Moderate Monergism

St. Augustine of Hippo

A recent post at RTBP questioned the possibility of a calvinistic reading of Anglican standards. While Whitgift’s Lambeth articles indeed represent a strong calvinism, the later delegation sent by King James to Dort conveyed a weaker type. Evidently there were shades of opinion. Dr. Cary (below) somewhat elaborates upon these points discussing Augustine’s relation to the range of 16th and 17th century monergism, identifying the Bishop of Hippo with a moderate sort. English soteriology falls into this particular strain, making its classification as pure Arminianism or Calvinism strained. Suffice to say Anglican Articles are Augustinian, squaring nicely with the Henrician catechisms.

by Phillip Cary, Ph.D.

Synergism is just a Greek way of saying “co-operation,” which in turn is just a Latin way of saying “working together.” Paul uses the corresponding Greek verb when he describes himself and his colleagues as “co-working” (2 Cor. 6:1) with God as ambassadors for Christ, through whom God urges people to be reconciled to himself (ibid., 5:20). Monergism, a much more recent term, means to work alone, having no co-worker. So monergists are those who think that in some respect God works alone.

The crucial question is: in what respect? The standard Protestant view is monergism with respect to justification: God alone renders us just or righteous in his sight, without our co-operation. But most Protestants would add that sanctification is a co-operative enterprise in which our will and work have a necessary role to play, working together with the grace of God. So most Protestants are monergists about justification but synergists about sanctification. And since justification by faith alone is all that is necessary for salvation, most Protestants are also monergists about salvation.

Of course in order to be thoroughly monergist about justification one must also be monergist about the faith by which we are justified, understanding it to be a divine gift resulting from grace alone and not from human work. Luther, in effect, insisted on this type of monergism when he excoriated the medieval nominalist notion of “congruent merit,” according to which sinners work to acquire the gift of “first grace” (meaning roughly, the gift of conversion and true faith) by praying as well as they can, trying their best to “do what is in them” (facere quod in se est) even without grace. The term “synergism” seems to have come into use for the position rejected by the Lutheran orthodox theologians when they reaffirmed Luther’s doctrine in the Book of Concord in 1580 (see especially article 2). Later, Calvinists used it to describe the Arminian position that our free will has an independent role to play in accepting the gift of grace. Synergism, for both Lutherans and Calvinists, means the teaching that grace does not simply cause us to have faith, but rather makes an offer of salvation which it is up to us to accept or reject. Both Lutherans and Calvinists reject this synergism, and thus can aptly be labeled monergists with respect to the gift of faith.

The question of whether Augustine is a monergist or a synergist is more complicated. For one thing, even at his most monergistic, Augustine does not deny that we are active in our own salvation. Augustine is a monergist with respect to the origin of faith, for instance, in that he sees it as resulting from prevenient or “operating grace” rather than “co-operating grace” (his terms). But for Augustine this does not take away the role of human free will, for what prevenient grace does is precisely to move our wills so that they freely will the good. Hence for Augustine grace never undermines or replaces free will. In that sense he is never a radical monergist, as if the human will had no active role to play. On the other hand, he is indeed a monergist in a less radical sense, because for him the gift of faith is wholly the work of God, since even our freely willing to accept God’s gift is a work of grace alone.

So in that sense, Augustine is clearly a monergist with respect to the gift of faith, unlike the Arminians. Ultimately it is up to God, not us, whether we freely choose to accept what God has to give us. However—and here is the real complication—this does not make Augustine a monergist with respect to salvation. The reason why is that Augustine does not have a Calvinist concept of saving faith. For he does not share Calvin’s distinctive new doctrine about the perseverance of the saints, according to which everyone with true (i.e., saving) faith is sure to persevere to the end and be eternally saved. For Augustine, you can have a perfectly genuine faith but not persevere in faith to the end of your life. There is no guarantee that believers will not lose their faith and thus ultimately be damned. Hence no matter how true your faith presently is, that does not mean you are sure to be saved in the end. Consequently, Augustine’s monergism about faith does not make him a monergist about salvation.

About salvation Augustine is a synergist, explicitly drawing a contrast between “operating grace” (i.e., the grace that works in us), which is monergistic in its granting the gift of faith, and co-operating grace (i.e., the grace that works with us), with which we are co-workers in the journey of faith, hope and love by which we come to eternal life in the end. In Calvinist terms, Augustine is a synergist about sanctification like most Protestants, but because he thinks sanctification is necessary for salvation unlike most Protestants, he ends up being also a synergist about salvation—despite being a monergist about faith.

A good illustration of Augustine’s distinction between operative and co-operative grace is the late treatise On Grace and Free Will, 33. Addressing the issue of how a person comes to love God (in Calvinist terms, the issue of sanctification rather than justification) he asks, “Who was it that had begun to give him his love, however small, but He who prepares the will and perfects by his co-operation [synergism!] what He initiates by his operation [monergism]? For in beginning [i.e. in the initial choice to have faith, from which charity springs] He works in us that we may have the will, and in perfecting works with us when we have the will.” In Augustinian terms: prior to any co-operation of our will, operative grace produces faith (i.e., a good will) in us, then from faith springs charity, which works together with the (co-operating) grace of God in the journey to eternal life. In Calvinist terms, again, this amounts to monergism about faith, but synergism about salvation.

However, as I mentioned above, there is a radical sense of the term monergism in which Augustine is not a monergist at all. This is the sense in which “grace alone” excludes any exercise of human free will, even one which is wholly a gift of prevenient grace. One reason often given for this radical monergism is a yet more fundamental monergism—call it “absolute monergism”—in which the answer to the question “monergism with respect to what?” is: “absolutely everything.” This amounts to a denial of the existence of what the Christian tradition calls second causes. It means that only God, the First Cause, has real power, and that neither human free will nor anything else in creatures is a real cause of anything that happens.

This absolute monergism could thus also be called “mono-causalism.” It is contrary not only to Augustine and the whole Catholic tradition, but also to the Westminster Confession, which teaches that the eternal decree of God by which he does “ordain whatsoever comes to pass” works in such a way that “neither is God the author of sin … nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established” (3.1; cf. also 5.2). The point of this teaching, which is couched in the language of Thomas Aquinas and agrees with his doctrine, is that God’s working in all things does not mean that creatures have no power to work, but rather that the creatures’ power, will and work derive from the work of God, and precisely for that reason are real, just like all God’s works. God’s primary causality therefore does not undermine or replace the secondary causality of creatures, including their free will. God has ambassadors, apostles and other servants with a will of their own and work to do, even while he is always indispensably at work in them. The two forms of causality are not incompatible or in competition with one another.

Mainstream Calvinism is thus at one with Catholicism in rejecting absolute monergism. The place to locate the difference between Catholicism and Calvinism concerning monergism is rather in the fact that the whole Roman Catholic tradition since Augustine is synergist about salvation. For Catholicism our works of love (made possible by operative grace in the beginning and aided by co-operative grace throughout) are necessary for salvation. That’s precisely the purport of Trent’s denial of the sola fide: faith alone is not enough for salvation without works of love (Decree on Justification, articles 10-11).

However, there is a division within Catholicism on the point about monergism with respect to faith. Whereas one important strand of Catholic theology, including Aquinas and the Dominican tradition, promotes an Augustinian monergism about faith, another strand, most powerfully represented by the 16th-century Jesuit Luis de Molina, defends a form of synergism about faith. Molinism is thus something like the Catholic form of Arminianism. In the De Auxiliis controversy around 1600, the Pope adjudicated between these two positions, decreeing that both were legitimate and neither side could accuse the other of heresy. This was of course not a relativist move: the two positions are probably irreconcilable, and if so then at least one of them is in error in some way. But the pope’s decree meant that such error is not heresy and does no harm to the faith, so the debate may continue but must do so in mutually respectful terms.

There is of course no one on earth to adjudicate between Catholics and Protestants. But perhaps it will help to be aware, at least, of the difference between absolute monergism and the more modest monergism about faith, justification and salvation which is the legacy of Luther and Calvin.

(Originally published 31 October 2006)

Dr Phillip Cary is Professor of Philosophy at Eastern University.

