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September 19, 2005

Ch. XXV. Q. 140. What are the distinctive points of Calvinism?

THE DISTINCTIVE points of Calvinism are five, viz.: (a.) absolute predestination: (b.) total depravity: (c.) particular redemption: (d.) irresistible grace: (e.) final perseverance.1

2. The Presbyterian Confession of Faith declares that "by the decree of God . . . some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life, and others fore-ordained to everlasting death. These angels and men . . . are particularly and unchangeably designed; and their number is so certain and definite that it cannot be either increased or diminished." Also that this fore-ordination to life arises "out of His mere free grace and love, without any fore-sight of faith or good works, or perseverence in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace. . . . Neither are any other redeemed by Christ, effectually, called, justified, adopted, sanctified, and saved, but the elect only. . . . The rest of mankind, God was pleased ... to pass by and ordain them to dishonor and wrath for their sin, to the praise of His glorious justice."2

3. This teaching is a rationalistic deduction from the Scriptural truths of (a.) the eternal and omnipotent sovereignty of God's will, whereby He ordains and governs all things: and (b.) original sin in the erroneous sense of total depravity. The passages in Holy Scripture which are used to prove it, are, in fact, concerned simply with the election of souls to baptismal life and sacramental grace, and with the future glory ordained for the Church as a body (cf. Q. 139.3,4). Whatever these texts may prove as to the possible and proper outcome of such predestination, they do not teach that glory is the necessary result of individual predestination, or that any one's damnation is necessary whatever efforts he may make to escape from it.3

4. The Calvinistic system is heretical, since it necessitates, by its theory of irresistible grace, a denial of any real probation in the kingdom of grace. We know that grace is given in the Church in order to endow us with power and freedom to pursue the way of life, and to put us to a moral and spiritual trial having the same issue which was originally placed before Adam—of everlasting life or everlasting death. But if the grace of God is irresistible and final perseverance inevitable in those who are called, there is no proper probation either before or after death. A will which is determined so as to choose and persevere in the way of life inevitably, even though the determination is internal, is no longer in a state where probation is possible, but has already entered upon that state which, according to the Church's teaching, comes after death (Qq. 159. 3, 4: 167. 4).4

5. The Universalist theory expresses a reaction from Calvinism, but does not escape the fallacy of absolute predestinarianism. The only difference is that Universalism declares all men to be predestined to glory, so that no one can so resist God's grace as to make a final choice of the way of death.5

6. Calvinism is itself a reaction from Pelagianism, which isolated the truth of human freedom and probation, and made deductions from it inconsistent with the doctrine of grace, denying the fall of mankind and the necessity of the supernatural aid of grace in order to attain to life and glory.6

7. Sound theology requires that (a.) we should not assert the results of speculation as if they were of faith: (b.) We should not hold opinions as the result of logical deduction which nullify our belief in any Catholic doctrine: (c.) We should hold such diverse truths as those of Divine sovereignty and human probation together. We must remember that both truths are incipient, so far as our comprehension of them is concerned, and incapable of being fully penetrated and understood by human reason; so that we may neither hope to succeed in formulating an explanation of their harmony, nor refuse to qualify our belief in each by our assent to the other.7

1 Synod of Dort: Westminster Confession: Institutes of John Calvin: Mozley's Augustinian Doc. of Predestination: Forbes' 39 Arts., X. 159-167: XVII: Blunt's Theol. Dic., "Calvinism," "Arminianism," "Decrees Eternal," "Jansenism."

2 Westminster Conf., ch. III 3-7.

3 Motley, ch, I, II, XI: Faber's Prim. Doc. of Election, I. iv-xi: Jones of Nayland on the Church, 38-41.

4 Forbes, X. 159-167: Mason's Faith of the Gosp., X. 11: Schouppe, IX. 330-845, 850: Moehler's Symbolism, § 12: Sadler's Second Adam, 136-139: App. C: Faber, I. xi: Blunt's Theol. Dic., "Freewill": Forbes Considerations, III. iii.

5 Blunt's Theol. Dic., "Universal Redemption," "Universalism" : Pusey's What is of Faith as to Ev. Punishment. 22, 23.

6 Mozley, ch. Ill: Richey's Truth and Counter Truth, pp. 49, 50: Blunt's Theol. Dic., "Pelagianism," "Free Will."

7 Mozley, ch. II: Eichey, Introd. and ch. IV: Sadler's Second Adam, 261.

Posted by Trevor at September 19, 2005 10:16 AM