Announcing The Calvinist International

It is with immense pleasure that I can announce the launch of The Calvinist International, “A Forum for Reformed Irenicism.”  Created and piloted by my friends Steven Wedgeworth and Peter Escalante promises to provide a much-needed bridge between the world of academic theology and the ordinary educated Reformed Christian, while avoiding the chaotic and ill-informed polemics that so often characterize Reformed blogdom.  It aims to be robustly Reformed, academically rigorous, and authentically irenic, a job description for which I can think of few people better suited than Steven and Peter.  

Their vision is ambitious and exciting:

Consistent with the original wisdom of the Reformers and their best heirs, the irenic way we follow here is wholeheartedly biblical and evangelical in theology, rigorously perennial in philosophy, catholic in scope, and pacific in spirit.
In this manner, we will consider the first things of religion, politics, philosophy, learning, and the arts.  In a time of crisis and confusion in commonwealth, churches, and academy, we aim to reexamine and renew for our day the archai, the first foundational elements, of the discarded image of Christendom.
Not only will we get to hear their own contributions on a regular basis, but they hope to provide a hub to help network the contributions of like-minded folks around the web.  So head on over there, subscribe to their feed, and start checking in regularly.  Their first post outlines the theological method and approach they intend to follow, one in which they seek to follow in the footsteps of great Reformed irenicists of previous centuries, and they have also posted, as their first in-depth essay, “A Compound Person,” a fantastic defense of the orthodoxy of Reformed Christology, against Bruce McCormack and other less responsible detractors.


14 thoughts on “Announcing The Calvinist International

  1. You know the issue is not whether the Person is compound, but whether the compound Person is the Eternal Logos, or the Mediator? Likewise the question is not whether Ursinus teaches that two persons came together to form the Mediator, but whether the Mediator is, identically, the Word, or if the Word is only *part* of Christ. The quote "Thus, the “whole person” is not a combination of two prior persons, but rather one prior person and an added nature which only finds its existence in that prior person." Seems to grant the point, though the next paragraph contradicts it by saying "It could lend itself towards false uses, perhaps indicating that the “person of the mediator” is a different person created out of the combination of the Word and the human nature."If they believe that the Person is precisely the Divine Person, why do they object to precisely this position in the Credenda article, accusing it of being process theology, and claiming that we cannot literally say "God died" or that "God was born of Mary."?At best, this piece is inconsistent with the Credenda piece.


  2. By which I do not mean that the Reformed are Nestorian, but that the issue itself should be addressed. I'm not terribly interested in the question of whether the Reformed *have been* Nestorian. But the question of how *these bad quotes* are handled interests me, as it touches on whether the (or these) Reformed *are* Nestorian.


  3. Matthew N. Petersen

    I realized that could be taken bad too. I mean that how we act now is far more important than how we have acted. I'm not terribly interested in the question of have the Reformed been Nestorian except inasmuch as it touches on the question what we will choose to believe *now*. I'm not interested in going around making sure everyone is not, and putting them all to the test, but in the decision itself. Whatever the Reformed have believed, we ought not now be Nestorian. If and when they say Nestorian things, we should simply reject those.


  4. Thanks for the head's up on the new site! The introductory essay engages some important questions, and I'd love to see comments enabled over there (especially since the new site goes by the moniker "forum," suggesting some degree of conversation).On the question of the "orthodoxy" of Reformed Christology, certainly McCormack cannot be included among its "detractors." There is some unfortunate ambiguity in the HTFC response essay, but I think it's clear from his other work that McCormack does not believe that the Reformed read Chalcedon as a Nestorian victory (or were in any other way unorthodox). Indeed he finds himself located broadly within this tradition. He attributes the 'Nestorian' interpretation, explicitly, only to Grillmeier and Daley — both Catholic historians.What I think he means to attribute to the Reformed is an emphasis on the person of the union as a "coming together of both natures into a single person and a single subsistent being," as opposed to the (not mutually exclusive) emphasis that the person is the divine Word. The new CI essay offers a great deal of historical material to call into question that thesis — but this is aside from the question of Nestorianism or orthodoxy, which in my opinion is an unneeded distraction.


