Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 14

This is the post #31 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

This chapter is still about the Christology, particularly on the two natures in one person. Calvin shows from Scripture that Christ is God and man at the same time, although the eternal Word always existed, even before the incarnation. Interestingly, he takes the biblical phrase, "son of man" as showing the humanity of Christ while the phrase, "Son of God" as showing His divinity. It is possible that Calvin may have overlooked the significance of the phrase "son of man" in Daniel and in the gospels as pointing to His divinity, but I could be wrong.
In the later sections, Nestorianism (divided person of Christ) and Eutychianism (mixed natures of Christ) are explicitly rejected. Calvin further shows how his contemporary Michael Servetus was grossly wrong in his teachings about Christ.

The wonder of Christ, the God-man

"Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be borne in the virgin's womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world even as he had done from the beginning!"
  -- Calvin, Institutes, II. xiii. section 4

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 13

This is the post #30 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

In this chapter, Calvin argues from Scripture that those opinions about Christ that He was not quite human like us are completely wrong. From Scripture, Calvin seems to say something similar to Anselm, that Christ became one of us in order to redeem us, human beings. Yet, He was sinless. There were some opinions about Christ that His genealogy and titles (such as "son of man") were metaphorical or indicates that He was somehow different human being from us. Against this, Calvin argues that Christ was completely human (and God at the same time) except He was sinless. This sinlessness does not make Him any less human, for sin is not part of the human nature, but only the corruption of human nature.

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 12

This is the post #30 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

In this chapter, Calvin argues that Jesus is both true God and true man by appealing to the Scriptures. He dismisses the idea that even without Adam's Fall, Christ would have become man to be the head of humanity. He does so partly by arguing that such idea is a speculation that cannot be grounded in Scripture, and hence be rejected. He also shows that such idea is absurd when thinking about Christ's headship over the angels as He never "becomes" an angel to be the head. Calvin strongly opposes Osiander's view that man was fashioned according to the pattern of the Messiah to come in flesh (this was a subtle point with some significant consequences, but it was a bit hard to follow).
Calvin's view or summary of atonement is stated in section 3 as below:
"that man, who by his disobedience had become lost, should by way of remedy counter it with obedience, satisfy God's judgment, and pay the penalties for sin. Accordingly, our Lord came forth as true man and took the person and the name of Adam in order to take Adam's place in obeying the Father, to present our flesh as the price of satisfaction to God's righteous judgment, and, in the same flesh, to pay the penalty that we had deserved. In short, since neither as God alone could he feel death, nor as man alone could he overcome it, he coupled human nature with divine that to atone for sin he might submit the weakness of the one to death; and that, wrestling with death by the power of the other nature, he might win victory for us."

Monday, 8 February 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 11

This is the post #30 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

Calvin identifies 5 differences between the Old Testament and the New Testament. He means the Law given by Moses when he says the Old Testament in this chapter. The five differences are:
1) In the OT times, God willed that people would direct their minds to the heavenly things in visible and tangible things, whereas in the NT, He wants us to meditate on the heavenly things directly.
2) In the OT, only the images and shadows showed, whereas in the NT, the very substance is shown.
3) The OT was literal, while the NT is spiritual. (My note: this was a bit hard to understand.)
4) The OT bound the conscience of the people, while the NT frees it.
5) The covenant of grace was confined to Israel in the OT times, but now, it is open to all nations.
These differences don't indicate there is a change in God, but it is the consistent, never-changing God who accommodates to people who change, and also according to God's own deep and infinite wisdom.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 10

This is the post #29 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

In this chapter, Calvin refutes the opinion that God's covenant with people in the Old Testament was different from that of the New Testament. Calvin is essentially saying that both in the OT and NT, it is by being united with Christ by faith that anyone could be saved and indeed God's elect were saved. The patriarchs and other ancient figures are given as examples how they looked forward to the spiritual salvation not just the earthly kingdom and they were saved by God when they put their trust in God's promises.

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 9

This is the post #28 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

It is not that the Law was contrary to the Gospel. The promises of redemption was already in the Law and Israel was meant to look forward to its revelation. In the Gospel, in the appearing of Jesus, we can see so much more clearly how God forgives and saves us through the Mediator. Similarly, we, Christians who believe in the Gospel are to still have hope because the final consummation of things is yet to come, just as under the Law, the Israelites were to have hope, waiting for the Mediator. It is wrong to think that we have already "arrived at the destination" (contra Servetus). All this is to say that we must not pit the Law and the Gospel against each other to the extreme. More will be explained in the next two chapters.