33 responses to “Moderate Monergism

  1. An excellent piece.

    From the Anglican point of view, I would add that the notion that God does not grant preventing (or operating) grace to all baptized Christians, and for that matter, at some time prior to the final judgment to everyone else amenable to cooperating grace, is contrary to Scripture as construed by the Consensus Patrum. Indeed, God desires the salvation of all and does not even desire the death of a sinner. Thus, to the extent that Augustine thought or implied otherwise, he simply was in error.


  2. I forgot to add that, the 39 Articles read in conjunction with the Book of Common Prayer preclude the possibility that Salvation and Justification can be conflated. To the contrary, Anglicanism considers that a saving faith must be lively–i.e. manifested by works of faith, not law. Indeed, an non-lively faith is a dead faith–i.e., not saving.


    • Augustine would agree on this point, Death.


      • Indeed. And this means, according to Dr. Carry, that not only formulary Anglican thought, but also Augustine’s thought, is inconsistent with “standard Protetantism,” according to Dr. Carry. This is so because “since justification by faith alone is all that is necessary for salvation, most Protestants are also monergists about salvation.”

        I can only conclude then, that Dr. Carry hedges with “most Protestants” in order to distinguish between (1) formulary Anglicans, who are Protestants and, who like Augustine, hold that Sanctification in addition to Justification is necessary for Salvation, and (2) Calvinist, Lutherans, and Anabaptists, who do not so hold.


      • Hello Death,

        Today most protestants are inconsistent, and, given the revivalistic roots of America, most favor Arminianism (see Mark Knoll’s America’s God). Going back to the older, confessional, and northern catholic (protestant) churches, you have a view that justification endows the promise while sanctification verifies the reward. Northern Catholics, unlike EO and RC, also seem to emphasize the forensic over the filial, giving the decree priority. Furthermore, good works are not credited for salvation, but are are the evidence,

        “Albeit that good works, which are the fruits of faith and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins and endure the severity of God’s judgement, yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and do spring out necessarily of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree discerned by the fruit.” (Article 12).

        Don’t you think the Two Books of Homilies should be included in the discussion?


  3. Finally, I would add that while the 39 Articles are most certainly susceptible to an Augustinian reading regarding preventing grace, and it is certain that Augustine’s writings would have been considered strongly by the Framers of the Articles, the Articles themselves do not seems to require the Augustinian view so capably explained by Dr. Cary. Moreover, when the Articles are considered with the BCP, the notion of any variety of unconditioned monergism is consistent with the English Reformation is exceedingly doubtful.


    • I agree… “it is certain that Augustine’s writings would have been considered strongly by the Framers of the Articles, the Articles themselves do not seems to require the Augustinian view so capably explained by Dr. Cary.”

      However, the Articles are more than “susceptible” to Augustinian opinion. Nor did the framers merely “consider” Augustine. The core of the Articles are both Western and Austinian, and though they might permit Arminian or Calvinist views, they only do so when truncated or otherwise modified. So, it’s really a reverse relationship. Though we might identify certain incongruities with calvinism, I cannot agree that Augustine falls into the same, marginal category. Nor is he at best a footnote to Anglican doctrine. That would imply too radical a break.

      I also do not understand how you might conclude justification is necessarily synergistic. While it is true that men, before a state of grace, possess a civil righteousness capable of good works, how does this refute a monergist take on justification? Are you claiming good works prepare men for justifying grace? If not, then what value are they for the purposes of justification? I would say ‘none’. As a consequence there is no first cause for man’s justification other than the grace of God, saving faith following new justice.

      And while the articles are silent regarding the nature of falling away or returning to grace, one cannot dogmatically conclude anything based upon silence. Omissions can slice both ways. The Henrician catechisms deal with this question by taking a pastoral detour, namely pointing the penitent to the sacraments as given by Christ. Isn’t this enough? So my last question is why try to explain what the articles do not? And why not live within the Western, Augustinian framework of justifying or preventing grace?

      Lastly, within your readings of Anglican standards (sic., the BCP and articles), where would Jewel’s “homily on justification” fit in? Or, is everything the Two Books say merely hortative, the opinion of a single divine (cranmer or jewel), or otherwise optional, etc.?


      • What is your evidence here, Charles? We know that the English Reformers had the works of Augustine at their finger tips, but we also know that they better libraries of the Greek Fathers than anyone in the Western world. And, had they intended to the English Church to be exclusively “Augustinian,” then (1) the Articles would surely have been more narrowly drawn; (2) the Prayer Book would also have been more narrowly tailored, and (3) the head of the English Church would simply have said that Augustine was the Father of the her communion, but instead she appealed to the consensus patrum, as did the Act of Uniformity.

        I fail to see any evidence in the Formularies that the English Reformers intended to restrict the C of E along exclusively Augustinian lines, as opposed to more generally patristic lines. Indeed, the general Western prejudice in favor of Augustine contra mundum is more a Roman and Reformed characteristic than an Anglican one.


      • Dear Death,

        I only said the standards are Augustinian in the area of soteriology. Forgive me if I implied otherwise, but I believe I claimed the articles (those pertaining to grace) have an Augustinian center of gravity. This is not the same as saying they are ‘exclusively’ Augustinian but heavily favor an Augustinian reading. Surely Arminian or Calvinist (e.g., amyraldism) views might be tolerated given slight modification. If it pleases you, rather than Augustine, we might call them ‘predestinarian Arminianist’, as my Lord Peter does. I have never gone so far either here or at RTBP to call any of the above schools ‘heretical’, and it somewhat surprises me you reverse the accusation of ‘exclusivity’. From the start I’ve been arguing the opposite (that the articles are wider than said). However, now that Augustine is indeed admitted a legitimate reading (though you seem to think somewhat marginal), I actually feel we’ve reconciled some differences. But, again, I ask you read RT Kendall’s Calvinism and the English Calvinists before hurling further bolts of heresy at more puritan Anglicans and continental reformers. I feel the language is too quick and endemical to northern catholicism.

        Now to answer your points (in no particular order)–
        (3) Just because a portion of the articles lean heavily or borrow language from a single divine or school doesn’t force a church to name themselves after that any particular doctor. Notice Article 29 actually quotes St. Augustine, but this doesn’t force the Church of england to call itself “Augustinian”. The articles have also borrowed heavily, if not verbatim, from both the Augusburg Confession and, according to Fr. Hart, article 19 is lifted from Calvin’s Christian Institutes. Likewise, the Ordinal has portions copied from Melanchthon’s German use. But this does not force to call ourselves “lutheran” nor “Phillipian” anymore than ‘Gregorian’ (by the influence of Sarum). In spite of these men, the church of england has always been what its been– the church of england, of apostolic origin, even before many of the Greek and Eastern ones. Is it surprising that Augustine of Hippo is given prestige in certain areas of doctrine after tGregory’s Roman mission in Canterbury? Or, should we be like the WRO and reject the entire post-schism/medieval period?

        These are questions of patrimony. As said before, the controversy between protestant reformers (or to use a more telling term, northern catholics) was not going back to the early church Fathers (of whom Augustine along with Jerome belong) but to what extent the scholastic dogmatics and medieval customs should continue. In this respect, the contests between protestants in England were really over worship. Look at Hooker’s defense. See the SLC which mandated WCF. What grievances and apologies are written there? When measured in this light, amongst ‘northern catholics’ CofE ranked the most conservative, not because of canon 1571, but because it left untouched those medieval rites and ideas that it believed did not impunge the sacraments and gospel. This is why adiaphora is so interesting…. and important.

        (1) Here you assume the Articles are not “narrowly” drawn. The 39 articles rule out both gracia congruity (article 13) and codignity (article 10). That pretty much wipes out merit or work with respect to justifying faith, giving reason why Hooker would say in a A Learned Discourse, “We recall also that the heresy of autonmous free-will was a millstone around the neck of Pelagians, but shall we judge as doomed to everlasting death all those fathers, especially in the Greek Church, who being misguided, died still holding to the error of free-will?” Good works and free-will are secondary causes, hanging upon or presupposing justifying grace. Article 10 says Christ’s preventing grace establishes our goodwill (or lively faith) toward Christ by which good works come. And, in Article 12, these works are evidences not causes of grace. And, I would think, the book of homilies would sew up remaining doubts since Article 11 plainly says, “Wherefore, that we are justified by Faith only, is a most wholesome Doctrine, and very full of comfort, as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification”.

