In a letter to a pastor, John Wesley, cautions him about his lack of reading: (link)
What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear to this day, is want of reading. I scarce ever knew a preacher read so little. And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it. [Your preaching] is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought. Reading only can supply this …
In the introduction to Athanasius’ On the Incarnation (amazon, online), C.S. Lewis talks about the importance of what we are reading (introduction). Particularly, he warns us against reading that is comprised of an “exclusive contemporary diet”, instead encouraging us to read books from the past (emphasis added).
There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. … this mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology.
A Calvinist writer, Randy Seiver, with whom I have engaged in discussion from time to time has written a post asking several questions about prevenient grace. Most of the questions center around how enabling grace works and whether it can be resistible.
I am not going to tackle these questions in this post. Instead I am going to tackle something he says in part of his opening statement. Before posing questions, Randy lays down two charges against those who reject Calvinism. The first is that they have a system built on philosophy. The second is that their system is not a biblical one.
I would like to pose a few “philosophical” questions about their position … . Since their position is a philosophical and not a biblical one, I should be permitted to ask what they call “philosophical questions.”
It is this set of charges that I want to address.
Before we begin we need to ask and answer two questions.
- What is philosophy?
- What does it mean to be Biblical?
John Chrysostom, a 4th century theologian, served as Bishop of Constantinople and was known for his preaching and ascetic lifestyle. What made him a noteworthy teacher was his ability and desire to be understood by the lay person and his rejection of allegorical interpretation.
Chrysostom predated the Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian debates that dominated the 5th century but was around during the disputes with the Manicheans.
The Manicheans were a heretical group that held to dualism. The founder claimed to be an apostle.
Augustine was a Manichean for nearly a decade before coming to Christ. He spent much of his early Christian experience refuting them in numerous works. At this time Augustine refuted the Manichean deterministic idea that “evils and sins are thereby connected, as by a sort of chain, to God” by arguing that actions that were determined and not performed through a willing agent did not deserve condemnation.
While ministering in Antioch, Chrysostom wrote Homilies (or sermons), which consist of verse by verse expositions of the Scriptures. Chrysostom, did not author major works against the Manicheans as Augustine did, but noted in his sermons those passages which these (and other heretical groups) wrongly interpreted. Continue reading