Wednesday, February 23, 2011

"The God of Calvinism" - Chapter 1

Louis Ruggiero's book, "The God of Calvinism," begins with a chapter on the Trinity. The stated purpose is "to establish common ground between Calvinists and non-Calvinists as a solid foundation and common frame of reference for further reasoned discussion." (p. 3) Much of the chapter is not particularly controversial.

Perhaps the only remarkable point to comment on is Mr. Ruggiero's claim that the following is a one of "two critical points" that it is "important to understand":
According to John 1:18, John 6:46 and Colossians 1:15 it was the LORD, the pre-incarnate Word of God, who is Christ, who spoke and interacted with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. And it has always been this same person of God who has communicated with and reached out to humanity.
First of all, none of the passages in question mention the garden of Eden, and none of them suggest that it is always and only the person of Christ who have reached out to and communicated to God's people.

Here are the verses.

John 1:18 No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 6:46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father.

Colossians 1:15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

Perhaps we could go back and forth about what these verses imply if we had only these verses. However, if we compare Scripture with Scripture we see that they must not imply that every communication from God to man has been specifically through the person of Christ.

Recall:

Matthew 3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

And in case you imagine that this was not the Father, recall that Peter tells us:

2 Peter 1:17 For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.

Moreover, there is more reason to think that the Father was communicating to Adam in the garden. Recall that when Adam sinned God pronounced a curse on the serpent, on the woman, and on Adam, but with some hope for us in there.

Genesis 3:14-15
And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

Notice that "her seed" is expressed referred to in the third person. This suggests that it is not the same person as the speaker. From this, as from the other examples, we may infer that it was God the Father (or perhaps God the Holy Spirit) who spoke to Adam in the garden.

Even if I'm mistaken, it's unclear why Mr. Ruggiero thinks that this inference is "critical," but perhaps we'll discover the reason for its alleged criticality as we proceed through the book.

-TurretinFan

28 comments:

tsarlazar said...

TF,
Does Ruggiero mention the Filioque and whether or not the Reformed faith is predicated upon acceptance of the Filioque? (Mark Pugliese in a Westminster Theological Journal sought to make that argument, but he didn't connect the dots).

Turretinfan said...

He doesn't use the term "filioque," but he does defend the doctrine from Scripture. Most Reformed folks these days seem to accept it.

It clearly is controversial to the Greek Orthodox, but less so in the West.

natamllc said...

TF,

what is the controversy the G.O. have with this?

Turretinfan said...

They say the Spirit proceeds from the Father, but they do not say that the Spirit proceeds from the Son.

natamllc said...

What is the basis for that argument seeing the Scripture clearly holds otherwise?

Who would they say "He" is in this verse?

Gen 1:2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

tsarlazar said...

The problem the Eastern Orthodox have with the Filioque is primarily they object to the Pope placing it in the Creed outside of the consent of the larger church.

There are theological difficulties with it, but there are also other ways to say the Filioque in an Orthodox manner (see St Ambrose or St Maximus).

Natamllc,
Per your gloss on Genesis, the Orthodox see the "He" as the Holy Spirit. Not quite sure what you are getting at.

Keep in mind, the Filioque as the Latins say it means "hypostatic origination from all eternity," not "movements" of the Spirit "through/to/or even from" the Son.

Turretinfan said...

Tsar Lazar,

May I encourage you to read something like "The Byzantine lists: errors of the Latins" or if you can read medieval Greek, read Theophylact's work on the subject.

I think it will give you a deeper appreciation for the seriousness of the issues to the Greeks at that time.

-TurretinFan

tsarlazar said...

First, I apologize for inadvertantly hijacking the comments section, but since everyone is at the level of civility I didn't think you would mind. I did have a reason, though. Given the West's (which includes Reformation theology) commitment to Absolute Divine Simplicity (which entails the Filioque), I wanted to see if someone was actually fleshing out the relationship between the Reformed view of God and the Filioque.

Secondly, I am very familiar with the Filioquist literature. In fact, it was studying the Filioque (Anselm, Aquinas, most of the Greek fathers) that led me closer to Orthodoxy. Joseph Farrell's *God, History, and Dialectic* summarized the historical issue nicely.

When I said the problem the East has with the Filioque regarding the Pope, I was simply listing one problem. Obviously, there are a lot more. I think the real issue was that one man's reading of Scripture et al cannot determine doctrine for the rest of the Church.

Thirdly, I've heard a lot about your blog and while I am no longer Protestant in outlook, you seem to be abreadst of the current Reformed literature and you have intelligent posts.

Lvka said...

Christ is the Word and the Image of God: no revelation from God (whether 'video' or 'audio') is done without Him.

Turretinfan said...

Whose voice spoke at the baptism of John and at the transfiguration? If you say "Jesus' voice," I feel comfortable in saying that you have departed from the teachings of Scriptures and of the fathers. If you say someone else's voice, then what's the point of your comment? Just that the Trinity is one God? I affirm that.

Lvka said...

