10 September 2007

Patristic Quote for the Day

God is able, who knows your hearts, and perceives who is sincere, and who is a hypocrite, both to preserve the sincere and to give faith to the hypocrite; nay even to the unbeliever, if he give Him but his heart. -- St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Protocatechesis 17


Chris Jones said...

So where's the Lutheran monergism in this quote? Note that St Cyril isn't talking about the post-conversion synergism of the Solid Declaration, but about the circumstances in which the gift of faith itself is given.

In another place, St Cyril says (while explicating Ro 8.28):

He does not lie who said, that to them that love God all things work together for good. God is lavish in beneficence, yet He waits for each man's genuine will: therefore the Apostle added and said, to them that are called according to a purpose. The honesty of purpose makes you called: for if your body is here but not your mind, it profits you nothing.

Thus St Cyril understands the κατα προθεσιν of Ro 8.28 to refer not to God's purpose, but to the intent of our hearts. Is that consistent with our Symbols?

Chris Jones said...

There's an old, old post on my weblog that discusses St Cyril (and Chrysostom) on Ro 8.28 that might be worth your looking at.

William Weedon said...


I'll check it out. I suspect that St. Cyril, speaking to the catechumens, is speaking phenomenologically. From the human side of the equation, you can understand what he means by "give your hearts to the Lord" and what he is seeking to do is encourage those who have just showed up for the catechesis but not really been engaging with his teaching to see that God calls also them to faith in His Son.

After St. Augustine and the Pelagian controversy, such language would of necessity become more guarded in theological discourse- such as you find in the FC. But in popular preaching and teaching it seems that it has always remained. C. F. W. Walther even uses it in his sermons - urging people to give their hearts to the Lord. FWIW.

Chris Jones said...

... St. Cyril, speaking to the catechumens, is speaking phenomenologically.

I don't actually know what "phenomenologically" means. St Cyril's purpose in the catechesis is to impart the Church's Tradition to the catechumens. If there are those who have "just showed up ... but not really been engaging with his teaching" then that imparting would not have taken place, and he would probably not let them go forward to baptism/chrismation.

But for those who are engaged with the teaching, what they receive is that κατα προθεσιν refers to the intent of their own hearts, not to the purpose of God. That either is, or is not, in accord with the Church's Tradition -- Scripture rightly interpreted. Which is it?

Or, to put it another way, if St Cyril is "speaking phenomenologically," is St Paul speaking phenomenologically as well? If it was necessary after Augustine to speak "more guardedly," was St Paul being "unguarded"? I don't think St Paul's meaning somehow changed because of the Pelagian controversy.

I guess I don't buy your distinction between "guarded theological discourse" and "popular preaching and teaching." If it is permissible in the preaching of the Gospel to urge people to "give their hearts to the Lord", then the action of "giving one's heart to the Lord" has to have some meaning, and an ironclad monergism must be excluded.

There is a consistent language of choice in the Scriptures (Therefore choose life ...) that cannot be ignored. A theological system in which monergism is a controlling principle, such that the Scriptural language of choice cannot be substantively accomodated (but must, in effect, be explained away), is a theological system that is inadequate to the Gospel.

I understand that the notion that our choice makes a meritorious contribution to the work of salvation must be excluded; and a strict monergism does effectively exclude it. But if St Cyril is right, then the Scriptures really do not support that strict monergism.

William Weedon said...

Let me get at it in a backdoor sort of way. What do you make of Isaiah 26:12?

About phenomenologically, what I mean is that at times the Scriptures describe things the way they appear to us human beings. For example, "from the rising of the sun." We know, of course, that the sun doesn't rise, but that the earth turns, nevertheless, we *experience* it as the sun creeping up over the eastern horizon and running its course like a bridegroom leaving his chamber or a strong man rejoicing to run his race.

I think Scripture at times speaks of conversion from "below" if you will - how it appears to us - and at times it describes it from "above" - how it is before God.

If I exhort a man to give his heart to the Lord, I'm not thereby denying that the man is able to heed such an exhortation only by the grace of God, am I? Granted, given the huge misunderstandings of the term nowadays, I tend not to speak such language. And I dearly love the line in *Hammer of God* where the old curate asks "what would God with an old thing like that?" But I can see it's value precisely in speaking to catechumens - and I think he DOES have in mind those who might have been catechumens for less than pure motives and his point is that God still wants them and loves them and invites them to repent.

Chris Jones said...

What do you make of Isaiah 26:12?

Well, what do you make of Isaiah 26:1-11? and what does it say about how to read Is 26:12?

The opening of Is 26 is all about the contrast between those who have an attitude of trust and love towards God and those who do not. Those who have such trust are granted peace (Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee (26:3)); those who do not have such trust are offered peace, but it avails them not because of their lack of trust in God (Let favour be shewed to the wicked, yet will he not learn righteousness: in the land of uprightness will he deal unjustly, and will not behold the majesty of the LORD. (26:10)).

In that context I don't think Is 26:12 supports a wooden monergism with no connection to the state of one's heart.

William Weedon said...


I was teaching through the whole chapter this past week (we're working through major segments of Isaiah) and that passage struck me particularly! It is the exact opposite of "monergism with no connection to the state of one's heart." It is the confession of monergism that flows from a heart that trusts in God! It's like the joyous "aha!" that we thought WE did those works, and yet in the light of "that day" we come to see that these works we did, were every one of them gifts of God's grace and love. It is to the see that from the human side of the equation we DO work out our salvation with fear and trembling because from the divine side of the equation it is GOD who is at work in us both to will and to do according to His good pleasure. I go back to my distinction between phenomenological and theological. Monergism is a theological truth. And it is a deeper truth than the way things "appear" to us. But it has never meant or implied that "a person's will before, in, and after conversion resists the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit is given to those who resist Him intentionally and persistently. For, as St. Augustine says, in conversion 'God makes willing persons out of the unwilling and dwells in the willing.'" SD II:8

LPC said...

Pr. Will,

In this regard, should we still treat with trepidation decision evangelism? Can we not say the Rev. Billy G when he says "give your heart to Jesus", or "make him Lord of your life etc etc", might he not be speaking phenomenologically (it took some effort spelling that, it hurt my brain!)?



William Weedon said...


A fair question. If Billy Graham pointed them toward the laver of regeneration as St. Cyril was doing, I would be inclined to grant a little more slack to him. But since he REPLACES the laver of regeneration with "giving your heart" I think his "giving your heart" is not so benign as St. Cyril's. FWIW.