Thursday, August 27, 2009

We are God's Chosen Few

Jonathan Swift penned this piece of satire centuries ago.

We are God's chosen few ;
All others will be damned.
There is no place in heaven for you :
We can't have heaven crammed.

This attitude seems prevalent still today.


Dan Lower said...

Is this a criticism of Exclusivist soteriology, or of attitudes that often accompany it?

I know you said "attitude", not "system" but I know sometimes people, including smart people like yourself, use one word when they also sort of mean another.

Though I'm not going to pretend that attitudes have no correlation to or encouragement from soteriological outlooks, I find myself personally believing that taking exclusivism seriously would mean the utmost in witness and love to others, especially those 'on the outside'. Though I am no longer an Exclusivist, I think that the good ones are those who would be fighting the attitude that Swift is mocking.

Anonymous said...

No, Victor's still trying to critique calvinism. Having been unable to do so through rigorous philosophical argumentation, he's resorted to quoting Jonathan Swift's satiric pieces. Victor, of course, also cannot find this "attitude" among any Christians either. But let's not bother with the details. Slandering his brothers and sisters doesn't place high on the list of this liberal's priotities.

Mike Darus said...

One of the "problems" with exclusivist soteriology is how difficult it is to determine whether someone is "IN", "OUT", or "NOT QUITE IN." There is a messy parable about wheat and chaff that indicates you can't know. And then there are those nasty verses in I John that, if taken seriously, mean you can't even be sure of yourself.

It is only those that have replaced the Bible with their theological system that can be smug.

Victor Reppert said...

This is not a critique of Calvinism per se. It doesn't follow from Calvinism that people know Calvinist to be elect and others not. However, it is a critique of some attitudes which can spin off from Calvinism, though they can spin off from other views as well.

The essay that questioned whether C. S. Lewis went to heaven is an example of the attitude Swift was satirizing.

Gregory said...

Actually, it's interesting how "Anonymous" tacitly concedes that Orthodox doctrine is confirmed/established or disconfirmed/rejected by the Ratio Magisterium, rather than Scripture alone.

But, then he has the temerity to criticize Dr. Reppert by that vile entity, never more hated than by the Calvinist: autonomous reason

Unfortunately for the Calvinist, neither Scripture, reason, the Church Fathers nor the early Creeds take their point of view.

The Fathers (including Augustine), for instance, rejected determinism because of their commitment to freewill. The Cappodocian Fathers (i.e. St. Gregory of Nyssa, St. Basil, St. Gregory of Nazanzien) and St. John Chrysostom all affirm a libertarian concept of the human will. These same Fathers, also, reject Augustine's idea of "original sin"....which came about by Augustine's poor exegetical work of Genesis, which was based primarily on poorly translated Latin texts. But Augustine's role, in the articulation of doctrine, is tertiary--and, in the West, his importance is over exaggerated--in comparison with the Cappodocians. Augustine is known, primarily, as the fountainhead of Medeival Philosophy, not of Orthodox doctrine.

Secondly, the Creed implicitly rejects Calvinism with this statement:

"And He shall come again to judge the living and the dead"

which suggests that God's will is not, in fact, done. Otherwise, God would have no need to judge. Furthermore, Christ would not ask us to pray "Thy will be done, on heaven as on earth", if, in fact, His will is done. We petition God so that His will might be done, not that it absolutely will be. Conditional existence, and the reality of free choice, are the reasons why Christs asks us to make this request from God. Therefore, God does not "control whatsoever comes to pass". What's more, since He has given all men grace sufficient for repentance, then God acts rightly and justly in judging those whom refuse repentance. And hear the what the scriptures say:

"But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forebearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance. But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who 'will render to each according to his deeds.'" (Romans 2:2-6)

Libertarian freedom, obligation and personal responsibility are the basis of all judgment, whether human or Divine.

And there's so much more I can say but writing space is limited.

Remember this: the Gull's wings have already been clipped at this blogsite....but that doesn't mean that the beak won't stop squawking.

Dan Lower said...

The Gull...?

Gordon Knight said...


I like your post, but I wonder about your claim that Augustine is not a determinist. I know he was not in _On Free Choice of the Will_ but I think he later gave it up and became such an anti-pelagian that in the end grace does everything.

I certainly think Augustine has had a pernicious influence on the Western church. I wish Gregory of Nyssa or Origin had that kind of influence.

I am also interested in the Eastern view of the Cross, and the attitude towards the atonement, which given my very limited reading, seems much preferable to the standard views bandied about in the west.

Steve Lovell said...

Whenever I check the blog I keep seeing the title of this post as including the words "God's chosen Flew" ?!?