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The acronym T.U.L.I.P summarizes five core doctrines of Calvinism concerning salvation. I hope I've summarized them accurately enough for the question's purpose.

T. Total Depravity — The doctrine that fallen man is 'dead in trespasses and sins' to the point of not even being able to accept salvation where such an offer thereof to be said to be possible or made possible in Calvinism.

U. Unconditional Election — The doctrine that God's election is, for lack of a better word, arbitrary, or not based on a condition on the creature—everyone saved is just as worthy of it: that is to say, not worthy at all.

L. Limited Atonement — The doctrine that since the grace of God is irresistible and is beneficial without exception to its recipients, this necessitates that Christ died only for such recipients, whose technical term are the elect.

I. Irresistible Grace — The doctrine that those whom God has elected to receive His grace, cannot resist it—according to Calvinism, any notion of 'resist' it would imply that His grace wasn't powerful enough in the first place, since grace means an action God does to someone, and not a spiritual help (which would naturally be able to be refused).

P. Perseverance of the Saints — The doctrine that if God has elected you, you are not among those that are damned, but of the infallibly saved: therefore it is impossible that you will be lost.


In light of these, how do Calvinists answer the objection that 1 Corinthians 8:11 (among other verses, of course) disproves in a marked way the Limited Atonement and Perseverance of the Saints (but also all of T.U.L.I.P since each point can be said to rely on the truth of the others)?

Here is 1 Corinthians 8:10-11 (NA28; my translation):

ἐὰν γάρ τις ἴδῃ σὲ τὸν ἔχοντα γνῶσιν ἐν εἰδωλείῳ κατακείμενον, οὐχὶ ἡ συνείδησις αὐτοῦ ἀσθενοῦς ὄντος οἰκοδομηθήσεται εἰς τὸ τὰ εἰδωλόθυτα ἐσθίειν; ἀπόλλυται γὰρ ὁ ἀσθενῶν ἐν τῇ σῇ γνώσει, ὁ ἀδελφὸς δι’ ὃν Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν

For if someone sees you, who know better, sat eating in the temples of idols, will not his conscience, being weak, be emboldened to eat things sacrifices to idols? For by your knowledge he that is weak has been destroyed: a brother for whom Christ died.

This appears to me to invalidate both Limited Atonement and Perseverence of the Saints, since scandal is described as destroying one for whom Christ died.

In the same context, St. Paul writes the following to the church at Rome (Romans 14:14-15, 20: NA28; my translation):

οἶδα καὶ πέπεισμαι ἐν κυρίῳ Ἰησοῦ ὅτι οὐδὲν κοινὸν δι’ ἑαυτοῦ, εἰ μὴ τῷ λογιζομένῳ τι κοινὸν εἶναι, ἐκείνῳ κοινόν· εἰ γὰρ διὰ βρῶμα ὁ ἀδελφός σου λυπεῖται, οὐκέτι κατὰ ἀγάπην περιπατεῖς· μὴ τῷ βρώματί σου ἐκεῖνον ἀπόλλυε ὑπὲρ οὗ Χριστὸς ἀπέθανεν. ... μὴ ἕνεκεν βρώματος κατάλυε τὸ ἔργον τοῦ θεοῦ. ...

I know and am fully convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean of itself, but that to him who considers anything to be unclean, for him it is unclean. For if by food your brother is offended, you are no longer walking according to love: do not destroy for the sake of food him for whom Christ died. ... Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. ...

Thanks in advance.

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There are two common approaches to dealing with this challenge. I'll quote from Calvinists Robert Reymond for the first, and Charles Hodge for the second.

  • That "ruin" (apollymi) here does not mean being ultimately lost
  • That the conditional language is a warning that God uses as a means to secure his promise of protecting the elect

Contextual meaning of apollymi

Robert Reymond argues that though apollymi often refers to perdition, it does not necessarily mean this in this context:

In 1 Corinthians 8:12, immediately after he has spoken of the stronger brother, by his knowledge, "ruining" the weaker brother, he speaks of the stronger brother's eating as "sinning against the brothers and wounding [typtontes] their weak conscience." "Hurting" and "wounding" a weaker brother's conscience are extremely serious matters, no doubt, but these verbs suggest conditions that fall far short of actual perdition. (source)

He argues that the stronger brother's sin (of leading the weaker brother away) would be even more heinous, and yet Paul doesn't warn the stronger brother of perdition. In context then, Paul is simply saying that "all sin is 'ruinous' in that it exacts a terrible toll on the Christian man's spiritual growth and testimony if left unchecked." Referring to both the Romans and 1 Corinthians passages, Reymond concludes:

[Paul] characterizes the outcome or "ruin" to the weaker brother in both contexts in terms of "stumbling" (proskomma, skandalon—Rom. 14:13; proskomma—1 Cor. 8:9, skandalizei—8:13), terms which suggest that the weak brother is weakened in his walk with Christ, thereby inhibiting his growth in grace and rendering him ineffectual in his walk before the world. These results are serious enough to warrant Paul's use of apollymi, and his appeal to the death of Christ in the weaker brother's behalf, without alleging the dire end for the weaker brother which Arminian Christians do. (source)

God protects the elect from apostasy

Unlike Reymond, Charles Hodge accepts apollymi as referring to final perdition. He accepts the conditional language – that if the elect apostatize, they will perish – but holds that God uses means to ensure that they do not apostatize and thus do not perish.

He makes a helpful connection to the story of Paul's shipwreck in this regard, so quoting his commentary on this verse is worthwhile:

It was absolutely certain that none of Paul’s companions in shipwreck was on that occasion to lose his life, because the salvation of the whole company had been predicted and promised; and yet the apostle said that if the sailors were allowed to take away the boats, those left on board could not be saved. This appeal secured the accomplishment of the promise.

So God’s telling the elect that if they apostatize they shall perish, prevents their apostasy. And in like manner, the Bible teaching that those for whom Christ died shall perish if they violate their conscience, prevents their transgressing, or brings them to repentance.

God’s purposes embrace the means as well as the end. If the means fail, the end will fail. He secures the end by securing the means. It is just as certain that those for whom Christ died shall be saved, as that the elect shall be saved. Yet in both cases the event is spoken of as conditional. There is not only a possibility, but an absolute certainty of their perishing if they fall away. But this is precisely what God has promised to prevent. This passage, therefore, is perfectly consistent with those numerous passages which teach that Christ’s death secures the salvation of all those who were given to him in the covenant of redemption.

  • A very good point - that Paul does not threaten the 'strong' brother with destruction. – Nigel J Oct 15 '18 at 19:11
  • I'm not sure he needs to. The strong brother can do this without knowledge that he is a scandal to a weak brother because he 'knows better.' This Epistle is a warning not to be that kind of strong brother for a reason. Also, does "But this is precisely what God has promised to prevent" contradict the fact that St. Paul warns people not to do something they obviously can do? (But this is precisely what God has promised to prevent: " "μη ... απολλυε .. εκεινον .. υπερ ου χριστος απεθανεν" (do not destroy him for whom Christ died) ... do not destroy the work of God.." etc.? – Sola Gratia Oct 15 '18 at 19:18
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The answer to Paul's question :

Shall the weak brother perish ? (I Corinthians 8:11 - KJV - απολειται ο ασθενων αδελφος)

is ... no he shall not perish.

The reason that the weak brother will not perish is :

... for whom Christ died. (I Corinthians 8:11 - KJV - δι ον χριστος απεθανεν)

The brother will not perish (or 'be destroyed') because Christ died for him and Jesus Christ loves him and Jesus Christ will not permit the sin of one brother to cause the other - weak - brother to be overcome and to be cast away.

Thus He sends a messenger to instruct both the 'strong' brother and the 'weak' brother - and we have the documented record of the messenger's epistle, proof positive that Jesus Christ is risen, and ascended, and ministers as a Priest at the right hand of the Father in the heavens.

And thus Paul addresses the errant - 'strong' - brother (so full of his superior knowledge and so sure of his own 'strength') and questions him. Because of you and your superior knowledge, will you damage your brother ?

Will you cast a stumbling block - a 'scandal' - in his path ? Will you trust in your own strength of knowledge and care nothing for the weaker composure of your brother who will be tempted to do what is - actually - against his own conscience ?

For the weak brother might be emboldened to follow suit but, afterwards, his conscience will smite him (for his knowledge is not strong) and he will be overcome of guilt.

And Paul questions him to the ultimate - because of you and your attitude, will this brother ultimately perish ? Will he commit sin against his own conscience and be overcome of guilt and be destroyed ?

But the question of that weak brother's ultimate destiny is not up to the errant 'strong' brother.

Nor is up to the weakness of himself (else would we all perish).

It is ultimately a matter of what God, in Christ, will or will not do.

For the Lord (I Peter 3:9) is not slack ... but is long-suffering to us-ward (that is to say to the 'them', also, who have obtained like precious faith with 'us' - see I Peter 1:1) not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

[And I do respect what (I think) prompts the OP question - that repentance is necessary, else we perish. And I do not respect the attitude of those who think that a knowledge of doctrine is carte blanche to commit sin.]

