Calvinism is a Gnostic sect

My recent conversations with Rhology have taken an interesting turn, and one which is very telling in regards to the origins of our respective interpretations of Scripture. In answer to my assertion that Calvinism is essentially Gnosticism, Rhology found himself nodding his head in agreement with the doctrines of the Gnostics and then responded with the question: Is Augustinian theology Gnostic, then?

The answer is an emphatic YES! Blessed Augustine of Hippo, the father of Western Christendom, introduced many Gnostic concepts into his writings which later became key elements of Western Christian belief. A little background information is necessary here. Augustine, who lived in North Africa during the years 354-430, was a member of a Gnostic sect before becoming a member of the Orthodox Church. He was also working with a flawed Latin translation of the Scriptures, not the original Greek, due to his own ignorance of Greek. In addition, due to a combination of geographic, cultural, political, and linguistic factors, he was cut off from the Greek-speaking half of the Church.

All in all, Augustine found himself in a bad situation, but he worked with what he had. Unfortunately, what he had were false assumptions informed by his time as a Gnostic and that already-mentioned flawed Latin translation of Scripture. As would be expected, the theology that he put together was flawed and Gnostic-tinged.

An example of such a flawed, Gnostic-tinged theology is Augustine’s idea of predestination, that God had elected from eternity to save some while condemning the rest to damnation. Anyone familiar with Gnostic theology can see the influence of the Gnostic belief in the saved pneumatikoi versus the damned somatikoi. Adding to these Gnostic assumptions on Augustine’s part was his flawed Latin translation of Scripture, which translated the Greek word “proorizein” to the Latin “praedestinare.” The Latin verb is much stronger in its meaning than the Greek — and Augustine naturally took this strong Latin word to its logical conclusion, a conclusion which none of the Fathers who worked with the original Greek text reached.

Accordingly, he interpeted other passages of Scripture in this light. For instance, he read Romans 9-11 as if St. Paul were talking about the concept of predestination regarding who would be saved and who damned. There’s no justification for this in the text itself, and no other Father of the Church read it this way. Augustine’s interpretation was entirely novel, and based on his Gnostic assumptions.

Another example of such flawed, Gnostic-tinged theology is Augustine’s introduction of the concept of Original Sin. The closest that we come to such a concept in Christian writings pre-Augustine is in the writings of the Gnostics, who supported the idea that the material world was “utterly depraved.” Sound familiar? It should — this idea, along with predestination, carried over into the grandchild of Gnosticism: Calvinism, and became one of the essential principles thereof. Augustine based his belief in Original Sin on both his Gnostic assumptions and, again, his flawed Latin translation of Scripture. In this flawed translation, Romans 5:12 read as if it were saying that “in Adam all sinned.” The original Greek text, though, says that through Adam’s sin, all die. The key difference between Augustine and Paul is that Augustine claims we are born guilty of evil; Paul claims we are born guilt-free but subject to the consequence of sin — death.

Augustine’s innovations and Gnostic-lite heretical ideas were seen as what they were by Orthodox Christians, and so the Orthodox have duly rejected them. Unfortunately, though, these ideas caught on in the West and became foundational beliefs for all later Western theologies, both Roman Catholic and Protestant, achieving their fullest form in the theology of John Calvin.

This should be deeply troubling to Western Christians, and especially Calvinists. The Gnostics were liars and frauds who claimed to possess “secret teachings” given them by the Apostles. The Gnostics actively and explicitly fought against the early Church Fathers, those who had been appointed by the Apostles as heirs to guide the Churches.

This is, of course, why Protestants today find themselves fighting against the Church Fathers — because they are the spiritual heirs of the original heretics. Many Protestants today find themselves doing exactly what the Gnostics did 1800 years ago. They twist the words of those who came before them in the Faith to make it seem they haven’t altered the Apostolic message or, when they realize that this is a dead end, they find themselves saying that the early Christians misunderstood or distorted the message.

In the end, though, the conclusion that logic and history provides for us is one that should make every Protestant take a second look at himself and what he believes. This conclusion is that the reason they find themselves struggling with the Church Fathers is that these are not their Fathers at all; their Fathers are Valentinus, Basilides, Cerinthus, Mani, Simon Magus, and Marcion of Sinope.

