Ambrose (lived 340-397) was an archbishop. He was considered one of the doctors of the Church because of his wisdom in dealing with issues of the Church. Calvin, writes concerning Ambrose in his “A Treatise of the Eternal Predestination of God”.
Ambrose summarizes why all men don’t come to Christ, because God does not effectually touch their hearts. Now for the Calvinist, this is nothing new. Ambrose should say this because it comports with Scripture. But for those who would try to argue that Calvinist doctrine popped up out of thin air in the 1500s they would be either ignorant or liars. We should be charitable and before calling men liars at least give them the lesser accusation of being ignorant.
Ambrose argues that the “conversion” (another topic that seems to be in dispute among the NT Wright crowd) of the sinner proceeds from the free election of God. But why would some be elect and other remain in a status of reprobation? Ambrose says that answer lies solely in God’s will. Ambrose doesn’t hesitate when giving his response to these questions.
Is Calvin just picking up pieces of the early church leadership to his likening? I guess it could be argued that way to be honest but Calvin isn’t basing his argument off of these few assertions from Ambrose. Calvin is actually working from Augustine (354-430). In fact, Calvin writes, “In a word, Augustine, is so wholly with me, that if I wished to write a confession of my faith, I could do so.” Calvin says his doctrine is not new. It is historical.
Citing Ambrose, who writes, “Whom Christ has mercy on, He calls.” And elsewhere Ambrose writes, “When he wills, he makes out of careless ones, devoted ones.” And elsewhere, “”But God calls whom He condescends to call; and whom He will, He makes religious.”
Reprobation is one of those doctrines for people studying the doctrines of grace, that is often misunderstood. In the doctrine of reprobation, God does not send/decree innocent people to hell. Those who will be condemned are condemned already. This is explained in Canon of Dort 1.15 that reads:
“Moreover, Holy Scripture most especially highlights this eternal and undeserved grace of our election and brings it out more clearly for us, in that it further bears witness that not all people have been chosen but that some have not been chosen or have been passed by in God’s eternal election– those, that is, concerning whom God, on the basis of his entirely free, most just, irreproachable, and unchangeable good pleasure, made the following decision: to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish them (having been left in their own ways and under his just judgment), not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice. And this is the decision of reprobation, which does not at all make God the author of sin (a blasphemous thought!) but rather its fearful, irreproachable, just judge and avenger.”
Please note two things:
- How many times do Calvinists have to proclaim that we do not believe God to be the author of sin? It’s in Scripture and it’s clearly here in our confession as well.
- The phrase “to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves” supports the first observation. God has not made them sinners. He has not created sinful creatures. They bring their own misery.
God’s grace is free. God is truly free.