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Who is Chalcedonian?

September 7, 2011

Chalcedon is a council that I believe can clear allot of major issues that prevail in protestantism and Roman Catholicism. It is the council that for some reason, Calvinists believe they hold to in some way, however, some of the brighter Calvinists have actually decided to read Chalcedon, and have all had interesting responses. Bruce McCormick knows Chalcedon, and is reformed, and makes the statement that:

“Heinrich Bullinger offers the most extreme example.  In his Second Helvetic Confession, he writes, “We therefore acknowledge either two natures or two hypostases or substances, the divine and the human, in one and the same Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Two hypostases is extreme; indeed, it is something less than orthodox. According to Chalcedon, there is but one hypostasis in which the two natures subsist………………….

Mind you, I am not accusing the theologians of Westminster of abandoning Reformed soteriology!  But they do not seem to realize that in advocating the version of Chalcedonian Christology they do, unreconstructed by Reformed sources, they have taken a most important step in that direction.  After all, which soteriology do they think the Chalcedonian Definition was originally designed to support?………………..

For Reformed Christians, it is not simply Chalcedon which defines “orthodoxy” within the realm of Christological reflection; it is Chalcedon as interpreted by the Reformed Confessions.”

Bruce McCormack sees the problem. Chalcedon promotes synergism, theosis, and a view of Christology that is not at all compatible with the reformed confessions or reformed theology as a whole. For him, reformed theology is superior to Chalcedon then, which is fine, but please stop including yourselves as Chalcedonian!

 

” When he opposed Monotheletism, this was not because of some technicality, but because such a view subverted the understanding of the full reality of man’s salvation and deification in Christ.”

ST MAXIMUS THE CONFESSOR

“God made us so that we might become ‘partakers of the divine nature’ (2 Pet. 1:4) and sharers in His eternity, and so that we might come to be like Him (cf. 1 John 3:2) through deification by grace. It is through deification that all things are reconstituted and achieve their permanence; and it is for its sake that what is not is brought into being and given existence.” p. 173 – St Maximus the Confessor

 “A sure warrant for looking forward with hope to deification of human nature is provided by the incarnation of God, which makes man god to the same degree as God Himself became man. For it is clear that He who became man without sin (cf. Heb. 4:15) will divinize human nature without changing it into the divine nature, and will raise it up for His own sake to the same degree as He lowered Himself for man’s sake. This is what St. Paul teaches mystically when he says, ‘…that in the ages to come He might display the overflowing richness of His grace’ (Eph. 2:7). p. 178

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46 Comments
  1. Carl permalink

    The only problem is that McCormick is mistaken. Theosis is a Byzantine development of the patristic doctrine of deification that post-dates Chalcedon. McCormack also allows his personal antipathy toward any notion of deification to color his reading of Reformed history. Deification themes continued to be important in the Western theological tradition as well as the Eastern. Calvin and other early Reformed clearly affirm the early patristic doctrine of deification that one finds in folks like Irenaeus and Athanasius.

  2. Eric Castleman permalink

    Well, here is the issue that presents itself. McCormick isn’t the only reformed peer reviewed scholar that sees this, so does Letham in his book “Through Western Eyes” and Richard Muller’s book “Christ and Decree”.Though Letham’s book is not a peer reviewed book, he still shows how the issues are problematic for the reformed. He admits that for the reformed, they profess that Christ has two wills, but that the Divine will makes the human will in Christ operate, or, that the Divine overpowers the human will, which is just monothelitism anyways, Monothelites didn’t all have an issue with two wills, but because of their Greek philosophical subscriptions, had to believe that one will was opposed at least, and that the Divine would just make the human will in Christ operate. It is the same thing. From what I understand, Muller in “Christ and Decree” says that the reformed ultimately have a better understanding of the two wills in Christ than Chalcedon, and that the reformed confessions lift Chalcedon out of their Greek metaphysical terms into a clearer, and more precise understanding.

    The Westminster confession doesn’t adhere to a Chalcedonian Christology:

    “So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion.Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.” Westminster Confession 8.2

    Do you think Chalcedon teaches that the Person of Christ is both human and Divine? On the contrary, the Chalcedonian definition of the person of Christ is that the the Divine Son took on human nature. The Divine person is fully divine, and nothing in Christ nature has anything to do with a human person. This is a Nestorian Christology,

    But more than this, it is the Christology of the councils that define things such as providence, soteriology and on and on.

    St Maximus the Confessor makes up the theology for Chalcedon, and his understanding of how we are defied is very foreign to Calvin and the reformed. For Maximus, salvation is defined as Christians being called to the ascetic life, discipline practice, and participation of the transfiguration of the of the cosmos, to be demonstrations ourselves of the bigger picture, which is the salvation of cosmos. We through these things, share actively in Christ’s mediation of the new creation. This is closely intertwined with St. Maximus’s views of Christ two wills. In that explanation of Maximus is his Christological outlook, providential outlook, soteriological outlook, and view of theosis. Where is this present in reformed writings?

  3. Carl permalink

    I recall Muller saying that Calvin has different concerns and emphases than Chalcedon, but that does not entail that there contradiction or tension as McCormack seems to imply. I’ve just thumbed through Muller again and cannot find a section stating anything along those lines. Perhaps you can give page numbers for the discussion you have in mind. My copy of Letham is at home, so I will have to check that later.

    Your comments about Chalcedon are strange. The text explicitly says that “the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person (prosopon) and one Subsistence (hypostasis), not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son.” So I don’t see the contradiction that you have asserted. In any case, Westminister is irrelevant to Calvin and other early Reformers.

    You ask where Maximus’ view of theosis is found in the Reformers. I did not say it was, though there is common ground on some points, contradiction on others. So what? What I said is that Calvin affirmed the early patristic doctrine of deification of the sort found in Irenaeus and Athanasius. You can’t find various elements of Maximus’ teaching in their writings either.

    • Carl, Muller takes the Reformed view as articulated from Calvin forward through Perkins to be afoul of Chalcedon, but he thinks this is an improvement, since it supposedly lifts Christology out of the mire of Greek metaphysics. the crucial concept throughout his book where this can be seen is in the persona mediatoris.

      Letham’s position is ironically monoenergist, just as eric said. The divine will uses the human as an instrument. Pyrrus,Sergius and Honorius couldn’t be happier with such a view.

      Westminster would be irrelevant to Calvin if they disagreed on the point in question, but they don’t.

      And Calvin doesn’t hold to the patristic doctrine of theosis, though he does hold to some doctrine of deifuication. That is neither here nor there though as just about everyone holds to some form of deification doctrine. Russell’s survey, among other works, seem to make clear that what Ireneaus and Athanasius have in mind is far too robust, metaphysically speaking for Calvin.

      As for not finding certain parts of Athanasius and Ireneaus in maximus, please bring forward what you have in mind.

      • Carl permalink

        1. Are these bald assertions in lieu of the page numbers where Muller supposedly takes the position Eric attributed to him?

        2. I simply don’t care about Westminster, Letham, or anything else unrelated to the basic claim I contested.

        3. I know of nothing in Irenaeus or Athanasius’ doctrines of theopoiesis that would be too metaphysically robust for Calvin. People need to stop reasoning from a priori assumptions and examine the primary texts, something that I have done in quite some detail.

      • No, they were intended to get someone who has read the book to recognize something said in the book, since I didn’t have it handy at the moment. Why not go skim over pages 33-42 with the discussion of Calvin and Bullinger to start. The sections on Ursinus are also instructive.

        I suppose you can be dismissive of Letham, but the WCF does occupy a significant place in Reformed theology. Your remarks here are dismissive of significant counter evidence. Physician…

        So when Athanasius speaks of beoming deified by becoming what God is by his powers, that isn’t too robust for Calvin? Really? Why then all the hubbub with the Lutherans over exactly that point? Why all the protest then using the extra calvinisticum over the eucharist, baptism, etc. if the natural can in fact have properties of the supernatural? If you’re an expert on Calvin, then please explain his thinking here. He seems inconsistent. Please helps us out by showing that he isn’t.

