Facebook Discussion on the Atonement

I came across an interesting discussion on Facebook involving the atonement. The question revolved around whether or not Jesus has “forgiven and paid the price for those who are in hell.”

The original poster, in answering the question, said:

“Yes I do believe that Jesus has paid the price for them but has [sic] not forgiven because they didn’t respond in faith!

The provision is unlimited but the application is only by faith. So those who are in hell are not there because they are sinners & Christ did not provide an atonement for them but rather that Christ provided the atonement for them but they rejected it.”

The objector then replied, inter alia, the following:

“With all due respect, I think your position that [Jesus paid but they suffer for their rejection] fails for 2 main reasons: (A) Logical Reasons & (B) Biblical Reasons…

A. Logical Reasons

Logically the position is incoherent because it fails to account for those who never heard the gospel. Here are 3 questions to consider:

i. Did those who never hear the gospel reject it?

ii. Shouldn’t they be saved because Jesus died for them and they never rejected it?

iii. If your answer to (II) is “yes”, then why bother preaching the gospel? Ignorance would be bliss [Literally], wouldn’t it?

Furthermore, it would be a logical contradiction to claim Jesus died for all sins of all men and yet send them to hell for the sin of rejection. If Christ died for ALL sins then He also died for the sin of rejecting the gospel. Your only way out is to claim that rejecting Christ is not a sin? Do you want to take this exit route?

B. Biblical Reasons:

Biblically, people are sent to hell not for rejecting Christ but for their sins and disobedience:

“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” (Eph. 5:6)

In the context of Ephesians 5, a list of sins are presented, none of which have anything to do with rejecting the gospel. We find a similar list in Colossians 3 and Paul repeats the same warning

“For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience” (Colossians 3:6).

Nowhere does the Scripture teach that the provision is unlimited. It does teach, however, that faith itself is a gift of God (Eph. 2:8-9).”

The Logical Reasons Objection

The Incoherence Objection

i) Incoherence 1

One option to avoid the incoherence is to view things from a Molinistic framework[1] – namely that, before the foundation of the world, God middle knew which individuals and/or people groups would freely accept or freely reject the Gospel should it be presented to them.

In light of this knowledge, God actualizes a possible and feasible world in which some individuals who would freely reject the Gospel are not presented with the Gospel. Paul Copan puts it as such:

“God has arranged this world in such a way that those who never hear the gospel would not have responded to it even if they had heard it. Those who are beyond the reaches of the Gospel in the actual world could be those who would never have responded to the Gospel in any possible world.”[2]

These individuals are still deemed to have rejected the atonement which was provided for them because the atonement would have applied to them had they freely chosen to accept it.

Another option to avoid the incoherence is to embrace the inclusivist position in the context of those who have not heard the gospel. John Sanders explains that, for the inclusivist, “The unevangelized may be saved if they respond in faith to God based on the revelation they have.”[3]

Inclusivism advocates that “salvation found only in Jesus Christ is made universally available.”[4] This universal availability should not be confused with universalism which espouses that “no human being will be condemned or allowed to suffer pain and separation forever.”[5] Universalism teaches that all will be saved.

John Sanders provides some Scriptural support for inclusivism:

“Inclusivists glean from various biblical texts an optimism of salvation, for they see God working outside the bounds of ethnic Israel as well as the church. God made a universal covenant through Noah, and God’s choice to work through Abraham was for the purpose of blessing the nations (see Genesis 12:3). Scripture mentions several nations for whom God provided land by driving out the previous inhabitants (see Deuteronomy 2:5, 9, 19, 21–22; 2 Kings 5:1). The prophet Amos declared that God had performed events similar to the exodus of Israel for other nations (see Amos 9:7). Attention is drawn to the so-called “holy pagans” in scripture.[33] God seems to have looked favorably upon non-Israelites such as Melchizedek, Jethro, Job, and the Queen of Sheba. On several occasions Jesus commented on the extraordinary faith He discerned among Gentiles such as the Canaanite woman (see Matthew 15:21–8) and the Roman centurion (see Matthew 8:10). Though God was doing a special work in Israel, God was working and was known outside her borders.

The Gentile that inclusivists highlight is Cornelius, a God-fearing uncircumcised Gentile who prayed continually. One day an angel informed him that his prayers and alms were a memorial offering of which God took note, and he was given instructions to send for Peter (see Acts 10:4). Peter arrives and informs the household about the redemption in Jesus, whereupon the household is baptized in the name of Jesus. In light of these events, Peter declares, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him” (see Acts 10:34–35). The welcome of God extends outside Israel and outside the church.”[6]

This view seems to also find support from Acts 17, Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill.

Acts 17:22-31 NASB

[22] Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I observe that you are very religious in all respects.

[23] For while I was passing through and examining the objects of your worship, I also found an altar with this inscription, ‘TO AN UNKNOWN GOD.’ Therefore what you worship in ignorance, this I proclaim to you.

[24] The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands;

[25] nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;

[26] and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation,

[27] that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;

[28] for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children.’

[29] Being then the children of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.

[30] Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent,

[31] because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”

Caveat: I do not know if this is a position held to by the original poster but from my understanding of incoherence 1 and inclusivism, in the context of those who have not heard the gospel, the latter would resolve the incoherence.

Caveat: The author does not hold to inclusivism and is concerned about views within the inclusivist camp that result in a reduced necessity to preach the Gospel.

ii) Incoherence 2 & 3

Incoherence 2 does not hold water because the original poster also explicitly said that those in hell “didn’t respond in faith.” This shows that a mere ignorance about the provision of the atonement of Christ would not be sufficient to save a person.

I will not address incoherence 3 in light of my observations regarding incoherence 2.

The Contradiction Objection

If indeed the original poster believes that those who are in hell are there only because they rejected Christ’s atonement, this would be inconsistent with the fact that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death in Romans 6:23 is used in contrast to eternal life, indicating that death refers to spiritual death/separation from God. Thus, it is clear that because we are sinners, we are deserving of hell.

The position I suspect the original poster holds to, because of his use of the phrase “sinners,” is that those in hell are there because of their sin and though they were offered a way to avoid hell, by way of Christ’s atonement, they rejected it. This, of course, is merely my inference and is subject to correction by the original poster.

