God Didn’t Die on the Cross

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(1) The famous Scottish Theologian Dr. Robert Shaw once wrote an excellent book on Calvinism titled The Reformed Faith. It bears the sub-title: An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith [1845]. On page 112 of its 1974 Christian Focus Publications edition (Inverness), Shaw states: "The human nature alone could suffer and die."

Shaw’s book wasprescribed by theRev.Principal Dr.HaroldWhitneyasrequiredreading attheQueenslandPresbyterianTheologicalCollegetillhisretirement in 1979.Thatwasbefore he was replaced as Professor of Systematic Theology by (the now-emerited) Rev. Professor Dr. Francis Nigel Lee – who then continued to prescribe inter alia also Shaw.

Shaw is by no means a lone maverick on the above point. Consider too the following additional Calvinistic authorities on WCF 8:7:–

(2) The leading Scottish Calvinist Rev. Professor Dr. William Cunningham states in his Historical Theology (Banner of Truth Trust ed., 1969, I:317f): "There is one other position concerningthismatterlaid downintheConfessionastaught inScripture,towhich…Imay briefly advert* (*Chap. viii, sec. 7.). It is this: ‘Christ, in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures;  by each nature doing that which is propertoitself:yet, by reason oftheunity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature’* (*This is called by divines the koinoonia idioomatoon, or communicatio proprietatum.).

"The union of the divine and human natures in the one person of Christ, with a view to the salvation ofsinners,waseffectedjustbecausethereweresomethingsnecessaryforthesalvation of men which could be accomplished only by God, and others which could be done or endured only by man. Man alone could suffer and die, and God alone could satisfy the divine justice andmagnifythedivinelaw. Christ, accordingly, being God and man in one person, didby each nature that which was proper to itself….

"The second part of the statement just quoted from the Confession is a mere assertion of a fact in regard to a certain scriptural usage of language, and its accuracy is proved by such texts as this – ‘Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He [Christ] laid down His life for us.’ Dying is, of course, proper to the human nature" – thus not to the divine nature.

"The position in the Confession…must be carefully distinguished from a doctrine which sounds verylikeitandwhich hasbeenstrenuouslymaintained by Lutheran divinesastheground oftheirtenetconcerningtheubiquity oromnipresenceofChrist' sbody,asit iscalled,whichthey are accustomed to adduced in defence of their view of the real presence of Christ’s body in the Eucharist.

"The Lutheran doctrine is, that what is proper to one nature may be attributed not, as our Confession says, to the person denominated by the other nature, or described by a name taken from the other nature, but to the other nature itself….

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"It is quite unnecessary to expose this absurd and monstrous doctrine; it is enough to point out that, though resembling in sound the statement contained in the Confession, it is essentially different in its nature and import, and in the authority on which it rests."

(3) Rev. Professor Dr. Charles Hodge: Systematic Theology (Nelson, London, 1974 ed., II:40 7f & II:613f): "The Reformed distinctly rejected all the errors concerning the person of Christ…aswellasthepeculiarLutheran doctrineintroducedat thetimeoftheReformation.The Reformed taught what the first six general councils taught, and what the Church Universal received B neither more nor less….

"The Lutherans…beyond this…insist upon a communicatio naturarum…. The divine essence is communicated to the human. The one interpenetrates the other. They ' are mixed' (commiscentur)…. Wheretheoneis,theotheris; what theonedoes,theotherdoes. Thehuman is as truly divine as the eternal essence of the Godhead, except that it is not divine ex se but by communication….

"The first remark which suggests itself on this Lutheran doctrine, is its contrast with the simplicity of the Gospel…. Luther as a theologian…seemed…never to doubt the correctness of his interpretations, nor was he willing to tolerated doubt [regarding the correctness of his interpretations] in others….

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