THE ARMINIANISM OF DANIEL D. CORNER REFUTED - Part 2:
(BY JOEY FAUST)
The following is a refutation of, "The Believer's Conditional Security: Eternal Security Refuted," by Daniel D. Corner (http://www.evangelicaloutreach.org).
In Part I, I examined Mr. Corner's Introduction (his chapter 1). I pointed out that it only took a few pages for him to reveal the main reason behind much of his doctrinal confusion. He thinks that the phrase "kingdom of God," (etc.), means "heaven," and he uses "heaven" as a synonym for life in the eternal age. This is part of that old confusion started by Origen (i.e. allegorical interpretation) and Tyconius (typological), that later influenced Augustine; it has practically taken over the Christian denominations in modern times. It is therefore interesting that Corner writes against Origen and Augustine in his book. He is somehow unaware of how much he has in common with these writers!
Based on the Scriptures and debates in Christian history, it is amazing that Corner does not offer any proof for his view that the phrase "kingdom of God," (etc.) refers to Heaven or the eternal state. He answers no objections to his view. The word "kingdom" is not found in the Subject Index of his 801-page book. Yet, most of the arguments of his book are based on Scriptures that teach exclusion from the "kingdom"! I have carefully studied (with pen in hand) every page of his book. He never offers the slightest discussion or evidence to prove his view of the kingdom! Furthermore, his Scripture Index omits 1 Corinthians 15:24-26. These verses are significant since they reveal the very manner in which Paul uses the phrase "the kingdom," and they reveal that the "kingdom" is the temporary, Millennial Kingdom in most verses. Corner makes much of Paul's warnings about exclusion from the kingdom (and from the inheritance in/of the kingdom) to argue against eternal security. Why then, in 801 pages, does he fail to present even the slightest proof for his views concerning the kingdom?
While Corner falls very short of proving Arminianism, he certainly reveals many errors and weaknesses of Calvinism's fifth point (the perseverance of the saints). He certainly reveals that there is something missing, and much that is terribly wrong in the manner in which "once-saved-always-saved" is being taught in pulpits today. It is too bad that Corner, who appears to be premillennial, interprets so many Scriptures in an amillennial or postmillennial fashion! This leaves him with no other way to understand the warnings to Christians than to apply them to the eternal age; this ends up in a works salvation, and a denial of grace. Corner's only answer to this dilemma is to say that we must be wrong in our understanding of grace and works! Modern eternal security advocates would rather err on the side of grace, even if they cannot explain many of the various warnings. Yet Corner would rather apply the warnings to the eternal state - even if he has to teach eternal salvation by working to the end, with no certain assurance! This is fleeing licentiousness only to fall into the arms of Roman Catholicism. Is it reasonable to rail against Millennial Exclusion as resembling Purgatory, while one embraces Rome's "gospel" of eternal salvation by works (which is no Gospel!)?
In Chapter 2, Corner begins by noting two positions among advocates of eternal security. He calls those who believe that every true saint will persevere in practical holiness the "moderate" position; and he calls those who believe that true saints can be carnal and "walk as men," and end up "unfruitful" (though saved at last), the "extreme" position. Corner notes that both positions agree that true saints can never lose ultimate, eternal salvation.
His main point in Chapter 2 is his argument that once-saved-always-saved (OSAS) began with Augustine (354-430). Since Augustine was heretical in many places, and a principle father of the Roman Catholic Church, Corner argues that eternal security must therefore be wrong. He writes:
"...did you know that it [OSAS]...can be traced more than one thousand years earlier [than Calvin] to Augustine of Hippo (354-430)?...Augustine was most importantly wrong about the foremost doctrine in all of Scripture - how to be saved...Augustine, then, was spiritually incapable of correctly understanding Scripture." (pp.20, 31).
