Thursday, January 19, 2006

Heaven-sent adversaries


There is a certain group of Calvinist bloggers, characterized by their love of personal insults and constant appeal to logic over Biblical theology, who have been hard at work defending one of their own's silly suggestion that Jesus performed a miracle, created a key, then opened the locked door, and that's how he appeared in the midst of them on that first Easter evening. Well, I admit, I thought that was pretty funny, but then...well, let's just say I now have to admit I'm wrong. Boar's Head Tavern has provided actual proof!

But then, I got to to thinking. If Jesus did a miracle to make a key, couldn't he just have done a miracle and parted the door, Moses-style, or called down fire from heaven, Elijah style? Why create a key? Why not just evaporate the door? I'm still wondering where the Calvinists thought Jesus was hanging out after the Resurrection. They tell me that what seemed to be his real human body and human nature, actually wasn't. So that whole "Thomas, stick your finger here" incident -- must have been some sort of trick, but Thomas sure believed it. He fell down in front of this very real human being, who was also the Son of God, and said, "My Lord, and my God." Woops, silly Thomas. Didn't Thomas know he was merely beholding an apparition?

What? An "apparition" ... yes, you read that right. That's now how this certain Calvinist blogging group is trying to explain the post-Resurrection appearances of Jesus. Now I just read one of them saying that the post-Resurrection appearances are the antitype to the OT Christophanies, of course not recognizing that with that argument he rather dramatically proves my point! The post-Resurrection appearances are the real deal, the real thing. God, in the flesh, appearing and being among us, in the flesh. Not magically, mystically or ... ghostly. But this whole "apparition" explanation does have a certain charm, doesn't it? It's a sort of "Jesus as Caspar the Friendly Ghost" theory. By the way, here are a whole bunch of other apparitions for them to consider.

All this sort of argumentation from these folks is because they can't get their brains around the Scriptural reality that there is a real communication of attributes between the divine and human natures in the Person of Christ. I prescribe a big heaping dose of "The Catalog of Testimonies" through which they will see that this reality has been part of the church's confession of Christ from the very earliest years. You may find this at

Oh, just one more thing, I've learned that in fact Caspar may not have been a ghost. Apparently, as the photo on the right illustrates, his grave has been discovered outside of London, England.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

If you think He had a key, you need a razor

A while back, Pr. Paul McCain did a post on his blog suggesting that Calvinistic theology might do well to pay a little more attention to Jesus and the Gospel, rather than making God's sovereignty so much its bottom line. The result was a firestorm of failed wit and forced rejoiner in the Calvinistic blogosphere, in which our Reformed bretheren struggled in vain to find some allegedly parallel accusation to level at Lutherans in order make Pr. McCain's comments appear to be unfounded. The results ranged from the silly to the virtually incoherent, and pretty universally were lamer than the man the Lord healed at Bethesda.

But it's getting even funnier.

Calvinism's christology leans Nestorian. I'm not sure that I'd go quite as far as Pr. McCain, and actually accuse it of that heresy. It's not that Calvinists consciously deviate from christological orthodoxy; it's more that Calvinism falls into one of the same traps into which Roman Catholicism falls: granting a human philosophical system (Aristotelian scholasticism in Rome's case, and Platonism in Geneva's) what amounts to a veto power over what is and is not allowed to be true of God.

Calvinism asserts that if Christ's human nature is truly human, it must be locally confined to a specific geographical place. Given its Platonism, it must assert that; after all, in platonic thought things receive their definition from the characteristics they share with other members of a common class. It is a characteristic of God to be omnipresent, but a characteristic of human beings to be present in no more than one place at a time. Ergo, the divine nature of Christ may be omnipresent, but the human nature must be confined to one locality at a time.

Should God decree that I be in more than one place at a time, would I at that moment cease to be human? Calvinism's philosophical underpinnings require that it answer in the affirmative! Jesus, then, can and must be omnipresent according to His divine nature- but He cannot be in more than one place at a time according to His human nature, if it is to be truly human!

