Incarnation and Sacrament: The Eucharistic Controversy between Charles Hodge and John Williamson Nevin. By Jonathan G. Bonomo
In 2010, Jonathan Bonomo published his Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary M.A. thesis under the title: Incarnation and Sacrament. The book’s small size (135 pages including references) belies its significance for Reformed theology and interfaith dialogue with Eastern Orthodoxy. A number of well known Reformed theologians spoke highly of the book: Gabriel Fackre, Michael Horton, Peter Leithart, and Richard Lints. The foreword was written by Keith Mathison.
In this review I will sketch out: (1) the controversy between Hodge and Nevin, (2) Bonomo’s exploration of the differences between the two theologians, and (3) how Bonomo’s book can facilitate Reformed-Eastern Orthodox dialogue.
The Controversy: Hodge vs. Nevin
In the mid 1800s, a major controversy broke out between two major Reformed theologians: Charles Hodge of Princeton Theological Seminary and John Nevin of the German Reformed Seminary in Mercersburg, Pennsylvania.
The controversy began when Nevin published the Mystical Presence in 1846 in which he argued that Calvin and the early Reformers taught the real presence in the Lord’s Supper. In short, Nevin was saying that the widely held symbolic understanding of the Lord’s Supper was Zwinglian and not at all Reformed.
Charles Hodge countered with a defense of the symbolic understanding of the Lord’s Supper. Nevin responded with a lengthy rebuttal to which Hodge made no reply. Hodge’s mute silence represents a defeat on the battlefield of theological debate, but in the long run Hodge won the war because his symbolic understanding came to be the prevailing view among Reformed Christians and Evangelicals in America.
Both Hodge and Nevin belonged to the Reformed tradition yet they had radically disparate understandings of the Christian faith. Bonomo’s book brings to light the cultural and intellectual forces that shaped their respective theologies. He points to the significant influence of Scottish Commonsense Realism on Hodge’s individualistic and rationalistic thinking (Note 3, p. 6; Note 10, p. 38). Furthermore, he takes note of the nominalism that shaped Hodge’s anthropology, and led him to adopt an overtly federalist theological system and a forensic understanding of salvation (pp. 10-13). By exploring the differences between the two theologians, Bonomo brings to light assumptions long taken for granted by Reformed Christians and Evangelicals in America. What becomes evident is that their beliefs and practices are more American than Reformed.
The Incarnation was another area where Hodge and Nevin differed. For Nevin, the Incarnation was not just an individual event but God entering into the life of the human race (p. 71). Because Christ was the Second Adam salvation meant not just the imputation of Christ’s righteousness but also the impartation of Christ’s life (p. 78). Where for Hodge the locus of salvation was the Cross, for Nevin it was the Incarnation. Not unexpectedly, Hodge disagreed (pp. 89-90). Nevin’s understanding of a universal humanity flew in the face of Hodge’s nominalist philosophy (pp. 113-114). This difference led to quite different understandings of the church. Where Hodge understood the church to be an aggregation of individuals who believed in Christ, Nevin understood the church to be a group of individuals who shared a common life through union with Christ. The latter view is much closer to that held by the early Church Fathers.
Nevin’s focus on the Incarnation and his emphasis on a mystical union with Christ led him to insist on the real presence in the Lord’s Supper and the Eucharist as central to Christianity (p. 22). Nevin’s argument that Calvin held to the real presence in the Eucharist points to common ground between the Reformed and Orthodox traditions.
Bonomo laments that American Protestantism even now continues to suffer from “historical amnesia” (p. xvi). His and Nevin’s attempts to study the original sources of Reformed theology and the early Church Fathers represent an attempt to break free of this amnesia. This marks a promising development. As Reformed Christians become familiar with the early Church, the Ecumenical Councils, and the Church Fathers they will find common ground with Eastern Orthodox Christians.
Recent Orthodox apologetics have criticized the forensic understanding of salvation. Bonomo’s book shows that ironically what is being criticized is a deviant form of Reformed theology. An open minded reading of Calvin’s Institutes shows that he has much to say about our mystical union with Christ; this is a theme that echo the early Church Fathers. In other words, the gap between Reformed Christianity and Eastern Orthodoxy may not be as wide as commonly assumed.
Bonomo does the Reformed tradition a service by bringing attention to Mercersburg Theology, a little known but highly significant expression of Reformed theology. He is part of a recent trend among Reformed Christians, e.g., Keith Mathison and W. Bradford Littlejohn. The question whether or not Mercersburg Theology can effectively bridge the gap between Reformed Christianity and Orthodoxy will be addressed in a future posting on this blog.
In closing, Bonomo’s book shows that Reformed theology is much more complex and diverse than many have assumed it to be. What many assume to be Reformed theology is a modernized and Americanized adaptation. This means that many Reformed Christians need to take another closer look at the sources for their Reformed theology. There are indications that Calvin’s theology was much closer to Eastern Orthodoxy than that of his modern day followers. Bonomo does a great service by providing Reformed Christians with the tools for a critical reassessment of their belief systems. He also helps remove obstacles that impede Reformed-Orthodox dialogue. For these reasons Bonomo’s book is highly recommended.
Robert K. Arakaki
So let me make sure I understand the Eastern view of union with Christ. First, the essence of God is beyond being/predication but as God is revealed to man his energies which are modes and themselves analogies of the essence (which itself would imply that God is economical by nature) man analogically (per Lossky Vision of God) participates in these analogies. Ergo this is how Christ’s humanity is united to God. Is that right? If so, how in the farthest stretch of the imagination can an analogically participation in an eternal analoft be real?
Energies are the activity of an essence not the essence itself. When you get sunburn you actually are burned by the energy of a distant and untouchable sun.
Christ’s humanity is united hypostatically to his divinity but as the Councils make clear, each of his natures has it’s own energies, so this is testimony to a distinction between the divine nature and it’s divine energy—even in Christ. The natures are always distinct but the energies allow the sharing of properties in this one divine person.
Thanks! Good answer!
You are asking some very good and deep questions. With respect to Orthodox theology, we are entering deep waters here. I will do my best to answer them. First of all I want so say I agree with Canadian’s reply. I think he gives a good synopsis of the Orthodox understanding.
First of all, I’m not comfortable with your use of “analogies” in your comment. I would say that essence (ousia), person (hypostasis), and energy (energeia) point to different aspects of the divine Being. God is Trinity; He is one in Essence and three in Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God revealed himself to man through the Incarnation of the Son, i.e., the person (hypostasis) of the second Person of the Trinity acquires human flesh from the Virgin Mary. Christ’s humanity is joined to the Person of the Son who is consubstantial with the Father. Having assumed human nature Christ recapitulated the human experience fulfilling what Adam failed to do. Then he ascended to heaven bestowing the Holy Spirit on us. We are in Christ and the Holy Spirit is in us. This is not an analogy but profound truths about Christian existence.
One of the major divides between Western and Eastern Christianity is how they understand our relationship with God. The Western approach relies on analogy as a means of understanding God. The problem with this approach is that it leads to knowledge about God but not knowledge based upon true encounter with God. The Eastern mystical approach stresses that we acquire knowledge of God through our encounter with God through prayer. That is why we tell anyone who is interested in Orthodoxy not just to read the Church Fathers but to attend the Divine Liturgy. It is in the Liturgy that we experience the mystery that theology books describe on paper.
The Essence-Person-Energies distinctions help us to understand our union with Christ. We do not become one with God in his Essence, that would be the heresy of monophysitism. Worse yet it would lead to Hinduism’s panentheism. We do not lose our personal identities in the Person of Christ; we remain individual personalities in Christ the New Adam. We are transformed by the uncreated energies of God while remaining created beings with distinctive personalities. The Essence-Person-Energies distinctions also explain how God can be everywhere without falling into the error of panentheism. Panentheism assumes that God is everywhere in his Essence; the Orthodox viewpoint is that God is transcendent in his Essence but is present throughout creation in his energies. Isaiah heard the seraphim cry out: “the whole earth is full of his glory.” Our union with Christ consists of our faith in the Person of the Son and our entire being becoming energized by the uncreated energies of God. I believe that this can also explain the Orthodox view that created matter can become grace filled vessels of God’s love. That is why the Orthodox Church takes ordinary matter like water, oil, bread, wine and blesses them turning them into vessels of divine grace. For us the “ordinary” things of the sacraments are not symbols nor analogies but graced filled matter. But what makes the sacraments efficacious is that through faith our persons (hypostases) or joined to the hypostasis of the divine Logos. The bottom line is that if the Word truly became flesh in the Incarnation than we have a real connection with God, not an analogical one. In the Incarnation the gap between the Infinite and the Finite is bridged.
One last point, I’m not comfortable with your implying that God is economical by nature. God is God. God is eternally Triune: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Theologians talk about immanent Trinity and economic Trinity. These are interesting and informative distinctions that help us get a handle on the doctrine of the Trinity. God is ultimately the transcendent Mystery. I would say that just as God created the universe by an act of grace so likewise we participate in the uncreated Energies by grace. This is the best answer I can give right now. Like I said earlier, you asked some very important and difficult questions. I welcome any corrections or improvements by you or others.