It is certainly true that Augustine was in great error, and should not be trusted as a worthy teacher of Scriptures. But Corner needs to realize that his argument of "guilt by association" actually bites his own hand! Augustine confessed that he had abandoned the premillennial view that had been strongly advocated by the Christians before him. Justin Martyr had called premillennialism (i.e. chiliasm) the view held by all the right-minded Christians in his early day! In contrast to this view, Augustine later adopted a figurative, and/or extremely typological manner of interpreting the Scriptures. In his "City of God," he writes:
"Those who, on the strength of this passage [Revelation 20], have suspected that the first resurrection is future and bodily, have been moved, among other things, specially by the number of a thousand years, as if it were a fit thing that the saints should thus enjoy a kind of Sabbath-rest during that period...there should follow on the completion of six thousand years, as of six days, a kind of seventh-day Sabbath in the succeeding thousand years; and that it is for this purpose the saints rise, viz., to celebrate this Sabbath. And. this opinion would not be objectionable, if it were believed that the joys of the saints in that Sabbath shall be spiritual, and consequent on the presence of God; for I MYSELF, TOO, ONCE HELD THIS OPINION. But, as they assert that those who then rise again shall enjoy the leisure of immoderate carnal banquets, furnished with an amount of meat and drink such as not only to shock the feeling of the temperate, but even to surpass the measure of credulity itself, such assertions can be believed only by the carnal. They who do believe them are called by the spiritual Chiliasts, which we may literally reproduce by the name Millenarians." (Augustine)
Of course, the early Christians did not believe, as Augustine implied, that the future Millennium would be "carnal" or ungodly. They rightly believed that it would be contrasted to this present time of temptation and suffering. It will be characterized as a time of joy, as opposed to this time of cross bearing. It is a time of reigning, as opposed to this time of suffering (2 Timothy 2:12, Luke 22:28-29). Augustine was simply reflecting (and watering) the growing asceticism of his day in preparation for Rome's later monkery, etc.
This change in Augustine's doctrinal view of Revelation 20 colored his whole understanding of the kingdom; and this, in turn, affected his understanding of the Gospel. David R. Anderson writes:
"...when Augustine became amillennial, this major change in his eschatology affected other parts of his theology, namely his soteriology...That chiliasm was the norm in eschatology up until roughly A.D. 400 is no debate among church historians."
("The Soteriological Impact of Augustine's Change from Premillenialism to Amillennialism, Part One; 2002; Faithalone.org)
In 1995, I argued a similar point in an article titled, "Purgatory! The Baby with the Bath Water." I showed from Augustine's work, "Enchiridion," that his new view of the "kingdom" warped his view of eternal salvation. "Enchiridion" is a later work of Augustine, after he rejected premillennialism. He equates "the kingdom" in 1 Corinthians 6:9 with eternal salvation, in the eternal state, instead of matching it with the temporary kingdom that Paul goes on to discuss in 1 Corinthians 15. Augustine writes:
"But now, can that part of the human race to whom God hath promised deliverance and a place in the ETERNAL KINGDOM be restored through the merits of their own works?"
("Enchiridion," Chapter 9)
Notice that Augustine here defines what he means by the phrase "the kingdom" whenever it is found in this work. To Augustine, at this point in his life, the "kingdom" refers to eternal life, in an eternal kingdom in Heaven. Notice his commentary on 1 Corinthians 3 and 6 in a later chapter:
"There are some, indeed, who believe that those who do not abandon the name of Christ, and who are baptized in his laver in the Church, who are not cut off from it by schism or heresy, who may then live in sins however great, not washing them away by repentance, nor redeeming them by alms - and who obstinately persevere in them to life's last day - even these will still be saved, 'though as by fire.' They believe that such people will be punished by fire, prolonged in proportion to their sins, but still not eternal...Now, if the wicked man were to be saved by fire on account of his faith only, and if this is the way the statement of the blessed Paul should be understood - 'But he himself shall be saved, yet so as by fire' - then faith WITHOUT WORKS would be sufficient to salvation. But then what the apostle James said would be false. And also false would be another statement of the same Paul himself: 'Do not err,' he says; 'neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor the unmanly, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit THE KINGDOM of God.' Now, if those who persist in such crimes as these are nevertheless saved by their faith in Christ, would they not then be in THE KINGDOM of God?"
