Saturday, August 13, 2011

Just Added - Pillars Of Grace

Steve Lawson's extensive work on the history of the doctrines of grace prior to Calvin and the reformation has now been added to my resource directory.

Steve Lawson

Category: Heroes, Puritans, And Reformers
Click Here To Order
The doctrines of grace are often known as the five points of Calvinism, but they were not the invention of John Calvin or his reforming cohorts of the sixteenth century. Rather, they are biblical doctrines, as Dr. Steven J. Lawson demonstrated in his book Foundations of Grace (2006). Now, in Pillars of Grace, Dr. Lawson shows that the doctrines of grace have been understood and taught sometimes in embryonic form, sometimes with great clarity throughout church history. From the time of the early church fathers to the years of the Reformers, there have been key men in the church, pillars as it were, who stood on the foundation of Scripture and upheld the truth of God's sovereign role in salvation. In Pillars of Grace, Dr. Lawson walks readers through the ups and downs of church history, profiling these voices for the truth. The inescapable conclusion is that the doctrines of grace are no innovation, but the consistent witness of some of the greatest men of the church. This book is a vital, honest, and inspiring work on a much neglected part of church history.


McMurdo said...

So why is it that I find the following quotes (all very easy to obtain via a search engine):

Clement of Rome.

“It is therefore in the power of every one, since man has been made possessed of free-will, whether he shall hear us to life, or the demons to destruction.”

“he who is good by his own choice is really good; but he who is made good by another under necessity is not really good, because he is not what he is by his own choice…”

“For  no  other  reason  does  God  punish  the  sinner  either  in  the present or in the future world, except because He knows that the sinner  was able to  conquer  but  neglected to  gain  the victory.”


“If anyone is truly religious, he is a man of God; but if he is irreligious, he is a man of the devil, made such, not by nature, but by his own choice.”

“…there is set before us life upon our observance, but death as the result of disobedience, and every one, according to the choice he makes, shall go to his own place, let us flee from death, and make choice of life.”


“Men are possessed with free will, and endowed with the faculty of making a choice. It is not true, therefore, that some are by nature good, and others bad.”

“Man is endowed with the faculty of distinguishing good and evil; so that, without compulsion, he has the power, by his own will and choice, to perform God’s commandments.”

“man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free will (in whom likeness man was created)…”

“This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free agent from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God.”

Justin Martyr

“We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishment, chastisement, and rewards are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Otherwise, if all things happen by fate, then nothing is our own power. For if it is predestined that one man be good and another man evil, then the first is not deserving of praise and the other to be blamed. Unless humans have the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions – whatever they may be … for neither would a man be worthy of praise if he did not himself choose the good, but was merely created for that end. Likewise, if a man were created evil, he would not deserve punishment, since he was not evil of himself, being unable to do anything else than what he was made for.”


“No reward can be justly bestowed, no punishment can be justly inflicted, upon him who is good or bad by necessity, and not by his own choice.”

John Calvin

“As to the Fathers, (if their authority weighs with us,) they have the term [free will] constantly in their mouths…”

“The Greek fathers above others” have taught “the power of the human will... they have not been ashamed to make use of a much more arrogant expression calling man ‘free agent or self-manager,’ just as if man had a power to govern himself…”

“The Latin fathers have always retained the word ‘free will’ as if man stood yet upright.”

see, for example,

Prior to Augustine, man's helplessness was taught by Gnostics, who in turn influenced him, who in turn influence Luther and Calvin.

Do you dispute this?

Cameron Buettel said...

McMurdo, Lawson does not shy away from the theological deficiencies of these individuals. He documents the developments of the doctrines of grace through church history, of which each of these men made a contribution - some more than others. Lawson does document how many of these men held to free will or were confused over the issue. I don't think you have to read a book all the way through before you criticize it (Love Wins a case in point) but I think it might be helpful to have a look at this and see how Lawson handles this issue on a case by case basis throughout the book.

McMurdo said...

This hasn't really dealt with my points, and your post now seems to slightly contradict your review of the book. Surely, anyone can write a slanted version of church history to suit their viewpoint. Did the early church fathers before Augustine teach the 'helplessness of man' or not? If not, then how can you say:

"From the time of the early church fathers to the years of the Reformers, there have been key men in the church, pillars as it were, who stood on the foundation of Scripture and upheld the truth of God's sovereign role in salvation."

My time is limited, so I cannot read too many books and I have to be selective.

I regard (I think) all of the so called 5 points of Calvinism to be clearly contradicted by scripture and I regard it as false teaching. That is in spite of the fact that I am a huge admirer of people like CH Spurgeon, Paul Washer and V Baucham. Each have helped and challenged me greatly.

2 of the most recent books I read were both by people I disagreed with, but were recommended to me. One was 'The forgotten Spurgeon' by Iain Murray, which I found informative but very annoying and unbalanced.

Then someone pleaded with me to read 'What's so amazing about Grace' by Philip Yancey. I'm not a fast reader, but it took me a good 6-8 hours to read. Some bits were good, but some were, frankly, drivel. It was mostly anecdotes, with some very lightweight biblical explanation and it left me thoroughly depressed, largely because of the utterly inadequate approach to repentance, the 'easy believism' and partly because nearly everyone in Christendom has praised it to the skies, as I found when I put a review on the UK Amazon website.

So I am going to read 1 or 2 by authors I like for the time being.

But if you can find anything which specifically deals with my points, i.e., the 'helplessness' doctrine was only taught by Gnostics in the early centuries and was roundly refuted by all the early church leaders until Augustine, who was influenced by a group of Gnostics called the Manichaeans (as well as the Philosopher Plato), I'll put it on my reading list.

My mind is not totally closed, but at the moment, I simply cannot take 'Calvinism' seriously, and I'm sad to see your current relentless stream of books that promote it. I still enjoy your blog and I find your other stuff helpful.

EJ Hill said...

McMurdo, that would be because it is easy to take a few 'quotes' out of context, or attribute them to someone, who never made them.