The logical contradiction raised by the objector arises because of a conflation of the provision and application of the atonement. In a previous article, I compiled 4 responses to John Owen’s Double Payment Argument.[7] Response 1, would be the most relevant to the discussion at hand:

“The provision and application of the atonement must be distinguished. After all, “Eph. 2:1-3 makes clear that even the elect are under the wrath of God, “having no hope” (v.12) until they believe.”4 However, “the moment the debt is paid the debtor is free, and that completely. No delay can be admitted, and no conditions can be attached to his deliverance.”5.

What can be deduced is that the atonement is only applied upon the profession of faith. “… as 2 Cor. 5:18-21 makes clear, reconciliation has an objective and subjective aspect to it. The death of Christ objectively reconciles the world to God in the sense that his justice is satisfied, but the subjective side of reconciliation does not occur until the atonement is applied when the individual repents of sin and puts faith in Christ.”6

Consider the Day of Atonement. It was for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year (Leviticus 16:34). An Israelite applied the benefits of the annual atonement by humbling his soul and not doing any work on that day (Leviticus 16:29). If a person will not humble himself on that day, he will be cut off from his people (Leviticus 23:29). As for a person who does any work on that day, he will be destroyed from among the people (Leviticus 23:30).7″[8]

Further biblical examples, demonstrating a distinction between the provision and application of the atonement, are as follows:

i) “The blood of the Passover lamb (Ex. 12:6, 21) was provided for all of Israel (Ex. 12:3), without a hint of it being only for an ‘elect’ group within Israel.  But the fact that the blood of the Passover lamb was provided for all Israel didn’t automatically guarantee that all Israel would benefit from it.  The blood became effectual only after it was applied to the door posts (Ex. 12:7, 22); the blood itself didn’t save anyone.  Any Israelite who failed to apply the lamb’s blood to their doorpost would thus have failed to receive any benefit from the death of the Passover lamb, in spite of the fact that they could have, as they were provided for.”[9]

ii) “Because the people of Israel became impatient and complained against God and Moses (Num. 21:4-5), God sent fiery serpents among the people, and the serpents bit the people, so that many people died (Num. 21:6).  When the people acknowledged their sin, they asked Moses to pray to God for them (Num. 21:7). God answered Moses’ prayer, saying,

“‘Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’  So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” (Num. 21:8-9)

The bronze serpent was a provision for “everyone” and “anyone”. But the fact that the bronze serpent was provided for all Israel didn’t automatically guarantee that all Israel would benefit from it.  The bronze serpent became effectual only after someone looked at it by faith.”[10]

iii) “The cities of refuge were a provision for the manslayer (Num. 35:9-15). Furthermore, it was a provision for any manslayer – the people of Israel, and for the stranger, and for the sojourner (Num. 35:15).  But the fact that the cities of refuge were provided for any manslayer did not automatically guarantee that any manslayer would benefit from them.  The city of refuge was only effective as long as the manslayer entered, and stayed within, the boundaries (Num. 35:26-28).  Any manslayer who refused to either enter in (in the first place), or remain in, the cities of refuge would thus fail to receive any benefit from said cities, in spite of the fact that they could have, as provision was made for them.”[11]

It would not be a logical contradiction to say that Christ died for the sins of all men and yet some are sent to hell for rejecting the provision as Christ’s death does not necessitate an automatic application of the atonement.

Another way to possibly put it is that Christ’s death is sufficient for all but efficient/effectual for some, the latter being those who do not reject the provision/respond in faith.

Even the Synod of Dort used similar phraseology:

“Article 3: The Infinite Value of Christ’s Death

The death of the Son of God is the only and most perfect sacrifice and satisfaction for sin; is of infinite worth and value, abundantly sufficient to expiate the sins of the whole world.”[12]

“Article 8: The Saving Effectiveness of Christ’s Death

For it was the entirely free plan and very gracious will and intention of God the Father that the enlivening and saving effectiveness of his Son’s costly death should work itself out in all the elect, in order that God might grant justifying faith to them only and thereby lead them without fail to salvation. In other words, it was God’s will that Christ through the blood of the cross (by which he confirmed the new covenant) should effectively redeem from every people, tribe, nation, and language all those and only those who were chosen from eternity to salvation and given to him by the Father; that Christ should grant them faith (which, like the Holy Spirit’s other saving gifts, he acquired for them by his death). It was also God’s will that Christ should cleanse them by his blood from all their sins, both original and actual, whether committed before or after their coming to faith; that he should faithfully preserve them to the very end; and that he should finally present them to himself, a glorious people, without spot or wrinkle.”[13]

G. T. Shedd, 19th century theologian, appears to have shared this view when he said:

“Christ’s death is sufficient in value to satisfy eternal justice for the sins of all mankind … Sufficient we say, then, was the sacrifice of Christ for the redemption of the whole world, and for the expiation of all the sins for all and every man in the world.”[14]

The Biblical Reasons Objection

I would agree with the first 4 paragraphs of the objector’s reply in the event the original poster does take the position that individuals are only in hell because of their rejection of the provision of the atonement.

With regards to whether the provision of the atonement is limited or unlimited, this is and has been a matter of immense debate.[15] This debate cannot be settled by way of a one liner assertion that the atonement is unlimited (the original poster’s position) or that it is limited (the objector’s position). It is even debated whether or not John Calvin himself held to unlimited atonement[16] or to limited atonement.[17]

The objector takes an overly simplistic position in arguing that “nowhere does Scripture teach that the provision is unlimited.” Ron Rhodes, a 4-point Calvinist, has a list of Bible passages hinting in favour of unlimited atonement.[18]

As for use of Ephesians 2:8-9 to argue that faith is a gift from God, this is also a debatable matter. Daniel Wallace, Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary,[19] has noted:

“[Ephesians 2:8-9] is the most debated text in terms of the antecedent of the demonstrative pronoun, τοῦτο. The standard interpretations include: (1) “grace” as antecedent, (2) “faith” as antecedent, (3) the concept of a grace-by-faith salvation as antecedent, (4) καὶ τοῦτο having an adverbial force with no antecedent (“and especially”).”[20]

Even John Calvin himself was of the opinion that, “… they commonly misinterpret this text, and restrict the word ‘gift’ to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating his earlier statement in other words. He does not mean that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or that we obtain it by the gift of God.”[21]




