? Because Augustine brought micromanaging providence into Christianity. And he used an interpretation of select scripture verses that was consistent with the Manichaean interpretations of those verses to prove a deterministic theologically – for example in Ephesians 1 and 2.

    According to scholars who I quote in the thesis, the only Jews who ever taught meticulous providence, were the Qumranites and Philo, at around the first half of the first century BCE. Both were heavily influenced by Stoicism according to those scholars. So our Old Testament – the Jewish Tanakh – did not teach meticulous determinism, according to almost all Jews. Likewise, in the New Testament, no scholar I have read discusses Paul as teaching determinism, accept Calvinists. Not one non-Calvinist scholar I know, has written, that any Early Church father, held to Augustine’s deterministic god who unilaterally assigns human destinies.

    So Since:
    1) Augustine’s interpretations incorporating meticulous providence were not shared by the Early Church Fathers

    2) All scholars agree, Augustine, at points his life, was influenced by Christian Stoicism, Christian Gnosticism, and Christian NeoPlatonism.

    3) Early Church fathers – such as Irenaeus – all argued against these deterministic forms of Christianity.

    4) In Augustine’s first 15 years as a Catholic theologian, he argues against these deterministic interpretations, but then later changes and reverts back to them using representations of Biblical texts he once argued against.

    Scholars ask the question – what does one conclude as the origin of and cause of Augustine’s eventual reversion?

    Was it divine revelation that the Early Church fathers (some of whom were disciples of the Apostles) didn’t have?

    Scholars looking at this body of evidence, point to the deterministic elements found within Stoicism, Gnosticism, and NeoPlatonism, as influences upon Augustine’s thinking.

    So, Augustine “tweaked” his theology with elements found within Manichaean anthropology.

    The Manichaean emphasis of damnation by created birth was incorporated into Augustine’s version of damnation by inherited guilt from Adam.

    And at that point, Augustine’s peers accused Augustine of baptizing Manichaean concepts.

    English historian Theodore Maynard – The story of American Catholicism
    -quote:
    “It has often be charged… that Catholicism has been overlaid with many pagan incrustations. Catholicism is ready to accept that charge – and to make it her boast. The great god Pan is not really dead, he is baptized.”

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