Notice, he argues against Christians with great sins being punished at the Judgment Seat of Christ (but still saved) by referring to the fact that Paul said those with great sins would be excluded from "the Kingdom." Since Augustine no longer believed in a literal, future Millennial Kingdom of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:25, Revelation 20:6), he was forced to interpret the verses that teach exclusion from the kingdom as referring to exclusion from eternal life in the eternal kingdom.
But this teaching brought him into conflict with 1 Corinthians 3:15:
1 Corinthians 3:15 If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.
If a man's whole work on the foundation for Christ is burned, and yet he is still saved after suffering loss, yet so as by fire, why then does the Bible teach that elsewhere (according to Augustine) that great sinners will be excluded from the eternal kingdom? Rather than question his view of the kingdom, Augustine adopts an absurd interpretation. He teaches that the man in 1 Corinthians 3 is "burned" by certain desires in this life, as he holds on to Christ (the foundation), and will therefore be saved, since he did not let go of the foundation. He writes:
"In fact, wood and hay and stubble may be understood, without absurdity, to signify such an attachment to those worldly things - albeit legitimate in themselves - that one cannot suffer their loss without anguish in the soul. Now, when such anguish 'burns,' and Christ still holds his place as foundation in the heart - that is, if nothing is preferred to him and if the man whose anguish 'burns' would still prefer to suffer loss of the things he greatly loves than to lose Christ - then one is saved, 'by fire.' But if, in time of testing, he should prefer to hold onto these temporal and worldly goods rather than to Christ, he does not have him as foundation - because he has put 'things' in the first place - whereas in a building nothing comes before the foundations. The fire is a sort of trial of affliction...This kind of fire works in the span of this life...He 'burns' with grief, for the things he has loved and lost, but this does not subvert nor consume him..."
Therefore, according to Augustine, one will be eternally saved only if he endures to the end, holding on to Christ during times of testing. Perhaps feeling a bit ashamed at the reckless confusion caused by such an interpretation, Augustine goes on to suggest the possibility that the suffering of loss may be future:
"It is not incredible that something like this should occur after this life, whether or not it is a matter for fruitful inquiry. It may be discovered or remain hidden whether some of THE FAITHFUL are sooner or later to be saved by a sort of purgatorial fire, in proportion as they have loved the goods that perish, and in proportion to their attachment to them. HOWEVER, this does not apply to those of whom it was said, 'They shall not possess the KINGDOM of God,' unless their crimes are remitted through due repentance. I say 'due repentance' to signify that they must not be barren of almsgiving, on which divine Scripture lays so much stress that our Lord tells us in advance that, on the bare basis of fruitfulness in alms, he will impute merit to those on his right hand; and, on the same basis of unfruitfulness, demerit to those on his left - when he shall say to the former, 'Come, blessed of my Father, receive the KINGDOM,' but to the latter, 'Depart into everlasting fire.'"
His suggestion of a possible "purgatorial fire" (after death) is only for the "faithful." In other words, it is only for those who did not commit sins worthy of exclusion from the kingdom, and for those who have brought forth fruits meet for repentance, through alms, etc. This is plainly eternal salvation by grace through works! The foundation for Rome's Purgatory is laid, and it is only for those with LESSER sins, not great (mortal). Like Augustine, Pope Gregory the Great later taught:
"That we believe that for CERTAIN SLIGHT SINS there will be a purgatory fire prior to judgment."
Those with "great" sins will be eternally damned. Rome's Purgatory not only allows eternal salvation to be purchased by suffering after death, it is also only for "slight" sins. According to Rome's "fathers," greater sins, such as those mentioned in the kingdom-exclusion passages (e.g. 1 Corinthians 6, Galatians 5 and Ephesians 5, etc.), will cause one to become eternally lost.
In bringing all this back to Daniel Corner, Augustine's views of the kingdom, the kingdom-warning passages, dead faith, enduring to the end, holding on to Christ, no real assurance, etc., all sound like Corner's own writings! Nevertheless, Mr. Corner tells us that Augustine is spiritually blind and therefore should be rejected!