  4. Eric Castleman permalink

    I am not trying to go off base here. The premise of McCormick’s argument is that Chalcedon and the Westminster confessions are not compatible, and that for the reformed, it is Chalcedon understood only through the interpretation of the Westminster confessions and not the other way around. McCormick gives examples of this, when he shows how the confessions do not promote a Chalcedonian Christology. Muller says the same thing, which is not a controversy in regards to interpreting Muller, even reformed adherents say as much in their reviews:

    “His argumentation on the centrality of the Trinitarian nature of God to Calvin’s theology, and to his soteriology and understanding of predestination in particular, was world-changing for me several years ago. Much that is latent and implicit in Calvin was crystallized and brought to the surface for me by this book (it was my first encounter with Muller), including the abovementioned Trinitarian emphasis, the revitalized Christology and Trinitarian teaching of Calvin over the patristic formulations, etc.”
    http://www.puritanboard.com/f29/christ-decree-richard-muller-40998/

    An Amazon reviewer agrees as well:

    “As to the Christology itself, Calvin distinguishes the Person of the Son from the Son as God, which leads to the Reformed doctrine of aseity and autotheos (Muller 29). Much of the book will hinge on the connections between aseity, autotheos, and extra calvinisticum. This leads to Calvin’s important doctrine of mediation, which is framed according to the Son’s two natures. Muller claims that Calvin’s Christology is a historical Christology that focuses on the covenant-keeping God who acts in history to save man. Muller claims this is a genuine innovation. In fact, it is the covenant-keeping Christology that sets Calvin apart from the Eastern and Chalcedonian Christology” http://www.amazon.com/Christ-Decree-Christology-Predestination-Reformed/dp/0801036100

    This might seem like really weak proof in some peoples eyes, but it is only because at the moment I do not have the book, nor can I even find a place on the internet that gives me the chapter layout. However, one of my friends says he will jump on here and give you the references.

    As for Calvin and the patristic doctrine of deification. If you would kindly show me where Calvin or any reformed view of soteriology adheres to the patristic doctrine of deification it would be greatly appreciated. I just cannot see that. Deification in the early church, and for St. Maximus and others, such a St. Cyril uphold a view of deification that presupposes that salvation is an active process, through partaking in the divine nature (uncreated energies of God) This is why Cyril and other all believed in relics, unlike the reformed, because even our bodies become defied. This is because the emphasis for deification in the early patristics is Christology, just as it is for Maximus. The divine Son took on human nature, in which we become sharers of the Divine life. Calvin, as Muller promotes, and McCormick, says that the emphasis for Calvin is the two natures of Christ, but that goes for Nestorius as well. The problem for Nestorius is that he was confusing nature and person, just as Calvin does. This is why I find Muller and McCormick’s proposed solutions as extremely problematic. The emphasis of who Christ is, whether God or a human person is not only imperative, but what separates Christians from the Jews who denied that Jesus was who he said he was, and that is God. St Cyril emphasizes this in his anathemas against Nestorius.

    Lets just take the Westminster confessions away from the problem, Calvin still admits a Nestorian Christ in his commentaries on Matthew:

    “For we know that in Christ the two natures were united into one person in such a manner that each retained its own properties; and more especially the Divine nature was in a state of repose, and did not at all exert itself, whenever it was necessary that the human nature should act separately, according to what was peculiar to itself, in discharging the office of Mediator.” Calvin commentaries Mathew 24:46

    The acting for Calvin is done by the natures, but that isn’t even Trinitarian, let alone Chalcedonain Christology, not that they are separate by any means, but in the Trinity, it is the person who perform distinct acts, not the nature. In Christ, the one performing is the Son, not some separate “person” or, for a better word, “subject”. This is why I always ask to the reformed, “Did God die on the cross?”. Here is a good article on that

    http://energeticprocession.wordpress.com/2009/02/11/shibboleth/

    Carl, thanks for commenting. I always enjoy discussion by the way 🙂

    -Eric

  5. Carl permalink

    The fact that a few modern Reformed folks have deluded themselves into thinking that the Reformers tried to distance themselves from the ecumencial inheritance of Nicea and Chalcedon by rejecting, revising, or correcting this or that aspect of the Creed or Symbol does not make it so. It is irresponsible for Catholics and Orthodox to uncritically cite these claims for polemical purposes.

    The quotations you supply from reviews on the internet do not establish your claim. One can readily enough cite Orthodox theologians who likewise go beyond Chalcedon or emphasize different things within their own contexts. Distinctiveness and innovation are not the same thing as contradiction.

    Charging Calvin with Nestorianism is an old Lutheran canard that depends on cherry picking and a very uncharitible approach to interpretation. Nobody who engages in fair-minded, informed study of Calvin’s Christology can conclude that it is Nestorian. (And to have Antiochene concerns and emphases is not the same thing!) He clearly affirms and defends the hypostatic union and the Chalcedonian formulation, full stop. The so-called extra-calvinisticum is run of the mill patristic teaching.

    That the divine Son took on human nature to make us partakers of divine life is indeed central to early patristic notions of deification–and Calvin says the same thing many times, in many ways. Suggesting that he could not have affirmed this is derived from presupposition rather than careful reading from Calvin’s corpus. (And claiming that he uses the same words but cannot mean the same thing on some a priori ground won’t cut it.) The particular theological constructs that lead to the veneration of icons, the notion that theosis can be experienced in this life through acetic means, the Palamite essence/energies distinction, the use of particular technical terms, etc. are alien to the early patristic doctrine of deification and thus do not define it. Appealing to Maximus, Cyril, Palamas, etc. as if they set the standard is anachronistic. To read their distinctive teachings into the earlier tradition as if they were not introducing developments and innovations is irresponsible and indefensible. To accept that the early Fathers taught deification and deny that western writers who say the same things could not have taught the notion is inconsistent at best.

    • The number of reformed folks who think thus is not relevant to the truth of their position. The fact is that the extra calvinisticum simply wouldn’t make sense without the position that McCormack and others articulte seems to support their contention.

      It is no more irresponsible of Catholis or Orthodox to cite these claims an the supporting evidence as from hostile witnesses than it is for reformed folk to do the same with Orthodox and Catholic sources.

      I agree that the charge of the Lutherans is old, but asserting that it is a canard doesn’t imply that it is so. And it doesn’t seem to rely on cherry picking. Simply reading say Vermigli’s Dialog on the Two Natures in Christ, against Brenz is sufficient to ground the objection. Along with that we can look at how the Reformed receive and take known Nestorians like Theodoret as well..

      Simply asserting that anyone fairminded won’t come to the Nestorianizing conclusion is an assertion in need of an argument. Trying to defeat one alleged bad arguement with a fallacy doesn’t seem to be a promising enterprise.

      Mentioning “antiochene concerns” is a bit ambiguous, don’t you think? That could mean the concerns that John of Antioch had or concerns that Theodoret had. Sriclty speaking there is no simple “Antiochene school” to be had. The conceptual topogrpahy is varied to ground such a construction.

      Calvin surely says he defends the Chalcedonian definition, but so do hisLutheran critics. Shall we say that the Reformed critics of Lutheranism can be shown to be fals esimply because say Chemnitz says he adheres to Chalcedon? Such a form of reasoning seems not only speciious but paralogistic.

      And to your assertion that the extra-Calvinisticum is plain old patristic teaching, i’ll assert the contrary. Added to it is the fact that if it were, you’d see it showing up in lots of places, like among the Lutherans, Rome and of course the Orthodox, but it doesn’t. That is because the extra-Calvinisticum is a more refined thesis than the more simple or general patristic remarks.

      I don’t think someone like Barth saw the same problem on an a priori basis. And lots of people use deification language and do not mean it as the Fathers did so it would be entirel unsuprising to find ot that Calvin did so.

      Appealing to Palamas may be anachronistic, but certainly given Maximus’ place in dogmatic history appealing to him certainly isn’t, unless you wish to proffer an explicit monothelitism and monoenergism. There are two energies because there are two natures and the energies are not the same thing as the respective essences. Cyril uses that language much earleir as well and Cyril is before Chalcedon. That is hardly anachronistic.

      But who am I to get caught up on terms? The same conceptual space can be found to be occupied by those terms in Athanasius as well Ireneaus, as Anatolius in his monpgraph on Athanasius points out.

      As for your other assertions, well, they are just assertions.

      • Carl permalink

        Perry, you know not of which you speak. It is not for no reason that scholars have said that the extra calvinisticum would be better identified as the extra patristicum.

        Yes, Maximus is quite irrelevant to everything I said about the early patristic doctrine of deification. Anybody who spends a lot of time with the pertinent primary texts should be able to see that there are differences between the early patristic notion of theopoiesis and the Byzantine doctrine of theosis. I am not asserting that the notions are incompatible, but they are different. Theosis is a development of theopoiesis. There is a reason why early Byzantine writers began to use the terminology of theosis in place of earlier patristic terminology.

