As I have dealt with Calvinists and Calvinism over the past 7-8 years, they always seem to want to present their soteriology (doctrine of salvation) as “The Historical Christian Faith”. When a Calvinist says such a thing, it makes me laugh (at least on the inside). It shows that they are either ignorant of what the Early Church Fathers believed and are just parroting what their favorite “theologian” has said or they are just outright lying.
Either way, such a statement couldn’t be further from the truth. And just to be clear, when I say, “Early Church Fathers” (ECF’s) I am referring to the Ante-Nicene Fathers. In other words, I am referring to the Church leaders who wrote extensively, prior to the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.).
With all of that in mind, I want to give you some quotes from the ECF’s regarding one tenant of Calvinism – “Perseverance of the Saints”. This is also know as the “P” from the acronym “T.U.L.I.P.”, which is used to represent the Calvinistic doctrine of soteriology. “Perseverance” of the Saints is more rightly called “Preservation of the Saints” or “Unconditional Eternal Security”, since God “preserves them” and since there is nothing they can do to “lose their salvation”.
No matter what you choose to call it, it was not what the Early Church believed in. The only group of people who believed such doctrines during this period of time, were the Gnostics, who were heretics. Jude 3 says, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” If this verse it to have any meaning at all, we should be able to see some form of Calvinistic soteriology in the Early Church Father’s writings. Unfortunately, for the Calvinists, we don’t.
The Early Church Father’s that I am about to share quotes from, were either disciples of the Apostles, disciples of disciples of the Apostles or one more step removed from the Apostles. As you can see from the dates attached to each quote, they all wrote prior to 325 A.D. Now, I’m not, by any means, saying that their writings are equal to Scripture or that everything they write is automatically correct. I’m writing this article to prove one point – that Calvinism isn’t “The Historical Christian Faith”.
- Barnabas said, “We ought therefore, brethren, carefully to inquire concerning our salvation. Otherwise, the wicked one, having made his entrance by deceit, may hurl us forth from our life.” (c. 70-130, Vol. 1, p. 138)
- Barnabas said, “The whole past time of your faith will profit you nothing, unless now in this wicked time we also withstand coming sources of danger….Take heed, lest resting at our ease, as those who are called, we fall asleep in our sins. For then, the wicked prince, acquiring power over us, will thrust us away from the kingdom of the Lord….And you should pay attention to this all the more, my brothers, when you reflect on and see that even after such great signs and wonders had been performed in Israel, they were still abandoned. Let us beware lest we be found to be, as it is written, the ‘many who are called,’ but not the ‘few who are chosen.’” (c. 70-130, Vol. 1, p. 139)
- Hermas said, “If you do not guard yourself against [anger], you and your house will lose all hope of salvation.” (c. 150, Vol. 2, p. 23)
- Justin Martyr said, “I hold further, that those of you who have confessed and know this man to be Christ, yet who have gone back for some reason to the legal dispensation [i.e., the Mosaic Law], and have denied that this man is Christ, and have not repented before death – you will by no means be saved.” (c. 160, Vol. 1, p. 218)
- Irenaeus said, “We should not, therefore, as the presbyter remarks, be puffed up, nor be severe upon those of olden times. Rather, we should fear ourselves, least perchance, after [we have come to] the knowledge of Christ, if we do things displeasing to God, we obtain no further forgiveness of sin, but are shut out from His kingdom. And for that reason, Paul said, ‘For if [God] spare not the natural branches, [take heed] lest He also not spare you.’” (c. 180, Vol. 1, p. 499)
- Irenaeus said, “It was not to those who are on the outside that he said these things, but to us – lest we should be cast forth from the kingdom of God, by doing any such thing.” (c. 180, Vol. 1, p. 500)
- Irenaeus said, “Those who do not obey Him, being disinherited by Him, have ceased to be His sons.” (c. 180, Vol. 1, p. 525)
- Clement of Alexandra said, “God gives forgiveness of past sins. However, as to future sins, each one procures this for himself. He does this by repenting, by condemning the past deeds, and by begging the Father to blot them out. For only the Father is the one who is able to undo what is done….So even in the case of one who has done the greatest good deeds in this life, but at the end has run headlong into wickedness, all his former pains are profitless to him. For at the climax of the drama, he has given up his part.” (c. 195, Vol. 2, p. 602)
- Tertullian said, “Some think that God is under a necessity of bestowing even on the unworthy what He has promised [to give]. So they turn His liberality into His slavery….For do not many afterwards fall out of [grace]? Is not this gift taken away from many? These, no doubt, are they who…after approaching to the faith of repentance, build on the sands a house doomed to ruin.” (c. 203, Vol. 3, p. 661)
- Tertullian said, “God had foreseen…that faith – even after baptism – would be endangered. He saw that most persons – after obtaining salvation – would be lost again, by soiling the wedding dress, by failing to provide oil for their torches.” (c. 213, Vol. 3, p. 639)
- Origen said, “A man may posses and acquired righteousness, from which it is possible for him to fall away.” (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 266)
- Origen said, “Certain ones of those [heretics] who hold different opinions misuse these passages. They essentially destroy free will by introducing ruined natures incapable of salvation and by introducing others as being saved in such a way that they cannot be lost.” (c. 225, Vol. 4, p. 308)
- Commodianus said, “Being a believing man, if you seek to live as the Gentiles do, the joys of the world remove you from the grace of Christ.” (c. 240, Vol. 4, p. 214)
- Cyprian said, “I ask…that you will grieve with me at the [spiritual] death of my sister. For in this time of devastation, she has fallen from Christ.” (c. 250, Vol. 5, p. 298)
- Cyprian said, “There is need of continual prayer and supplication so that we do not fall away from the heavenly kingdom, as the Jews fell away, to whom this promise had first been given.” (c. 250, Vol. 5, p. 451)
- Cyprian said, “In the Gospel according to Matthew: ‘Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire’….Even a baptized person loses the grace he has attained, unless he remains innocent. In the Gospel according to John: ‘Look, you are made whole. Sin no more, lest a worse thing happen to you’. Also, in the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: ‘Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and the Spirit of God abides in you? If anyone violates the temple of God, God will destroy him’. Of this same thing in the Chronicles: ‘God is with you, while you are with Him. If you forsake Him, He will forsake you’.” (c. 250, Vol. 5, p. 542)
As you can see, none of these ECF’s believed in any form of “Once Saved, Always Saved” or “Perseverance of the Saints”. The quotes above are from nine different ECF’s, that span over 100 years. The ECF’s definitely were not Calvinistic, when it came to the security of the believer. They believed in Conditional Security, not Unconditional Security.
There will be more articles along this same line, to come. This is just Part 1. At the least, Calvinists need to stop saying that the “P” of “T.U.L.I.P.” is part of “The Historic Christian Faith”. And, as we all know, if one letter of the acronym T.U.L.I.P. falls, the whole thing falls apart. All five points stand and fall together.
Also, if you would like to watch a video on this same topic, you can do so here: