Arch. Grigorios Konstantinou
PhD in Theology
Plato and Calvin
The original impetus for this essay was the proposed defense of Orthodoxy against the rather naive and tendentious series of writings which appeared in the Journal Credenda Agenda (Volume 6, Issue 5). The author at the time proposed, along with the other topics being addressed, a kind of survey of the Calvinist agenda. At the time of the proposal there were only very vague notions about what such an article should try to cover — and that had mainly to do with the extreme factionalism of Protestantism.
However, subsequent reflection, coupled with a re-reading of the Credenda articles, has suggested that there are some common themes to be addressed about Protestants in general and Calvinists in particular. Furthermore, as will be suggested, these themes have a common root in Platonic thought and philosophical methodology. This should be a matter of considerable interest inasmuch as it is precisely these people who claim to give the definitive answer to the question of Tertullian: “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” Nothing! They would answer. Indeed, one of the main thrusts of the Credenda articles was the perceived necessity of getting back to the more original and “Hebraic” Christianity of Jesus and St. Paul. Now since Calvinism and all of Protestantism form a system — actually a series of systems — of thought and theology far too rich and varied to be treated exhaustively in an article of this type, we will treat of a few basic issues which, so far as we can see, as outsiders looking in, are central to the protestant experience and Calvinist thought, and are at the same time the most problematical for both those ‘inside’ and those on the outside looking in. Thus, the following topics will be briefly examined:
1. Theological Methodology and doctrine of God — For this we will look primarily at the text ‘Reformed Dogmatics’ by Heinrich Heppe, long considered a kind of milestone of its type, and considered by many (I am told) to be the standard text of that Reformation Theology which issued from John Calvin and those who followed him.
2. The Calvinist TULIP -- Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, Perseverance of the Saints. That Calvinism is a far richer and more interesting system of theology and religious thought than is suggested by these topics is readily granted. However, they not only stand at the center of traditional Calvinism, they are the source of most of the controversy which has wracked Protestantism from the beginning.
3. The incredible proliferation of sectarianism within Protestantism and especially including its Calvinistic variants — it would seem that there are nearly three times as many protestant sects as there are different words in the New Testament. This is a mind boggling situation unprecedented in any other form of religion, Christian or non-Christian, of which this writer is aware. There is nothing comparable to the flourishing proliferation of sects (most or all of which are presumably based on contrary biblical interpretations) in what for lack of a better term could be called the ‘catholic element’ of Christianity. If one throws in all of the various vagante bishops and their various groups together with what one can call ‘legitimate’ Orthodoxy and Catholicism, one cannot come up with hundreds much less tens of thousands of different “Catholic” or “Orthodox” Churches. (When one further reflects on the fact that most of these marginal vagante ‘groups’ are little more than clergy lists with few or no actual parishes and parishioners, the point is even more telling.) There is nothing even remotely like it in the other major monotheistic world religions of Judaism, and Islam. Furthermore this ‘fissionability’ is trans-historical and cross-cultural. In every country of the world, at every time since its inception, in dictatorships and in democracies, this propensity for division and further sectarian multiplication has been the rule amongst Protestants. This suggests that there is something structural in the protestant weltanschauung which is the cause of this. Further, these groups are aligned in a spectrum of opinions around various themes. This spectrum of theological opinion ranges from conservative fundamentalism to a liberalism so thorough-going that to many it stands outside of any traditional understanding of what it means to be a Christian. There is a spectrum of opinion which derives from the Calvinist/Lutheran/Zwinglian source which has no counterpart, generally speaking, in the more catholic versions of Christianity and no counterpart in other forms of monotheism save, perhaps, for reformed Judaism. Again, this is a tendency which is trans-historical and cross-cultural. To be sure, there are Conservative-liberal spectra in both Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy, but outside of pure theologoumena, these tend to be much narrower and devolve more around issues of pastoral economy than around dogma as such.
4. Gnosticism-Docetism — This heresy or group of heresies has re-emerged in the last two hundred years and dreams of a future unheard of since the days of St. Ireneos of Lyons. This author believes there to be a connection between this re-emergence and the re-definitions of European culture which have taken place as a result of the protestant experience.
Methodology and Doctrine
The East exalts John Chrysostom as its greatest teacher, but will scarcely admit his contemporary, Augustine, who [Benjamin B.] Warfield declares gave us the Reformation.
In much of what follows we are indebted, as any reader who knows the literature can tell, to our erstwhile friend Joseph Patrick Farrell (D.Phil.Oxon.). Following Karl Barth, Farrell has pointed out how problems which have been endemic to Western Theology, Protestant and Roman Catholic alike, largely have been the result of a faulty Ordo Theologica. That is, the order in which theological subjects have been addressed in treatises of doctrine have tended to follow a certain pattern which, when used as a basis for systematization, has led to various kinds of doctrinal dead ends. To this, Farrell points out the contribution of the philosophical - logical method, in combination with the Ordo, to most of the theological sturm und drang in the west since the fifth century. So what is the Ordo and what is the method? 
The Ordo, generally speaking goes as follows: A discussion of God (His existence, His essence, knowability, our knowledge of, etc.), this is followed by a discussion of the attributes of God (or his names, i.e. his goodness, love, mercy, and all of the things which may be said by creatures ‘about’ God); this is followed by a discussion about the Holy Trinity (the persons of the Trinity and their relationships), and, finally, there is the treatment of Christ and his saving acts. Now, there may be, and frequently are, other discussions which are inserted at various points in this Ordo, but the basic Ordo remains the same. It not only remains the same, but it remains the same across confessional boundaries. It is found in all of the major theological essays in the west since the fifth century.