        (2) If we assume, which BCP Anglicans do, the articles give a concise framework to understand the BCP, then why should the BCP be any more narrow? First, the prayer book is theologically informed, not neutral or indiscriminately liberal. Probably the communion office is a most dramatic example. However, given the prayer book continues with the rites and sacraments of the church, albeit in a new economy, I would say, along with Augustine, grace has a hierarch and sacramental context belonging to the church, namely public prayer, by which grace is mediated. This is contra later methodism (evangelicism) and other forms of revival. This gets back to the deep pastoral intention of the prayer book and articles. Articles 11-17 repeatedly use the word “comfort”, and rather the delve into the knotty points of predestination or preservation, the English divines would have us look to what Christ offers us– his promise affixed to sacraments. It’s in this sense predestination and justification (rather than free will and works) are said to be for “comfort”, and I am not sure how we can say we have a loving God without them given man’s dilemma in Article 9, “whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the Spirit; and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God’s wrath and damnation.”

        …What do you think about the Books of Homilies?

        On another topic, I am increasingly convinced that Anglican distinctives with respect to the East are summed by the councils of Frankfurt and Orange. I don’t think these councils were mistakenly concluded. Though neither exclusive to images or free-will, we have been more narrow than Eastern churches on these matters– limiting public reverences (e.g., altars, crosses, the sacrament, the Name) and insisting on prevenient grace before works (be it predestinarian amrinianism, amyraldism, or Augustinianism), for example.

        Again, admitting Augustine as a legitimate reading is good enough, though I would make a stronger case. I don’t think we can convince each other much more. I just wish we could stick to our patrimony, which is indeed western and apostolic. Our differences with other original protestants are really very little, resourcing patristics in the same humanist manner, together constituting a northern catholic movement, as Jewel described it in the Apology,

        “For we have overthrown no kingdom, we have decayed no man’s power or right, we have disordered no commonwealth. There continue in their own accustomed state and ancient dignity, the kings of our country of England, the Kings of Denmark, the kings of Sweden, the dukes of Saxony, the counts palatine, the marquesses of Brandenburg, the landgraves of Hesse, the commonwealth of the Helvetians and Rhaetians, and the free cities, as Argentine, Basil, Frankfurt, Ulm, Augusta, and Nuremburg; do all, I say abide in the same authority and estate wherein they have been heretofore, or rather in a much better, for that by means of the Gospel they have their people more obedient unto them. Let them go, I pray you, into those places where at this present through God’s goodness the Gospel is taught.”


  4. Of course the Articles expressly exclude the Roman doctrine of merits.

    My point is that Article X, while completely Augustinian in as far as it goes (which makes the Articles doubly exclusive of the doctrine or Merits, as you correctly point out), but it simply silent on a crucial matter of soteriology that Dr. Carry mentions in his article. And that crucial matter is whether the grant of preventing, or operating grace as Dr. Carry says, that is contemplated is limited and/or arbitrary.

    And, because sound logic indicates that, absent special circumstances, silence implies nothing one way, we cannot say whether Article X’s preventing or operating graces is (1) completely monergist–that is to say, arbitrarily limited by God alone, which is how Augustines monergism has been generally understood, as Dr. Carry correctly points out–or (2) conditioned on God’s foreknowledge regarding whether an individual would be freely amenable to preventing and cooperating grace–that is to say consistent with the fully synergist soteriology of the Church East and West at the time of and prior to Augustine’s assertions to the contrary. This is why I say that the Articles–e.g., Article X and Article XVII–are not subject to an exclusively Augustinian reading. Yes, visa vis Roman scholastic developments, the Articles reign things back at least to the western Augustinian status quo ante. But, at the same time, nothing within them suggests that we cannot go even behind Augustine. And that is precisely what the BCP, the Act of Uniformity, and Royal warrant imply.

    In sum, while I agree that the English Reformers employed Augustinian language as a shield against Roman accretion and false development, I disagree that the English Reformation’s soteriology was fully developed in the Articles or is identical to Augustine’s moderate Monergism–which he did, after all, cut from whole cloth. Rather, on all points of doctrine, the formularies of the English Reformation call us back the consensus patrum, not Augustine, for a proper understanding of Scripture.


  5. Hi Death,

    “This is why I say that the Articles–e.g., Article X and Article XVII–are not subject to an exclusively Augustinian reading”

    …that’s fine. I can live with that, and I think somehow we are agreeing. BTW. merit is an error of the East as well. By merit I mean works that justify (not just the RC enormity of saint-merit). Remember, Hooker called this an error of the Greeks.

    Meanwhile, I think the Homilies should be considered in terms of a larger context. Of course the prayer boo but there remains the homilies. We should not be opposed to adding context especially when that context is commended by high authority. I am reading Two books of Homilies published by the The Prayer Book and Homily Society of England. The PBS book’s forward says,

    “The Homilies are the official sermons of the Church of England and are therefore of importance in determining its doctrine. Article 35 makes this connection clear, as also does Article 11 which states the doctrine of justification by faith only is “more largely expounded” in the Homily on that subject. One of the purposes of the Homilies was to put flesh upon the bones of the doctrinal statements of the 39 Articles.”

    Nor are the homilies easily dismissed. Keep in mind the earliest homilies– on justification, faith, good works, and man’s misery (pertaining to Articles X-XVII)– were approved by both King and convocation beginning 1542. The others follow by later uniformity acts and ecclesiastical canon. I will quote the homilies on grace, starting with the sermon on “the salvation of mankind” per the first book.

    And while I concede to you, Death, no explicit teaching on the manner of predestination, you will find the homilies provide a rather complete and unambiguous “moderate monergist” (Augustinian) system where grace before faith is plainly instructed, making “arbitrary” election difficult (though not impossible). This is what I meant by Arminianism being possible but, like calvinism, requiring contortions. Also, note certain distinctives setting the homilies apart from later confessional calvinism. But this was not unique to England, also found in the German Philipist or Reformed. Anyway, let me quote the homilies.

    From the homily on the salvation of mankind:

    “First, you shall understand that, in our justification by Christ, it is not all one thing, The office of God unto man, and the office of man unto God. Justification is not the office of man, but of God; for man cannot make himself righteous by his own works, neither in part, nor in whole: for that were the greatest arrogancy and presumption of man, that Antichrist could set up against God, to affirm that a man might by his own works take away and purge his own sins, and so to justify himself. But justification is the office of God only; and is not a thing which we render unto him, but which we receive of him; not which we give to him, but which we take of him, by his free mercy, and by the only merits of his most dearly beloved Son, our only Redeemer, Savior, and Justifier, Jesus Christ. So that the true understanding of this doctrine– We be justified freely by faith without works, or that we be justified by faith in Christ only– is not, that this our own act, to believe in Christ, or this our faith in Christ, which is within us, doth justify us, and deserve our justification unto us– for that were to count ourselves to be justified by some act or virtue that is within ourselves-– but the true understanding and meaning thereof is, that, although we hear God’s word and believe it; although we have faith, hope, charity, repentance, dread, and fear of God within us, and do never so many good works thereunto; yet we must renounce the merit of all our said virtues, of faith, hope, charity, and all our other virtues and good deeds, which we either have done, shall do, or can do, as things that be far to weak and insufficient, and imperfect, to deserve remission of our sins, and our justification. And therefore we must trust only in God’s mercy, and that sacrifice which our High Priest and Savior Christ Jesus, the Son of God, once offered for us upon the cross, to obtain thereby God’s grace, and remission, as well of our original sin in baptism, as of all actual sin committed by us after our baptism, if we truly repent and turn unfeignedly to him again…So that our faith in Christ, as it were, saith unto us thus: It is not I that take away your sins, but it is Christ only; and to his only I send you for that purpose, forsaking therein all your good virtues, words, thoughts, and works, and only putting your trust in Christ.” p. 17-18
    “In these foresaid places, the Apostle toucheth specially three things which must go together in our justification. Upon God’s part, his great mercy and grace: upon christ’s part, justice; that is, the satisfaction of God’s justice, or the price of our redemption, by the offering of his body, and shedding of his blood, with fulfilling of the Law perfectly and thoroughly: and upon our part true and lively faith in the merits of Jesus Christ; which yet is not our’s but by God’s working in us” p.14
    “Truth it is, that our own works do not justify us, to speak properly of our justification: that is to say, our works do not merit or deserve remission of our sins, and make us, of unjust, just before God” p. 18
    “And, because all this is brought to pass through the only merits and deservings of our Savior Christ, and not through our merits, or through the merit of any virtue that we have within us, or of any work that cometh from us; therefore, in that respect of merit and deserving, we foresake, as it were, altogether again faith, works, and all other virtues. For our own imperfection is so great, through the corruption of original sin, that all is imperfect that is within us, faith, charity, hope, dread, thoughts, words, and works; and therefore not apt to merit and deserve any part of our justification for us.