      • Carl,

        Suppose I don’t know what I am talking about. How do we get from the fact that some unnamed scholars say I am wrong, to, me actually being wrong? This is another appeal to authority. You and I both know that in academia, scholars don’t give two shits that someone has a phd and thinks differently. What matters is the argument and only the argument.

        Second, here is a reason for thinking these other scholars’ take is mistaken. Their accounts aren’t sufficiently fine grained. Are we really to suppose that say Aquinas’ endorsement of the patristic teaching that Christ’s humanity isn’t fused with the divine essence is the same as Calvin’s endoresment of a stronger thesis in the extra calvinisticum? Willis tries to sell this but anyone familair with Thomas’ Christology for example, knows that Calvin and Thomas (just one of many possible figures we can ue to compare) don’t mean the same thing. It seems to me that these other scholars are just parroting Willis and Willis’ account seems not only anachronistic with respect to THomas, but is insufficiently attentive to the stronger thesis in Calvin.

        I grant that theopoesis did have a possible semantic difference, which the Adoptionist and Nestorians employed. That is why ecclesiastically theosis as a term of art replaced it. That of itself doesn’t imply some later conceptual addition to the earlier use of theopoesis. Perhaps you are right, but that reasoning won’t get us there.

        So again, if you take there to be substantial differences between theosis in say Maximus, Cyril or Athanasius and earlier authors, then please give us a prime example. Asserting that theosis is a development of theopoesis is not only a claim in need of a demonstration, but is rather ambiguous. Which theory of development did you have in mind? So again, give us some kind of evidence or argument for your assertions.

  6. Eric Castleman permalink

    It isn’t just a few reformed writers who have this opinion, but Richard Muller and Bruce McCormick, who are not just lightweight reformed voices, but peer reviewed writers within the reformed camps saying this stuff. Do you think Horton, Godfrey, Bahnsen, Sproul have any opinions that withstand academic criticism? Horton, Godfrey and the rest I cited right above never show up in any academic footnotes, and there is a reason for that. Muller’s book Christ and Decree isn’t just another reformed book, but it is THE book on Christology for the reformed. Muller was forced to admit to such ideas. These guys are just a few, Jeroslav Pelikan, who was the leading church historian of our time, in his series on church history book 4 talks about this all over the place. He wrote that particular series while he was Lutheran by the way, and before he converted to Orthodoxy.

    I showed above where Calvin talks of Christ as two different subjects acting in his Divine and Human nature, and that is not inovation on Calvin’s part, since this cannot be so within a Chalcedonian Christology, and is completely rejected by Cyril of Alexandria. Finally, if innovation is the name of the game, then Rome has the reformed view’s number. At least their shift from the patristics is allot harder to figure out, and at first glance appears patristic.

    The charge of Nestorianism against the reformed is an old Luthern argument, as well Roman Catholic argument, and an Orthodox argument. Rome was saying that in the counter reformation the whole time, and Jeroslav Pelikan notes the arguments in book 4 of his church history series. I just showed how Calvin spoke of Christ, in a printed work of his, as a seperate subject.

    The understanding of deification in the early patristics is this. The divine person (Son) took on human nature, so that we are able to become partakers of the Divine nature, and become deified. The Christological implications of this, all taught through the mouths of the fathers say that God, in taking on human nature applied grace to the fallen state of man, and applied the Divine life back to humanity which had been lost. We become partakers of the Divine nature. However, the reformed notions of the Incarnation, and the purpose of Christ is an idea of inputation, covering, and legal mediation. This denies that salvation is a process of deification.

    However, the reformed wrongly argue that the Orthodox do not uphold patristic notion of deification, because of our doctrine of essence and energies distinctions, in that Athanasius speaks of not becoming God’s essence through deification, but sons. But this is a misunderstanding. The essence/energies distinction does not teach that we, through the energies of God, become his essence, since we emplor a creature/creator distinction as well, and why we deny Divine Simplicity and the Beatific Vision, which both Rome and the reformed adhere to. Orthodoxy has always stated, that even in heaven we will remain creatures, and God will still be beyond being. However, the beitific vision, and the notions of Divine Simplicity state that through a renewed mind, we will be able to comprehend God. So, through the renewing of one’s mind (R.C Sproul’s radio show) we will be able to see God completely. This entiles a rejection of Athansius’s teaching of the separation of God’s nature and ours. On top of this, the synergistic view of soteriology is also rejected by the reformed, yet Athanasius’s doctrine of deification entails it:

    “‘Wherefore, children, let us hold fast our discipline, and let us not be careless. For in it the Lord is our fellow-worker [συνεργόν], as it is written, “to all that choose the good, God worketh with them for good.[Rom 8.28]’”

    Life of Anthony 19

    That above quote isn’t monergistic. God is our fellow worker?

    “This was right and reasonable; for, as the Scripture declares, they had gained as much as they had received. Now, my beloved, our will ought to keep pace with the grace of God, and not fall short; lest while our will remains idle, the grace given us should begin to depart, and the enemy finding us empty and naked, should enter [into us], as was the case with him spoken of in the Gospel, from whom the devil went out; ‘for having gone through dry places, he took seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and returning and finding the house empty, he dwelt there, and the last state of that man was worse than the first.’ For the departure from virtue gives place for the entrance of the unclean spirit. There is, moreover, the apostolic injunction, that the grace given us should not be unprofitable; for those things which he wrote particularly to his disciple, he enforces on us through him, saying, ‘Neglect not the gift that is in thee. For he who tilleth his land shall be satisfied with bread; but the paths of the slothful are strewn with thorns;’ so that the Spirit forewarns a man not to fall into them, saying, ‘Break up your fallow ground, sow not among thorns.’ For when a man despises the grace given him; and forth with falls into the cares of the world, he delivers himself over to his lusts; and thus in the time of persecution he is offended, and becomes altogether unfruitful. Now the prophet points out the end of such negligence, saying, ‘Cursed is he who doeth the work of the Lord carelessly.’ For a servant of the Lord should be diligent and careful, yea, moreover, burning like a flame, so that when, by an ardent spirit, he has destroyed all carnal sin, he may be able to draw near to God who, according to the expression of the saints, is called ‘a consuming fire.”

    Festal Letter 3,3.

    Above, take note of the part which reads “our will ought to keep pace with the grace of God, and not fall short; lest while our will remains idle, the grace given us should begin to depart” This again is not monergistic.

    Carl, I have given you examples from Calvin on why I think he is Nestorian from his own writings, as well as shown why I see Athanasius as being opposed to a reformed view of soteriology. Please show me where in Athanasius the reformed views of deification can be found at all.

    -Eric

    • Carl permalink

      1. You have not shown that Muller holds the position you attributed to him. I had been reading Christ and the Decree and had not come across any such statements; when I read your claim I thumbed through the rest to see if you were correct. I cannot find anything that corresponds to your claim. Until you can offer substantiation with specific pages numbers as you promised, you really should not repeat your bald assertion.

      2. You now mention Sproul, Bahnsen and Godfrey as saying things similar to McCormack. I don’t know that they have taken such positions, but it would not matter to me if they did. Merely being Reformed does not make them experts in any of the pertinent areas of scholarship.

      3. Horton has become a genuine theologian who usually does his homework. I would be surprised if he takes the view that the Reformers were out to correct Chalcedon or Nicea. If he does, give me specific references so that I can read his argument.

      4. This is the second time you appeal to the fact that you are citing peer-reviewed writers. You seem to think that I should be deferential to the opinions you attribute to those writers for that reason. Keep in mind that the peer-review process does not ensure the truth of what is claimed. One must weigh the evidence and the arguments. Furthermore, there are peer-reveiwed scholars who agree with the position I took against McCormack in the first post. I am one of them.

      5. You did supply a quotation from Calvin, undoubtedly taken secondhand from another blog or given to you. You quote the comment opportunistically in a manner that suggests you have neither read the surrounding context nor any of Calvin’s lengthy discussions of Christology. Almost certainly, as he does many times elsewhere, Calvin is attempting to make a statement about how the one person of the Mediator acts out of either his divine or human nature and that we can see in particular actions evidence of either his humanity or divinity–not that the natures act independently as if they were agents.

      6. The notion of renewing of one’s mind to which you object does not come from Sproul’s radio show, it comes from the Apostle: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).

