Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | December 16, 2007

Lord’s Day Quote- John Calvin

But to us, who hold this principle, that the covenant of God was founded in Christ, and that Christ himself was the eternal image of the Father, in which he manifested himself to the holy patriarchs, there is nothing in this vision intricate or ambiguous.  For since men are alienated from God by sin, though he fills and sustains all things by his power, yet that communication by which he would draw us to himself is not perceived by us; but, on the other hand, so greatly are we at variance with him that, regarding him as adverse to us, we, in our turn, flee from his presence.  Moreover the angels, to whom is committed the guardianship of the human race, while strenuously applying themselves to their office, yet do not communicate with us in such a way that we become conscious of their presence.  It is Christ alone, therefore, who connects heaven and earth: he is the only Mediator who reaches from heaven down to earth: he is the medium through which the fulness of all celestial blessings flows down to us, and through which we, in turn, ascend to God.  He it is who, being the head over angels, causes them to minister to his earthly members.  Therefore, (as we read in John 1:51) he properly claims for himelf this honour, that after he shall have been manifested in the world, angels shall ascend and descend.  If, then, we say that the ladder is a figure of Christ, the exposition will not be forced.  For the similitude of a ladder well suits the Mediator, through whom ministering angels, righteousness and life, with all the graces of the Holy Spirit, descend to us step by step…For Moses wishes to state that the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in the person of the Mediator.  Christ not only approached unto us, but clothed himself in our nature, that he might make us one with himself.

John Calvin,   Commentary on Genesis Vol II.

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Responses

  1. he is the medium through which the fulness of all celestial blessings flows down to us, and through which we, in turn, ascend to God.

    Calvin’s got me stumped here. I think he needs to clear this up. Otherwise, I could get the wrong idea and my latent Platonism might fire up anew, to my utter disappointment. So, what is Calvin talking about here? Methinks the charge that Calvin never really got rid of all his own Platonist leanings is correct.

  2. On balance with the rest of the quote I would say that he is referring to the age to come.

    I think we need to maintain an innocent until proven guilty policy with the great reformer.

    The thought crossed my mind though when I read it.

  3. Calvin may have spoke in this way due to some Platonic influence, I think. However, I would seriously qualify that.

    First of all, we know Calvin polemicized against Platonic thought. I can’t think of where off hand, but I know he did. Plato was self consciously Calvin’s enemy in some ways.

    Second, we need to understand that Plato’s influence on the western world can hardly be overstated, unless you say that he invented the internet. That said, common ways of speaking were Platonic, even if not deliberately so, even if on the lips of a man who seriously fought against Platonic thought.

    Third, while he probably means something that Christian Mind class would discourage us from adopting, we can assume that what he means is something akin to:

    Eph 2:6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

    Undoubtedly, this kind of language in Scripture simply made sense to people in a particular way who were already steeped in Platonism from birth (sort of like today). We read verses like this and we have to work very hard to understand it in a way that is not Platonic. But of course it is not Platonic, because Paul is talking about us being in Christ, who is seated at the right hand of God.

    I would argue that that’s probably what Calvin means. Remember the first half of the sentence you quoted Bruce:

    “It is Christ alone, therefore, who connects heaven and earth: he is the only Mediator who reaches from heaven down to earth: he is the medium through which the fulness of all celestial blessings flows down to us, and through which we, in turn, ascend to God.”

    Calvin is not advocating the assent of the reason or the intellect or the mind or whatever. He’s advocating the mediation of Christ who

    “reach[ed] from heaven down to earth…”

    So he is not advocating some perverse desire to “see God in the nude” as Luther would say. Calvin knew better than that. Heck, Calvin read Luther and agreed with him on lots of stuff.

    Anyway, all I’m saying is that this kind of language may have appeared to him as the same as the language of Scripture, and it was undoubtedly common parlance at the time.

    We might also say that from the quote you mentioned, that Calvin was a bit of a gnostic, speaking of the fullness of heavenly beings and what not. What, Calvin, is Christ mediating the angels’ presence to us too? No, that’s not what he means.

    I have no doubt that Calvin just means our life hidden in Christ with God. But maybe not. Who knows. I’m surely no Calvin scholar.

  4. Good answer Echo… Calvin was not as extreme as Tertullian on the one hand. What has Athens to do with Jerusalem? And not as extreme as Zwingli on the other hand. Rejecting Zwingli’s idea of Plato and Aristotle being in heaven.


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