    The homily also shares a caveat for baptismal regeneration (another Anglican distinctive?). There is a strong pastoral current, Cranmer always pointing us back to sacrament and word rather than vain speculations, making the promise larger than God would have, or other enormities. While classical Anglicans may appear very close to the Calvinist or Lutheran gospel, this is due to their relative affinities to Austin. Nonetheless, our soteriology presses distinction by wisely remaining silent on pointy questions, prefering the pastoral counsel of preaching (sic., Of Declining from God), confession, and sacraments. Here one might construe the Anglican take on baptism:

    “Insomuch that infants, being baptized and dying in their infancy, are by this sacrifice washed from their sins, brought to god’s favour, and made his children, and inheritors of his kingdom of heaven. And they, which in act or deed, do sin after their baptism, when they turn again to God unfeighnedly, they are likwise washed by this sacrfice from their sins, in such sort, that there remaineth not any spot of sin, that shall be imputed to their damnation. This is that justification, or righteousenss..”


    • Yes, justification is by God only, but that still does not address whether God withholds preventing or operating grace (a) at all; and if so (b) whether he does so arbitrarily or becasue he has foreseen that the gift would be freely rejected by a particular recipient.

      In sum, I don’t see how either the Articles or Homilies get us closer to throughly the Augustinian in the sense of claiming that God arbitrarily withholds preventing grace. To the contrary, both the language and tenor of the Collects in the BCP reaffirm scriptural langue that indicates that God abandons no way by His unilateral choice.

      * * * * *

      With regard to Orthodoxy, not that I disagree, but what in particular are you pointing too when the East accepts a doctrine of Merits.


  6. Charles, your comments in the course of the discussion between you and DB are most clear and, I think, fair regarding the reading of the Articles, their relation to the BCP, and the importance of the Homilies (justification homily by Jewel?, not Cranmer). Although I would go a bit further in making the case that an Arminian view of the Articles can only come from a strained reading, I nonetheless think you are approaching this with a view to right doctrine as taught in the above and with a charitable spirit.



  7. Hi Death and Jack,

    I’m reading the homilies beginning with Cranmer’s Salvation of mankind, et al. I’ll try to post relevant quotes either to the comment above or others below.

    A very important point, Death. As you read some of these comments pertaining to the homilies, time permitting, notice God’s justifying grace (i.e., remitting sin and declaring righteousness) is rather active. The first book’s homily “of falling from God” asserts the Lord may chose to withdraw his grace, and rather than forgive, actually abandon man to sin or wrath. This would probably be ‘arbitrary’ kind (God defending his justice after man’s refusal). But I am seeing, especially in Article 16, a soteriology that challenges Arminian as well as Calvinist. Q: Does God ‘make’ men anymore evil by abandoning them to wickedness than if the Lord passes over the same in election? I’ll quote the homily below perhaps demonstrating how both the so-called arminian, like the infralapsarian-calvinist, propose a wrathful God, abandoning certain men to sin. Where one is after the fall, the other is after baptism. Which is worst?:
    Sermon of Falling from God

    “And now, forasmuch as thou hast cast away the word of the Lord, he hath cast away thee, that thou shouldest not be King” p. 54
    “First, the displeasure of God towards us is commonly expressed in the scripture by these two things; by shewing his fearful countenance upon us, and by turning his face or hiding it from us. By shewing his dreadful countenance is signified his great wrath; but by turning his face or hiding thereof if, many times, more signified; that is to say, that he clearly forsaketh us, and giveth us over” p. 54
    “So when God doth shew his dreadful countenance towards us, that is to say, doth send dreadful plagues of sword, famine, or pestilence upon us, it appeareth that he is greatly wroth with us: but when he withdraweth from us his word, the right doctrine of Christ, his gracious assistance and aid, which is ever joined to his word, and leaveth us to our own wit, our own will and strength; he declareth then that he beginneth to forsake us.” p. 55
    “Finally, if these do not yet serve, he will let us lie waste; he will give us over; he will turn away from us; he will dig and delve no more about us; he will let us alone, and suffer us to bring forth even such fruit as we will; to bring forth brambles, briers, and thorns, all naughtiness, all vice; and that so abundantly, that they shall clean overgrow us, choke, strangle, and utter destroy us” p. 57
    “So that when he doth not strike us; when he ceaseth to afflict us, to punish or beat us; and suffereth us to run headlong into all ungodliness and pleasures of this world that we delight in, without punishment and adversity; it is a dreadful token that he loveth us no longer, that he careth no longer for us, but hath given us over to our own selves”. p. 57
    “that he destroyeth such presumer many times suddenly” p. 59
    “and after he will take away from us all his aid and assitance, wherewith before he did defend us from all such manner of calamity” p. 56

    But Cranmer assures us God does take back the penitent confessor (p. 58), “they will not be persuaded in their hearts, but that either God cannot, or else he will not, take them again”, and (p. 59), “as well they should believe the Law, as the Gospel…they should believe damanation to be threatened to the wicked and evil-doers, as salvation to be promised to the faithful in word and works: as well they should believe God to be true in one, as in the other”. Pages 58-59 also include arguments against calvinist perseverance, which Cranmer says, “The other, hearing the loving and large promises of God’s mercy, and so not conceiving right faith thereof, make those promises larger than God ever did”.

    The pastoral nature of the homily is throughout, where Cranmer repeatedly points to the office of God’s Word preached for the sake of correction:

    “But when we begin to shrink from his word, not believing it, or not expressing it in our livings; first he doth send his messengers, the true preachers of his word, to admonish and warn us of our duty” p. 55
    “Ye have also learned in what misery that man is, whichis gone from God: and how that God yet of his infinite goodness, to call again man from that his misery, useth first gentle admonitions by his Preachers; after he layeth on terrible threatenings” p. 56

    I do not see the system proposed by our Articles especially convenient for either calvinism or arminianism. Rather the two tend to be reactions to eachother, sadly. I am much happier with the protestant soteriologies before Dort which tended to keep to historical Augustinianism.


    • Charles,
      Recently I posted on my blog, in three installments, Cranmer’s Sermon of Salvation… along with a brief introduction for each part. I have been reading through the homilies and finding them to be vital to a fuller understanding of the Articles, the BCP, and I would say the Christian life.

      This is a link to part 1:

      God bless,


      • By the way, I plan on posting several of the other homilies, especially 1,2,4, and 5. The homily above is #3. Also in Book Two, Jewel has a number I may post, especially having to do with the church.



      • Dear Jack,

        Awesome! Now compare them to the Henrician Catechisms, either Necessary Doctrine and Erudition 1543 or The Insitution of Christian Man 1537. You’ll discover a historical Augustinianism that escapes both the (complete) Arminianist and Calvinist views. Notice knotty questions of predestination and perseverance are skipped for pastoral council. Cranmer always points us back to the word and sacrament of the Church. After reading the Homilies (finally!), I noticed Cranmer reversed nothing said under Henry, and future elaborations are brief.

        The problem is people mistaking historical Augustine for Calvin or Arminius. This is understandable because of Augustine turns out to be a ‘middle position’ between the two, or, more accurately, the bracketing of Calvin and Arminius on Austin’s flanks. The more I think of it, the more the pair appear symbiotic twins. Regardless, we live with both exaggerations today, making room, perhaps, for less contentious counterparts?

        Thanks Jack!


