Morality after Calvin (Summers)

Summers, Kirk M. Morality After Calvin: Theodore Beza’s Christian Censor and Reformed Ethics.

While Beza will defend natural law, he is also interested in constructing a Christian ethic which does not flow from the union with Christ.  The Father conjoins us to his Son by means of the Spirit (Summers 76).  The sins Beza attacks are specifically those which disintegrate society; restoration, therefore, will consist of being reintegrated into society.

The Cato

The Cato is a collection of poems (20-21) written by Beza on moral topics.  In keeping with the natural law theme, in Beza’s poem “sinners are deprived of the very things they idolized in life” (Summers 65).

Natural Law

Calvin: the order that God built into nature, which is witnessed to in all people (67).

Usury and Rhetoric of Mutuality

Summers rightly rejects the silly thesis of Weber that Calvin’s decretal theology led to an economic miserliness ultimately manifested in usury.  Even granting Calvin’s allowance of 5% (Geneva later set it at 6.7%) interest, usury was stigmatized by most Reformed ministers, with usurers often facing church discipline (212).

“Rhetoric of mutuality:” a concern for the corporate sphere that isn’t reducible to individualism.  Usurers exploit dishonest social conventions in order to take advantage of the most vulnerable, whereas “true citizens of the kingdom are guided by charity and mutual affection” (212).

Philosophy and Theology in Beza’s Concept of Usury

Beza holds to the traditional view that money is sterile (“Against Moneylenders,” 3). Beza is drawing from (if not always directly) the anti-usury tradition of Basil, Gregory Nazianzen, and Ambrose: usury begets money, but never experiences the pains of childbirth–it passes those pains onto others (221). “When the borrower cannot pay, the interest (centesima) is folded back into the principal, becoming a new producer of offspring.”

Etymology of the loan:

Paucapalea: “The term loan (mutuum) comes from the fact that what is mine (meum) becomes yours (tuum).  A loan is osmething that is quantifiable and which I pass on to you witht he expectation of receviing back only as much of the same kind” (Summers 225).

Ownership is indexed by the personal pronouns.  What I receive becomes mine (meum).

Thomas Aquinas

Money has a fixed value. Money cannot be distinguished from its substance.  Therefore, you can’t separate the using of it from its own substance.  You can’t sell both (ST  2-2.78).

Luther: Pecunia est res sterilis.

Beza inherits this powerful tradition and offers strong endorsements of his own.  He isn’t consistent, though.  He submits to the weakened 10% allowance of Geneva, but defends those who go above it.

Conclusion: “The ethics of the individual comprises more than anything a process of integrating oneself into the kingdom of God, both as it is manifest here on earth through the body of Christ and the community of believers, and eventually and perfectly in the heavenly abode before the presence of God himself.  In short, ethics for Beza are Christian citzenship not in the sense that the citizen lays claim to a set of constitutional rights, but in the sense that certain corporate responsibilities and expectations are incumbent upon a citizen” (255-256).

Sanctifying Physical Relationships

Punishments

* Women who commit adultery are drowned in the Rhone (259).

* If a married man has sex with an unmarried woman were reprimanded and then thrown into prison for 9-12 days on bread and water. And probably put in the stockade.

* Unmarried fornicators were to be whipped (260).

* One Jacques Lenepveux, an early version of a pick-up artists, was executed because of his heinous way of preying upon young women (265).

The nature of sexual sin (and its punishment) can’t be abstracted from the city of Geneva.  Never mind adultery, fornication creates social confusion.  Divorce was initially frowned upon, not simply for covenantal reasons, but because it could create clannish enmities and fractions within a small city like Geneva (263).

“Pierre Ameaux, for example, accused his wife Benoite of a kind of free love espoused among Anabaptists sects of the day” (264).

Calvin’s thesis: “Adultery weakens the key pillars of a godly society by insinuating itself into the bedroom, business relationships, and social arrangements and thus threatening to cause extensive disarray and confusion” (Summers 266).

Per divorce:  Beza isn’t saying that divorce should be allowed on the case of adultery.  He is saying that magistrates should execute adulterers (making it a moot point).  However, since magistrates fail in their duties, “Jesus concedes divorce for this exception because an adulterer has in essence merited death” (269).

Summers gives a fascinating account of the church life in Geneva after Calvin. We see what they considered punishments and how they were punished.

Review: Paul Helm, Human Nature from Calvin to Edwards

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Paul Helm Human Nature Calvin Edwards

If all Paul Helm had done were to marshal quotes showing the Reformed commitment to substance dualism, he would have done the church an inestimable service. He has done more. He has analyzed these thinkers as they were in conversation with the oncoming modern ontologies represented by Descartes, Locke, and Hobbes. This book is one of a kind and will repay constant readings. In fact, I think you could teach an entire ethics course from his chapter “Morality and Agency.” A key part of this book (and this review) examines the minor in-print debate between Paul Helm and Richard Muller on whether Jonathan Edwards departed from the Reformed tradition on free agency. I do have some criticisms of Helm that I will offer towards the end, but they do not detract from the value of this book.

