Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Response to Jay Dyer on Calvinism (Part 10 of 13)
02/13/2009 - Tur8infanThis is part 10 of the thirteen part series in response to Jay Dyer. The previous part may be found here (link).
Jay Dyer says:
9) "[A consistent Calvinist must be] Un-deified, since the Logos' holy Flesh is not your food, because there was no true henotic union."
a) The Calvinist Position (whether right doctrine or error let Scripture decide)
We do eat Christ's flesh and drink his blood, not in a grotesque, cannibalistic and literally physical sense, but spiritually.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4
1 Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2 And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3 And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
Indeed, eating and drinking Christ can be Scripturally said to be necessary for salvation:
John 6:53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.
Of course, Jesus does not mean, in John 6:53, physical life but spiritual life. After all, the physical eating of the sacrifices was done under the shadows and types of the Old Testament administration:
1 Corinthians 10:18 Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?
The Israelites ate the physical flesh of the sacrifices that were sacrificed on the altar. Through those physical signs, the spiritual reality of Christ's once-for-all sacrifice on the cross was depicted.
Christians are united by faith with Christ. This is accomplished by the death of Christ, who reconciled us to God, and purchased for us the adoption of sons and as well through the work of the Holy Spirit applying the benefits of Christ's death to us. Thus, we have become the children of God by adoption. Thus, we are become through the love of God, the sons of God. Thus, in the words of the Psalmist:
Psalm 82:6 I have said, Ye are gods; and all of you are children of the most High.
This is a harmonious union between Christ and the church (all believers), which is likened to the union of love between husband and wife (see, for example, Ephesians 5:25).
b) The Accusation Disputed
The concept of "deification" (in Roman Catholicism - sometimes also called "divinization") or the related concept of "theosis" (in Eastern Orthodoxy) is an easily misunderstood topic, and it is hard to locate good explanations of this concept from modern Catholicism (the Eastern Orthodox explanations seem to generally equate theosis with salvation).
One Roman Cardinal stated: "above all, keep in mind that the words with which Saint Paul described his prodigious deification: "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20) can be applied to each and every Christian." Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos (May 15, 2000). Likewise, a joint commission for dialog with Eastern Orthodoxy, defined the Roman position as "The soteriological meaning of the faith: every expression of the faith should envision the human being's final destiny, as a child of God by grace, in his or her deification (theosis) through victory over death and in the transfiguration of creation."
Pope John Paul II stated:
The Spirit of the Lord not only destroys sin, but also accomplishes the sanctification and divinization of man. “God chose” us, St Paul says, “from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thes 2:13).(General Audience, July 22, 1998)
Let us look more closely at what this “sanctification-divinization” consists of.
The Holy Spirit is “Person-Love; he is Person-Gift” (Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 10). This love given by the Father, received and reciprocated by the Son, is communicated to the one redeemed, who thus becomes a “new man” (Eph 4:24), a “new creation” (Gal 6:15). We Christians are not only purified from sin, but are also reborn and sanctified. We receive a new life, since we have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4); we are “called children of God; and so we are!” (1 Jn 3:1). It is the life of grace: the free gift by which God makes us partakers of his Trinitarian life.
With these expressions in mind (and keeping in mind that these may be very inadequate explanations of the entire concept intended by the term "deification"), a claim that someone is "un-deified" is really (at its heart) a claim that they do not have faith and/or the new birth: that they are not a Christian. No consistent Calvinist, of course, could be an unbeliever or an unregenerate person. (That is not to say that every person who calls himself a Calvinist is saved, and no one should place their hope in the fact that they label themselves a "Calvinist" or know what "TULIP" stands for.)
Furthermore, the grant of new life - the regeneration of man - is an important concept in Calvinistic soteriology. Regeneration produces a change in man's heart, opening his spiritual eyes to the truth of the gospel, so that a man sees and believes to the saving of his soul. This renovation of man's spiritual faculties is one way in which man is given life by God, and the eternal life that comes from being justified in God's sight is another way in which God gives us life. He provides and sustains the believer. This too is central to the Calvinistic tenet of perseverance of the saints. So, not only could no consistent Calvinist be an unbeliever, no consistent Calvinist could reject the idea of God giving life to believers.
The label "deification" itself, however, is problematic. Christians will immediately recall the temptation that Satan gave to Eve:
Genesis 3:5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
Man's desire to be a god (or to be equal to God) is one of the most alluring aspects of many false religions, from the very beginning. Thus, great caution should be exercised with respect to those who suggest that through union with Christ we become "deified." That is not to say that every such label is automatically wrong. Recall Jesus' words:
John 10:35 If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken ...
Nevertheless, Paul explained that this cannot contradict the central Christian tenet of Monotheism:
1 Corinthians 8:5-6
5 For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) 6 But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
So, even while such respectable theologians as Augustine ("We mustn't find it incredible, brothers and sisters, that human beings become gods, that is, that those who were human beings become gods." - Sermon 23B, Section 1) and Athanasius ("For the Son of God became man, that we might become God." De Inc. 54:3 as quoted in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church") may use this terminology, we would do well to be more gaurded, particularly in view of the error of some (especially Mormons) to take such statements in a very literal way.
The term "henotic union" is not a standard term. I'm not sure if Dyer really means to use that expression (although he uses it several times on his website) or whether he is trying to use the expression "hypostatic union." The hypostatic union is the true doctrine that Jesus is both truly man and truly God.
One reason to guess that Dyer means "hypostatic union" is that He makes the comment that I (TurretinFan) have "written what [TurretinFan] perceives to be a response to the accusation I made that Calvinists are Nestorians, in that they end up denying the henotic [sic] union." (source) Of course, Nestorianism is normally defined as a denial of the hypostatic union (see response to Nestorian accusation).
In any event, the term "henotic" means irenic or harmony-promoting. An "henotic union" would, grammatically speaking, seem to be a union that promotes harmony. The union between Christ and the elect is the most harmonious union imaginable between Creator and creature. Indeed, Calvinism - as a central aspect - promotes the concept of God's special abounding love for the elect, which is the basis of Christ's sacrificial death on their behalf. Thus, no consistent Calvinism could deny a henotic union between Christ and the elect.
c) The Accusation Redirected
Catholicism is full of unbelief. This is apparent, at a minimum, from the high level of nominalism. Now, someone should rightly complain that I'm comparing consistent Calvinism with inconsistent Catholicism. Very well. Consistent Tridentine Catholicism anathematizes the gospel - insisting that man's salvation is obtained by cooperating with grace.
One cannot be saved by any gospel except that preached by Peter (Acts 4:12) and every other gospel is anathema, no matter who teaches it (Galatians 1:8-9). Those who seek salvation by works (whether that be cooperation with grace or any other works) will not attain to righteousness, because that is not by faith (Romans 9:31-33).
That is not to say that every person who is part of the Roman Catholic church is unsaved, but there is no salvation through obedience to the gospel that Rome teaches. I know this is a hard doctrine for many soft-hearted people, but God is a Jealous God (Exodus 34:14, Deuteronomy 4:24 and 6:15, Joshua 24:19, and Nahum 1:2). He does not accept strange fire (see, for example, Numbers 26:61) or even apparently sincere acts that are contrary to his revealed will (2 Samuel 6:3-7), which is sometimes hard for believers to accept (2 Samuel 6:8-9).
Recall Jesus' words:
23 Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them, 24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.
13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Salvation comes through union with Christ, justification by grace alone through faith alone, not through works, or else it would not be by grace (Romans 11:6 and 2 Timothy 1:9). That's the Scriptural truth that Rome has placed under its anathema.