I would like to close this comment with a question to you. It’s quite apparent that you’re well read and that you’ve put a lot of thought into this but how much experience have you had with the Orthodox Liturgy? What was the experience like for you? Did you come away with a sense of awe at the mystery of God? Would you agree with me that the worship of God is the best way to acquire knowledge of God?
Robert said: “Worse yet it would lead to Hinduism’s panentheism.”
Robert, I could definitely be wrong here (not being a trained theologian), but didn’t you perhaps mean to say here that it could lead to Hindu *pantheism* (i.e., the teaching that all is “God” and there is no distinction between the created and the creator), not panentheism? If we take God’s omnipresence as historic Orthodox Christian dogma (that He is indeed “everywhere present and filling all things” as we regularly pray), panentheism (God IN all things) is a Christian, not Hindu, teaching. ISTM the two terms, pantheism and panentheism, are quite easily confused and often conflated to mean the same thing, though this is inaccurate.
Good question! I think you are right in pointing out that pantheism is the Hindu understanding. I checked my the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology and the contributor notes that panentheism is an attempt to combine classical Christian theism with classical pantheism. I haven’t studied the matter in depth but I would guess that the Orthodox approach would bring clarity to this confused attempt to describe God’s being.
I’ll have to break this up into pieces.
“This is not an analogy but profound truths about Christian existence.”
“What is comprehension in the strict sense of the word? Ruiz refers to St. Thomas: to comprehend means to know perfectly…(Pt. I. q. 12, art. 7). It is clear that God alone can have comprehension…His unknowable nature, being uncreated, requires an uncreated knowledge, something a created intellect cannot have. Therefore the beatific vision will never be able to give comprehension of God, for, while having the divine essence as its formal object, it does not view Him in the same proportion as he does Himself, totally, adequately, and with perfect penetration. This is why, strictly speaking, divine science and the beatific vision do not have a perfectly identical formal object, insofar as we are dealing with what is knowable and what is object…[Lossky continues] he [Ruiz] falls into a kind of agnosticism: insofar as He is knowable, God is not a perfectly identical object for Himself and for the created intellects enjoying the vision of His essence.” (Vision of God, pg. 19-20)
Lossky’s argument is indistinguishable from
the criticisms that Gordon Clark made against analogical predication. The thing that blows me away is that later in his book he comits to the same view! Lossky says,
“The dunameis are always God Himself, although outside His substance or ‘unity.’ For ‘he distinguishes himself while remaining simple, and multiplies himself without abandoning his unity…[In an attempt to individuate Dionyius from Plotinus] The dunameis (energies) of Dionysius are not diminishing emanations from the divine nature, which go out in decreasing measure from the unity of this nature into the lowest degrees of created being…Divinity is manifested fully and is wholly present in the dunameis, but created beings participate in it in the proportion or analogy proper to each one, hence the hierarchical order of the universe, which develops in an order of decreasing participations, of decreasing analogies in created beings. Dionysius’ hierarchy definitely does not limit the plentitude of union; at every step of this ladder the union with God is realized fully, but the plentitude is not uniform, it is personal. In the analogy of each created nature there is an encounter, a synergy of two wills” The Vision of God by Vladimir Lossky, Translated by Ashleigh Moorhouse (St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press: Crestwood, NY, 1983), pg. 125
“It is in the Liturgy that we experience the mystery that theology books describe on paper.”
>>>First, Lossky just admitted that analogy is all you have. Second, I have said it again and again on this website. You are driving a wedge between the Word and the words. There is no separation between believing in someone and believing what that person says. Thus the following verses:
John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
John 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
John 5: 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
John 6:63 the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. [No wedge between an encounter with the Spirit and the things he says and teaches propositionally.]
“Panentheism assumes that God is everywhere in his Essence”
>>>I would actually hold to panentheism at least at its rudimentary points.
“Our union with Christ consists of our faith in the Person of the Son”
>>>Yet Lossky calls it a union of ignorance. So when you say “Person of the Son” your object of faith is what? Obviously it cannot be a mind with thoughts. That would not be ignorance. Faith must have an object. If you do not understand your object then you cannot grasp it by faith. This is the exact Plotinian ecstasy I have been complaining about. On your view, it’s not faith you have, it’s absorption into the One. Plotinus very much believed in a union of ignorance.
“Isaiah heard the seraphim cry out: “the whole earth is full of his glory.”
>>>Hold on, are you saying that this verse is saying something metaphysical about God?
“I believe that this can also explain the Orthodox view that created matter can become grace filled vessels of God’s love.”
>>>>I believe in a sacramental union between God and created natures in the sacraments but what seems indicative of what you are saying is a Neoplatonic pantheism where hierarchies are arranged according to level of participation in God, even though all are consubstantial.
“That is why the Orthodox Church takes ordinary matter like water, oil, bread, wine and blesses them turning them into vessels of divine grace.”
>>>And these incantations are efficacious because the one who is blessing is a hierarchical intermediary. The One and the Intermediary are consubstantial; therefore,
“It makes Christ present in fullness to the believer. The hierarchy in its wider sense, and in particular the Bishop, is an icon that enables the person of Christ to become present in a tangible manner. Meeting the Bishop or Presbyter and even other orders of the hierarchy, is having a direct encounter with Christ.”
That is Neoplatonism, not Christianity.
“One last point, I’m not comfortable with your implying that God is economical by nature.”
>>>I am not saying that God is economical by nature. I am saying that the Essence and Energies Distinction posits the energies as the economical objects of man’s participation. So God has in himself analogues distinct from his essence designed for fallen man’s participation. So God on YOUR VIEW is economical by nature.
“It’s quite apparent that you’re well read and that you’ve put a lot of thought into this but how much experience have you had with the Orthodox Liturgy? What was the experience like for you? Did you come away with a sense of awe at the mystery of God? Would you agree with me that the worship of God is the best way to acquire knowledge of God?”
>>>I am a Christian and not a Neoplatonist so experiences are quite meaningless to me. Jesus said that Truth sets men free. Not experiences.
Eventhough the Orthodox will sometimes make use of the term “Panentheism”, the word itself has it’s own history in other systems of thought, just like others words…..such as “Logos”….etc.
And so what we mean by it is different from what Eastern Religions believe about it. Robert explained the view(Panentheism) correctly as it is understood by Eastern Religious groups. What makes us different is the Essence vs Energies distinction. Sometimes I even wonder if we(Orthodox Christians) should use the term “Panentheism” because of the confusion. Protestant Evangelicals who may not understand the concept Perichoresis and other things may misunderstand what we are trying to say. They may not be able to see the difference. But yeah, what Robert said was accurate. He explained our view perfectly without using the term “Panentheism” in reference to what we believe. To be honest, our view is basically Classical Christian Theism with a stress on the emphasis of the Immanence of God. That’s basically what it is.
“Yours is a philosophical construct heavily reliant on Clark and not based on scripture and without reference to the church which is the pillar and ground of the truth. In good protestant fashion you connect your position to scripture after the paradigm is set and agreed with.”
>>> Wow. Have you ever read Augsutine’s De Magistro? Read it especially book 3, 11 and 12.
Dr. Clark based his emphasized especially 11:38:
“11.38[Basic Writings of Augustine Volume 1 pg. 391]
“But, referring now to all things which we understand, we consult, not the speaker who utters words, but the guardian truth within the mind itself, because we have perhaps been reminded by words to do so. Moreover, He who is consulted teaches; for He who is said to reside in the interior man is Christ, that is, the unchangeable excellence of God and His everlasting wisdom, which every rational soul does indeed consult. But there is revealed to each one as much as he can apprehend through his will according as it is more perfect or less perfect. And if sometimes one is deceived this is not due to a defect in the truth which he has consulted any more than it is a defect of external light that the eyes of the body are often deceived; yet we confess that we consult this external light about visible things in order that it may show them to us in so far as we have the power to discern.”
The whole point of this entire work is that sensation gives no knowledge of God and neither does any man. There is only one teacher, Christ; this is immediate revelation in direct opposition to the Western Scholastic idea that knowledge of God comes only by the creature. Clark built an entire theory off of Augstine’s work here.
The passages of scripture that he defended his view were these three primarily:
that is, Christ Himself,
Col 2:3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
1Co 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 1Co 2:10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. kjv
Ecc 8: 17 and I saw every work of God, I concluded that man cannot discover the work which has been done under the sun Even though man should seek laboriously, he will not discover; and though the wise man should say, “I know,” he cannot discover.
Every time I quote the last passage from Ecclesiastes to people who are giving me this typical diatribe, my opponent who was just flamingly mad at me goes completely silent and his eyes get really big, he can’t believe what he’s reading. He scratches his eyes gives them a good rub and reads over it again desperately trying to find a way of escape, and ends up not knowing what to say.
