Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Limited Atonement in the History of the Church

On today's program I answered a listener question about limited atonement in the history of the church. I discussed the early church, the middle ages, and the Reformation. I made the argument that limited atonement is absent from the early and medieval church with the exception of Thomas Gottschalk.


Ryan said...

Thanks for this one. I always enjoy the podcasts dealing with church history. There's one point I'd like to disagree with however. It's not fair or accurate to cite Cassian as an example of "semi-Pelagianism". He wasn't completely consistent on this point, but there are places where he specifically denies a "semi-Pelagian" viewpoint. For example, there's one place in his thirteenth conference where he uses the analogy of a spark that's fanned into a flame. This, of course, on the surface, sounds semi-Pelagian. But then he continues to specifically state that God placed the spark there in the first place. This isn't to say that Cassian agreed with modern Lutheranism on all points. He definitely believed that the human will had an active role in conversion and perseverance. However, he doesn't seem to have thought that this role was independent of grace at any point. In any case, even his opponents (like Prosper of Aquitaine) held him in high regard.

Ryan said...

One other point, there is one good source I'm aware of for the doctrinal history of the early middle ages. This is Jaroslav Pelikan's book The Growth of Medieval Theology. It covers the period from 600-1300, and addresses all the major debates of the Carolingian and post-Carolingian period. It's a really good read.

Jordan Cooper said...


The way that Cassian is portrayed by Prosper is that he argues that most of the time, grace necessarily precedes the gift of faith, but that there are circumstances in which some approach God prior to grace being given. I can't say if this is an accurate picture or not (I have not read much of Cassian), but it's how Prosper reads him. And yes, I have read Pelikans work. That is an excellent volume. Thanks!

Steve Martin said...

Sort of like the language that Melancthon uses when he uses the word "assent".

God does it all. He died for all.

But not all will hear and come to a living faith.

And, of course, some insist on hanging onto the hem of Moses' robe ("3rd use" stuff).

No. God is at all. For all. That is Scriptural.

But many have fear…and cannot let go.