[1] Molinism is a view of Divine Providence, advocated by Luis De Molina, which espouses inter alia that “[God’s] middle knowledge, although being eternal, reflects what the creature will do freely and depends on what it will do, thus it does not necessitate A doing B.” [Alexander Aichele, and Mathias Kaufmann, A Companion to Luis de Molina (BRILL, 2013), pp. 372-373]

[2] Paul Copan, “True for You, But Not For Me”: Deflating the Slogans that Leave Christians Speechless (Bethany, 1998), p. 128

[3] Salvation in Christ: Comparative Christian Views, ed. Roger R. Keller and Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005), 299–325

[4] Gabriel J. Fackre, Ronald H. Nash, and John Sanders, What About Those Who Have Never Heard?: Three Views on the Destiny of the Unevangelized (InterVarsity Press, 1995), p.22

[5] “Our Spiritual Perspective.” ChristianUniversalist.org. Accessed October 2, 2019.  https://christianuniversalist.org/beliefs/

[6] Salvation in Christ: Comparative Christian Views, ed. Roger R. Keller and Robert L. Millet (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005), 299–325.

[7] “Collection of Responses to the Double Payment Argument.” LaikosTheologos.com. Accessed October 2, 2019. https://laikostheologos.com/collection-of-responses-to-the-double-payment-argument/

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Feedback: Arminians Limit the Power of the Atonement.” ArminianTheologyBlog.wordpress.com. Accessed October 2, 2019. https://arminiantheologyblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/feedback-arminians-limit-the-power-of-the-atonement

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] “Canons of Dort.” CRCNA.org. Accessed October 2, 2019. https://www.crcna.org/welcome/beliefs/confessions/canons-dort

[13] Ibid.

[14] William Greenough Thayer Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, Volume 2 (Scribner, 1888), p. 464

[15] In favour of limited atonement, see e.g. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective, eds. David Gibson, Jonathan Gibson (Crossway, 2013). In favour of unlimited atonement, see e.g. David L. Allen, The Extent of the Atonement: A Historical and Critical Review (B&H Publishing Group, 2016)

[16] “Calvin and Calvinism.” RTKendallMinistries.com. Accessed October 2, 2019. https://rtkendallministries.com/calvin-and-calvinism: “When I discovered for myself that John Calvin did not believe in limited atonement I was both thrilled and sobered … Calvin taught that Jesus died indiscriminately for all people. Calvin taught that although Jesus died for all people, He made intercession for the elect only. That is four and a half point Calvinism”;

See also Curt Daniel, “Hyper-Calvinism and John Gill” Ph.D. diss., University of Edinburgh, (1983), 819–22 which contains an extensive 50 page appendix entitled “Did John Calvin Teach Limited Atonement?” (pp. 776-828); P. L. Rouwendal, “Calvin’s Forgotten Classical Position on the Extent of the Atonement: About Sufficiency, Efficiency, and Anachronism,” WTJ 70 (2008), p. 328; David Ponter, “Review Essay (Part One): John Calvin on the Death of Christ and The Reformation’s Forgotten Doctrine of Universal Vicarious Satisfaction: A Review and Critique of Tom Nettles’ Chapter in Whomever He Wills,” Southwestern Journal of Theology, 55.1 (Fall, 2012): 138-158. Part Two can be found in SWJT 55.2 (Spring, 2013): 252-70

[17] See “Calvin, Indefinite Language, and Definite Atonement by Paul Helm.” Monergism.com. Accessed October 2, 2019. https://www.monergism.com/calvin-indefinite-language-and-definite-atonement-paul-helm; “John Calvin’s view of Limited Atonement – by Dr. Roger Nicole.” APuritansMind.com. Accessed October 2, 2019. https://www.apuritansmind.com/arminianism/john-calvins-view-of-limited-atonement/

[18] “The Extent of the Atonement—Limited Atonement versus Unlimited Atonement.” RonRhodes.org. Accessed October 2, 2019. http://ronrhodes.org/articles/the-extent-of-the-atonement.html

[19] “Daniel Wallace.” DTS.edu. Accessed October 2, 2019.  https://www.dts.edu/people/daniel-wallace/

[20] Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Zondervan, 1996), p.334

[21] John Calvin, Commentaries, Volume 11 (Eerdmans, 1959), p. 145



The Lord’s Prayer (Part 1)

Verse: Matthew 6:9

A) English Translations

 

KJV: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name

NASB: Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name

NLT: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy

B) Greek

Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς· 

ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου

Source: https://www.nestle-aland.com/en/read-na28-online/text/bibeltext/lesen/stelle/50/60001/69999/

 


Source: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/matthew/6-9.htm

Continue reading “The Lord’s Prayer (Part 1)”

List of Non-Calvinist Theologians

The following are theologians, listed alphabetically, who are non-Calvinist in their soteriology. They may, and most probably do, differ on other areas of theology but at least in soteriology, they do not hold to what is commonly known as the Doctrines of Grace or TULIP.1

A

    • A. Philip Brown II
    • Adam Clarke
    • Adam Harwood
    • Adrian Rogers
    • A W Tozer
    • Allen Coppedge

B

    • Balthasar Hubmaier
    • Ben Witherington III
    • Bill T Arnold
    • Brian Abasciano

C

    • Charles Finney
    • Charles Swindoll
    • Chuck Smith
    • Clark Pinnock
    • C S Lewis
    • Craig Evans
    • Craig Keener

D

    • Daniel Steele
    • Daniel Whedon
    • Daniel Whitby
    • Dave Hunt
    • David Allen
    • David Arthur DeSilva
    • David Bentley Hart
    • David J A Clines
    • David Pawson
    • Dwight L Moody

E

 

F

    • Frank Turek
    • Frédéric Louis Godet
    • Fred Sanders

G

    • Gareth Cockerill
    • George Eldon Ladd
    • George Fox
    • G K Chesterton
    • Gordon Fee
    • Grant Osborne
    • Greg Boyd

H

    • Harry Ironside
    • H. Ray Dunning
    • Henry Thiessen
    • Herschel Hobbs

I

    • Ian Howard Marshall

J

    • Jack Cottrell
    • Jacob Arminius
    • James D G Dunn
    • J P Moreland
    • Jason E. Vickers
    • Jerry Walls
    • Jerry Vines
    • John Fletcher
    • John Goodwin
    • John Horn
    • John Lennox
    • John Miley
    • John Sanders
    • John Wesley
    • Jordan Cooper
    • Joseph Benson
    • Joseph Kenneth Grider
    • Joseph R Dongell
    • J Vernon McGee

