Tuesday, January 08, 2013

More on "Catholicity and Calvinism--Or Why Calvinism isn't a Dirty Word"

In reply to my earlier post,  "Catholicity and Calvinism--Or Why Calvinism isn't a Dirty Word" a commenter named Jose said,
I love how Calvinists always point out that "Semi-Pelagianism" was condemned by the Council of Orange yet leave out that so was Augustine's view of predestination, which is the same as the Calvinist view!!!! You call the Semi-Pelagians heretics on the basis that this council condemned them, but it condemned you too!!!
You can read the Canons of the Second Council of Orange (and it is a fairly short and easy read).  The one sentence in the Conclusion that Jose is referring to as condemning Augustine's view of predestination is this one:  "We not only do not believe that any are foreordained to evil by the power of God, but even state with utter abhorrence that if there are those who want to believe so evil a thing, they are anathema."

There is debate as to whether the Council is merely denying that God is the cause of evil, or whether it is condemning what would later be called the doctrine of "double predestination"--that some are predestined to eternal life and some to eternal damnation.  This doctrine is also known as "reprobation."  As for whether Augustine held a view regarding reprobation, Volume 2 of The Westminster Confession into the 21st Century makes the following point regarding the Westminster Confession, which pertains also to the view of Augustine and John Calvin:
In fact, the Confession does not use the term reprobation in any of its articles. This structure mirrors the formulations of other single-predestinarians such as Augustine (354-430), Thomas Aquinas (1224/5-74), or Heinrich Bullinger (1504-75). (pp. 492-493).
Although various statements by Augustine and Calvin have been the subject of much debate on this point, Augustine, Calvin, and the Westminster Confession are here regarded being in the "single-predestinarian" camp, and thereby not among those to whom the anathema of the Second Council of Orange is referring.  Also, the sixth session of the Council of Trent made extensive use of the Canons of the Second Council of Orange.  Had Augustine's teaching been seen as anathematized by Trent, it surely would have been noted.

John Hendryx, writing on the "Monergism" blog, maintains that the eleventh canon of the sixth session of Trent anathematizes both the Second Council of Orange and St. Augustine.  Hendryx also asserts that that the eleventh canon of the sixth session of Trent anathematizes both the Second Council of Orange and St. Augustine.

Disputing Hendryx's assertions, Bryan Cross, writing on the "Called to Communion" blog says, "Hendryx asserts that Canon 11 of the sixth session of Trent anathematizes the Council of Orange.  But he does not quote anything from the Council of Orange that is supposed to be incompatible with this Tridentine canon, or provide any evidence to substantiate his assertion."  Cross also disputes Hendryx's claim that Canon 11 of the sixth session of Trent anathematized St. Augustine.

My purpose here is not to sort out whether the Council of Trent contradicts the Second Council of Orange, though that is an important topic for exploration.  (Contra Cross's assertion, I do believe that there are elements in the decisions of Trent that reflect accretions to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church during the 1000 years that elapsed between Orange and Trent which confuse justifying and sanctifying grace, and the dilemma created by this confusion continues to be at the heart of Protestant-Roman Catholic dialogues on justification.) 

However, my point here is that Trent did not anathematize St. Augustine or the Second Council of Orange, and it is the teaching of Augustine and the Second Council of Orange that form the basis for much of Reformed and Anglican teaching on justification--and, more importantly, that the points of agreement between Augustine, the Second Council of Orange, and the Reformers constitutes the basis for Great Tradition theology, a theology that can express the mind of the whole Church on the most consequential aspect of Christian teaching--how we are saved.

(Readers may detect that I tend to consider Trent to play a problematic rather than a constructive role in recovering the teaching of the undivided Church.  Volumes have been written giving positive and negatives assessments of Trent, so I don't propose to deal with that question for the moment--though there are plenty of other bloggers who seem brave enough to try.  All I hope to do here and in future posts (as time permits) is to offer pointers toward how I believe we can work toward healing the sad divisions in Christianity (a topic I first touched on more than three years ago) and recovering the unity of the Church for which our Lord prayed.)

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