Calvinism As Heresy

Met. Jonah of the OCA today addressed a group of conservative Anglicans. In the course of outlining what would be necessary for true ecumenical dialog and union, he stated, “the renunciation of Calvinism as a heresy.” This probably came as a surprise to many of the evangelical Anglicans in the audience. Appended here is the proclamation of the Council of    which proclaimed, from an Orthodox perspective, certain aspects of Calvinism to be heretical.

The Confession of Dositheus

Chapter VI. of Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem (A.D. 1672)


After studying in western Europe, Cyril Lucar (or Lucaris, the Latinate form) eventually became the Patriarch of Constantinople, 1620. A Confession of Faith, written in Latin and ascribed to Cyril, was published in Geneva, 1629. The Encyclopedia Britannica gives a very brief synopsis:

In its 18 articles Lucaris professed virtually all the major doctrines of Calvinism; predestination, justification by faith alone, acceptance of only two sacraments (instead of seven, as taught by the Eastern Orthodox Church), rejection of icons, rejection of the infallibility of the church, and so on. In the Orthodox church the Confession started a controversy that culminated in 1672 in a convocation by Dosítheos, patriarch of Jerusalem, of a church council that repudiated all Calvinist doctrines and reformulated Orthodox teachings in a manner intended to distinguish them from both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.

The Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem was translated from the Greek and edited by J.N.W.B. Robertson, 1899. The Orthodox authorities gathered for the Synod of Jerusalem alleged the 1629 Confession to have been a forgery by Calvinists. Chapter I. quotes widely from Cyril’s homilies, to contradict each chapter of the 1629 Confession. Chapters II. and III. give other evidences and reasons to dispute Cyril’s authorship of the 1629 Confession, and, more importantly, to demonstrate that it was not an official act of an Orthodox patriarch. Chapter IV. explains why the faith of the Eastern Church has never been Calvinistic, particularly concerning the Holy Eucharist as Real Presence and true sacrifice. Chapter V. incorporates acts, decrees, and letters of previous synods against the 1629 Confession. Chapter VI. sets forth the Orthodox faith in eighteen decrees and four questions, commonly known as The Confession of Dositheus, corresponding precisely to the chapters and questions in the 1629 Confession, which is included in an appendix. (Dositheus is the Latinate form of Dosítheos.)


Here follows Chapter VI. of Acts and Decrees of the Synod of Jerusalem, including The Confession of Dositheus. All words and phrases enclosed here in square brackets [ ] or in parenthesis ( ) are so enclosed in the original; text italicized here is italicized in the original. Page breaks in the original are indicated here by the page number enclosed in angle brackets < >. Footnoted citations of biblical quotations or allusions in the original are included here in the body of the text in braces { }; all other footnotes (including original Greek words and phrases, and commentary and textual criticism by Robertson) are omitted here, except for a few enclosed in braces { } and marked JNWBR. My own notes are enclosed in braces { } and marked ELC.


CHAPTER VI.

To the candid and lovers of truth, what hath been said will be sufficient, or rather, so to speak, more than enough to enable them to understand what is the doctrine of the Eastern Church, and that she hath never at any time been in agreement with the Calvinists in their novelties (nor in fact with any others besides herself), nor hath she recognised him {Cyril Lucar ELC} whom they contend was of their party, as being so. For the complete refutation, however, and uprooting of the designs which have been formed, contrarily to the glory of God, against the sacred bulwarks of our Orthodox religion, and, so to speak, for the complete demolition of the blasphemies contained in the vaunted <110> Chapters {of the 1629 Confession ELC}, we have thought it right to put forth certain Questions and Chapters {the 18 decrees below ELC} corresponding in number to those written by Cyril, and diametrically opposing the same, wherein he hath, as it were (as hath been supposed many times), whetted his tongue against God, {cf. Psalm 43:4} so that they may be called a refutation and correction of the said Chapters of Cyril. And the order which is there observed will be followed in these which will be put forth by us, so that each of the Faithful may be able to compare, and judge of both, and easily know the Orthodoxy of the Eastern Church, and the falsehood of the heretics. Where, however, necessity requireth, we shall omit some things, or add some other things tending to the accurate understanding of the matter. And we shall use words, entire sentences, and periods {sic ELC} set out there, so that we may not seem to fight against words and Orthodox sentences rather than against novelties and impious dogmas.