So then after you read this passage from Augustine and the Scripture you are left with a question: what then are the objects of knowledge? If man learns nothing from what is external to him, then Aristotle’s idea where material individual things are the only realities and their forms are the objects of knowledge gets completely discarded. You are left with the Logos. What does he reveal? Matter? Forms? Or Ideas? Ideas. Ok. Can there be more than one kind of idea? Yes there are concepts and propositions. Ok so can they both be true? No. If I was to say “2”, is this true or false? Neither. It is not couched in a statement and so cannot be either true or false. If I was to say “2 plus 2 equals 4”, that can be true or false; in this case true. So then, propositions must be the objects of knowledge. So these propositions, are they just floating around in the air? No. They are the thoughts of a divine person; The thoughts of a divine mind. That’s pretty simple isn’t it?
“This is solo (yes solo) scriptura in action. ”
I just wanted to post this to remind you of how embarrassing what you just said was.
“You have admitted Clark botched Trinitarian and Incarnational issues”
Trinitarian issue? When did I say that? Clark’s rejection of Van Til’s/Augstine’s Paradoxical and Neploatonist view and his acknowledgment of the persons first and then moving to the nature convinced me to go Eastern in my view of the Trinity. He was the guy that got me to hold your view.
Incarnational issues, yes. He denied suffering to the Logos and posited another person in Christ. Heretical. And how many of your Eastern Fathers have been accused of heresy? Many.
“why do you trust his philosophy implicitly?”
>>>>Cyril of Alexandria harassed and bribed courts to condemn Nestorius. Chalcedon is a blatant rejection of Cyril’s Mia Physis [Which is yet another problem: Whose interpretation of the fathers are we to accept? Maybe the Oriental Church was right to take Cyril at his own words?]. Why do you trust him to tell you to adore the sacrament? Implicitly? I have given Clark’s philosophy the trial by fire through years of criticism. The guys at God’s Hammer hate me because I criticize Clark for going hyper Calvinist in his latter years.
“Judas had a direct relationship with Christ, therefore he had a direct propositional relation to him as well, partaking of His word and His power, and yes is lost in the end.”
>>>But on our view salvation requires both the knowledge of the proposition and belief in it. Judas did not believe the propositions. Your psychological relational soteriology gives no room for escape.
“Will you have the bible in heaven? Will you think of God there?”
>>>Well if you even knew what I believe before you start making embarrassing assumptions about it, you would know that I do not believe that the pages and ink of the Bible give me knowledge of God. My reading of the ink and pages is the occasion in which the Logos directly reveals truth to me. He uses other occasions as well other than the pages of the bible.
Yes I will think of God there. Otherwise I lose my humanity.
‘James in his epistle chastises those who say “be filled and warmed” yet do nothing relational and real for that person.”
>>>When have I ever denied that faith in the truth must result in good works? So then a person is a good work? Or a person does a good work?
“Can God be thought of separate from his word? If you mean the 66 book protestant canon with YOUR interpretation, then I think you are in trouble.”
>>>So then I should choose the church fathers with your interpretation of them? I was quite amused by the sharp debate between meyendorf and romanides on the interpretation of Dionysius the Areopagite. http://ishmaelite.blogspot.com/2008/03/areopagite-in-20th-century-orthodoxy.html. And thank you for reminding me of now the 14 major dispute among eastern orthodox believers that I know of as of yet.
“In the Incarnation the gap between the Infinite and the Finite is bridged.”
>>>>I already answered this on your Calvin Versus The Icon: Was John Calvin Wrong? article and you have not replied so I will repost it.
“Calvin’s theological system rests on two major premises: (1) that God is utterly transcendent and unknowable, and (2) God’s transcendence is bridged by means of divine revelation, particularly the Bible as the Word of God. ..The Orthodox Church’s veneration of icons flows from the deep structure of patristic theology. The Orthodox theological system rests on two premises: (1) that God is a Triune Being utterly transcendent and unknowable, and (2) that God’s transcendence has been bridged through the Incarnation of the Son.”
What the Eastern Church has done is just what the Liberals of the late 19th and early 20th century did. That is, they drive a wedge between words and The Word. Gordon Clark says,
“According to the Apostle John and according to Jesus, the Word of God, the Logos, and the words, the propositions, the cognitive content, are identical; and this conceptual content is ‘the real thing. (pg. 69)…John 17:17 says, ‘Sanctify them by the truth; thy word, doctrine, argument, theory is truth.; Just a page or two back the logos-word and the rheema-word were seen to be identical. Thus the truth here that sanctifies is the message of the Scripture. Sanctification is basically an intellectual process. No doubt it eventuates in external conduct; but before one can act rightly, one must think rightly; and so we are sanctified by truth. The idea is repeated in verse 19: ‘I sanctify myself for them, in order that they may sanctify themselves by truth.” (The Johannine Logos pg. 71)
Yet the East, the Liberals and confused Evangelicals object that this is Judaical and Pharisaical because the Pharisees knew much theology, but were not saved. Jesus said in John 5:46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” You see the Jews knew some theology but they did not believe it. Dr. Clark says,
“One of the Pharisees’ sins was hypocrisy: they did not believe what they said they believed (pg. 76)…The fault of the Jews was not their honoring of the truth as such; if they believed that the truth saves they were right. Their sin was that what they honored and believed was not the truth. They did not believe Moses and the prophets. It was for this that Jesus condemned them. He did not condemn their alleged rationalism, intellectualism, or respect for the truth. The difference between the Jews and Jesus lay in the propositions believed.( The Johannine Logos , pg. 77)
John 8:43 “Why do you not understand what I am saying? It is because you cannot hear My word[logos]. The Logos here refers to a logical and propositional argument in verse 42 not an experience or encounter. There is no separation between believing in someone and believing what that person says. Thus the following verses:
John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
John 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
John 5: 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
The term logos refers to a proposition or a series of propositions in the scripture. The Logos in John 1 is the Second Person of the Trinity. The Logos is the Holy Wisdom of God. There is some similarity in the way Heraclitus used it, and Augustine asserted that it was the Logos himself directing the ancient Greek Philosophers to reason and away from their immoral and irrational pantheon of vice stricken gods and goddesses.
Dr. Clark says,
“Accordingly, there is no great gap between the propositions alluded to and Christ himself. The Platonic Ideas, as interpreted by Philo, and by him called Logos are the mind of God. Some of these Ideas are given to us in the words of John, or in the words of Christ recorded by John. This is how Christ communicates himself to us. Is it completely ridiculous to suggest that this is why John uses the term logos for these two superficially different purposes?” (pg. 119 What is Saving Faith?)
John 2:22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.
Here the object of faith is a proposition.
John 10:35 “If he called them gods, to whom the word [logos] of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken)
John 12:48 “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings [rhēma], has one who judges him; the word [logos] I spoke is what will judge him at the last day.
John 5:21 “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes.22 “
“For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
Here the logos is identified with the rhemata or words as such.
The Word is therefore not a silent experience or an energy or as
Ignatius of Antioch says in his Letter to the Magnesians 8,
“For this reason also they were persecuted. But they were inspired by his gracious gift, so that the disobedient became fully convinced that there is one God, who manifested himself through Jesus Christ his Son, who is his Word that came forth from silence, who was pleasing in every way to the one who sent him.” (The Apostolic Fathers, Vol. 1, ed. Ehrman [Loeb Classical Library], pg. 249.)
Ignatius was also known for his assertion that, “Silence is the language of heaven.” Language is therefore created on this view. In this case, language will ALWAYS be incapable of expressing the fullness of God. That is the anchoretic view of the Eastern Church. Yet Christ says to the Father , John 17:8 for the words which You gave Me I have given to them; and they received them and truly understood that I came forth from You, and they believed that You sent Me. Again, John 8:40 “But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God.” The language that Jesus gives us is the language that was given to him by the Father. The idea that God’s realm is silent in the sense that there is no language is wrong There is also no modulation of the language necessary for language is eternal, uncreated and part of the thinking of God himself. Moreover, in John 6:63 Jesus refers to the fact that his words ARE SPIRIT! There is nothing terrestrial, carnal and mere about words. Dr. Clark says,
“Rheemata in a very literal sense are the sounds that comes out of one’s mouth when one speaks. These are not thought; they are sounds in the air; they are the symbols of thoughts. When people belittle ‘mere words’ they confuse the thought with the symbol. A proposition is the thought symbolized; the sentence is the symbol. Es regnet, il pleut, and it is raining are three sentences; but they are one proposition.” (pg. 121 What is Saving Faith?)
Some will object that this is too intellectual and leans Gnostic. They will complain that Christianity emphasizes faith, love and obedience not knowledge. Thus, 2 Peter 1:3 seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. 4 For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust. Here there is no dialectic between faith and knowledge. Clark says,
“the knowledge of which the Gnostics boasted was a theory of cosmology, including highly imaginative accounts of what happened before Genesis 1:1…The Gnostics knew, or believed in, thirty eons, a docetic incarnation, and a pseudo-atonement. The Christians believed a different set of propositions.” (pg. 36, What is Saving Faith?)
