Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Seriously? Calvin's argument against the communication of attributes

I was looking back over Calvin's Institutes for my Christology book. One of Luther and later Lutherans (Chemnitz, Brenz, Heshusius) better arguments against Calvin and Zwingli was the resurrection encounters with Christ. Calvin and Zwingli claimed that for Jesus to have a real body it had to always be circumscribed. They never denied that God could theretically make it uncircumscribed, but that would to their minds abrogate Christ's true humanity and violate Chalcedon. The Lutherans pointed out that after the resurrection Jesus could walk throuhg walls and appear and disappear at will. If that's the case, it means that his body could and can have more than one presence while remaining a human body.

Calvin attempted to counter this argument uses the following ad hoc argument. Yes, he's serious about this:

"They object that Christ went forth from the closed sepulcher [Matt. 28:6] and went in to his disciples through closed doors [John 20:19]. This gives no more support to their error. For just as the water, like a solid pavement, provided Christ with a path as he walked on the lake [Matt. 14:25], so it is no wonder if the hardness of the stone yielded at his approach. Yet it is more probable that the stone was removed at his command, and immediately after he passed through, returned to its place. And to enter through closed doors means not just penetrating through solid matter but opening an entrance for himself by divine power, so that he suddenly stood among his disciples clearly, in a wonderful way, although the doors were locked."

This sort of defeats the entire purpose of these texts. The point the Evangelists are trying to make is that Jesus as one triumphant over death had a body that had moved past the dominion of the limitations of the old creation- hence Paul's description of the resurrected body as a "spiritual body." Calvin's ad hoc argument violates the rhetorical purpose the texts. Beyond that, this is mere filmsy speculation and hardly a basis to refute the Lutheran position.

Post Script: Define irony. I'm writing this from the library of Calvin College!

1 comment:

  1. Really great post.
    Does that mean that in the library you are a crypto-Lutheran? Although I doubt you hide your Lutheranism.