What should Calvin do?

There is some debate about the extent and grounds of Calvin’s views on geocentrism. Let’s suppose for the sake of conversation that the 1 Corinthians sermon quote indicates that Calvin believed Scripture taught geocentrism. Thus, on Scriptural grounds, Calvin was opposed to heliocentrism. Now, what should Calvin do if he were around today?

He might start by learning of the consensus that geocentrism is false and then look back at Scripture. But suppose he is still convinced that the best interpretation of Scripture on its own merits is that geocentrism is true. What should he do?

I think he has four options:

  1. Keep his interpretation and say the science is (somehow) wrong.
  2. Because of the science, reject his interpretation that the geocentric interpretation of Scripture is the right interpretation.
  3. Keep his interpretation and say Scripture is errant but remain a Christian.
  4. Keep his interpretation, see that Scripture is errant, and give up Christianity.

I doubt many of us want to countenance (1). I also take it as a given that (4) would be far too extreme. So, we are left with (2) and (3). Many evangelicals would want to steer away from (3) because of Scripture’s inerrancy. That would mean we are left with (2).

But this means that science can influence our interpretation of Scripture. That is, given the scientific evidence we now have, Calvin should interpret Scripture differently. So, there is no problem in general with science influencing our interpretation of Scripture.

Anselm’s Fittingness Argument for the Virgin Birth

This is from Oxford World Classics’ Anselm of Canterbury: the Major Works, p. 323. God can create in four ways. (1) Through both a man and a woman, as he often does. (2) Through neither a man nor a woman, as with Adam. (3) Through a man but not a woman, as with Eve. (4) Or from a woman but not a man. To show that this is within God’s power too, God used it for the Savior. So, the virgin birth is fitting for God.

Anselm’s Explanatory Problem for Mary’s Cleanness

Here are two quotes from Anselm’s Why God Became Man found in Oxford World Classics’ Anselm of Canterbury: the Major Works, p. 340:

But that Virgin from whom the man about whom we are speaking was received was one of those who, before his birth, were cleansed of sins through him, and he was received from her in the state of cleanness which was hers.

Rather, his mother’s cleanness, whereby he is clean would not have existed, if it had not come from him, and so he was clean on his own account and by his own agency.

Anselm seems to say this. Christ’s cleanness is dependent upon Mary’s cleanness. Mary’s cleanness is dependent upon the work of Christ. But now we have a third point that Anselm seems to accept: the work of Christ is dependent upon Christ’s cleanness. But now we have a circularity problem. For Christ’s cleanness is dependent upon Mary’s cleanness, and Mary’s cleanness is dependent upon the work of Christ, and the work of Christ is dependent upon Christ’s cleanness, and Christ’s cleanness is dependent upon…

Perhaps there is a solution. After all, Plantinga originally responds to Adams’ criticism of molinism by noting that some circularities are fine. On the face of it, though, this seems like a problem for Anselm.

Outline of Anselm’s Why God Became Man

I won’t cover everything or give every support in the book, but I wanted to provide a somewhat detailed outline of Why God Became Man.

