Monday, October 26, 2009

Calvin and the art of obfuscating

I was reading a book about the theology of Calvin and the author said that what Luther began, Calvin completed. I have read a bit of Calvin's expositions and I find it astounding why he is the greatest theologian after Augustine. Take the case of Calvin's comments on John 20:19.
And while the doors were shut. This circumstance was expressly added, because it contains a manifest proof of the Divine power of Christ; but this is utterly at variance with the meaning of the Evangelist. We ought, therefore, to believe that Christ did not enter without a miracle, in order to give a demonstration of his Divinity, by which he might stimulate the attention of his disciples; and yet I am far from admitting the truth of what the Papists assert, that the body of Christ passed through the shut doors. Their reason for maintaining this is, for the purpose of proving not only that the glorious body of Christ resembled a spirit, but that it was infinite, and could not be confined to any one place. But the words convey no such meaning; for the Evangelist does not say that he entered through the shut doors, but that he suddenly stood in the midst of his disciples, though the doors had been shut, and had not been opened to him by the hand of man. We know that Peter (Acts 10:10) went out of a prison which was locked; and must we, therefore, say that he passed through the midst of the iron and of the planks? Away, then, with that childish trifling, which contains nothing solid, and brings along with it many absurdities! Let us be satisfied with knowing that Christ intended, by a remarkable miracle, to confirm his disciples in their belief of his resurrection.


Calvin has a way of speaking one thing and meaning another, kinda convoluted way of saying it was a miracle, not that Jesus used his divine powers to enter the room but an angel must have helped him come in. Jesus need the assitance of angels, no? I believe the allusion to Acts 10:10 is a typographical error, I think it should be Acts 12:10. Calvin did not want to admit that Jesus' body has the capacity to appear and disappear thinking by doing so, he is capitulating to the Papist doctrine, probably of the Eucharist. Calvin is able to do this double talk at once in the same paragraph. A remarkable effort in being obfuscating. I am being polite when I say I find him confusing. I like to use the real word but this blog is rated G.

In saying that it was a miracle and in saying it was similar to what happened to Peter, he actually said more than what Scripture said. That is the drift I am getting at.

This is where Luther was different. Luther was careful not to throw the baby with the bath water. As an exegete Calvin was more rationalistic and humanistic than Luther.

So I do not know why Calvin is given such a high esteem. I donot think he completed what Luther began, it was more like over shooting Luther and even over shooting Biblical Christianity which to me, is bordering on sub-Christianity.

11 comments:

Mark Henderson said...

The 'Calvin completes what Luther began' refrain is very common in Reformed apologetics.

I agree, there is incipient rationalism in Calvin, he struggles with it, but he opened the door to it. But then it goes back further than him to, even into medieval times. It would be interesting to trace the trajectory of this, from certain medieval theologians like Ratramnus, to Hoen, Zwingli, Calvin and on to 19th century writers like Warfield and the Princetonians, whom I suspect Calvin would regard withreservation on some things.

Maybe I could blog that?

L P said...

Pr. M,

Yes, please blog about that. The sad thing is that because his approach appeals to our rationalism, it is more popular and I have often wondered why the Lutheran side is a minority now.

I am sure there are some historical factors but I believe the philosophical aspect of Calvinism wins out of Lutheranism. Not because it is virtuous, but because it is human and so intuitive.

The Lutheran take on things sound foolishness to those who will not take time to understand.

Often, I hear Reformed folk do some exposition on the Christian life and ministry yet they borrow from Lutheran insights all the time without giving it credit.

LPC

Augustinian Successor said...

"Often, I hear Reformed folk do some exposition on the Christian life and ministry yet they borrow from Lutheran insights all the time without giving it credit."

You are right, Kuya! It peeves me off too.

L P said...

A.S.

What got me thinking some 5 years ago was when I heard a Prebyterian minister who became Lutheran.

He said each week he would counsel folk from his church who are doubtful of their salvation, hence, not having assurance.

He said he would borrow from Luther and Lutherans in comforting the anxious soul. Finally, he said, well, since I am using Lutheran way of ministry to counsel and comfort my Presbyterian flock, I might as well be Lutheran.

He was honest, and he followed where conviction led.

God bless your studies.

Your big bro,

Kuya Lito

Augustinian Successor said...

Good one, Kuya! Good one ...

Anonymous said...

Mark is right, “Calvin completes what Luther began' refrain is very common in Reformed apologetics.” And it is the same tired old pile of crap that the Anabaptist and Baptist use of Luther and Calvin. All Calvin succeeded in doing was never actually leaving Rome.

Calvin’s rationalism as god is most obvious in his famous “the infinite cannot be contained by the finite”. This is Calvin’s main impotent machine against the true body and blood. Now that’s an epistemological statement (how we know what we know) and for an epistemological statement to actually be valid and true it MUST pass its own test else it dies on its own sword. E.g. “The truth IS all truth is relative”. The test, does it survive its own assertion? No. How? If THE truth is ALL truth is relative then THAT “The Truth” must be relative too which means the opposite is true to namely truth IS NOT relative. Dies on its own sword.