      7. The Reformed are monergists with respect to justification and regeneration, not necessarily with respect to every aspect of soteriology or theology. No Reformed theologian has ever objected to the notion of being fellow-workers with God as such. It is, after all, a biblical notion (1 Cor 3:9). I don’t see anything in the two quotations from Athanasius that Calvin or any other Reformer would find significantly problematic. Indeed, they frequently make similar exhortations.

      8. You assert that “we deny Divine Simplicity” as if all Orthodox would agree. Your knowledge of Orthodox theology has room for growth. Not only can one find affirmations of divine simplicity among the Fathers of the east, there are contemporary Orthodox theologians who also affirm it. Here is a handy example from a contemporary Orthodox theologian for whom I have a lot of respect, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: “There is no complexity in God, only simplicity; he is indivisible and not comprised of parts” (The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church, p. 22).

      • Canadian permalink

        But Carl, mongergistic regeneration is problematic as it eschews Christological dogma regarding monothelite and mon-energetic tendencies.
        First, the unanimous testimony of the fathers and scripture is that regeneration occurs at baptism. It is a synergistic endeavor in that the human person hears the gospel and freely comes to repentance and baptism to be regenerated by God, his act of coming does not save him but brings him to salvation and is by the grace of God. The Reformed require monergistic regeneration because they think that human nature is totally depraved, and INOPERATIVE in regards to God. If this is true of us then it must be true of Christ’s humanity as we are consubstantial with his humanity. But mon-energism/monothelitism is condemned clearly in the 6th Council which teaches that Christ’s humanity freely and without reluctance followed his divinity, not BECAUSE Christ was without sin, but because his free natural human will (same one as us) was employed by the divine Logos, the Person of Christ. Our sin does not make our will unfree but our personal use of our free faculty of will is deceived and clouded and selfish and acts against God and against nature. The divine does not overrule, overwhelm, replace, or compel the humanity of Christ, that which he received unchanged (Chalcedon) from the Mother of God, is freely employed by the Logos. Grace does not replace or act in stead of nature, but builds upon and heals it.

      • Carl,

        I don’t take Horton to be a genuine theologian. He still has a bad habit of doing hatchet jobs and patching stuff together with little or no significant advancement. Just look at his section in the three views book on Orthodoxy. The same goes for his more recent work where he discusses the essence-energy distinction. He cites for example Gallwitz in support of his view of simplicity, but it is obvious to anyone who has actually read Gallwitz book on simplicity in the Cappadocians that they do not take the view Horton thinks he is. Horton just padded the footnotes with a source he hasn’t read.

        Second, whether Horton has taken the position or not is irrelevant. Horton doesn’t seem to be sufficiently aware of how fine grained the question under dispute is. He shows no significant grasp of how Nestorians attempted to dodge Ephesian and Chalcedonian Christological statements. Nor does he seem aware of their influence on Reformed writers. So the fact that he doesn’t see the Reformed out to correct Nicene and Chalcedonian traditions is neither here nor there. Second, it is obvious that Calvin took himself to be in position to alter Nicene Trinitarianism in affirming that the Son and the Spirit were also autotheos so it would hardly be a shock to find out that he thought the same of Chalcedon.

        If you think there are academics who argue against McCormack, then bring forward their names, works and arguments. If you are one of them, then bring forward your argument. So far, all I’ve seen are a handful of naked assertions.

        If you think Eric has taken a quote out of context, then demonstrate that he has done so. Simply noting that he took it from another source is no worse than noting that Horton does the same thing all the time. At least Eric isn’t holding himself as a scholar in the field.

        The question is not if Calvin aims to show how the person of the Mediator acts out of either of his two natures. The question is, what is the person of the mediator? Is the person of the mediator all and only the eternal Logos or is as Ursinus says there is more to the person of the mediator than the hypostasis of the Logos? If the first, that is fine, but if the second, well we are back to Nestorianism again. So far in your remarks, I haven’t seen you show any awareness of this question. Certainly your remarks show no significant awareness of the issue. If Calvin falls into the later category, then it certainly does seem that each hypostasis/nature acts as if it were an agent, in exactly the same way that Theodoret and others of his ilk thought so. So again, it all depends on what is the person of the mediator. So far your questions leave untouched the point at issue.

        To be sure Eric’s knowledge of Orthodoxy has room for growth as he is a catechumen. If it didn’t either he’d be a saint or something very bad indeed. That is neither here nor there. It does seem that your knowledge of Orthodoxy has room for growth as well, along with your knowledge of logic, specifically with respect to equivocating. To be sure some doctrine of divine simplicity is adhered to in Orthodoxy and that is without controversy. But of course it’d be quite stupid to assume that everyone had the same concept of it. As Gallwitz, Bradshaw and Barnes have shown (among others) there are a variety of concepts on the historical table. The way the west takes it along Augustinian lines is not adhered to by Eastern authors. Take John of Damascus’ insistence for example that simplicity is one of many different divine energies. A casual reading of the Eunomian controversy will establish the same point. So your use of Bp Alfeyev is out of place, since practically all positions on the table deny composition in God. His remarks simply aren’t enough to pick out the position the Reformed (not to mention Rome) have generally favored.

  7. Eric Castleman permalink

    Just to add to the above something that I wanted to mention. St. Maximus the Confessor’s writings are contained in the cannons of Chalcedon, and St Cyril of Alexandria wrote the Anathema’s against Nestorius were upheld in the First Council of Ephesus. These men are not just rogue theologians like in reformed theology, who decide to write about theology without being bound to tradition. In fact, Maximos stakes his claim against the Monothelites because they shifted away from traditional teachings, as does Cyril with Nestorius. The heretics are the ones who feel that tradition is not an interpretive tool, not the councils. They all claim that “This is the faith received from the fathers” This wasn’t so for Arius, Nestorius, the Monothelites, Calvin, Zwingly and so on

    • Carl permalink

      Not really sure what your point is, but your history is rather confused. The Council of Chalcedon took place in 451, Maximus was born in 580. Maximus’ writings cannot have been contained in the canons of the council.

      • Eric Castleman permalink

        The Council of Constantinople. I confuse the names sometimes. My point is that Maximus’s writings are contained within an ecumenical council..and someone that can be just placed on the side as problematic. Do the reformed take lightly the two wills in Christ? If not, why would you discount Maximus?

  8. Canadian permalink

    Carl,
    You implied that the essence and energies distinction is an innovation with Palamas by stating “the Palamite essence/energies distinction”.
    However, the Ecumenical Councils teach this distinction when it articulates Christ as having two natures, two wills and two natural operations or energies. Christ’s divine nature is explicitly stated to have it’s own energy or operation, the distinction is clear and is crucial to proper Christology and is not a later development as you imply.

    • Carl permalink

      Canadian and Norseman–you have both misunderstood my point. I did not say that distinguishing between God’s essence and energies was an innovation introduced by Palamas. Many people–before and after Palamas, East and West alike–have made a distinction between the essence and energies of God. But Palamas developed the distinction and put it to theological work in novel ways as he defended the practices and experiential claims of fourteenth-century hesychists. Many Orthodox assert that if the developed Palaimite essence/energies distinction cannot be found in the theology of a writer, then anything that writer says which appears to be an articulation of the doctrine of deification cannot be in actuality. My claim is that the Palamite version of that distinction is not found as part of the earliest fathers’ teachings about deification. No informed patristics scholar today would disagree. What follows from this is that while the developed Byzantine doctrine of theosis may require the distinction as Palamas articulated it, the doctrine of deification as such does not.

      • Your claim may be that the Palamite doctrine can’t be found in earlier sources. That is the claim, but so far I haven’t seen anything given as distinctly Palamite with respect to theosis that can’t be found in earlier authors.

        The supposed fact that no informed patristics scholar today would siagree is an implicit appeal to authority. That doesn’t establish the truth of your claim. So you still need an argument. Second, Russell from my reading seems to disagree, among others. Third, what most patristic scholars who actually do work in this area claim as consensus is that ther eis a fully developed and articulated view of theosis, a formal doctrine, as found in palamas. But that is as problematic for the matter of palamas’ doctrine as saying that there is no formally articulated theory of the Son’s full divinity prior to Nicea is for Athanasius’ doctrine of homoousios.

