Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Osiander and His Objections

Today marks two important milestones in my journey through Calvin's Institutes.  The first is that this is my 100th post.  The second is that last night I hit 1,000 fans on Facebook (even though they quit calling them fans this week).  When I started the blog in January and then put it on Facebook in February, I figured I could get 20-30 people to follow the blog and hold me accountable.  I really had no idea that I would ever hit 1,000+.  Thank you for keeping me focused on continuing through Calvin every day.

Yesterday we read the first part of chapter 12 about our need for Christ to come to us in the flesh.  Today, Calvin deals with objections to the idea that Christ had to appear in the flesh, mostly argued by a theologian named Osiander.  Calvin looked at several of Osiander's objections and attacked them directly.  The first issue Calvin took up was against the notion that if redemption had not been necessary that Christ would still have become man.  The whole reason for Christ coming to us in human form was because of our desperate need for redemption.  Christ was "wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:5-6 NKJV).  Christ came to redeem us.  That is why he came.  Calvin listed a number of Old and New Testament passages to prove his point.  He stopped after a while and wrote, "There would be no end of passages if we wished to refer to all of them!"  Isn't that really the whole point of Scriptures?  It is the story of redemption.  If a story is being told about redemption, wouldn't the central figure be the Redeemer?  So of course there are too many passages to list unless you just quote Genesis 1:1 - Revelation 22:21!

The second objection comes in the form of a question and is very related to the first.  The question was posed "Would Christ have also become man if Adam had not sinned?"  Initially, I saw this as almost identical to the first because if Adam had not sinned we would not be in need of redemption.  Osiander claimed that Christ would have still have come to us in human form to show His love for us even if Adam had not sinned and we were not in need of redemption.  God knew before He created all things that man would sin and be in need of restoration.  Calvin writes, "...the fall of Adam is not presupposed as preceding God's decree in time; but it is what God determined before all ages that is shown, when he willed to heal the misery of mankind."  As we have discussed before, Calvin despised idle speculation and curiosity.  He digs in to Osiander and William of Ockham here, speaking of the "madness of certain persons," who in, "their absurd way to appear witty," are proposing heresies.  It is always fun to read when Calvin is getting worked up over the bad theology of others.

Osiander contended that he was the "first to see what the image of God was."  He believed that "God's glory shone not only in the exceptional gifts with which Adam was adorned, but that God dwelt essentially in him."  Calvin responds by saying that Adam bore God's image, but not any more than the angels.  But, "if we believe in Christ, we shall take on the form of angels [Matthew 22:30] when we are received into heaven, and this will be our final happiness."

Calvin runs through several more of Osiander's objections.  The first was if there were no decree that Christ had to become man whether or not redemption was necessary and Adam had not sinned, then God would have been made out to be a liar.  This is Osiander's continued argument that Christ would have come no matter what - whether to redeem or just show God's love to us.  Calvin states that if there were to be no sin ever and Christ were to come, he would have been the First Adam, not the Second Adam and redeemer because he came before creation.  Osiander believed that Christ only had primacy over the angels when he was in the flesh.  Calvin uses selected phrases from Colossians 1:15-18.  I will quote all three verses here with Calvin's quotes italicized:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.  
 Osiander claimed that if Christ had not become man, that men would have never recognized his authority as King.  Calvin counters this argument by pointing out that Christ is still the head of the church even though he has ascended and could have even if he had never appeared in the flesh.  Finally, Osiander claims a "prophecy of Adam" when he spoke, "This is now the bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh" (Genesis 2:23 p.).  Osiander claimed that in Matthew, Christ attributed these same words to God.  Calvin responds by saying, "As if everything God spoke through men contained some prophecy!"  He goes on to tell us that this is just a statement concerning faithfulness in marriage.  Paul does interpret this passage in Ephesians 5:30-31 as a representation of our union with Christ.

Tomorrow's reading: 2.13.1-2.13.2

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