The Lord is not slack. He sees every sparrow which drops to the ground in the forest, Matthew 10:29. He knows the number of the hairs of the head of them that seek him, Luke 12:7. He is aware of every single thought - not one is withheld from him, Job 42:2.

And he will not let one single one perish, for whom sacrifice was made and for whom righteousness has been satisfied . . . it cannot be.

Otherwise, righteousness would be no more righteousness.


Note : I do not subscribe to 'tulip' myself. Jack Glass, in Glasgow, conveyed it to me fifty years ago when I was seventeen but I found it to be not a sufficiently spiritual expression of the gospel for me to embrace it. But I have answered the question as one who believes that the sufferings and death of Jesus Christ are effectual and are not dependent on the works of men to supplement them.

But I do believe that all for whom Jesus Christ suffered and died shall be brought to repentance and shall be brought to faith and that they shall be fully justified and, ultimately, glorified.

And in that, some might call me a follower of John Calvin and I would not disagree.

I would say that the argument of the posed question falls down because the argument has left Jesus Christ out of the process and has considered only the two brothers and their relevant 'strength' and 'weakness'.

It is the Lord who is above all.

  • "The answer to Paul's question : Shall the weak brother perish ? (I Corinthians 8:11 - KJV - απολειται ο ασθενων αδελφος) is ... no he shall not perish. The reason that the weak brother will not perish is : "... for whom Christ died"" To say you cannot destroy a brother for whom Christ died because Christ died for him is to assume the L and P in TULIP. This doesn't answer my specific question: – Sola Gratia Oct 15 '18 at 19:08
  • "how do Calvinists answer the objection that 1 Corinthians 8:11 (among other verses, of course) disproves in a marked way the Limited Atonement and Perseverance of the Saints " – Sola Gratia Oct 15 '18 at 19:08
  • You also have not addressed the "μη ... απολλυε .. εκεινον .. υπερ ου χριστος απεθανεν" (do not destroy him for whom Christ died). – Sola Gratia Oct 15 '18 at 19:12
  • @SolaGratia I was under the impression that I had answered your questions. I shall continue to consider your comments. – Nigel J Oct 15 '18 at 19:13
  • It's OK: my question was primarily about 1 Cor 8:11, but it may not be interpreted contrary to the command form of the words "do not destroy" found in Romans 14 (I noticed you take the words in question form, which to me don't make sense in the 'warning' context of 1 Cor 8, but whatever, I'm not Calvinist :]), so I guess it does need to be addressed if you are going to interpret the words as "the weak brother perishes, for whom Christ died[?]" in the question sense. – Sola Gratia Oct 15 '18 at 19:20
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This article compares the views of Augustine to those of John Owen on the question of the Perseverance of the Saints. http://johnowen.org/media/knapp_on_augustine_and_owen.pdf

Augustine and Owen each believed that it is solely by God's grace that one is given the gift of perseverance to the end, and that is the defining characteristic of the elect. Each believed that the church is filled with the elect, with hypocrites who pretend to be believers yet are not, and a middle category of people. Members of this third group have received a form of grace from God that produces in them some holiness and faith and benefit of Christianity and capability to advance God's work through the church. This form is not hypocrisy but is genuine, but they do not persevere, hence are not among the elect.

Both Augustine and Owen taught that the Scriptural warnings against falling away are a means by which God keeps the elect on track or brings them back from a temporary backsliding, not proof that the elect may lose their salvation. Though the article does not cite 1 Cor 8:11 specifically, Owen in his lengthy treatises against Arminianism addressed it using this approach. (See "The Works of John Owen, Volume 10, page 468. http://www.prayermeetings.org/files/John_Owen/Owen_V10_Arminianism_Death_Of_Christ_Divine_Justice.pdf)

A quote from Owen concerning 1 Corinthians 8:11:

