Tag Archives | church history

“If you die in unbelief, Christ did not die for you.”

Ambrose of MilanI’ve seen Calvinists quote this (along with others like it) to demonstrate that the notion of limited atonement didn’t originate with Calvin or his followers. But I’m having a hard time tracking down the source. Neither Logos Bible Software nor the Internet have been able to get me any earlier than 1979.

Michael Horton quoted it twice in Putting Amazing Back into Grace: Embracing the Heart of the Gospel (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2002). Unfortunately, he didn’t cite his source. Even worse, he attributed it to two different people: Ambrose of Milan (c. 337–397) and Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033–1109).

Ambrose, a church father, said, “If you die in unbelief, Christ did not die for you.” Don’t think that didn’t make people think twice about the offer of Christ! (118)

Anselm lost a lot of friends over this one:

If you die in unbelief, Christ did not die for you. (247)

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Bonhoeffer Buzz

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, SpyDietrich Bonhoeffer has been the subject of some interesting discussion recently. If you missed it, here’s a quick overview.

  1. It started with the publication of Eric Metaxas’s “groundbreaking biography” Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy (Amazon | WTS Books).
  2. Its publication has been largely met with rave reviews, awards, and lots of secular press.
  3. Bonhoeffer scholars Richard Weikart and Clifford Green called Metaxas’s reading of Bonhoeffer into question.
  4. Blogger Tim Challies highlighted these critiques in a recent post.
  5. Church historian Carl Trueman weighed in with some wise insight.

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Are the Father, Son, and Spirit Equally Persons?

Here’s Karl Barth’s answer:

. . . even if the Father and the Son might be called “person” (in the modern sense of the term), the Holy Spirit could not possibly be regarded as the third “person.” In a particularly clear way the Holy Spirit is what the Father and the Son also are. He is not a third spiritual Subject, a third I, a third Lord side by side with two others. He is a third mode of being of the one divine Subject or Lord.

. . .

He is the common element, or, better, the fellowship, the act of communion, of the Father and the Son. He is the act in which the Father is the Father of the Son or the Speaker of the Word and the Son is the Son of the Father or the Word of the Speaker. (CD I,1, 469)

This sounds on the surface like a denial of full trinitarianism (and I am a little uncomfortable with it), but it shares much in common with the views of Augustine and Jonathan Edwards, both of whom tended to talk about the Spirit in ways that seem less than fully personal.

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Edwards on Faith and Works in Justification

Justification by Faith Alone by Jonathan EdwardsIn my estimation, Jonathan Edwards’s Justification by Faith Alone contains one of the most important and misunderstood1 evangelical discussions on the relationship between faith and works as they pertain to justification and salvation. Delivered in 1734 and first published in 1738, it may be found in 1:622–54 of his two-volume Works (Worcester rev. ed.),2 4:64–132 of his four-volume Works (Worcester ed.), 5:351–452 of his ten-volume Works (Dwight ed.), 19:147–2423 of his twenty-six volume Works, as an individual volume, and online in as many as seven different places.

As I continue my discussion on whether evangelicals, who affirm sola fide, are forced to sweep the passages that insist on holiness and good works under the rug, I turn to Jonathan Edwards, against whom no informed person would make such an accusation, as you can see for yourself in the quotations below. Except for the first, all of these selections come from his third and fourth sections, which discuss evangelical obedience and answer objections. I’ve bolded the most relevant portions.

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Footnotes

  1. If you’re concerned about Edwards’s view on sola fide, Don Kistler’s post on the Puritan Board is a helpful clarification.
  2. Cf. Amazon, CBD, Logos, and WTS Books.
  3. Or 19:143–242 including the editor’s preface.
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Luther on the Necessity of Good Works

I’m involved in a discussion where the claim was made that the Protestant church has distorted the gospel by removing the necessity of good works for salvation—something the early Christians unanimously affirmed. Luther was singled out as one who cared nothing about good works—at least not in the context of salvation. I pointed out this section from Luther, in which he indicates that “works are necessary to salvation.”

