Archive | Calvinism RSS for this section

Calvinist Racism in South Africa

Excerpted from p. 185-188 of Religion, The Missing Dimension of Statecraft (ISBN 0-19-510280-0), a book recommended by Archbishop Bernardito Auza:

“Many theologians who supported apartheid developed their theses on the basis of ideas set forth by the renowned Dutch theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper (1838-1920).

Calvinist influence is also claimed in the Old Testament notions of ‘the called’ and ‘the chosen’ used by nineteenth-century Afrikaners to justify white supremacy. As expressed in a speech by M. W. Pretorius in 1871, ‘fathers of Israel chosen by the Lord, who like the Israelites trekked out of Egypt to escape the yoke of Pharaoh, also trekked from the Cape Colony to escape the yoke of the hated British Government.’

[Blacks were also seen as the cursed descendants of Ham, son of Noah.]

In response to du Toit’s expressed concern about the lack of evidence in colonial times, Allister Sparks suggests that the early Dutch settlers were influenced by the ‘chosen people’ mentality that existed in Holland during its war with Spain, which ended in 1648. ‘Spain was seen as the antichrist from which William of Orange had delivered his people by leading them through ordeal and exodus to a national rebirth in their promised land.’ Sparks maintains that… ‘all the circumstantial evidence suggests that this is something the early Afrikaners brought from Holland.’

However one comes out on these arguments, there is ample evidence to suggest that the Dutch Reformed church carefully manipulated biblical references in serving its political interests and providing the early underpinnings for apartheid.

As early as 1857, an important synod of the Dutch Reformed church called for separate services for whites and blacks. This facilitated a division of the church along racial lines and was later used to justify a policy of separate development as being ‘the will of God.’

More than 90 percent of Afrikaans speakers profess to have a church affiliation, with 70 percent of those belonging to the DRC. Thus, the highly religious orientation of Afrikaner society all but required a theological basis to rationalize apartheid. The DRC not only provided that theology, it essentially provided the policy itself. As noted by Michael Cassidy, the founder of Africa Enterprise, a multiracial African evangelistic association: ‘It was the white Dutch Reformed Church that, from 1932 on, sent delegation after delegation to the government to support proposals for racial legislation. It worked hard to devise practical policies of apartheid that could be implemented by the government, while formulating theological constructs to justify the policy. It was these plans the church finally presented to the Nationalist Party in 1947. The Nationalist Party accepted them and the [program] won at the polls in 1948.'”

white-area_south-africa

White Area

TULIP and Protestants

(This is the second part of my series on TULIP. The first part, based on the writings of the Church Fathers, is available here.)

Many of the great historical Protestant leaders have opposed some or all of  “T.U.L.I.P.” — an acronym that summarizes the core beliefs of Calvinists. Here are some quotes about their conclusions. This list is not comprehensive.

Total Depravity – “..as a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”

(NOTE: Catholics believe in this, to an extent — after all, our faith and our works only have meaning because of God’s grace — but the concept of Total Depravity is often taken to an extreme.)

“That which makes him [Man] a human being is not his body but his spirit, in which the image of God originally lay. … From man’s standpoint the most tragic loss suffered in the Fall was the vacating of this inner sanctum by the Spirit of God. Man by his sin forfeited this indescribable wonderful privilege. Christ will enter only by the invitation of faith.” – A.W. Tozer [1]

“Human beings are endowed by nature with both selfish and unselfish impulses. … Man is the only creature which is fully self-conscious. His reason endows him with a capacity for self-transcendence.” – Reinhold Niebuhr [2]

Unconditional Election – “God chose some individuals from the mass of fallen humanity unto salvation without regard to any merit or foreseen faith in them, but solely based on His sovereign intentions.”