K

    • Keith D. Stanglin
    • Kenneth Keathley
    • Kirk MacGregor

L

    • Leighton Flowers
    • Leonard Ravenhill
    • Leroy Forlines

M

    • Malcolm Yarnell
    • Matthew Pinson
    • Michael Brown
    • Michael Heiser
    • Mildred Bangs Wynkoop
    • Miner Raymond

N

    • Nathan Bangs
    • Norman Geisler2

O

 

P

    • Paige Patterson
    • Paul Copan
    • Paul Ellingworth
    • Paul R Eddy
    • Philip H. Towner

Q

 

R

    • Randolph S. Foster
    • Ravi Zacharias
    • Richard Lenski
    • Richard Watson
    • Robert Picirilli
    • Robert Shank
    • Robert W Wall
    • Roger Forster
    • Roger Olson

S

    • Scot McKnight
    • Stanley Horton
    • Stephen Ashby
    • Steve Gregg

T

    • Thomas Helwys
    • Thomas McCall
    • Thomas N. Ralston
    • Thomas Oden
    • Thomas Osmond Summers
    • Tim Mackie

U

 

V

    • Vic Reasoner

W

    • Wallie Criswell
    • William Burt Pope
    • William Greathouse
    • William J Abraham
    • William L Lane
    • William Lane Craig
    • William Klein

X

 

Y

 

Z

 

Editor’s Note: The list is not meant to be exhaustive and will be updated periodically.



Collection of Responses to the Double Payment Argument

In honour of the scholarship of Dr David Allen, of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary 3, who graced us in Malaysia with his presence at the Truth Matters Alliance conference 2018 2, we will be taking a look at John Owen’s Double Payment argument which Dr Allen has addressed extensively. Other cogent responses to the argument will also be presented alongside Dr Allen’s work.

The Double Payment Argument

John Owen put it as follows, “… God imposed His wrath due unto [Christ], and Christ underwent the pains of hell for, either all the sins of all men, or all the sins of some men, or some sins of all men. If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no men be saved …

If the first, why, then, are not all freed from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, “Because of their unbelief; they will not believe.” But this unbelief, is it a sin or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent due to it or not.”3

Responses to the Argument

i) It conflates the provision and application of the atonement

The provision and application of the atonement must be distinguished. After all, “Eph. 2:1-3 makes clear that even the elect are under the wrath of God, “having no hope” (v.12) until they believe.”4 However, “the moment the debt is paid the debtor is free, and that completely. No delay can be admitted, and no conditions can be attached to his deliverance.”5.

What can be deduced is that the atonement is only applied upon the profession of faith. “… as 2 Cor. 5:18-21 makes clear, reconciliation has an objective and subjective aspect to it. The death of Christ objectively reconciles the world to God in the sense that his justice is satisfied, but the subjective side of reconciliation does not occur until the atonement is applied when the individual repents of sin and puts faith in Christ.”6

Consider the Day of Atonement. It was for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year (Leviticus 16:34). An Israelite applied the benefits of the annual atonement by humbling his soul and not doing any work on that day (Leviticus 16:29). If a person will not humble himself on that day, he will be cut off from his people (Leviticus 23:29). As for a person who does any work on that day, he will be destroyed from among the people (Leviticus 23:30).7

For more on this point, see “Feedback: Arminians Limit the Power of the Atonement” by Cartwright8 Other biblical examples wherein the provision and application of the atonement are distinguished, are examined.

ii) It confuses a commercial understanding of sin as debt with a penal satisfaction for sin

Carl Trueman recognises this point when he said, “It is… true that [John Owen’s] point here seems to rely on a crudely commercial theory of the atonement, but we must beware of misunderstanding this in crudely quantitative terms.”9

David Allen argues that “the metaphor [of debt] is pushed beyond its legitimate point of analogy and becomes, for Owen and Williams, the actual mechanism whereby sin is paid for. Williams’ dependence upon Owen’s treatment of the parable of the Unforgiving Servant in Matt 18 leads him to misinterpret the point of the parable. The context of the parable is not atonement but forgiveness between brothers by way of a commercial debt metaphor. The point of the parable is the mechanism for forgiveness, not the mechanism for satisfaction of sins …

The mistake is viewing God as a creditor from the fact that sin is metaphorically described as a debt (490-93). Sin as debt is about obligation, not about the death of Christ being a payment to a creditor (God). Nowhere in Scripture is God ever viewed as “creditor” who is paid a debt via the death of Christ.”10

For R. L. Dabney, A. A. Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd and Charles Hodge’s agreement with this critique, see “Double Jeopardy?” by Tony of Theological Meditations.11

iii) It quantifies the imputation of sin to Christ as if there is a ratio between all the sins of those Christ represents and the sufferings of Christ12

According to R. L. Dabney, “… sacrifice, expiation, is one-the single, glorious, indivisible act of the divine Redeemer, infinite and inexhaustible in merit. Had there been but one sinner, Seth, elected of God, this whole divine sacrifice would have been needed to expiate his guilt. Had every sinner of Adam’s race been elected, the same one sacrifice would be sufficient for all. We must absolutely get rid of the mistake that expiation is an aggregate of gifts to be divided and distributed out, one piece to each receiver, like pieces of money out of a bag to a multitude of paupers.”13

For more on this, see  also “Double Jeopardy?” by Tony of Theological Meditations.14

iv) What about original sin?

“[Garry] Williams’ tacit dependence upon Owen’s trilemma argument faces some insurmountable problems, not the least of which is the issue of original sin. Notice it is not original “sins” but original “sin.” If Christ died for original sin, then he died for at least one of the sins of the non-elect. If this is the case, then Owen’s argument is defeated for Owen must admit that Christ died for some of the sins (original sin) of all men.

It seems that either Owen must say that Christ died for some of the sins (original sin) of all men, or he must take the view that Christ only underwent punishment for some of the sins of some men (a position not listed in his trilemma).”15

James Daane also argues this exact same point in his journal article “What Doctrine of Limited Atonement?” The Reformed Journal 14:10 (December 1964), p.16.

