Thursday Theology is a day late: I spent yesterday with a Lurgi (not COVID: there is officially no COVID in NZ) and was under wifely orders to rest. Which were not completely adhered to. Nonetheless, time to continue with Aquinas and Calvin.
I’m leaving the comments from Matt Briggs in here. His “deadly sin of reificaction” is one that besets our time. The metaphor is not the map. The map is not the territory. There are things we cannot know.
REFUTATION OF THE OPINION OF ARIUS ON THE SON OF GOD
1 That this opinion is manifestly repugnant to divine Scripture anyone can see who considers diligently what sacred Scripture says.
2 For, when divine Scripture names Christ the Son of God and angels the sons of God it does so for different reasons. Hence, the Apostle says: “To which of the angels has He said at any time, ‘You are My Son, today have I begotten You” (Heb. 1:5). And it was to Christ that this was said, he asserts. But, according to the aforesaid position, angels are called sons for the same reason as Christ, for the name of sonship is fitting to each according to a kind of sublimity of nature in which they were created by God.
Notes: It is well said that only atheists and heretics read the bible literally everywhere. A mistake they never make anywhere else. If they read a passage in a Western where an old coot says to the newly arrived youngster, “Nice hoss there, son”, none would take this as a claim of paternity.
3 Neither is this objection met if Christ is of a nature more excellent than other angels. For, even among the angels diverse orders are discovered, which became clear above, and for all that, to all of them the same notion of sonship is suitable. Therefore, Christ is not called the Son of God in the way the position described maintains.
4 Again, since by reason of creation the name of divine sonship is suitable to many—for it belongs to all the angels and saints—if Christ also were called Son on the same ground, He would not be “only-begotten; although by reason of the excellence of His nature over all others He could be called “firstborn.” However, Scripture asserts that He is only-begotten: “We saw His glory, the glory as it were of the only-begotten of the Father” (John 1:14). It is not, therefore, by reason of creation that He is called the Son of God.
5 Moreover, the name of sonship properly and truly follows on the generation of living things in which the begotten proceeds from the substance of the one begetting; otherwise, the name of sonship is taken not in truth but in similitude, as when we call either students or others who are in our charge our sons. If, then, Christ were not called Son except by reason of creation, since that which is created by God is not derived from the substance of God, Christ could not be called Son truly. But He is called the true Son in 1 John (5:20): “that we may be; he says, in His true Son, Jesus Christ.” Therefore, He is not called the Son of God as created by God in an excellence of nature, however great, but as one begotten of God’s substance.
6 What is more, if Christ is called Son by reason of creation, He will not be truly God. For nothing created can be called God unless by some similitude to God. But this same Jesus Christ is true God, for, when John had said: “that we may be in His true Son,” he added: “This is the true God and life eternal.” Therefore, Christ is not called the Son of God by reason of creation.
7 Furthermore, the Apostle says: “Of whom is Christ, according to the flesh, who is over all things, God blessed forever. Amen” (Rom. 9:5); and in Titus (2:13): “Looking for the blessed hope and coming of the glory of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ.” And Jeremiah (23:5-6) says: “I will raise up to David a just branch”; and adds below: “and this is the name that they shall call Him: The Lord our just one.” There in Hebrew the name is the tetragrammaton, which certainly is said of God alone. From these sayings it is clear that the Son of God is true God.
8 Moreover, if Christ be the true Son, of necessity it follows that He is true God. For, that cannot truly be called son which is begotten of another, even if the thing be born of the substance of the one begetting unless it comes forth in species like the one begetting; the son of a man must be a man. If, therefore, Christ be the true Son of God, He must be true God. Therefore, He is not anything created.
9 Again, no creature receives the complete fullness of divine goodness, because, as was made clear above, perfections proceed from God to creatures in a kind of descent. But Christ has in Himself the complete fullness of the divine goodness, for the Apostle says: “In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead” (Col. 2:9). Therefore, Christ is not a creature.
Notes Never forget we can (mostly) only speak of God metaphorically. The danger is the Deadly Sin of Reification, of thinking the metaphor, and not God, real.
10 Grant, furthermore, that the intellect of an angel has a more perfect knowledge than the intellect of man; it is still in great want from the divine intellect. But the intellect of Christ is not in want of knowledge from the divine intellect, for the Apostle says that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). Therefore, Christ the Son of God is not a creature.
11 Furthermore, whatever God has in Himself is His essence, as was shown in Book I. But, all things the Father has are the Son’s. For the Son Himself says: “All things whatsoever the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15); and in John (17:10), speaking to the Father, he says: “All My things are Yours, and Yours are Mine.” The essence and nature, then, of the Father and Son is the very same. Therefore, the Son is not. a creature.
12 What is more, the Apostle says that the Son, before He emptied himself taking the form of a servant, was “in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6-7). By the form of God, however, nothing is understood but the divine nature, just as by the form of the servant human nature is understood. The Son, then, is in the divine nature. Therefore, He is not a creature.
13 Furthermore, nothing created can be equal to God. The Son, however, is equal to the Father. For John (5:18) says: “The Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He did not only break the Sabbath, but also said God was His Father, making Himself equal to God.” And this is the narrative of the Evangelist whose “testimony is true” (John 19:13; 21:74): that Christ said He was the Son of God and the equal of God, and that for these things the Jews were persecuting Him. Nor is there doubt for any Christian that what Christ said of Himself is true, when the Apostle also says that He “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Phil. 2:6). The Son, therefore, is equal to the Father. He is not, then, a creature.
