Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Reading Notes on Niesel's Theology of Calvin: Part Two of Three

For part one, look here.

Chapter 9: The grace of Christ within us:

“Again and again we find in the writings of Calvin the image of incorporation in Christ. He lays all possible stress upon that as the essence of salvation” (125).

On sanctification, for Calvin, “progress is properly the recognition of our lack of progress” (129).

“Calvin placed his doctrine of regeneration before his doctrine of justification in order from the start to forestall the objections of Romanist theologians. To be righteous in the sight of God solely by faith—that was the message of the Reformation (130).

“We must distinguish between justification granted to man in his estrangement from God and the justification which the believer needs during his lifetime. Hence there is a justification which pays no regard to the works of man and a justification in regard to which works are considered as the fruits of faith (135).

“The effect of our incorporation into Christ is so great that we are justified in our being as a whole, and thus our deeds become acceptable to God for Christ’s sake” (136).

“It has been objected that Calvin simply juxtaposes the doctrines of justification and sanctification without setting them in immediate relation to each other. This criticism does not reflect upon Calvin so much as on the theologians who have expressed it and still do express it” (137).

“…Christ makes no one just whom He does not also make holy” (137).

Chapter 10: The life of a Christian man:

Calvin coined the epigram: “Man becomes happy through self-denial” (144).

“Calvin preaches neither pessimism nor optimism but calls us inexorably to the imitation of Jesus Christ” (151).

Chapter 11: Prayer:

Calvin’s definition of prayer: “Prayer is none other than an expanding of our hearts in the presence of God” (152-153).

“The sphere in which prayer is properly exercised is the church” (156).

In the Institutes, “Calvin gives instructions about prayer rather than a doctrine of prayer” (156).

“There is no prayer without the firstfruits of the Spirit, i.e., without communion with Christ. But then it is also true that we cannot belong to Christ and abide in Him without constant prayer (158).

Chapter 12: God’s eternal election:

On assurance and the “Syllogismus practicus”: Calvin “concedes that our works can be for us signs that we are in a state of grace, provided that we have first assuredly and sufficiently recognized our salvation to lie in the Word of God and in Christ” (174).

On Calvin’s exegesis of 1 John 3:14: Works are not “the real foundation of our salvation” nor “the ground of our recognition of it” (175-176).

“Nowhere does Calvin teach the Syllogismus practicus” (178).

Note: For a critique of Niesel’s view of Calvin on the practical syllogism, see Joel R. Beeke, The Quest for Full Assurance: The Legacy of Calvin and His Successors, pp. 65 ff.


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