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69 comments

  1. Jacob:

    Excellent article. I'm going to post a link to that on my sidebar. Right to the heart of the problem which is really the foundation of all heresies: Neo-platonism. It was Platonic thought that produced Gnosticism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Roman Catholicism, and, now, Protestantism.

  2. Rhology:

    Since I subscribe no particular authority to “the Fathers”, I don't see why this would be a problem for my position at all.

    The problem is logical and historical. I've tried to explain it to you before. I'll try again: The Apostles were commissioned by Christ. The Apostles then went on to commission others and to appoint them as heirs. Three of these others that are especially significant are Ss. Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch. The Apostles apparently believed that these men were worthy enough to be appointed to take charge of the Church after the passing of the Apostles, yet you consistently disagree with everything that these men have to say. So, we come back to the problem I've presented to you before. Either these men conspired together to distort the Gospel or they all were mistaken in the exact same ways about the content of the Gospel. Whichever option you choose, you must also admit that the Apostles were fools for having chosen men who couldn't even maintain the Apostolic Faith for only a few years (Clement writes about Apostolic Succession, for instance, before even the death of the last Apostle).

    Doesn't follow at all.

    If it doesn't, then please prove so by pointing us to anyone who believed as you do, or even as Calvin did, in the early Church. I know the answer to this challenge by the way (it's in my post). The fact of the matter is that none of the early Church Fathers held to any of the three solas or five points of Calvinism. The closest you come to the three solas in early Christianity is with Marcion. The closest you come to the five points in early Christianity is Gnosticism. Simple historical fact, and one that you have yet to deal with, but must address if your viewpoint is to be consistent and reasonable.

    You have said before that I am damned because of my beliefs. My beliefs perfectly align with those early Church Fathers. You must, then, for the sake of consistency, say that the early Church Fathers are all damned as well.

    How, then, can one follow Jesus' instructions to test claims to divine truth?

    Well, we can rule out Scripture automatically. The writings that make up the New Testament wouldn't even being to be penned for another 20 years or so after Christ said this; they wouldn't be completed for another 70 years; they wouldn't be even loosely compiled for another 100 years; they wouldn't be finally compiled as we have them today for another 337 years; and they wouldn't be accepted by the whole Church for another nearly 900 years.

    Certainly he wasn't directing us to use the Old Testament in this way, as using the Old Testament to “test the spirits” is exactly why the Jews condemned him and rejected his teachings.

    The logical, obvious answer to the question is that Christ is directing us to use the Faith of the Church to judge truth claims, the Church being, as St. Paul said, “the ground and pillar of the truth.”

  3. Like you've done with Augustine?

    I have no qualms about pointing out that Augustine was ignorant of the Apostolic Faith and the real Scriptures, and based most of his theology on Gnostic assumptions. It's the simple facts of history. I've also demonstrated in this post exactly why Augustine's issues come from. You have yet to do so for the early Church Fathers. What led Ss. Ignatius, Polycarp, and Clement to reject and/or misunderstand the Apostles who taught each of them?

    Also, I listened to the program with James White. As with most of James White's productions, it's completely lacking in any meaningful substance. In response to the fact that the doctrine of total depravity derives from Gnosticism, you replies “it's in Genesis and the Psalms hahahah.” And completely evades the real point, which is that none of the early Church Fathers held to such a doctrine or read the Scriptures in such a way. Only Augustine, using a faulty Latin translation, completely cut off from the rest of the Church, and brainwashed by Gnosticism, comes up with it. Does that sound logical to you? Of course it's not. The fact is that no one in the early Church asserted anything like total depravity except the Gnostics, who were Augustine's influence, who, in turn, was Calvin's influence. James White is, to be completely blunt, too ignorant and cowardly to address this, though.

    Again, try reading the Scriptures without your traditions of men blurring your vision.

    And, please, address the topic of the post for yourself. If I'm wrong, tell me why. I've demonstrated both a historical link and a linkage of ideas. I've show how Calvin got his ideas from Augustine and Augustine from the Gnostics and the Gnostics from the Platonists. Show me why I'm wrong or admit that I'm right.

  4. “It was Platonic thought that produced Gnosticism, Arianism, Nestorianism, Roman Catholicism, and, now, Protestantism.” (David)

    How can you claim that Platonic though procuded Nestorianism? Nestorianism is nothing but belief in Hebrews 7:3 that Jesus is “without father, without mother” i.e. without father as concerns his manhood and without mother as concerns his Godhood. That's not Platonic!!!!

