Moderate Calvinism in England

The personal views of the Reformers are no less convincing. John Hooper (1495-1555) affirmed that Christ died “for the love of us poor and miserable sinners, whose place he occupied upon the cross, as a pledge, or one that represented the person of all the sinners that ever were, be now, or shall be unto the world’s end.” Hugh Latimer (1485-1555) could preach that “Christ shed as much blood for Judas, as he did for Peter: Peter believed it, and therefore he was saved; Judas would not believe, and therefore he was condemned.” Thomas Cranmer (1489- 1556) also says that Christ “by His own oblation… satisfied His Father for all men’s sins and reconciled mankind unto His grace and favour.” John Bradford (1520-55) explains these universalist statements with reference to election when he asserts that “Christ’s death is sufficient for all, but effectual for the elect only.”The Elizabethan Anglicans were no different in their understanding. John Jewel (1552-71) wrote that on the cross Christ declared “It is finished” to signify “that the price and ransom was now full paid for the sin of all mankind.” Elsewhere he proclaimed that “The death of Christ is available for the redemption of all the world” Richard Hooker (1553-1600) states an identical view when he says that Christ’s “precious and propitiatory sacrifice” was “offered for the ins of all the world.” Against this theological background, John Davenant (1570-1641) argued that, notwithstanding God’s secret decree of predestination, “The death of Christ is the universal cause of the salvation of mankind, and Christ himself is acknowledged to have died for all men sufficiently… by reason of the Evangelical covenant confirmed with the whole human race through the merit of his death.” This “evangelical covenant,” he adds is the basis on which “Christ sent his Apostles into all the world, (Mark 16:15, 16)… On which words of promise, the learned Calvin has rightly remarked, That this promise was added that it might allure the whole human race to faith.”

~ Alan Clifford Atonement and Justification: English Evangelical Theology 1640-1790 pg. 79-80

A few pages earlier he records Edmund Calamy’s words on the floor of the Westminster Assembly:

I am far from universal redemption in the Arminian sense; but that that I hold is in the sense of our divines in the Synod of Dort, that Christ did pay a price for all… that Jesus Christ did not only die sufficiently for all, but God did intend, in giving Christ, and Christ in giving himself, did intend to put all men in a state of salvation in case they do believe. (75)

When Calamy says “our divines” he has in mind folks like Davenant. This is important to remember when we talk about Westminster. The majority of delegates at Westminster considered themselves Anglicans. There were some independents, to be sure, but the general self-identification was with the Church of England. There was no notion that the historic Church of England was somehow opposed to Calvinism or Reformed Theology.

We have to understand that this “Moderate Calvinism” was very much the background for the Westminsterians, even though there was an incredible influence coming from Beza, Perkins, and finally John Owen. If we start adding to the list of Moderates Ussher, Polhill, Arrowsmith, Scudder, Sibbes, Charnock, Howe, and Bunyan the landscape becomes even clearer. In the 19th century, Dabney is critical of Amyraut and the “hypothetical universalists,” but what does he give us? Something very similar to what I’ve quoted above.

The liberals were the High Calvinists and the Arminians. Those two streams departed from the tradition, and however popular they may have become, and trust me, both became very popular, they must be understood as the aberrations.


Intriguing Zanchius Quotes

Reading Zanchius is difficult. Sometimes I have to admit I don’t know what he is saying. Other times I have a basic understanding of it. Given his use of “sacramental speech” and his commitment to the free offer of the gospel, these two quotes perk my interest:

VII. Everie one ought stedfastlie to beleeve he is elect in Christ, yet we may be more assured by the feeling of our faith in Christ.

Hence it is manifest, although no man in generall ought to exempt himself out of the number of the elect, sith the scripture doeth not so, but rather stedfastlie to trust that, when he is called to Christ, he is called according to the eternall decree and election of God. Yet, if any man will be more assured of his certaine election, he must run to his faith and the witnes of his conscience, whether he perceive that he truely beleeveth in Christ and whether he carrie a sincere love towards God and his neighbor. Yea, if he finde himself herein not altogether soundlie and thoroughlie setled, yet let him not desparre, but desire of God that he will helpe his unbeleefe, hoping that he may in time be better assured.

