[quote="garysibio, post:1, topic:182880"]
I know this is a false doctrine. I'm just interested in the where and how of it's origins. Did any of the Church Fathers teach it or it is a child of the Reformation?
Definitely a product of the Reformation (though one can perhaps find some basis for it in dualistic heretical movements before the Reformation). St. Augustine and many/most Western theologians in the Middle Ages believed that God chooses certain people for salvation (without violating free will, which of course raises difficult questions), but that people who are not finally destined for salvation can receive regenerating grace. Such people will eventually fall into sin and fail to repent.
Not only did Augustine and other pre-Reformation Augustinian Catholic theologians not teach the perseverance of the regenerate, but as someone else has already pointed out Martin Luther didn't either (nor did any of the Lutheran Reformers, as far as I know--it's one of the dividing points between the Lutherans and the Reformed). It was a doctrine that seems to have arisen in the 1520s among the South German and Swiss Reformers. Possibly Zwingli was the first one to teach it, but I have found at least four people all teaching it within a few years of each other: Zwingli, Johannes Oecolampadius, Martin Bucer, and Martin Borrhaus (also known as Cellarius). This last is particularly interesting to me because his doctrine of election and perseverance was linked to the idea that the elect have a "seed" or "spark" in them which makes them pious from birth. Because of this "seed" they cannot fail to be saved, while those who do not have this seed (because they are not among those God has chosen) cannot possibly be saved. Here's a lengthy quote from Cellarius illustrating his teaching:
[quote=Cellarius, *De operibus Dei
(1527), chap. 5] they [the elect] are made aware of God’s goodness by certain little sparks of divine light shining beforehand, placed in them by the grace of predestination, through which [sparks] people of every nation and station under heaven have been chosen. By secret sighs they groan for [God’s] mercy when sin solicits them in the members of death, and these sighs do not cease until the Lord illumines the heart with a more splendid light, when the Gospel concerning the Son has been revealed. The Spirit sets his seal [assuring] the certain hope of growing favor, and that heavenly spark, as if shining among dead ashes, comes back to life, and the seed of light that has been scattered matures for the harvest of the constant action of the Father’s mercy. In this seed we are always dear to God from the womb, a seed which certainly not nature but grace sows, which not the flesh but the Spirit implants, which does not bring forth thistles and thorns from the earth, but is put into our hearts from heaven above, to bear fruit most richly in its proper time when the earth shall be pleasing to the farmer, being irrigated by the heavenly rains and dews of the living word of God, and brought under the sacred Cross.
This is interesting to me because Cellarius was rejected by other Reformed theologians as a heretic, and because his doctrine of a "seed of light" (which sounds rather Gnostic) downplays the importance of faith or conversion. And yet I can show that Martin Bucer (an important Reformed theologian who arguably was a major influence on Calvin), in the first edition of his commentary on the Synoptic Gospels (also 1527), uses similar language.
It's possible that Cellarius got much of his teaching from Zwingli and just went a bit further than his mentor. However, Zwingli also can be read as downplaying the need for faith and conversion. He taught that the elect could be saved without faith, if they never had a chance to hear the Gospel and believe (this would apply both to infants and to adults who never heard the Gospel). This didn't seem to cause a lot of difficulties for his theology, because election was the thing that saved people in Zwingli's view.
Calvin is important for the story largely because he successfully blended this Reformed teaching about predestination and perseverance with the Lutheran teaching about justification by faith alone. (He wasn't the first to do this--all the Reformed had claimed that they basically agreed with the Lutherans on this point, and Bucer in particular made valiant efforts to use the Lutheran terminology--but Calvin was the most successful and influential synthesizer of the two traditions.) Calvin was so successful in doing this that most Reformed--and many non-Reformed Christians as well--assume that the two emphases have always gone hand in glove. But they haven't.