    All Gnosticism doesn't appear to be Platonic either. Marcionism, which is really not Gnostic but generally mis-classed as such, clearly has nothing to do with Platonism. It wasn't about man being evil because he is material or any such, but only about the Jewish god being evil. Its rejection of physical resurrection was not a rejection of flesh as inherently evil but of this world's god as inherently evil. Rather than hoping for to be made to live again here they sought to escape and go to be in the world of the higher God.

    Seems to me, in fact, that Eastern Orthodoxy comes from Platonism!!! And you can make a better case for Judaism and the book of Genesis as coming from Platonism than for Nestorianism coming from it. The whole idea where God had Moses make the tabernacle based on a divine archetype in the world of ideas was not lost on Philo.

  5. And the inconsistency. Anyone who loved Christ would abominate the Eastern Orthodox Church for calling the spawn of Satan 'blessed.' You have no right to accuse Augustine or error (even though he is wrong) so long as you stay in the church of his father the devil.

  6. Beowulf:

    First, you realize that Hebrews 7:3 is talking about Melchizedek, right? You're reading a whole lot more into that text than what it actually says. Good attempt at a proof-text though. Here's another: Luke 1:43. Is Christ called Lord in his humanity or in his divinity? Or is St. Elizabeth mistaken?

  7. “First, you realize that Hebrews 7:3 is talking about Melchizedek, right?”

    It says he was made like the son of God in this way, which means the same statements hold true for both.

    “Is Christ called Lord in his humanity or in his divinity?”

    That's a different subject entirely. Were Saul and David called Lord in their humanity or divinity? Hmmm…considering they were only human it must have been their divinity.

  8. Oops! Their humanity, that is.

    Its a silly question. Christ is Lord in both. But Mary is only mother of one. His divinity passed through Mary as water passing through a tube while only his manhood is derived from her.

  9. beowulf,

    I didn't claim I held to ADS. I made a statement for the sake of argument. I urge you to read more carefully.

    DavidW,

    The Apostles were commissioned by Christ.

    Which is recorded in Scr, and w/o which reference you'd have no direct record thereof.

    The Apostles apparently believed that these men were worthy enough to be appointed to take charge of the Church after the passing of the Apostles, yet you consistently disagree with everything that these men have to say.

    1) I have to assume you think it's helpful to use such hyperbole as “everything these men have to say”, but I don't see how it is.
    2) Worthy enough =/= perfect.
    3) The apostles also told us how to make sure we hold to the truth, and that by which we are to test men's teachings.
    4) “charge of the Church” overstates the issue a bit – they commissioned men to pastor local churches.

    Either these men conspired together to distort the Gospel or they all were mistaken in the exact same ways about the content of the Gospel.

    Not at all; Clement for example agreed perfectly with me.

    My beliefs perfectly align with those early Church Fathers. You must, then, for the sake of consistency, say that the early Church Fathers are all damned as well.

    The earlier men lacked the amount of info we have today and many of the categories in which we discuss such things today; also, we can't interact to further flesh out how man-centered or not their gospel was. But with you, the man-centeredness is on full display day after day, as your “can I commit adultery and still go to Heaven?” question illustrated perfectly. That's a pretty big leap you're foisting on me.

    Well, we can rule out Scripture automatically. The writings that make up the New Testament wouldn't even being to be penned for another 20 years or so after Christ said this; they wouldn't be completed for another 70 years; they wouldn't be even loosely compiled for another 100 years

    So even though Jesus told us to test everything by what God has spoken, you're correcting Jesus. Got it.

    as using the Old Testament to “test the spirits” is exactly why the Jews condemned him and rejected his teachings.

    That's a very shallow way to view the NT debates. Jesus' whole point with the Pharisees and Sadds was that they misunderstood the OT. He was correcting them. You love to quote Matt 22:32, why not read v 29? “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

    In response to the fact that the doctrine of total depravity derives from Gnosticism, you replies “it's in Genesis and the Psalms hahahah.”

    What was helpful was that he asked for refutations of the Scr exegesis supporting the Reformed position on these things.

    Finally, I've made all the refutation of the OP that I care to do.

    Peace,
    Rhology

  10. Beowulf:

    It says he was made like the son of God in this way, which means the same statements hold true for both.

