As we approach the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, we are looking at some of the people that have stood out in the history of the church. This past Sunday we focused on Justin Martyr.
Justin was probably a Roman Gentile, born early in the second century in the city of Flavia Neapolis located in Samaria. What we know of him comes primarily from his extant works or statements about him in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History
Justin was especially prominent in those days. In the guise of a philosopher he preached the divine word, and contended for the faith in his writings. (Eccl Hist 4.11)
Justin lived in the early 2nd century, spending most of his life under the reign of the Roman Emperors Hadrian and Antonius Pius.
Living in the early 2nd century, and traveling broadly as he studied philosophy, Justin would have learned about Christianity from people who were potentially taught by the apostles. Given his travels, he also would have a good understanding of the doctrines held across numerous locations. Thus, in Justin’s writings we find important descriptions of the practices and doctrines of the early church.
There are three extant works that are generally accepted as being written by him.
- First Apology, addressed to Antonius Pius, and generally dated between 150 and 157
- Second Apology, often considered as part of the First Apology
- Dialogue with Trypho, which defends Jesus as Messiah to those who are Jewish. It is usually dated around 160.
We are going through Christian Theology in Sunday school, and this week we were covering both the similarities and differences between Calvinism and Arminianism. We focused on two passages in Ephesians (1:4-6 and 2:8-9).
For he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world that we may be holy and unblemished in his sight in love. He did this by predestining us to adoption as his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the pleasure of his will— to the praise of the glory of his grace that he has freely bestowed on us in his dearly loved Son.
For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.
The emphasis in class was on how each group understands key words in Scripture like grace, faith, and election.
Each group uses these words – but they do not mean what the other group thinks they mean. Definitions for these words were explored using key documents like the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Canons of the Synod of Dort, and the writings of Arminius.
Here are the slides (pdf)
Came across an old post (2006) by Sam Storms today as I was drinking my coffee. Storms, a Calvinist and contributor to Parchment & Pen, notes that the two traditions – Calvinism and Arminianism – “share a considerable amount of common theological ground, even when it comes to the issue of salvation.”
In sum, the Wesleyan Arminian analysis of fallen human nature does not differ fundamentally from the Calvinistic one. So wherein do they differ? Why do Wesleyan Arminians affirm conditional election and Calvinists affirm that election is unconditional? The answer is what is called prevenient (or preventing) grace
Throughout the post Storms is fair and accurate in his presentation. He quotes from several Arminian theologians (Wesley, Oden, Thiessen) as he accurately describes prevenient grace as providing “people with the ability to choose or reject God.”
Presenting prevenient grace properly does not mean Storms agrees with it. As he sees it there are numerous problems. Most are rooted in suspending God’s sovereign work “on the will of man” and giving people a reason to boast about their part in salvation.