“Whether therefore we can account for it or not (which indeed we cannot in a thousand cases), we must absolutely maintain that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him. But He cannot reward the sun shining because the sun is not a free agent. Neither could He reward us for letting our light shine before men if we acted from necessity as the sun does. All reward, as well as all punishment, presupposes free-agency; and whatever creature is incapable of choice is incapable of either one or the other. Whenever, therefore, God acts as a Governor, as a rewarder or punisher, He no longer acts as mere Sovereign by His own sole will and pleasure, but as [sic] a impartial Judge guided in all things by invariable justice.” – John Wesley [3]

Limited Atonement – “..God’s design and intent in sending Christ to die on the cross was to pay for the sins and secure the redemption of those whom God has predetermined to save, namely the elect. Therefore, the primary benefits of his death were designed for and accrue only to believers.”

“For by his [Christ’s] own oblation he satisfied his Father for all men’s sins, and reconciled mankind unto his grace and favour.” – Thomas Cranmer [4]

“‘I believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who suffered, was crucified, and died for us.’ This is the most joyous of all doctrines and the one that contains the most comfort. It teaches that we have the indescribable and inestimable mercy and love of God. ..He sent His Son into the world, heaped all the sins of all men upon Him, and said to Him: ‘Be Peter the denier; Paul the persecutor, blasphemer, and assaulter; David the adulterer; the sinner who ate the apple in Paradise; the thief on the cross. In short, be the person of all men. And see to it that You pay and make satisfaction for them.’ … And so it [the Law] attacks Him and kills Him. By this deed the whole world is purged and expiated from all sins, and thus it is set free from death and from every evil.” – Martin Luther [5]

Irresistible Grace – “..the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save, whereby in God’s timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ.”

“It may be allowed that God acts as Sovereign in convincing some souls of sin, arresting them in their mid career, by His resistless power. It seems also that, at the moment of our conversion, He acts irresistibly. There may likewise be many irresistible touches during the course of Christian warfare, with regard to which every believer may say, ‘In the time of my distress, Thou hast my succor been, In my utter helplessness, Restraining me from sin.’ But still, as St. Paul might have been either obedient or disobedient to the heavenly vision (Acts 26:19), so every individual may, after all that God has done, either improve His grace or make it of none effect (Gal. 2:21).” – John Wesley [3]

“God has made it a rule for Himself that He won’t alter people’s character by force. He can and will alter them — but only if the people will let Him. In that way He has really and truly limited His power. Sometimes we wonder why He has done so, or even wish that He hadn’t. But apparently He thinks it worth doing. He would rather have a world of free beings, with all its risks, than a world of people who did right like machines because they couldn’t do anything else. The more we succeed in imagining what a world of perfect automatic beings would be like, the more, I think, we shall see His wisdom.” – C.S. Lewis [6]

Perseverance of the saints – “..those who are truly saved [those who truly believe] will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation.”

“For God both within and without does impress very aweful fears upon our souls; in the history of the Bible and in those around us, and on our own consciences, in His sudden visitations or enduring chastisements of sin; in the aweful change in the soul following upon a single sin, the sudden falls of those who once seemed faithful, the strange mystery that some who began to live in that ‘faith which worketh by love,’ and lived for a while faithfully and righteously, were not removed before they fell into the sin in which they died.” – E.B. Pusey [7]

“When men weary of a good course which long they have holden, for a little ease or wealth, or I wot not what other secular respect, fall away in the end; so losing the praise and fruit of their former perseverance, and relapsing into the danger and destruction, from which they had so near escaped.” – Lancelot Andrewes [8]

———-

calvinism

———-

References:

1. from Man: The Dwelling Place of God [link]

2. from Moral Man and Immoral Society [link]

3. John Wesley, Thoughts Upon God’s Sovereignty (taken from The Essential Works of John Wesley, p. 1167-1169)

4. Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556) on Death of Christ: Unlimited Expiation, Redemption and Universal Reconciliation [link]

5. Concordia Theological Quarterly, Volume 61:Number 4, October 1997, p. 251 (taken from Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, 1535) [link]

6. from “The Trouble with ‘X’,” God in the Dock [link 1] [link 2]

7. The Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost. A sermon preached at Margaret Chapel, on the Feast of S. Peter, 1845. [link]

8. A sermon preached before Queen Elizabeth, at Hampton Court. 6 March 1594. [link]

TULIP and the Church Fathers

(This is the first part of my series on TULIP. The second part, based on the writings of historical Protestant leaders, is available here.)

