Protestants of a classical stripe (Calvinists and Lutherans) often make a lot of noise over “the gospel.” Soteriological issues understood primarily in moral and legal categories are of utmost importance for them. How can one stand before a holy deity? How is a person vindicated or justified before God is always on their lips.
A more substantial grasp of the Reformation controversies between Rome and different Reformation traditions (Lutheran, Reformed, Anabaptist) discloses that the issues are not fundamentally soteriological. The issues are something of a replay of the older Christological debates. Soteriological and other adjoined debates concerning the nature of the sacraments and their efficacy or Mary are a function of one’s Christology. Take under consideration the following citations.
“Lutherans have learned from experience that any error in the doctrine of the Sacrament inevitably indicates a prior error in Christology.” David P. Scaer, Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics: Christology” 56.
Concerning Mary, “The Reformed have generally favored the Nestorian position and denied Mary that title[Theotokos], though Calvin did not.” Scaer 57
“The Reformed hypothetically hold to the genus idiomaticum, but this is a verbal and not a real predication, as each of the natures remain not only distinct but separate. Thus to this day Reformed theologians do not operate with any meaningful understanding of the genus idiomaticum and in effect still deny the personal or hypostatic union in Christ.” Ibid.
“Whereas the greatest difference betwneen the Lutherans and the Reformed appears in the genus maiestaticum, which the Reformed utterly reject, we note that the Reformed view of the communicatio, which tends to be restricted to the genus idiomaticum, approarches the communication more as a praedicatio verbalis, or verbal predication, of idiomata from both natures of the person, whereas the Lutheran view insists that the person actually bears the idiomata of both natures. The Reformed, in addition, do not view the apostelesmata, or shared operations, of the natures as a genus of the communicatio idiomatum but as a separate communicatio apostelesmatum according to which the distinct operations of both natures are brought to completion in the one work of Christ. Thus, Lutheran teaching is a real communicatio while the Reformed, remaining at the level of a communicatio in concreto only, is quite accuratley called antidosis onomaton, a mutual interchange of reciprocation of names, rather than a transfer of communication of properties…” Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms, 74.
“While the Reformed held, at least according to their own definitions, to the genus idiomaticum and the genus apostelesmaticum, they rejected the genus maiestaticum, because it indicated that God’s majesty and glory were communicated to the human nature. The philosophical axioms of Reformed theology, which in practice became their theology’s formal principle, deny that the finite is capable of any association with the infinite (finitum non est capax infiniti) and hence the human nature of Christ (finite) is incapable of receiving any divine properties (infinite) by virtue of the Personal Union of the two natures in Christ.” Scaer, 58
Philosophical axioms driving Reformed theology you say? Huh, I thought it was supposed to be just derives from the exegesis of the Bible. Huh. Ya learn something new every day it seems.
“For Lutherans the genus maiestaticum meant that the divine attributes not only were assigned to the human nature but were operative in and through it.” Ibid.
“We must be careful not to understand the term [communicatio idiomatum] to mean that anything peculiar to the divine nature was communicated to the human nature , or vice versa; or that there is an interpenetation of the two natures, as a result of which the divine is humanized, and the human deified (Rome). The deity cannot share in human weaknesses; neither can man participate in any of the essential perfections of the Godhead.” Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 324.
Gee, I wonder how God died?
“In order to compensate for this lack of divine attributes in Jesus’ human nature, Berkhof, in exemplary Reformed fashion, has spoken of the human nature of Christ as receiving special gifts of the Holy Spirit. Thus the human nature of Christ has superior intelligence and is incapable of sinning. Christ is even capable of receiving adoration, but Berkhoff carefully avoids seeing Him as an object of worship.” Scaer, 60
Hmm, sounds like adoptionism. But to continue.
“Inherent in the genus maiestaticum is a tension which Confessional Lutheran theology does not attempt to resolve. Through this genus the human nature posseses divine and human attributes which appear to oppose each other.” Scaer, 61
Tension and opposition? Would that be like dialectic perhaps? Like distinguishing objects by opposite properties? Hmm so could the opposition and dialectic in Lutheran theology between law and gospel be the result of their Christology? Hmm.
“The Reformed recognized the genus apostelesmaticum, but understood it as each nature working towards accomplishing the one work of Christ…Thus the natures exist and work side by side in parallel wich each other but without communication.” Scaer, 62-63
Natures work? I thought persons did that. In any case sounds like two continugous functioning substances coming to gether in a common appearance and will. Nestorius or Pyrrus anyone? With natures doing all this work, natures must be what is fundamentally real huh? Who needs persons?
“The possibility that Christ could sin would presuppose that there exists in nature a neutral, third position between holiness and sin. Such a position of moral neutrality has never existed. Man is in either a state of sin or holiness or both at the same time.” Scaer, 63.
I thought it presupposed that there was such a thing as nature and it differed from grace. A dialectic between sin and grace seems not only quite unAugustinian, but Gnostic.
Naw couldn’t be. After all, I just make this stuff up.