Purchase Book Here.

Most Christians agree that body and soul aren’t the same thing. Christian reflection in general, and Reformed in particular, however, went a step further. The soul has faculties and powers. This modified Aristotelianism (and only in a modified form) allowed post-Reformation theologians to maintain individual responsibility while being faithful to the Scripture’s teachings on man’s fallenness.

Helm begins with a brief survey on the Patristic and medieval periods. By Patristic he means Tertullian and Augustine. I suppose that is inevitable. Other Western fathers don’t have Augustine’s depth of thought and the East had minimal impact. It is strange that Helm doesn’t mention the role of traducianism. It’s also strange that for all their Augustinianism, the Reformed didn’t really hold to traducianism. Of course, for that reason Helm doesn’t have to mention it. Nonetheless, traducianism allows the substance dualist to address challenges from neuroscience in ways that the creationist view of the soul does not.

Thomas Aquinas

The soul informs the body. When the body dies, many of the soul’s powers “hibernate.” While the soul is not the person, in this state it carries the identity of the person until the resurrection (15).

The intellect is “a possessor of collective powers related in incredibly complex ways between itself and the memory, will, and affections” (16). Specific to Thomas’s claim, and a claim the Reformed (and Roman Catholics) would generally maintain until recent times, was that the “soul itself acts via these various powers” (20).

Free Will Controversy, Part One

In his debate with Pighius, Calvin uses “voluntas” to mean both the Augustinian “heart” and the choice a man makes (34). In order to clear this confusion, Helm focuses on Calvin’s happy phrase that the fall is “adventitious” on human nature, not essential to it.

Body and Soul

Helm breaks new ground in this section. Despite the differences and nuances of the various Platonisms and Aristotelianism of the post-Reformation period, all thinkers to a man held that the soul is not reducible to the body. They would have heartily rejected the Christian physicalism of some thinkers today.

The Faculties and Powers of the Soul

Key idea: “The soul has a range or array of powers which the mind groups as certain activities of the understanding, and others as certain activities of the will” (81).

Flavel: the will is sovereign over the body but not over other faculties of the soul. In regeneration the will does not disturb conversion but is also changed by divine power (87).

Free Will Controversy, Part Two

Man’s free will is indexed to different states of man (e.g., fourfold state). According to the post-Reformation thinkers, man’s “Freedom” relates to spiritual activity. Man’s liberty relates to the capacities of our faculties.

Faculty Psychology

Powers of the soul are intrinsic to one faculty or another and they may be shared. Habits are acquired by nature or grace (105). As Flavel notes these are properties of faculties, not further faculties. When we die, certain habits are reduced to mere dispositions.

Morality and Agency

Aristotle didn’t have a concept of the conscience. This is a distinctly Jewish or Christian phenomenon. For the Reformed scholastics the conscience is a kind of “second-order reflex, telling us what we know about ourselves.” Further, it “binds” the understanding (112).

Free Will Controversy, Part Three

The fall had a “modal effect” on man, “establishing what it was possible and impossible to do hereafter” (134). We sin because we do not have the sufficient will not to sin. We have a natural liberty that “is essential to the will and all its acts.” Our moral ability to do the good, unfortunately, “is only accidental and separable” (136).

Did Edwards’ use of John Locke change how later Reformed discussed the soul and its faculties? There were some changes along the lines of personal identity, but Edwards himself seemed familiar with the subject and didn’t change too much. He leaned more towards Platonism than hylomorphism, but still remained a substance dualist.

Even Edwards’ distinction on natural and moral ability isn’t that novel. He merely sharpened some observations made by Owen and others. Edwards sees our inability along a spectrum (216). As Helm notes, “A natural ability is ability in its proper sense and the moral abilities are secondary” (217).

There are some changes, though. Scholastic faculties become “powers of the heart.” Does this change anything? Richard Muller seems to think it does. Helm disagrees. I think I side with Helm. It’s not immediately clear, either way.

*Reformation Heritage kindly provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

Calvin on the Sabbath (Richard Gaffin)

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Gaffin, Richard.  Calvin on the Sabbath: The Controversy of applying the Fourth Commandment. Mentor Publishing, 1998.

This book tangentially deals with what we call modern Sabbatarian controversies.  Gaffin isn’t so much concerned with whether we can go to our kid’s soccer game on Sunday as he is with whether Calvin was consistent in seeing the Lord’s Day as a creation ordinance, typical ordinance, or elements of both.  Therefore, Gaffin (or Gaffin’s Calvin) will not help either the latitudinarian nor the Midrashim who wants to make up lists of what we are or are not allowed to do on the Sabbath. If Gaffin has an agenda, it’s hard to see. This book is just scholarship.

I am going to lay out several theses on what Calvin taught on the Sabbath.  This isn’t Gaffin’s method, but it’s easier to make sense of:

(1) When tied with the creational element, the Sabbath has an eschatological thrust where we fully rest from sin (32).