The irony of “the infinite cannot be contained by the finite” is that it too dies on its own sword. How? It’s a statement distilled by human reason, reason which is TOO a creature of the Creator. The statement ITSELF which is a product of the creature reason being a creature is finite and thus “the infinite cannot be contained by the finite” is in fact trying to CONTAIN the infinite by wrestling the infinite into that reasonings finite epistemology. The fact is the infinite cannot be contained EVEN by the statement, “the infinite cannot be contained by the finite”, ITSELF. The infinite, thus, supersedes infinitely the statement “the infinite cannot be contained by the finite”.

Calvin’s humanism and reason blinded him to the revealed God. As Luther prayed, “Lord keep us in Your Word”, all else is utter blindness.

Larry

L P said...

Larry,

The rationalism that Calvin espoused is quite hypnotic such that you do not see it while you are there.

You are almost have to be given new eyes to see because your spiritual eyes have been plucked out.

This is the difficulty I have in relating to the Babsticks out there because their rationalism is so clouded they are not able to go beyond what we mean or let alone make them wonder why we have JBFA and yet we have Real Sacraments of Baptism and Supper.

In truth the Calvinistic/Arminian Protestantism is really of the same flock as Romanism.

The foundation of this is really at the core - Calvin's idea of faith and repentance is not the same as ours.

His idea of these are actually still peppered with the ideas of Rome. The two - non-Lutheran Protestantism and Romanism are both Enthusiastic at the core and inward looking.

It is easy for an RC to switch to non-Lutheran Protestantism and then back again.

I have been reading a comment of a Calvinist who is puzzled why his Calvinistic mates are becoming Roman.

Then I am reminded of a friend's friend who happened to be a Calvinist. He told me that this friend of his almost daily in paranoia of breaking God's Law as that would prove him to be not a Christian. Now this friend of mine happened to be an Arminian but his Calvinistic friend is so legalistic he did not want to turn out like him.

It is not without basis the critcism that when you take your Calvinistic rationality to the hill, you wind up being a Unitarian.

You said it perfectly, that what Calvin said can be turned on its head, if the infinite cannot be contained in the finite which is true for us but that is not true for Christ.

That axiom - the infinite cannot contained in the finite - will lead one to be a unitarian, because that the smack of Muslim reasoning.

If Jesus cannot be withus in the Supper then you have subtracted Jesus' divinity and you are left with a humanity that spells you might as well be an Arian.

LPC

Anonymous said...

[The rationalism that Calvin espoused is quite hypnotic such that you do not see it while you are there.

You are almost have to be given new eyes to see because your spiritual eyes have been plucked out.]

It is is it not! It’s almost like you have to be forced out of it because you lock yourself in it. I did!

[It is easy for an RC to switch to non-Lutheran Protestantism and then back again.]

&

[Then I am reminded of a friend's friend who happened to be a Calvinist. He told me that this friend of his almost daily in paranoia of breaking God's Law as that would prove him to be not a Christian.]

That is so right, its really just a hop, skip and a jump because though outwardly it looks “anti” roman (Calvinistic/baptistic liturgies) their doctrines core operation is really Roman.

It dawned on me a few years ago as a struggling SB. The pat baptistic answer to a RC was, “Rome trust or believes that their baptism saves them” (not the Lutheran thought here), but what struck me reading about their paranoia of breaking God’s Law, like the Calvinist, was this, “No they do not really believe baptism saves them any more than we baptist do, in fact they work for their salvation just as much as we do/did. One older gentlemen friend of mine who like me wore the alter call floor out nearly every Sunday was ironically an ex-Roman Catholic himself.

Rome worries about breaking the Law as in a mortal sin (not Luther’s definition of this) and thus you “loose you salvation” their way. Baptist and Calvinist merely move that idea to the post conversion point of “cannot fall away”. Yea according to the doctrine hypothetically you can’t fall away. But you have to work yourself to death attempting to not break the law, what I was doing and your buddy’s buddy’s paranoia you mentioned, daily TO PROVE you are actually a real Christian, saved, elect, born again, etc… So one ends up functionally no different whatsoever from a RC.

No real sacraments no real peace, hope or assurance.

Yours,

Larry

PS: I love reading your insights!!!

L P said...

Actually Larry you insights have been very helpful to me. In fact, you are being a friend to our Baotist/Calvinist friends by telling them the truth in your blog. I wish I was as forthright as you.

No real sacraments no real peace, hope or assurance

They have been robbed of this joy and though you say hard things, it will one day hit home.

Keep blogging - we believe therefore we have spoken.

LPC

Augustinian Successor said...

Is Calvinistic doctrine of the Lord's Supper rationalistic?

I'm afraid so. "Human nature cannot be more than one place at a time." The Reformed NEVER appeals to theology but always to philosophy. And it's true ...

*sigh* The Reformed has never embraced the Chalcedonian Definition.

I've stopped buying Reformed books for now, unless it's to do with philosophy or apologetics, worldview and such. But when it comes to systematic theology, I guess I have had enough.

L P said...

A.S.

I have not bought a lot of Reformed books lately myself. There are still some useful insights in some you need now to know how to spot the weeds.

Now, the Chalcedonian Definition, this is about the God-Man definitions of the Lord, am I correct?

Thank you for the insight on philosophy vs theology, I can see what is now the difference based on your quote above.

LPC