The bottom line is that it remains quite disturbing that you Calvinist chaps can carry on conversations about "assurance of salvation" or "election" without mentioning Jesus.
Notice here that Steve pointed the Rev. McCain here: Election and Assurance
If Dr. McCain believes that is not Christocentric, then he needs to construct a case telling us why, when it clearly makes statements like this:
One wonders if he ever bothers to read and interact with that which he criticizes. Dr. McCain continues:
The opposite error would be to trust in your faith in Christ. Once again, the assurance of salvation comes, not from trusting in your faith, but trusting in Christ.
You don’t look to your faith; rather, your faith is looking to Christ.Faith looking at itself is a source of spiritual insecurity. Never look to your own faith. Don’t put faith in faith; rather, put your faith in Christ.
But that is pretty much par for the course from you sort of Calvinists, you love to listen to yourselves blather on with all sorts of arguments, but somehow, somewhere, you leave Jesus behind.
But that's also typical...since Jesus is stuck up in heaven now anyway, incapable of being present with us.
This gets us to the heart of the matter. The real problem here, for Dr. McCain, is that we don't locate Jesus in the sacraments. Jesus not being present with us is his stock euphemism for criticizing Reformed sacramentology, viz. the Lord's Supper. Fair enough. However, considering that, as Steve pointed out so well, in Lutheran theology one can have a valid baptism and regular communicant of the Eucharist and still be a nominal believer or eventual apostate, one has to wonder what kind of assurance that is? Why is this a better option than the Reformed doctrine or, for that matter, Antonio's view?
For the sake of argument let's stipulate to Lutheran sacramentology and Christology for a moment. What we then have here is a Christ that does not save and cannot assure anybody of salvation, for, if one can still receive the sacraments and the sacraments mediate grace, then Lutheranism's Christ is not a Christ who actually and fully saves His people, since one can partake of them and still be an apostate or nominal believer. If one is justified by faith alone, then why look to the sacraments for assurance?
From my perspective, that's a recipe for false assurance. It teaches communicants to look to the Eucharist for assurance. It is one thing to say "This is a visible reminder of what Christ has done for you," quite another to say "Get your assurance from this." The focus moves from Christ to the sacraments. That's a step away from focusing saving faith itself, viz. justification in particular, on bread and wine, not the Lord Jesus alone. Compare this to Reformed theology, where the Father elects, Christ redeems, the Spirit applies the benefits of election and redemption to the elect infallibly, they all have faith in Christ alone, and all the elect persevere to the end and cannot lose their salvation.
In the past, Dr. McCain has mocked Calvin's view of the sacraments. For that discussion, look at Veritas Redux and follow the links Evan provides.
Dr. McCain can't seem to get it in his head that the old rivalries are over. Why doesn't he just go ahead and call us Nestorians, and we can call him a Monophysite. Now, does that make everybody happy? Shall we now draw poison pens?
While we're on this subject, we may as well take a quick look at what he had to say back then. Notice the common thread in Dr. McCain’s argument: He uses icons to tangibly remind him of Christ when worshipping. He needs not only the real presence but also a particular view of the real presence in order for Christ to be made tangible to him in communion and for the very assurance of salvation. Parse it as he may, Dr. McCain's faith for his assurance isn't in Christ, it is in a particular view of the sacraments. It's not in Christ alone, its in the elements at the Lord's Table. It's not in Christ, but an image of Christ. It's not in Christ, the God-man, but in the human nature of Christ divinized. Now, he may wish to argue for his sacramentology and the Christology it requires, but until he does, all he is doing is assuming those issues without benefit of argument.
By the way, in his mockery of Calvin’s views in the past, Dr. McCain forgets his own tradition’s theologians. Lutherans believe calling their view consubstantiation is a derogatory appellation made by their detractors. Fair enough. So how do they describe it? Let’s see:
Calvin believed in the real, spiritual presence of Christ at the Lord’s Table. Rev. McCain should look to the theologians of his own tradition who published under the name of the very publishing house Dr. McCain runs, Concordia. On p. 280 of Christian Dogmatics, John Muller says
“Lutheran theologians explain the omnipresence of Christ’s human nature not by
way of local extension, but by way of His illocal, supernatural mode of
To quote Steve Hays
“Uh-huh. And what, exactly, is the difference between a “spiritual” presence and an “illocal, supernatural mode of presence?”
