Friday, February 26, 2010


"Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ?
This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son."
-1 John 2:22

Yesterday, in response to a comment on my last post I checked out Calvin's commentary on 1st John 2:22 and I was very interested and impressed to see what the reformer had to say about "antichrist:"

What he had generally said of false prophets, he now applies to the state of his own time; for he points out, as by the finger, those who disturbed the Church. I readily agree with the ancients, who thought that Cerinthus and Carpocrates are here referred to. But the denial of Christ extends much wider; for it is not enough in words to confess that Jesus is the Christ, except he is acknowledged to be such as the Father offers him to us in the gospel. The two I have named gave the title of Christ to the Son of God, but imagined him to be man only. Others followed them, such as Arius, who, adorning him with the name of God, robbed him of his eternal divinity. Marcion dreamt that he was a mere phantom. Sabellius imagined that he differed nothing from the Father. All these denied the Son of God; for not one of them really acknowledged the true Christ; but, adulterating, as far as they could, the truth respecting him, they devised for themselves an idol instead of Christ. Then broke out Pelagius, who, indeed, raised no dispute respecting Christ’s essence, but allowed him to be true man and God; yet he transferred to us almost all the honor that belongs to him. It is, indeed, to reduce Christ to nothing, when his grace and power are set aside. . .

. . . We now see that Christ, is denied, whenever those things which peculiarly belong to him, are taken away from him. And as Christ is the end of the law and of the gospel, and has in himself all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, so he is the mark at which all heretics level and direct their arrows. Therefore the Apostle does not, without reason, make those the chief impostors, who fight against Christ, in whom the full truth is exhibited to us.

-John Calvin, Commentaries


Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

Well, once again you have succeeded in completely befuddling me. Like every good teacher, your answer has lead me to more questions. No wonder I keep coming back...
You mentioned in your last response the role of Christ as creator, quoting Colossians 1:16. But, The Bible begins "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth".
So who created the world? God, the Father, or Christ, the Son? They cannot be the same entity, else how could Christ be our intercessor with the Father, as Romans 8:34 describes?

Anyway, maybe this kind of questioning is exactly what Calvin is talking about. I choose to believe that for most people this "denial" is not intentional, or at least not ill-willed. People who fear denying proper reverence to the Father try to place all authority with Him and subsequently err by denying due divinity to Christ. But it stems from a lack of understanding, not a lack of desire.

What do you think?

Also, your comment, "What else is the blogosphere good for?" gave me a much-needed laugh;D
thank you

Scarlet Pimpernel

Matt Perkins said...

Hey SP,

Glad I could supply a moment of levity =)

In dealing with God, I don't think being somewhat befuddled is always only a bad thing... But when it comes to what you wrote about, obviously the Father and the Son are not the same, the Son is not the Father and yet the Son is God, the Father is not the Son and the Father is God, and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son and is also God. And yet there is but one God. I certainly would never claim to have anything close to a full understanding of this truth and yet I believe it with all my heart. When Genesis refers to God creating the heavens and the earth I take it to mean that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit were all involved in the creation of the universe. I've always thought it sounded kind of questionable but I've heard some Christians talk about Genesis 1:26 where God says, "Let us make man in our image..." as an early hint about the trinity. I don't know if I really believe that is the reason that the plural is used there but it is interesting. When it comes to understanding the trinity or the roles of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in creation, it also befuddles me. But one thing I've learned as a Christian is that just because something befuddles me it must not be a reason for me not to believe it. The atonement has been a thing that has befuddled me. In recent years I think God has given me a greater understanding of what took place in the atonement but just because it is hard for me to understand or even to imagine how it could be true I do not cease to believe it.

I don't think this kind of questioning is what Calvin is talking about. I think he's talking about false teachers who have embraced heresy and are now teaching the doctrines of devils, leading others astray.

When an individual Christian struggles with doubt, frustration or lack of understanding I think this is a completely different thing. Unfortunately some will lash out in judgment at the brother who struggles with doubt. But as one who has struggled with many kinds of doubt to the point of despair, I have a lot of compassion for those who struggle similarly.

Anonymous said...

Hi Matt,

I always have several questions after your posts, but can never address all of them, since your answers are so jam-packed. So, I will lay the hot-button of creation aside momentarily.

While addressing the nature of God, I have two questions. You brought up the element of Genesis, "in our image". Now, if I remember correctly, the Hebrew word for God, Elohim, is pleural. Is this to account for the Trinity, or is God pleural in nature by another means?

Also, you addressed the subject of the Holy Spirit. Why do you think it is called such? If God the Father and God the Son are likewise spirit, why is a differentiation made for this member of the Trinity?

I hope you are getting some rest this weekend...

Scarlet Pimpernel

Matt Perkins said...

Hey SP,

Yes, one of the Hebrew words for God is Elohim and yes it is the plural of the word "El," I believe, but I really have no idea why it is used for God in parts of the OT. I'm sure that a Jewish scholar would not accept the idea that it is plural because it's pointing to the Trinity and I don't know what most Christian scholars think about the word being plural, so I just don't know.

When it comes to questions regarding the Persons of the Trinity I won't go beyond what either scripture or the creeds have to say. I don't know why God chose to reveal Himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost in scripture, other than the fact that He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is an interesting question you raise, why the Holy Spirit is called "Spirit" if both the Father and Son are also spirit from all eternity. I'm sure some theologians have written about this. Maybe some would say it has something to do with "procession" - Son and Spirit proceeding from the Father. But to be honest this is above anything I have ever studied. And I guess part of the reason I haven't studied it is because I don't think scripture really explains something like why the Holy Spirit is called "Spirit" and not the Father and the Son. I believe that the doctrine of the Trinity can be argued from scripture and I choose to put myself in submission to the councils which formulated the creeds and much of our understanding of the Trinity before there was any true institutional division in the Church.

I know that's not a very satisfying answer but it's all I can say.