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Alan Clifford on Calvin and Heshusius

July 9, 2009


Footnote #42 reads:

William Cunningham (1805–61) flies in the face of the evidence in denying that Calvin taught universal atonement (The Reformers and the Theology of the Reformation (London, 1862; fac. London, 1967), 397. Although he denies that it is conclusive, he cites Calvin’s isolated reply to the Lutheran divine Heshusius as ‘a very explicit denial of the universality of the atonement’ (p. 396). Calvin says, ‘As he adheres so doggedly to the words [‘this is my body’], I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins?’ For a discussion of this see Daniel, ‘John Gill and Hypercalvinism’, p. 818 ff. Alternatively, once it is seen that Calvin is opposing the theory of consubstantiation, an otherwise problematic statement makes sense beside his numerous universalist statements. He is virtually asking how unbelievers (or anyone for that matter) can feed on a crucified Christ simply by eating and drinking consecrated elements; for they themselves were not actually crucified as Christ was. Calvin is simply ridiculing the idea that unbelievers feed on Christ by feeding on mere symbols. See Tracts and Treatises, ii. 527.

A. C. Clifford’s Atonement and Justification (Clarendon Press: Oxford, 1990), 87.

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