10 Questions for Calvinists

Guest contributor: Martin Alexander McMahon

1. Can God genuinely desire the salvation of those whom He, from eternity, unconditionally determined not to save, and is, in the words of Calvin, “pleased to exclude” and “doom to destruction”? Or in the case of those who eschew the more passive doctrine of preterition and opt for the more active doctrine of reprobation, I ask: can God genuinely desire the salvation of those whom He has specifically created for the express purpose of destroying, who are, to quote Calvin, “doomed from the womb to certain death, whereby God is glorified by their destruction”?

2. If God has indeed causally determined and decreed all that comes to pass, isn’t it incoherent to think that our prayers influence God’s answers to our prayers? Further, wouldn’t prayer be like someone putting on a sock puppet, and then having the sock puppet ask him to do something? And to extend the analogy even further, wouldn’t God’s answer/s to prayer be like someone answering a request that he had his own sock puppet ask himself?

3. Regarding the Parable of the Sower (Luke 8:4-18), is the Calvinistic doctrine of Irresistible Grace compatible with Satan actively stealing away the Word of God (the ‘seed’) from people to prevent them from believing (Luke 8:12)? In other words, wouldn’t it be pointless for Satan to steal the Word from people, when these very people whom he is attempting to prevent believing cannot believe anyway, due to Total Depravity, and indeed, cannot believe until after they are already regenerated?

4. Regarding Luke 22:14-23, is the Calvinistic doctrine of Limited Atonement compatible with the fact that Judas Iscariot – who would have been better off had he never been born (Mark 14:21), and whom Jesus called a ‘devil’ (John 6:70) – was among those for whom Jesus Christ said He gave His body and shed His blood? If so, wouldn’t that mean that Judas Iscariot is among the elect?

5. God specifically states that there were sins that He “did not command or decree” (Jer. 19:5). Indeed, these sins did not even “come into my [God’s] mind” (Jer. 19:5; cf. Jer. 7:30-31; 32:35). If God has indeed causally determined and decreed all that comes to pass, isn’t it incoherent to believe that He has causally determined and decreed sins that He did not command or decree, indeed, sins that did not even come into His mind to command or decree? Further, does the fact that these sins occurred without God first decreeing them mean that the sins were not under God’s sovereign rule?

6. In 1 Samuel 23, David learned that Saul was plotting harm against him (vv. 7-9), and so inquired of God as to 1) whether the people of Keilah would surrender him into Saul’s hand, and 2) whether Saul would indeed come to Keilah. Regarding both inquiries, God answered in the affirmative: Saul would come to Keilah, and the people of Keilah would surrender David into Saul’s hand (vv. 10-12). David and his men swiftly fled from Keilah (v. 13), and even though Saul sought David every day, God would not surrender David into his hand (v. 14). According to this passage, it would appear that God had foreknowledge of events that, in fact, never came to pass. Doesn’t this passage contradict the Calvinistic tenet that God can foreknow the future only if He has already causally determined said future? On the Calvinist view, if the above-stated events never came to pass, then surely God did not foreordain (or even permit) them to come to pass, so how then could God have foreknowledge of events that never came to pass?

7. The Apostle Paul states that “those who are perishing… refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2 Thes. 2:10; emphasis added). Even the Hyper-Calvinist John Gill said of this passage, “the reason therefore of these men’s perishing is not the decree of God, nor even want of the means of grace, the revelation of the Gospel, but their rejection and contempt of it” (emphasis added). Isn’t the obvious implication that those who are perishing, in spite of the fact that they do ultimately perish, had a legitimate chance of being saved?

8. In the Bible, Christians are described as having “died to sin”(Rom. 6:2; cf. Rom. 6:7, 8, 11; 7:4-6; Gal 2:19; Col. 2:20; 3:3; 2 Tim. 2:11). Before conversion, the unregenerate are obviously described as being “dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1; cf. Col. 2:13). Calvinists (eg., Boice and Ryken) describe the spiritually dead as having “all the passive properties belonging to a corpse” in that “like a spiritual corpse, he is unable to make a single move toward God, think a right thought about God, or even respond to God”. If being dead in sin entails not being able to make a single move toward God or even respond to God, does being dead to sin entail not being able to make a single move toward sin or even respond to sin?

9. Regarding the Apostle Paul’s warning to be sober-minded, watchful, and to resist the devil (1 Pet. 5:8-9), is the Calvinistic doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints (which entails ‘inevitable perseverance’, ‘once saved, always saved’, and if anyone apostatizes, they were ‘never saved to begin with’) compatible with Satan actively prowling around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Pet. 5:8-9)? In other words, wouldn’t it be pointless for Satan to seek to devour people whose salvation cannot possibly be put in jeopardy? And even if he actually does successfully ‘devour’ someone, wouldn’t that be sure proof that the person was never saved to begin with, and thus render the act of ‘devouring’ futile?

10. John Calvin taught what is known as ‘evanescent grace’ (Institutes, 3.2.11). Calvin thus taught that God bestows grace on the reprobate (or non-elect) and implants faith in them that is “so similar to the elect” that sometimes, there is virtually “no difference” between the elect and the non-elect. Calvin further taught that, “In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end”. In other words, true saving faith only proves to be truly saving if it perseveres to the very end. In light of this, is it possible for a Calvinist to have true assurance of salvation? Doesn’t this doctrine actually undermine the Biblical markers for assurance? How can someone know that his present faith is genuine, if genuine faith only proves to be genuine if it perseveres to the very end? How can a person be sure that the inner witness of the Holy Spirit is not an “inferior operation of the Spirit” which “afterwards proves evanescent,” the “better to convict them, and leave them without excuse”? Can a person even have assurance by producing fruit, considering that Calvin taught that the reprobate, through evanescent grace, “may for several years… produce fruit”?

Thou Shalt Not Proof-Text

What Proof-Texting Is

Proof-texting is “that process whereby a person ‘proves’ a doctrine or practice merely by aluding to a text without considering its original inspired meaning.”16 As Charles Simpson put it, “… proof-texting is like shooting an arrow into a wall and then painting the target around it. Religious proof-texters use one or two verses of Scripture to “paint” a specific doctrine and then arrogantly portray their position as Scripturally infallible.”2

Mark W. Foreman notes that, “Believers often search anxiously to discover some verse or passage they presume will prove a particular point, all the while ignoring the serious exegetical work involved in interpreting and applying Scripture. Often they force a verse to say something it was never intended to mean and which usually has nothing to do with its original and historical and literary context. Rather than treating the Bible as a historical document written to the specific needs and issues of the original audience, and to be interpreted and applied appropriately, it is instead treated as a divinely authoritative version of Bartlett’s book of quotations. This quote-a-verse mentality permeates the modern evangelical church and is problematic.”3

What Are Some Common Proof-Texts?