Combined with this Ordo has been a philosophical logic which, deriving from the Socratic dialogues of Plato and refined by Aristotle, was brought to its ‘perfection’ by the Latin Scholastic theologians: the ‘logic of dialectical opposition’. The premise of this logical ontology is quite simple: the basis of any real distinction (as differentiated from a rational or mental distinction) is opposition. A is A and B is B, and the only way we can make a real distinction between them is to affirm A non est B— A is not B. To make any distinction between any two things there must be something which differentiates, that is opposes, them: one must be bigger or smaller, better or worse, good or bad, hot or cold....etc. Now this method of opposition works very well in many (created) situations. Where it begins to break down is when we talk about things which are not so amenable to sensory experience: values for example. What differentiates one good thing from another? What differentiates mercy from love? According to the dialectic of oppositions, if you cannot oppose them somehow, they must be the same thing. And so, for the successors of Plato, it was. If love and mercy cannot be opposed, then they must be the same thing that we are talking about with two different words -- i.e. making only a rational — i.e. a mental — distinction. Thus, [and here we leave out a lot of ‘demonstration’] when you want to talk about the ‘highest’, the ‘best’, the ‘being of being’ etc. you end up with the “One” of middle Platonism. (We can point out here the contribution of Plotinus to this was that he included “infinity” among the attributes — something which had never been previously done because infinity assumed, from the Aristotelian point of view, the aspect of imperfection because something infinite could not be described by the four -- i.e. the formal, efficient, material, and final -- causes.)
The main feature of the “One”, both pre- and post-Plotinus, was its simplicity. It was utterly simple by definition because, being entirely what it is and nothing else, there could be no opposition in it, there could be no scaling of value in it. You really could not ascribe created predicates to it, not because it was not those things and more but because they carry with them the implicit possibility of opposition. Thus the one is good but not good because not a particular good which may be better than one thing but worse than something else, etc. All created terminology thus, strains past the breaking point when applied to the “One”.
The One had other peculiarities as well: aside from its simplicity, it was creator (thus accounting for the creation). Because it was Creator, it had to create. Thus it followed that the creation was from infinity. As creator its first production was the mind or nous; together with the nous, the One created the World Soul. From that point new levels were created in a continuous hierarchy which linked the divine unknowable One to the created order of our senses. This creation thus stood in dialectical relationship of opposition — finite vs. infinite, knowable vs. unknowable, etc.
Enter the God of Christianity. In the first two centuries of Christianity, the Christians maintained an open mind toward truth wherever they could find it. In particular, this meant that common terms were sought out where it seemed that ‘the philosophers’ and the Christians were saying the same thing. Thus, for example, in contrast to the prevailing pantheon, the Christians, along with their Jewish forbears in the faith, said that there was only one true God. Thus, when the philosophers talked about “the One”, this was perceived as a ‘point of contact’ with which the Christians could articulate their faith to pagans. The absolute transcendence of God implied by passages like Isaiah 55:8 (“My thoughts are not your thoughts . . .”) have a point of contact in the concept of the unknowability of the One. In such cases as these, the Christians were able to say to the pagan philosophers, “You are onto something here – let us give you the fullness of the truth.”. Hellenistic terminology was present in early Christianity because it was the vocabulary one used in order to make oneself understood, not because one necessarily embraced the philosophy. Just as people today frequently use such Freudian terminology as “ego” or “subconscious” without necessarily embracing the system of Freud.
The long and the short of the matter is that while there are examples of Hellenistic terminology being used by Christians from New Testament times, Hellenistic philosophical terminology was systematically introduced into Christian theology principally by two people: Origen in the East, and Augustine in the West. In the east Origin, who had up to that time been primarily involved in scriptural exegesis, responded to a rather nasty book by a man named Celsus. Celsus was a Platonist who had nothing and wanted nothing to do with Christianity. The Platonists regarded Christianity as an upstart faith with several counts against it. The Platonists had dedicated much effort to the process of allegorizing away the seamier aspects of paganism (particularly regarding the Olympic Pantheon) in order to get at what they perceived to be unchangeable truths. All the stories of gods consorting with their creatures had been quietly put to rest, now there appeared this new religion which proclaimed that a “virgin” gave birth to a “god-man” just as in their old stories, furthermore this new myth was emanating from a notorious group of barbarians in the eastern end of the Mediterranean, and they were buying none of it. Origen answered Celsus and wrote a treatise On First Principles in which he tried to synthesize Platonic philosophy with Christian revelation. The result was what has subsequently been called, in judicious terms, the ‘Origenist problematic’. Basically, because Origen saw the connection between the One God of Christianity and the One of Plotinus, he swallowed the middle-platonic notion of the One whole, and by so doing, he caused severe indigestion to theological undertaking of the east.
The problems were not long in showing up. First there was the issue of God as creator. According to the Origenist system, God had to create and therefore the world had to be eternal. This led to further difficulties in Christology (if the “logos” was not the One, was he created? If He was created then how could he be differentiated from the fallen-ness of the world and how could he save said world from its fallen-ness?) and Triadology (all of the issues ranging between modalism, on one hand, and tri-theism on other.). Finally, there was his universalism which said that everything would be saved. It has been rightly said that the whole movement of Orthodox theology from the third to the eighth century was the process of disgorging the “Origenist” problematic. Thus, in the east the vocabulary of Hellenism was completely redirected to new ends in order to fit the use of Christian theology. The result is that while one finds platonic and plotinian terminology, it is no longer in the service of middle and neo-platonism, and is used in a way which, in the last analysis does fatal damage to those systems.
The first major controversy which manifested itself was that of Arianism. The teaching of Arius, simply put, was that according to Origen, everything apart from the unknowable One (God, in Origen’s system) was created, or had some kind of origin. Indeed, God had to create out of a natural necessity. Thus the Son of God was simply the first (and therefore, presumably special) of the things made from (and therefore somehow ‘other’ than) God. The Spirit was the work of the Father and the Son. In other words the Holy Spirit is a function of the relationship between the Father and the Son, and this follows from the fact that the Father and the Son are relationships in the essence. The rest of creation was the work of all three in successive stages. Furthermore, according to this system, the further down the scale a being was the more “fallen” it was. That is, the fall was a matter of ontology — to be created as we understand it was, by definition, to be fallen. The problem was to disentangle the ontological relationships of the Logos with the One (on one hand) and the rest of the “created” order on the other. This brought into play the second aspect of the Origenist problematic, namely that if God had to create by nature then the created order was also eternal. This, however, contradicted the biblical teaching that the creation was from nothing — i.e. that there was a time when the creation was not. To resolve this dilemma, one had to deny the eternity of creation (and therefore of the Logos) to be true to the biblical revelation, or affirm the eternity of creation in order to affirm the eternity of the Logos. Arius chose to deny the eternity of the Logos and therefore of creation. Thus, he proclaimed that there was a time “when the Logos was not”.