(2) Resting from our labors on the Sabbath allows for the public worship of God (37).  This raises another question, though: is Sunday rooted in mere convenience or in God’s law?  There really isn’t an easy answer to this.

(3) Calvin doesn’t really contradict himself between the Institutes and the Commentaries.  The differences can be accounted for by different opponents.

(4) WIth Christ the Sabbath ceased to function as a type.  The spiritual rest is now a full reality (48).

(5) The Sabbath is still binding in the sense of our servants need rest and we need to worship unencumbered.  

(6) It’s not immediately clear how to harmonize (4) and (5).  What in the typical Sabbath did Christ fulfill and bring to an end?  I think Calvin’s answer is, “Rest from sin.” Certainly, as Christ’s death points to that.  But we aren’t fully resting from sin in this mortal coil. Further, although we should rest from our labors as a type of resting from sin on the Sabbath, we should be resting from sin on each day, anyway.

Mind you, I am not disagreeing with Calvin, but I think this point needs to be developed.

Gaffin ends with a survey of Reformation teaching on the Lord’s Day.  This is a useful guide to Calvin’s teaching on the Lord’s Day. I appreciated how Gaffin (or Gaffin’s Calvin) drew notice to the keeping of the Lord’s Day as a sanctifying experience.

Review: Richard Muller’s Triunity of God

Muller, Richard.  The Triunity of God. Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, volume 4.  Grand Rapids: MI, Baker Academic.

Given that there aren’t many specifically Reformed constructions of Trinitarianism, I would say that this book fills a woeful lacuna.  However, since it has long remained out of print, it doesn’t (and don’t tell me the age-old narrative that Baker “soon plans to republish it”).  Nevertheless, as JI Packer said of Herman Witsius, this book is mind-forming.  See the notes here.

Muller begins in the Middle Ages with Boethius’s classic definitions. The problem with Boethuis’s definition of person:   The definition ultimately poses all manner of problems for the doctrines of Trinity and Christ when the concept of individual substance is taken to indicate a unique entity essentially distinct from other similar entities” (Muller 27).

Latin authors preferred to speak of the Father as principium rather than cause, unlike the Greeks.  An efficient cause, for example, is perceived of as a different substance than its effects (Muller 47)!  Aquinas’s denial of real distinction is a denial of a substantial distinction.   He wants to deny that any distinction that would make the essence one “thing” and the “persons” other “things.”

Structure of the Book

Clarifying medieval discussions on filioque:  all Westerns agreed that the Spirit proceeded from Father and Son as from one principia.  Causal language was eventually abandoned, for it implied the Son/Spirit to be of a different substance (effects are not the same substance as causes).  Further, and right before the Reformation, the Trinitarian life ad intra was lining up with the work ad extra (Muller 59).

The Reformation forced thinkers to restate the doctrine of the Trinity anew.  Advances in historical criticism and typology meant that some exegesis needed revisiting.  Muller notes three basic issues: the inheritance of Patristic vocabulary, renewed exegetical battles against the Socinians, and a new philosophical vocabulary (62).

Objection: does essential identity demand personal identiy? The Reformed generally respond that this is true for finite essences (Muller 211).  The orthodox are slowly moving away from the old Cappadocian argument of three men having the essence of manness. The problem is that this moves from “genus (man” to “Genus (God)”, yet God isn’t a genus.

Nor is it a quaternity: the three persons plus the one essence.  Persons and essence are not distinct as a thing (res).

Exegetical Issues and Trajectories

The Reformers assumed a hermeneutic of movement from shadow and promise to fulfillment (214).

Eternal decree and election of Christ.  God works either by his decree or the execution of it (Perkins). As the Reformed saw that this was Trinitarian, they began to see the covenant of redemption.

The order of the persons ad intra in the opera personalia is mirrored ad extra in the opera appropriata (Muller 268).  These are modes of operation contributing to the ultimately undivided work of the Godhead ad extra. The works of the Son and Spirit terminate on their persons.  By terminate we mean the terminus is paired with a fundamentum. This pair means a relation of acts bringing about relations (268). The fundamentum is the source; the terminus is the conclusion of the action constituting the relation.

Aseity of the Son

The issue: Calvin denies explicitly that the Son is from the Father “with respect to his eternal essence” (Muller 325). The Son is generated per Sonship, not divinity.

However, Ursinus: the essence is absolute and communicable.  The person is relative and incommunicable.

Arminius rejected Calvin’s view, insisting that “Christ, as God, has both his sonship and his essence by generation” (329).

Conclusion

This is not to say that every single construction is satisfactory.  However, the Reformed orthodox did provide a robust Trinitarian framework that avoids most of the difficulties and charges labeled at scholasticism.

Notes on Muller’s PRRD vol 4

Roscellin: confirmed anti-realist.  This view led him to declare that every existent thing is a unique individual: so-called universals are “mere words.” (Muller 26).  