~ Confessions of the Christian Religion 3.VII

And also:

I. The gospell, what it is.

Concerning the gospell therefore, according to the signification received and used in the church, we beleeve that it is nothing else but the heavenly doctrine concerning Christ, preached by Christ himselfe and the apostles, and contained in the bookes of the Newe testament, bringing the best and most gladsome tidings to the world, namely, that mankinde is redeemed by the death of Iesus Christ, the onely begotten Sonne of God. So that there is prepared for al men, if they should repent and beleeve in Iesus Christ, a free remission of al their sinns, salvation, and eternal life. Wherefore it is fitlie called of the apostle: ‘The gospel of our salvation’.

~ Confessions 13.I

Now if we put systematic qualifications to the side, since those are always the boogers, and just start talking this way, what would we have?

The Joint Councils of Selucia and Arminium

In 358 a rupture occurred between the anti-Nicene party. The Homoiousians became distinct from the Homoeans, and both condemned the Anomeanism of Aeitius and Eunomious who dared to say that the Son was of an “unlike substance” than the Father. Following this another ecumenical council was called by Constantius with hopes of finally achieving a new creed. The original desire was to hold the council at Nicomedia, but an earthquake in the area raised fears of the judgment of God. Another plan was to have the council meet at Nike, with the intention of creating a new creed of Nice (Nicaea). This too was not to be.

A council met at Sirmium in 358. It was lead by Basil of Ancyra, Valens, Ursacius, and George of Alexandria, the Homoean rival bishop to Athanasius. The council adopted the Dated Creed of 357 (“the blasphemy”) and greatly influenced the proceedings that would come at Seleucia. There was still no empire-wide agreement though, and thus Constantius still desired an ecumenical council. The eventual result was a calling of joint councils with Easterners meeting at Seleucia in 359 and Westerners meeting in Arminium in 360. Much like the earlier attempt at Serdica, the Easterners were mostly anti-Nicene and the Westerners were mostly pro-Nicene.

The Easterners at Seleucia adopted the earlier conclusion of Sirmium in 358, however they omitted the phrase “in all things” after “like” in reference to Jesus’ relationship to the Father. All ousia language was forbidden, and thus a decidedly Homoean creed was composed. Hilary of Poitiers was present at this council, as he was exiled to the East. He refused to participate in what he no doubt considered to be a rejection of the faith; however, he was called upon to defend the orthodoxy of the Gauls. In this he was successful, but this success would be bittersweet as any acceptance by Homoeans immediately cast doubt on true Nicene orthodoxy.

The Western council at Arminium was more complex. Valens appeared and unveiled the Dated Creed which Seleucia had adopted, and it was rejected out of hand. Indeed the delegates forbade any additions to the Creed of Nicaea as well as the deletion of ousia. Some delegates were sent to Nike where they were influenced, upon news of the results of Seleucia, to remove ousia from the creed. The majority at Arminium protested, and most of the early church historians defend the orthodoxy and intentions of the delegates there. Arminium sent 10 delegates to the emperor in Constantinople with a letter confessing the Nicene faith and an anathema of Arius and his supporters. The minority party, as well as the Eastern Bishops from Seleucia also sent 10 delegates, who, upon separation from the rest of the orthodox bishops, were able to persuade the pro-Nicene delegates to again adopt the Seleucian conclusion.

When the delegates from Arminium arrived in Constantinople, Constantius was already prepared to adopt the conclusion of Seleucia. The conclusion was a Synod of Constantinople in 360 where Constantius forcefully enacted the modified Dated Creed. This effectively made a Homoean creed the official confession of the imperial church. All use of ousia was forbidden, and in the eyes of the pro-Nicene, Arianism had triumphed.

Synod Wars

325- The Great Council of Nicaea- Arius is condemned and homoousios is put into the creed.
335- The Synod of Tyre- Athanasius is first condemned.
335- The Synod of Jerusalem- The first of the “Arian” councils. The synod asks for Arius to be reinstated to Christian communion.
339- Synod of Antioch- Athanasius is again condemned.
340- Synod of Rome- Athanasius is restored and proclaimed to retain Episcopal authority.
341- Synod of Antioch- Anti-Nicenes react and draft a new creed, the “Dedication Creed.”
343- General Council of Serdica- Failed attempt at reconciliation between Pro-Nicenes and Anti-Nicenes.
347- Council of Milan- Valens and Ursacius are restored to their sees.
351- 1st Synod of Sirmium- Adopts “Dedication Creed.”
353- Synod of Rome- Athanasius is again restored to his see.
353- Synod of Arles- Athanasius is again condemned.
355- Synod of Milan- Athanasius and his supporters are again condemned and banished.
356- Council of Beziers- Hilary of Poiters is exiled for his excommunication of Saturninus, Valens, and Ursacius.
357- Council of Sirmium- The “Blasphemy” is first written.
358- Synod of Ancrya- Homoiousians reject Anomeanism.
359- Council of Sirmium- Dated Creed written.
359- Council of Seleucia- Homoeans adopt Dated Creed.
360- Council of Arminium- Western Bishops reject Dated Creed, but their later delegates are later persuaded to adopt the conclusion of Seleucia.
360- Council of Constantinople- With Constantius presiding, the conclusion of Seleucia is adopted as the official creed of the Roman Empire.

