Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Friday, August 28, 2009

Neo-Calvinism: The New Road to Rome

I recently came across a blog hosted by numerous former Calvinists who are now converts to Roman Catholicism. Not surprisingly, one of them posted an article suggesting that the "new" Calvinism has an incipient form of Roman Catholicism in it. Even more to the point, the author is citing an article, "The New Calvinism," The Banner, by Rev. Alvin Hoksbergen of the Christian Reformed Church to substantiate his point. According to Tom Brown, the author of the blog article, Hoksbergen claims that double predestination is almost never preached from the pulpit anymore. This may be true in the Christian Reformed Church, which is becoming more liberal as time goes on, but it is not true of the more conservative Evangelical Reformed churches.

Although I strongly disagree with the Called to Communion blog, the posted article proves my point that the doctrine of common grace leads to other compromises. Semi-pelagianism in all its ugly forms leads to Rome or worse. What is ironic here is that Vatican II opened the door for theological pluralism and natural religion. That is, a view of religion that all religions lead to heaven because they do good and follow Christ without really knowing they follow Christ.

Tom Brown's closing remark shows clearly why the doctrine of common grace is wrong:

Calvin and the confessional Reformed denominations centrally teach that God, by his sovereign grace, unconditionally chose some, and not others, from before all time to salvation. A “new Calvinism” that leaves this position behind in favor of emphasizing the Christian’s call to bless the world is something other than Calvinism. If it is something that wants to marvel at God’s sovereignty and grace, while calling us to holiness and leaving room for debate on the conditions or rigidity of election, then it is far closer to the catholic position on election and predestination that existed before Calvin taught. In that sense, Rev. Hoksbergen is actually calling Reformed pastors to preach in the way of Roman priests prior to the Reformation. ["'Calvinism' Sans Double Election," by Tom Brown. Called to Communion Blog.]

While Brown's article is insightful, he misrepresents classical Calvinism as does Hoksbergen's article in The Banner. No truly reformed minister I know of would be ashamed to preach the doctrine of God's sovereignty or the doctrine of the accountability of mankind for their willful choices. What stands out, however, is that Hoksbergen thinks the focus of Christianity should be on the here and now rather than the hereafter because he is apparently ashamed of the doctrine of a final judgment and an eternal destination of either heaven or hell. Even Evangelical pastors do not like to preach on the doctrine of hell.

Since Brown pointed it out first, let me point out the obvious here. If Hoksbergen's view is an incipient form of Roman Catholicism and Hoksbergen thinks the focus is the here and the now rather than the hereafter, then perhaps Brown is admitting indirectly that Vatican II sold out the transcendental metaphysical doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church to the this worldly focus of mankind on earth? I think that semi-pelagianism in all its forms leads eventually to pelagianism which in turn leads to a form of practical atheism. No truly born again Christian ought to be ashamed to boldly preach the full biblical message, even if that message is unpopular. I would include the doctrine of predestination in that. No biblical doctrine should be avoided by any Evangelical or Reformed minister in the pulpit.

While I do not agree with everything David Broughton Knox has said during his ministry on earth, he makes a valid point regarding Vatican II here:

The possibility of salvation through the light of nature is no longer a private opinion amongst Roman Catholics but has been endorsed by the Second Vatican Council. In paragraph 16 of its Constitution On the Church, which was promulgated in November 1964, the Second Vatican Council declared:

"The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place among these there are the Moslems . . . Those also can attain a salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience. Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life."

It is difficult to see how in practice this is distinguishable from Pelagianism. [From: Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith. "Chapter Four: Predestination."]

One might want to contrast the Vatican II quote with Article 18 of the Thirty-Nine Articles, which follows closely on the heels of Article 17 dealing with the doctrine of predestination:

Article XVIII

Of obtaining eternal salvation only by the name of Christ

They also are to be had accursed that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out to us only the name of Jesus Christ, whereby men must be saved. [See Acts 4:11-12].

It seems to me that the doctrine of common grace has been one of the motivating factors behind the conversion of the authors of the Called to Communion blog, though a better nomenclature would be "called to Rome." Unfortunately, the Reformed churches are not unified on this issue. In my opinion, the wholesale sellout of the doctrines of grace begins with the three points of common grace. Perhaps we ought to reconsider endorsing such an unbiblical doctrine in the first place? Not only is common grace not substantiated in Scripture but it is not substantiated in Calvin's Institutes either.