The problem with Boethuis’s definition of person:   The definition ultimately poses all manner of problems for the doctrines of Trinity and Christ when the concept of individual substance is taken to indicate a unique entity essentially distinct from other similar entities” (27).  

Anselm on Human nature:  Human nature refers to the conjunction of the several properties and predicates that identify the nature, generally considered, as human—and this is prior to the more particular consideration of the single person as human, as participating in human nature. (27)

Anselm on Filioque:  followed standard Augustinian line that the processions::psychological love

  • As for the Greek claim that the concept of double procession resulted in the error of two ultimate principles in the Godhead, Anselm could respond that just as the creation of the world by all three persons does not result in a theory of three ultimate principles, so does the procession of the Spirit from the Father and the Son not result in a theory of two principles: for the three persons create as one God, and the Father and the Son are one God in the procession of the Spirit (Muller)

Difficulty of Defining “Person.”

Alexander of Hales:  good is self-diffusive.   bonum est diffusivum sui.  “Thus, the “distinction” of the persons in the one divine essence is the “difference of relation or of mode of existing” that arises “by reason of origin.’  (Muller 39). Further, “Thus, according to Alexander, distinction in God between essence and person is not a real distinction (secundum rem), but only a distinction of the rational intellect (secundum intelligentiam rationis); nonetheless, the distinction between persons is real even in God

Alexander objects to the claim that the distinction between persons and essence or between relations and the divine substance must either be according to substance or such as subsists between a thing and another thing (secundum rem) or merely according to our intellect (secundum intellectum solum). The first distinction would rule out divine simplicity, the latter would render the Trinity a doctrine fashioned in the human mind. Alexander responds that, in its inward economy, the one and same divine essence, is disposed as Father, who is neither generated nor proceeded from another; as Son, who is generated from another; and as Spirit, who proceeds from both—and that this manner or mode of being is “not merely according to the acceptation of out understanding, but in fact according to the thing itself.” Thus the Godhead must be considered both in terms of “the identity of substance” and in terms of “a disposition according to the consideration of origin or first principle”—in the first instance, there is the essential identify of the divine persons, in the second, there is the disposition or plurality of the Godhead according to “the predicament of relation” (40)

Thomas Aquinas

Latin authors preferred to speak of the Father as principium rather than cause, unlike the Greeks.  An efficient cause, for example, is perceived of as a different substance than its effects (Muller 47)!

Aquinas’s denial of real distinction is a denial of a substantial distinction.   He wants to deny that any distinction that would make the essence one “thing” and the “persons” other “things.”

Attributes do not result in a conceptual opposition.  Relations do.

Early Reformation Doctrine of Trinity

Structure of the Book

Clarifying medieval discussions on filioque:  all Westerns agreed that the Spirit proceeded from Father and Son as from one principia.  Causal language was eventually abandoned, for it implied the Son/Spirit to be of a different substance (effects are not the same substance as causes).  Further, and right before the Reformation, the Trinitarian life ad intra was lining up with the work ad extra (Muller 59).

The Reformation forced thinkers to restate the doctrine of the Trinity anew.  Advances in historical criticism and typology meant that some exegesis needed revisiting.  Muller notes three basic issues: the inheritance of Patristic vocabulary, renewed exegetical battles against the Socinians, and a new philosophical vocabulary (62).  

Subordination:  talk of Christ’s subordination referred to his mediatorial kingdom, when he handed it over to the Father (115).

The Terms of Trinitarian Orthodoxy

Trinitas: equivalent to Trium Unitas: “the subject itself, in its primary definition, denies composition in the Godhead” (169). God is not unitary, but unum; not triplex, but trinum.

Substantia, essentia, ousia: with regard to substance, the individual is primary and the genus secondary in the ontic sense. A genus will always be the predicate of a primary.  We would say “Simon is a man” and not “man is a simon.”

Keckerman:  essence is the whatness or quiddity, substance the existing individual.

Persona:

Tertullian: a persona is identified by one who has substantia (178).

Socinians: person is identified with primary essence, which would yield three gods.  This allowed them to exclude Son and HS from Godhood.

Turretin: person is an individual intellectual suppositum (III.xxiii.7).  See 2 Cor. 1:11.

Proprietates, relationes, and notiones:

Property:  a distinguishing characteristic of a subsistence not shared with other subsistences (187).

Notio: the way in which the three subsistences are distinct from one another.

Agnesia

Paternitas

Filatio

Procession

Spiration

The Trinity of Persons in their Unity and Distinction: Theology and Exegesis in the Older Reformed Tradition

Calvin: (see mainly Institutes 1.13.1).

Bullinger: Decades 4.3

Musculus: essence signifies that which is common; substance that which is proper to all persons.  Musculus follows Hilary and Jerome where substance is hypostasis, rather than ousia (Muller 206).

Order and Distinction of the Persons

Keckermann: the mode of God’s existence does not differ from the mode of God’s essence. The persons are distinct not by degree, state, or dignity, but by the order, number, and manner of doing (Trelcatius).