    No; it says he was made like the Son of God in that he is a priest forever.

  11. Clement for example agreed perfectly with me.

    Really? You believe that Apostolic Succession is an essential to the Church? That is, after all, the point his entire letter is written to make.

    The earlier men lacked the amount of info we have today

    Really????? So which of your secret Gnostic traditions did the Apostles not inform them of?

    and many of the categories in which we discuss such things today;

    Okay: how about these categories: The Eucharist is either 1. the body and blood of Christ or 2. not the body and blood of Christ. All of them say category 1. Was it just that they lacked category 2?

    also, we can't interact to further flesh out how man-centered or not their gospel was.

    Read their writings. Again: find me a Calvinist amongst the early Church Fathers. In fact, find me anyone outside of the Gnostics who believed any given one of the five points of Calvinism. Your refusal to even attempt to do so refutes your position.

    So even though Jesus told us to test everything by what God has spoken, you're correcting Jesus. Got it.

    No, pretty sure you're adding to his words. Where does Christ say that everything God had to say is contained in the Old and New Testaments of Scripture?

    why not read v 29? “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

    Because it's talking about you.

    What was helpful was that he asked for refutations of the Scr exegesis supporting the Reformed position on these things.

    To show that such interpretations of Scripture derive from the Gnostics and not from the Apostle's appointed heirs is more than enough refutation for anyone with a mind to think.

  12. You believe that Apostolic Succession is an essential to the Church? That is, after all, the point his entire letter is written to make.

    Apostolic succession in the way that another father meant it (I forget who) – where ap succession is a function of the TEACHING being true, not some mechanistic you're-the-next-guy-up sense, sure.
    But I think you know that's not what I meant.

    So which of your secret Gnostic traditions did the Apostles not inform them of?

    Oh, all my favorites!

    The Eucharist is either

    Are you serious? Do you really not know there's more than two options?
    One thing I meant was that the earliest Fathers lacked the more fleshed-out disjunction between NT Scripture and not-NT-Scr, b/c the Canon wasn't complete at the time or it wasn't widely known or discovered or fully communicated to everyone. Another example would be the homoousios/homoiusios distinction and the doctrine that Christ was one hypostasis with two homoousioi, etc.
    Finally, before you get all bent out of shape on this – “it wasn't all worked out explicitly in their minds” is NOT the same as “they would have denied such formulations if they heard them”.

    Read their writings. Again: find me a Calvinist amongst the early Church Fathers

    Jesus, Paul, Peter. Are you not listening to me or something?

    Where does Christ say that everything God had to say is contained in the Old and New Testaments of Scripture?

    The only time He speaks of God speaking is in ref to the OT or to His own words or those of His shaluach. You may be comfortable throwing the label “God said that” on everything in sight, but not me – I've seen too much charismania and ORU-type theology for that. You might ask David Bryan how that goes down – he's been there as much as I.

    why not read v 29? “You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God.”

    Because it's talking about you.

    No answer. Gotcha.

  13. Judas was commissioned by Christ. Judas then went on to commission others and to appoint them as heirs. Three of these others that are especially significant are Ss. Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch. Judas apparently believed that these men were worthy enough to be appointed to take charge of the Church after the passing of Judas and the other Apostles…Either Judas conspired together with the others to distort the Gospel or they all were mistaken in the exact same ways about the content of the Gospel. Whichever option you choose, you must also admit that Jesus was a fool for having chosen a man who couldn't even maintain the Apostolic Faith for only a few years (Judas betrayed the very Son of God for a bit of money).

    1) You don't answer the problem of the churches in the NT falling into grave error very quickly.
    2) You don't address the problem of false teachers.
    3) You set up false dilemmas every which way. Why should anyone respect this kind of argumentation?

  14. Rho, where are you getting this fablic crap about Judas appointing Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch? Next thing we know you're going to be saying that when Judas hung himself he got cursed and became Dracula and that's why Dracula hates crosses. At least then I'd know what you were talking about because I saw that movie too. As to Clement of Rome the Pseudo-Clementines have him converted by Barnabas don't they? And then trained by Peter. Where's your Judas legend coming from? Were you visited by space aliens?

  15. b2k8 aka why-are-you-here,

    Judas was an apostle. Apostolic succession.
    Besides, I was under the impression that the Cainite sect was a Gnostic sect, and the Cainites were followers of Judas, who was commissioned by Christ.