H.H. Price whom Dr. Clark deals with on pages 20-25 of What is Saving Faith, distinguishes between knowledge in and knowledge that which he calls a “propositional attitude.” This distinction emphasizes the object of belief to be a person and not what the person says. Yet we have already demonstrated that this dialectic is not scriptural and the opposite is the case.The same point is made in Calvin’s Institutes 1.9 where he refutes the idea that the word and the Spirit are separate.
I did not reply because I thought your equating Orthodoxy with modern Liberalism ludicrous. This can only be done if one takes an extreme stance of equating the Incarnate Word with philosophical propositions. It seems that you are relying heavily on Gordon Clark, whose presuppositional apologetics is quite modern and far removed from the mainstream. Only if one takes such an extreme stance can one lump Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestant Liberalism under the same label.
Your equating the Logos with philosophical propositions is bad linguistics. I recommend you check out the Kittel Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Liddell & Scott Greek-English Lexicon, Arndt and Gingrich Greek-English Lexicon, and Louw and Nida semantic domain dictionary.
Your tendentious reading of Ignatius of Antioch is distressing. If you misread the Church Fathers it will make it very difficult for you and I to have a theological discussion. Also problematic is your source citation. I checked my copy of the Loeb Classical Library edition of the Apostolic Fathers vol. I page 249 and was unable to find the reference to the Logos coming from silence. Are you sure you got the source right?
Your extreme philosophical stance and your misreading of the Church Fathers make me wonder if you and I will be able to hold a meaningful dialogue. I would urge to return to the mainstream of Protestant theology and better yet to listen attentively to the Church Fathers. Lastly, listen more to others and write less. Your excessively long comments can be wearisome reading to others. Please forgive me if I have offended you. May we all learn from each other and forgive each others fault.
“This can only be done if one takes an extreme stance of equating the Incarnate Word with philosophical propositions.”
What is the difference between a propositional thought someone thinks and a philosophical proposition?
“It seems that you are relying heavily on Gordon Clark, whose presuppositional apologetics is quite modern and far removed from the mainstream.”
Ever read Augustine’s De Magistro? Second, your complaints are not refutations. Third, he is the only Christian philosopher who has a complete theory of epistemology
and wrote books on most every major period of philosophy, and has books written on every issue of epistemology:
Thales to Dewey
Philosophy of Science and Belief in God
Historiography: Secular and Religious
A Christian View of Men and Things
A Christian Philosophy of Education
Essays on Ethics and Politics
Readings in Ethics edited by Clark
Language and Theology
His books on Theology are good to average and in some parts poor but he was a professional philosopher and academician not a theologian, though his philosophy has requisite implications into theology as we have seen.
So here is the gauntlet: You guys produce a philosopher who achieves not only a professorship but heads a major university’s philosophy department and produces a complete theory with accompanying Books explaining his theory of epistemology, metaphysics, science, history, ethics, politics, education, and writes manuals on the major periods of Philosophy and at least gets these academic works published by peered reviewed and respected publishing houses and then I can consider your group qualified to even enter the arena of debate. Until you do, we Scripturalists are up here in the clouds enjoying the view while we see you guys and the Romanists and the Protestant Scholastics continue to pile up scrap metal of failure after failure of theories that never get off the ground and continue to feed the hostility and dissatisfaction of the secular world. It’s like we are up in a blimp with a ladder hung down to you and you refuse to climb it and start complaining about how you don’t like the color of our blimp, or something equally trifling.
“Only if one takes such an extreme stance can one lump Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestant Liberalism under the same label.”
Well, consider me that guy.
“Your equating the Logos with philosophical
propositions is bad linguistics.”
Really, and what book on the Philosophy of Language are you basing that on?
The men you mention. Do they have books on the Philosophy of Language? Have they dealt with B. Russell and the School of Vienna? Have they refuted them? Let’s see it; put your cards on the table. So that whole book is on the issue of the Logos and Propositions huh?
“Also problematic is your source citation. I checked my copy of the Loeb Classical Library edition of the Apostolic Fathers vol. I page 249 and was unable to find the reference to the Logos coming from silence. Are you sure you got the source right?”
>>>LOL. You can read it right here man:
“Your extreme philosophical stance and your misreading of the Church Fathers make me wonder if you and I will be able to hold a meaningful dialogue”
>>>Misreading of the Church Fathers? Where?
“ I would urge to return to the mainstream of Protestant theology and better yet to listen attentively to the Church Fathers. ”
>>>Lol. Just from our correspondence here, methinks I have a better understanding of the Church Fathers than you do. As a matter of fact your assertion that your view of knowledge of God is not analogical is a display of sheer ignorance and most likely you have not read Lossky’s Vision of God.
“Lastly, listen more to others and write less. Your excessively long comments can be wearisome reading to others”
>>>None of my arguments are being addressed and now it is evident that I am wasting my time here.
Why would we climb the ladder to a blimp where you are alone with your Clark books? Alone!
Drake, you seems to be content to have isolated yourself from any Church community, authority and meaningful oversight — all the while hiding behind your selective Clarkian philosophical constructs that are on the mostly rejected fringe of Reformed Theology.
“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire; He rages against all wise judgment.” PV. 18:1.
This a form of rebellion and I pray you realize just how Spiritually dangerous this is for your soul. We are not mere online academic talking heads on this blog. We are brohers, supposedly as concerned about the spiritual health of each other as we are “theological precision”. I really don’t believe that you merit a serious reading in any way if you cannot submit yourself to some form of Church oversight and care. Lone wolf “christians” are a danger to themselves and all those who take them seriously. I do not speak so bluntly to be offensive or hurt you. This is for your good. We have endulged your excessively long, ponderous post for over a week now. Please get your personal and eccle. act together (humble yourself to “some” Church with a semblance of Christian Orthodoxy) or stop dominating this blog with YOUR novel, smogasbourg theological constructs.
I had a feeling it would come to this. The past few posts are attempts to avoid the arguments I have made and start in on my personal life. This is very typical.
It’s come to this becasue the Christian faith is Personal & Relational…and moral…not reduced to abstract propsitional statements.
I unapproved your latest comment because it contained personal language: “your theology” and identified another person by name as an “apostate.” You can say that those who hold position X are no longer Christian; I may not agree with it but I can allow it. Bottom line, personal attacks have no place on this blog.
Also, your very long comments are dominating the conversation on this blog. Your comment to Canadian on July 27 ran over 1100 words. I’ve decided to cap your comments to 500 words per day. You can make multiple comments a day but your word count maximum will be 500 words for all comments combined. Anything more than that I will delete.
Folks, I am taking these steps because I want to ensure that the OrthodoxBridge will be a place where all can feel welcome to dialogue with each other in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Yous see when you take your view of relational truth, you can make the Bible say almost anything you want.
How can we make the Bible say whatever we want when we believe in Apostolic Succession and the Continuity of Christian Truth? Yes there would be wiggle room for some variety but the boundaries / parameters would put a limit on what can be said.
But you know that you are baiting the discussion using your propositional paradigm. Yours is a philosophical construct heavily reliant on Clark and not based on scripture and without reference to the church which is the pillar and ground of the truth. In good protestant fashion you connect your position to scripture after the paradigm is set and agreed with. Christianity is not discovered or lived this way. This is solo (yes solo) scriptura in action. You have admitted Clark botched Trinitarian and Incarnational issues, why do you trust his philosophy implicitly? I’ll tell you why….because you agree. This is how protestants work. Personal agreement trumps all authority, even Christ’s.
Judas had a direct relationship with Christ, therefore he had a direct propositional relation to him as well, partaking of His word and His power, and yes is lost in the end.
Can God be thought of separate from his word? If you mean the 66 book protestant canon with YOUR interpretation, then I think you are in trouble.
Will you have the bible in heaven? Will you think of God there?
You complained about us relating to your personal life rather than your answering your arguments. Listen, I contacted you after seeing your comment on Called to Communion because I had genuine concern and interest in YOU, not your propositions. Isn’t that what God’s love is supposed to do? James in his epistle chastises those who say “be filled and warmed” yet do nothing relational and real for that person.
I unapproved a comment where one person declared another person a non-Christian. This blog is not the place for passing judgment on one another. It’s okay to express concern about someone’s spiritual health or the way they do theology but damning another person is crossing the line.
Let us be kind and merciful to one another for we are all sinners in need of God’s mercy.
Well that’s because of your hierarchy. I guess I should have said that given your view of truth, the only thing that could keep things together would be an absolute hierarchy because the system itself can produce no objective truth.
It’s not produce, but protect.
Mr. Arakaki, thanks for posting this. I found out about Mercerburg Theology last year. It’s sad to see that anything and everything that tries to lead the Reformed in the right direction gets knocked down. Either that or it gets put on some type of Reformed heresy trial. Don’t they understand that to fight this type of stuff is only gonna put them even more at odds with Historical Christianity? Those who fight against Mercerburg Theology in the Reformed world are running further and further away from the Christian Historic Faith, and into something more and more unknown and un-christian.
I could be wrong, but I think the main difference between our view and John Calvin’s is pretty much the same as the difference between the Lutherans vs the Reformed.