I’m Reformed, and I’d agree with our Papist brother Briggs. Only fanatics take the word of got written as metaphor as literal, or what was literal as metaphor. Scripture is God inspired, and useful for us. But it is not divine. God is.
I have had to find another version of the Institutes, with a different translator, today. There should not be any overlap. If the schoolteacher was crushing Arius on his suggestion that Christ was not truly God, Calvin is crushing those who are ruled by fears.
Note to the reader: he does not deny the risks.
10. Here we are forcibly reminded of the inestimable felicity of a pious mind. Innumerable are the ills which beset human life, and present death in as many different forms. Not to go beyond ourselves, since the body is a receptacle, nay the nurse, of a thousand diseases, a man cannot move without carrying along with him many forms of destruction. His life is in a manner interwoven with death. For what else can be said where heat and cold bring equal danger? Then, in what direction soever you turn, all surrounding objects not only may do harm, but almost openly threaten and seem to present immediate death. Go on board a ship, you are but a plank’s breadth from death. Mount a horse, the stumbling of a foot endangers your life. Walk along the streets, every tile upon the roofs is a source of danger. If a sharp instrument is in your own hand, or that of a friend, the possible harm is manifest. All the savage beasts you see are so many beings armed for your destruction. Even within a high walled garden, where everything ministers to delight, a serpent will sometimes lurk. Your house, constantly exposed to fire, threatens you with poverty by day, with destruction by night. Your fields, subject to hail, mildew, drought, and other injuries, denounce barrenness, and thereby famine. I say nothing of poison, treachery, robbery, some of which beset us at home, others follow us abroad. Amid these perils, must not man be very miserable, as one who, more dead than alive, with difficulty draws an anxious and feeble breath, just as if a drawn sword were constantly suspended over his neck? It may be said that these things happen seldom, at least not always, or to all, certainly never all at once. I admit it; but since we are reminded by the example of others, that they may also happen to us, and that our life is not an exception any more than theirs, it is impossible not to fear and dread as if they were to befall us. What can you imagine more grievous than such trepidation? Add that there is something like an insult to God when it is said, that man, the noblest of the creatures, stands exposed to every blind and random stroke of fortune. Here, however, we were only referring to the misery which man should feel, were he placed under the dominion of chance.
11. But when once the light of Divine Providence has illumined the believer’s soul, he is relieved and set free, not only from the extreme fear and anxiety which formerly oppressed him, but from all care. For as he justly shudders at the idea of chance, so he can confidently commit himself to God. This, I say, is his comfort, that his heavenly Father so embraces all things under his power—so governs them at will by his nod—so regulates them by his wisdom, that nothing takes place save according to his appointment; that received into his favour, and entrusted to the care of his angels neither fire, nor water, nor sword, can do him harm, except in so far as God their master is pleased to permit. For thus sings the Psalm, “Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust; his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday” &c. (Ps. 91:2-6). Hence the exulting confidence of the saints, “The Lord is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me? The Lord taketh my part with them that help me.” “Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.” “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” (Ps. 118:6; 27:3; 23:4).
How comes it, I ask, that their confidence never fails, but just that while the world apparently revolves at random, they know that God is every where at work, and feel assured that his work will be their safety? When assailed by the devil and wicked men, were they not confirmed by remembering and meditating on Providence, they
should, of necessity, forthwith despond. But when they call to mind that the devil, and the whole train of the ungodly, are, in all directions, held in by the hand of God as with a bridle, so that they can neither conceive any mischief, nor plan what they have conceived, nor how much soever they may have planned, move a single finger to perpetrate, unless in so far as he permits, nay, unless in so far as he commands; that they are not only bound by his fetters, but are even forced to do him service,—when the godly think of all these things they have ample sources of consolation. For, as it belongs to the lord to arm the fury of such foes and turn and destine it at pleasure, so it is his also to determine the measure and the end, so as to prevent them from breaking loose and wantoning as they list. Supported by this conviction, Paul, who had said in one place that his journey was hindered by Satan (1 Thess. 2:18), in another resolves, with the permission of God, to undertake it (1 Cor. 16:7). If he had only said that Satan was the obstacle, he might have seemed to give him too much power, as if he were able even to overturn the counsels of God; but now, when he makes God the disposer, on whose permission all journies depend, he shows, that however Satan may contrive, he can accomplish nothing except in so far as He pleases to give the word. For the same reason, David, considering the various turns which human life undergoes as it rolls, and in a manner whirls around, retakes himself to this asylum, “My times are in thy hand,” (Ps. 31:15). He might have said the course of life or time in the singular number, but by times he meant to express, that how unstable soever the condition of man may be, the vicissitudes which are ever and anon taking place are under divine regulation. Hence Rezin and the king of Israel, after they had joined their forces for the destruction of Israel, and seemed torches which had been kindled to destroy and consume the land, are termed by the prophet “smoking fire brands.” They could only emit a little smoke (Is. 7:4). So Pharaoh, when he was an object of dread to all by his wealth and strength, and the multitude of his troops, is compared to the largest of beasts, while his troops are compared to fishes; and God declares that he will take both leader and army with his hooks, and drag them whither he pleases (Ezek. 29:4). In one word, not to dwell longer on this, give heed, and you will at once perceive that ignorance of Providence is the greatest of all miseries, and the knowledge of it the highest happiness.
If God was not soveriegn we would be fools to pray to him. But he is not merely the ruler of all that is created, but he teaches us to pray that we are not bought into temptation: that today we have the food and shelter that we need, and he tells us that the hairs of our head are numbered.
If Christ was not God, he could not give us these assurances.
Praise God that Christ is God manifest to us, his death completes our salvation, and his resurrection is our hope.