Monday, April 26, 2010

Heresies Refuted

After looking at the relationship between the two natures of Christ, Calvin takes a look at some of the heresies related to this doctrine.  There are three individuals who espoused these errors: Nestorius, Eutyches, and Servetus.  In one way or another, each of them attempted to take away from one of Christ's natures or blend them together in an unorthodox way.  Calvin says, "They seize upon the attributes of his humanity to take away his divinity, conversely upon those of his divinity to take away his humanity; and upon those spoken of both natures so conjointly that they are applicable to neither, to take away both."  Our right response is to "hold that Christ, as he is God and man, consisting of two natures united but not mingled, is our Lord and the true Son of God even according to, but not by reason of, he humanity."  Nestorius attempted to pull apart the two natures of Christ, or make him a "double-Christ".  Eutyches, in an attempt to show the unity of the Christ, commingled the two natures of Christ in a fashion that destroyed one of the natures.  Neither of these approaches are acceptable, right, or orthodox.  "For it is no more permissible to commingle the two natures in Christ than to pull them apart."

Michael Servetus and his error are described by Calvin in this next section.  He believed that Christ was a "figment compounded from God's essence, spirit, flesh, and three uncreated elements."    He believed that Christ was made in Mary's womb, not an eternal person of the Trinity.  He also believed that Christ was "a mixture of some divine and some human elements, but not to be reckoned both God and man."  According to Servetus, Christ did not exist in reality before His birth, but references to Him before this time were only "shadow figures in God."  For the first time that I remember, Calvin used the term "hypostatic union."  He writes, "Now the old writers defined 'hypostatic union' as that which constitutes one person out of two natures."  This term came about when orthodox theologians were battling against Nestorius.  It describes the way that Christ was fully God and fully human at the same time.  Christ is eternal and has always been the Son of God.  Also, God the Father has always been the Father - even before He was Creator, he was still the Father.  Calvin writes, "if Paul's statement is true - that Christ was always the Head and the first-born of all creatures that he might hold primacy over all [cf. Colossians 1:15ff] - it seems meet for me to infer that he was the Son of God also before creation of the world."

Servetus argued that the only way Christ could have been called the "Son of God" is because he was born in the flesh.  We believe that Christ has always been the Son of God, not strictly because he was born in this world.  Calvin writes, "We admit Christ is indeed called 'son' in human flesh; not as believers are sons, by adoption and grace only, but the true and natural, and therefore the only, Son in order that by this mark he may be distinguished from all others."  Calvin goes on to show proof that Christ was composed of two natures.  He uses 2 Corinthians 13:4 as a defense: "For though He was crucified in weakness, yet He lives by the power of God."  The "weakness" here is his humanity and the "power of God" is his divinity.  Calvin also explains that when the phrase "Son of man" is used, this displays that he is of the posterity of Adam.  When the phrase "Son of God" is used, it displays his deity and eternal essence.

Calvin refers to Servetus' "flimsy counterevidence" for the next section.  Servetus used Romans 8:32 and Luke 1:32 to support his claim that Christ was only the Son of God - not the Son of man.  Servetus also claimed that no where in Scripture before Christ was born was he called the "Son of God" except figuratively.  Calvin writes, "Augustine sagely warns us that his is the bright mirror of God's wonderful and singular grace; for he has attained an honor that, in so far as he is man, he could not have deserved.  Christ was therefore adorned with this excellence according to the flesh, even from the womb, to be the Son of God.  Yet we must not imagine in the unity of his person a mingling that takes away what belongs to his deity."

The final section summarizes Servetus' heretical views on the two natures of Christ.  Important things to remember here are that Christ is eternal, he was not created.  Christ is both the Son of God and the Son of man spoken of in Scripture.  He is both fully human and fully divine. 

Tomorrow's reading: 2.15.1-2.15.3

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your postings. I am studying with a group in Wichita, Ks. Steve Page


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