Craig Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary4, partnered with Seedbed to produce a three part video on “Bad Bible Proof-Texts.” Some of the passages examined include Psalm 50:10, Psalm 118:24, Song of Solomon 2:1, Joel 2:9, and Joel 3:10.

Why Should We Not Proof-Text?

Proof-texting would allow a person to make the Bible say whatever he/she wants it to say. A fine example would be the following which “uses” biblical texts to demonstrate that Jesus is not God.

“There is a direct statement about Jesus being the Son of Jehovah in the Psalms: “…He said to me, ‘You [Jesus] are my son, today I [Jehovah] have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7)

Jehovah spoke to Jesus, in His pre-human existence, concerning the creation of Adam and Eve: “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness ….'” (Genesis 1:26)

There were plans, from the beginning, to make Jesus a human as shown in Deuteronomy: “…he [Jehovah] will raise up for you a Prophet [Jesus] like me [Moses], an Israeli, a man to whom you must listen and whom you must obey.” (Deuteronomy 18:15, TLB; see also Acts 3:22)

During His ministry on Earth, Jesus stated that He taught not His own wisdom, but that of His Father, Jehovah: “For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak.” (John 12:49)

There are a large number of Bible verses which can be used to prove that Jesus was not God, but the Son of God. The chapter of this thesis, “VII. Bible Verses Prove Trinity False”, lists over a hundred such texts.

The Bible, therefore, teaches that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Jehovah said He would send His Son and Jesus made the statement that Jehovah was His Father. The Apostles taught these facts. The Bible does not teach that Jesus was Jehovah and neither Jesus nor His followers claimed otherwise.”5

Not yet convinced of the proposition? See also “90 Verses That Say: Jesus Is Not God Nor The Literal Son of God.”6

In addition, C. Michael Patton highlights four problems associated with proof-texting and they are i) the problem of interpretation, ii) the problem of understanding, iii) the problem of communication, and iv) the problem of arrogance. 7

What Then Should We Do?

So how do we avoid the dangers associated with proof-texting? The answer is proper exegesis and hermeneutics. When confronted with a barrage of texts allegedly proving a particular doctrine, go through the texts one by one and examine its grammatical-historical context. Milton S. Terry dubbed the Grammatical-Historical method as “… the method which fully commends itself to the judgement and conscience of Christian scholars. Its fundamental principle is to gather from the Scriptures themselves the precise meaning which the writers intended to convey. It applies to the sacred books the same principles, the same grammatical process and exercise of common sense and reason which we apply to other books.”8

As Gordon Fee and Douglas Stewart point out, “A text cannot mean what it could never have meant for its original readers/hearers … the true meaning of the biblical text for us is what God originally intended it to mean when it was first spoken or written.”9 Well known exegete Tremper Longman III once said, “when I interpret a text of Scripture, my goal is to understand the passage or book in its Old Testament context and from that understanding to bridge the gap to my situation today.”10

Mark Strauss’s Ten Steps for Exegesis11 provides a great guideline in what to do when interpreting a particular verse/passage. The ten steps are:

1. Identify the Genre (the Literary Form)
2. Establish the Historical and Literary Context
3. Develop a Thesis Statement
4. Outline the Progress of Thought in the Passage
5. Consult Secondary Sources (a Good Commentary)
6. Analyze Syntactical Relationships
7. Analyze Key Terms and Themes
8. Resolve Interpretive Issues and Problems
9. Evaluate Your Results From the Perspective of Wider Contextual and Theological Issues
10. Summarize Your Results

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Introduction to Soteriology (Books)

Soteriology, the doctrine of salvation, is arguably one of the most controversial doctrines within Christendom. If you are somewhat new to it and are looking to study it deeper, on top of the books listed below, consider also a previous article of mine titled “Introduction to Soteriology (Creeds & Confessions).”12

In order to avoid the strawman fallacy, that is, “[a] misrepresentation of an opponent’s position or a competitor’s product to tout one’s own argument or product as superior.”2, it is greatly recommended that one reads and learns the different soteriological positions from its original sources. This would include the works of those who hold to that particular position.

The following is by no means intended to be an extensive list. There are many other works out there on the topic and, seeing how soteriology is still contentious 400+ years after the time of Luther, Calvin, and Arminius, I believe there will be many more books written on the subject. For introductory purposes, the books listed below will suffice.

 

For Arminianism

The Grace of God, the Will of Man: A Case for Arminianism, edited by Clark Pinnock (Harper Collins, 1989)

Grace, Faith, Free Will (Randall House Publications, 2002) by Robert Picirilli

Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (InterVarsity Press, 2006) by Roger Olson

Understanding Assurance & Salvation (Randall House Publications, 2006)  by Robert Picirilli

Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation (Randall House, 2011) by F Leroy Forlines

Grace for All: The Arminian Dynamics of Salvation, edited by Clark Pinnock and John D Wagner (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015)

 

For Calvinism

The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination (1932) by Lorraine Boettner

The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented (P&R Publishing,  1963) by David Steele and Curtis Thomas

Chosen By God (Tyndale House Publishers, 1994) by R.C. Sproul

The Potter’s Freedom (Calvary Press, 2000) by James White

For Calvinism (Zondervan, 2011) by Michael Horton

 

For Lutheranism

The Doctrinal Theology of the Evangelical Lutheran Church: Exhibited, and Verified from the Original Sources (Lutheran Publication Society, 1876) by Heinrich Schmidt

Lutheran Theology (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011) by Steven Paulson

The Way of Salvation in the Lutheran Church (Tredition, 2012) by George Geberding

The Great Divide: A Lutheran Evaluation of Reformed Theology (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015) by Jordan Cooper

 

For Traditionalism/Provisionalism/Provisionism

Whosoever Will: A Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism, edited by David Allen and Steve Lemke (B&H Publishing Group, 2010)

The Potter’s Promise (Booktango, 2015) by Leighton Flowers

Anyone Can Be Saved: A Defense of “Traditional” Southern Baptist Soteriology, edited by David L. Allen, Eric Hankins, Adam Harwood (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2016)

 

Misc [optional]

Chosen But Free (Bethany House, 2001) by Norman Geisler 3

Calvinism Vs. Arminianism (Author House, 2014) by Steve Urick

Is God Calvinist or Arminian?: The Closing Argument (WestBow Press, 2018) by Bob Raymond

 

Disclaimer: The recommendations in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Faithful Preaching of the Gospel in a Sermon

Guest Contributor: Calan Moy

“all [sermon] messages given were relevant … as well as faithful to the Gospel.”

