Wesleyan/Arminians do not believe the concept of ‘salvation for the elect alone’ can be found in Scripture (see section 2.2 of Theology Corner). Instead, it came from the mind of Augustine and was subsequently rescued from the dustbin of history by John Calvin and the Reformers. In the words of Mildred Bangs Wynkoop:
“Personal predestination, to Augustine, was not a biblical doctrine but the inevitable conclusion to his own line of reasoning, which he believed was biblical. His logic compelled him to make God fully responsible for the salvation of certain pre-chosen men. His doctrine of predestination was not an a priori but a conclusion. It must be also said that Augustine refused to follow his own logic to its inevitable conclusion and to make God the author of sin or the cause of any man’s damnation. This step his followers would take in later years.
In this way Augustine arrived at the doctrine of personal predestination. This was not, as noted above, a teaching which he found from a study of the Bible, but the conclusion to his own logic and which he then believed had to be biblical. Augustine’s doctrine of personal predestination was developed after he developed his doctrine of sin and grace. His concept of grace as acting directly on the human will necessitated a belief in a divine decree which determined the exact number of those who were to be saved.”
Augustine’s logic goes something like this:
- God is holy and sovereign. No one can stand against His will.
- Man is evil and helpless before God.
- No man can be saved unless God changes his will, intellect, and heart. Man is converted, not because he wills, but he wills because he is converted. Regeneration precedes faith!
- Not all men are saved which means God chose only certain elect men for regeneration.
- It is inconceivable that Christ should die for anyone other than the elect; otherwise, His mission is a failure.
- Therefore, the atonement must logically be limited in scope to the elect.
- The elect and only the elect are predestined for salvation by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.
This sounds somewhat logical to the human mind, except for one thing; it is contrary to the character of God revealed in Scripture and the great traditions of the church. When we sidestep Scripture and the great traditions of the Church, our intellect becomes our enemy! But why would Augustine’s mind drift into thoughts of the elect of God. Here is a possible explanation. In his youth, Augustine was drawn to Manichaeism and remained an adherent for about nine years. Could the concept of election have been planted by his Manichaean roots? Read the words of Henry Chadwick and judge for yourself.
“In the Theodosian legislation against heretical sects the Manichees were the most severely handled. They were followers of the Syriac-speaking Babylonian Mani (216 – 276 A.D.) who had founded on an Iranian Zervanite basis a dualistic religion of the Gnostic type. He blended elements drawn from Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Gnostic forms of Christianity, in an explicit attempt to provide a universal religion valid for both East and West. The Manichee myth of a primeval conflict between light and darkness explained why the world of contemporary experience was a mixture of good and evil, and provided a rationale for an ascetic morality, by the pursuit of which the Elect were destined to gain release for the particles of divine light imprisoned within their bodies. An inferior order of Hearers was expected only to keep simple moral rules; they were encouraged to hope for reincarnation as Elect with the prospect of deliverance from the treadmill of transmigration. The secretive ceremonies made the Manichees suspected of moral enormity and black magic. As early as 297 A.D. Diocletian issued a violent edict against them. Valentinian I made their property liable to confiscation, and Theodosius imposed further penalties, which had the effect of driving the community underground in some places. Although Augustine could live quietly as a Manichee Hearer in Africa, he found the community lying low when he moved to Rome in 383 A.D. In the middle of the fifth century an inquisition unearthed a movement of Secret Manichaeism that had deeply infiltrated among members of the Roman church.”
The Manichees, like the Gnostics, believed only the Elect could be saved (see Section 2.25 of Theology Corner). Augustine was immersed in Manichaeism for nine years of his youth. Perhaps salvation only for the elect remained in his memory and influenced his thinking.