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Monastic Monergist: Bernard of Clairvaux


Bernard of Clairvaux on election:

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As a champion of biblical truth, Bernard argued that because of man’s sin and the subsequent bondage of the will, salvation is entirely of God’s grace. Those who receive the kingdom of God, he said, are those whom God previously foreknew and foreordained for salvation. Bernard says: “He says: Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke xii 32). Who are these? These are they whom He foreknew and foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first born among many brethren.” . . .

This determinative choice was the beginning of an immutable process by which spiritually dead sinners are brought to eternal life. Bernard writes: “The mystery, hidden from eternity concerning souls that have been predestinated and are to be glorified, begins in some degree to emerge from the depths of eternity, as each soul, called by fear and justified by love, becomes assured that it, too, is of the number of the blessed, knowing well that whom He justified, them also He glorified (Rom. viii 30).” . . .

Further, Bernard understood that sovereign election is rooted in the eternal decree of God. He states, “The decree of the Lord stands firm; His purpose of peace stands firm upon those who fear Him.” Elsewhere he adds: “He has made known his great and secret counsel. The Lord knoweth them that are his, but that which was known to God was manifested to men; nor, indeed, does he deign to give a participation in this great mystery to any but those whom he foreknew and predestinated to be his own.” . . .

Citing John 15:16, Bernard declares that man is saved by God’s sovereign will: “For you have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you [John 15:16]; not for any merits that I found in you did I choose you, but I went before you. Thus have I betrothed you to Myself in faith, not in the works of the law.” It is through divine election that Christ receives His chosen people to Himself, not by their works. Bernard affirmed this truth in his own experience of grace. He writes, “Therefore my beginning is solely of grace, and I have nothing which I can attribute to myself in predestination or in calling.” . . .

Bernard took the apostle Paul’s teaching in Romans 9:16 at face value, accepting that salvation flows from the mercy of God, not from anything man can do: “We believe that it pleases the reader that we nowhere depart from the teaching of the Apostle; and wherever the argument may have wandered, we have often made use of his very words. For what else do we mean than what he says: ‘It is therefore neither of him that wills, nor of him that runs, but of God that shows mercy’?

—Steven J. Lawson, Pillars of Grace (Reformation Trust, 2011), 328–329.



Posted 2018·09·25 by David Kjos
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Posted in: Bernard of Clairvaux · Church History · Pillars of Grace · Steve Lawson · Unconditional Election

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