Corner claims that Augustine was the originator of the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints (OSAS). He shows the influence that Augustine had on Calvin. However, he forgets that he also argues that Augustine is seen by many to be the father of Roman Catholicism! Rome denies the doctrine of eternal security with anathemas (Trent). Corner even provides quotes noting how all of Rome's errors can be traced back to Augustine. He is correct. He simply does not realize that Rome's "conditional security" is also one of these errors!
Augustine, contrary to Corner's assertions, did not believe in eternal security:
"Augustine said the non-elect can have genuine faith. Augustine said the non-elect can be legitimately regenerated by the Holy Spirit. But because they have not received that most necessary of all gifts, the gift of perseverance, these regenerated believers are non-elect. Forget the fact that the Scriptures never suppose that one who is regenerated is not also elect (cf. 1 Pet 1:1, 3 and Titus 1:1; 3:5). When pressed on this matter, as previously stated, Augustine explained this contradiction as 'a mystery.'"
(Anderson, "The Soteriological Impact of Augustine's Change from Premillenialism to Amillennialism, Part Two; 2002; Faithalone.org)
Anderson is correct. Notice the following statements from Augustine's "On the Gift of Perseverance" (A.D. 429). Corner quoted extensively from this writing of Augustine. But he left out the following statements:
"Therefore it is uncertain whether any one has received this gift so long as he is still alive...if he have righteousness, if patience, if EVEN FAITH, and FALL AWAY, he is rightly said to have HAD these virtues and to HAVE THEM NO LONGER; for he was continent, or he was RIGHTEOUS, or he was patient, or HE WAS BELIEVING, as long as he was so; but when he ceased to be so, he no longer is what he was...If from the time at which any one became a believer he has lived - for the sake of argument - ten years, and in the midst of them has FALLEN FROM THE FAITH, has he not persevered for five years? I am not contending about words. If it be thought that this also should be called perseverance, as it were for so long as it lasts, assuredly he is not to be said to have had in any degree that perseverance of which WE ARE NOW DISCOURSING, by which one perseveres in Christ even to the end." (Augustine)
Notice, Augustine does not deny that some true believers will fail to endure until the end in faith and holiness; he simply states that he does not recognize such believers to have had the gift of perseverance in the way he is using the term. He holds that certain believers obtain a second work of grace, beyond initial regeneration. He continues:
"And the believer of one year, or of a period as much shorter as may be conceived of, if he has lived faithfully until he died, has rather had this perseverance than the believer of many years' standing, if a little time before his death he has fallen away from the STEDFASTNESS OF HIS FAITH...Let not men say, then, that perseverance is given to any one to the end, except when the end itself has come, and he to whom it has been given has been found to have persevered unto the end..." (Augustine)
In this quote on absolute assurance, we see that both Protestant Calvinism and Arminianism meet together in this root of Augustine. The debate between them is simply over whether or not the first faith that later does not endure was a "true" faith. Augustine teaches the same thing that Corner has argued in his book. Only, in this treatise, Augustine would add that the believers who finally fall away and are eternally lost did not seek (or obtain by God's grace) the extra gift of perseverance. He writes:
"And this might have been given to us even without our praying for it, but by our prayer He willed us to be admonished from whom we receive these benefits...Let the inquirer still go on, and say, 'Why is it that to some who have in good faith worshipped Him He has not given to persevere to the end?' Why except because he does not speak falsely who says, 'They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, doubtless they would have continued with us.' [1 John ii. 19]...Were not both created by God - both born of Adam - both made from the earth...Lastly, had not BOTH BEEN CALLED, and followed Him that called them? and had not both become, from wicked men, JUSTIFIED MEN, and both been RENEWED by the laver of regeneration?" (Augustine)
Augustine's theology states that a man can be called, justified, with fruits following, renewed through baptism, and yet not obtain the extra gift of perseverance. This is why we say that Corner's statements about Augustine (e.g. "Augustine, then, was spiritually incapable of understanding Scripture," p.31) actually rebukes his own view! Augustine continues:
"...But it is said, 'It is by his own fault that any one deserts the faith, when he yields and consents to the temptation which is the cause of his desertion of the faith.' Who denies it?...Because no one can be certain of the life eternal which God who does not lie has promised to the children of promise before the times of eternity, - no one, unless that life of his, which is a state of trial upon the earth, is completed." (Augustine)
As we have noted, Corner traces a line from Augustine to Calvin to John Macarthur. (Indeed, John Macarthur gladly admits that both he and Augustine teach the same view of salvation assurance. See, "The Gospel According to Jesus, p.222) Corner writes:
"In fact, John Calvin called Augustine...'the best and most faithful witness of all antiquity.'"(p.32)
"One must wonder how his writings could be so exalted by the Reformers." (p.32)
Actually, the view that the Reformers exalted Augustine is not exactly true. Notice the following statements by Philipp Melancthon (1497-1560):
"'I see,' writes Melancthon, 'what is troubling you about faith. You stick to the FANCY OF AUGUSTINE, who, though right in rejecting the righteousness of human reason, imagines that we are justified by that fulfilling of the law which the Holy Spirit works in us. So you imagine that men are justified by faith, because it is by faith that we receive the Spirit, that thereafter we may be able to be just by that fulfillment of the law which the Spirit works. This imagination places justification in our fulfillment of the law, in our purity or perfection, although this renewal ought to follow faith. But do you turn your eyes from that renewal, and from the law altogether, to the promise and to Christ, and think that it is on Christ's account that we become just, that is, accepted before God, and that it is thus we obtain peace of conscience, and not on account of that renewal. For even this renewing is insufficient (for justification). We are justified by faith alone, not because it is a root, as you write, but because it apprehends Christ, on account of whom we are accepted. This renewing, although it necessarily follows, yet does not pacify the conscience. Therefore not even love, though it is the fulfilling of the law, justifies, but only faith; not because it is some excellence in us, but only because it takes hold of Christ. We are justified, not on account of love, not on account of the fulfilling of the law, not on account of our renewal, although these are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but on account of Christ; and Him we take hold of by faith alone...Believe me, my Brentius, this controversy regarding the righteousness which is by faith is a mighty one, and little understood. You can only rightly comprehend it by turning your eyes entirely away from the law, and FROM AUGUSTINE'S IDEA about our fulfilling the law, and by fixing them wholly upon the free promise, so as to see that it is on account of that promise and for Christ's sake, that we are justified, that is, accepted and obtain peace. When could the conscience have peace and assured hope, if we are not justified till our renewal is perfected? What is this but to be justified by the law, and not by the free promise? In that discussion I said that to ascribe our justification to love is to ascribe it to our own work, understanding by that, a work done in us by the Holy Ghost. For faith justifies, not because it is a new work of the Spirit in us, but because it apprehends Christ, on account of whom we are accepted, and not on account of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us. TURN AWAY FROM AUGUSTINE'S IDEA, and you will easily see the reason for this...'"
(Melancthon, quoted in Horatius Bonar's, "God's Way of Holiness")
Here we see that Melancthon denied that Augustine even understood the Gospel! Historian D'Aubigne called Melancthon "the Theologian of the Reformation." We do not have to agree with everything the Protestant Reformers advocated to wonder how Mr. Corner could reprove them for being influenced by Augustine, when he also has so much in common with him. If Melancthon was alive today, he would rightly reprove Mr. Corner for being blinded by Augustine's "fancy"!
It appears that Corner is confused about the distinction between imputed righteousness and infused righteousness. Corner believes a Christian's IMPUTED righteousness can be destroyed by sin. He makes no distinction between a believer's position in Christ, based on imputed righteousness, and the believer's WALK in Christ, based on His infused righteousness in our practical lives. Corner writes:
"While it's certainly true that we are imputed a righteous standing before God through our faith in Christ, this righteous standing can be destroyed by sin." (p.194)
This is Augustine's old error, and Corner tells us that Augustine was spiritually blind.