The words of my friend sat in my head as I tried to wrap my head around how the seemingly “Christian” event he had went to had portrayed that concept to him since it was an event that was notoriously known for the lack of attention given to sermons. After contemplating for several weeks, I have came up with what I think is a good reference to discern sermons that are preached through a biblical perspective:

1) Faithful preaching of the gospel in a sermon is expository in nature

An exposition of the text simply brings out the meaning of the text to explicitly show the gospel from every location in scripture, hence the preaching fundamentally roots itself in the power of the words of the text, and not in the preacher.

2) Faithful preaching of the gospel is rooted in systematic theology

Faithful preaching understands, grounds and applies theology that has been derived from Scripture and it understands the nature of God in a deep and reverent fashion. It understands the truths about God’s justice shown in his awful fury and judgement towards sinners and yet restrains these truths with the love of God towards the righteous and unrighteous. The effect of systematic theology is that it acts as a control for the preaching. It preaches the “whole counsel of God” without missing out the essentials of the gospel.

3) Faithful preaching of the gospel is God-glorifying

The preacher of the gospel, ultimately, does not want people to hear what he has to say but wants people to hear what God has to say about Himself and about them. An emphasis that focuses on men, with a positive note as to what men achieve without the work of Christ in their lives, achieves the opposite effect of being God-glorifying.

4) Faithful preaching of the gospel is a blade

Hebrews 4:12 tells us that ”…the word of God is active, sharper than any two-edged sword and piercing as far as the division of the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart…”
Be very afraid of preaching that is faithful to the gospel. It is a blade (or a scalpel) that surgically slices you and reveals your motives as for what they are. It shows you to be what you really are.

5) Faithful preaching of the gospel has a basic understanding of biblical anthropology

Anthropology, which means the study of men and their beings, makes the condition and being of men the point of the preaching. It points out the deficiencies and incapability of men rather than teach a positive and high view of what man is.

6) Faithful preaching of the gospel grounds itself in the power of the Holy Spirit

The gospel which is exposited, relies wholly upon the Holy Spirit to convict and bring men to repentance. It is not of the preachers own doing. It does not rely upon the things that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 2:4, i.e. “…clever and persuasive speeches”, but rather, upon “(the) demonstration of the Spirit and of power”.

7) Faithful preaching of the gospel does not advocate legalism

The preaching of the gospel brings about the change within believers that only God can do and only by the sanctifying power of the word. It changes people to orient their thoughts and attitudes towards the good of both God and the neighbour, and thus smashes the power of legalism for it leaves the believers only with the law of love/Christ due to the work of Christ on the cross.

8) Faithful preaching of the gospel is Christ-centred

It centres itself around the nature, incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession of Christ, in his kingly, priestly and prophetic roles. I am convinced that to leave out any one of the 3 roles mentioned above is to deprive Christ of his majesty and glory, as well as to reject the Old Testament understanding of the “Messiah”. To preach Christ as Lord and Saviour requires all 3 roles to be rightly expounded and understood.

9) Faithful preaching of the gospel is apologetic in nature

The gospel when rightly proclaimed, teaches, rebukes and corrects our thoughts that are mistaken or which deviate from the truth of God. The gospel is, according to 1 Corinthians, “…foolishness to the world” as the world cannot comprehend the mind of God. Hence, the gospel serves as the argument that defends the truth of God and what He has revealed to us. We recognise that the gospel as an apologetic tool will never make sense to the world unless they repent and believe in it. The gospel either brings the unbeliever to repentance when confronted with the truth, or it pushes the unbeliever away with that exact same truth.

Conclusion

I believe that God still works through sermons that do not rightly have Christ at the centre. However, while admitting this, we must acknowledge that an abnormality does not equal to the norm. Instead, we should constantly hold to being “semper reformanda” (constantly reforming), in light of God’s word as these are dark and sinful times we are in. Therefore, all the more do we need to have a sharpness and a discernment of the truth that a preacher in the pulpit brings to us!

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Editor’s Note: The author welcomes any feedback on the article and can be contacted at calanmoy20142015 [at] gmail [dot] com.

Modern Day Apostles?

Mid-2017, there was a healing rally in my country, Malaysia 4, led by an individual who goes by the name of Apostle G. Maldonado on social media.2 More recently, in September 2018, a local church in Malaysia hosted a prayer conference featuring Apostle Julius Suubi. 3

Naturally, within my circles, this sparked discussion about whether or not there are apostles today in light of the close of the canon.

A) Are there apostles today?

The answer to this question would depend on your definition of an apostle. Marcelo Souza, in his article “Are There Apostles Today?” notes the biblical requirement for apostleship.

“1. The apostle had to be an eyewitness of the risen Jesus [see Acts 1:2-3, 21-22; 4:33; 9:1-6; 1 Cor. 9:1; 15:7-9] …

2. The apostle had to have been commissioned directly by Jesus [see Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:21-26; Gal. 1:1, 26].” 4

However, the requirements he laid out refers to a narrow sense of the term apostle. There is a broader sense which will be considered below.

Wescott and Hort defines ‘apostolos’ (the Greek word for “apostle”) as “a messenger, envoy, delegate, one commissioned by another to represent him in some way, especially a man sent out by Jesus Christ Himself to preach the Gospel; an apostle.”5

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance’s definition is “a delegate; specifically an ambassador of the Gospel; officially a commissioner of Christ [“apostle“] (with miraculous powers): – apostle, messenger, he that is sent.”6

Thayer in his NAS New Testament Greek Lexicon (1999) defines ‘apostolos’ as “1. a delegate, messenger, one sent forth with orders … 2. Specially applied to the twelve disciples whom Christ selected, out of the multitude of his adherents, to be his constant companions and the heralds to proclaim to men the kingdom of God … 3. In a broader sense the name is transferred to other eminent Christian teachers; as Barnabas, Acts 14:14, and perhaps also Timothy and Silvanus, 1 Thessalonians 2:7 (6), cf. too Romans 16:7 (?) …” 7

“According to BDAG [i.e. a Greek lexicon], apostolos “can also mean delegate, envoy, messenger … perhaps missionary.””8

So what I would argue is that we do have apostles today (in the broad sense of the word) and they would include missionaries, for the very reason that missionaries are sent out to preach the Gospel.

we do have apostles today (in the broad sense of the word) and they would include missionaries Click To Tweet

There are no longer any apostles in the narrow sense of the word because no one in the 21st century would be able to fulfill the two requirements of apostleship as quoted above.