  1. But let us see a second place, which is <460811>1 Corinthians 8:11, “And through thy knowledge shall thy weak brother perish, for whom Christ died.” This seemeth to have more color, but really yieldeth no more strength to the persuasion for whose confirmation it is produced, than the former. A brother is said to perish for whom Christ died. That by perishing here is understood eternal destruction and damnation, I cannot apprehend. That which the apostle intimates whereby it is done, is eating of things offered to an idol, with conscience or regard of an idol, by the example of others who pretended to know that an idol was nothing, and so to eat freely of the things offered to them. That so doing was a sin in its own nature damnable, none can doubt. All sin is so; every time we sin, for anything that lieth in us, we perish, we are destroyed. So did the eater of things offered to idols. But that God always revengeth sin with damnation on all in whom it is, we deny; he hath otherwise revealed himself in the blood of Jesus Christ. That every such a one did actually perish eternally, as well as meritoriously, cannot be proved. Besides, he that is said to perish is called a brother, — that is, a believer; we are brethren only by faith, whereby we come to have one Father. As he is said to be a brother, so Christ is said to die for him. That a true believer cannot finally perish may easily be proved; therefore, he who doth perish is manifestly declared never to have been any: “They went out from us, because they were not of us.” If any perish, then, he was never a true believer. How, then, is he said to be a brother? Because he is so in profession, so in our judgment and persuasion; it being meet for us to think so of them all. As he is said to be a brother, so Christ is said to die for him, even in that judgment which the Scripture allows to us of men. We cannot count a man a brother, and not esteem that Christ died for him; we have no brotherhood with reprobates. Christ died for all believers, John 17. So we esteem all men walking in the due profession of the gospel, not manifesting the contrary; yet of these, that many may perish none ever denied. Farther; this, so shall he perish, referreth to the sin of him that layeth the offense; for aught that lieth in him, he ruins him irrecoverably. Hence see their argument: — “The apostle telleth persons walking offensively, that by this abusing their liberty, others will follow them, to the wounding of their conscience and ruin, who are brethren, acknowledged so by you, and such as for whom Christ died: therefore, Christ died for all the reprobates in the world. ‘Is it just and equal,’ saith the apostle, ‘that ye should do such things as will be stumbling-blocks in the way of the weak brother, at which he might stumble and fall?’ therefore, Christ died for all.” We do not deny but that some may perish, and that eternally, concerning whom we ought to judge that Christ died for them, whilst they live and converse with us according to the nile of the gospel.

Augustine and Owen disagree on one important point. Augustine did not believe that it was possible for a Christian to know with assurance that they were among the elect unless God, by special revelation given to only a few, tells them so. He says this is so that the elect may not fall into pride. Owen, however, believed that the objective fact of a person's election would manifest itself in a subjective experience of assurance that could be a useful assistance to a believer in helping them to persevere.

The importance of Augustine's contribution is that there are Catholic views of perseverance and the elect not being subject to losing their salvation that do not rely upon the Reformed views, such as those from Calvinism. John Owen was a firm Calvinist, and the continiuity of thought between Ausgustine and Owen in most regards offers a defense of the idea of perseverance broader than just a Calvinistic position.

A quote from the article:

Although Augustine’s writings have caused some confusion on this point, his views on this issue are quite explicit; he firmly maintained that each and every one of the elect had received the gift of perseverance from God, and that they cannot ultimately lose their salvation. Augustine speaks directly about the elect numerous times in De correptione et gratia and occasionally in De dono perseverantiae. After addressing the necessity of admonitions in De correptione et gratia, Augustine asserts that the gift of perseverance is assuredly given to the elect and, on account of that gift, they cannot ultimately fall away from grace.

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    Not only is your representation of Augustine a misrepresentation of his teaching on perseverance (since he said, e.g. ""If, however, being already regenerate and justified, he relapses of his own will into an evil life, assuredly he cannot say, 'I have not recieved,' because of his own free choice to evil he has lost the grace of God, that he had received,": Treatise on Rebuke and Grace, 9), but your answer does not address Calvinism: nor how 1 Cor 8:11 is not a Scriptural invalidation of the Calvinist 'L' and 'P' in TULIP (i.e. my question). – Sola Gratia Oct 15 '18 at 19:35
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    I faithfully summarised the content of the article I cited. Augustine wrote, clarified, and reclarified his views on the subject many times. He distinguishes between those who recieved a grace short of perseverance from those who received the grace of perseverance. Thus I do not dispute that he said what you quote, only that his categories require some parsing. Such a person forfeiting grace would be from his category of those blessed by God but not with elect perseverance. – Paul Chernoch Oct 15 '18 at 20:02
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    I meant that you didn't answer or address my question, which was about the L. and P. of TULIP as regards their being able to withstand their suggested preclusion by 1 Cor 8:11, among other scriptures. Neither your article nor your answer addresses my question. I appreciate your effort, input and time, and that you touch upon somewhat tangential issues, nonetheless. (St. Augustine describes the Catholic, not the Calvinist view: Calvinists do not hold that there is a grace of justification outside that which is also without exception to perseverance.) – Sola Gratia Oct 15 '18 at 20:12
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    You may be right about Calvinists in general, but Owen was a prominent Calvinist and did make such a distinction. – Paul Chernoch Oct 15 '18 at 20:19
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    Don't be sorry! I had fun doing the research, poor though my grasp of theology is. Every time I think I understand Augustine, someone tosses in another viewpoint with voluminous quotes and I have to start over. – Paul Chernoch Oct 15 '18 at 20:43

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