Saturday, December 26, 2015

How Would You Like To Hear From The Disciples, Of Jesus' Disciples? Part 7

Have you heard of man's free will? Do you know what Jesus's disciples did? They had disciples also! This is how we know about the early churches. Let's go back and see!

We stated in the introduction that Calvinism has its roots in the views of St. Augustine. This man was also largely responsible for the acceptance of a-millennialism into mainstream Christianity, and the Roman Catholic doctrine that the Catholic Church is now God's Kingdom on earth. Prior to his conversion in the fourth century, Augustine was heavily involved in a pseudo-Christian Gnostic cult that held heretical ideas regarding the nature of God as well as the person of Christ. All of the Gnostic cultists were heavily influenced by the writings of the Greek philosophers. And Augustine was no exception. 

Prior to the writings of Augustine, the Church universally held that mankind had a totally free willEach man was responsible before God to accept the Gospel. His ultimate destiny, while fully dependent on God's grace and power, was also dependent on his free choice to submit to or reject God's grace and power. In the three centuries from the Apostles to Augustine the early Church held to NONE of the five points of Calvinism, not one. The writings of the orthodox Church, for the first three centuries, are in stark contrast to the ideas of Augustine and Calvin. Man is fully responsible for his choice to respond to or reject the Gospel. This was considered to be the Apostolic doctrine passed down through the local church elders ordained by the Apostles, and their successors. Below we have listed a few representative quotes from the earlier writers in order to give the flavor of the earliest tradition regarding election and free will. Some deal with the subject of perseverance and apostasy.
Alexander of Alexandria (AD273-326) 
"I will endeavor, with your assistance and favor, to examine carefully the position of those who are offended, and deny that we speak the truth, when we say that man is possessed of free-will, and prove that “They perish self-destroyed, By their own fault,” choosing the pleasant in preference to the expedient." (Alexander, Banquet of the Ten Virgins, Discourse VIII, ch. xii)

Lactantius (AD260-330) 
"When, therefore, the number of men had begun to increase, God in His forethought, lest the devil, to whom from the beginning He had given power over the earth, should by his subtilty either corrupt or destroy men, as he had done at first, sent angels for the protection and improvement of the human race; and inasmuch as He had given these a free will, He enjoined them above all things not to defile themselves with contamination from the earth, and thus lose the dignity of their heavenly nature." (Lactantius, Divine Institutes, Bk. II, ch. xv)

There seems to have been no exceptions among early Christian writers to the orthodox teaching that man has been granted by God a free will to choose his destiny, and that salvation is available to all. The opposing view, that man is controlled by fate, could only be found in the Greek philosophical schools, Gnosticism, and Eastern mysticism during the first 300 years of Christianity. 

It is no wonder that the man who introduced Greek fatalism into Christianity should come from a Gnostic and Neo-Platonic background. Augustine's theory differed from the Greek philosophers mainly by naming the CAUSE of fate — God's mysterious will which must not be questioned, and cannot be understood by mortals. The impact of Augustine's teaching probably would not have been nearly so great if Pelagius had not gone to the opposite extreme in renouncing Augustine.

While those of the Reformed persuasion are right to reject the Latin heresies of Rome, they have been lax to recognize the Greek heresies introduced before the Latin era, which are equally contrary to the truth of the Christian Faith "once for all delivered to the saints" by the Apostles of Jesus Christ. They seem to hold a higher opinion of philosophers, like Augustine, than of the Apostles themselves, and those to whom the Apostles entrusted the Apostolic tradition.

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