The non-Zwinglian Reformed believe in a soft or weak spiritual presence and they pretty much stop there. They only see Christ’s human nature as being up in Heaven and not present in the Eucharist. I hope I am wrong, but if this is true then wouldn’t that be a form of Eucharistic Docetism?
Other than that, the non-Zwinglian Classical Reformed view seems to come pretty close to where we are. But I think we have more in common with the Lutheran and Roman Catholic views than we do with the Reformed tradition.
I’m not comfortable with the idea that some denominations are closer to Orthodoxy than others. One group may be closer to Orthodoxy on some issues but much farther removed on other issues. The main thing is if we want to have a fruitful Reformed-Orthodox dialogue we should start with what we both have in common before talking about our differences.
Some people will cling to their stereotyped views of their religion no matter what, but some are open to taking a closer look at their faith. I’m betting that there are more of these open minded folks nowadays and that they need someone to talk to. I hope that this blog site will provide an open and friendly forum for them to come to.
Your observation about the “soft or weak spiritual presence” are intriguing. Let me just say, that you might be stealing my thunder! I’m planning a posting on Calvin’s understanding of the real presence from an Orthodox standpoint in the future. If you want to write up your own article, feel free to do so and let me know; maybe I would want to post it as a guest posting.
No, I’ll let you write it. I only said what I said about a “soft” or “weak” presence because about a month before I became Orthodox I was listening to His eminence Metropolitan Kallistos Ware give a two and a half hour lecture at Duquesne University:
The Holy Spirit in the Liturgy of
Saint John Chrysostom
He described our view as a “strong Spiritual Presence”.
Also, in regards to what I said about the Lutheran view vs the Reformed. Well, it goes back to how one interprets the council of Chalcedon. Martin Luther interpreted it in a more Cyrillian fashion. The Reformed in a more Nestorian or Theodore of Mopsuestia fashion.
Dr. P. Cary hints at this in one of his lectures:
Lecture 11: The Doctrine of the Incarnation
The 3rd, 4th, and 5th councils are suppose to be Cyrillian. Well, they are suppose to be interpreted in a Cyrillian fashion. This is where the Reformed depart ways with us, and this is why we differ in our interpretations of Christology, Ecclesiology, and our different interpretations of the Eucharist. This might also have an influence on how we interpret what Scripture is(both Divine and human aspects of Scripture) as well.
You asked Drake who Farrel was. Well, his full name is Joseph P. Farrel and he translated a couple Patristic works into English. He also wrote a couple books. One of which is “Free Choice in Saint Maximus the Confessor”. It’s a book that’s extremely hard to find. You will have to get it through your local Library.
If I was hostile towards the Reformed please let me know. I don’t want to be.
Oh, I just noticed another difference. The Reformed view seems to be more subjective. While our view seems more objective.
“When you get sunburn you actually are burned by the energy of a distant and untouchable sun.”
>>>>That depends on your view of space and matter. Personally I think Zeno of Elea (The Paradox) closed the chapter on this endeavor and refuted beyond a shadow of a doubt that we understand what space is.
So until you can give me a definition of space and motion that has not already been refuted you are merely asserting your opinion.
“Christ’s humanity is united hypostatically to his divinity”
>>>Agreed, but how can an analogical participation in the energies be real?
“as the Councils make clear, each of his natures has it’s own energies, so this is testimony to a distinction between the divine nature and it’s divine energy”
I reject ADS following Dr. Clark as I catalogued here:
I understand that there are real distinctions between God’s essence and his will and power of operation.
“The natures are always distinct but the energies allow the sharing of properties in this one divine person.”
>>>Here is the meat and potatoes of the issue. Omnipresence is not a property it is an attribute. Eternal Generation is a property of the Logos. Omnipresence is an attribute of the Logos. What the Eastern view still can’t answer at least in my mind, is what actually is involved at the level of energy? When I read Farrell’s book on Maximus he asserted that the energies were both attributes and wills. I think this is indicative of the confusions involved with your construction. Are there property levels of energies as opposed to attribute levels of energies? When Reformed people criticize the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature which is necessary to the Anchoretic view of Transubstantiation and the adoration of the host, it is precisely because of this distinction between property and attribute. To assert that the body of Christ is present in numerous places at one time posits not a communication of properties but of attributes, namely omnipresence.
“I could be wrong, but I think the main difference between our view and John Calvin’s is pretty much the same as the difference between the Lutherans vs the Reformed.”
>>>Not sure how that could work if you both hold different views of God as the Lutherans hold to ADS. Both of you would have to come together on a definition of property that I don’t see possible.
“The non-Zwinglian Reformed believe in a soft or weak spiritual presence and they pretty much stop there.”
>>>I reject a soft or weak presence. I affirm a real pressence. If by soft you mean corporeal then yes I am weak but that assumes you have refuted my Augsutinian/Clarkian/Scripturalist Realism. From Edward Stillingfeet’s, The Doctrine’s and Practices of the Church of Rome Truly Represented with Introduction and Notes by William Cunningham (Edinburgh: Fraser & CO. 54, North Bridge; Smith Elder & CO.. and H. Washbourne, London; and W. Curry, Jun& CO. Dublin, 1837: Reprinted by Kessinger Publishing Legacy Reprints),
“In defending the monstrous doctrine of Transubstantiation, they commonly begin with proving the real presence of Christ in the sacrament, which no Protestant Church ever denied, – the dispute being, not to the reality, but the mode, of the presence of Christ; Papists holding that the he is present in a corporal and carnal manner to the senses of all communicants, and Protestants that he is present in a spiritual manner, to the faith of worthy receivers.” (pg. 69)
Your view of adoration must have a corporeal presence. You have a couple choices if you are in the Eastern Church:
1. Say that the bread and wine takes the hypostasis of Christ every time this ceremony is performed making Christ one person and millions of natures, not two natures.
2. Say that the bread and wine take the substance of Christ, while the accidents remain bread making Christ’s Humanity omnipresent and therefore committing you to a Eutychian Christology.
McGukin says on page 187 and 188 that the metaphysical transformation in the incarnation is the basis for adoring the bread and wine in the sacrament. (McGuckin, John A. St. Cyril of Alexandria The Christological Controversy. New York* Leiden, The Netherlands* E.J. Brill*Koln, 1994) Then on this view you have a metamorphosis not an Incarnation. This is Eutychian.
“They only see Christ’s human nature as being up in Heaven and not present in the Eucharist. I hope I am wrong, but if this is true then wouldn’t that be a form of Eucharistic Docetism?”
Docetism? Just the opposite. It is because his humanity is real and consubstantial with ours that it then by definition cannot be omnipresent.
“Oh, I just noticed another difference. The Reformed view seems to be more subjective. While our view seems more objective.”
>>>Agreed. Calvin’s Inst. 4.17.39
“This most admirably confirms what I elsewhere said—viz. that there cannot be a right administration of the Supper without the word. Any utility which we derive from the Supper requires the word. Whether we are to be confirmed in faith, or exercised in confession, or aroused to duty, there is need of preaching. Nothing, therefore, can be more preposterous than to convert the Supper into a dumb action. This is done under the tyranny of the Pope, the whole effect of consecration being made to depend on the intention of the priest, as if it in no way concerned the people, to whom especially the mystery ought to have been explained. This error has originated from not observing that those promises by which consecration is effected are intended, not for the elements themselves, but for those who receive them. Christ does not address the bread and tell it to become his body, but bids his disciples eat, and promises them the communion of his body and blood.”
The issue is not whether it is ok to consecrate the elements but what the definition of consecration is. The elements of bread and wine are by the promises and words of institution set apart for a sacramental use. This is against the Papist and Eastern idea of consecration which methinks is indicative of the Neoplatonism that so permeates the ancient churches and modern day “Protestantism”. “Encounter” with Christ is not a mystic trance which is exactly what the Anchoretic churches make of the Sacrament. Encounter with Christ is always accompanied by propositional revelation. This is why I take Gordon Clark’s view of Epistemology. Saving Faith and Encounter with Christ is to have the Logos impressed univocally upon man with understanding not some fiducial state that is methinks indistinguishable from Plotinus’ ecstatic vision of the One. The salvation is in the Word/The Truth not in a Psychological State. That is why the real presence is subjective to each communicant. A subject participates in the real presence by his faith and understanding. On Plotinus’ view, a prerequisite to encounter with the One was a suspension of the cognitive faculty because the One is a thoughtless Monad and beyond Being/predication, because a Mind with thoughts requires distinction and predication. So the person who encounters the One does not do so by faith in a proposition but by a psychological state. In this sense the word is not needed to encounter. A subject’s understanding is not required for the Encounter. That is EXACTLY what you guys believe. The Scripturalist/Clarkian Epistemology is IMO inescapable from Calvin’s view of the Sacraments. I am trying to show that to some other Reformed friends I have. On the Reformed view Encounter with Christ can never be separated from propositional revelation, and if you are a Reformed reader of this blog I would like to see you get a real presence if the Propositions are not the real objects of justification and therefore requiring a denial of analogical participation in God and an affirmation of Clark’s univocal participation. The Logos can never be separated from information. He is the Word, the Logos the Information. This is what I tried to show Robert in his article Calvin Versus The Icon: Was John Calvin Wrong? Mine is the last comment and has yet to be replied to.