[THE CONFESSION OF DOSITHEUS.]

Dositheus, by the mercy of God, Patriarch of <111> Jerusalem, to those that ask and inquire concerning the faith and worship of the Greeks, that is of the Eastern Church, how forsooth it thinketh concerning the Orthodox faith, in the common name of all Christians subject to our Apostolic Throne, and of the Orthodox worshippers that are sojourning in this holy and great city of Jerusalem (with whom the whole Catholic Church agreeth in all that concerneth the faith) publisheth this concise Confession, for a testimony both before God and before man, with a sincere conscience, and devoid of all dissimulation.

DECREE I.

We believe in one God, true, almighty, and infinite, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; the Father unbegotten; the Son begotten of the Father before the ages, and <112> consubstantial with Him; and the Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father, and consubstantial with the Father and the Son. These three Persons in one essence we call the All-holy Trinity, — by all creation to be ever blessed, glorified, and adored.

DECREE II.

We believe the Divine and Sacred Scriptures to be God-taught; and, therefore, we ought to believe the same without doubting; yet not otherwise than as the Catholic Church hath interpreted and delivered the same. For every foul heresy receiveth, indeed, the Divine Scriptures, but perversely interpreteth the same, using metaphors, and homonymies, and sophistries of man’s wisdom, confounding what ought to be distinguished, and trifling with what ought not to be trifled with. For if [we were to receive the same] otherwise, each man holding every day a different sense concerning the same, the Catholic Church would not [as she doth] by the grace of Christ continue to be the Church until this day, holding the same <113> doctrine of faith, and always identically and steadfastly believing, but would be rent into innumerable parties, and subject to heresies; neither would the Church be holy, the pillar and ground of the truth, {1 Timothy 3:15} without spot or wrinkle; {Ephesians 5:27} but would be the Church of the malignant {Psalm 25:5} as it is manifest that of the heretics undoubtedly is, and especially that of Calvin, who are not ashamed to learn from the Church, and then to wickedly repudiate her. Wherefore, the witness also of the Catholic Church is, we believe, not of inferior authority to that of the Divine Scriptures. For one and the same Holy Spirit being the author of both, it is quite the same to be taught by the Scriptures and by the Catholic Church. Moreover, when any man speaketh from himself he is liable to err, and to deceive, and be deceived; but the Catholic Church, as never having spoken, or speaking from herself, but from the Spirit of God — who being her teacher, she is ever unfailingly rich — it is impossible for her to in any wise err, or to at all deceive, or be deceived; but like the Divine Scriptures, is infallible, and hath perpetual authority. <114>

DECREE III.

We believe the most good God to have from eternity predestinated unto glory those whom He hath chosen, and to have consigned unto condemnation those whom He hath rejected; but not so that He would justify the one, and consign and condemn the other without cause. For that were contrary to the nature of God, who is the common Father of all, and no respecter of persons, and would have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth; {1 Timothy 2:4} but since He foreknew the one would make a right use of their free-will, and the other a wrong, He predestinated the one, or condemned the other. And we understand the use of free-will thus, that the Divine and illuminating grace, and which we call preventing grace, being, as a light to those in darkness, by the Divine goodness imparted to all, to those that are willing to obey this — for it is of use only to the willing, not to the unwilling — and co-operate with it, in what it requireth as necessary to salvation, there is consequently granted particular grace; which, co-operating <115> with us, and enabling us, and making us perseverant in the love of God, that is to say, in performing those good things that God would have us to do, and which His preventing grace admonisheth us that we should do, justifieth us, and maketh us predestinated. But those who will not obey, and co-operate with grace; and, therefore, will not observe those things that God would have us perform, and that abuse in the service of Satan the free-will, which they have received of God to perform voluntarily what is good, are consigned to eternal condemnation.