Calvin's Institutes. Book II, Chapter 8

This is the post #27 of the Calvin's Institutes summary series.

This chapter is about the Ten Commandments. Calvin expounds each of them, and here are some interesting or helpful points I've found.

Calvin takes that the Ten Commandments are still in force for Christians, although he seems to take the Sabbath law (the 4th commandment) with a caveat. He thinks the first commandment, by which he means to take the verse 2 as well as verse 3, is something of a preface to the whole law. This does not mean that it is not a commandment, but rather it is the whole sum of the law, which also introduces who God is and what He has done already for His people.

On the 3rd commandment, "You shall not take the name of Jehovah your God in vain": Calvin is against taking God's Word in vain too since it dishonours God. Also, even though some take such a view based on the Sermon on the Mount, Calvin believes and explains how taking oaths are not always wrong (see section 26–7).

On the Sabbath Day (the 4th commandment): Calvin is not as Sabbatarian as the Westminster Confession of Faith states. Calvin teases out three purposes for this law: 1) Causing Israelites to look forward to the spiritual rest, 2) taking a regular time for public and private worship of God, 3) giving a day of rest to people from their work. That first purpose is abrogated now that Christ has come, but the other two are still in effect. However, it is wrong to strictly insist on a certain way of observing the Sabbath day or the Lord's Day (Sunday) because that is superstitious. The Lord's Day is not a simple continuation of the Sabbath Day for Christians. We should use the Lord's Day to meditate on the eternal rest, and engage with God's Word in public and private worship, and give rest to anyone under our authority.

Calvin strongly argues against the opinion that "Do not take vengeance; love your enemies" is not a commandment but a counsel (advice, wisdom).

Calvin also argues against the notion that there is a distinction between mortal sins and venial sins. He argues that all sins are mortal in that it incurs God's righteous judgment, that is, death.

"Let the children of God hold that all sin is mortal. For it is rebellion against the will of God, which of necessity provokes God's wrath, and it is a violation of the law, upon which God's judgment is pronounced without exception. The sins of the saints are pardonable, not because of their nature as saints, but because they obtain pardon from God's mercy." (Calvin, Institutes, II. viii. section 59.)

(There are many other great insights, which I quoted in separate posts.)

When jokes are terrible

Commenting on the 9th commandment, "You shall not be a false witness against your neighbour." [Ex. 20:16], Calvin says: "Indeed, this precept even extends to forbidding us to affect a fawning politeness barbed with bitter taunts under the guise of joking. Some do this who crave praise for their witticisms, to others' shame and grief, because they sometimes grievously wound their brothers with this sort of impudence. [...] For it is absurd to think that God hates the disease of evilspeaking in the tongue, but does not disapprove of evil intent in the heart." (Calvin, Institutes, II. viii. section 48.)

Friday, 29 January 2016

Do you steal?

Commenting of the 8th commandment, “You shall not steal.” [Ex. 20:15], Calvin says:
We must consider that what every man possesses has not come to him by mere chance but by the distribution of the supreme Lord of all. For this reason, we cannot by evil devices deprive anyone of his possessions without fraudulently setting aside God’s dispensation. Now there are many kinds of thefts. One consists in violence, when another’s goods are stolen by force and unrestrained brigandage. A second kind consists in malicious deceit, when they are carried off through fraud. Another lies in a more concealed craftiness, when a man’s goods are snatched from him by seemingly legal means. Still another lies in flatteries, when one is cheated of his goods under the pretence of a gift.
Let us not stop too long to recount the kinds of theft. Let us remember that all those arts whereby we acquire the possessions and money of our neighbors – when such devices depart from sincere affection to a desire to cheat or in some manner to harm – are to be considered as thefts. Although such possessions may be acquired in a court action, yet God does not judge otherwise. (Calvin, Institutes, II. viii. Section 45.)

A little later:
We will duly obey this commandment, then, if content with our lot, we are zealous to make only honest and lawful gain; if we do not seek to become wealthy through injustice, nor attempt to deprive our neighbour of his goods to increase our own; if we do not strive to heap up riches cruelly wrung from the blood of others; if we do not madly scrape together from everywhere, by fair means or foul, whatever will feed our avarice or satisfy our prodigality. On the other hand, let this be our constant aim: faithfully to help all men by our counsel and aid to keep what is theirs, in so far as we can; but if we have to deal with faithless and deceitful men, let us be prepared to give up something of our own rather than to contend with them. And not this alone: but let us share the necessity of those whom we see pressed by the difficulty of affairs, assisting them in their need with our abundance. (Calvin, Institutes, II. viii. Section 46.)