“A subject participates in the real presence by his faith and understanding. ”
You refuse to give account of the reason, then, that judgement for partaking unworthily results from the ACT of eating and drinking. It is not only faith that makes the sacrament what it is and you are not transported to heaven to partake really and trully, as Calvin taught.
” Nevin’s understanding of a universal humanity flew in the face of Hodge’s nominalist philosophy (pp. 113-114). ”
I would like to see how you get a universal humanity. Are you saying that there is a Platonic Idea of the Genus of humanity in God’s Mind that becomes physically and numerically one with the Logos in his incarnation? If so, is this not admitting that there is a mind that thinks this idea? If so, if God is a mind, how can he be beyond predication? Farrell calls the energies rational principles. Does that mean that the energies are ideas in a mind?
This is a review of Jonathan Bonomo’s book on Nevin and Hodge. I’ll see if I can get Jonathan to answer your question. For now, I will say that I don’t think Nevin had Plato’s form in mind.
Pardon my ignorance, but who is this Farrell that you referred to? What is his full name and what did he write?
This isn’t that difficult. Christ took on humanity not just single instance of human nature. 1Cor 15:39 states there is one kind of flesh for humans. You don’t require a female nature and a male nature and a hispanic nature etc!
Drake is referring to Joseph Farrell’s work on the filioque and absolute divine simplicity.
Dear Baroque Norseman,
Thanks for the quick response. Is he worth reading? I went on the Internet and I couldn’t find any indication that he’s with St. Tikhon Seminary and I couldn’t find any indication that he has a credible theological training. But for now the question are: (1) what is the title that Drake is referring to? and (2) has it been recognized as a work of serious mainstream scholarship? Drake mentioned Vladimir Lossky, a well known Orthodox scholar. So I have no problems there.
Before his conspiracy theory novels he was teaching Patristics. He learned under +Kallistos Ware at Oxford University. The book Free Choice in Saint Maximus the Confessor is real serious stuff.
Yes. Here’s the deal with Farrell. He was connected with the “mainstream” Orthodox guys fifteen years ago. He translated (for the first time in English, I believe) St. Maximos’ disputation with Pyrrhus. His book on Maximus and Free Will, while impossible to find, may be the best thing on the topic.
He had a falling out with St Tikhon’s around a decade ago, I think. Since then he has written books dealing with alternative research–many of which are quite good, but many are sadly flawed.
His four or five works dealing with theology, though, are outstanding and have done more in my development than anything else.
Yeah I had to visit the Southern Baptist Library here in Louisville, Ky for months reading through his book on Maximus which runs about $400 on Amazon.
“You refuse to give account of the reason, then, that judgement for partaking unworthily results from the ACT of eating and drinking. ”
I did so publicly on my blog, William Cunningham and Edward Stillingfleet on the Real Presence, Transubstantiation and the Adoration of the Host in the Lord’s Supper [http://eternalpropositions.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/william-cunningham-and-edward-stillingfleet-on-the-real-presence-transubstantiation-and-the-adoration-of-the-host-in-the-lord%E2%80%99s-supper/] comment 2. I was replying to your comment,
“Yet the holy scriptures show that judgement comes in the act of eating and drinking unworthily for not discerning the body and blood of the Lord!”
[I replied] Yet in vs.28 he says, “But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup.” [Implying that there has been no metaphysical change in the elements as I know many of your Orthodox priests agree with]
This is simply sacramental language that the sign can be spoken of as the thing signified. This is Reformed Theology 101. I am about to write a blog on this. Jamieson Fausset Brown on 1 Cor 11:29 says,
“not duty judging: not distinguishing in judgment (so the Greek: the sin and its punishment thus being marked as corresponding) from common food, the sacramental pledges of the Lord’s body.”
The man in 1 Cor 29-29 is not considering what the bread and wine represent (The Lord’s Body and Blood) and not considering that they are signs and seals with legal obligations attached to them.
WCF CHAPTER XXVII.
Of the Sacraments.
I. Sacraments are holy signs and seals [Rom 4:11] of the covenant of grace, immediately instituted by God, to represent Christ and his benefits, and to confirm our interest in him…
II. There is in every sacrament a spiritual relation, or sacramental union, between the sign and the thing signified; ***************whence it comes to pass that the names and effects of the one are attributed to the other.***************”
The issue is, the legal obligation is not dependent on the real presence of Christ but on the nature of a seal as a sacramental emblem with real legal obligations attached to it, in opposition to the Baptistic Zwinglian view where the nature of a seal is denied and nothing real happens upon partaking of these elements.
“It is not only faith that makes the sacrament what it is”
>>>I am getting quite weary of having to repeat what I say to you multiple times and correct your misrepresentations of what I say. I had to do this numerous times at Called to Communion and here again.
My words verbatim :
“A subject participates in the real presence by his faith AND UNDERSTANDING.”
>>>My point the whole time is that it is the Word that makes the sacrament what it is. You are trying to drive a wedge between the Word/Logos and his words. There is no separation between believing in someone and believing what that person says. Thus the following verses:
John 4:21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
John 8:31 So Jesus was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine;
John 5: 46 “For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 “But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
Robert and Canadian,
“This is a review of Jonathan Bonomo’s book on Nevin and Hodge. I’ll see if I can get Jonathan to answer your question.”
>>>Actually, your view hangs on this premise as well. You must have a universal humanity that the Logos Hypostatizes and raises to immortality at the level of nature, per Maximus the Confessor. My point is I do not believe that your epistemology and doctrine of Gopd can support such a universal principle. My philosophy could support that possibility though I reject it. Dr. Clark said in his The Biblical Doctrine of Man (The Trinity Foundation: Jefferson, Maryland, 1984),
“Realism of course asserts the real existence of the human genus. This is an idea in God’s mind and it is a real object of knowledge. But it is hard to imagine any Realist identifying the perfect eternal idea with a temporal and imperfect individual. The relationship of Adam to the Idea is precisely the same as the relationship of any other individual man to the Idea. The individuals ‘participate’ in or are all ‘patterned after’ the Idea; but the notion that one individual is ‘physically and numerically one’ with the Idea, or that any other individual is ‘physically and numerically one’ with Adam is enough to send poor Plato to his grave in despair. This misunderstanding of Realism vitiates much of Hodge’s argumentation.” (pg. 49)
I believe that God, strictly the Father, per Monarchy, is a Divine Eternal Mind and therefore not beyond being/predication. His thoughts are the true realities and real objects of man’s knowledge. Your view must have the Logos ‘physically and numerically one’ with the Universal Idea of Humanity which your philosophy simply cannot support because this would mean that God is a mind and that would require predication but what it would also exclude is the raison d’être of your system which is the Union of Ignorance, per Lossky Vision of God. If you are united to a mind, by definition you are not united in ignorance but in univocal knowledge, which is my view.
Drake, do you deny these experiences?
Now it came to pass, as He sat at the table with them, that He took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him; and He vanished from their sight.
1 John 1:1-3
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”
We are not saying that we can’t comprehend anything at all. We are just saying that there will always be something about God that will be Incomprehensible. Remember, God is both Essence and Energies!
Your view seems to destroy that line. We are able to hold both Incomprehensibility and comprehensibility simultaneously. We are simultaneously Theists and Agnostics.
With your view, there is no wedge. There is no barrier or dividing line. What keeps your view from saying that union with God will cause 100% comprehensibility in all things? As if you will know everything there is to know about God? Isn’t God inexhaustible? You are making it seem as if there is something wrong with the view of God being Incomprehensible.
I don’t see anything wrong with it.
Good to hear from you.
“Drake, do you deny these experiences?”
“We are just saying that there will always be something about God that will be Incomprehensible. ”
“What keeps your view from saying that union with God will cause 100% comprehensibility in all things?”
First, the Logos is not ADS. He has a plurality of thoughts in an eternal mind, not a single thought or a thoughtless monad. Second I distinguish between object and manner. There was a group of men who supported Dr. Clark when he was being accussed of these very issues many years ago and they wrote a reply to these very issues titled THE ANSWER. The Answer says,
“The word knowledge has two meanings; both are good English; but the one should never be taken for the other. When one says, This man has great knowledge, the word refers to the objects. On the other hand when one says, Man has discursive knowledge, the word refers not the objects known, but to the manner of knowing…In the phrase, God’s knowledge of a proposition, the word knowledge refers to the intuitional character of his knowing. It cannot refer to the content known, for if it did, the phrase could be exactly reproduced as God’s object of an object or God’s truth of a truth, or, God’s proposition of a proposition. they (The Complaintents) claim that the manner of God’s knowing is no part of the doctrine of incomprehensibility. Hence the theory of the Complaint is that the objects or truths known by God are different from those known by man.” (The Answer pg. 20)
So I do not distinguish between essence and energy to base my view of participation in God but between object and manner. Man knows the objects univocally but he does not by that know the object eternally or become God.
