Westminster’s Christology

Perry tipped me off to an interchange between Bruce McCormack and Scott Clark concerning Calvin’s Christology.  I can only find Clark’s reply to McCormack.  I’ve gathered that McCormack won the debate, but I can’t find his response at the moment.  In any case, I’ve pieced together the essence (no pun intended) of the debate.

  1. It seems that many Reformed scholars see Chalcedon’s Christology as inadequate and is later improved by Reformed confessions.
  2. Clark himself is “skeptical” of many of the criticisms brought against Calvin and the Reformers on Christology.  I think his skepticism is genuine, but naive.  Clark himself admits he is not a Patrologist, but can’t imagine Calvin abandoning the ancient councils on such major points (though Calvin’s descendants do it with wild glee).  No one is saying that the Reformers *want* to abandon and reject Chalcedon, but that they inevitably must, given their outlook.

    The Confession appears to be ambiguous on whether Christ’s two natures produce the one person.  This is heretical, but many defenders of the Confession argue that’s not what the Confession is saying.  Well, if it’s not what the Confession writers meant, they picked an odd way of presenting it!


While McCormack’s reply is still blocked, Perry had copied most of it in a previous blog post, so I got the essence of it from there.


4 comments on “Westminster’s Christology

  1. Here is a little sauce for the gander. Why can’t they just let the Reformers be what they were, plain old fallible men? Is it all that hard to imagine that they goofed in a major area of theology? Rome did and frankly, as an intellect Calvin really doesn’t compare to Scotus, Thomas or Suarez. If they goofed, why not the Reformers? It is not like they crapped pages of scripture.

    McCormack’s reply is cached here -> http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:tZAkYhjmlJMJ:aboulet.com/2008/05/23/an-open-letter-to-r-scott-clark/+McCormack+helvetic+confession&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

    I don’t see how they can get away from the view that the WCF teaches that the two natures produce the person of the mediator. First it is taught in a number of places by representative theologians and for a long time. Second, the confession itself says that the person is human and divine. If it said Christ was human and divine or that the two natures were in the one (divine person) that’d be another matter. Rather it says that the *person* is both human and divine. That is there is more to the person of Christ the mediator than the person of the Logos. This view is expressed among the Puritans too, John Owen not the least of them in his major work on Christology.

  2. Perry,

    Could that statement be taken ambiguously? If “divine” in this context means “has a divine nature” and “human”, in this context, “has a human nature” then God is a divine and human person, or at least, a person who is divine and human.

  3. Matthew, They could try, except for the fact of its exposition by representative sources to the contrary. It is a very subtle error, but once you see it, it is clear as day.

    Second, the concept of a person who is divine and human isn’t the same as the concept as a human and divine person, not by any logical representation that I could think of.

  4. Perry, I don’t understand your second point.

    Let Dx be x is divine, Hx be x is human, p be a particular person. Then why doesn’t Dp&Hp be a representation of both?

    Also, surely with some predicates the two forms are the same: “x is red” “x is an individual who is red.” The second is just a more verbose way of stating the first.

    If we take the first to be describing the person qua person, then yes, that is correct. But if we take it to mean, in either case, the person has a divine/human nature the two statements seem to be equivalent.

    That may only push the problem back a level, into a denial that Christ is from two natures, and an assertion that he is only in two natures–indeed I have told Calvinists (not all of them) that their understanding, seemed to affirm that Christ is in two natutres and that he is not one from them. Or, which is similar, to make hypostasis an empty concept, or at least, less than the nature, since the hypostasis is not divine simply but only because of the nature.

    I’m also confused by your claim that Calvinists assert “That is there is more to the person of Christ the mediator than the person of the Logos.” It seems that the force of your arguments, and their position, is that there is less to the person of the mediator than to the person of the Logos. Or that there is more to the mediator than Logos.

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