360- Synod of Paris- Lead by Hilary of Poitiers, the Western Bishops condemn Homoeanism and vindicate Athanasius.
362- Synod of Alexandria- Lead by Athanasius, the Egyptian Church condemns Homoeanism and confesses again the homoousios.

381- Ecumenical Council of Constantinople- Under the new imperial leadership of Theodosius, Nicaea is reaffirmed and the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed is composed. Homoousious is finally vindicated once and for all.

Hilary on Sola Fide

My God is a Calvinist’s God, and so He sent me the newest edition of Pro Ecclesia yesterday. I’ve been reading a lot of Hilary of Poitiers lately, so I found one of the articles on Hilary (by D H Williams no less!) to be quite providential. The topic was Hilary’s commentary on the gospel of Matthew and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Here’s the relevant quote:

“Because faith alone justifies… publicans and prostitutes will be first in the kingdom of heaven.”

~Hilary of Poitier’s Commentary on Matt. 21:15

At first I thought Williams was adding the “alone” part, but when I got to this quote from Hilary I saw that he wasn’t. While this still doesn’t answer all the questions of “imputation” vs. “infusion,” it does deep-six the RC apologists who oh-so love to say that Luther “invented” the alone part of justification by faith alone.

Patristic studies are so hot right now.

Hilary on the Divine Substance

A Catholic about to state that the substance of the Father and the Son is one, must not begin at that point: nor hold this word all important as though true faith did not exist where the word was not used.  He will be safe in asserting the one substance if he has first said that the Father is unbegotten, that the Son is born, that He draws His personal subsistence from the Father in might, honour and nature, that He is subject to the Father as to the Author of His being, that He did not commit robbery by making Himself equal with God, in whose form He remained, that He was obedient unto death.  He did not spring from nothing,  but was born.  He is not incapable of birth but equally eternal.  He is not the Father, but the Son begotten of Him.  He is not any portion of God, but is whole God.  he is not Himself the source but the image; the image of God born of God to be God.  He is not a creature but is God.  Not another God in the kind of His substance, but the one God in virtue of the essence of His exactly similar substance.  God is not one in Person but in nature, for the Born and the Begetter have nothing different or unlike.  After saying all this, he does not err in declaring one substance of the Father and the Son.  Nay, if he now denies the one substance he sins.

~Hilary of Poiters On the Councils 69

Rufinus on the Apocrypha

But it should be known that there are also other books which our fathers call not “Canonical” but “Ecclesiastical:” that is to say, Wisdom, called the Wisdom of Solomon, and another Wisdom, called the Wisdom of the Son of Syrach, which last-mentioned the Latins called by the general title Ecclesiasticus, designating not the author of the book, but the charactre of the writing. To the same class belong the Book of Tobit, and the Book of Judith, and the Books of the Maccabees. In the New Testament the little book which is called the Book of the Pastor of Hermas, [and that[ which is called The Two Ways, or the Judgment of Peter; all of which they would have read in the Churches, but not appealed to for the confirmation of doctrine. The other writings they have named “Apocrypha.” These they would not have read in the Churches.

~Rufinus A Commentary on the Apostles’ Creed 38

The Good Old Days

So let me see if I’ve got all this right. Athanasius was from Alexandria, but exiled to Gaul. Hillary was from Gaul but exiled to Asia Minor. And they both were able to return home.

Furthermore, Alexandria was closely allied with Rome, with Athanasius often fleeing there for help from both Emperor and bishop.

Ossius of Cordoba was a Spaniard who became a close counselor of Constantine and was thus able to preside at Nicaea, supporting the final creed.

Marcellus of Ancrya was an influential Eastern bishop who supported Athanasius and defended the homoousious.

Of course Ossius later turned on Athansius, condemning him of Sabellianism, while Marcellus actually was a Sabellian, and Athansius had to distance himself from him, though he never condemned him as forcefully as Basil of Caeserea would have liked.

Hillary becomes more Athanasian, influencing Ambrose (with some help from Eusebius V.), who in turn influenced Augustine.

