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The English Confession of Faith (1556) and the Death of Christ

April 3, 2008

The English Confession:

Thus of His free mercy, without compulsion, he offered up himself as the only sacrifice to purge the sins of all the world, so that other sacrifices for sins are blasphemous, and derogate from the sufficiency thereof.

[Source: Reformed confessions of the 16th century, ed., by Arthur C., Cochrane, (Philadelphia, Westminster Press 1966), 132. The English Confession of Faith Used in the English Congregation at Geneva, 1556, written by the English exiles during the reign of Mary. John Knox also signed this confession and thus it can be found in the Works of John Knox. Interestingly, this confession was also received and approved by the then Church of Scotland.]

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 3, 2008 1:03 pm

    don’t you think this one is just saying it is the only sacrifce available?

  2. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    April 3, 2008 1:14 pm

    Hey Larry,

    I am going to correct this a little:

    Interesting. But I dont think its saying just that. “sacrifice to purge the sins of all the world”

    Its not that it is just the only sacrifice for sin that there is in the world, but that it was offered to purge all the sins of the world. That is, the sacrificial offering is judicially related to the sins of all the world. The Protestant Scholastic model cannot affirm that the expiatory sacrifice is judicially related to “all” the sins of the world.

    Added noted: The stress really should be here: he offered up himself as the only sacrifice to purge the sins of all the world.

    It’s that sacrificial language of “offering” that is critical. He offered himself up as the only sacrifice for the sins of all the world.

    Make sense?

    Thanks,
    David

  3. April 3, 2008 6:47 pm

    David,

    Excellent phrase: “judicially related to the sins of all the world.”

    This is exactly the kind of phrasing I have been looking for as I have been thinking about how to best to express what we are trying to say the last few days.

    I think in our interaction with others that have a hard time grasping, the problem is a language barrier to some degree. These kind of descriptive phrases I think are helpful to those that are honestly trying to struggle through what is being argued.

    Blessings,
    Terry

  4. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    April 4, 2008 7:02 am

    Hey Terry,

    Yes, you are right here. For the modern TULIP version of expiation, the imputation of sin is limited only to the elect. There is a Protestant Scholastic, whom Heppe sites, who puts it like this: only the sins of the elect were injected into Christ. Well if we out aside the idea of sins actually being infused to literally transferred to Christ, the point is, Christ only sustained a penal relationship with the elect. His “payment” was only for their debt. The payment therefore can have no pecuniary relation with others for whom he made no payment. Thus, it is now impossible that the payment made by Christ is actually sufficient for even those he made no payment for. And this is why the Protestant Scholastics rightly say, the sufficiency is only in this sense, that it is of such a nature that it could have been made a payment for all. This view the expiation has no penal or judicial relationship with the non-elect, and therefore by extension: all the sins of the world.

    David

  5. April 4, 2008 7:40 am

    In other words, he offers his sacrifice to all?

  6. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    April 4, 2008 8:35 am

    Hey Larry,

    Well no not exactly, he offers up himself as a sacrifice for all the sins of the world.

    Make sense?
    David

  7. April 6, 2008 3:48 am

    Make sense to me. The giving is always for the sins of the world.

    LPC

  8. CalvinandCalvinism permalink*
    April 8, 2008 11:04 am

    Hey Lito,

    I think there may have been some confusion before, too. I think the sense is that Christ offered himself up, sacrificially, for the sins of all the world.

    What is unfortunate is when so many take these phrases and treat them so ahistorically. If only some folk would apply some of the basics of what they know of Biblical Hermeneutics to Calvin and others, they would treat the texts of Calvin and others very differently.

    For example, with the phrase “sins of the world” Iain Murray just tries to pass this off as Calvin being “wonderfully broad.” What the heck does that mean? :-) If Murray were to do the right thing, he would seek to examine that phrase in the light of 1) Calvin’s own text-corpus, and 2) the writings of his contemporaries and precedents.

    Or again, normally when in Scripture we are faced with an overwhelming amount of Scripture texts making one claim, but we do have one seemingly making the opposite claim, we invoke a few principles, “the clear to interpret the not so clear” and the weight of the majority takes precedence over the weight of the single statement. Yet when it comes to Calvin, we throw all that out the window and just insist the complete opposite. If a cultist, like a Jehovah’s Witness, were to try something like that on us, with regard to some church father, we would tear their arguments apart, bringing to bear every sound and proper tool we have available to us. Yet again, when it comes to Calvin, some will act just so irrationally.

    There is no much one can do when the conversation goes down that road.

    Thanks for stopping by,
    David

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