There are no longer any apostles in the narrow sense of the word because no one in the 21st century would be able to fulfill the two requirements of apostleship Click To Tweet

Another way to see it is according to Gordon Fee’s distinction in his commentary the First Epistle to the Corinthians (1987). He distinguishes between the “functional” (ongoing ministry) and “positional/official” use of the term9. So today, we would have apostles in the functional sense, but not in the positional/official sense.

Tl;dr – There is a difference between apostles in the technical/specific/narrow sense of the word apostolos (Gk 652) and the non-technical/broad sense of the same word. We no longer have the former, but we can have the latter.

B) What are their roles?

With regard to the role of apostles, their general role is, together with the other offices/positions in Ephesians 4, “… to prepare God’s people for works of service so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”10

More specifically, based on the semantic range of the Greek word apostolos, an apostle’s role would be to go out and perform the tasks to which they have been assigned. If the task is to go to Area A and plant/start a church there, that is that particular apostle’s role.

C) Should we shy away from using the term “apostle”?

The short answer is no. We should not shy away from using the term apostle just because it is misused by certain quarters. There are cults leaders who refer to themselves as pastors.11 Should we then no longer use the term pastor12 despite it being a biblical role?

Instead, what we should be doing is educating Christians about what the Bible teaches on apostles so that they would know how to distinguish between the functional and the positional/official sense of the word.

For further reading, see the following great articles by Dr Craig Keener of Asbury Theological Seminary13:-

Are There Apostles Today? (Part 1)

Are There Apostles Today? (Part 2)

Are There Apostles Today? (Part 3)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author, and they do not reflect in any way views of the institutions to which he is affiliated  and/or the other Laikos Theologos contributors.

Lawyer-Theologians

In my brief study of theologians throughout church history, I noticed a common denominator between many of them. Quite a number of theologians received formal legal training/education in their lifetime14. The following is a non-exhaustive list of lawyer-theologians, arranged chronologically:

2nd Century

Tertullian of Carthage

Background

“Son of a proconsular centurion, Tertullian studied law at Rome and as a young man converted to the Christian faith.”2

“There is an historical tradition, based on Eusebius and the Justinian Law Code, that Tertullian was a great legal expert. Eusebius’ Historia Ecclesiastica mentioned that Tertullian knew ‘the Roman laws extremely accurately’. Justinian’s Digesta and Codex also quoted legal works by a jurist named Tertullian.”3

“Many word studies of Tertullian found legal terminology in his writings and declared his theology formed by the legal context. After Barnes, however, scholars began to reevaluate the presuppositions of these words, concluding with different results …

Claude Fredouille, and many now see Tertullian, not as a legal expert, but as a rhetorical genius capable of persuading with a whole range of imagery, including legal imagery.”4

Theological Contribution

Apologeticus
De testimonio animae
De Adversius Iudaeos
Adv. Marcionem
Adv. Praxeam
Adv. Hermogenem
De praesciptione hereticorum
Scorpiace

De monogamia
Ad uxorem
De virginibus velandis
De cultu feminarium
De patientia
De pudicitia
De oratione
AD martyras

3rd Century

Gregory Thaumaturgus

Background

“Gregory of Thaumaturgus had originally left Pontus to study Latin and Roman law at Beirut. While there, he might have been seduced from his legal studies not by biblical studies with the Christian teacher Origen, but by the delights of classic Greek culture.”5

“In the mid-third century, the Church Father, ‘Gregory the ‘wonderworker’ – later known as Gregory Thaumaturgus’ – studied rhetoric and Roman law with a private teacher in his hometown of Neo-Caesarea (the capital of Pontus, Asia Minor), before setting out with his brother and others for the law school at Beirut; they got as far as Caesarea in Palestine, where they continued their education with Origen …”6

“There is a passage from Gregory Thaumaturgus, who had studied law in his youth and became bishop of Nicocaesarea in Pontus about the middle of the third century …”7

Theological Contribution

Oratio Panengyrica
Epistola Canonica
Exposition of the Faith
Epistola ad Philagrium

4th Century

Basil of Caesarea 

Background

“[Basil of Caesarea] studied for five years in Athens, then came back home to begin a successful worldly career, teaching rhetoric and practicing law in Caeserea, the region’s capital.”8

“After years of private study, Basil enrolled in the University of Athens, the most prestigious university at that time. In due course, Basil returned to Cesaria, where he began his legal practice.”9

Theological Contribution

On the Holy Spirit
Refutation of the Apology of the Impious Eunomius

Amphilocius of Iconium

Background

“Amphilocius, later Bishop of Iconium, had abandoned his practice of law and was living in retirement at Ozizala, not far from Nazianzus, where Gregory, his uncle, was bishop.”10

“A number of key bishops in the Eastern Church who had received rhetorical education went on to practice as advocates before their episcopal appointments. From the Cappadocian Fathers we can name Basil the Great and his contemporaries Amphilocius of Iconium and Asterius of Amasea.”11

Theological Contribution

Against False Asceticism
Epistola Synodica
In Occursum Domini
Epistula lambica ad Seleucum

John Chyrsostom

Background

“After the completion of his studies, Chrysostom became a rhetorician, and began the profitable practice of law, which opened to him a brilliant political career.”12

“In due time, Chrysostom began to practice as a lawyer; and as the profession of the law was reckoned one of the surest avenues to political distinction for a man of talent, and the speeches of Chrysostom excited great admiration, a brilliant and prosperous career seemed to lie before him.”13

Theological Contribution

Hieratikon
Kata Ioudaion
Against Those Who Oppose the Monastic Life
On the Priesthood
Instructions to Catechumens
On the Imcomprehensibility of the Divine Nature

Continue reading “Lawyer-Theologians”