The voice was the Father's, but it was revealed THROUGH Christ and IN Christ (at HIS Baptism and Trans-figuration).

Turretinfan said...

I can see why you might say it was ABOUT and FOR Christ, but how on earth is it THROUGH and IN Him?

Lvka said...

Because it wasn't revealed apart from Him and His presence. It was only in His presence (ie, through Him) that the Father's voice was revealed to those attending or witnessing the miracle.

Turretinfan said...

"in his presence" and "through him" are completely different concepts.

Lvka said...

The voice of God is never heard apart from the mediating presence of Christ. And likewise, the image of God is never seen apart from the mediating presence of Christ. He makes theophanies possible, and is their vessel, being the Word and Image of the invisible God. There is only ONE mediator between God and man: Jesus Christ.

Turretinfan said...

"The voice of God is never heard apart from the mediating presence of Christ."

You've asserted that before. But Christ's mere presence doesn't convert into a mediating presence simply because you say so.

"And likewise, the image of God is never seen apart from the mediating presence of Christ."

Same criticism.

"He makes theophanies possible, and is their vessel, being the Word and Image of the invisible God. There is only ONE mediator between God and man: Jesus Christ."

Yes. That doesn't make immediate communication impossible.

-TurretinFan

Lvka said...

If it's done through a "Mediator" then it's not "im-mediate". And if it could be "im-mediate", then there would be no need for a "Mediator", now, would it?

Turretinfan said...

Christ didn't mediate the voice from heaven or the figure of a dove. Those were immediate manifestations of God (the Father and the Spirit).

We need a mediator because of a variety of things, but chiefly because of the wrath of God toward our sins.

Lvka said...

There is no manifestation of God's voice separated from Christ (try to find one in the NT, it's not there). And given this, and the fact that He's called the Word of God, we can safely interpret the OT theophanies in this manner as well (especially since in some cases in the OT the sentence is formulated as to almost personify the Word of God [eg, "the Word of God was/descended upon me"]).

The same for OT theophanies: see the identification of Christ with the Old One of Days in Revelation 1:13-14, and compare it with similar instances from Isaiah or Daniel.

Turretinfan said...

Luka, my friend, I have not said anything was separated from God. Nevertheless, the persons of the Godhead are distinct. We are not Sabellians.

Lvka said...

I'm not Sabellian either... where did that come from? All I said was that the Father never shows Himself or let's His voice be heard apart from the intermediary presence of His Son-Image-Word-Mediator. (And there's no passage that disproves this).

Turretinfan said...

"I'm not Sabellian either... where did that come from?"

No, I didn't mean to say you were. I meant to include you in the "we" who are not Sabellian.

"All I said was that the Father never shows Himself or let's His voice be heard apart from the intermediary presence of His Son-Image-Word-Mediator. (And there's no passage that disproves this)."

I think I answered this above, by pointing out that although Christ was present at his Baptism and Transfiguration he didn't mediate the voice from heaven -- or at least the bare fact that he was present doesn't mean that he mediated it.

But even if those passages didn't disprove it, what passages would make you think it? Would you point to the same passages as LouRugg has?

Lvka said...

Yeah, you seem to be contradicting Scripture. (Which not only tells us this explicitely, but also lacks actual proofs or examples to the contrary [there was an 'Angel' even at the burning bush, right?]) And your two supposed "counter-examples" just-so-happen to have Christ present there in them. (Just a simple coincidence, right?)


Notice that "her seed" is expressed referred to in the third person. This suggests that it is not the same person as the speaker.

This doesn't make any sense. It's a non-sequitur.


Now, remember that talk we had about the Ark being the vessel or receptacle of God's power? [When we talked about God's grace being made manifedst through icons, and I was using 1 Samuel 5:1-5 to prove my point?]. Well, guess how Christ is called: He's called Image (icon) of God [in the NT], and Ark of God [by the Fathers]. You see, it's all connected...

Turretinfan said...

Luka:

It is not a coincidence. I picked those passages, because in those passages it is clear that the speaker is not Christ.

-TurretinFan

Lvka said...

Who said the speaker had to be Christ?

Look, re-read the passages of the burning bush, and the one with the sacrifice of Gedeon. There's a certain ambiguity there as to the speaker, as the text seems to go back and forth between the Angel of God and God Himself. -- That's what I want you to see (for now).

Then there are the ones with the sacrifice of Samson's parents, the fight of Jacob with the Angel, and the one with the Son of Man in Daniel 10: each time there's an ambiguity between the Angel of God and God, that reminds us of Exodus 33:20.

Turretinfan said...

If the speaker were Christ, then the words would be through Christ as mediator.

I see the ambiguity that you are talking about, I think, but there is no such ambiguity in the Baptism and Transfiguration is there?

-TurretinFan

Lvka said...

No, and I didn't say it were. All I tried to do was show the way in which -throughout both Testaments- it was Christ that mediated God's presence to men.

Lvka said...

Actually while I'm at it, here's a helpful link on the subject...