  8. Good Works Annexed to Faith
    This was a great homily explaining article 13, namely why works are not pleasant to God prior to faith. It was said elsewhere that these works are still ‘good’ (perhaps in the civil sense?), but according to the Homily without faith they are still dead,

    “For as a branch cannot bear fruit of itself, saith our Savior Christ, except it abide in the vine, and you are the branches: he that abideth in me.” 31
    “Faith giveth life to the soul; and they be as much dead to God that lack faith, as they be to the world whose bodies lack souls. Without faith, all that is done of us is but dead before God, although the work seem never so gay and glorious before man.” 31
    “He that doth good deeds, yet without faith, he hath no life.”

    Surprisingly, the last section of the Cranmer’s homily was a very good defense of adiaphora vs. regulativism. Had to post it.


  9. Sermon of the Misery of all Mankind

    the fall renders mankind guilty for Adam’s sin..

    “He [mankind] weigheth rightly his sins from the original root and spring-head; perceiving inclinations, provocations, stirrings, stingings, buds, branches, dregs, infections, tastes, feelings, and scents of them to continue in him still. Wherefore he saith, Mark and behold, I was conceived in sins: he saith not sin, but in the plural number, sins; forasmuch as out of one, as a fountain, spring all the rest” p.9

    Our nature has no good and is totally (not utterly) depraved

    “For ourselves we be crab-trees, that can bring forth no apples. We be of ourselves of such earth, as can bring forth but weeds, nettles, brambles, briers, cockle, and darnel.” p. 10
    “Let us know our own works, of what imperfection they be: and then we shall not stand foolishly and arrogantly in our own conceits; nor challenge any part of justification by our merits or works…Le us therefore not be ashamed to confess plainly our state of imperfection: yea, let us not be ashamed to confess imperfection, even in all our own best works. Let none of us be ashamed to say, with holy Saint Peter, I am a sinful man. Let us all say, with the holy Prophet David, We have sinned with our fathers; we have done amiss, and dealt wickedly.” p. 10
    “Hitherto have we heard what we are of ourselves; very sinful, wretched, and damnable. Again, we have heard how that, of ourselves and by ourselves, we are not able either to think a good thought, or work a good deed; so that we can find in ourselves no hope of salvation, but rather whatsoever maketh unto our destruction.” p. 12

    the benefit of these teachings regarding the misery of mankind

    “Thus we have heard how evil we be of ourselves; how, of ourselves, and by ourselves, we have no goodness, help, nor salvation; but contrawise, sin, damnation, and death everlasting: which, if we deeply weigh and consider, we shall better understand the great mercy of God, and how our salvation cometh only by Christ” p. 11

    “The Holy Ghost, in writing the Holy Scripture, is in nothing more diligent, than to pull down man’s vain-glory and pride; which, of all vices, is most universally grafted in all mankind, even from the first infection of our first father Adam” p. 7

    “In ourselves therefore may we not glory, which of ourselves, are nothing but sinful: neither may we rejoice in any works that we do; all which be so imperfect and impure, that they are not able to stand before the righteous judgment-seat of God: as the holy Prophet David saith, Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord; for no man that liveth shall be found righteous in thy sight. To God therefore we must flee; or else shall we never find peace, rest, and quietness of conscience, in our hearts.” p. 11


  10. Some Conclusions:
    After reading the 1547 homilies, not only am I more convinced the ‘gravity’ of the CofE’s soteriology is Augustinian, but it is readily neither calvinist nor arminian.

    I agree with Death on the following points:
    * Confessional, 5pt calvinism is not part of Anglican standards.
    * But neither is dutch Arminianism, albeit Arminianism likely better approximates the standards than 5pt.

    English Austinism seems to hold to the following:
    1. Unlike Arminianism, it confesses total depravity
    2. It confesses a predestination that might be greater than ‘foreknowledge’ but is otherwise silent against the precisionism of the continent, frustrating Arminianist and Calvinist alike.
    3. Yet, unlike full-blown Calvinism, Anglican soteriology professes unlimited atonement, i.e, Christ died for all men. But this is not an abstract/cosmic grace but one connected to the specific ministry of the church. .
    4. Unlike calvinism, grace is not always irresistible. However, Anglicans do teach a strong preventing grace, located in baptism and preaching,creating a new nature in man that is capable of genuine free will. The degree preventing grace is persuasive, like the manner of predestination, is silent.
    5. And, unlike calvinism, men can reject the salvation/grace of God, falling from grace after baptism, even delivering themselves into everlasting damnation.

    For me, how Anglicanism really differs from Calvinism is the location of justification in the work of Christ’s ministry, namely a deep tie to sacraments and preaching offices which the Promise is normally attached. Unlike the continent, it’s impetus and birth owes less to academic disputation but more to pastoral concern.


    • I think I largely agree here:

      I cannot see how andy self-respecting Calvinist, Thomist, Arminian, or Molinist would have left Articles X and XVII in their present form–though they might try to argue that these two articles are “not inconsistent” with their peculiar views. Indeed, the former two would have surely have used language excluding a libertarian understanding of free-will, whereas the later two would surely have mentioned divine foreknowledge or scentia media.

      That being said, I still see ambiguity in the Articles’ soteriology because either an Augustinian or an pre-Augustinian classical synergist could easily have written both Articles X and XVII as rudimentary statements. And while the best commentators–Bicknell, Browne, Moss–argue that the English Reformers were probably working from Augustinian presuppositions, the superiority of British greek-language patristic learning–thanks to Bishop Grosseteste and Archbishop Theodore–can never be forgotten.

      Hence, drawing from the Anglican rule that the consistent mind and voice of the early Fathers must prevail, which is implicit in the Act of Uniformity and explicit in the reflections of the Head of the Church of England at the time of the English Religious Settlement, I think that peculiar Augustinian innovations must give way to the consensus patrum for mere Anglicans.


    • Charles,

      This is as fine a summary of Anglican soteriology as I have read, especially the tie between justification and the power of the keys.




    • You just described Lutheranism.


      • Hi Jen,

        Perhaps…. The closest approximation to the continent is the Bucer-Melanchthon “school”, summed by the Augsburg Variata and Cologne Consultation. These are often overlooked confessions, penned by Philip and Bucer to bridge differences between Reformed and Lutheran. A similar position was anticipated earlier in Wittenburg that the Ten Articles and later 42 Articles were based upon. What’s important about this orbit of confessions is they niether take a full Lutheran or Reformed position, yet they were intended to somewhat bridge both. High Virtualist on sacrament, adiaphora on ceremony.

        Where England (during the Settlement) differs from the Lutheran is of course in the area sacrament, fully rejecting Lutheran ubiqiuty. But also England differed from Germany through the conventional retention of the episcopacy w/ a very mild editing of the Mass. If you read Luther and Melanchthon, however, these elements were mostly treated as ‘adiaphora’. This also was the attitude of 16th century CofE (excluding the Marians and Gardinerites) probably until the 1630’s when a more catholic position was acquired. But these were not considered as areas of doctrine proper. In doctrine, Lutherans and CofE mainly agreed, though disagreeing on sacrament whereupon England chose a phillipist if not high calvinist view. See my apologetic links on sacrament, particularly Novak, and note Bishop Robinson’s similar essay on high virtualism at his blog Old High Churchman.


  11. I want to spruce this up a bit, but Nicholas, before his site is closed, actually has compiled some excellent sermons and studies on Anglican ‘faith and works’. Comfortable Words was an amazing website for collating the thoughts of the best Anglican divines between the 16th to 19th centuries. CW sums Anglican thought well.


