Friday, July 16, 2010

Orthodoxy and Calvinism: Can Both Be the Gospel?

All too often I have heard ecumenically oriented Christians (from many denominations and churches) claim that the gospel is neither Orthodoxy nor Calvinism, but the gospel is Jesus Christ. Of course I agree that the gospel is Jesus Christ. However, does this mean that the gospel includes both Orthodoxy and Calvinism? Can it include such things? The Bible says:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be anathema. (Galatians 1:6-8)
So, I am going to give you the teachings of Orthodoxy and Calvinism and ask you if they are even remotely similar:


Calvinism:

God the Father eternally decreed all things that should occur. Adam sinned, and in doing so, his descendants all inherited his sin nature, as well as the penalty for Adam's sin itself. Because of this, all of Adam's descendants were totally depraved- utterly unable to do any good in the eyes of God. God sought to glorify Himself in two ways. First, He wished to condemn many children of Adam to hell, to punish them, to glorify Himself in His perfect wrath. Therefore, He predestined most of Adam's children to this state of reprobation, eternal damnation. However, God wished to use the small remainder of Adam's children to glorify Himself in His perfect mercy.

Therefore, He predestined them to eternal salvation and bliss These are known as the elect. However, these children were still stained with sin, and God was still wrathful towards all sin, so He sent God the Son to become incarnate on Earth as Jesus Christ. Jesus took on all of the wrath of God towards the elect upon Himself, and died on the Cross. God the Father raised Him from the dead to show that He had accepted Christ's sacrifice. For each of God's elect, there is a specific time where God justifies them and regenerates their totally depraved nature, and sends the Holy Spirit into them.

Men do not choose to follow the grace of God, God sovereignly regenerates them by His own will, and His will alone (monergism). At the end of time, Christ will come and condemn those whom God had chosen to be reprobate to hell, and He will glorify those whom God had chosen to be elect to heaven. Thus, God will be eternally glorified in His wrath by the majority of people in hell, and eternally glorified in His mercy by those eternally in heaven.

That is the "gospel" of Calvinism. You tell me if that is the same thing as the gospel of Orthodoxy:


Orthodoxy:

God has eternally existed as Father, Son, and Spirit, and they have eternally existed perfectly loving each other. God is love. But God's love overflows, and therefore He created mankind, which He intended to come into full communion with Himself. However, Adam sinned, and turned away from the right path towards communion with God. God was grieved because man had turned away from Him, and because of the world they now lived in, could not turn back on their own power. Therefore, God the Father sent God the Son into the world. God the Son took on a human nature in addition to His divine nature. He united the divine and human natures in one person, enabling humans to partake of the divine nature once more, and return to communion with Him. Jesus Christ died on the Cross, and because He is God, death could not hold the author of life, and the bonds of death were broken.

Because of death's destruction, Christ rose up from the grave. Christ appointed certain sacraments, or mysteries, which enable union with God through Jesus Christ. He gave us Baptism, so that we may be united with Him in His death and resurrection.He gave us chrismation, so that men may truly be sealed and indwelled with God the Spirit. He gave us the Eucharist, so that we may truly partake of the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ so that we are united to God incarnate and commune with Him. He gave us repentance, so that we may come forth and plead before God for forgiveness, which He has promised to grant us. God wishes all men to be saved, for He loves all. However, God cannot force anyone to come to Him, because true love only exists in free choice.

God therefore enabled free choice by sending everyone a certain amount of grace which enables them to come to God. In the end of time, Jesus Christ will return and consummate history. Since the bonds of death are broken, all men will rise up from the grave. Those who are in close communion with God will now feel the presence of God- they will feel it as joy and bliss. Those who are apart from God will feel the presence of God as well- but because of their lack of union with God, they will naturally feel it as shame and regret.

Now, let me ask: do these messages sound anything more than superficially similar? I think the answer is clear. Only one of these can be the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.

6 comments:

Marlon said...

Amen Kabane52,

Let us let the Calvinist Charles Haddon Spurgeon, known as the "Prince of Preachers", speak in his own words in reference to this issue:

“And what is the heresy of Arminianism but the addition of something to the work of the Redeemer? Every heresy, if brought to the touchstone, will discover itself here. I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else” -From The Autobiography of Charles H. Spurgeon, Curts and Jennings, Cincinnati - Chicago - St. Louis, 1898, Vol. I., Page 172.

"Once again, if it was Christ's intention to save all men, how deplorably has He been disappointed, for we have His own testimony that there is a lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, and into that pit of woe have been cast some of the very persons who, according to the theory of universal redemption, were bought with His blood. That seems to me a conception a thousand times more repulsive than any of those consequences which are said to be associated with the Calvinistic and Christian doctrine of special and particular redemption. To think that my Saviour died for men who were or are in hell, seems a supposition too horrible for me to entertain. To imagine for a moment that He was the Substitute for all the sons of men, and that God, having first punished the Substitute, afterwards punished the sinners themselves, seems to conflict with all my ideas of Divine justice. That Christ should offer an atonement and satisfaction for the sins of all men, and that afterwards some of those very men should be punished for the sins for which Christ had already atoned, appears to me to be the most monstrous iniquity that could ever have been imputed to Saturn, to Janus, to the goddess of the Thugs, or to the most diabolical heathen deities. (ibid, pp. 175,176.

That's not the Gospel of Orthodoxy.

godescalc said...

Marion, each of your two passages there call to mind a verse from the letters of Paul which fit poorly with Spurgeon's scheme. Calling Christ "the saviour of all men, and especially of those who believe" (1 Tim. 4:10) sits badly with insisting Christ isn't the saviour of all men after all; and Col. 1:24 not only speaks of adding something to the work of the Redeemer but expresses plainly the horror at the heart of "Arminianism" - the afflictions of Christ are somehow "lacking", in some way in which lies to St. Paul himself to make up.

hrugnir said...

My follow-up question is, though: What would you make of someone with a similar soteriology to the one given here, but within a different tradition, say the Lutheran one?

Does an Orthodox person have to believe all those not in communion with their church to be consigned to Hell?

Nicholas said...

Such a judgment would run counter to Orthodox theology.

NicholasMyra said...

The Holy Synod of Jerusalem, in 1672, declared in the Confession of Dosithos:

"But of eternal punishment, of cruelty, of pitilessness, and of inhumanity, we never, never say God is the author, who tells us that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents. Far be it from us, while we have our senses, to believe or to think this; and we do subject to an eternal anathema those who say and think such things, and esteem them to be worse than any infidels."

"But the novelties which the Calvinists have blasphemously introduced concerning God and divine things, perverting, mutilating, and abusing the Divine Scriptures, are sophistries and inventions of the devil."

So from an Orthodox perspective, Calvinism is not in any way compatible with Orthodox teaching.

Jnorm said...

NicholasMyra,


I agree!

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