In course of the Arian controversy the decisive contribution was made by St. Athanasius of Alexandria. It was that he made a real distinction between the essence and the will of God. By so doing he could distinguish between that personal generation which was of the essence of God (the Father begets the Son and sends the Spirit) and the creation which was by the will of God. Thus rationally establishing the eternity of the Son (who was thus acknowledged as homoousios with the Father) and placing the created order outside of eternity. This in turn effectively abolished the notion that simplicity was the defining characteristic of God’s essence.
Because the Origenist problematic began to show itself most acutely in the Christological controversies, the tendency in the east was for Theology to proceed from personal and triadological considerations to essential considerations. In other words it tended to follow the record of revelation rather than the logic of an imposed rationalist system. Thus, in the works of that ‘great Platonizer’ St. Gregory of Nyssa, the persons of the Holy Trinity are not derived from the essence, but the single simple essence is inferred from the three divine persons -- being wholly present in each of them. By the sixth century we have the complaint of the Platonists, as recorded by (Pseudo) Dionysios the Areopagite, “...Apollophanes reviles me, that he is calling me a parricide, that he charges me with making unholy use of things Greek [i.e. Greek philosophy] to attack the Greeks.” That is, the Platonists complained that their own vocabulary was effectively used against them. The man who so many latter day scholars would like to blame as an arch-Platonizer is blamed by the platonists themselves for the destruction of their system. By the time of Maximus the Confessor, not only was neo-platonic vocabulary used toward entirely different ends, the dialectic of oppositions was overthrown as well.
In the west things went differently. As is well known, St. Augustine, when he converted to Christianity, also turned to Plato — or more specifically to middle-platonism — to structure his intellectual and theological edifice. The reason he did so was that he too found, in the notion of the “One” of middle Platonism, a point of contact with monotheism. St. Augustine, like his Greek forbears, proceeded on the assumption that if there could be a point of contact between philosophy then there could be common definitions. This he found in the Neo-platonic simplicity of the One. He appropriated this definition as an understanding of the divine essence of the Christian Trinity of the unity of the Christian God and made it the ultimate basis of his attempted synthesis. Thus, like Origen, he appropriated the notion that the being, (essence), activities, attributes, knowledge and will of God were ultimately indistinguishable. To be was to know was to will was to act. To be good, was to be merciful, was to be everything which we attribute to God. Ontologically, all of these attributes were but rational rather than real distinctions. Going further, he described God the Father as the uncaused, the Son as the one who was caused by the father and the Holy Spirit as the one who was the result of the love between the Father and the Son. The similarity between this scheme and the Plotinian (and Origenist) schemes which depict the One generating the Nous who together with the One causes the World Soul are obvious. The parallels are exact. When you add to this that this “Trinity” is derived after the attributes of the essence are described, the result is that there is no really satisfactory understanding of person (person and nature are constantly being confused) and the persons end up being functions of the attributes which are one with the essence. The persons are effectually subsumed under and into the essence and distinguished as relationships of the essence. “Even the Augustinian doctrine of predestination must be referred to this identity of attributes amongst themselves, for ‘to predestine is the same as to foreknow’.” Real distinction is subsumed under a fundamentally binary system of “same” or “opposed”.
Here again, problems began to appear early, but unlike the east where Hellenistic philosophies were far better understood, the problems were not ultimately dealt with in a comprehensive manner -- i.e. in a manner which called into question the basic presuppositions of the ontology. The first problem which occurred was that of the “filioque”. This “theological fix” had its origin in the Arian and in the Spanish adoptionist controversies, and later in the Pelagian controversy.
The problem of Arianism came to the west with the Gothic invasions. The Goths had been converted to Arianism and were trying to spread it as they themselves spread over western Europe. As we have seen, the solution which was affirmed by the first Ecumenical Council went to the heart of the matter ontologically and reinterpreted the ontological basis of the divine simplicity by introducing a real distinction between the nature or essence of God and the will of God. Thus, the Council affirmed that the Logos was begotten of the nature of God whereas the world was created by the will of God. This distinction also served to draw the proper distinction between the personal characteristic of being a ‘father’ and the natural attribute of being a ‘creator’ or ‘cause’. Thus the first step was taken to redirect the vocabulary of Platonism towards Christian reality. In the West, where the cultural situation was daily going from bad to worse, the only readily available theological writer was St. Augustine. In Augustine’s system the Plotinian system, as we have seen, was totally in place. To this was added the structural subordination of the persons to the attributes of God. This gave rise to a confusion of personal characteristics with natural attributes. That is, because God was Father, He was cause, being cause He was the cause of the Son, who together with Him was the cause of the Spirit. Therefore, in order to argue for the divinity of the Son, against the Arian Goths the Spanish simply replied to Arian assertions that Jesus was God because He was a cause of another Divine Person; the Holy Spirit. Thus the Augustinian ‘solution’ left the entire neo-platonic ontology in place. However, the ‘solution’ was to cause far more problems than it solved. How it did so we will discuss with the “TULIP”.
But we now need to look at the Calvinist method and its implied ontology to see to what degree it follows this system. For this we turn to the Reformed Dogmatics: Set out and Illustrated from the Sources, by Heinrich Heppe. As an apology, it should be stated that we do understand that it can be dangerous to look at ‘only one’ source to draw conclusions about an entire system. However, we are assured by former students who were once Calvinists that this is a ‘standard’ text. Moreover the Foreword by no less than Karl Barth assures us that this book, which he himself used as a teacher, “...in form and content pretty adequately correspond[s] to what I, like so many others, had described to myself decades ago, as the ‘Old Orthodoxy’.” The book is, as the title implies, a source-book. It is a compendium of quotations from over 57 major different Calvinist theologians from the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, arranged with commentary. Thus we are not merely getting the Heppe interpretation, we are getting the story straight from the principal authors including Calvin himself. This is what makes this volume so useful.
Thus, when we look at the method, what do we find? First a discussion of Natural and Revealed Theology followed by a discussion (in two chapters) of Holy Scripture, its authority, interpretation, doctrine and source. Then, in the next 3 chapters we have in order 1. The Existence and Notion of God — i.e. a discussion of what God is essentially. 2. The Attributes of. 3. The Holy Trinity — i.e. the persons of God. We have the Augustinian Ordo whole, intact and presented without interruption or confusion.