  • The animating question is, “By what logic or necessity did God become man, and by his death, as we believe and profess, restore life to the world, when he could have done this through the agency of some other person, angelic or human, or simply by willing it?” (Oxford World’s Classics’ Anselm of Canterbury: the Major Works, 265)
  • It cannot be that God owed the devil something. Since, “given that neither the devil nor man belongs to anyone but God, and that neither stands outside God’s power…” (272) But God would then be just in simply using power to overcome the devil’s theft. Nothing requires God to use his power against him for the purpose of liberating mankind.
  • Since there was no sin in Jesus, God did not force Christ to die. Instead, Christ died out of obedience that upheld righteousness that as a result led to death. (277)
  • Jesus’ words of wanting the cup to pass combined with his death “was to teach the human race that it could not have been saved by any means other than by his death.” (281)
  • Sinning is simply not giving God what is owed to him. So, someone who does not give God the honor that is due to him takes away from God what is his and thus dishonors God. If there is no repayment, then the person remains in a state of guilt. But he must do than that: he must pay back more “in proportion to the insult which he has inflicted.” (283)
  • Here are a few reasons why God it is not fitting for God to simply forgive out of mercy alone. First, no punishment means forgiveness without regulation, but it is not fitting for God to allow something unregulated into his kingdom. Second, the position of the sinner and non-sinner would be the same, which does not fit God. Third, if there is no payment or punishment, then there is no law so that sinfulness “is in a position of greater freedom” than righteousness, which is unfitting. (284)
  • Since God is just, he cannot tolerate the greatest injustice of sin. “it is a necessary consequence, therefore, that either the honor which has been taken away should be repaid, or punishment should follow. Otherwise, either God will not be just to himself, or he will be without the power to enforce either of the two options; and it is an abominable sin even to consider this possibility.” (287)
  • God, however, never loses his honor because either a sinner repays or God takes it by bringing the sinner into submission. (287)
  • “It is plain, therefore, that no one can honor or dishonor God, so far as God himself is concerned, but, in so far as the other party is concerned, a parson appears to do this when he subjects himself to God’s will, or does not subject himself.” (289)
  • God knows the perfect number of rational beings, so, since some angels fell, the total number of redeemed humans will fill out the perfect number of rational beings. This total number of redeemed humans can be greater than the number of angels who fell, given that God did not originally create the same number of angels as the perfect number of rational beings. Anselm favors the view that the number of angels was not equal to the perfect number of rational beings. (290ff.)
  • The whole human nature was inherent in our first parents. So, their sin affected all of humanity, excluding Jesus. (297)
  • Since God’s goal is to replace the fallen angels with humans, based on truth it is not fitting that God should receive into heaven a human sinner who has not paid recompense to equality with the blessed and sinless angels. (301)
  • “Consider it, then, an absolute certainty, that God cannot remit a sin unpunished, without recompense, that is, without the voluntary paying off of a debt, and that a sinner cannot, without this, attain to a state of blessedness, not even the state which was his before he sinner. For, in this case, the person would not be restored, even to being the kind of person he was before his sin.” (302)
  • We cannot pay God back for our sin because we owe God our whole lives so none of that can redound to repayment. (303-304)
  • It is contrary to God’s honor for him to receive man to a blessed state unless man conquers the devil by death without sinning. But this is impossible because of original sin. (307-308)
  • Because of God’s justice and man’s sin, “Man, therefore, neither ought nor can receive from God what God planned to give him, unless man returns to God all that he has taken away from him.” (309)
  • Man’s incapacity to pay because of original sin does not absolve man’s repayment. “For the result of a sin does not excuse a sin which it brings about.” (310)
  • Repayment to God must be something “greater than everything that exists apart from God.” (319) But this can only come from someone who is superior to everything besides God. The only fulfillment of this can be if God makes the repayment. But the repayment must be on behalf of mankind, so the person repaying must be man.  So, “it is necessary that a God-man should pay it.” (319-320)
  • These two natures must be found intact in one man or else it cannot come about that one and the same person is both perfect God and perfect man. (321)
  • Since it is the race of Adam that must be restored, the Savior must come from Adam’s line. (322)
  • And now a neat argument for the virgin birth. God can create in four ways. (1) Through both a man and a woman, as he often does. (2) Through neither a man nor a woman, as with Adam. (3) Through a man but not a woman, as with Eve. (4) Or from a woman but not a man. To show that this is within God’s power too, God used it for the Savior. (323)
  • This God-Man will be righteous based on his own free choices. (328)
  • Since this God-Man will have no sin, there will be no obligation to die. (330)
  • It is right for the whole world to perish or to take upon one’s self all the sins of the world instead of killing this Righteous one. So, his life is worth more than all of the sins of the world. His death, therefore, is sufficient to repay all the sins of the world. (334-335)
  • “[I]n the case of Christ, the difference between his natures and the unity of his person had the effect of making it possible for his divine nature to bring about what had to happen for the restoration of mankind, should his human nature not be capable of this, and for his human nature to show forth whatever was not at all appropriate for his divine nature.” (345)
  • Since Christ’s death merits such a great recompense and Christ cannot receive this since has is over all things, then the just recompense for Christ’s great act of faithfulness must go to others. The Son can therefore give this recompense to those who are believers. (352-353)

Leviticus 10 in Acts 2?

In Acts 2, the apostles speak in tongues and people say they are drunk. Here is 2:13, “But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with new wine.'” Part of the background is clearly 1 Samuel 1, “12 As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman. 14 And Eli said to her, “How long will you go on being drunk? Put your wine away from you.” 15 But Hannah answered, “No, my lord, I am a woman troubled in spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord.” This background signifies a change in priesthood.

Perhaps, though, there is also an echo from Leviticus 10. In Leviticus 10, Nadab and Abihu offer unauthorized fire before YHWH and are struck dead. But then here is what is said immediately afterward, “And the Lord spoke to Aaron, saying, 9 ‘Drink no wine or strong drink, you or your sons with you, when you go into the tent of meeting, lest you die. It shall be a statute forever throughout your generations. 10 You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean, 11 and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the Lord has spoken to them by Moses.'” It seems like drunkenness may have played a part in the actions of Nadab and Abihu.

If so, perhaps that is in the background of Acts 2 also. This claim of drunkenness is one of danger, especially as it relates to God’s presence through the Spirit. But if these men really are not drunk and the finger of God has come upon them, then they must rethink God’s presence and who enters into that presence.