Thursday, January 5, 2012

Chemnitz approved of double predestination?

I was reading through Chemnitz' Loci Theologici, and came across a discussion of Fulgentius of Ruspe's book to Monimus. Fulgentius likely isn't a familiar name, as he is not an oft cited writer. He was a north African bishop in the sixth century who is known primarily for his defense of the Augustinian view of grace against the semi-Pelagians. You can find a one volume translation of some of his works in the Fathers of the Church series by CUA press. I highly recommend it.

On page 328, Chemnitz cites Augustine's affirmation of double predestination and approves of Fulgentius' formulation of the concept. Fulgentius argues that predestination is twofold. First God predestined the elect unconditionally unto salvation. Second God predestines not individuals unto death but the punishment to be given to those who reject the gospel. As Chemnitz writes, "God foreknows the evil intentions and actions of the godless, but he does not predestine them. But he has predestined that the punishment for these sins shall take place with righteous judgment." It is interesting to me that there is precedence in the Lutheran tradition for double predestination. This formulation of double predestination is actually more consistent with the Augustinian tradition than the Reformed are.

The predestinarian tradition does not leave room for a double predestination in the Calvinistic sense of the term. In the late Patristic and medieval period, no one argued for an unconditional predestination unto death. It's easy to read a source which says "double predestination" and assume a later definition of the phrase, but as Chemnitz shows, it is actually consistent with the Lutheran formulation of the concept. The Lutheran tradition is much more Augustinian and catholic than the reformed tradition.


Eric Bendekovic said...

So your saying that the predestination is in reference to the punishment and not the election towards damnation. Which wouldn't effect the universal atonement?

Jordan Cooper said...

Yes exactly, it is simply God's determination that he will punish those who reject the gospel, it does not deny universal grace or atonement, and in no way means that God has anything to do with anyone's rejection of the gospel. Man chooses damnation, God simply has decreed to bring about the punishment.

Martin Yee said...

Thanks. Great find. It straightens out things a lot for me.

Martin Yee said...

I am in Asia where Christians are minority. Come to think deeper about this, a Buddhist friend once remarked to me on how can the Christian God decree hell where ther is infinite punishment for finite sins. It did not make sense to him. Not too sure if Leibtniz or Peter Taylor Forsyth addressed this in their theodicy.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post.

I'm not a Calvinist myself (I'm in agreement with Luther and St. Augustine on predestination. They differ from Calvinism most notably in holding that the non-elect may partake temporarily with the elect in Salvation before falling away).

That said, the Calvinist position is much closer on the question of double predestination than you might think.

I assume you're familiar with the reformed terminology of "infralapsarianism" and "supralapsarianism."

The position that you've expressed approval of appears to be "infralapsarianism"--that God's predestination of the wicked to punishment is in view of their sins. This is the position held by the vast majority of Calvinist and the only position expressed in the Calvinist confessions (Dordt, Westminster, Helvetic, etc.).

The Calvinist position that you condemned is much closer to "supralapsarianism" (in many ways it posits an unconditional reprobation of the wicked--although it isn't quite that simple). Supralapsarianism is (by far) the minority position in Calvinism (and Lutheranism*), and is not taught in any of the Calvinist confessions.

*[Although Luther himself is often classified as "supralapsarian" (along with Beza--Calvin's main pupil).]

btw, Here is one of St. Augustine's statements on double predestination:
These are the great works of the Lord, sought out according to all His pleasure, and so wisely sought out, that when the intelligent creation, both angelic and human, sinned, doing not His will but their own, He used the very will of the creature which was working in opposition to the Creator’s will as an instrument for carrying out His will, the supremely Good thus turning to good account even what is evil, to the condemnation of those whom in His justice He has predestined to punishment, and to the salvation of those whom in His mercy He has predestined to grace. For, as far as relates to their own consciousness, these creatures did what God wished not to be done: but in view of God’s omnipotence, they could in no wise effect their purpose. For in the very fact that they acted in opposition to His will, His will concerning them was fulfilled.
[Chapter 100. The Will of God is Never Defeated, Though Much is Done that is Contrary to His Will.]

Interestingly, some of St. Augustine's statements on predestination to damnation are even stronger than those in the Calvinist confessions. Of course, Luther's statements on predestination to damnation far surpass the Calvinist confessions in severity (and definitely match or even surpass the severest statements of Calvin himself).

God Bless,
W.A. Scott

p.s. "Limited Atonement" as stated by Calvin and Dordt, etc is that Christ's Death was sufficient for the payment of all the sins of the world but effectual payment only for those who believe. Except for the differences on the question of what degree the non-elect may partake in grace before falling away--this is essentially the position of St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, etc.

"Irresistible grace" as understood by Calvinism is basically the equivalent to what St. Augustine, St. Aquinas, etc taught regarding the "irresistible" (or, intrinsically efficacious) gift of faith and perseverance given to all of God's elect.

I could go on, but I'll have to stop because of time limitations.

Jordan Cooper said...

In Chemnitz' opinion, what is predestined is the punishment-not the individual. This differs from infralapsarianism. Infralapsarianism does not posit election unto damnation through foreseen future demerits of the individual, but only with regard to original sin. God sees the mass of damned man, predestines some and leaves the others in their sin. This is much different than what Fulgentius is saying.

And I disagree that Luther is supralapsarian.

William said...

Thanks for your response.

You said:
"Infralapsarianism does not posit election unto damnation through foreseen future demerits of the individual, but only with regard to original sin. God sees the mass of damned man, predestines some and leaves the others in their sin. This is much different than what Fulgentius is saying."

This is exactly the position of St. Augustine whom Chemnitz expresses agreement with. One of St. Augustine's primary illustrations of election and reprobation is in the Baptism or non-Baptism of two infants. The unconditional nature of election is illustrated in the just passing over of one infant who dies in original sin (and is thereby condemned) without Baptism while the other infant (who is equally worthy of reprobation on account of his "foreseen" original sin) is brought by God to Salvation in Baptism.

In other words, "predestination to punishment" for St. Augustine (as for the Calvinist Confessions) is definitely not limited to "actual sin." (And, like St. Augustine, the Calvinist Confessions also reference foreseen actual sins (in those who are of age) in addition to original sin as the basis for the predestination to punishment).

[If anything, most Calvinists, and this is esp. true of modern Calvinists, are (practically speaking) far less radical than St. Augustine in how they work out their affirmation that God may predestine to damnation apart from any actual sin--e.g. Piper who believes that God has predestined to grace all who die in infancy or prior to birth (although he rightly affirms that none deserve this grace)]

Of course, I happen to disagree with St. Augustine position that there is a necessary foreordained condemnation for the infant who dies without Baptism. I hold out strong hope for God's mercy on all infants and unborn who die without Baptism.

Also, I'll have a difficult time believing that St. Fulgentius contradicted St. Augustine's affirmation of predestination to punishment on the basis of original sin.

God Bless,
W.A. Scott

p.s. Whether or not Luther was supralapsarian is an interesting question that I would enjoy discussing if I had more time. Regardless, his views on reprobation were at least as severe as those of Calvin.

Nick said...

This is a good post with an important distinction made that many people don't get. Good job.

St John Chrysostom is famous for pointing out a similar distinction regarding the Judgment scene in Matthew 25, where Jesus says Heaven is prepared for the good guys, yet the evil doers will go to "the fire prepared for the devil and his angels," pointing out that the latter does not say "the fire prepared for you" but rather simply the devil and angels.