For those who wonder what is wrong with the doctrine of common grace I would recommend reading "Grace Uncommon," by Rev. Barry Gritters. The implications of common grace toward pelagianism should not be taken lightly in my opinion. Furthermore, the rebellious nature of human beings naturally dislikes the idea of the sovereignty of God. We like to imagine that we are the captains of our own destiny. But the truth is that without God's irresistible grace we are without hope. Left to ourselves we would all choose hell. Even the idea of a universal atonement is a compromise with natural religion because it wishes to tone down God's sovereignty on that point so that Christianity is made more appealing to the world at large. It is on this point that many of the Sydney Anglicans, including the departed David Broughton Knox, miss the mark.

Anglicanism at large is infected with this incipient pelagianism in the move Rome-ward evidenced by the Anglo-Catholic movement. What Anglicanism and even Presbyterianism needs more than having a package of marketable doctrines for the world, including the idea of a general atonement or whatever else seems palatable to the lost, is a commitment to teach only the propositional truths of Holy Scripture wherever that leads--even if it means rejecting common grace and a general atonement. Rev. Barry Gritters' observation seems fitting as a closing remark:

The Free-Offer's Denial of Predestination

The "free offer of the gospel" is the teaching that God offers salvation to all men when the gospel is preached promiscuously to all. The free offer teaches that God graciously and sincerely offers salvation to all who hear the preaching, and honestly and sincerely desires to save all of them.

The adoption of the first point of common grace in 1924 was an official adoption (albeit in a backhanded way) of the teaching of the "free offer of the gospel."

Sometimes it is said that the Protestant Reformed put this teaching into the CRC's mouth. It is said that the teaching of the "free offer" was only part of the study committee's report. But the free offer was more than that. It was part of the official decision of Synod (see Appendix I). Besides, the defenders of common grace never tire of defending the free offer. Thus, this paper, an analysis of the three points of common grace, takes up a defense of the Reformed faith against the "free offer of the gospel" taught in the first point.

We believe that the "free offer" must lead to a denial of the Reformed teaching of predestination. [From Grace Uncommon].


Charlie J. Ray said...

If you go to the comments page of the Called to Communion blog, you will see the barrage of attacks leveled against the Reformed position and myself. I found it humorous that these fellows actually pretend to have been "Reformed" at one point in their lives. If that is the case, then why do they not have an accurate understanding of basic Reformed theology? I suspect that they never fully understood the Scriptural arguments and focused instead on ecclesiastical authority. Such a focus, as pointed out by David Broughton Knox in his book, Thirty-Nine Articles, does not guarantee orthodox theology or doctrine. Vatican II is proof enough of that!


Charlie J. Ray said...

Neal, no need to come here baiting me for an argument. I've already made my point. :)

Charlie J. Ray said...

Send the pope. You're not allowed to speak about Scripture. You're not authorized:)

John said...

Whatever is right or wrong in Rome, they are not Semi-Pelagian, because that terms has a very specific meaning, that is not applicable to Rome.

Charlie J. Ray said...

I found the Called to Communion blog laughable. They, like the Nazis of Germany, utilize censorship and twist the comments around to present themselves in the best light.

Unfortunately, they are only preaching to their own heretical choir. I, on the other hand, posted a link to their site. I have nothing to fear from the truth:)

Scripture is inspired of God and God in fact uses the Scriptures as the instrument by which He brings His elect to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

One need only read the Bible to know that all those additional "traditions" of men hidden away in "secret" places do not exist.


Charlie J. Ray said...

John, semi-pelagianism is a half-way doctrine between the monergism of the Augustinian view and the pelagian view that denies mankind is born with the guilt and the corruption of original sin.

Semi-pelagianism believes that man is not totally depraved but only a little corrupt. Mankind in general is assisted by a common or general grace given by God to all to neutralize original sin so that all men are able to choose between good and evil and between accepting Christ or rejecting him. It is commonly called "synergism." Thus, both Rome and Constantinople are "semi-pelagian" and reject the more biblical understanding of Augustine. Synergism is also the idea that salvation is cooperation between God and man for salvation. "God is your co-pilot." But the monergistic view places salvation all in the hands of God. Man is unable to cooperate unless and until God gives him the irresistible grace to do so. Grace is not generally given to all but given only to the elect who do not deserve salvation either.

Support Reasonable Christian Ministries with your generous donation.