        And sayhing that the doctrine of deification doesn’t require a distinction between e/e is again an assertion. We need an actual argument. Second, as Starr’s work, the standard monograph now on 2 pet 1:4 indicates, there is no sharing in the divine essence, so without that distinction, what do you propose to explain how our participation is sufficient robust and the object in whih weparticipate is divine without it being the divine essence? What is your proposal? If as you claim the e/e distinction is unnecessary, then show us how. If not, then your assertions are nothing more than a promissory note so far as I can tell.

  9. ***The fact that a few modern Reformed folks have deluded themselves into thinking that the Reformers tried to distance themselves from the ecumencial inheritance of Nicea and Chalcedon by rejecting, revising, or correcting this or that aspect of the Creed or Symbol does not make it so. It is irresponsible for Catholics and Orthodox to uncritically cite these claims for polemical purposes.

    ****

    Richard Muller is the leading Calvinist historical theologain in the English speaking world. If he is “deluded” then no Calvinist has any chance of knowing anything about Reformed theology.

    • Carl permalink

      Muller is one of the leading historical theologians of the Reformed tradition. That does not make him correct about everything. But even if Muller were *the* leading figure who can never be wrong, nothing in Christ and the Decree corresponds with what was attributed to him in that book

  10. ****You implied that the essence and energies distinction is an innovation with Palamas by stating “the Palamite essence/energies distinction”.
    ***

    Further, read St Basil’s Letter 234 where he clearly affirms it. Of course, when he says “operations” the Greek word is “energiea,” which is, of course, energy. Basil’s letters on this point “seal the deal.”

  11. Carl permalink

    Eric, I presume that you mean the Third Council of Constantinople. Not sure how one confuses it with Chalcedon, especially when Chalcedon is the topic of discussion. In any case, I did not say Maximus was a rogue theologian, discount him, or say that his teachings could simply be placed to the side. I claimed only that the early Fathers’ teachings on deification do not include things that Maximus and other later Byzantine writers teach about theosis, thus those elements of their teachings are not definitional.

    As for the other statements in your original comment, you are parroting caricatures. Calvin claimed to be teaching the faith handed down by the Fathers. Furthermore, he and the early Reformed did not dispense with tradition “as an interpretive tool” like modern fundamentalists do. Their view was that you cannot argue only from tradition (see the Second Helvetic Confession) or allow tradition to dictate exegesis in such a manner that scripture cannot critique error within the tradition. They object to bald appeals to tradition, especially when Scripture appears to teach something else. Tradition was exactly that, an interpretive tool–not a deposit of ready-made infallible interpretations that cannot be questioned or improved.

    • Eric Castleman permalink

      Carl, how I confuse the councils is not important to this discussion. I confuse names when typing, not councils themselves. So, your attempt to place some sort of doubt as to my grasp of church history is ridiculous. Fine, the 3rd council of Constantinople. Whatever! That still doesn’t help your cause

      First of all, Calvin position on tradition and scripture was not side by side by any means. Calvin claimed the Ignatius of Antioch was a fictitious person conjured up by Rome, and that images were not introduced into tradition until the 6th century. The guy was a historical conspiracy theorist, and because of such claims, his Institutes today, would not even be considered academically credible.

      The councils spoke authoritatively, try reading them. There is a difference between me having a position on church history, and someone having an authoritative view of church history. It is the same as a lawyer in a court room arguing law, and a judge making it law. Two different forms of statements. The Church spoke authoritatively.

      St. Maximus’s view on diefication IS HIS VIEW OF THE TWO WILL IN CHRIST! Again, read Maximus. His whole theology is predicated on synergism. Try arguing monergism with Christ baptistm Carl, it doesn’t really work, and why Maximos shows how providence is a
      Christological issue. This is why your assertion about Maximus being not note worthy in regards to deification is weird.

      Show me Athanisus and Calvin’s continuity in deification.

    • Carl,

      If you claim that early Father’s teaching on deification do not include parts found in Maximus and other later theologians, then please indicate what specific parts you find to be missing. Otherwise, it is just had waving.

      Calvin claimed lots of things and claimed to be correcting the fathers when he thought they were wrong. The fact that Calvin says such things about receiving teachings of the Fathers has no more evidentiary value for us than Rome claiming it has held only to the apostolic teachings handed on to it has for the Reformed. It proves that he claimed as much. Big deal.

      Calvin works the Fathers into his interpretative program. From there he uses them as interpretative tools. But that is just to say he’s a Protestant. So in the sense that Rome or Orthodox take the Fathers, Calvin does dispense with the Fathers as supremely authoritative teachers.

      To talk of scripture critiquing tradition is to imtplicitly argue from another tradition or from self interpreting texts.

      To speak of tradition as interpretations that cannot bve questioned or improved is just to note thrat tradition is something more than a human activity. If it is, then improving upon it would be a fool’s errand, running contrary to divine authority and activity. But of course if we take theology to be a human enterprise, then of course tradition is just a fallible practice. So your divvying up of matters seems to beg the question and privlige your own position.

      • Carl permalink

        And the Orthodox make lots of claims as well. And they too work the Fathers into their interpretive program. So what? I suppose we can all play the game of simply dismissing things out of hand.

      • Carl,

        I think you miss the point. If you claim that the early father’s views on deification do not include parts foundin Cyril, Maximus and co. then please support the claim. What parts would those be?

        And I didn’t dismiss the evidence from Calvin out of hand by noting that he works the fathers into his interpretative program. My point there, in context was to situate how Calvin uses and views the fathers as authority. On no one’s reading of the data does Calvin just take the Father’s theology overwholesalve, but rather has a basic grid into which he places parts of their teaching. That is uncontroversial it seems.

        Second, Calvin is in a different position than the Orthodox relative to the Fathers, since Protestantism doesn’t have a pre-Reformation existence as an actual body of doctrine, practice and society. To speak of Orthodoxy as if it were some later body, doctrine and society is absurd. When exactly did “Orthodoxy” begin relative to the Fathers? The middle ages? Where is the supposed historical break? With the Cappadocians? John of Damascus? What is the great discontinuity between John of Damascus and say Mark of Ephesus? To think this way seems absurd to me on just about any reading of the evidence. In any case, your remarks do not in fact engage what I wrote since you do not seem to understand my meaning. Perhaps you can have another go at it?

  12. Carl permalink

    Eric, I have made no assertion even approaching the idea that Maximus or his theology of theosis are not noteworthy. As for my “cause,” I posted simply to questioned your endorsement of McCormack’s controversial claim. Opportunistically and uncritically endorsing McCormack to score polemical points does not aid the cause of truth. I’ve made my point and I’ve answered a few of the extraneous points you raised.

    Questioning your grasp of church history was entirely warranted–we were talking about Chalcedon and McCormack’s claims about it, no other council was even mentioned. The Third Council of Constantinople at all relevant to the point at hand. Furthermore, you have shown yourself not to be a very careful reader. You are not as informed about Orthodox or Reformed theology as you seem to think; instead of responding with hostility, you should be more ready to accept correction or at least ponder it when someone bothers to take the time to give it out of brotherly concern.

    • I think what Eric had in mind was Chacedonian Christology as continued up through Maximus’ teaching. Scholars like Gray certainly speak this way. if this is what Eric had in mind, then it is perfectly acceptable.

      Whether Eric is as informed about Orthodoxy or Reformed theology as he thinks is neither here nor there. I’ve already shown that you aren’t as informed about Orthodox theology as you seem to think. And I’ve shown that you aren’t as careful a very careful raeder either. So what? people make mistakes.

      For the recored, I know Eric and I know he has about as good a grasp of Reformed theology as your average local Calvinist. If you object to the mistakes he makes as if it puts him in a position to be thinking and talking about such issues, then you’d b est be castigating your own faithful since they feel free to bash away at the Orthodox (not to mention Rome) quite regularly. As far as Orthodox theology, Eric seems to me to have as good a grasp as any decent catachumen and at least as good as Lethem’s work from personal conversations I’ve had with him. that said, his mistakes as to naming a council are quite inconsenquestional. you’d think that one would find the mistakes you made in citing Orthodox sources above would be far more troubling, a fortiori, given your status as a trained scholar. So it’d be charitable to give a layman something of a break.

  13. Carl permalink

    Canadian, baptism is not an example of synergy–at least not on the part of the baptized. The baptized individual is the passive recipient of the divine gift. Christ’s baptism is the example–John administers, the Spirit descends, and the Father speaks. Christ does no work, he receives the Father’s blessing and Spirit. Further to your statement, the early Reformed like Calvin explicitly endorse baptismal regeneration, so pointing out that regeneration takes place in baptism really has no bearing.