The Existence and Notion of God. After a few opening paragraphs in which the arguments for the existence are acknowledged with (rightful) reservations about their necessity or efficacy, We learn that: 1. “God is...an absolute necessity and. . . God alone is a necessary being.”(page 50) 2. “...the unity or singleness of God. . .There cannot exist but one of that, the perfection of which is supreme. Therefore divine essence is single....He is undivided in Himself and divided from everything else....God is called one neither generically nor specifically, but essentially and numerically [emphasis added], or by reason of nature, because there is only one, an individual essence of God..; etc.” (p.51). 3. “God is incomprehensible” (p. 52). 4. “...in the absolute essence essentiality is completely identical with personality, existence and substance... actus purissimus et simplicissimus” (p. 53). That is, the being, the will, and the knowledge of God are the same by definition.
What we have here, then, is what amounts to a succinct statement of the Augustinian doctrine of the essence of God. Which is to say that while God is simple by definition by virtue of that simplicity His essence is undefinable or unknowable — just like the Plotinian One. The essence, the will, the activity and knowledge of God are essentially one — just like the Plotinian One.
The Attributes of God. We are told that: 1. “God’s essential attributes are really His very essence; and they do not actually differ from God’s essence or from each other.”(p.57) 2. “Thus the attributes are not distinguished from the essence of God nor in turn from each other either realiter or by a real distinction . . .[because] . . .such a distinction posits composition between thing and mode, as well as variation; for every mode is changeable [i.e. by virtue of the dialectic of oppositions where a thing can only be distinguished by its opposite, in this case change and not-change] (p.59) 3. “...Thus God’s attributes are distinguished from His essence and from each other distinctione rationis, since it is by thought alone that we abstract attribute from essence and one attribute from another.” (P59) 4. “The most notable distinction of God’s attributes is that by which they distinguished into communicable and incommunicable. Strictly speaking none are communicable, since they are proprietates (God’s very own)”. 5. ‘God’s foreknowledge is that knowledge by which God is signified as foreseeing and foreknowing from eternity everything that is said to be future as far as we are concerned. . . nothing will come to be, unless God wills it to be; otherwise He would hinder it.” 6. “Prescience is to be distinguished from permission; for prescience is an act of knowing, permission is an act of the will — the former has its object in itself, the latter has it outside itself.” By this statement they imagine that “freewill” can be attributed to humans. However, since this distinction is only, as noted above, distinctione rationis only; free will can only mean the freedom not to choose — just as electricity doesn’t have to choose when you turn the switch. When all is said and done the distinction between will and foreknowledge is thus rational not real. 7. “. . .His will also is actually a single actuosity eternally identical with itself...the divine willing is the divine nature itself.” 8. “God wills somethings necessarily, some freely. Himself He wills necessarily...He cannot not will His own glory...All other things He wills freely...” This comes tantalizingly close to the real distinction between nature and will, however, since the system as stated does not allow for such a real distinction by virtue of 3 above, it remains a rational distinction which asks the question “what if?”. What is of interest to us, thus far, is that every one of these statements of the attributes are logically and ontologically consonant with the Enneads of Plotinus. The attributes are all ontologically one, are ontologically one with the essence, and all are essentially incommunicable. It should be pointed out here that while we have noted only the “highlights” of the chapter, virtually every statement could be brought in as another example of our thesis.
The Holy Trinity. 1. “This most perfect production of an image in the divine essence is rightly called conception and generation...(p.106) 2. Since God is most perfect life, and since His entire life is knowledge, He needs must have a conception most akin to knowledge...and this conception...will be a generation, positing a mode of existence in God or a second person which rightly called both the image of God and the Son...(p. 106-7) 3. Since then in God being known and existing are the same thing and since moreover the being known is actually the esse of the Son, it is necessary for the essence and existence of God and of the Son to be constituted the same, — Since also God’s knowing is active from eternity, He Himself is eternal actus. But since then knowing is not without an image, it follows that this image or the Son which He has conceived is just as eternal...In God’s essence two modes of existence or persons are inferred, Father and Son...so that God is not God, if he have not the co-eternal Son...Since knowing is comprised in the divine essence, so also will be volition. — The more knowing there is in things, the more will there will be — So there must needs be the most perfect will in God...Thus in its activity God’s will returns upon itself, and rests in God Himself as the infinite good — Since God’s infinite will embraces and always achieves its object entire, there must therefore be produced from it supreme pleasure and love — So whereas the Father conceives and with most perfect will desires the image of Himself, His Son: it follows that the most perfect love and the fullest pleasure proceed from the Father to the Son and from Son to Father, as from image to archetype; and that so by the conjunction of the knowledge and will of both a third mode of existence or person is posited in the divine essence, called the Holy Spirit...(107) In this they are not simply different names or functions of the same person. 4. The Godhead is thus manifested over against the world as a single nature; in its inward being it exists as a threeness of persons. (P. 110) 5. Trinity is that relation in God, whereby in His divine and single essence three persons subsist, truly and actually distinguishable from each other by their own attributes or by a distinct mode of existence.(p. 110) In other words the Holy Spirit is a function of the relationship between the Father and the Son, and this follows from the fact that the Father and the Son are subsistent relationships in the essence and, furthermore, they are distinguished by their attributes i.e. they are functions of the attributes. 5. “The origin of the divine personae is the procession of one person from another...Order of persons means that one person is prior by nature or by cause...The distinction of persons resting upon this according to operation is a twofold one, namely according to order and the mode of action in essential operations and according to personal operation ... As therefore the Son has His existence from the Father and the Holy Spirit His from the Father and from the Son, so too in divine action the Fathers will takes precedence....”(p. 115). Thus the filioque is derived exactly in the same way as the Augustine derived it — which by extension is the same way the “Trinity” of the One, the Nous and the World Soul are derived by Plotinus. There is the same subordination of attributes to the essence and the persons to the attributes. While the mystery of this “threeness in oneness” is admitted to be a mystery not entirely understood, while the reformers really do struggle with the problem of the friction between their method and the data of revelation, and while they — taking Heppe’s volume as an example — come tantalizingly close to the necessary ontological distinctions which would set them on the road to true Orthodoxy, in the end it is the data which are subordinated to the rational system. Thus, for example, we read “there is an order, as of substance so the Father is a nemine, the Son from the Father alone by generation, the Holy Spirit by procession from the Father and Son. . .The most important NT passages of Scripture on which the doctrine is based, are:; MT 3. 16-17; 28:19; 2 Cor. 13:13; I Jn 5:7f Rev. 1:4,5.” (P 110) While it is interesting that St. John 14:16-17; 15:26; or 16:5-15 are not included in this list, what is even more interesting is that the position articulated above would require us to interpret the Mt. 3:16-17 in such a way that Jesus is sending the Holy Spirit upon Himself at His baptism. It is clear -- painfully clear -- that the entire neo-platonic system as adopted by Augustine is present whole, entire, and ontologically intact.
