Christ as Mediator Pre-Fall (Hypothetically)

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JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Hi All

In reading through Institutes I and a colleague were discussing the following sentence in 2.12.1

"Even if man had remained free from all stain, his condition would have been too lowly for him to reach God without a Mediator."

From this sentence it appears that Calvin believes that the Creature -Creator distinctive was such that even a hypothetically sinless humanity would still in some sense require Christ/The Son/The Word to act as Mediator.

What I'm wondering is

a) If you agree with Calvin here - what ways do you think Christ Mediated - pre-redemptively and pre-incarnately? And are there texts you believer teach as much. I think that Calvin probably has in mind natural revelation - with the divine logos/Son/Christ as Mediator revealing God to us through is creation (I think this is what Calvin is thinking of in 1.13.7 for example.

b) What do you think Calvin means by "reach God"? That seems to me to be important.

c) If you disagree can you interact with Calvin on this point? For example Robert Shaw writes in connection with the Confession's "Of Christ the Mediator"

"A mediator is one who interposes between two parties at variance, to procure a reconciliation. Before the fall, there was no need of a mediator between God and man; for, though there was an infinite distance in nature, yet, there was no variance between these parties. But upon the fall the case was altered;"

That appears to be in opposition to Calvin.

d) Have you given any thought to this, or read elsewhere about it? Bavinck, Turrentin?

Any help would be appreciated.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
Unpopular opinion: Calvin is wrong. Thankfully, we subscribe to the more mature statements of the Westminster Standards, not to the personal opinions of a seminal thinker such as the great John Calvin. I realise that I am not really interacting with the original post, but, to paraphrase Calvin, such an assertion is too silly to need or deserve refutation. ;)
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Yes I tend to agree that Calvin ought not to use the word Mediator here - that Christ as divine logos reveals God to us in creation and (probably) in the Covenant Works is probably what he getting at (i,e, Westminister's "volunatary condescension" - but I think using the word "Mediator" muddies the waters.

I'm mainly just trying to work out whether this is an idea that came from Patristic sources, and if it had any further history in the Protestant Scholastics etc.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
There is a benevolence here that is not recognized.

I am not a critic of this but I am wondering if Calvin speaks of this in other areas. I am also wondering if he is considering the Angels who have not fallen. They are his creation.

This sounds like an argument that Supralapsarians and Infralapsarians have.
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
On this point, I suspect Calvin is right. I'm away from my Bavinck just at the moment, but he speaks of the difference between Christ as a mediator of union and of reconciliation, if I am recollecting the terminology correctly. The Son was always the revealer. Even apart from sin, there would be no way for us to know God except as he revealed himself. How would he do that if not by his Word and Image? For us to have any fruition of God as our blessedness and reward, certainly voluntary condescension was required. But that voluntary condescension did not bypass the Trinitarian order of operations.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
I agree with Ruben, that Calvin's thought is "upward," earth toward heaven; and man is simply too lowly even in his created condition to attain on his own substantive knowledge of divinity unless God takes the condescending step to meet him. Man needs mediation, ideally some Mediator in order to have any fruition of knowing God (WCF VII.1).

God did not create man as a demi-god; he actually made him lower than the angels; i.e. much less by way of nature than those dwellers of heaven itself which, for all that superior position and increase of proximate knowledge, yet they do not have a mediator (Heb.2:16).
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
These thoughts are for the benefit of onlookers rather than directed at anyone here (I suspect that we are all agreed in substance if not semantics), but saying that man prior to the fall was in need of divine condescension is not the same thing as saying that he was in need of Christ's mediation. Of course, as a creature, Adam stood in need of God's condescension owing to the distance between the Creator and his creation. And yet that is not the same thing as saying that Adam stood in need of the mediation of Christ. For one thing, Adam was not a fallen sinner and so did not need one who is both God and man to mediate on his behalf.

Is Christ the mediator of the covenant of works or is he mediator of the covenant of grace? The Westminster Standards, as far as I am aware, only speak of Christ's mediation with respect to the second covenant, not to the first. In the first covenant, Adam had direct access to God without the need for a mediator. Whereas man as a sinner cannot have access to God except through the mediator of the covenant of grace. To start speaking of Christ's mediation in the covenant of works only runs the risk of introducing unnecessary confusion into our theological discourse. Perhaps there is a way in which that terminology might be justified, but it will probably have to die the death of a thousand qualifications and will likely do more harm than good.

I have noticed that those who plead for an anti-confessional mono-covenantalism always like to hide behind the likes of Calvin as justification for their aberrations, but doing so overestimates Calvin's importance within the Reformed tradition. It is our confessions - primarily the Westminster Confession - that define Reformed orthodoxy, not the idiosyncratic opinions of individual theologians.
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
Thanks all -

Martyn - I believe you're correct the section I reference in 1.13.7 mentions both angels and men.

I do think as pretty much all have said it is primarily in terms of revelation that this is to be understood (+ voluntary condescension in revealing). And I think that is a species of mediation (after all didn't Moses mediate God's Word and represent God to the people at Sinai as well as representing the people before God).

However I do think the use of the term Mediator in light of the rest of Scripture has a tendency to muddy the waters.

Re: Bavinck and other scholastics I think they do have a way of looking at mediation in two ways - being intrinsic to Christ's person and then secondly as the Redeemer.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
Before the Fall how did God walk with Adam in the Garden in the cool of the day?

I have always thought that, yes, it was the Pre-incarnate Son who interacted (mediated) with Adam prior to the Fall.

Had the Fall never happened, Adam would have continued to interact with the Son in the Garden and grow from these interactions.

What do you think?
 

JP Wallace

Puritan Board Sophomore
What do you think?
I think I agree.

I think Calvin may be onto something here - I wish he had expanded on it more!

I think it's also significant that this sentence is classified "e" in the critical Battles edition i.e. it was inserted in 1559 (I believe that's what it means!) - so this is Cavin's mature thought.
 

Pergamum

Ordinary Guy (TM)
I think I agree.

I think Calvin may be onto something here - I wish he had expanded on it more!

I think it's also significant that this sentence is classified "e" in the critical Battles edition i.e. it was inserted in 1559 (I believe that's what it means!) - so this is Cavin's mature thought.

Doesn't it seem that all our face-to-face interactions with God are through Christ? Even pre-incarnation?

I am not even sure we can see the Father. I have often thought that even in heaven we will not see the Father, but will see God through Christ. He is the image of the invisible God, after all.
 

Andrew35

Puritan Board Sophomore
Doesn't it seem that all our face-to-face interactions with God are through Christ? Even pre-incarnation?

I am not even sure we can see the Father. I have often thought that even in heaven we will not see the Father, but will see God through Christ. He is the image of the invisible God, after all.
Agreed.

I always found one particular take on the presence of Moses and Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration interesting and persuasive: i.e., that both of them had to be sheltered (Moses seeing only the "hinder parts" of God's glory, and in Elijah's covering of his face in his flight and "still, small voice" pericope) somehow from a full vision of God in the OT, but in Christ they could finally see what had been denied them before.
 
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