  12. Dear Death,

    You lost me on the last paragraph. Otherwise, I accept an intrinsic broadness given a number of influences both practical and theological in the development of the settlement standards. Where I disagree is how ‘mere Anglicanism’ ought to locate itself in relation to over one-thousand years of western patrimony. IMHO, the CofE mostly continues with the Augustinian consensus of the found in the West and especially the late-medieval period. That seems to be the majority opinion. The Act of Uniformity (1571 canon) you speak about has less than full authority with respect to Crown and convocation– even less than the Homilies. However, that is resolved by looking at other documents like the preface to the Ten Articles. But, it seems odd, exegetically speaking, to swap more specific documents for wide, general statements. For instance, when the Ten Articles claim England’s doctrine is the same as the Catholic fathers, the Ten Articles do not stop there but elaborate upon the Catholic faith through the articles themselves. We are not left empty-handed, and should always ask, ‘what is the immediate context?’ Between the first book of homilies and Henrician catechisms (all finished before Edward), we can build a rather explicit background for the 39 Articles. We should also keep in mind, the Crown (Elizabeth I), at the time of the Settlement, followed rather doggedly her father’s churchmanship which was easily Augustinian (strong on original sin and preventing grace), at least if we go by the ten articles and two catechisms appointed during Henry VIII’s reign. Also note, the first Book of Homilies reads the same as Necessary Doctrine (and Christian Institution before), but of course these are only written five years apart. Anyway, it’s somewhat an exegetical error to exchange what is otherwise plain and ready for what is less specific and distant. The standards indeed assume the Catholic fathers, but they also explain this faith, favoring the Augustinian gravity.
    TULIP Chart
    Above is a summary of Anglican, Arminian, and Calvinist relation with the notorious TULIP schema. You’ll see how Anglicanism can be easily confused with one or the other. Note: the Y/N is inserted where Anglican doctors have chosen relative silence in standards, therefore allowing the particulars to cut either way according to pastoral need. Too often we turn these less exact areas into academic debates, if not party struggles, when they more properly belong to the realm of pastoral wisdom. It would be nice if Anglicans could keep the admonition given by Cranmer in the 1547 book when it comes to those more secret matters. This is a real gem,

    “All men be admonished and chiefly preachers, that this high matter they be looking on both sides, so attemper and moderate themselves, that neither they so preach the grace of God, that they take away thereby free will, nor on the other side so extol freewill, that injury be done to the grace of God” (p. 363)


    • The Act of Uniformity is dated 1559 and is the single most fundamental document of the Elizabethan Settlement.

      The fact that, over the years, many in the Church of England have ignored the Settlement’s clarion call to observe the consistent mind and voice of the early fathers–I have in mind here the Evangelical Party, the Anglo-Catholic Party, and the Liberal Party; none of whom are Anglicans proper but rather present or former members of the Lambeth Communion–does not change the fact that the Anglicans–i.e., those faithful to, and formed by, the formularies of the English Religious Settlement–do not chose Latin over Greek, or West over East, or Augustine over the Fathers in matters of doctrine.


      • Dear Death,

        Let me get back later today with you on the 1559 Uniformity Act. I must have a truncated copy? I am looking for something similar to the 1571 canon 6 therein, and I likely skimmed over it. Meanwhile, I think you are ignoring the context the Homilies and Henrician catechisms offer. They are standard Augustinian(strong on original sin: strong on preventing grace), backed by the greatest 16th-century authorities (and therefore deserving a privileged reading). We are not talking about later ‘church factions’ but the CofE at a critical point in time. You repeatedly offer Andrewe’s formula, but you seem to ignore how the Settlement divines appropriated Greek antiquity. It was not car blanche, and what came forward to debunk Rome is found in the standards themselves. We don’t need to go elsewhere. Aside from Hooker and Jewel’s explicit skepticism of Greek ‘free-will’, let’s see what else might be dug up. In expounding the Catholic faith (Hooker, Jewel, Cranmer, et al), they must have had their reasons for not making a stronger case for the Greeks against Augustine (who is quoted directly five times more than any other father– just do a count)?

        Perhaps, Death, a studied silence is the health of our Articles? Though formulary loyalty is very much needed today, John Seldon’s lament is refreshing,

        “IT was an unhappy division that has been made betwixt faith and works, — though in my intellect I may divide them, just as in the candle I know there is both heat and light. But yet put out the candle, and they are both gone; one remains not without the other. So it is betwixt faith and works. Nay, in a right conception, fides est opus; if I believe a thing because I am commanded, that is opus”.


  13. Charles,

    I have no doubt whatsoever that the New Learning that come over to the White Horse Tavern greatly influenced men like Cranmer and Jewel and, therefore, the Henrican Articles and Catechisms, especially the unratified Thirteen Articles. And assuredly, Augustinianism through a Luthern lens greatly influenced the drawing of the 42 Articles, which transmogrified into the 39 Articles and the Homilies.

    The point I am making is that the moment of Ratification of the 39 Articles trumps their own historical drawing. That is to say, the intent and meaning of the Articles given them in 1571–not necessarily intended by the English Reformers themselves in the developmental process–is what counts. And that intent was more or less the goal of Elizabeth I, the head of the English Church, to look to the consensus patrum on all doctrinal matters rather than Continental or Catholic scholasticism.

    The subtle, last minute changes made by royal hand to the Articles (1571) and the Book of Common Prayer (1559) cause the tapestry of English formularies–the Act of Uniformity indicates the rule of ancient conciliarity is the default standard–to recapture a broader patristic polestar than that of the merely western Augustinian synthesis. In sum, I am saying that, by adding a few touches here and there, Bess put her own spin on Cranmer and Jewel’s work, making it a tertium quid, neither Calvinist, Lutheran, nor Papist.


    • Dear Death,

      Are you saying the ‘developmental process’ was such that by 1571 the subtle and last minute changes given by Elizabeth signaled a shift away from New Learning (Augustinian) toward the ancient Greek Fathers (patristic polestars)? Even if this was the case, I am not sure you can separate ratification from development especially where it sufficiently articulates itself to the adjoining formulas (homilies, articles, prayer book). Or, are the texts radically ambiguous, receiving their true meaning not by author but audience? This is indeed an interesting thesis, perhaps even a post-structuralist one?

      However, there are at least two points to consider. 1. Whoever said the “new learning” failed to appropriate or otherwise remained ignorant of the Greek Fathers? The so-called “new learning” was indeed a return to patristics and original languages inaugurated by Erasmus. Even before vernacular bibles appeared, Henry VIII had appointed in the churches the NT greek to latin translation by Erasmus. So-called “new learning” was stepped in patristics, and these were used against Roman enormities, invoking older practices against Papist innovations. Jewel makes this method clear throughout his Apology, noting Rome’s departure from the Catholic fathers. I think the division between ‘patristics’ and ‘new learning’ is, therefore, somewhat misleading if basically unconstructive.

      2. Regarding those “subtle, last minute” changes by Queen Elizabeth, they are indeed important. But we might make too much of them, especially if when divorced from the context from which they grew. The Ornament Rubric itself offers a case-in-point, illustrating the conservative direction Elizabeth wished for England’s reformation. Where did it point? Naturally to her father, Henry, and not only does this make perfect political sense, but it also agrees with the religious education Henry provisioned for his children, e.g., tutors like Richard Cox. Furthermore, Henry represents a truly conservative reformation, and this is in part due to the more unified nature of Henry’s realm, allowing him to depart from the Latin church in orderly if not minimal ways, retaining much ceremony without harming the same institutional hierarchy. This is an interesting point, and though I have pretty much downplayed the alleged influence of the thirteen articles elsewhere, I feel the Ten and Six articles are far more representative of the kind of settlement Elizabeth sought. In keeping with the six, recall Elizabeth’s preference for clerical celibacy, and intervening restoration for certain 1549 liturgics (e.g., the words of administration). In these ways, Elizabeth was able to cast a lifeline to the prayer book that better incorporated the Sarum. I would argue, in this respect, her direction was more medieval than patristic. Meanwhile, her ‘new learning’ ministers were decisively the latter, more committed to humanism and, generally speaking, more willing to take the church toward a genuinely primitive practice. Perhaps more counter-intuitive, I would suggest Elizabeth put a brake on the ‘patristics’, preferring aspects of the medieval, and by doing so was able to essentially slow down the Reformation. Moreover, it’s this ‘medieval’ conservatism which separates English from European divines, eventually provoking the Prayer Book wars (SLC) by those who would follow the example of Swiss churches. Also note, the 1571 canon which you frequently quote was introduced by convocation yet pulled by Elizabeth. I hope this strengthens my point. Last, the 1559 Act of Uniformity, ‘of greatest authority’, etc., sadly lacks any direct reference to Catholic fathers. It is a rather dry document outlining penalties for non-conformity in open prayer, quoting standards of prayer book, canons, and other injunctions. It is a pretty clear-cut legal document with nothing resembling an elaboration upon patristic resourcement.