T. U. L. I. P.
“The problem with John Calvin is that he took all the fun out of religion.”
Unknown Jesuit at the University of Michigan c. 1960
This acronym is a convenient way delineating the central doctrines of “high Calvinism” as it was defined at the synod at Dort which affirmed the principles mentioned and condemned the Arminians for departing from them. In a sense, these principles are not merely the property of the Calvinists but of Protestants in general, though most non-Calvinists try to mitigate them in some fashion. Additionally, it must be pointed out that they are not simply the property of Protestantism in general but of Roman Catholicism as well. This may sound strange to many, but the only real contribution of John Calvin and his followers to the enunciation of these principles is that he followed the logic of his principles to its conclusion, whereas most of the others tended to try and mitigate those conclusions either theologically or philosophically. None the less they are a permanent part of Latin Christianity since the time St. Augustine and derive from his theology and theological anthropology. As a preliminary note to what follows, let us for now simply note the following: the peculiar notions of original (or ancestral) sin and its effect on human nature, the peculiar notions of the simplicity of divine nature (with its incumbent notions of will, foreknowledge and activity in God) which gave rise to certain of Augustine’s teachings were either unknown or repudiated in the Greek east — i.e. the people who spoke the language of the New Testament had little regard for the philosophical notions which form the bases for these teachings. It was only after the translation of the Bible into Latin — a language, which was up to that time singularly unsuited to theology — that many of the notions we will discuss took root. Thus the controversies about freewill and predestination which arose and continue to arise from these principles are peculiarly western Latin problems — problems which have never affected those who continued to speak and to use the language of the New Testament in prayer and liturgy, and for whom Plato and Aristotle and their intellectual progeny were as common as day old bread rather than something to be newly discovered over time.
The doctrine of total depravity is very simple to state. It is that when Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil their humanity suffered totally. They went from a total state of grace and communion with God to a state of total depravity and separation from God. According to Calvinist thinking — following Augustine — the goodness of human nature at the creation was not essential but accidental. Thus when Adam sinned, that goodness was lost and human nature became totally depraved. No longer servants of God, our first parents were now slaves of the devil. What had been the possibility to sin or not to sin was turned into the impossibility of not sinning. The result then and now is death, the wages of sin. Though there are many scriptural proof texts for this position, the main one, or at least one of the main ones is Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Dia touto osper di enos anthropou e amartia eis ton kosmon eiselthen kai dia tes amartias ho thanatos, kai outos eis pantas anthropous ho thanatos dielthen, eph ho pantes emarton.) This verse sets the tone for the rest of this chapter in which St. Paul contrasts the Old Adam with the New Adam — how through the old Adam sin and death came into the world and in the new Adam (Jesus Christ) we receive the gift of righteousness and resurrection to eternal life. That the new gift is far greater than the old offense, and it is free — we only have to receive it in faith. The question which hangs fire though, is what exactly has been transmitted to us through Adam’s sin, and this brings us back to verse 12. Augustine, following what is universally acknowledged to be a defective translation into Latin, read “in whom [i.e. Adam] all have sinned.” Thus his exegesis of the verse was that because Adam sinned, and because of his sin became subject to death, because we have all sinned in Adam, we are all subject to death, because the wages of sin is death (6:23). In other words everyone born into the world is guilty of Adam’s sin. Following the same reasoning we read “‘...Adam in the covenant of works sustained a public character and represented the entire human race. Hence it is perfectly manifest that by sinning he sinned not for himself only, but for all likewise whom he represented; that indeed there sinned with him whose whom he represented. One who is represented as doing or being acted upon may also be regarded as himself doing or being acted upon. To represent is with a certain force of law to exhibit the presence of that which is not present.’ ‘At first person infected nature, but afterwards nature infected person. Adam’s sin was the sin of the actual nature: the sins of the lave are personal. Therefore his sin was transferred with nature, but not that of the rest. But why Adam by sinning destroyed not the person only but the nature, while other men injure their persons but do not worsen the nature, no other cause can be assigned than God’s most righteous will.’” (Heppe p. 313). If we may draw a modern analogy: suppose a woman who is a heroin addict during her addiction conceives and gives birth to a child. Chances are virtually certain that the child will be an addict. The horrible effects newly born infants undergoing withdrawal is well documented. The child’s entire nature is adversely affected. He will probably live a shorter life, he will be far more likely given, his physical makeup and his likely social setting, to continue in the addiction he was born with than someone born in more propitious circumstances. Indeed, he probably will not be able to stop feeding his addiction without outside intervention. Given all these facts can we say that he is guilty of his mother’s sin? According to the reasoning we have just examined, the answer is yes. And here we begin to confront the Augustinian problematic. To contrast this with the proper understanding we must go to the Greek text as it was understood by those who knew Greek and did not bring an outside philosophical agendae to the text. Accordingly the first part of the verse is straightforward: because Adam sinned death came into the world. For the remaining part of the verse one has to deal with a grammatical ambiguity — the phrase eph ho. This can be translated as “because” but depending on whether you regard it as neuter or masculine (and it can be either) the phrase will mean either because all men sin (like Adam) they die (like Adam), or it can mean: ‘...because of death all men have sinned...’ In either case there is no possibility of interpreting this to mean that all human beings are guilty of the sin of Adam. Neither is the case for original guilt strengthened by the rest of the chapter. We sin because we die (our inheritance from Adam) and we are given the gift of life from the new Adam. — Christ. The glue which binds the parts of the doctrine of original guilt together is the “oneness” in Adam as understood in terms of the Platonism of the Plotinian One; the One in which act, knowledge, being, and will are one. Because we will recall, that according to this doctrine we are not only guilty of Adam’s sin, we (as, indeed, is Adam himself) are guilty by the righteous will of God. In other words God willed that Adam would sin, and God wills that we are guilty of this sin! The inescapable conclusion of this is that God Himself introduces evil into the world by His righteous will. The Calvinists try to argue their way out of this by statements like: “This fall of Adam’s was of course already foreseen by God in eternity and was ordained with a view to a more perfect and richer manifestation of the divine glory and grace, as well as to a richer blessing and a higher elevation of man by electing and redeeming grace. The Fall was therefore indeed introduced by God Ex necessitate consequentiae sive eventus, not however so far as Adam’s act was sin, but so far as God willed to use Adam’s sinful action as a means to the revelation of His glory.” (Heppe p303), and the attempt to distinguish “will as permission” which we have seen above. In other words Adam turned the apple into a lemon and God is simply making lemonade. The argument is also made that Adam chose freely – even though his choice was willed by God. Such an understanding of choice, or freedom of choice, is essentially the binary condition imposed by the dialectic of oppositions. It is analogous to the freedom of an electrical current to flow when someone turns a switch to the ‘on’ position. If God willed, and foreknew, this would happen, and if His foreknowledge, His will, and His being (as we have seen above -- actus purissimus simplicissimus) are identical, then the conclusion that God has introduced evil into the world is inescapable. There can be no “mediate” causes in the sense that God is not responsible or for them or ‘merely’ permits them, but simply makes use of them. Such ‘mediation’ or ‘permission’ can at best be only a “formal distinction” as has already been described above. The essential Platonism of the system has introduced pagan fatalism into the heart of its doctrine of God and its doctrine of salvation — a fact recognized immediately by the Greek fathers. The understanding of the Greek fathers, briefly, was that the perfection of Adam was at best potential (something which Calvinists come close to recognizing) and that this potential became, by the introduction of death, misdirected causing a gradual corruption of human nature as sin and death spread. Thus, for example, it is in the next generation that the crime of murder is added to disobedience, and subsequently the lifetimes of our earliest ancestors gradually decrease with the increase of corruption. Thus the Pauline doctrine that we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God is a function of our personal transgression (with its subsequent lack of perfection) not to some inherited guilt which disables us from acting righteously under any circumstance. A further consequence of introducing this platonic distortion into the doctrine of the fall are some embarrassing logical impasses.
St. John Cassian, a perennial thorn in the side of the Augustinians notes: “...We must take care not to refer all the merits of the saints to the Lord in such a way as to ascribe nothing but what is evil and perverse to human nature: in doing which we are confuted by the evidence of the most wise Solomon, or rather of the Lord Himself, Whose words these are; for when the building of the Temple was finished and he was praying, he spoke as follows: ‘And David my father would have built a house to the name of the Lord God of Israel: and the Lord said to David my father: Whereas thou has thought in thine heart to build a house to My name, thou hast well done in having same things in thy mind. Nevertheless thou shalt not build a house to My Name.’(III Kg [I Kg] 8:17-19) This thought then and this purpose of king David, are we to call it good and from God or bad and from man? For if that thought was good and from God, why did He by whom it was inspired refuse that it should be carried into effect? But if it is bad and from man, why is it praised by the Lord?...” According to the Augustinian/Calvinist position one must say either that all good works come from God and not from man, in this case David, as the Scripture clearly implies, or else you have to say that a fallen human and therefore evil work found favour with God.” This cannot merely be viewed as a plea for “works righteousness”, rather its purpose is to point to where the logical ontology of the Augustinian/Calvinist position inevitably leads.
This doctrine states that because we are sinners by virtue of both our guilt as descendants of Adam, and because of our actual sins, God, being righteous, is justifiably angry. In His righteous anger he has condemned the human race to eternal damnation because there is nothing that we as creatures can do pay the price of that infraction. However, by virtue of the incarnation of the second person of the Holy Trinity as the man Jesus Christ, pays the price of redemption for some of us by substituting Himself for those he has chosen on Calvary. Now stating the matter in this way raises many interesting questions such as “To whom is the price being paid?” If God is paying it to Himself, this is certainly an interesting (not to mention painful) way of doing it. If to the devil, then since when does anyone owe anything to him? However, for our purposes these questions, while interesting are less compelling than the notion that Christ died only for those (who are chosen from the entire massa damnata) whom God has decreed shall be saved. In other words the sacrifice on Calvary is not for everyone, but only for the pre-chosen. And those who have been chosen, by the eternal decree of God, have been chosen unconditionally. In other words, of all the men and women born throughout all the history of the world, some will be saved and others will be damned, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it. Again, the argument is put forward that everybody goes on their way to salvation or damnation freely, but the understanding of freedom here is precisely freedom from choice.
One of the principle proof texts here is Acts 13:48: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of God; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” That is, it is understood that “some” therefore not everyone were “ordained”, and because they were “ordained” they believe, passing by their free will (i.e. their freedom from choice) to those virtues which lead to eternal life. The main problem with this is that the word for “ordained” “tategmenos” is the middle form of the verb ‘tasso’. Old Greek, unlike English or most modern languages, has a grammatical construction called the middle voice which is used to describe what one does to or for oneself. The second problem is that to the Greek speakers of the day the term carried the connotation of ‘enlistment’ as in the military. Therefore “ordained” here is properly understood as applying to those who presented themselves for enlistment into and their subsequent recruitment or appointment to eternal life.  Thus it is one of the best possible proof texts for the doctrine of synergy as traditionally held by the Orthodox.
Limited Atonement or particular redemption is the teaching that Christ did not die for everyone but rather only for those who from eternity and by the eternal decree and righteous will of God had been predestined for salvation. This means that such passages as St. John 6:39: “...and this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up at the last day.” and I Timothy 2:4 “...who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Must be so interpreted as to point to some who are saved and others who are not by the eternal decree of God. In the minds of Augustine and those who follow him, The “all men” of the letter to Timothy and the “all” of the gospel verse could only refer to all those who had been predestined. In the case of the verse from Timothy, it contradicts the ‘plain sense’ of the sentence. There is no limit implied here or by the context. In the case of the gospel verse, the matter becomes more critical in that the “all” referred to here cannot, grammatically speaking, refer to a number of persons. The “pan” of the Greek and the “omnes” of the Latin are both in the neuter which means that they must refer not to the entirety of a numerical group (which would have required the masculine form of the adjective), but to the entirety of a given single entity. Thus, the Greek fathers, culminating with St. Maximus the Confessor understand it to refer to the entirety of human nature — precisely the human nature of Jesus Christ. So, in the example under discussion: “In Christ’s human nature which is consubstantial with all men, God humanly wills, decrees and perfectly fulfills the salvation of all men, for no human being is untouched by His Incarnation, and nothing is detracted from His sovereignty as God if individual persons choose not to accept salvation. Nothing is lost to His sovereignty as God Incarnate precisely because nothing is lost to the perfection of His human nature; it retains its full integrity as human nature despite the fact that individual persons [may] reject Him.” 