    The entire Christian tradition insists that human nature has been corrupted by sin. So, according to your logic, Christ’s human nature is likewise corrupted. The fact that the Reformed contend that this corruption makes us unable to initiate a turn toward God and others disagree is irrelevant if your logic is sound. But in the Incarnation Christ does not take on our nature and its corruption; he takes on our nature and in the process heals it of corruption. But, as Irenaeus taught us long ago, this does not mean that every human being will benefit as if he has been joined to every individual person. Christ takes on human nature to create a new humanity–a new form of human being–comprised of those who are personally united to him in his death and resurrection.

    • Canadian permalink

      Carl,
      Man uses his free human will to come to baptism–the place where God acts to regenerate (for infants, human will brings them to baptism, just not thier own). The Reformed believe that man is sovereignly regenerated before his will may act in relation to God and hence come to baptism.
      Christ assumed fallen and corrupted human nature (natures are not sinful) and healed it by deification. All humanity will be raised because of this, even the damned, as human nature does not naturally live forever. We personally unite to Christ in faith and baptism Romans 6. Again, different things are going on at the level of Nature and Person in salvation. The Reformed imply that Christ does not taste death for every man (as scripture says) but for the elect only, that his Person and work is for the elect alone…..so is he consubstantial with Persons or Nature?

    • Eric Castleman permalink

      “The entire Christian tradition insists that human nature has been corrupted by sin. So, according to your logic, Christ’s human nature is likewise corrupted. The fact that the Reformed contend that this corruption makes us unable to initiate a turn toward God and others disagree is irrelevant if your logic is sound. But in the Incarnation Christ does not take on our nature and its corruption; he takes on our nature and in the process heals it of corruption. But, as Irenaeus taught us long ago, this does not mean that every human being will benefit as if he has been joined to every individual person. Christ takes on human nature to create a new humanity–a new form of human being–comprised of those who are personally united to him in his death and resurrection.”

      Yes, it is true that the entire tradition of Christianity insists that human nature has be corrupted by the fall, however, Orthodoxy, Rome and the reformed tradition all disagree with what that means. In Orthodoxy, nature is still good, though fallen. What is different is that we die. The corruption is death. Christ taking on human nature does not mean that his is taking on a will in bondage, or a depraved nature, which is a reformed distinctive, but that he took on a human nature that is indeed fallen, corrupt. If the Son didn’t take on a fallen nature, then how did He die?

      Secondly, your Nestorianism is showing.

      “as Irenaeus taught us long ago, this does not mean that every human being will benefit as if he has been joined to every individual PERSON. Christ takes on human NATURE to create a new humanity–a new form of human being–comprised of those who are personally united to him in his death and resurrection.” (Emphasis added)

      Did assume human persons, or human natures?

    • To assert Christ does no work in baptism is just to privlige your own traditon’s reading of it. Certainly Orthodocy takes Christ in the Theophany to be doing work, namely renewing creation, specificaly the water as Cyril points out.

      the entire Christian tradition insists that human nature has been corrupted by sin, but what each respective tradition means by this is another matter. Citing the former has no import for the latter.

      Certainly Christ takes up our corruption if we mean by this our weaknesses and he purifies human nature in his recapitulation, following Ireneaus, Athanasius and co. a la 2 cor 5:21.

      While Ireneaus makes clear that not everyone enjoys the full benefit of Christ’s work, because not everyone is joined to him to the fullest degree. But that all are raised is sure proof that all ar eunited to him at the level of nature. Following Irneaus, Athanasius notes that even the apparently opposing elements are made “friends” by Christ’s incarnation and redemptive work indicating its cosmic scope.

      To say that Christ taks up humanity to create a new humanity is fine as far as it goes, but to sneak into it some form of proto-Reformed anthropology is entirely anachronistic. Ireneaus doesn’t adhere to a reformed view of the imago dei, bu tlike Athanasius thinks of the image as divine in origin. Whatever redeemed humanity is, it is inaccordance with the imago dei, which was in principle, pace the Reformed, never lost.

      • Carl permalink

        And what tradition would it be that I am privileging? As I said to Eric, I am not here to defend a tradition or critique one. I am not playing the game of Orthodox/Reformed polemics that you so seem to enjoy. Eric uncritically endorsed a statement by Bruce McCormack that may be conducive to both Orthodox and Reformed polemicists on the internet, but which strikes me as balderdash. I merely wanted to offer correction on that point. As far as you know, I could be Orthodox and merely irritated to see other Orthodox opportunistically endorsing indefensible positions in their polemics. Or I could be Reformed and irritated by theologians like McCormack who assert such nonsense. Or I could be in neither camp and just interested in good historical theology.

      • Carl,

        It seemed to me that you were assuming a Reformed take on the baptism of Christ. But perhaps you aren’t Reformed. You could be Mormon for all I know. That said, the point sticks, you seem to be assuming that Christ does no work in baptism, and I do not know why one gets to assume such a thing without argument. But maybe you can tease our your thinking here for us.

        If you think McCormack’s gloss is wrong. Fine. Give an actual argument beyond the appeal to authority that it is. I’ve been waiting for someone in the Reformed camp to actually do that work. Scott Clark tried and got his head handed to him on a platter by McCormack.

        Whether I enjoy Reformed/Orthodox polemics is neither here nor there as to the truth or falsity of the claims I made. So perhaps it’d be best if you cut out the ad hominems?

        So far I haven’t seen an actual correction. All I’ve seen is hand waving about scholars disagreeing. Well, that isn’t good enough. Lots of scholars disagree about lots of things, all the time. You know this as well as anyone. So if you want to give a correction to McCormack, then by all means do so, Better yet, why not put it in a paper and publish it?

  14. Eric Castleman permalink

    Carl, I am going to break down one of your comments a little bit, since it is long, and I want to address these issues a little more in depth:

    “1. You have not shown that Muller holds the position you attributed to him. I had been reading Christ and the Decree and had not come across any such statements; when I read your claim I thumbed through the rest to see if you were correct. I cannot find anything that corresponds to your claim. Until you can offer substantiation with specific pages numbers as you promised, you really should not repeat your bald assertion.”

    I do not have the book present, but someone will be coming on here soon who can cite the pages you want.

    “2. You now mention Sproul, Bahnsen and Godfrey as saying things similar to McCormack. I don’t know that they have taken such positions, but it would not matter to me if they did. Merely being Reformed does not make them experts in any of the pertinent areas of scholarship.”

    Read what I wrote again. I did not say that Sproul, Bahnsen and Godfrey are saying the same things, but that they are not anywhere near credible in regards to scholarship. I spent 15 years of my life in the reformed church, was a huge fan of Sproul, I knew Godfrey, in fact, my father was one of his resources for rare books at one time, and I admired Bahnsen for many years, probably more than the Westminster crew all together. However, none of these guys were pear reviewed writers, but published under small publishers. While McCormack, Muller are both in that category. Sproul when asked a few years ago about Orthodoxy replied “Orthodoxy has no theology” and is why he should never be trusted with serious scholarship. Bahnsen is the same. He had no clue what Rome even believed in one of his last audio lectures against converts to Rome. It was like he learned about Catholicism from a 3rd grader. I am not even Roman Catholic, and I laugh everytime I hear it. Someone I know asked Godfrey about Francis De Sales, and Godfrey replied “Who is that?”. Again, I do not take them seriously. I got to the point in my life, where I knew when they had not read certain things about Calvin’s life, yet, they were teaching what was true or not about his life, as if they had read it. For instance, the fact that Calvin did murder Servetus. Anyone who says he didn’t hasn’t really spent much time reading the life of Calvin.

    “3. Horton has become a genuine theologian who usually does his homework. I would be surprised if he takes the view that the Reformers were out to correct Chalcedon or Nicea. If he does, give me specific references so that I can read his argument.”

    I never said he said as much, but Horton is anything but a theologian who does his homework. The guy wouldn’t even deal with Bahnsen, who was in his own theological tradition, and avoided him like the plague. From what I hear from those who personally knew him and spent time with him, he never even read anything on theonomy, but taught it was wrong. His books are all the same, and even when I was reformed, people I knew would remark about how he needs to sit down and shut up. The guy doesn’t even understand the Filioque issue, and yet, holds to a dogmatic position on it.

