Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Vandrunen on Lutheran Christology

Here is a very interesting quote by David Vandrunen from Westminster Seminary in California.  I found it in an article entitled "Iconoclasm, Incarnation, and Eschatology: Toward a Catholic Understanding of the Reformed Doctrine of the ‘Second’ Commandment".  The article is about the Reformed view on Icons and how we refuse to make images of Christ for worship.  This quote deals with the Lutheran view of Christology, and how it's a departure from orthodox Chaledonian Christology.

The question arises, then, whether Reformed theology’s refusal to make or use images of Christ reflects a deficient or even deviant view of the incarnation. Suspicions of this sort are difficult to reconcile with the fact that the Reformed not only enthusiastically upheld the Chalcedonian formulae concerning the two natures joined in one person in the hypostatic union, but also have even explicitly defended these doctrines against contemporary teachings that seemed to stray from the traditional doctrine. The most prominent case in point is found in Reformed polemics against the ‘ubiquitarian’ Christology of Lutheranism. For many years, Lutherans and Reformed have disputed the nature of Christ’s presence in the Eucharist, and lying immediately beneath the surface of these debates is a christological disagreement that in large part determines the eucharistic questions. According to the Lutheran understanding of the communicatio idiomatum, divine attributes of Christ are communicated to his human nature, though the manifestation of these attributes was hidden during his days on earth. Among the divine attributes communicated is omnipresence: Christ’s human body, now glorified, is present everywhere with his divine nature. Hence the ‘ubiquitarian’ title and the confidence that Christ’s body and blood can be truly in, with, and under the elements of bread and wine.


Reformed theologians, unimpressed, have suggested that the only reason that Lutherans would want to defend such an idea was because of the need for christological justification for their theology of the Supper. To Reformed minds, Lutheran ubiquitarianism was little more than a lapse into Monophysitism, an absorption of the human nature into the divine, hence leaving no true human nature at all. A human body that is omnipresent is nothing like the human body that we know, and it virtually requires a whole new definition of what a human body is. If Christ’s body is omnipresent, then he is no longer like us in every way, sin excepted. Whatever the best resolution to this debate, the Reformed saw themselves as stout defenders of Catholic christological orthodoxy. Far from denying the full reality of Christ’s human nature, and even far from being insensitive to implications of the Chalcedonian affirmations, the Reformed unflinchingly grasped the Chalcedonian legacy as their own."

1 comment:

Mark said...

Lutherans have two kinds of “new covenant people”—
1. Those who have their sins paid for, who eat the humanity of Christ in the sacrament, but who do not have the Holy Spirit and who do not believe the gospel.
2. Those who have their sins paid for, who eat the humanity of Christ in the sacrament but who also have the Holy Spirit and believe the gospel.

For Lutherans, both believer and unbeliever partake of the substance of Christ but with differing outcomes, one to life but the other to judgment. For Calvin, a person either receives both Christ and the Spirit, or neither Christ nor the Spirit. Unbelievers do not receive the Spirit, therefore they do not (in the “sacrament”) receive Christ.

“The matter now disputed between us, is whether unbelievers receive the substance of Christ without his Spirit.” Lutherans say that, if Christ is truly present he is present independent of the communicant’s new birth or faith or unbelief.

Calvin says that one cannot truly partake of Christ without partaking of His life-giving Spirit.
Since Christ was baptized with the Holy Spirit, Christ is not where the Spirit is not.

Garcia, “Christ and the Spirit”, in Resurrection and Eschatology, ed Tipton and Waddington, p430