Thursday, September 29, 2016

For the love of God

Under what conditions and in what context can one justifiably expect a Christian theologian to discuss these texts? If, as a universalist, I should try to construct an exhaustive biblical case for a doctrine of universal reconciliation, one could justifiably expect that I would give at least some account of Matthew 25:46 and 2 Thessalonians 1:9; and similarly, given that Calvin tried to present an exhaustive biblical case for his understanding of limited election, we can justifiably complain that he did not even mention 1 John 4:8 and 16 in that context.

A basic problem with Talbott's comparison is this: What theological alternatives stood in contrast to Calvin's position at that time and place? Arminianism didn't exist. Although the Eastern Orthodox might give an "Arminian" interpretation to 1 Jn 4:8,16, that's not the framework within which Calvin and his theological opponents operated.  He was a Western European Christian writing to, for, and against other Western European Christians.

To my knowledge, the primary theological alternatives in the church of Rome–which was Calvin's primary foil–were Thomism and Augustinianism. But there's no reason to think a Thomist or Augustinian would offer a significantly different interpretation of 1 Jn 4:8,16 than Calvin. For instance, here's how Aquinas glosses God's love for the "world" in Jn 3:16:

from the condition of the one who is loved, because it is man, a bodily creature of the world, i.e., existing in sin: “God shows his love for us, because while we were still his enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Rom 5:8). Thus he says, the world.

But that's consistent with limited atonement. 

It's my impression that Luther and Calvin co-opted Augustinianism to such an extent that it delegitimated the Augustinian tradition as a viable option in Catholicism. Prior to the Reformation, that had been a major, honorable option. But when the post-Reformed Jansenists tried to go that route, it was too late. Catholicism had narrowed in reaction to the Protestant Reformation. 

No comments:

Post a Comment