Objection: does essential identity demand personal identiy? The Reformed generally respond that this is true for finite essences (Muller 211).  The orthodox are slowly moving away from the old Cappadocian argument of three men having the essence of manness. The problem is that this moves from “genus (man” to “Genus (God)”, yet God isn’t a genus.

Nor is it a quaternity: the three persons plus the one essence.  Persons and essence are not distinct as a thing (res).

Exegetical Issues and Trajectories

The Reformers assumed a hermeneutic of movement from shadow and promise to fulfillment (214).

The Deity and Person of the Father

Covenant of redemption:

Eternal decree and election of Christ.  God works either by his decree or the execution of it (Perkins). As the Reformed saw that this was Trinitarian, they began to see the covenant of redemption.

The order of the persons ad intra in the opera personalia is mirrored ad extra in the opera appropriata (Muller 268).  These are modes of operation contributing to the ultimately undivided work of the Godhead ad extra. The works of the Son and Spirit terminate on their persons.  By terminate we mean the terminus is paired with a fundamentum. This pair means a relation of acts bringing about relations (268). The fundamentum is the source; the terminus is the conclusion of the action constituting the relation.

Venema: “The Father being the originating–the Son the efficient–and the Holy Spirit the Perfecting cause.”

The Person and Deity of the Son

The problem of subordination:   Col. 1:15 uses protokotos, not protoktistos.  Lordship, not creation (Rijssen).

Generation: a communication of personal existence without any multiplication or division of essence (284).

Aseity of the Son

The issue: Calvin denies explicitly that the Son is from the Father “with respect to his eternal essence” (Muller 325). The Son is generated per Sonship, not divinity.

However, Ursinus: the essence is absolute and communicable.  The person is relative and incommunicable.

Arminius rejected Calvin’s view, insisting that “Christ, as God, has both his sonship and his essence by generation” (329).

Procession of the Holy Spirit

The Reformed try to get around the asymmetry of the Father and Son generating a divine person while the Spirit does not, in the following way:  “in modo, since the way of generation terminates not only in the personalitas of the Son but also in a ‘similitude’, according to which the Son is called the image of the Father, and according to which the Son receives the property of communicating that essence to another person. In contrast, the Spirit does not receive the property of communicating that essence to another person, inasmuch as the way of spiration terminates only in the personalitas of the Spirit and not in a similitude of the Father

Outline of Calvin’s Institutes, Book 1

Outline and Notes.

Knowledge of God

Calvin placed intuitive knowledge on a more direct footing.  We have direct knowledge of an actually present object:  Intuitive knowledge arises under the direct impact of the divine Being.

    1. Calvin: We know God through his speaking to us in his Word (Word, being Logos, inheres in the divine being).
      1. There is a compulsion of Veritas on our minds.
      2. Knowledge of God, like all true knowledge, is determined by the nature of what is known (86).
        1. arises out of our obedience.
        2. evidence: evidence of ultimate reality, which means it is self-evident.
      3. Our intuitive knowledge is in and through God’s Word.
        1. it is reached by hearing, not seeing.
        2. The Word of God we hear in Scripture reposes in the divine Being. That is the objective ground in our knowledge of God.
  1. Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self, since God is the standard of knowledge.
    1. Knowledge of God involves trust and reverence (1.2.2).
      1. Knowledge of God, hence, involves obedience.
      2. The object of knowledge, in this case, partially determines how we know God.
    2. Implanted in the minds of men (1.3-4)
    3. Scripture is needed if we are to have true knowledge (1.6-8)
      1. The church itself is grounded in Scripture. Eph. 2.20.
      2. Witness of the Holy Spirit..  God is a fit witness of himself. Isaiah 59.20-21.
    4. Contra fanatical knowledge (1.9).
      1. The Holy Spirit agrees with Scripture.
      2. Word and Spirit belong together.
    5. Contra superstition (1.10-11).
      1. No visible form of God.
      2. Dulia/latria collapses.
        1. It is harder to serve a being than to reverence it (1.11.11).
        2. Scripture itself blurs this distinction (1.12.2). Gal. 4.8.
  2. The Being of God and the Trinity
    1. The Father has made his hypostasis visible in the Son (1.13.2).

Book I.V.13-15

“No pure and approved religion founded on common understanding alone.” 1 Cor. 2.8.

Chapter VI: Scripture Necessary

Knowledge of God in Scripture

True understanding emerges when we reverently embrace what pleases God (I.VI.2). This might be what Torrance has in mind when he says true scientific knowledge is when the knower submits to the structures of the object known.  “Right knowledge of God is born of obedience” (Omnis recta cognito Dei ab obedientia nascitur)

Chapter VII: Scripture must be confirmed by the Spirit

(Chapters 7-9 form an excursus on biblical authority)

“Scriptures obtain full authority among believers only when men regard them as having sprung from heaven, as if there the were living words of God were heard (7.1).  Is Calvin saying the bible becomes authoritative as we assent to its authority?  Maybe.  This is very close to what Barth says about Scripture’s becoming the Word of God in us when we submit to it.