      3. Finally, when documents profess diligence to Catholic Fathers, isn’t the normal means of knowing the particulars this adherence provided by the contents of these same documents? Somewhere down the line we ought to assume the the homilies, 39 articles, bcp, and catechisms are adequate summaries of Catholic faith, taking their literal and grammatical meaning whether Augustinian or not.

      Is it ironic we discuss such matters on Augustine’s feast day, 8.28.10?

      Let’s review our area(s) of peace.
      1. We both feel 5pt calvinism is outside Anglican standards.
      2. However, not all calvinists can be called ‘double predestinarian’. We still disagree, I imagine, whether a modified calvinism, like Amyraldism, might conform to 39 articles, but I believe we can say a range of thought, even if all ‘heretical’, amongst so-called ‘calvinists’ existed prior to Dort. But this is moot, and it would only be a problem between you and I if one of us were Amyraldist since neither are calvinist.etc.
      3. We agree both Arminianism and Augustinianism might be read from the standards, but we disagree on their relative priority. You argue some form of Arminianism (not necessarily dutch) from an alleged consensus of fathers. I argue Augustine from the immediate precedent of medieval and Henrician treatises and catechisms.
      4. We actually both agree England’s Reformation strongly appealed to patristic thought. We disagree upon the extent this occurred, and how much Greek doctrine was appropriated. Essentially, we disagree on Augustine.

      I have to ask this last question: Are you willing to live with Augustine, as found in the Henrician catechisms and articles (if not 39 Articles and Homilies)? Can you have peace with it?

      I also respect, to a degree, your overall preference for the Greeks. In Scotland we see the victory of the non-juror separatists, and, in a sense, this strain of churchmanship, issued by men like Ken and Deacon, which finally prevailed in America and England by the early 20th century. In the last analysis, liberal catholicism was the inspiration behind the 1928 BCP revisions, as well as the landmark ecumenicalism achieved with Eastern Orthodoxy in the 1950’s. While I am somewhat ambivalent about the separatist non-jurors, it is amazing such a tiny leaven has spread so far within present-day (continuing) Anglicanism. In my study on Lux Mundi, I was compelled to admit the liberal catholics were indeed conforming, and their views– even the more political (especially about churc and state)– deserve comprehension. Otherwise, we do more harm than good by picking and choosing patrimonies, it always being preferable to harmonize differences. If they truly be orthodox (though pressing the envelope at times), then such a synthesis should be possible. Yet one challenge is rooting out the unfortunate conjoining of Lux Mundi and later Moot Group with modernists. It would be wrong to say they were all on the same page. Rather, they were a marriage of convenience who shared mutual goals against Evangelicals. I have many questions about all this.

      Is there anything you (or anyone else) might add to the points of peace above? I think on the main we agree, Death, but the priority of an Augustinian reading remains perhaps elusive. Meanwhile, I don’t see a reason to oppose ‘predestinarian Arminianism’, as Lord Peter calls it, and there is much from the Methodist tradition, for example, that is very admirable. Fletcher and other free-willers are favorites.


  14. Doubting Thomas

    I’d offer two slight disagreements to your table above, comparing Arminianism, Anglicanism, and Calvinism. First, Arminius and classic Armninians (such as Wesley) affirmed Total Depravity quite strongly. They would agree with the absolute necessity of prevenient grace in agreement with the Synod of Orange (529) and with the 39 Articles. Second, it seems to me based on Article XVI, that the official Anglican formularies would lean more to resistible grace, since the Article implies after baptism one “may depart from grace given”. It seems then that the formularies are more consistent with CLASSIC Arminianism (not the modern notion that often is really more semi-Pelagian) than with 5-point Calvinism. The only area of silence, as you point out, is on the question of whether election is conditional or not.

    Doubting Thomas


    • Thank you, doubting Thomas. Feel free to share any books or links which better describe the grades of Arminianism!

      Does this mean Arminius viewed himself within the terms of the Council of Orange?!?Arminius against semi-pelagianism .

      J.I. Packer offers a similar perspective, distinguishing Weslyan (english) and Remonstrant (dutch) arminianism. My guess was Arminius himself was closer to calvin than later Remonstrants who took a decidedly semi-pelegian turn. Quoting Fletcher, Packer says,

      “…Mr. W. is no Arminian, for he strongly asserts the total fall of man, and constantly maintains that by nature man’s will is only free to evil, and that divine grace must first prevent, and then continually further him, to make him willing and able to turn to God. . . .(6.) John Fletcher, Works (London, 1814), II:232-34. Proof of Fletcher’s statement on Wesley’s view of man’s fallenness, and of the importance Wesley attached to it, is abundantly supplied in The Doctrine of Original Sin according to Scripture, Reason and Experience (1757), his 100,000-word reply to Dr. John Taylor (Works, V:492-669).These sentences point us to the basic difference between the Remonstrant and the Wesleyan Arminianisms. In seeing man’s acts as contingent so far as God is concerned, and in thinking that moral agency presupposes “free-will” in the special and particular sense of indeterminacy of action under God, the two were agreed. In claiming that all men actually have power to respond to such revelation from God as reaches them, and that revelation sufficient to save actually reaches every man, whether he hears the gospel or not, they were agreed also. (Historic Calvinism would query all these positions.) But the two Arminianisms divided over the question whether capacity for response to God had been wholly lost at the fall. Wesley said it had, but held that it was now restored to every man as a gift of grace. The Remonstrants (not, it seems, Arminius himself) said it had never been wholly lost, and “total inability” had never been a true diagnosis of man’s plight in Adam. Sin, said the Remonstrants in effect, has made man weak in the moral and spiritual realm, but not bad: he still has it in him to reach out, however sluggishly, after what is right, and God in fact helps him, powerfully if not decisively, in each particular right choice. Wesley agreed that God helps to actualize an existing capacity in every right choice, but maintained that this capacity only existed now because it had been supernaturally restored to all the race in consequence of the cross. While accepting Remonstrant synergism, in the sense of seeing man’s cooperation in right action as something distinct from, and independent of, God’s energizing, Wesley insisted that the capacity to cooperate was itself a love-gift from God to sinners, and that the Calvinistic doctrine that original sin involves loss of this capacity entirely had not been a whit too strong.”

      Here’s an interesting article regarding historical aspects behind the 2003 Methodist-Anglican covenant in England, this chapter in part dealing with the relation of Arminianism/Calvinism to respective confessions (39 and 25 articles of religion). Here is an interesting quote from the above, and I wonder what some of you may think regarding the CofE silence on more exact points of soteriology:

      “First, it is not the views of individuals, however influential they may have been in the formation of our traditions, that need to be considered when churches seek to reach theological agreement with each other, but the official positions of the churches as expressed in their formularies or doctrinal standards. It is what our churches have said in their official teachings – and what they have not said – that counts; and that is what we are concerned with primarily here.”

      From the same document, an irenic dialogue between Wesley the moderate Calvinist Charles Simeon (1759-1836, vicar of Holy Trinity, Cambridge 1782-1836).

      Simeon opened the conversation, remarking that as they were known as Arminian and Calvinist respectively, they should be at daggers drawn. But before that happened, he wished to ask Mr Wesley a few questions.
      ‘Pray, sir,’ Simeon began, ‘do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not put it into your heart?’
      ‘Yes,’ replied Wesley, ‘I do indeed.’ ‘And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything that you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?’ continued Simeon.
      ‘Yes, solely through Christ.’…
      ‘Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God. Are you not in some way or another to keep yourself by your own power?’
      ‘What, then, are you to be upheld every hour and moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?’
      ‘Yes, altogether.’
      ‘And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God, to preserve you unto his heavenly kingdom?’
      ‘Yes, I have no hope but in Him.’
      ‘Then, sir, with your leave,’ replied Simeon, ‘I will put up my dagger again: for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification, my final perseverance. It is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be the ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.’19″ 19. L.E. Elliott-Binns, The Early Evangelicals (London: Lutterworth Press, 1953), pp. 2 06-207,

      …and here, 3/4 of the way down, you’ll find a slew of quotes from the Fathers supporting some calvinistic points. Even if you disagree with the organization of these quotes, it at least demonstrates Fathers had no systematic treatment on the fine points of soteriology. Nor did the 39 articles approach anything similar to WCF or Second Helvitic, rather dealing instead in a plain way with ‘justification by faith’, more like the Augsburg or Wittenburg confessions.