The result is practical Nestorianism. No Incarnation never actually takes place. God never actually becomes a human being; rather, He partially inhabits one. Christ's human nature is like a pair of pants: it contains part of Him, but not all. Christ may be present according to His divine nature where He is not present according to His human nature. Thus, the human and divine are effectively separated, Nestorian-style, wherever the divine nature is present, but the human nature is not. It is possible to speak of one existing in isolation from the other!

The human nature of Jesus, Calvinism asserts, is physically located at the right hand of God, and thus cannot be present in His body and blood at the altar. That this requires that heaven be a geographical location- just where is it on the star charts, anyway?- fazes Calvinists as little as the question of how it is possible to get literally and geographically to the right of a Being Who is omnipresent! For "the right hand of God" be a metaphor, and heaven other than a geographical place, would be for Calvinism's christological and sacramental theologies to simply collapse. But to sustain those theologies requires one to effectively adopt the heresy that it is possible not simply to distinguish, but to actually to separate the two natures of Christ!

Pr. McCain mentioned an incident in Scripture which pretty well puts paid to the Calvinist view of the relationship between the human and the divine in Christ anyway- and demolishes their argument against a bodily Real Presence. In John 20:19-28, the disciples are described as meeting behind locked doors, for fear of the Jews. But suddenly, Jesus is standing in their midst. The locked doors were unable to keep Him out!

So how did He get in? The care with which John establishes that the doors were locked leaves little doubt that His sudden presence in a room from which He had been excluded by a lock was miraculous. If one sheds one's bondage to unbiblical and purely human platonic presuppositions, and acknowledges that answer to the question of where a Man who is also Almighty God keeps His human nature is the same as the answer to the question of where the proverbial 300- pound gorilla sleeps- anywhere He wants- all objections to the Real Presence instantly collapse.

They can be maintained only by stubbornly adhering to the non sequitur that any real communication of attributes between the two natures of Christ- any real incarnation- would result in the human nature of Christ ceasing to be truly human. The classical Christological formulas of church history cry out against that conclusion as clearly as does the clear intention of John 2o:19-28!

But it seems that Pr. McCain's Calvinistic interloculators have a response to his question: He had a key!

What is wrong with saying that he had a key is pretty much what's wrong with the postings on theis board on Christology, Predestination, and a whole bunch of other issues: it's based on philosophical deduction, supported by eisogesis. And it's pretty lame.

John's stress upon the fact that the door was locked is suffient to establish that whatever way Jesus got into the room, it was remarkable in view of that fact. Comes of doing what this blog seems to have so much trouble doing: starting with Scripture and going from there to doctrine, rather than starting with doctrine and shoehorning it into Scripture by way of disingenous rationalization.

I'm still marveling at the assertions that "all" and "every" never mean "all" and "every," and that the fact that Jesus is recorded as reciting the Words of Institution as a narrative mean that He didn't really mean what the words say

# posted by Bob Waters : 1/19/2006 7:07 AM

No, but it would be a Christological error if you asserted that it was possible to separate the human from the divine nature of Jesus, whether in the Lord's Supper or elsewhere. And elsewhere on this blog, we find specific denials of Pastor McCain's charge that Calvinism is Nestorian.

I happen to think that assertion is a bit harsh, myself. But asking him to name your Christological error seems to be a bit much in a post labeld "Let's Be Honest."

# posted by Bob Waters : 1/19/2006 7:12 AM


Many conservatives were irate over the shabby treatment accorded judge Alito by the Democrats during his confirmation hearings.

That’s one way to react. But there’s another way of responding: gratitude. Oscar Wilde used to say that a man cannot be too careful in the choice of his enemies. In the case of Alito, his enemies did him a favor. With enemies like this, who needs friends?

While the Democrats had nothing but transparent demagoguery to offer, Alito responded with reason and evidence. Many liberal pundits agree that tactics of the Senate Democrats backfired.