*The highest proof of Scripture comes from God, since Scripture comes from God.  God himself is a “fit witness” for his Word.

Inward testimony of the Spirit

The Spirit must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us of Scripture (VII.4).  Is. 59.21.

Hilary of Poitiers: “For he whom we can know only through his utterances is a fitting witness concerning himself” (De Trin. I.18).

Calvin: “It is not right to subject Scripture to proof and reasoning.”  Proofs only work when the Spirit seals them on our hearts. The only true faith is that which the Spirit seals on our hearts.

Chapter 10.2

Uses language of God in himself, but goes on to say that “Experiences teaches us to find God as he is in his Word.”

Chapter 11: Impropriety of Images

section 1.  “God himself is the sole and proper witness of himself” (cf. Hilary, De Trin. I.8).

sect. 2: How can spirit be analogous to a material object?

Epistemology and Icons

The problem with the dulia/latria distinction.

  • Scripture doesn’t use that distinction (Mt. 4:10; Rev. 19:10, Acts 10:25).
  • Common sense logic says that one who is enslaved/under service to a greater necessarily gives honor to the greater (pp. 118-119).

DOCTRINE OF GOD, PROPERLY SPEAKING

Chapter 13

Divine simplicity on p. 122.

  • The Father’s hypostasis is visible in Jesus (p. 123).

Definition of Person (p.128).

  • better spoken of as “subsistence.”
  • Persons are distinguished by an incommunicable quality
  • John 1:1–Word could not be God without residing in the Father, hence the idea of subsistence emerges.

Distribution or economy in God has no effect on the unity of the essence.

Christology

Calvin summarizes the basic arguments for the deity of Christ.  Not much new here.  However, some points:

  • If apart from God there is no salvation, no righteousness et al, yet Christ contains all of these.  Then Christ is God.
  • The name of a Jehovah is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe.  Yet the name of Christ is invoked for salvation.  Therefore, Christ is on the same level as Jehovah.

Deity of the Holy Spirit (I.XIII.14-15)

*The Spirit is author of regeneration by his very own energy.

*Through him we come into communion with God, so that in a way we feel his life-giving power toward us.

Distinction and Unity of the Three Persons (I.XIII.16-20).

Fairly standard stuff.  Includes Calvin’s famous quote of Gregory of Nazianzus (p.141).

*Father is attributed the beginning of the activity and the fountain of all things; the Son, wisdom, counsel, and the ordered disposition of all things; but to the spirit is assigned the power and efficacy of all that activity (sec. 18).

*For in each hypostasis is the whole divine nature understood

Chapter 14: Creation

Standard textbook material.  Rebuts Pseudo-Dionysius on angels.  Calvin is aware of the dearth of evidence for some conclusions and refuses to go beyond it.

Chapter 15: Creation of Man

Basic substance dualism, though Calvin is heavier on the Platonic line.  Rebuts the idea that there is a difference between image and likeness.

Human soul consists of two faculties–understanding and will (sec. 7).  Calvin places himself in the intellectualist tradition by seeing that the will follows the understanding.  He is not a voluntarist.

Chapter 16: Providence

“Fortune and chance are pagan terms” (quoting Basil, Homilies on the Psalms).

Chapter 17: How We May apply this doctrine to our greatest benefit

(1) God’s providence sometimes works through an intermediary (p.210).

(2) God’s Hidden Will: Calvin isn’t actually positing two wills in God, bu notes that it appears manifold to us (sec. 3)

 

Notes on Berkouwer’s anthropology

From his Man: The Image of God

On the broader/narrower distinction: man, despite his fall, was not beastialized (38).  By narrower man lost his communion with God.

  • the broader sense reminds us of what was not lost in the fall.
  • Perhaps better to speak of a duality between Old and New.

Should image of God be read as “active” (conformitas) or ontic (essence)?

Berkouwer on Eastern Orthodoxy

  • He doesn’t give the best discussion of EO, either in what they believe or in how to critique it.  Though he does hint that EO thinkers aren’t always able to clearly state the connection between inheriting Adam’s curse of death and why we always do sinful things, but yet refusing to call it Original Sin.

Klaas Schilder

Schilder sees man’s creation as the pre-condition for the image, but not the image itself (Berkouwer 54).  The actual image lies in the officium created man receives (I don’t think this is the full picture, but there is some truth to this, especially if we connect the imago dei with man’s dominion, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism hints at).

  • Thus, the image is dynamic and is rooted in the Covenantal God’s Relation with man.
  • the word “image” implies “making visible.”
  • Schilder resists any abstracting the image.
  • The glory of the image shines forth in service to God (56).

The danger with Schilder’s approach is that it makes the image too “dynamic” with an emphasis on conformitas.