I reply to the argument, then, that our obedience is necessary for salvation. It is, therefore, a partial cause of our justification. Many things are necessary which are not a cause and do not justify, as for instance the earth is necessary, and yet it does not justify. If man the sinner wants to be saved, he must necessarily be present, just as he asserts that I must also be present. What Augustine says is true, “He who has created you without you will not save you without you.”1 Works are necessary to salvation, but they do not cause salvation, because faith alone gives life. On account of the hypocrites we must say that good works are necessary to salvation. It is necessary to work. Nevertheless, it does not follow that works save on that account, unless we understand necessity very clearly as the necessity that there must be an inward and outward salvation or righteousness. Works save outwardly, that is, they show evidence that we are righteous and that there is faith in a man which saves inwardly, as Paul says, “Man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved” [Rom. 10:10]. Outward salvation shows faith to be present, just as fruit shows a tree to be good. (“The Disputation Concerning Justification,” LW, 165)

Footnotes

  1. N21: Sermo 170. Migne 38, 923.
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Augustin on Postmodernism

Chapter 14.—Error of Those Who Think that There Is No Absolute Right and Wrong.

22. But when men unacquainted with other modes of life than their own meet with the record of such actions, unless they are restrained by authority, they look upon them as sins, and do not consider that their own customs either in regard to marriage, or feasts, or dress, or the other necessities and adornments of human life, appear sinful to the people of other nations and other times. And, distracted by this endless variety of customs, some who were half asleep (as I may say)—that is, who were neither sunk in the deep sleep of folly, nor were able to awake into the light of wisdom—have thought that there was no such thing as absolute right, but that every nation took its own custom for right; and that, since every nation has a different custom, and right must remain unchangeable, it becomes manifest that there is no such thing as right at all. Such men did not perceive, to take only one example, that the precept, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them,”1 cannot be altered by any diversity of national customs. And this precept, when it is referred to the love of God, destroys all vices when to the love of one’s neighbor, puts an end to all crimes. For no one is willing to defile his own dwelling; he ought not, therefore, to defile the dwelling of God, that is, himself. And no one wishes an injury to be done him by another; he himself, therefore, ought not to do injury to another.2

Footnotes

  1. n34: Matt. 7:12. Comp. Tobit 4:15.
  2. ECF 2.2.1.2.3.14; NPNF1, II, 562.
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Migne’s Patrologia Graeca in Logos

Users have requested Migne’s 161-volume Patrologia Graeca many times. It seems that Logos is now giving some serious thought to pursuing it. Bob Pritchett, President and CEO of Logos, recently wrote this in the Logos Greek newsgroup:

We’ve recently been talking about Migne’s Patrologia Graeca and hearing from some users how it could be a great addition to Logos Bible Software.

. . .

While page images are available in our own SeminaryLibrary.com and some other sources, as far as we know there is no full-text electronic edition. And at 161 volumes of Greek text, much of it with parallel Latin, Patrologia Graeca would be our biggest pre-pub project ever. (We estimate that the keyboarding cost alone would be 5 times that of ICC.)

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The Failed Strategy of “Trinity & Subordinationism”

trinity-and-subordinationism.jpgKevin Giles’s The Trinity & Subordinationism is easily one of the worst books I have ever read.1 I say that not because I disagree with the position he defends (i.e., the Son is not in any sense eternally subordinate to the Father); I’m still in the process of evaluating the evidence. Rather, I make that statement based primarily2 on what the book itself sets out to do.

Giles’s goal in T&S is to move beyond the exegetical impasse regarding eternal subordination in the Trinity by appealing to tradition.

Quoting biblical texts and giving one’s interpretation of them cannot resolve complex theological disputes. . . . I believe this approach [to “doing theology”] should . . . be abandoned today because it always leads to a “text-jam.” . . . What we have today is a bitter stalemate (3).

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Footnotes

  1. I should clarify that I have read and am referring to only his section on the Trinity, which is its own distinct unit.
  2. I’ll probably follow up this post with the book’s other problems, such as (1) misunderstanding and misrepresenting complementarians, (2) selective reading of history, (3) eisegesis of historical texts, (4) category confusion, etc., etc. Here’s one example of misrepresentation to give you an idea of the way Giles interacts with complemenatarian Trinitarianism throughout the book: “Rather than working as one, the divine persons have been set in opposition—with the Father commanding and the Son obeying.” I wrote this in the margin, “Opposition?!!! What a massive misrepresentation!” I challenge Giles to show one complementarian who considers the Father and the Son to be in a relationship of opposition!
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