Archive for the ‘Edward Reiss’ Category

Like Us – Except Without Sin – Further Response to Edward Reiss

February 19, 2010

Edward Reiss has posted a further response (link) in our on-going discussion on Christ and his human nature. Reiss states:

When I say Jesus’ human nature is divinized, what do I mean? I do not mean that the divine nature is mixed with the human nature, what I mean is that the union of the two natures in the one person of Jesus Christ makes his human nature divinized such that it participates in divinity to a degree no one else can.

First, Reiss has the cart before the horse. The Word was made flesh – not the flesh made Word. The Son of God was incarnated – it is what we call the Nestorian error (or something close to) to treat Christ as though he was a human who became divinized.

Second, the hypostatic union brought about by the Incarnation (one person in two natures) is an absolutely unique event. It has no precedent, no adequate analog, and it will have no sequel. There always has been a Trinity, and there will never be a Quadernity – and while there is perhaps nothing that prevents the Father or Spirit being Incarnate, there is no reason for such an event, the Son has fulfilled his task and purpose in the Incarnation:

Hebrews 2:14-18
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Third, notice that in the passage above he took on precisely human nature. Not something close to human nature, but true flesh and blood. The only difference being that Christ was without sin:

Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Reiss states:

Turretin Fan said that Jesus’ unique authority does not suggest his humanity is any different than ours. But that depends on what we mean by “different”. How does Jesus’ human nature participate meaningfully in any miracles? To be consistent, Turretin Fan would have to say that because our human nature cannot perform miracles, it was only Jesus’ divinity which performed miracles. But how is that done without falling into some species of Nestorianism?

Part of the confusion seems to be Reiss’ use of the term “participate” and especially “meaningfully participate.” These vague expressions seem to be the reason for Reiss to apparently confuse the natures and attribute to the human nature things that are properly divine.

Reiss does not think that Moses’ human nature “participated meaningfully” (whatever Reiss is intending to mean by that) in Moses’ miracles (we can infer this from the fact that Reiss does not call Moses’ flesh “divinized”), but Reiss insists (without explanation or reason) that Christ’s human nature must “participate meaningfully” or we run into Nestorianism because, according to Reiss, “if the divine nature ‘does’ something apart from Jesus’ human nature that immediately implies a divine person and a human person … .”

Reiss brings in this vague word “participate” and then asks, in the conclusion of his post:

So, I would like to ask Turretin (or any one else) in what sense does the person Jesus Christ hold together all things, and in what way does his humanity participate in this without dividing the person?

The answer, of course, is that he himself hasn’t defined what “participation” means. He’s picked a vague word to discuss the issue and left it undefined. One could say that Moses had some sort of “participation” in at least some of the miracles he performed. However, since not every sense of “participation” will work for Reiss’ system, we aren’t sure what new touchstone of orthodoxy he wants to set forth. We’re also a little confused by his “to a degree no one else can” since the difference between the hypostatic union and ordinary men is not one of degree.

The fact that Jesus is one person doesn’t justify a confusion of the natures. Yet Reiss’ question seems to suggest that we ought to confuse the natures and attribute the supernatural power of the divine specifically to the flesh Christ took from Mary. While some amount of improper (i.e. imprecise) characterization is orthodox (we’re not required always to carefully maintain the lines of distinction between the natures whenever we speak), nevertheless when we speak of Christ’s flesh and blood properly and precisely, it is the same as ours, except that it is not tainted by sin. Since Reiss hasn’t defined “participate” we can’t be sure, however, whether he is confusing or blending the natures when he says: “his human nature divinized such that it participates in divinity to a degree no one else can.”

– TurretinFan

More Response to Edward Reiss

February 17, 2010

Edward Reiss has provided a further response. He writes:

This argument is used to show that, in particular instances, what Jesus did, e.g. walk on water, was done by others, e.g. St. Peter, so this is no proof Jesus’ flesh is divinized.

The problem goes back to the question of “what” instead of “whom”. My reformed interlocutors insist that the “who” has little to do with anything the “what” can do. In the example of walking on water, Jesus did it because of who he is while Peter did it because of Jesus. It is not like a force or energy outside of Jesus kept him walking on water, he did himself based on his own power as God in the flesh. Peter was able to walk on water because his faith in Jesus sustained him–until he doubted. If Jesus walked on water because of a different “whom” then per force we have two persons in Jesus Christ, as opposed to two natures. The difference between the “who” of St. Peter and the “who” of Jesus Christ can be shown by Jesus’ statements about himself, such as “…You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.” (John 8:23), “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.” (John 6:55). I could supply more examples, but suffice it to say there is something intrinsic in Jesus that makes his miracles of a different kind from those done for e.g. Daniel or St. Peter. Now, if the miracles of e.g. Daniel and those of Jesus Christ really are the same, I would ask who sustained Jesus Christ on the water? I don’t want to hear about a “nature” because a nature doesn’t do anything–a nature is not a personal actor while a person is.