    So, by David's logic, we ought to be Cainites!

  16. Rhology:

    Apostolic succession in the way that another father meant it (I forget who) – where ap succession is a function of the TEACHING being true, not some mechanistic you're-the-next-guy-up sense, sure.

    Actually, they all meant it in both senses, just as the Orthodox do today. Apostolic Succession is both the physical link with the Apostles via laying on of hands and maintaining the Faith of the Apostles. The Fathers were also adamant that without one, you cannot possibly have the other. If you don't have the physical link, you don't have true teaching (hence why we reject Protestants). And if you don't have the true teaching, then your physical link is as nothing (hence why we reject Roman Catholics).

    Be all that as it may, I was asking if you agreed with Clement's position on the matter. You said that you and Clement agree “perfectly.” Do you, then, believe this, as Clement wrote:

    “And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit … Our apostles also knew, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and there would be strife on account of the office of the episcopate. For this reason, therefore, inasmuch as they had obtained a perfect fore-knowledge of this, they appointed those [ministers] already mentioned, and afterwards gave instructions, that when these should fall asleep, other approved men should succeed them in their ministry.”

    Either agree with this or disavow your statement that you and Clement agree “perfectly.”

    But I think you know that's not what I meant.

    Right, and did you read the rest of the letter outside of that? Clement doesn't view Faith in the way you do at all (neither did Paul for that matter). For Clement, Faith is a dynamic thing… it is walking in the way of the Lord. Exactly the Orthodox position.

    Oh, all my favorites!

    Okay. Sarcasm aside; you claimed that the Faith of the Fathers was incomplete. So, which doctrines did the Apostles fail to inform them of?

    Are you serious? Do you really not know there's more than two options?

    There's not. It either is or isn't. The sky either is or isn't blue. I either am or am not a human being. The Eucharist either is or isn't the body and blood of Christ.

    One thing I meant was that the earliest Fathers lacked the more fleshed-out disjunction between NT Scripture and not-NT-Scr, b/c the Canon wasn't complete at the time or it wasn't widely known or discovered or fully communicated to everyone.

    Right, but they were taught directly by Apostles. I'd say it's us that are lacking, and they that had all things in abundance. They had the living, breathing voice of an Apostle of Christ; better than a book any day.

    Finally, before you get all bent out of shape on this – “it wasn't all worked out explicitly in their minds” is NOT the same as “they would have denied such formulations if they heard them”.

    Actually, they did outright deny the formulation that the Eucharist isn't the body and blood of Christ. See Ignatius.

    Jesus, Paul, Peter. Are you not listening to me or something?

    Who all, apparently, failed at teaching anyone the correct doctrines then. Nonsense.

  17. Judas was commissioned by Christ. Judas then went on to commission others and to appoint them as heirs. Three of these others that are especially significant are Ss. Clement of Rome, Polycarp of Smyrna, and Ignatius of Antioch.

    Your slander knows no boundaries.

    1) You don't answer the problem of the churches in the NT falling into grave error very quickly.

    Yes, I do. See Tertullian, who address this very accusation as leveled by your forefathers the Gnostics. Error produces diversity, not unity. See Protestantism.

    2) You don't address the problem of false teachers.

    Clement was taught by Peter. Ignatius and Polycarp were taught by John. So which Apostle was a false teacher: Peter or John?

    3) You set up false dilemmas every which way. Why should anyone respect this kind of argumentation?

    Nothing false about it. Your forefathers the Gnostics took all of this to its logical conclusion that the Apostles must have been lacking in something or else hid something from those they appointed as heirs. You've already started to go this route by claiming that the Faith of the early Fathers was incomplete. Take it to its logical conclusion at least; have some integrity.

  18. Sorry, Rho, I didn't realize you were talking about your own sect, the Cainites and how you have received your rejection of baptism from them via apostolic succession back to Judas Iscariot. You guys do say baptism isn't necessary–its just a ritual you do cuz you feel like it. You get this from the Cainites of which Tertullian says were the first to deny the necessity of baptism.

  19. Augustine was also an ex-Manichean, who were a crypto-Christian quasi-Gnostic sect.

    You can't really blame them, though. 'Paul' is just a Catholicized, cleaned-up version of Simon Magus and Marcion was the founder of the churches in Asia Minor.

    Orthodoxy is a lie.

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