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Jan 29, 2013

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Christiane

Dr. JIM GIFFORD,

you might like to read some quotes in the following link from Augustine's Enchidrion:

http://thedivinemercy.org/news/story.php?NID=212

Adam Harwood

Jim,
Once again, you nailed it. Excellent series.
In Him,
Adam

Lydia

Your last few lines is what makes this impossible to debate by proof texting. The filter is always there and without understanding how Greek philosophy was merged with Christianity it becomes the foundational thinking and then we have humans with little or no volition and a determinist decreetal god.

Lydia

Also, I hope you have plans to write a book on this at some point. No pressure. ;o)

peter lumpkins

Jim,

You argued in the earlier portion:

"If a certain baby is among those whom God has elected for salvation, then God, in his providence, must work out her life details in space-time in order that she be baptized before death. If she were to die without baptism, she could not possibly be saved. Therefore God must determine temporal events in her life to guarantee her physical baptism and therefore seal her as one of the elect."

My question is, how is the sacramentalist's notion of baptism's necessity any different in substance from the Calvinistic notion that the means to salvation are determined right along with the subjects of salvation? In other words, just like God must determine temporal events in her life to guarantee her physical baptism and therefore seal her as one of the elect, so must God determine the temporal events in the elect's life to guarantee her a calling from the preached gospel and therefore seal her as one of the chosen.

And, the determination of temporal events must include a meticulous ordering of all events throughout time in order to guarantee both outward and inward call. Neither must it exclude the determination of temporal events caused by believer and unbeliever alike. Any semblance of genuine free will immediately washes down the drain in a hard-core determinism like that.

Jim G.

Hi Peter,

Both Augustine and later Calvinism agree that God ordains (and renders certain) both the ends of the decree (the salvation of the elect, for example) and the means to accomplish the ends (as the case may be, baptism or the effectual call). In both systems, human agency is at its widest latitude compatibilistic, which is a form of determinism. On that last sentence, don't just take my word for it; take the word of theologians such as John Feinberg, a compatibilist who readily admits that compatibilism is determinism.

There is a difference in Augustine and Calvin over assurance, though. In Augustine's system, assurance is impossible. Augustine felt that one could never be sure of salvation, since everything is so hidden in the decree of God. Baptism, to Augustine, did not save (though the absence of baptism guaranteed damnation). It was possible to lapse after baptism. For Augustine, there was nothing that anyone could point toward that could give assurance. Perseverance was in God's hands and no one could search his decrees.

Though Reformed theology adopted the vast majority of Augustine's views on nature and grace, the Reformed thinkers were much more positive on the idea of assurance. Probably the reason for this is the idea of hearing the gospel and believing (or for that matter, being raised under covenantalism) is a much more active (though still determined) introduction to faith than is being passively baptized as a baby. There is at least a benchmark that Protestant Augustinians can look back upon to take some real assurance that he or she is elect. Calvin's view of assurance, though not quite Baptist (his "false faith" of Institutes 3.24.8 comes to mind), he is much closer to us on the subject of assurance than Augustine is. In the end, though, both Augustine and Calvin are determinists.

Jim G.

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