G.H. Kersten on Augustine

G.H. Kersten (1882-1948) writes (not an endorsement of Kersten as a true Christian):

Augustine taught that those who were regenerated through baptism could again lose the grace they had received, but if they belonged to the elect they would receive this grace again before death.  Augustine differentiated between the grace of regeneration and of faith, which could be lost, and that of perseverance which could not be lost, but which must be added to the graces mentioned before.

Such a temporary, entire loss of grace also conflicts with the promises of God, and with the unbreakable character of the Covenant of Grace.  The difference Augustine made between one grace and another is contrary to Holy Scripture.  Christ prayed for His people that their faith fail not.  God not only begins the work of grace, but also maintains, continues and finishes it.  ‘Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ’ (Phil. 1:6) (G.H. Kersten, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 2, p. 448; underlining mine–CD)

This should not be a surprise to those who know a little bit about “church” history, specifically regarding Augustine.  Here is how a couple of popular tolerant Calvinist heretics (who KNOW what Augustine believed) have gone about extenuating his damnable doctrine of salvation by the work of baptism.  Here are James R. White and Phil Johnson defending Augustine.

James R. White on 10/21/2006:

“A number of years ago I made a presentation on the impact of the Donatist Controversy and the Pelagian Controversy on the theology of Augustine. I have repeated the essence of that material a number of times in various venues. To encapsulate it, even the most brilliant of Christian theologians and leaders are impacted by the contexts in which they live and minister, and in particular, by the controversies that define their age. The reason Warfield could rightly say that the Reformation, inwardly considered, was just the victory of Augustine’s doctrine of grace over Augustine’s doctrine of the church is that the one came from his controversy against the Pelagians and the other from his role in the Donatist controversy. From afar, modern readers can sometimes wonder how ancient writers could have been so ‘blind’ to their internal self-contradictions, but distance and time are convenient aids that we do not get to have in looking at ourselves” (James R. White, Dr. Hartley on Spurgeon and Romans 9: Lessons for Us All).

And Phil Johnson on 9/8/2005:

“I’d say on that issue both Augustine and Luther were wrong, and their views on baptism smacked of a ritualistic legalism. In their arguments against Pelagianism and semi-pelagianism, however, both Luther and Augustine gave enough crystal-clear teaching about divine grace to retrieve the core of the gospel from the murkiness of their own legalistic understanding of baptism. I affirm what they wrote about grace; I deplore what they wrote about baptismal regeneration. I regard them as authentic Christians because their defense of grace made it clear that they understood the gospel sufficiently, even though they did not understand it perfectly. In both cases, grace was the central message of their ministry, and what we remember them most for.” (Phil Johnson, Clueless Losers?)

And here is how one brother in Christ responded to Phil Johnson:

“There you go! Phil Johnson admits that Augustine and Luther believed in baptismal regeneration, but this just showed that ‘they did not understand the gospel perfectly.’ Oh, Augustine and Luther just believed in salvation by the work of baptism — ah, that doesn’t really matter, since they were able ‘to retrieve the core of the gospel from the murkiness of their own legalistic understanding of baptism.’ Their beliefs were murky enough to deny salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (and we know that Luther also believed in universal atonement, which means he automatically believed that the work of Christ alone did not make the only difference between salvation and damnation), but Philip Johnson considers this to be a non-essential error, especially since elsewhere they were so ‘crystal-clear’ about grace. Perhaps, as Van Til or Robbins or Clark or Machen or Sproul would say, they were saved in spite of their ‘blessed (or happy) inconsistency’ or they were ‘wonderfully confused.’

Opposed to this dung is God’s Word:

‘Behold, I, Paul, say to you that if you are circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man being circumcised, that he is a debtor to do all the Law, [you], whoever are justified by Law, you were severed from Christ, you fell from grace’ (Galatians 5:2-4).”

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