Drake, didn’t you use to call yourself a Christian Platonist? If so, then why are you jumping on Lossky in the area of later Platonism(I was told that Neoplatonism was a term invented by 19th century Frenchmen)?
Shouldn’t you show the same common respect for Christians that make use of that system? Now if you no longer call yourself a Christian Platonist then I would understand, but if you still call yourself that then wouldn’t that be a double standard?
On my view Incomprehensibility means that we can only know about God as he reveals himself.
Are you seriously implying that I am the only Scripturalist? LOL! That’s a good one.
“Drake, didn’t you use to call yourself a Christian Platonist?”
>>>>Yes and I still do. All that simply means is that I am not an empiricist, I believe in innate structures and I believe in the reality of universals inside of a divine mind. The structure that I operate off of was first posited by Philo Judaeus. I don’t take everything from Philo but the idea that God is a divine mind and the True Essences are the Ideas in his Mind is solid. There is no chain of being in this mind with a subordinate demiurge. No movement of perfection towards unity and imperfection towards distinction. I do not believe in a Good outside of and superior to God. It is completely different from Plato’s Platonism and whenever I get this from you or David P it’s simply comical.
“If so, then why are you jumping on Lossky in the area of later Platonism(I was told that Neoplatonism was a term invented by 19th century Frenchmen)?”
You make me want to laugh Jnorm.
“Shouldn’t you show the same common respect for Christians that make use of that system?”
If you think what I am saying has anything to do with Plotinus’ system I doubt if you have ever made your way through even a rudimentary textbook on Western philosophy.
It’s okay to disagree with Canadian and Jnorm, but please refrain from making derisive comments. Personal attacks, even indirect, are not welcome on this blog.
Folks, remember the purpose of this blog is for people to interact with each other with charity and mutual respect. It’s important that this be a safe place for theological inquiry.
I know you like ripping my comments to shreds, as you are certainly superior to me intellectualy, but 1100 words? I hope you just cut and pasted some Puritan tome or something, cause if you typed that and thought it all out, it would have been depressing to have it deleted!
I’m kinda dying to know what you said. Maybe Robert can recover it and censor the Puritan….I mean….er…..nasty parts.
And did you finally resort to calling me “apostate”? By name? Tsk, tsk, tsk. That charge may hurt my little feelings, but it carries no authority, being a function of the church n’ all. (Matt. 18)
I listen to what you say. I read many of your links. You aptly corrected me on C2C about the Son and Spirit being autotheos. I hope you know I am sincere when I wish you well and even when I have a little sarcastic fun. But if, as Robert said in his last comment, you attacked me with “your theology” then I can say honestly that this is what our whole disagreement comes down to. This is not my theology! It is that of another….greater than I.
I don’t trust myself. I need the church and choose to submit my interpretive authority to her. Where I am wrong or disagree with the church’s teaching, then you may charge me personally as I said above.
P.S. I am curious to know what set you all-a-tither from my measly little comment 🙂
Grace and peace.
I didn’t delete Drake’s 1100 words comment. It’s in the comments for “Incarnation and Sacrament.” Although it’s pretty recent, it’s kinda near the top of the comments, not at the bottom. Look for Drake’s comment dated: “July 27, 2011 at 6:09 am” and which begins with: “Canadian, “Yours is a philosophical construct….” Comments are placed not so much by chronological order as by responses to responses.
I left this comment by Drake go because I had not yet made the policy decision setting the daily maximum for Drake’s contribution. But from here on out I expect Drake to adhere to this decision. This decision was made out of concern for the quality of dialogue on this blog.
I am interested in the C2C interchange, if you have a link to it. I’ve been studying autotheos in theology for a while.
I meant to reply to Canadian, and not to Robert.
That was my problem, speaking of what I did not understand 🙂
Here’s the link:
But the discussion was not about autotheos except where I made a comment in response to Drake about God’s foreknowing only what He causes. I asked him If God knows his uncaused Son and Spirit, trying to show that God’s knowing does not mean he will cause everything he knows. I was wrong about that as of course the Son and Spirit have their source from the Father, the monarch and fountainhead of the Trinity. That was it. The rest was basically about monergism/synergism and Christology. As usual, Perry is a much better representative of Orthodox theology and his comments there are very good.
Not sure why my last comment jumped up before the last few earlier ones. Are you able to put it at the end then delete this one?
I wish I knew how the WordPress software works. I’ll just leave things as they are.
Sorry I misplaced it in the order of things here. It’s under jnorm ‘ s July 26 at 12:16 comment. It’s near the top. My bad.
I still want a response to this. This is a video by Rob Bell, who denied the everlasting torments of hell as taught in scripture:
Rob Bells says at 2:40-2:50 “The Bible is not the point, the point is knowing Jesus Christ and the power of his ressurection.”
What is the difference between what you are saying and what he is saying?
Well, I think this is a false choice…between knowing Christ and known Scripture. And while I’m no fan of Bells, I believe he is using some tongue-in-cheek language to rattle the status-quo who are cock-sure all their ideas about hell are truth. But let me ask you a couple questions:
1) Is knowing Christ and the power of His ressurection more important than knowing Scritpture? (Can you know one…without knowing the other?)
2) How DID the Apostles & their disciples “know Christ and the power of His ressurection” during the 18-30+ years before the NT scriptures (Gospels or Epistles) were written…much less widely distributed to the Churches, and copies amongst the flock?
3) How did Abraham, Issac, Jacob, Joseph “know God” before Moses wrote the Torah?
4) Is literacy and broad distributions of written Scriptures absolutely essential for humans to know any truth about God?
5) Can children “know truth” of any kind before they are literate?
6) Have the billions of illiterate humans (freemen & salves alike) throughout antiquity been altogether ignorant of any useful knowledge?
Don’t misunderstand me here. I think literacy and the written words is a wonderful thing…a gift from God. Yet real knowledge, truth or even language are clearly NOT dependent upon literacy. Many wise men have lived largely within an oral tradition that should not be denigrated. For example, many southern slaves were excellent earth engineers…though illiterate. Beware of a form of “Bible-olotry” leading you to a silly epistemology. Babies decode language(s) and know much long before they are literate…so have millions of Disciples…by Liturgy, oral tradition, Icons…?
David-July 27, 2011 at 8:16 pm
1.) 1.First my view of saving knowledge requires a volition of faith. 2. Personal knowledge and saving knowledge are not one and the same. Men know God innately but as fallen they hate him and believe not his teachings. 3. As I have already pointed out, knowing Christ and knowing what he said cannot be separated. John 4:21. John 8:31 .John 5: 46-47. John 6:63
2.) Jhn 14:26 But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
3.) There has been much said by revelation that is not in the canon. Abel was a prophet Luke 11:50-51. Also, Innate structures, Jhn 1:9.
4.) Absolutely not. That is why I denied that the pages and ink of the Bible give knowledge of God. Knowledge comes immediately from the Logos. He is the only source of knowledge. The Teacher.
5.) Absolutely (Lk 1:15). This is why Western Scholasticism is completely wrong. Knowledge of God comes without the creature.
6.) No. The Logos lights every man who comes into the world with general and innate revelation. Jhn 1:9.
By the way I was born and raised in the Moss Point, Pascagoula area. Small world. I was born in a hospital in Pascagoula and lived in Moss Point my first years.
Who’d a thunk. Amazing “coincident” about Moss Point/gula, no?
As for my questions:
1) Is that a yes or no? Is it more important to “know Christ, and the power of His ressurection”…or know Scritpure? (Of course I’m talking salvivically…and demons “know scripture.)
2) So that’s a yes…apostles/disciples a vast horde have “known Christ and the power of His ress….” before and separate from seeing scripture.
4) Partly agreed. Most knowledge comes via “mediated” means, rather than ‘immediately’ via direct contact. God’s people, Priest, preachers, sacraments…all “mediating means” of God’s grace and knowledge. (think Warfield got this one wrong…or just overstated…)
5) Agreed first…then disagree. Most knowledge comes via means…via community of saint wherein the ministries of grace & sacraments teach us “mediately”…via “sensible signs” or common means. (immediate knowledge directly from God is certainly possible — but the extra-ordinary means.) This is another reason Why it is so dangerous to be “outside” the community and fellowshi of the Church. It robs and impoverishes you…and makes you proud rather than humble.
6) Agreed…so all are “without excuse”. Yet “natural/common” revelation is often non-salvivic, unlike other various means of grace/revelation in the Church and via sacraments that normally ARE salvivic.
My view of “relational/union with Christ/Trinity” does not make the Bible say whatever I want. Indeed, scriptur means what the Church fathers (in Counsel, confirmed by the Churches over centuries) understand it means.
I just want to add that your view of a relationship/union with Christ makes a lot of sense from the standpoint of covenant. We enter into a covenant relationship with the Suzerain and abide by the conditions set forth in the covenant document. Our relationship is with the Suzerain, not the book. This has parallels with the Orthodox Church’s understanding of itself as the New Israel. But it is pretty far removed from Evangelicalism’s buddy-buddy understanding of having “a personal relationship with Christ.”