Actually, Reiss’ argument proves the very point I was making. The miracles of Jesus had to do with a “who” not a “what.” They did not prove that his human nature was different from ours, rather they were a testimony to his divine power as a result of who he is, the Son of God.

Reiss tries to continue the argument thus:

Is there any indication in Scripture that the “who” of Jesus Christ makes a difference as to his humanity as compared to others?

“Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.” (John 13:3-4)

Since as the divine Son, the Word already had all godhead, it is evident that St. John here is speaking of giving all things into Jesus’ hands according to his human nature. Thus as the God-Man, Jesus has all that God has as per his nature. (q.v. Matt 11:27, Matt 28:18)

Jesus’ unique authority, even when that is expressed according to his humanity, does not suggest a difference in Christ’s human nature as compared to our human nature.

Reiss continued:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

As above, as the divine Son, the Word already was entitled to be worshipped as God. But when God became man, it is now appropriate to worship a man as God. The worship rightly given to God as Spirit is also rightly given to the flesh and bone man, Jesus Christ, which means what is God’s by right also belongs to the man Jesus Christ by right. Put another way, the man Jesus Christ is capable and welcomed into the full communion of the trinity.

Two natures, one person is all that is implied here – not a blending of the natures or a “divinizing” of Jesus’ flesh. Furthermore, the exaltation of Christ comes more than 30 years after the incarnation (and after many of the miracles that Reiss had pointed to previously). To appeal to the exaltation of Christ seems odd, to say the least.

Reiss continued:

“And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5)

As above, this pertains to his human nature not his divine nature; so Jesus Christ, the Man, has all the glory he had before he became incarnate. And part of this glory is omnipresence.

Unless one wishes to assert that omnipresence is not part of God’s glory.

Omnipresence is one of God’s attributes, not necessarily a “part of God’s glory.” Furthermore, it should be immediately obvious that Christ’s human body isn’t everywhere. It is not omnipresent. An easier explanation of this passage is referring to the end of Christ’s humiliation and the forthcoming exaltation of Christ. But again – this glorification is something different from the incarnation per se.

– TurretinFan

One More Response to Edward Reiss

February 13, 2010

Edward Reiss has a post titled “Calvin’s Framing of the Question about the Incarnation … is Flawed.”

Edward’s basic argument is this:

1) An allegation that we can’t properly ascribe things to a nature that we ordinarily ascribe to a person.

There’s not much support for this allegation. Christians have been distinguishing between person and nature for centuries and attributing certain things to Christ’s human nature as distinct from his divine nature. The distinction between the natures is an important part of orthodoxy.

Failure to understand this distinction yield odd results when applied to texts such as:

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

For those of us who recognize that this discussion relates to Jesus with respect to his human nature, there is no problem. For those who blend the two natures, or who refuse to acknowledge the distinction (attributing everything that Jesus does to both natures), there proceeds an absurd result of the only wise God (Romans 16:27, 1 Timothy 1:17, and Jude 25) increasing in wisdom and stature.

2) An allegation that Jesus body (at least post-resurrection) was a deified glorified body.

This again appears to be an attempt to confuse and mix the natures. The proofs that Edward sets forth are miracles that Jesus did. Those miracles, however, are more easily explained as manifestations of Jesus’ ability to do miracles, not a quasi-human body.

Specifically Edward points again (he had done so before) to Jesus’ miracles of: disappearing, going through doors, walking on water, glowing etc.

However, note that Simon Peter also walked on water, Moses face also glowed and his body disappeared. Indeed the door of Lot’s house effectively disappeared without becoming an inportation of God. The angels who assisted Peter walked him through locked doors to escape execution. And we could go on.

I’m not sure if Edward’s etc. also included walking through fire:

Daniel 3:25 He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

Yes, miracles sometimes involve men doing things that they could not normally do. That testifies to the power of God. It does not suggest that Simon Peter or Moses was an incarnation of God, or that the door of Lot’s house was God-in-the-door.


Assurance in Calvinism – a Response to Edward Reiss

February 6, 2010

Steve Hays been responding to Lutheran (I’m not sure of which stripe he is) Edward Reiss (link to Steve Hays).

Edward Reiss wrote: “There is no promise we will know we have eternal life.”

I’m not sure what constitutes a “promise” in Edward’s mind:

1 John 5:13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

Edward Reiss wrote: “We are told that we may deceive ourselves that we are elect when we are not”

Calvin explains it this way:

I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption. Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them. Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent, that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.

Edward Reiss wrote: “This means looking for fruit runs the serious risk of us deceiving ourselves into thinking we are elect when we are not.”

1) Although we are to look for fruit for assurance, we are not to trust in our fruit. We are always to trust in Christ.

2) The fact that something is not perfectly reliable does not mean that it is not generally trustworthy. Does Edward refuse to believe his eyes at all because he once attended a magic (sleight-of-hand) show?

Edward Reiss wrote: “The spiritual danger of this should be readily apparent.”

The spiritual danger appears to flow from trusting in one’s fruit rather than in Christ. Otherwise, it is impossible to see how spiritual danger arises simply from human falibility.

