Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Does God Will The Salvation of All Men? (Part 3)

We now move on to the works of another Church Father, namely Prosper of Aquitaine. Prosper, a defender of Augustine against the Pelagians, lived from 390-455.

After Augustine’s work against the Pelagians, there arose another group who sought to assert a more refined position which was less strident than Pelagius’ but still not full-orbed Augustinianism. These writers are known as the Semi-Pelagians, and it is against these heretics that Prosper strove. Like Augustine, Prosper appeal to Divine omnipotence demonstrating God’s refusal to enlighten some to the truth which God has made necessary for salvation.

Obviously, Prosper then has to grapple with Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 2:4 regarding “all men” Prosper asserted that the primary point of this text was that only those whom God wills to save are saved. God saves all He wills to save. He efficaciously calls them and none are saved unless He wills it.

Hence he writes, “What, then, about the trite objection from the Scripture text, ‘God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth?’ Only they who fail to see its meaning think it goes against us. All those who, from the past ages till today, died without having known God, are they of the number of ‘all men’? And if it is said, wrongly, that in the case of adults the evil works they did of their own free will were the obstacle to their salvation, as though grace saved the good and not the wicked, what difference in merit could there be between infants that are saved and others that are not? What is it that led the first into the kingdom of God, and what is it that kept the second out of it? Indeed, if you consider their merit, you cannot say that some of them merited to be saved; all of them deserved to be condemned, because all sinned in Adam’s sin. The unimpeachable justice of God would come down on all of them, did not his merciful grace take a certain number unto himself. As to inquiring into the reason and manner of this discrimination hidden in God’s secret counsel, this is above the ken of human knowledge, and our faith suffers no harm from not knowing it, provided we confess that no one is lost without his fault, and no one saved for his own merit, that the all-powerful goodness of God saves and instructs in the knowledge of the truth all those whom ‘he will have to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’. Save for his call, his teaching, his salvation, no man comes or learns or is saved. Though the preachers of the gospel are directed to preach to all men without distinction and to sow the seed of the word everywhere, yet ‘neither he that planteth is anything, nor he that watereth, but God that giveth the increase.’” (Letter to Rufinus 13)

Again, we note the observation that God is omnipotent and none can resist His will to save them, if it were His will to do so. Prosper teaches that God converts whomever He wills because He is omnipotent. The Gospel is not withheld from some people because of their unwillingness to convert. If this were the case, men would be out-willing God, which is as blasphemous as it is foolish. Christ asserted that God could raise up children of Abraham from stones (Mat. 3:9). Therefore, the predestination of the Elect, falls under the “all things” which God works “according to the counsel of His will (Eph. 1:11).”

Prosper writes, “Or should we say that the wills of men obstruct the will of God, that those peoples are of such wild and fierce ways that the reason why they do not hear the gospel is that their ungodly hearts are not ready for its preaching? But who else changed the hearts of believers but he ‘who hath made the hearts of every one of them?’ Who softened the hardness of their hearts into willing obedience but he ‘who is able of these stones to raise up children of Abraham?’ And who will give the preachers intrepid and unshaken firmness but he who said to Paul: ‘Do not fear, but speak, and hold not thy peace, because I am with thee and no man shall set upon thee, to hurt thee. For I have much people in this city?’ …For none other will have a share in the inheritance of Christ than those who before the creation of the world were elect, predestined, and foreknown, according to the counsel of him ‘who worketh all things according to the counsel of his will.’” (Letter to Rufinus 15)

Like Augustine, Prosper cites the example of Tyre and Sidon, who would have converted had they witnessed the miracles of Christ, as proof that God does not want all men to be saved. He also cited the nations to whom God would not let his apostles go and the nations even of his own day. “He who says that the Lord withholds from some men the message of the gospel, lest hearing it they be saved, can escape the odium of the objection by invoking the authority of the Savior himself. He did not want to work miracles among people who, he said, would have believed had they seen them. He forbade his apostles to preach to some nations, and he still allows other nations to live untouched by his grace.” (Answers to the Gauls’ qualification to article 10)

Further, “What, then, about the trite objection from the Scripture text, ‘God will have all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth?’ Only they who fail to see its meaning think it goes against us. All those who, from the past ages till today, died without having known God, are they of the number of ‘all men’?” (Letter to Rufinus 13) 

Ergo, this is how the apostle Paul (1 Timothy 2:4) should be understood: “And again, at the very moment that the preachers of the gospel were sent out to all the nations, the apostles were forbidden to go to certain regions by him ‘who will have all men to he saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth’, with the result, of course, that many, detained and going astray during this delay of the gospel, died without having known the truth and without having been sanctified in baptism. Let, then, Holy Scripture say what happened: ‘And when they had passed through Phrygia and the country of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia. And when they were come into Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus suffered them not.’ Is there any wonder that at the very beginning of the preaching of the gospel the apostles could not go except where the Spirit of God wanted them to go, when even now we see that many of the nations only begin to have a share in the Christian grace, while others have not yet got a glimpse of that divine gift?” (Letter to Rufinus 14)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Visitor Counter

Flag Counter