But to say, as the most wicked heretics do and as is contained in the Chapter answering hereto — that God, in predestinating, or condemning, had in no wise regard to the works of those predestinated, or condemned, we know to be profane and impious. For thus Scripture would be opposed to itself, since it promiseth the believer salvation through works, yet supposeth God to be its sole author, by His sole illuminating grace, which He bestoweth without preceding works, to shew to man the truth of divine things, and to teach him how he may co-operate therewith, if he will, and do what is good and acceptable, and so obtain <116> salvation. He taketh not away the power to will — to will to obey, or not obey him.

But than to affirm that the Divine Will is thus solely and without cause the author of their condemnation, what greater calumny can be fixed upon God? and what greater injury and blasphemy can be offered to the Most High? For that the Deity is not tempted with evils, {cf. James 1:13} and that He equally willeth the salvation of all, since there is no respect of persons with Him, we do know; and that for those who through their own wicked choice, and their impenitent heart, have become vessels of dishonour, there is, as is just, decreed condemnation, we do confess. But of eternal punishment, of cruelty, of pitilessness, and of inhumanity, we never, never say God is the author, who telleth us that there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth. {Luke 15:7} Far be it from us, while we have our senses, thus to believe, or to think; and we do subject to an eternal anathema those who say and think such things, and esteem them to be worse than any infidels. <117>

DECREE IV.

We believe the tri-personal God, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit to be the maker of all things visible and invisible; and the invisible are the angelic Powers, rational souls, and demons, — though God made not the demons what they afterwards became by their own choice, — but the visible are heaven and what is under heaven. And because the Maker is good by nature, He made all things very good {cf. Genesis 1:31} whatsoever He hath made, nor can He ever be the maker of evil. But if there be aught evil, that is to say, sin, come about contrarily to the Divine Will, in man or in demon, — for that evil is simply in nature, we do not acknowledge, — it is either of man, or of the devil. For it is a true and infallible rule, that God is in no wise the author of evil, nor can it at all by just reasoning be attributed to God.

DECREE V.

We believe all things that are, whether visible or invisible, to be governed by the providence of God; but although God foreknoweth <118> evils, and permitteth them, yet in that they are evils, He is neither their contriver nor their author. But when such are come about, they may be over-ruled by the Supreme Goodness for something beneficial, not indeed as being their author, but as engrafting thereon something for the better. And we ought to adore, but not curiously pry into, Divine Providence in its ineffable and only partially revealed judgments. {cf. Romans 11:33} Albeit what is revealed to us in Divine Scripture concerning it as being conducive to eternal life, we ought honestly to search out, and then unhesitatingly to interpret the same agreeably to primary notions of God.

DECREE VI.

We believe the first man created by God to have fallen in Paradise, when, disregarding the Divine commandment, he yielded to the deceitful counsel of the serpent. And hence hereditary sin flowed to his posterity; so that none is born after the flesh who beareth not this burden, and experienceth not the fruits thereof in this present world. But by these <119> fruits and this burden we do not understand [actual] sin, such as impiety, blasphemy, murder, sodomy, adultery, fornication, enmity, and whatsoever else is by our depraved choice committed contrarily to the Divine Will, not from nature; for many both of the Forefathers and of the Prophets, and vast numbers of others, as well of those under the shadow [of the Law], as under the truth [of the Gospel], such as the divine Precursor, {St. John the Baptist ELC} and especially the Mother of God the Word, the ever-virgin Mary, experienced not these, or such like faults; but only what the Divine Justice inflicted upon man as a punishment for the [original] transgression, such as sweats in labour, afflictions, bodily sicknesses, pains in child-bearing, and, in fine {in summation ELC}, while on our pilgrimage, to live a laborious life, and lastly, bodily death.

DECREE VII.

We believe the Son of God, Jesus Christ, to have emptied Himself, {cf. Philippians 2:7} that is, to have taken into His own Person human flesh, being <120> conceived of the Holy Spirit