Edward Reiss wrote: “Examining ourselves for our fidelity and obedience is different from examining ourselves to ‘prove’ we are elect, which we cannot know anyway.”

One wonders how Edward would explain this passage in view of his comment above:

2 Peter 1:10-11
Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Edward Reiss wrote: “We can know that when we hear the Gospel in e.g. baptism or communion that we are truly receiving what God promises because God does not lie–as opposed to our looking into our own lives for proof.”

This simply a false dichotomy. We can rely on God’s promises and engage in self-examination.

Edward Reiss wrote: “No one has second party knowledge of my eternal state.”

No one except for God has certain knowledge of that. However, others are invited and even exhorted to judge us by our fruits.

Edward Reiss wrote: “And I don’t think I even have first party knowledge (see 1 above). Given this, and the theological commitments of TULIP Calvinists, a TULIP Calvinist cannot say Christ died for him, or anyone else. I do however have first hand knowledge of receiving communion, being absolved and I have proof I am baptized.”

Edward seems to mean that a Calvinist cannot consistently claim to know that Christ died for him. This is simply a rehash of his claim above. Being unable to say that Christ died for some particular person only seems to be a problem for those who make “Christ died particularly for you” part of their evangelistic message.

Edward Reiss wrote: “You have ‘demonstrated’ something we have not claimed: that Sacraments guarantee everyone who receives the sacrament eternal salvation.”

Edward Reiss wrote: “What we have claimed is that the grace offered in Sacraments is real grace…”

Reification of grace is a real problem, and seems to be a problem in Edward’s explanation here.

Edward Reiss wrote: “…and not actually a withholding of grace, as is the case in the Calvinist system where grace is only offered to the elect, because offered grace must be 100% ‘effective’ for it to be real.”

Saving grace saves. The grace of regeneration is given, not “offered.” The forgiveness of sins is offered to all, but conditionally. Only the elect become qualified by the working of the Holy Spirit.

Edward Reiss wrote: “Finally, it is not the Lutherans who look at their navel, but the TULIP Calvinists looking within themselves to prove they are really elect.”

Calvinists don’t normally go around trying to prove that they are elect.

Edward Reiss wrote: “If we can be deceived into believing we are elect even if we are not, where is the assurance in that?”

It seems that Edward is complaining that the level of assurance is not high enough.

Edward Reiss wrote: “But baptism and communion go one better–they promise the forgiveness of sins.”

The butcher down the road promises to give me meat for money. Comparing delivery of meat to forgiveness of sins would be a strange comparison – but it is a stranger comparison to compare forgiveness of sins (a kind that is apparently at least potentially temporary) with eternal life. So what if Lutheran theology does promise that someone can know that their sins are forgiven or if the butcher promises that someone can know that their meat has been delivered. Knowledge of such facts falls in an inferior category.

Edward Reiss wrote: “The standard “Protestant” syllogism works like this: All those who have faith in Christ are saved[;] I have faith in Christ [;] Therefore I am saved”

Steve has already demonstrated that this is Scriptural. Further to that explanation, as James explains, our works demonstrate that our faith is a true faith.

Edward Reiss wrote: “The “Lutheran” Syllogism works like this: Christ said “I baptize you in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit”[;] Christ never lies and always tells the truth[;] Therefore I am baptized”

1) See above about the comparisons (comparing baptism to salvation is like comparing meat to baptism).
2) Christ does not personally baptize Lutherans, which throws something of a wrench in the syllogism.

Edward Reiss wrote: “If you object to a sacramental view of baptism feel free to insert “Christ said I died for you…” in lieu of baptism.”

Christ doesn’t come down and tell individual believers that – though if he did, we ought to believe him.

Edward Reiss wrote: “The point is that there is no ‘if’ embedded in the Lutheran syllogism, where the Protestant syllogism has an ‘if’ embedded into it–do I really have faith?”

That formal point is truly without merit. We can remove that “if” from the “Protestant” one by saying “those who repent and believe are saved” rather than “if I repent and believe I am saved.” Alternatively, we can rephrase the Lutheran one as “if Christ said… then it is true, because he doesn’t lie; he did say …; therefore it is true.”

Edward Reiss wrote: “Do we ever keep his commandments? St. John himself allows for the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake which presupposes disobedience. I certainly don’t see how we can get some sort of assurance of perseverance from our obedience as there is always the possibility we will not be obedient. In other words, it does not cut against the Lutheran position.”

If Edward thinks that perfect obedience is what Calvinists are looking for, he’s mistaken. What cuts against what he calls the Lutheran position is the failure to recognize the inseparability of the love of God from the objects of that love.

Edward Reiss wrote: “Getting back to the larger issue, no one has really said I got the Reformed position wrong.”

Between Steve and myself, the number of such people seems to be at least two.

Edward Reiss wrote: “Calvinist assurance: You are assured of eternal salvation and under no circumstances will you lose it.”

You can lose assurance but you can’t lose eternal life. If you could, it wouldn’t be eternal life.

– TurretinFan

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