    “4. This is the second time you appeal to the fact that you are citing peer-reviewed writers. You seem to think that I should be deferential to the opinions you attribute to those writers for that reason. Keep in mind that the peer-review process does not ensure the truth of what is claimed. One must weigh the evidence and the arguments. Furthermore, there are peer-reveiwed scholars who agree with the position I took against McCormack in the first post. I am one of them.”

    There are peer reviewed scholars who take your position, which is you? First, that seems like a self defeating argument, and secondly, the topic up for discussion, in regards to your position on Muller is in the area of patristic studies, mainly the first 4-5 centuries. Unless you have a doctrate in that area, how can you claim to have a peer reviewed opinion on this matter? I would find it really interesting if you are in fact a scholar in the area of Greek patristics and are reformed, which begs the question, who are you? If you can tell me who you are, we can check those facts. Also, didn’t Scott Clarke say that it is immoral to hide behind a name on the internet? While I personally do not believe so, and why I do not really care, I just find it funny that that rule is only applied to people who argue with the reformed.

    “5. You did supply a quotation from Calvin, undoubtedly taken secondhand from another blog or given to you. You quote the comment opportunistically in a manner that suggests you have neither read the surrounding context nor any of Calvin’s lengthy discussions of Christology. Almost certainly, as he does many times elsewhere, Calvin is attempting to make a statement about how the one person of the Mediator acts out of either his divine or human nature and that we can see in particular actions evidence of either his humanity or divinity–not that the natures act independently as if they were agents.”

    Where I got the quote is really of no importance, did you get your reformed faith from your own readings of the bible, or were you taught the reformed faith? So, your faith is someone else’s? Secondly, I own Calvin’s commentaries, and have read through them. I will admit, that I never saw this pop out at me, because I was not looking for it, nor was I aware of the Christological views of the patristics when I was reformed, but when I saw this, I did look it up. Whatever you want to believe Calvin is saying is your right as an American I guess, however, Calvin says “whenever it was necessary that the human nature should act separately” Nature do not act, persons do. That is as clear as day in Calvin. Secondly, actions doen by Divine Persons are not separate, but distinct. To say that the Father had separate acts that the Son is Arian, to say that the Father has distinct acts and the Son has distinct acts is Trinitarian. Calvin says separate. Two different beings, and acting natures. Game over!

    “6. The notion of renewing of one’s mind to which you object does not come from Sproul’s radio show, it comes from the Apostle: “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).”

    The word for “mind” in the Greek text is “nous” which doesn’t mean mind. This is why the reformed have a problematic view of salvation as well. Nous is not translated to mean how we think, it is thinking with the heart. In the early church, the fathers taught that one is to have noetic prayer, which is prayer of the heart. Nous, is like the word heart, but blended with the word “gnosis” which means, to think with your heart. A renewed heart, as Jesus teaches, that we are to see with out hearts.

    “7. The Reformed are monergists with respect to justification and regeneration, not necessarily with respect to every aspect of soteriology or theology. No Reformed theologian has ever objected to the notion of being fellow-workers with God as such. It is, after all, a biblical notion (1 Cor 3:9). I don’t see anything in the two quotations from Athanasius that Calvin or any other Reformer would find significantly problematic. Indeed, they frequently make similar exhortations.”

    That isn’t all I quoted. There was more

    “8. You assert that “we deny Divine Simplicity” as if all Orthodox would agree. Your knowledge of Orthodox theology has room for growth. Not only can one find affirmations of divine simplicity among the Fathers of the east, there are contemporary Orthodox theologians who also affirm it. Here is a handy example from a contemporary Orthodox theologian for whom I have a lot of respect, Bishop Hilarion Alfeyev: “There is no complexity in God, only simplicity; he is indivisible and not comprised of parts” (The Mystery of Faith: An Introduction to the Teaching and Spirituality of the Orthodox Church, p. 22).”

    Sure that there is some form of simplicity in Orthodoxy, but Divine Simplicity, as it is known in the west. Though, I have not read this guy in the above quote, I will have to read it to see what he says.

  15. Carl permalink

    Eric, you mention a lot of stuff that simply has no bearing on the points at hand. If you did not introduce Sproul, Bahnsen, Godfrey and Horton into the discussion to support the idea that other Reformed people agree with McCormack, then what was the point of mentioning them at all? Secondly, I nowhere claimed to be Reformed in my theology. Everything I wrote could have been stated by somebody who is Orthodox, Catholic, Arminian, Mennonite or atheist. Its historical theology–you don’t have to be a partisan supporter or member of a particular tradition to be concerned that folks get the history right. Third, since we are speaking about getting the history right, Calvin did not murder Servetus. That charge was slander from the beginning. Its not just Reformed hacks who say this. Before bearing false witness on that matter again, you would do well to read Bruce Gordon’s discussion of the matter in his recent academic biography of Calvin. Gordon, if you are not aware, is professor of church history at Yale. Fourth, I am not hiding behind anything–I used my first name and gave my email address which readily identifies me–a simple Google search would have given you lots of information. Fourth, you think it incredulous that any scholar would agree with my position, you insinuate that I have no relevant expertise, and you suggest that I do not know basic Greek. You are wrong on each count.

    Note that I tried to keep the focus on the topics at hand, the evidence and the arguments rather than academic credentials, publications or counting scholarly noses.

    If you wish to assess my qualification to speak about the patristic doctrine of deification, read my article “The Earliest Patristic Interpretations of Psalm 82, Jewish Antecedents and the Origin of Christian Deification,” Journal of Theological Studies 56/1 (2005): 30-74. This article has been received favorably by several Orthodox and Catholic patristics scholars (search Google books if you don’t trust me). But perhaps you will have a different assessment of its merits and be able to show where I go wrong.

    If you want to see substantiation for my claims about Calvin and deification, see my essay “The Greatest Possible Blessing: Calvin and Deification,” Scottish Journal of Theology 55/1 (2002): 36-57. This piece has been more controversial, but my conclusions have been accepted by several scholars of Calvin or the Reformation. Two recent monographs agree with and expand on the basic contention of that article: Julie Canlis, Calvin’s Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension (Eerdmans, 2010) and J. Todd Billings, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ (Oxford University Press, 2008).

    Since you think it so important, these articles both appeared in peer-reviewed journals. And “this guy” that I quoted on divine simplicity is not some Joe Nobody. You can read about his credentials here: http://en.hilarion.orthodoxia.org/.

    I posted to your blog in an attempt to make a simple, helpful correction. You’ve turned the discussion into some kind of polemical debate about Reformed and Orthodox theology. I similarly replied to several of your subsequent comments, but you clearly are not open to correction and prefer to cast aspersions. So, with that, I will end my participation in the discussion.

    • Carl, I’ve read your 2002 article. The argument of the article seems to fall prey to the same criticisms of Bilings work as I noted above.

      2nd. Along similar lines,the language of mystical union doesn’t of itself pick out the patristic doctrine of theosis, since Osiander uses the same language and neither Calvin nor I’d bet you take him to represent that doctrine. Lots of people, particularly Bernard, in the scholastic period used such language and Bernard is probably the best source for such langauge in Calvin. And it seems pretty clear to me that Calvin transforms Bernard’s meaning. So it seems like a bad argument to argue as you do from the use of the term to the conclusion that Calvin taught the patristic doctrine. (p. 50) In short, such evidence is mute at best relative to your thesis and otherwise supports a different conclusion.

      At mosrt calvin says we are made one with God “in a way” as you cite on page 54, but Calvin doesn’t tell us precisely what that way is apart from a denial of becoming what God is by essence. So there isn’t then sufficient data to show he held the patristic doctrine, unless we suppose they didn’t say what way the doctrine amounted to.

      Along these line syou note that on 2 Pet Calvin speaks of partaking of qualities, but he doesn’t tell us what these qualities are, whether they are created or uncreated. Consequently, I can’t see how your remark in the article that it bears similarity to the e/e distinction really washes.

      • Carl permalink

        I don’t see any criticisms of Billings above, so I don’t know what weaknesses you see in his work. But it is pretty clear from the odd comments here that you will dismiss any evidence one cites in favor of the thesis on the ground that either the words don’t mean the same thing or Calvin’s statements just don’t explain enough. Calvin can assert that the end of the gospel is deification, repeatedly employ the patristic exchange formula, speak of union with Christ as the reception of divine life and participation in God, etc. but you will never admit any of this as evidence in favor of the thesis.