  5. Brad Littlejohn

    Matt,I could protest that I merely linked to their Christology article, so I don't know why you're taking up your beef with me. On the other hand, I did call it "fantastic" and in fact, I read it over thoroughly and commented on it before it was posted, so I can't deny responsibility for it. However, to your first point I can only say that you seem to be willfully ignoring the careful terminology and distinctions that the article provides on these points, and instead assimilating it to your own simplified terminology, which, if it doesn't match perfectly, you decide it must be either unorthodox or inconsistent with itself. With the caveat that I can't claim any expertise on these matters, I think that Steven's essay (of which only Part I has thus far been posted) clearly shows itself to be neither unorthodox nor inconsistent.As for your latter two comments, I don't think questions of historical theology can be that lightly dismissed. The Reformed tradition is a massive edifice, upon which a great deal of our theology (for those of us who want to be at all Reformed especially, but even for other Protestants) depends, and Christology is foundational to that edifice. If there's a rotten historical root, it is sure to have borne bad branches and bad fruit. So it's worth taking seriously the charge that there might have been something wrong way back then, because chances are if there were, it's still affecting us today. Which is why it's very helpful to have people willing to do the spadework to show that the root is sound.


  6. Brad Littlejohn

    Darren,Ah, glad you tuned in! Yes, I'm sure they will be enabling comments soon. Regarding McCormack, yes, I told Steven that the HTFC essay should not necessarily be taken as representative, though it was my sense from other things McCormack had said in lectures that he thought that there were at least instabilities and tensions in the early Reformed tradition that tended to lean in that direction—but then, perhaps I was hearing him through the lens of that HTFC essay. But my wording here was somewhat careless. In any case, Steven's main concern is with how claims like McCormack's have been used by other much less responsible interlocutors (primarily in blogdom).That being the case, I think the charges of Nestorianizing and lack of orthodoxy are not in fact beside the point, as this is a common accusation at least in the circles that Steven and Peter are trying to address (which is to say, not academics per se, but educated and academically-inclined folks, who get a lot of their (mis-)information from blogs).


  7. Matthew N. Petersen

    Brad,You may disagree with my first point–though if you merely assert I am "assimilating it to [my] own simplified terminology, which, if it doesn't match perfectly, you decide it must be either unorthodox or inconsistent with itself" it doesn't get us anywhere. (Indeed, I find that the exact same charge can be leveled at the article. But I haven't argued about that.) However, my point was not even to attack the article as heterodox, but to assert that it does not address the issue. Since I am one of those raising the issue, surely my assertion should carry some weight? So the Reformed teach a compound person. So? So did Severus of Antioch, and so do the Miaphysites. "we know him as simple, and not compound, in that which he is understood to be God, and composite in that which he is understood to be man." (Severus of Antioch p. 59) I am surely not so daft as to call you Nestorian for agreeing with Severus. The issue is elsewhere. Regarding my second and third comments: My point is not to pooh-pooh Steven's work (though I do not think it addresses the issues, and indeed raises very serious questions) but to defend myself from the charge of attacking the Reformed tradition. I am not, and never have been, out to make people convert, or to discredit the Reformed. Indeed, if anything, I am out to defend the Gospel I heard at Trinity against what appears to me to be attacks against its very foundation. I have heard Dr. Leithart claim many times that it is literally true that God died on the Cross; and if it is not literally true that God died on the Cross–as the Credenda article asserts it is not–than we are still in our sins.Also, unless it has been taken down, the second part is up.


  8. Matthew N. Petersen

    Also, you responded to a quick comment claiming that the issues are not addressed with "However, to your first point I can only say that you seem to be willfully ignoring the careful terminology and distinctions that the article provides on these points, and instead assimilating it to your own simplified terminology, which, if it doesn't match perfectly, you decide it must be either unorthodox or inconsistent with itself." That sounds like I am prejudged to me. "Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?"


  9. Brad Littlejohn

    First, Matt, did you know that if you hold off from replying to a comment instantly, you can usually think of everything you want to say before you post your comment, so you don't have to post three comments in succession every time. ;-)To your last comment, I assure you I am not pre-judging, but post-judging—judging based on what you have said in your comments here, on the Credenda article, on Facebook, on previous comments on this blog, etc.To your first comment, "the wicked flee when none pursue." I didn't say in my post, and I'm confident Steven didn't say in his, "This essay is written to rebut people like Matt Petersen, who are out to make people convert and discredit the Reformed tradition." So why do you feel the need to "defend yourself against this charge"?As far as what you have heard at Trinity—I am not sure whether Leithart has said "It is literally true that God died on the cross," which is probably not the most helpful terminology, because "literally" is in fact an extraordinarily slippery and imprecise word, as the Reformed ought to know well from their debates with dispensationalists about hermeneutics. For that reason, one person might say, "This is literally true" and another person deny "this is literally true" and them not be contradicting one another. But in any case, as I understand it, what Peter and Steven have denied is that it is *true without qualification* that God died. And I have no doubt that Leithart would agree with this denial. For "God died" could mean "God died in himself" or "God died as a man," "God died according to his human nature." The former is not merely false, but nonsense. The latter is the orthodox statement. Qualification is necessary if we are to speak meaningfully; qualification does not mean nullification, though. And indeed, the very blog post by Jeff Meyers that you link to, brief as it is, makes this very qualification! "God the Son experienced death as a man." That is precisely the formula that Steven, Peter, and the early Reformed would accept. So I'm not really not sure what your beef is. As the purpose of this little announcement was merely to advertise a new site, not to engage in incessant Christological disquisitions, however, I'm probably not going to continue if you wish to carry on arguing about it.