What is the relationship between man’s humanness and God’s Image?  Berkouwer wants to deny that fallen man images God (57).  He says he can do this without rejecting what it means for man to be man.

  • Passages like Genesis 9:6 are not proof-texts for some abstract view of the image analogia entis.  They deal with a humanness in the context of God’s plan of salvation.
  • The truth of the matter is Scripture doesn’t focus that much on the distinction between wider and narrow, important though it is.
    • traditional discussions have always focused on image as defined by person, will, reason, and freedom.  Scripture, on the other hand, is concerned with man-in-relation-to-God.
  • A synthesis between the ontic and active aspects of the image is impossible when using concepts like “nature” and “essence” (61).

Analogia Fides

  • The danger in abstracting the imago dei is that the body is usually not included in what it means to be God’s image.  This means that only part of man is creted in the image of God.
  • Such discussions lose focus of the humanness of man.  They forget that man is man-in-his-apostasy.

The Meaning of the Image

Origen expounded the view that man was created in God’s image but grows into God’s likeness (De Principiis, 3.4.1; Bavinck calls this the naturalistic view).

Calvin, on the other hand, sees the two terms as an example of Hebrew parallelism.  Berkouwer gives the best critique:  “And if God’s plan for man (that man should have both image and likeness) was only partially realized by man’s creation in his Image (As Origen and others claimed), then it is difficult to explain Genesis 5, which speaks of man’s creation in God’s likeness (demuth) and after his image, tselem (Berkouwer, 69).

The image-concept and the Second Commandment

2Comm. deals with a prohibition against arbitrariness which man tries to have God at his beck and call (79).  The 2C is not primarily trying to protect the “spirituality” of God but to show that God is not at man’s beck and call (though, of course, God is spiritual).

The creation of man is directly related to the prohibition of images:  “For in worshiping images, man completely misunderstands God’s intentions and no longer realizes the meaning of his humanity (84).

Biblical usage:  The NT speaks of humanity as whether it is the “New man in Christ” or not.  To the degree it speaks of conformitas, it speaks of the new conformitas in Christ.

While the analogia entis is certainly wrong, we need to be careful of speaking of an analogia relationis, pace Barth and Dooyeweerd.   Berkouwer wisely notes that Scripture doesn’t speak of a “relation” in the abstract, but of a “relation as it becomes visible in the salvation of Christ” (101).

Even if one were to speak of an analogia entis, the biblical presentation of “being like God” has nothing to do with the natural state of affairs but rather shows forth the wonder of the new birth (1 John 3:9).  The “imitation of God” forms the pendant of our witness to the world, in which word and deed are joined in an unbreakable unity (102).

The Corruption of the Image

How do we reconcile language of corruption with hints of “remnants?”  There is a difficulty in saying that sin is “accidental” to man.  It cannot mean that sin is merely peripheral to man’s existence.  Rather, it affects all that he does.  The Formula of Concord says that sin is an accident, but one that produces man’s spiritual death (133).  When Flacius Illyrius saw the term “accident,” he interpreted it as meaning that sin is relative and external.

The problem is that substance/accidents language cannot do justice to the NT reality of sin. Berkouwer suggests we can rise above the dilemma “only when we see man’s nature, his being man, in his inescapable relation to God” (135).

We also need to be aware of positing “any remnant in man which can escape divine indictment” (135).  Whatever else we may think of substance/accidents, “Scripture constantly makes it clear that sin is not something which corrupts relatively or partially, but a corruption which full affects the radix, the root, of man’s existence, and therefore man himself” (104-141).

  • Gen. 6:11-12; the sin is referred to as “great.”
  • Gen. 6:5; man’s heart is evil
  • Gen. 8.21 (man’s imagination is evil from his youth)
  • Life outside of Christ is pictured as “under God’s wrath” (

“The power of sin since the fall is like an avalanche, and it results in the intervening judgment of God” (141).  The Old testament gives us a picture of total corruption but a limited curse (God doesn’t wipe us out completely).

“The jubilation of salvation corresponds to the real condition of lostness” (144).

Humanness and Corruption

Discussion about common grace.  When Calvin says man has “no worth” he means no merit before God’s judgment.

The Whole Man

Scripture doesn’t talk about man in the abstract, but man in his relation to God (195).

Biblical use of the word “soul.”

Sometimes it is “nefesh,” meaning life and can refer to man himself.  Berkouwer rejects that “soul” is a “localized religious part of man” (201).  The Bible’s interchangeable usage between soul and life should draw attention to the fact that the “heart” is of primary importance:  “The heart shows forth the deeper aspect of the whole humanness of man, not some functional localization in a part of man which would be the most important part” (202-203).

Concerning anthropological dualisms

Such a view sees the soul as the “higher” part, closer to God.  Leads to ascetism.  However, evil in the bible is never localized in a part of man.

Bavinck attacks trichotomy because Scripture knows of no original dualism between spirit and matter (209).    The trichotomist sees the soul as mediating between body and spirit (find Damascene’s comment that the soul is higher point, cf Bruce McCormack, Engaging the Doctrine of God).