This is the teaching that once the grace of God comes to someone to save him, by the eternal decree of God, this grace cannot be refused. It is as impossible for the elect to refuse grace as it is for an electrical current to flow through a system when the proper switches have been turned on. It leaves no room for temptation, nor for the possibility that someone can struggle to live a godly life only to throw it off in the end. Again, this position is tenable only if the being, the will, the activities and the knowledge of God are essentially the same, and flows necessarily from that understanding of God. Thus this leads us to the final teaching.
Perseverance of the Saints.
Relatively little needs to be said about this by way of description as it follows necessarily from the teachings described above. It is basically the technical vocabulary for the popular evangelical phrase: “Once saved, always saved.” There is a truth to this in that human nature is saved by the redeeming acts of Christ. What, however, is not guaranteed is personal participation in that natural transfiguration. Which brings us to the last bit of Platonism to be discussed. Namely, the teaching that “nature compels”. We must do what we do by virtue of natural necessity. This notion has no meaning outside the bounds of Hellenistic metaphysics, both Platonic and Aristotelian. It is the Orthodox teaching that ultimately ‘person’ transcends ‘nature’. The proper distinction of person and nature which — by virtue of its essential platonism — is impossible to Augustinianism and those theologies which flow from it, is essential for any proper biblical exegesis on the question of predestination and free will.
According to the United Nations census in 1989, there were 23,000 Christian denominations. If you subtract the Orthodox/Catholic groups (including all of the various vagante and non-canonical groups - i.e. about 150 or so)you have about 22,850 protestant denominations. The vocabulary of the New Testament is 5432 different words. This means, in round figures, that the number of protestant denominations is over 4.2 times the number of different words in the New Testament. Indeed it prompts the question about whether something Hegelian is going on here. If one were a Hegelian (and let the gentle reader be assured that the writer of this article is not) one could rather easily make a case for saying that the conservative (fundamentalist) protestant divides in opposition to its liberal antithesis which combines in a new synthesis (say Barthianism) which in turn divides and so on. As mentioned above, this splintering is a condition which is unprecedented not only in Christianity, but in all of the major monotheistic religions. Further, as stated, each of these groups represents not simply a theology, but rather a theological trend. Thus, for example, Calvinism is represented by a range of theologies ranging from the relatively conservative Reformed and Orthodox Presbyterian Churches on one end, to extremely liberal Presbyterian, Congregational and UCC Churches on the other end, all claiming to drink from and be faithful to the same source. To a person on the Conservative end, the discussion in the earlier part of this essay would make a certain amount of sense even if he violently disagreed. On the liberal end if people know what is being discussed at all, they would probably regard it as irrelevant. An analogous shift has occurred even among the more conservative. Whereas in the time of the Great Awakenings in North America the principal questions being asked were “Am I saved?”; “How do I know if I’m saved?” (During this same period the entire population of a town could be found in Church on Sunday morning, whereas only about 10 to 15% of them were actually members of the Church because they were the ones who could somehow prove that they were indeed among the elect). Where as present day revivals ask the question “Are you saved?” — i.e. they expect that the person so questioned to be able to answer for himself without further investigation.
Today the “Romans Road”  is routinely traveled by would be evangelists who just as routinely extend the ‘right hand of fellowship’ to people who tend to end up being saved for an average of 36 to 60 months. Then, commonly, they either lose interest or frequently go found another Church based on some contradictory point of doctrine. Different groups teach a range of opinions regarding the “TULIP” and may hold to all or some of the points. Historically, however, the more conservative have generally begotten the more liberal groups the way that thunderstorms beget flash floods.
In the section on Total Depravity above we saw how St. John Cassian demonstrated one way in which the Augustinian position led to a logical impasse. We have also seen how it leads to the affirmation that God introduced evil into the world. It could also be shown how it leads to the theological conundrum: “If God is omniscient and human beings are ignorant, then how can Jesus be both God and man if He must be Omniscient and ignorant at the same time?” And these are just three such instances.
It has been suggested that this theological fission is largely the result of the dialectic of oppositions in combination with the double subordination of attributes to essence and persons to attributes which is such an integral part of this way of theologizing. It has been pointed out that most of these divisions are “based on logical contradiction rather than upon Biblical Exegesis.”  Indeed, it would seem that Biblical exegesis, if anything simply added — and continues to add — grist to the mill by providing more possibilities for contradiction. It would not be easy to do all of the investigation to verify this hypothesis, and it is not certain that it would really be worth the effort. It does, however, provide a cogent reason for denominational proliferation and covers the main facts such as we know them. It would seem that the one palatable thing that Orthodoxy can offer even the most die-hard Calvinist is a way out of Platonist dialectic and that without resorting to the monarchical pretensions of a Roman-style pontiff.
The first book we ever read by C.G. Jung, was in the summer of 1961, the year he died. As far as we can remember, the early 1960's were not especially kind to the ideas of a man who considered himself to be one the seminal geniuses of human intellectual history. He had been thoroughly battered by a Jewish theologian and philosopher named Martin Buber in a series of essays which still make capital reading. In addition, clinical psychotherapy was still very much in the doldrums after the onslaught of such as B.F. Skinner and those of like mind who sought to put psychology on a ‘truly scientific basis’ with their brand of experimentalism. With time, however, Behaviorism over-reached itself, and clinical approaches were claiming a new kind of validity with the result that Jung’s approach and ideas have climbed back to an almost cultic status in some quarters. We would suggest that this is no accident. We would suggest that the intellectual climate was ripe for such an event. Why? For one thing. Jung always claimed that “religion was important” in his scheme of things. However, while religion was important for him he never lost the opportunity to assail “orthodox” religion particularly of the Judeo-Christian variety. Why? Because they refused to own up to what he liked to call the ‘fact’ that God was responsible for both good and evil! And this is one of the central tenets of Gnosticism, the main heresy of the first and second century. We call it a heresy advisedly, because there is reason to doubt that it was of Christian origin even though there were elements of Christian teaching in the doctrines of some of the Gnostic teachers. Christian or not, however, the early Church fathers had to battle it tooth and nail. Finally, we note that the resurgence seems, temporally at least, connected to the such systems of ‘spirituality’ as the New Age Movement.