        Perry, over the years I’ve seen you pop up on various blogs to polemicize. You like to whelm your opponents by the sheer volume of your posts and the number of rabbit down which you take the discussion. I have yet to see you show charity or willingness to receive correction about anything. You have all the zeal of a convert and none of the nuance of maturity. When Eric said that he was going to have a friend post the references to Muller, I suspected that you would be the one to show up and that you would do so in just the manner that you have. Sorry, but I am not going to play this game.

      • Carl,

        Well if you go look through the literature, as I am sure you have, the criticisms made of billings is that the mere use of the terms isn’t sufficient to pick out the patristic concept, since there are other clear cases where figures use the same terms but mean something different.

        I didn’t dismiss the evidence. Actually I gave an implicit arguement, namely that the surface grammar isn’t sufficient alone to pick out the concept. This is because I am concerned with falling into the word-concept fallacy. so I think you uncharitably misread me. So nowhere did I say that the words do not in fact mean the same thing. I argued that we need to a reason to think they do in Calvin.

        I also gave a secondary supporting argument, namely that other sources at the time, and those before and after use the same language, but we know they do not mean the same thing. So what we need is an actual demonstration that they do in fact mean the same thing. So far as I can tell, none of your work actually does that, which is why it doesn’t tell us anything new, or it only tells something new to those who have never read the collection of texts from Calvin that you bring forward in your article.

        And I also argued that since Calvin doesn’t cash out for us what being “one” with God “in a way” means or at least give us some suggestive lines to follow, the evidence seems idle. Your remarks ironically strike me as dissmissive of the arguments I gave.

        Polemics or not, this ad hominem doesn’t show that you are in fact correct. Nor does it address anything I wrote. Over the years I’ve seen you pop up as well, throw out some assertions with the usual word-concept fallacies and then run off. That of course doesn’t show that your conclusion is false, but it does give one pause. My supposed lack of charity aside, someone else could just have easily made the same points.

        Furthermore, since you feel free to wax personal, it seems strange that you feel free to bash a laymen but then when someone shows up who knows the literature and starts asking for some basis for your assertions, you throw out an ad hominem. I can’t help but suspect that this was a set up of sorts for Eric.

        And for the recored, I do not try to overwhelm my dialog partners. I try to respond to everything substantial that they write. If I don'[t, then they assume, wrongly, that I can’t answer what they previously advanced. I try to be thorough. So I think you’ve misread me in the past and now.

  16. Eric Castleman permalink

    Carl, I am going to read the article’s you posted above, and I appreciate your input here at my wacky blog, but to be honest, I deal with the reformed objections almost daily, and I search continuously for answers from the reformed on these matters. Where this has led me in my Christian life is into relationships with others who are far smarter than I am, and are more well equipped to point me in the right direction. However, I think about fallibility every single day, in fact, it took me almost a year to even think that I could ever trust my intellect again, once I become convinced that I was wrong when I was reformed, I didn’t think it was possible to ever know what is correct, since I so sincerely believed in the reformed faith. So please do not think that I am in any way throwing what you have to say at the waste side, because I am not, however, I will push for answers, and sometimes that comes off as me being a prick, although, you seemed to be quick to tell me what I know, and do not know.

    Please do check back for the page numbers soon, because I would like to see what you have to say on the matter when it is presented to you.

    -Eric

  17. Carl permalink

    Eric, thank you for your reply. Our personal experiences can indeed color perceptions and expectations. That is why we must deliberately be as careful and charitable as we can in our reading, especially when we want to critique or defend a position to which we have attached strong emotion. I will indeed check back sometime for those references. By the way, you can access copies of the articles I mentioned at: http://eastern.academia.edu/CarlMosser/Papers.

  18. Carl permalink

    Perry, you continue to presume that I posted to engage in polemics or to defend Reformed theology. Stop reading my comments through that lens.

    Okay, so you are not persuaded by my thesis about Calvin’s theology. I don’t really care and will not argue with you about it in a blog com box. The only reason the idea was mentioned was in reply to the McCormack statement that Eric had endorsed. The mere fact that several scholars have now argued for deification in Calvin should make one pause before uncritically putting McCormack’s assertion to polemical use. For, if we are right, then McCormack and like-minded Reformed cannot be. Of course, we could be wrong, but simply asserting that some aspect of Calvin’s theology or other rules out the possibility that he held to something like the patristic notion of theopoiesis engages in the worst form of a priorism. Others have done that in print and I will offer rejoinder in due course–but in a publication, not on a blog. If you have objections that others have not already made in print, write them up and pass them along; I’ll take them under consideration too. In the mean time, I will use my energies to do something more constructive than argue on the internet.

    Finally, I was not, as you intimate, bullying Eric or “bashing” on him. Read through the earlier posts most carefully. Quite the contrary, I was clearly reticent to say anything about academic qualifications or publications. I reluctantly did so only when Eric questioned my integrity and said “Unless you have a doctrate in that area, how can you claim to have a peer reviewed opinion on this matter? I would find it really interesting if you are in fact a scholar…” At that point I merely mentioned two articles I have published pertinent to the point at hand. For you to suggest that I was picking on Eric and that I am a coward not to argue with somebody more knowledgeable (i.e. you) shows that you continue to misunderstand what is going on. You think this is a fight and you have showed up to defend your little brother on the playground. But it isn’t a fight and your little brother isn’t being bullied. So back down and go back to whatever it is that you do when you are not trolling the internet for people to argue with. Or better yet, pray.

  19. Carl,

    Perhaps since the discussion has to do with how to read Reformed sources and the theology of the Reformed tradition explains best why write what I do. I don’t take you to be defending Reformed theology per se, but certainly a reading of it. If you do not take your work to be about how to read Reformed sources, I’ll grant that concession.

    As for not arguing in a combox it seems you didn’t even do that with Eric, but merely posted rather bald assertions, repeatedly. So your not arguing it with me wouldn’t be a change of course. As to the main point, that McCormack’s reading is wrong, you have yet to actually give an argument for it.

    You also seem not to grasp the matter regarding deification in Calvin or any other figure. There are lots of theories of deification so placing the scholarship showing a doctrine of deification in Calvin alongside of McCormack’s doesn’t show that McCormack is wrong. That is for a simple reason. McCormack affirms as much that there is a doctrine of deification in Calvin and seems to subscribe to it. So simply noting that scholars find a doctrine of deification in Calvin doesn’t do any work for you. So it just doesn’t follow that if those scholars are right then McCormack is wrong. You’ve either not read much of McCormack or you continue to fall prey to equivocation. In sum, your use of deification isn’t sufficiently precise to navigate these waters.

    As I noted, a doctrine of deification can be found in Luther (not to mention lots of other folks). Are we to uncritically assume that the same kinds of statements in Luther mean all and only what Calvin means? How about Osiander? You know too well that that simply can’t be true. Calvin says we become one substance with God. Great. What the hell does Calvin mean by “substance?” Your paper gives us no significant understanding to be able to say one way or another whether Calvin adheres to an early doctrine of theosis. And btw, Cyril and Maximus aren’t later BYzantine writers, especially Cyril who is a contemporary with Augustine. The same could be said for even earlier writers like the Cappadocians, so your assertions that there are substantial differences between the patristic doctrine of deification and later byzantine writers simply doesn’t wash.

    And I didn’t simply assert, not does McCormack that some part of Calvin’s theology precludes it. I brought forward key issues, issues that have a long standing position in disputes with the Lutherans as evidence for how to interpret Calvin and Reformed theology more generally. What you decry as an assertion I proffered as a reason for thinking otherwise. So there is no a priorism going on here. You need to stop misreading fairly straightforward objections as if they were the fist pounding that you are accustomed to dealing with.

    When you put in print why McCormack’s assessment of Reformed Christology is in error, please let me know, since that was the main point with which you took issue.

    I grant that Eric put a lot of stock in having adequate training in a field, but to be fair that was in reaction to your rather bald assertions. He simply upped the ante on your assertions.

    You were also rather snide with him about his reading of Orthodox theology regarding divine simplicity, which of course you were in error. There was not a little superciliousness in your comments to him, when it should have been clear he is a layman. On top of that, you cast not a few ad hominem’s my way even though there was nothing particularly personal in my initial remarks. I am sure you can do better than this in print, so by all means, print up an article demonstrating McCormack’s gloss on Reformed Christology is in error, since you didn’t do that here.

    As for praying, well, I have spiritual directors of my own, thank you. Given your practice of personal insults in the place of arguments, I’d simply suggest that you take some of your own advice.

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