Dualism and duality are not identical (211).  We can speak of a duality in God’s creation man and woman, without positing an ontological dualism between them (this is where Maximus and Jakob Boehme err).  “Duality within created reality does not exclude harmony and unity, but is exactly oriented towards it” (211).

Does soul and body involve a tension, and if so that would make it a dualism?  If it does involve a tension, we must reject not only trichotomy, but dichotomy.

Per the confessions and creeds, “there is a great difference between non-scientific references to a dual aspect of human nature and a thesis that man is composed of two substances, body and soul” (213-214).

The Dooyeweerdians

It opposes the idea that all the rich variation of humanness can be forced into two substantial categories.

Stoker defines substance as the “systatic core of man, that which functions in all spheres” (H.G. Stoker, Die nuwere Wijsbegeerte aan die Vrije Universiteit, 1933, 40ff.).

For the Dooyeweerdian critique, matter can never be an independent counter-pole to form.

Immortality of the Soul

Genuine and real life in Scripture is life in communion with God.  The philosophical notion of “immortality of the soul” calls death a lie and misunderstands the judgment of God (250).

The main contention of Vollenhoven and Dooyeweerd whether there was a natural immortality based on an essence abstracted from its relation to God, from which we can draw further conclusions, such as the soul’s “indestructibility” (249).

Per Van der Leuw, there is no continued existence of the soul as such after death, “but a continuation of the contact point by God even though death” (Onsterfelijkheid of Opstanding, 25 quoted in Berkouwer 252).

  • The problem of what happens when we die does not involve a purely spiritual salvation but can only be answered in the context of death and the Day of Judgment (Althaus).

Is immortality of the soul correlative with the substantial dualism of mind-body?  This dichotomy raises substantial (pun?) problems and questions (255):

  • When the “soul” is separated from the body, what activities is it still able to carry out?
  • If the body is the organ of the soul (as in Aquinas), and the soul needs the body to carry out its functions, how can the soul know or do anything after death?
    • Dooyeweerd notes that the psychic functions are indissolubly connected with the total temporal-cosmic relationship of all modal functions and cannot be abstracted from this relationship.
    • Thus, we have a “living soul” which does not live.
    • Rather, with Dooyeweerd we should speak of a duality which is supra-temporal in the religious center of man (heart) and the whole temporal-functional complex.
    • Dooyeweerd does say that the soul continues as a form of existence with an individuality structure (Berkouwer 257n. 33).

Does Dooyeweerd’s school give us a “psychology without a soul?”

  • No, for Dooyeweerd says we cannot view man’s essence “in itself” and then tack it onto a relation with God.

The Reformed confessions’ use of soul and body is not to give a systematic anthropology but to show that expectation of salvation surpasses death (271).

Creationism and Traducianism

Berkouwer sees the problems with Creationism:

  • it finds the soul’s origin in another dimension than the “other” part of man, which finds its origin…from its parents (294).

Human Freedom

Freedom in the New Testament is not a “possibility,” but an actuality, the actuality of being free (Gal. 3:13, 4:4). Defining freedom as “double possibility,” as freedom of choice, arises from an abstract and irreligious and neutral anthropological analysis of human freedom (334).

irony and tension: if freedom is defined as choice, then we see that the choice for sin becomes a manifestation of human freedom–though we (and the Bible!) then go on to speak of sin as actually being slavery (335)!

Choosing Ba’al is not an ontological freedom of the will, but an endangering of freedom and the acceptance of an enslaved will (Deut. 30:18). How can we speak of a neutral and autonomous freedom of will when Jesus commands us to accept his yoke and his burden? (348)

Man of God

In the Old Testament it refers to a relationship with God (349).  Such a term can never be one of an abstract and neutral man.  It is man drawn out of darkness and into light.

“The magnalia Dei does not exclude true greatness, but calls it forth” (352).  [Think Stonewall Jackson]

 

 

Rights talk

From Wolterstorff’s Until Justice and Peace Embrace

Initial claim:

(P1) Justice is the enjoyment of one’s rights.

Calvin spoke of a “mutual communication” in society: “each is to contribute what he or she can to the enrichment of the common life” (Wolterstorff 78, quoting Calvin, Comm. Harmony of the Evangelists, 1:103).

Discussion of Rights

  1. Right to protection
  2. Right to freedom
  3. Right to participate in government
  4. Right to sustenance

Classic Liberalism: do your own thing but do not interfere, positively or negatively, with your neighbor.

Sustenance Rights are basic rights–they are necessary for life (82).

Wolterstorff defines “right” as a “morally legitimate claim [to]…the actual enjoyment of a good that is socially guaranteed against ordinary, serious, and remedial threats (82).

  1. A right places an obligation on others, a responsibility–and that is necessary to what it means to be human.
  2. A right is the claim to the actual enjoyment of the good in question.
  3. It is socially guaranteed.
    1. This means that rights always involve social structures.