Dr. McCain also said:
If he would actually interact with Reformed theology itself, he would find that Christ is said to be spiritually present to the faith of believers. Unless he affirms baptismal regeneration and justification as such, his own tradition affirms baptism is a means of grace that engenders faith in an infant and it will die if not nourished and the child converted. Isn’t Christ spiritually present to the faith of the believers when they are baptized as adults if they come to you without a valid baptism? Isn’t Christ spiritually present to the faith of the church when infants are baptized? Isn't Christ spiritually present to the faith of the infant? So, on the one hand, Dr. McCain needs to affirm that Christ is spiritually present to the faith of believers and children receiving baptism when they are justified, baptized, and in daily living the Christian life through the Holy Spirit, but on the other he mocks the assertion that Christ is spiritually present to the faith of believers in the Lord’s Supper, yet it was Luther who said,
“We are supposed to conjure some sort of “spiritual” communion with Christ, which is as about as imaginative and allegorical as you can get.”
“Not only was Christ in heaven when He walked on earth, but the Apostles too, and all of us as well, who are mortals here on earth, insofar as we believe in Christ.”Note the WCF on the Lord’s Supper says that Christ is spiritually present to the faith of believers. Exactly how is it that Christ, the Apostles, and we are ubiquitous in both heaven and earth "insofar as we believe in Christ” (Luther) any different that Christ being spiritually present to the faith of believers in communion? Uh-huh.
As for the view being “imaginative” he may wish to revisit church history. Zwingli argued the word meant “signified” not “exists as,” and is attributed to Zwingli’s rationalism, not his imagination. Which is more ambiguous, to say that the word “is” in that context in Scripture (Mark 14:22) means “signfiies” or that it means “exists as?” Christ also calls Himself a door and the true vine, are we to interpret that Christ is a door and a vine too? No. It’s the same logic Zwingli used, and, ironically, the same logic Protestants, including Lutherans, employ when discussing transubstantiation with Roman Catholics. If that's "imaginative" then does Dr. McCain accord ubiquity to his own humanity "insofar as he believes in Christ?" If so, why isn't that also "imaginative."
By the way is the cup the new covenant too? Jesus also said, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” If we take the Lutheran or the Catholic view as correct, then why don’t they also affirm that the cup is the new covenant? He certainly did not mean it was actually the covenant, did He? Luther makes Jesus words mean “this accompanies my body.” Why take “is” one way for the elements and another for the cup? What is the exegetical warrant for that?
Which is more imaginative, to say “is” means “signifies” or to redefine the meaning of the word “body” and say, as Luther did,
“Not only was Christ in heaven when He walked on earth, but the Apostles too, and all of us as well, who are mortals here on earth, insofar as we believe in Christ?”If body is something we do not normally mean it to be, then to say Christ is human and has a real body will no longer be as unambigous it would otherwise seem. If Christ’s body is ubiquitous, then it is hard to think of it as a human body, and thus it is difficult to conceive of his human nature. (Brown, Heresies, A History of Heresy and Orthodoxy in the Church). We are left with a Monophyistic Christ and a Docetic set of communion elements. They only seem to be bread and wine, but are really His body and blood. He, especially His body, only seems to be fully human, but has been divininzed. Notice also the implicit contradiction. Dr. McCain has to divinize Christ’s body in heaven in order to make Christ tangible in the communion elements.
If he would actually interact John Calvin and Reformed theology in a fair-minded manner, Dr. McCain would not misrepresent John Calvin on this issue. Calvin objected to Jesus being with him with respect to his humanity, not his divinity. Calvin did not say that Jesus is in heaven and not present elsewhere. Christ is fully God and fully man. He never ceases to be present in all of His being with respect to His divinity, and never has. He would not be fully God if that was the case. Otherwise you end up with a theology of kenosis that is unbiblical. If McCain actually paid attention, Calvin rejected the concept of ubiquity of Christ’s humanity on the basis that it made Christ human only in appearance, which is derivative of Monophysitism which is itself an echo of Docetism.
The classic charge by Lutherans is that Calvin was Nestorian. Read the Chalcedonian Creed and compare it to Nestorius own views. Calvin says nothing that the creed does not affirm. I direct you further here: Lessons on Historical Theology. There are a number of articles in that series that are most insightful, and they cover the rest of the territory. They are under the heading Historical Theology: Christological Controversies. When Calvin did modify those creeds, he did so to affirm that the Son and Spirit are autotheos and do not proceed in essence from the Father, because anti-trinitarians like Valentinus were using the creeds to affirm unitarianism. He saw the creeds needed more clarity. Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox have not objected to this redefinition to any great extent, given the reason it was made.