  10. Matthew N. Petersen

    Three posts one point. I intend to comment Trinitarianly, not Unitarianly. But seriously, the third post was posted about seven hours later when your response was still really bothering me.I'm not at all trying to debate theology, but to point to where any possible debate must be. To debate, I would have to make assertions about truth, not merely about the location of objection.If I understand them correctly, and you can correct me if I am wrong, the thesis of the article is that the Reformed say that Christ's subsistence is compound, and that this does not make them heretics, but rather is received from John of Damascus, and therefore should not be considered heretical.But with that thesis neither I nor Perry, nor anyone else I know of has nor has had any dispute. There is nothing Nestorian, or even specifically Chalcedonian about claiming the person is compound. Even the Anti-Chalcedonian Miaphysites believe the person is compound, as my quote from Severus shows. Steven and Peter may still be able to answer our objection, but on my reading it is not true they *have*. If their thesis is that the person is compound, both for the Reformed, and for ancients, they have proved nothing controversial, even as regards the discussion at hand.I want to defend myself from the charge 1) because people have accused me of being out to attack the Reformed, Jonathan Bonomo in particular. 2) because I want it to be clear up front so there is no ambiguity. It's a touchy subject and I'm attempting to establish my ethos in a situation where it would be very easy to mistake my position, and thus for my ethos to be illegitimately damaged.I suppose the fact that I am simply looking for reasons to attack is refuted by the fact that I find nothing to object to either in Zanchi, or their commentary on Zanchi. My only wish is that they were true to Zanchi, and not Vermigli, for the two seem to be saying radically different things. But then I am here only stating my position, and not arguing for it, so naturally you see no reason to agree with it.


  11. Brad Littlejohn

    Thanks Matt. So I understand you to be saying that the argument is not addressing the point at issue, because no one is objecting to the notion of a compound person. The point at issue, I take you to be saying, is whether the acting subject of the God-man is the eternal Logos. But if so, then the compound person issue is quite relevant. For, if by "compound person" we mean that the person of the God-man is not the eternal Word simpliciter, but is, rather, a new entity that has come into being by the union of two natures, then there is a matter for concern, and a resemblance to Nestorianism. In this account, the post-incarnate person cannot be said to be identical with the pre-incarnate person. The language of composition would seem to suggest this, for the being of the Word is simple; if that being has something added to it, so as to be "compound" or "composite," then it would seem to be no longer the same thing. On this account, the Word, in the hypostatic union, is absorbed into a new person, the Word-plus-flesh, rather than remaining the selfsame subject. That, I take it, is the potential problem with the language of compound person, to which McCormack draws attention in John of Damascus and the Reformers, and it is this misunderstanding against which Steven is seeking to carefully guard in his exposition of the Reformed use of these terms.


  12. Matthew N. Petersen

    Well ok, if the point is that composite is meant in the orthodox way, and not the heretical way. But I'm not sure that I see lots of argumentation on that point–he seems to argue more that the person is composite, and not that the person remains exactly the same person in spite becoming composite–and on some points, perhaps in spite of his intentions, he seems to treat the flesh hypostatically, though without those words.But I'd have to argue that point, and you said you don't want to have a Christology debate. (And I really don't want one in a combox either. I'm working on something of a response that I'll post where I can (though my posting resources are more limited.)


  13. Albert

    For what it is worth at this point (not much?), I see Matt's point and would suggest that one way to look at what is going on is that the TCI (it's new but can we use its initials?) article criticizing the expression of God literally died as about as helpful as defending the same. Both are justified by the danger of vagueness in the expression or the rejection of the expression, but end up just pushing buttons that don't need to be pushed, since you could just admit one can literally say 'God died' so long as you mean God in his deity cannot die but only could in Christ, etc. You don't have to push the buttons!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s