Once upon a time, Lutherans knew how to make a reasoned case for their position. They knew how to answer argument with counterargument. Remember the magnificent, four-volume Examination of Trent by Chemnitz? Remember the mighty tomes by Quenstendt and Calovius? Even in our own time, John Warwick Montgomery set a standard of erudition in Christian apologetics.

Now compare this to Paul McCain and Bob Waters.

Both of them continue to claim that Evan May said Jesus had a key. If you bother to read what Evan originally wrote, that is not what he said. Rather, he accused McCain of mounting an argument from silence, and then, for the sake of argument, Evan tossed out a number of equally hypothetical suggestions—his explicit point being, not that Jesus had a key, but that as far as the argument from silence was concerned, this possibility was on an evidential par with McCain’s inference.

Apparently, that passed right over the head of McCain. So Evan had to do a second post in which he quoted his original words and pointed out, once again, what he actually said.

Yet despite putting this in ten-foot tall neon letters, McCain and Waters continue to impute to him a position which he never took.

It becomes hard to put a charitable construction on this behavior. Are they really that dense? To read Bob Waters, you have to wonder if he ever read Evan May’s post for himself. It looks like Waters is getting his information spoon-fed to him from Paul McCain. Is he illiterate?

The other interpretation is that they really do get the point, but they’d rather demagogue the issue. So either they’re obtuse or dishonest. I can’t think of a third interpretation. Maybe someone else can.

BTW, please don’t take this as a criticism. If I wanted to make my job as easy as possible, I couldn’t have chosen softer targets than these. Oscar Wilde was right.

Then you have McCain making the illogical claim that if the Easter appearances were antitypal to OT Christophanies, then this somehow proves “his” point that Jesus is God in the flesh.

Needless to say, there is no Calvinist who denies that Jesus is God Incarnate, whether before or after the Resurrection.

McCain and Waters never actually engage, much less, rebut the detailed arguments carefully marshaled by Gene and Evan and myself.

What they do, instead, is to characterize our arguments. They offer a tendentious characterization of our arguments. This is a sorry substitute for a reasoned, point-by-point counterargument. While Gene and Evan and I present arguments, they respond with adjectives.

Waters doesn’t know how to listen. Rather, he falls back on a prefabricated caricature of Calvinism which he presumably learned in seminary. It’s clear that he doesn’t read the primary sources of Calvinism. He has never seen the way a Reformed theologian actually does theology. Instead, this is all filtered through lens of Lutheran critics of Calvinism.

It’s like liberals who apply their preconceived, Marxist sociological theories to Muslim suicide-bombers. Never take a fresh, firsthand look at the facts on the ground. Just stick to your paper theory of how the world works.

Again, I don’t say this as a personal criticism. I can take off work a lot sooner when my opponents sound like a tape-recorder on continuous playback.

One final comment: both McCain and Waters talk about the hypostatic union as if it were stitched together like a patchwork quilt so that the human nature must be “wherever” the divine nature is—otherwise the hypostatic union comes apart at the seams as we “separate” the two natures, with one piece of fabric over “here,” and another piece over “there.”

If Waters and McCain wish to operate at this preschool level of reasoning, I’ll gladly leave them to their scissors and glue, color crayons and paper dolls.

1 comment:

  1. No stitching or gluing necessary. Just a simple bottom line: neither
    of Christ's natures, since the Incarnation, has ever done anything in isolation from the other. The moment you ascribe even the proper attributes of one nature only to that nature, and not to the whole Christ- to the God/Man, Jesus- you've effectively denied the incarnation.

    That's not really hard. It does seem a little strange, though, to find a Calvinist suggesting that we *are* the ones who are artificially stitching the two natures together. The apt analogy I've always heard us that Calvinism glues them together like two boards.

    BTW, I regret that Pr. McCain linked to my post while I was still in the process of composing it (unfortunately, I couldn't get my computer to paste in Blogger until it was posted, and he was just too fast. The "razor" in the title was Occam's Razor, and I suggest you re-visit the completed post before you attribute anything to me.