And all the while the Eastern bishops are anathematizing Athanasius and all who support him, including the bishop of Rome, and the Western bishops are anathematizing anyone who doesn’t support homoousious. Both parties are burning down baptisteries, hiring Jews to desecrate altars, hiring prostitutes to seduce bishops, and killing people.

Does that sound about right?

Inseperable Operation

In an effort to clear up some spookiness that I’m hearing around these parts, I offer this quote from Ayres’s Nicaea and Its Legacy. E-Pro, this one’s for you:

One of the most important principles shared by pro-Nicenes is that whenever one of the divine persons acts, all are present, acting inseparably. In Chapter 15 I provide summary statements of the doctrine from Hilary, Ambrose, and Augustine: to them can be added this passage from Gregory of Nyssa:

“If… we understand that the operation of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one, differing or varying in nothing, the oneness of their nature must needs be inferred from the identity of their operation. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit alike give sanctification, and life, and light, and comfort, and all similar graces. And let no one attribute the power of sanctification in an especial sense to the Spirit, when he hears the saviour in the Gospel saying to the Father concerning his disciples, ‘Father, sanctify them in thy name.’… As we say that the operation of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Spirit is one, so we say that the Godhead is one…”

Understanding what is intended by this principle is, however, as complicated as understanding the consequences of any of the individual terminologies mentioned in the previous paragraph. Inseparable operation does not mean that the three persons are understood as merely co-operating in a given project. To begin to grasp the importance of the concept we need to turn to the doctrine of divine simplicity with which it is closely connected.

For pro-Nicenes God is non-composite: God has no parts, is incapable of division, and is not composed of a number of elements. In other words, God is simple. Most pro-Nicenes also add that God is infinite and is present everywhere, immediately and yet not as creatures are present to each other. As Christopher Stead has shown, however, ‘simplicity’ in early Christian hands is a concept deployed rather loosely. By the late fourth century speaking of the divine nature as simple is usually taken also to include a number of non-necessary corollaries, in particular that as simple God must be unique and incomprehensible. It will be important for the argument of this chapter, however, to show that although simplicity is not defined with great precision, it is used consistently. Earlier in the book I argued that during the fourth century the very ‘grammar’ of divinity was at issue. Within pro-Nicene theology we find a very clear if often implicit set of rules for such language. Pro-Nicenes assume the impossibility of there being degrees of divine existence, and they assume God to be the only truly simple reality. The generation of the Son and the breathing of the Spirit thus occur within the bounds of the divine simplicity. Because God is indivisible the persons cannot be understood to work as three-divided human persons at work. Linking divine simplicity and inseparability of operation draws us inexorably towards the persistent pro-Nicene assertion that the nature of God is unknowable.

~ Nicaea and its Legacy pg. 280-282

If I can explain this concept more simply (forgive me!), we can say it like this: Jesus IS the power, will, and wisdom of the Father. Admittedly this is Athanasian, but I think also Calvinian. Jesus’s will (the divine one) is not just in agreement in with the Father’s will, it is the Father’s will. The same goes for the Spirit. The one will of the divine nature is the Father’s, and thus the Son’s and the Spirit’s. This is in the Institutes too. I promise.

Furthermore, Jesus does not do the work of redemption as a man. This is completely wrongheaded. He is the Godman, and always acts as God, even as he acts as Godman. To say that he works as the second Adam purely as man is Nestorian, and plays right into the hands of critics who say that we sever the economic Trinity from the immanent Trinity. They are the same Trinity after all, differing in the “how,” not the “what” or “who.”

All theology is theology proper. Christology holds the center of theology proper. To obscure one is to obscure all.

Those Alexandrian Bishops

Despite his protestations of innocence, Athanasius exercised power and protected his position in Alexandria by the systematic use of violence and intimidation. The papyrus of 335 documents in detail one small episode in which he coerced his opponents and used violence in an attempt to prevent them from attending a church council. That was not an isolated misdemeanor, but a typical example of the means by which bishops of Alexandria maintained their power in the Christian Roman Empire. If the violence of Athanasius leaves fewer traces in the surviving sources than similar behavior by later bishops of Alexandria like Theophilus, Cyril, and Dioscorus, the reason is not that he exercised power in a different way, but that he exercised it more efficiently and that he was successful in presenting himself to posterity as an innocent in power, as an honest, sincere, and straightforward ‘man of God.’

~Timothy D. Barnes Athanasius and Constantius pg. 32-33