Monday, July 12, 2010

Objections to Osiander's "Essential Righteousness"

We started reading Calvin's objections to Osiander yesterday, and today that is all we read about.  According to my original schedule, it should continue tomorrow as well, but I am cramming two days worth of reading into one so we can move on.

Luther's motto was "justification by faith alone," but that does not mean that faith in and of itself has the power to justify.  Only God can justify.  Osiander and Calvin both agree on this point.  Faith by itself is weak and imperfect.  Where Osiander went wrong was he failed to understand that each member of the Trinity has the same abilities as any other member of the Trinity.  He does not transfer the power of justification between God the Father and God the Son.  Calvin writes, "...then we transfer this same function to Christ because he was given to us for righteousness."

Christ is both God and man - fully divine and fully human.  Osiander attempted to divide these two natures.  When we are told in Scripture that Christ was made righteousness for us, Osiander claimed that this was Christ's divine nature only.  Calvin argues that this is not the case, but we "do not divide Christ but confess that he, who reconciling us to the Father in his flesh, gave us righteousness, is the eternal Word of God, and that the duties of the Mediator could not otherwise have been discharged by him, or righteousness acquired for us, had he not been eternal God."

Likewise, Osiander wrongly argued that justification could only be ascribed to Christ's divine nature.  Calvin squashed this idea be reminding his readers that Christ fulfilled the office of priest in His human nature.  "In his flesh, Christ's righteousness has been manifested to us."  We are justified through Christ and His atoning sacrifice for us.  His sacrifice was made for us while in human form, not His divine nature.

Calvin discusses next the nature of our union with Christ.  When we are apart from Christ, we are deprived of His righteousness.  But when we become His, we are engrafted into His body.  Calvin writes, "Therefore, that joining together of Head and members, that indwelling of Christ in our hearts - in short, that mystical union - are accorded by us the highest degree of importance, so that Christ, having been made ours, makes us sharers with him in the gifts with which he has been endowed."  We have a spiritual bond with Christ.  Osiander contended that Christ was poured into us, not that we become part of His body.  Calvin compared this idea to transubstantiation, which Osiander also was a proponent of.  Also, Osiander contended that God "breathed His righteousness upon us" so that we may be actually righteous ourselves, not just clothed in the righteousness of Christ.

Calvin concludes in the last two sections here that Osiander's doctrine "nullifies the certainty of salvation."  His idea of us becoming righteous along with God inflates our egos and prevents us from being totally reliant on God's mercy and grace.  Osiander believed that God would never justify those who remain sinful.  Calvin clarified again that justification and regeneration are separate acts.  Traces of sin remain in those who are justified therefore God grants justification to His people not in part but liberally.  Regeneration is a separate process, gradual in nature, leading to a newness of life.

One more point that Osiander makes which I think is all out heresy is that Christ the man was not righteous, but Christ is only righteous in His divine nature.  Scripture is clear that Christ is righteous, always.  He claims that the righteousness of Christ that we receive is from His divine nature, but Calvin responds that the righteousness we receive is bestowed upon us is the righteousness of God, but it was in Christ's death and resurrection that there is righteousness and life for us. 

Tomorrow's reading: 3.11.13-3.11.17

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