If we say that the human nature of Christ shares in the omnipresence of Christ, then we have a single incarnate nature, not 2 natures in one person as Chaledon affirms. Dr. McCain has apparently forgotten that the old charge is that Lutherans are closet Monophysites. That’s what you get when you base your Christology and sacramentology theology on the scholasticism from the Latern Councils, not Scripture itself. Perhaps rather than allowing his sacramentology to inform Scripture, Dr. McCain would care to address Scripture itself on the matter. If he wishes to bring up the Iconoclast Controversies and rehash Chalcedon while we’re at it, then let’s go there and lay it all out again. After all, these discussions have a long and tattered history. Lutherans and Calvinists have learned to get along and have since the irenic centuries, but if Dr. McCain would like to push all that to the side, we certainly can. Do we really want to engage in those controversies again, or can we not just stick to the exegesis of Scripture?
I personally find Lutheranism a seaworthy vessel for getting God's people into the kingdom. Unlike Dr. McCain, I don't go around looking to attack other evangelical Protestants based on sacramentology. The last I checked the Reformed churches were seaworthy as well. Just yesterday I was commenting on a Southern Baptist blog defending Dr. McCain's church against the charge of salvation by works. I did this on the basis that they hold to Sola Fide and one cannot look to the sacraments or baptism for anything, including assurance, unless converted. I would hope I was correct in that assessment, but one begins to wonder when a Lutheran of his caliber says the Reformed are not Christocentric.
Can Dr. McCain construct an explanation regarding how exactly the human nature of Christ is present “with, under the bread and wine” of the Lord’s Supper and still be His human nature and fully human? After the Resurrection Christ is depicted as being glorified, able to appear and reappear mysteriously, have an incorruptible body, etc., but there is still continuity with the original body. “Illocality” is not depicted of Him in Scripture. When He is present in the room in His incarnate, resurrected body, He is truly bodily present. Nobody orthodox has ever disputed the notion He is always present in His divinity anyway.
One would have to divinize the human nature in order for his assertion about the elements to be valid. Glorfication is not “divinization.” That is classic Apollinarianism and Monophysitism and Greek piety, not Scripture speaking.
Where does Scripture affirm that Christ’s human nature is present in such a manner? To say that Christ’s humanity is present in the elements divinizes His human nature and further restricts it to the elements at the Lord’s Table, so His humanity shares ubiquity with His divinity with respect to the elements at the Table, yet omnipresence (ubiquity) means God (in all 3 Persons) is present everywhere. Think about that for a moment. How can His human nature be in two places at once, specifically in the elements injested at the Lord’s Table, and Christ be fully human? Approaching this from the other direction, how can His human nature share in the divine ubiquity, which means God is everywhere, and be localized only in the bread and wine? You have to create a special category of ubiquity for Christ’s humanity and the communication of attributes in order to accomodate such a view. I'm sorry Dr. McCain, but you need an exegetical warrant for that.
Lutheran theology tries to get around this by saying His human nature is “illocal” in the Eucharist. The problem is this: It’s not really illocal in this view, it is clearly localized in the elements and in heaven; that’s two specific places at a single time, a fly trapped in amber across two levels of existence. Thus, not only is Christ with respect to His human nature in heaven, He is present on earth in the elements in time when the Lord’s Supper is celebrated. That makes his human nature subject to time as well as spatial constraints on earth as well as heaven. That’s one reason why Calvin rejected the notion of ubiquity of Christ’s body in the elements; it involves too many equivocations on the nature of time and space and what and does and does not constitute localization that necessitate extra-biblical ideas and doesn’t appear to be supportable from Scripture. Calvin stakes out a position between that of Luther and Zwingli. In Lutheran sacramentology, we have an illocal presence that is localized, a human nature that is not fully human, an omnipresence that is limited in presence, a divinization that makes Him tangible, and not a theophany, which is an altogether different manifestation. You end up with something other than 2 natures in one Person with ” the property of each nature being preserved.” (Chalcedon).
In Reformed theology, you have a Father that elects, a Son that redeems to the uttermost, and a Spirit that applies this infallibly, and a persevering faith engendered by that Spirit that connects you to the righteousness of Christ, indwells and fills you, empowers your life, and will bring you safely through from beginning to end. I don't need the sacraments for my assurance, Dr. McCain, I have Jesus, the Word of God, the promises thereof, and the work of the Spirit in me. My faith is looking to Christ alone, clinging to Him, not the bread and wine or my baptism. Given the choice I'd rather choose my Lord alone than water, wine, and bread.