We have seen how Reformed systematics comes to the conclusion (that God introduced evil into the world) in spite of all the ways in which their theologians try to get around it. The conclusion is built into the system and there is no way out of it without denying their doctrine of double predestination as well. It is a problematic which is throughly platonist in origin — as was Gnosticism. It is worth noting that from the first century to the present this question has never even been raised within the Church in the Orthodox east. When it was raised in the east it was by people well outside of the Church. Even in the west, save for a brief flirtation by Augustine it was thoroughly quashed until the Reformation. Again, it would be difficult to reconstruct the case for any direct causality between the theology of the Protestant Reformation and the Gnosticism which has raised its ugly head in our time — particularly in the case of C. G. Jung and, more recently, the New Age movement. But it is not too speculative to observe that an intellectual climate which has been conditioned by the possibility — even if that possibility was officially denied — that God is responsible for introducing evil into the world (as it has been for 500 years), is a climate which is ripe for the spread of classical Gnosticism.
In conclusion, we would say that our observations speak for themselves. Those people who accuse the Orthodox of being neo-Platonists would do better to look closer to home. They no doubt will be horrified to see what has been growing rank in their theological gardens — or would they? We would also reiterate that Classical Protestant thought — particularly in its Calvinist, Lutheran, and Anglican varieties — is far richer and varied than we have been able to portray it here. When one paints with broad strokes, as we have had to do from necessity, one risks falling into mere caricature. However, even caricature, when it is sufficient to the salient points, is preferable to mere tendentiousness, and it at least has the merit of refinability.
 As has been noted in many places, but chiefly in Fr. Georges Florovsky’s monumental work, Ways of Russian Theology, Orthodox theologizing underwent a pseudo-morphosis beginning (in the Russian Church) with the publication, by Metropolitan Peter (Mogila), of his Catechism based largely on the catechetical works of Peter Canisius, SJ. This has been called a pseudo morphosis precisely because the dogmatic teachings of Orthodoxy have never precisely fit into this mold causing consternation both inside and outside of Orthodoxy.
 In this regard it is useful to point out that II Peter along with 2 & 3 John, Jude, Hebrews and Revelation were rejected from the New Testament Canon by John Calvin and his immediate followers as apocryphal Allegedly this was because they were not supposed to have been written by the stated authors. (Heppe, p. 13ff) However, the lack of agreement between the Epistle of James and certain a priori doctrinal assumptions is well known, as is the charge of Hellenism leveled at such as 2 Peter. It was only in the next generation that they were recognized, and that as having less authority (Musculus Loci p. 175 quoted in Heppe). presumably only historical ambiguity is sufficient to throw question on doctrines of both essential and integral unity. It is worthwhile to further remind him that despite all the efforts to prove the contrary, there is simply no basis for the notion that 1st Century Judaism was hermetically sealed off from the Hellenism of the period as is well witnessed by much of the phraseology of St. Paul. The attempt to do so is just as ridiculous as the attempts to turn St. Paul into a stoic philosopher because of various of his expressions combined with the fact that he was from Tarsus. Thus, for example, it is not possible, as some try to maintain, that Peter’s utterance can be approached exclusively in ‘Jewish’ terms. Neither is it the case, as some attempt to assume, that the participation in the divine nature which is promised in II Peter, is participation in the essence — to maintain this is to misunderstand the essence-energies distinction.
 Here we must comment on what can only be described as the astonishing lack of comprehension demonstrated by Douglas Jones in his statement (among others): “To return to The One, the human soul must devote itself not only to a process of ascetic intellectual practices but ultimately to direct union with The One through ecstatic contact, which only the most disciplined attain. Eastern Orthodox thinkers at times insist that they have purged neo‑Platonism from their thinking by slight changes in Plotinus's system. For example, they reject simplicity as a basis for God's unknowability and Plotinus's exclusive concern with the intellect. By claiming that such trifling adjustments remove Hellenism from their theology, these thinkers show how deeply ingrained their neo‑Platonism truly is.” which appears in his article “Non Est” (Credenda Agenda Volume 6 issue 5). First, the whole point of apophaticism as described by Lossky and others is precisely that one does not attain union with the essence of God (which in terms of the Originist problematic would have been the Plotinian ‘One’). Secondly, it is difficult to understand how anyone who has studied the Enneads and the secondary literature could possibly say that “...reject[ion of] simplicity as a basis for God's unknowability and Plotinus's exclusive concern with the intellect... are “trifling adjustments”. The rejection of simplicity as the defining characteristic of the One strikes at the heart of the Plotinian system in such a way that as an ontology it falls apart. Furthermore, the ontological status of the things ‘around’ (i.e. the energies of) God is completely changed in a way that is impossible within any Platonic ontology -- i.e. the energies are divine and uncreated; with Plotinus they cannot be divine and in must be created, indeed, they are the highest created beings -- and must exist precisely apart from the One in a relationship of dialectical opposition. Just because the vocabulary remains largely the same does not alter the fact that it is used to describe an entirely different reality.
 Cf. On “Not Three Gods” to Ablabius
 Dionysios the Areopagite, Letter Seven, to Polycarp, a Hierarch., PG 3 1080B. Translation by Colm Luibheid
 Joseph Farrell, St. Photios, Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, an Introduction and translation, p. 27. This paragraph is little more than a summary of the arguments in the introduction of this book.
 Farrell, Joseph P. Free Choice in Maximus the Confessor, pp. 196-97
 cf St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans
 Farrell. Maximus, p. 224.
 Romans 3:10, 3:23, 5:12, 6:23, 5:8.
Mildred Bangs Wynkoop, Foundations of Weslayan-Arminian Theology, Kansas City, p. 32 Quoted in J.P. Farrell, Maximus p. 197