      Let’s also keep in mind the particular alignment of the Church of England with respect to the larger Reformation. This is a point today’s Anglican-puritans seem to forget, conflating WCF to 39. Instead, the 39 articles belong to an older set of protestant confessions (as mentioned above), establishing quite modestly ‘justification by faith’. Further questions– e.g., the extent of the atonement– are developments belonging to a later stage of Reformation, the particulars of which are apparent at Dort. Anglicans who confuse or conflate confessions need correction. But AngloCatholics do the same when they lump the same together as ‘calvinistic’. Both are ahistorical.


  15. Notes from a Sermon about Heresies:

    Hooker outlines the argument, where Rome offers the appearance of salvation, but evidently denies its force,

    “Our own proceedings in disputing against their works satisfactory and meritorious do show not only that they hold, but that we acknowledge them to hold, the foundation notwithstanding their opinion.”

    “Our countrymen in Rheims make the like answer, that they seek salvation no other way than by the blood of Christ, and that humbly they do use prayers, fasting, alms, faith, charity, sacrifice, sacraments, priests, only as the means appointed by Christ, to apply the benefit of his holy blood unto them: touching our good works, that in their own natures they are not meritorious nor answerable unto the joys of heaven; it cometh by the grace of Christ, and not of the work itself, that we have by well-doing a right to heaven and deserve it worthily.”

    “For, although this be proof sufficient, that they do not deny directly the foundation of faith, yet, if there were no other leaven in the whole lump of their doctrine but this, this were sufficient to prove that their doctrine is not agreeable with the foundation of Christian faith. The Pelagians, being over-great friends unto nature, made themselves enemies unto grace, for all their confessing that men have their souls and all the faculties thereof, their wills and the ability of their wills, from God. And is not the Church of Rome still an adversary unto Christ’s merits, because of her acknowledging that we have received the power of meriting by the blood of Christ? Sir Thomas More setteth down the odds between us and the Church of Rome in the matter of works thus:

    Like as we grant them that no good work of man is rewardable in heaven of his own nature, but through the goodness of God, that list to set so high a price upon so poor a thing, and that this price God setteth through Christ’s passion, and for that also they be his own works with us (for good works to God-ward worketh no man, without God work in him); and as we grant them also that no man may be proud of his works for his own imperfect working; and for that in all that man may do he can do no good, but is a servant unprofitable and doth but his bare duty; as we, I say, grant unto them these things, so this one thing or twain do they grant us again, that men are bound to work good works if they have time and power, and that whoso worketh in true faith most shall be most rewarded; but then set they thereto that all his rewards shall be given him for his faith alone, and nothing for his works at all, because his faith is the thing, they say, and forceth him to work well. (Thomas More, A Dialogue Of Comfort, I, 12)”

    “Their doctrine, as he thought, maketh the works of man rewardable in the world to come through the mere goodness of God, whom it pleaseth to set so high a price upon so poor a thing; and ours, that a man doth receive that eternal and high reward, not for his works, but for his faith’s sake by which he worketh; whereas in truth our doctrine is no other than that which we have learned at the feet of Christ: namely, that God doth justify the believing man, yet not for the worthiness of his belief, but for his worthiness who is believed; ”

    “God rewardeth abundantly everyone who worketh, yet not for any meritorious dignity which is, or can be, in the work, but through his mere mercy, by whose commandment he worketh. Contrariwise, their doctrine is that, as pure water of itself hath no savour, but if it pass through a sweet pipe it taketh a pleasant smell of the pipe through which it passeth, so also, before grace received, our works do neither satisfy nor merit; yet after, they do both the one and the other.”

    Here, Hooker rejects impantation or infusion of grace,

    “Indeed, they teach that our good works do not these things as they come from us, but as they come from grace in us; which grace in us is another thing in their divinity than is the mere goodness of God’s mercy toward us in Christ Jesus.”

    Our salvation, from beginning to end, is due to the mercy and graces of Christ, owing nothing to what we do, be it works or faith,

    “That those means of themselves being dead things, only the blood of Christ is that which putteth life, force, and efficacy in them to work, and to be available, each in his kind, to our salvation.”

    “Finally, that grace being purchased for us by the blood of Christ, and freely without any merit or desert at the first bestowed upon us, the good things which we do, after grace received, are made satisfactory and meritorious.”

    Yet Hooker will not go so far as to deny those who remain or join Rome the possibility of salvation, given merit is cast away in the end,

    “He saved us according to his mercy”; (Titus 3:5) which mercy, although it exclude not the washing of our new birth, the renewing of our hearts by the Holy Ghost, the means, the virtues, the duties which God requireth at their hands who shall be saved, yet it is so repugnant unto merits that to say we are saved for the worthiness of anything which is ours is to deny we are saved by grace. Grace bestoweth freely, and therefore justly requireth the glory of that which is bestowed.”

    “St. Augustine hath said, “Errare possum, haereticus esse nolo.” (“I may be mistaken, but I have not the will to be heretical.”) And except we put a difference between them that err and them that obstinately persist in error, how is it possible that ever any man should hope to be saved?

    Surely, in this case, I have no respect of any person alive or dead. Give me a man, of what estate or condition soever, yea, a cardinal or a pope, whom at the extreme point of his life affliction hath made to know himself, whose heart God hath touched with true sorrow for all his sins, and filled with love toward the Gospel of Christ, whose eyes are opened to see the truth, and his mouth to renounce all heresy and error any way opposite thereunto, this one opinion of merits excepted, which he thinketh God will require at his hands, and because he wanteth, therefore trembleth and is discouraged: “It may be I am forgetful or unskilful, not furnished with things new and old, as a wise and learned scribe should be,” (Matthew 13:52) nor able to allege that whereunto, if it were alleged, he doth bear a mind most willing to yield, and so to be recalled as well from this as from other errors — and shall I think, because of this only error, that such a man toucheth not so much as the hem of Christ’s garment? If he do, wherefore should not I have hope that virtue may proceed from Christ to save him? Because his error doth by consequent overthrow his faith shall I therefore cast him off as one who hath utterly cast of Christ, one who holdeth not so much as by a slender thread? No, I will not be afraid to say unto a cardinal or to a pope in this plight, “Be of good comfort, we have to do with a merciful God, ready to make the best of that little which we hold well, and not with a captious sophister who gathereth the worst out of everything wherein we err.” Is there any reason that I should be suspected, or you offended, for this speech?”

    “Is it a dangerous thing to imagine that such men may find mercy? The hour may come when we shall think it a blessed thing to hear that if our sins were as the sins of the pope and cardinals the bowels of the mercy of God are larger. I do not propose unto you a pope with the neck of an emperor under his foot, a cardinal riding his horse to the bridle in the blood of saints, but a pope or a cardinal sorrowful, penitent, disrobed, stripped, not only of usurped power, but also delivered and recalled from error and Antichrist, converted and lying prostrate at the feet of Christ; and shall I think that Christ will spurn him?”

    “Let me die if ever it be proved that simply an error doth exclude a pope or a cardinal, in such a case, utterly from hope of life. Surely, I must confess unto you, if it be an error to think that God may be merciful to save men even when they err, my greatest comfort is my error: were it not for the love I bear unto this error, I would neither wish to speak nor to live.”

    “I am not hasty to apply sentences of condemnation: I wish from my heart their conversion, whosoever are thus perversely affected. For I must needs say, their case is fearful, their estate dangerous, who harden themselves, presuming on the mercy of God towards others.”

    “I have cause to wish, and I do wish them as many blessings in the kingdom of heaven as they have forced me to utter words and syllables in this cause, wherein I could not be more sparing in speech than I have been. “It becometh no man,” saith St. Jerome, “to be patient in the crime of heresy.” 5 Patient, as I take it, we should be always, though the crime of heresy were intended; but silent in a thing of so great consequence I could not, beloved, I durst not be; especially the love which I bear to the truth in Christ Jesus being hereby somewhat called in question”


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