Friday, September 5, 2014

Does God Will The Salvation Of All Men? (Part 4)

Caesarius of Arles (468/470 – 542), occupied the bishopric of Arles for forty years. He was the foremost churchman of his generation in Gaul. He was highly influenced by his teacher, Pomerius, who in turn, was influenced by Augustine. Caesarius presided over the famed Council of Orange in 529 AD.

Caesarius’ surviving 250+ sermons reveal a pastor dedicated to the formation of the clergy and the education of the laity. Caesarius' work was strongly influenced Augustine. He encouraged the clergy to read to both themselves and others. He targeted the illiterate and asked that they hire others to read to them after church in order to absorb the divine lessons. He encouraged reading Scripture both at church and at home, alone and with family. Caesarius believed that Christian People were God's new "elect" and he idealized incorporating men of places from all over the world into a believing, peaceful, and loving human community. This parallels Augustine’s teaching on the populus christianus (The Christian People). Caesarius asserted that Scripture clearly teaches that God has entered into covenant with the populus christianus and that the Christian era was predicted throughout the Scriptures.

Like Augustine and Prosper, tangling with the Semi-Pelagians, he argued that God does not want all men to be saved. Caesarius argued that God is omnipotent and that since He does not covert all whom He could, He clearly does not will their salvation. God is omnipotent and none can resit His will.

Caesarius frequently appeals to Psalm 135:6 and Romans 9:19 in defense of his orthodox position that God does not will the salvation of everyone without exception.

He writes, “Again, I ask you whether God in one day is able to make the whole world Catholic. If you say that he is not able, see how much evil you would presume to bring forth out of your mouth? If you say what is true, that he is able, do you presume to ask him why he does not do it, because without doubt he is able to? The apostle responds to you what was already said above: ‘O man, who are you to answer back to God?’ (Romans 9:20); and this: ‘O the depths of the riches of the wisdom and of the knowledge of God, how incomprehensible are his judgments!’ (Romans 11:33). Perhaps you will say: ‘God indeed wills that all believe in him, but not all are willing.’ Why? Because they are not able without his grace. And at this point I ask you whether the human will is more able to contradict the divine will or whether the power of God is more able to convert human wills to itself. If you presume to deny this [latter assertion], the Psalmist cries out to you: ‘But our God in heaven on high did all things whatsoever he willed in heaven and on earth’ (Psalm 135:6); and the apostle says: ‘Who has resisted his will?’ (Romans 9:19) If he did all things whatsoever he willed, what he did not do, he certainly did not will, by a judgment hidden and also deep, and although incomprehensible nevertheless just.” (On Grace)

Like Augustine and Prosper before him, Caesarius cited Tyre and Sidon as proof that God does not want all men to be saved. He does not convert all whom he could but only those he wills to. He also cited the reprobation of the nations before Christ and of the Jews since. For centuries, God excluded nations from the knowledge of the truth, hence ensuring their damnation. It was only to the descendants of Abraham that the oracles of God were entrusted. The Old Testament Scriptures were not written to the Babylonians, Assyrians, Philistines or Edomites. Salvation, therefore, was limited to Israel alone, and even within Israel, not all Israel were Israel.

Caesarius writes, “But lifting yourself up in the most proud tribunal of your heart, you presume to judge God, saying: ‘why does he give grace to one and not give it to another?’ …And since our Lord and Savior said in the Gospel that ‘if the miracles, which has been performed’ in Korazin, Bethsaida and Caupernaum, ‘had been performed in Tyre and Sidon and even in Sodom, they would have repented long ago sitting in sackcloth and ashes’ (St. Luke 10:13), ask him why he would perform miracles there, not only where he would not be believed but also where he would suffer persecution, and did not perform them there where they would have repented and believed? And that which the Lord has said: ‘No one knows the Father except the Son and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal him.’ (St. Matthew 11:27) Say to him: ‘Why not to everyone, but only to whom he wills?’ And that which he again said: ‘Just as the Father raises and quickens the dead so also the Son quickens whom he wills’ (St. John 5:21). On this passage respond to him: ‘Why does he not quicken all, but only those whom he wills? Also argue with the Holy Spirit, why he does not breath on everyone, but only ‘where he wills’ (St. John 3:8), and why ‘he distributes to each one as he wills’ (I Corinthians 12:11).” (On Grace)

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