Calvinists occasionally claim that their beliefs — commonly expressed with the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.” — are totally in line with historical Christianity, but below are some quotes from the Church Fathers that disprove the claim. This list is certainly not comprehensive, but I think it best summarizes the Church’s points.

Total Depravity – “..as a consequence of the Fall of man, every person born into the world is morally corrupt, enslaved to sin and is, apart from the grace of God, utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to turn to Christ in faith for salvation.”

(NOTE: Catholics believe in this, to an extent — after all, our faith and our works only have meaning because of God’s grace — but the concept of Total Depravity is often taken to an extreme.)

“If any one is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice.” – St. Ignatius of Antioch [1]

“‘But unto them that are contentious,’ he [St. Paul] says [in Romans 2:8]. Again, he deprives of excuse those that live in wickedness, and shows that it is from a kind of disputatiousness and carelessness that they fall into unrighteousness. ‘And do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness.’ See, here is another accusation again. For what defense can he set up, who flees from the light and chooses the dark? And he does not say, who are ‘compelled by,’ ‘lorded over by,’ but who ‘obey unrighteousness,’ that one may learn that the fall is one of free choice, the crime not of necessity.” – St. John Chrysostom [2]

Unconditional Election – “God chose some individuals from the mass of fallen humanity unto salvation without regard to any merit or foreseen faith in them, but solely based on His sovereign intentions.”

“There is not a class of souls sinning by nature and a class of souls [practicing] righteousness by nature; but both act from choice, the substance of their souls being of one kind only and alike in all.” – St. Cyril of Jerusalem [3]

“For God made man free, and with power over himself. That, then, which man brought upon himself through carelessness and disobedience, this God now vouchsafes to him as a gift through His own philanthropy and pity, when men obey Him. For as man, disobeying, drew death upon himself; so, obeying the will of God, he who desires is able to procure for himself life everlasting.” – St. Theophilus of Antioch [4]

Limited Atonement – “..God’s design and intent in sending Christ to die on the cross was to pay for the sins and secure the redemption of those whom God has predetermined to save, namely the elect. Therefore, the primary benefits of his death were designed for and accrue only to believers.”

“Now if all have sinned, how come some to be saved, and some to perish? It is because all were not minded to come to Him, since for His part all were saved, for all were called. … Whence then are some vessels of wrath, and some of mercy? Of their own free choice. God, however, being very good, shows the same kindness to both. For it was not those in a state of salvation only to whom He showed mercy, but also Pharaoh, as far as His part went. For of the same long-suffering, both they and he had the advantage. And if he was not saved, it was quite owing to his own will: since, as for what concerns God, he had as much done for him as they who were saved.” – St. John Chrysostom [5]

Irresistible Grace – “..the saving grace of God is effectually applied to those whom he has determined to save, whereby in God’s timing, he overcomes their resistance to the call of the gospel and irresistibly brings them to a saving faith in Christ.”

“This expression [of our Lord], ‘How often would I have gathered your children together, and you would not,’ [Matthew 23:37] set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests (ad utendum sententia) of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually.” – St. Irenaeus [6]

Perseverance of the saints – “..those who are truly saved [those who truly believe] will persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation.”

“And I hold, further, that such as have confessed and known this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back from some cause to the legal dispensation, and have denied that this man is Christ, and have repented not before death, shall by no means be saved.” – St. Justin Martyr [7]

“Watch for your life’s sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ready, for you know not the hour in which our Lord will come. But come together often, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time.” – The Didache [8]

———-

John Calvin

John Calvin

———-

References:

1. The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians (Chapter 5) [link 1] [link 2]

2. Homily 5 on Romans

3. Catechetical Lecture 4

4. Theophilus to Autolycus (Book 2, Chapter 27) [link 1] [link 2] [link 3]

5. Homily 16 on Romans

6. Against Heresies (Book 4, Chapter 37)

7. Dialogue with Trypho (Chapter 47)

8. The Didache (Chapter 16)