Slightly off topic…but very provocative article that will interest many here.
Titled “A Thinking Man’s Faith”
So where are you? Are you in Orthodoxy or in that FV Church?
I’m been at Auburn Avenue Presbyterian 19+ yrs (now CREC ) in Monroe, LA where Steve Wilkins is Pastor. Reading lots of Orthodoxy the past year (on a dare from several younger FB friends/converts)…been to four DLs. Really like this blog as it’s not afraid to openly discuss all those “inflamatory” issues the Scott & English Puritans who’ve been savaging the CREC FV men about. Seems few of them (per Bonomo’s paper and much of what’s been here) have really read and understood Calvin & the early continental Reformers theology, and imagine their far more narrow and baptistic theology the “real” Reformed maCoy…much less have carefully read serious Orthodoxy? How ’bout you Drake?
Concerning Systematic Theology I have my roots in the Scottish Covenanter Tradition.I am a Clarkian Scripturalist which requires a few exceptions to the Westminster Confession; most importantly ADS and the accomanying erroneous Sabellian Triadology/Filioque. If it was not for this issue I would be at the PRCE Church (RPNA) http://www.reformedpresbytery.org/.
So I’m pretty much not involved with any local assembly.
Of course, brother, I’ve already given you my warning about the danger of such independency from ‘any’ Church authority & oversight…(Pv. 18:1) There is no Perfect Church, Presbyterian or Orthodox…they’re all full of sinners…like us! 🙂
My problem is not the sin in the Church. Every Church has sin. My problem is a false constitution.
I would also like to point out your Pseudo Protestant Ecclesiological claim that I am an independent. An independent acknowledges no courts but his own. What I have done is poured out my youth to study all the major branches of Christian history and make myself familiar with their courts. I am holding as authoritative the courts at Nicea when I proclaim the West’s schismatic doctrine of the Filioque and ADS. I am holding to many courts in Scotland in the 17th century that concern issues of authority. I hold as authoritative many courts outside of myself as authoritative and so by definition I am not an independent. Saint Augustine when he is up against the entire period of Pre-Socratic Philosophy in De Magistro posits THE only Christian theory of knowledge possible and quite frankly I find both the Eastern and Western Churches to be Schismatic from what he worked out there. I find the modern Presbyterians and Romanists to be schismatic from Nicea. I think the Eastern Church is schismatic from the Reg. Principle established all over the Old and New Testaments. You are the schismatic not me.
Again, you are “choosing” your courts based on personal interpretation of the material at hand. You are your final court of appeal when it comes to choosing courts that are in conflict. You therefore submit to none except in the things you agree with.
Your self-serving arguments and ‘logic’ have Roger Williams’ anabaptistic independancy written all over them. He couldn’t “sumbit himself” to ANY Church, so he settled for “communion” with only his wife! (Rumor has it…he suspected her. :-))
Good rule of thumb: “When you find that not ONE established Christian Church of any kind/flavor on terra firma (or perhaps in all history) agrees with you…YOU are wrong!” It is The Supreme posture of pride and arrogance. Humble yourself brother. (Wouldn’t bother if we didn’t care about you.)
Your complaint is indicative of the arbitrary authority that you are enslaved to. To demand that a man submit his conscience to something that is not in his mind understood or consented to is arbitrary authority and indistinguishable from popery. You are arguing like a Romanist.
“It’s not produce, but protect.”
But you still have to explain what you believe. If truth is not propositional but relational it is by definition subjective not objective and in order to protect one absolute subjective truth you must trust all authority into the hands of a single subject. Your view of authority produced Popery and that is where your patriarch is leading you. Maybe Ware is just being consistent. Have fun with that.
Your problem is that is the exact thing the early reformers thought. Look at Knox’s life, whittingham etc. They came to the conclusion that Christianity ad they knew it in their civilization was wrong and had been wrong for centuries. This is the exact reason that John Knox was not ordained as a Presbyterian pastor by any other ordained man. He was ordained by his congregation. You are not a Presbyterian. Your church is not Presbyterian.
Paul charged Titus to ordain elders in every city of Crete. He did not tell him to charge the congregations in Crete to ordain elders for themselves.
Paul and Barnabas in Acts 14 ordain elders in various places, the churches do not ordain for themselves. This also show a difference in bishops and presbyters in the NT: Paul, Barnabas, Titus, Timothy etc, ordain elders over large areas but those that they ordain do not have the same authority to go and ordain more elders.
Due Right of Presbyteries,
“I deny not, but there is a power virtual, not formal in the Church of believers, to supply the want of ordination of pastors, or some other acts of the keys simply necessary…this power is virtually not formal, and extraordinary not ordinary, not official, not peroperly authoritative, as ina Church in a land, where the pastors are dead, or taken away by pest or otherways, the people may ordain Pastors or rather do that which may supply the defect of ordination, as David…did eat shewbread…What if in an extreme case of necessity, a private man, endued with gifts and zeal should teach publicly, after the example of the faithful as Samosten…an ordinary ministry might be imposed on a…private person by the Church, though the Presbytery consent not, in case of necessity.” (pg. 7-8)
I would like for you to take into consideration the Church at St. Andrews which according to your principles would not have been a Church, who had no officers, was self governing and was standing in direct protest to the “Established” Churches of any flavor at the time and proclaimed itself right and everyone else wrong and ordained John Knox. Kevin Reed Says,
“Consequently, Rough entreated Knox to assume the role of a public preacher….On the appointed day, Rough ascended the pulpit and preached a sermon on the election of ministers. He noted the danger for any man to refuse to serve the church, when the congregation perceived him to be gifted by God for the task. After finishing his message, Rough turned to Knox, and adjured him, “In the name of God and of his Son, Jesus Christ, and in the name of all that presently call you by my mouth, I charge you that you refuse not this holy vocation; but, as you tender the glory of God, the increase of Christ’s kingdom, the edification of your brethren, and the comfort of me, whom you understand well enough to be oppressed by the multitude of labors, that you take the public office and charge of preaching, even as you look to avoid God’s heavy displeasure, and desire that he shall multiply his grace unto you.”
Rough then turned to the congregation and asked them to confirm their approval of the call. They gave hearty assent to the proposal.
Visibly struck by the weight of this charge, Knox burst into tears, and fled to his room. With somber countenance, he spent several days pondering the meaning of this call. Knox obeyed this call of his brethren as the call of the Lord, and soon became a powerful instrument in the cause of Christ.”
Presbyterian Government in Extraordinary Times, http://www.swrb.com/newslett/actualNLs/PGET_ch1.htm
I appreciate your concern for another visitor to this site but I think your recent comment can be construed as a personal attack. For that reason I unapproved the comment. Also, I’m not comfortable with your suggestion that demonic forces may be behind some rather extreme positions that have been voiced on this site. You are welcome to reword your comment, just delete the personal references.
Folks, we should be praying for each other’s spiritual wellbeing and for the enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. We all need God’s mercy; this includes Orthodox and the non-Orthodox. Let us talk about what we believe and why we hold to these convictions but take care not to get into personal attacks. Christianity is more than just a system of ideas, therefore, we should all support each other through prayer.
Heavenly King, Comforter, Spirit of truth,
Who are present everywhere and filling all things,
Treasury of good things and Giver of life, come and dwell in us.
Cleanse us of every stain, and save our souls, gracious Lord.
Robert, thanks for doing a good job moderating! My comment wasn’t intended as a personal attack, but it was obviously not well-considered as a response to some of the discussion here, and I’m glad you did not allow it.
With regard to the issue of demonic forces, my intention was just to observe that when we are talking about spiritual truth and proper interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, though vigorous use of our God-given intellect can be a virtue and certainly may be used of God (as we see in the Scriptures with the Apostle Paul, Apollos, and others), it can also become a stumbling-block when we refuse to acknowledge its limitations (and our own) in rightly connecting us to God and His Church. Human reason, standing alone, is no match for satan’s deceptive powers (and we all know he loves to enlist God’s own words, twisted to his own ends, for his own destructive purposes). Over-reliance on our own powers of reason (or even those of another respected human being) can easily become idolatrous and the devil’s playground. The same Apostle Paul who argued persuasively in synogogues and before pagan throngs and leaders, was also inspired to write 1 Corinthians 2:1-5, and in another context (but istm with applications to this one) 1 Corinthians 8: 1b-3. The bottom line is that the most brilliant human reason and persuasion in the world–even the most well-intended– cannot do the Holy Spirit’s job for Him. But, no doubt, I’m preaching to the choir here. Keep up the good work!
Thank you Karen! And let me just say that the Apostle Paul wrote that demonic forces can block our perception of spiritual truth (II Corinthians 4:1-6). We all need to be steadfast and diligent in prayer as we discuss spiritual truths.
Yes, that reality was very much on my mind as I was reading these exchanges as well. Thanks for adding the reference.