02 September 2008

Old Lutheran Quote of the Day

As we commonly say, the Holy Spirit produces in believers such actions as He Himself is. Thus Scripture calls this gracious indwelling of the saints the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Thus also the believers are called partakers of the divine nature, as those who have communion with the divine nature. But these gifts which have been conferred upon the saints through the gracious indwelling of the Deity are not themselves the essential, uncreated, and infinite attributes of the Deity, but they are gracious finite gifts, in a sense, the effects of the Deity, which are given to the saints in such a way that they inhere in them formally, habitually, and subjectively, and in this way they differ in their nature and are distinct from the essential attributes of the divine nature. -- Blessed Martin Chemnitz, *Two Natures in Christ* p. 247


Fr. Gregory Hogg said...


If (1)the Spirit produces in believers "such actions as *he himself is*";
and if (2) these things the Spirit produces are the same thing as "the gifts" conferred on the saints through the gracious indwelling of the Deity (Chemnitz doesn't say this explicitly, but it's hard to know how else to understand why he links actions and gifts);
and (3) these gifts are not the essential, uncreated, and infinite attributes of the Deity, but gracious finite gifts--

then (4) in some way there is a tie-in between the denial of the essence/energy distinction and the making explicit of the subordination of the Spirit which is implicit in the filioque. I need to think on this more, and re-read the relevant section of De duabis naturis...

William Weedon said...

I found it rather curious, myself. Especially in light of FC Ep III:18

Among the condemned articles: "Not God himself, but only God's gifts dwell in believers."

It sounds to me as though Chemnitz is struggling for a way to confess that the energies of God divinize without falling into pantheism, but he's bumping up against the insistence in the West that the attributes ARE the essence.

Todd Wilken said...

I thought the quote navigated nicely between the rocks of error.


William Weedon said...


I think he's saying that the "finite" has not to do with the gifts, but with the vessel into which the gifts are poured. Also, his language of "the effects of deity" skates close to energia, no?


He is definitely attempting to navigate some difficult waters here - how to confess the true indwelling without slipping into pantheism or the like. On the one hand, we have this treasure; on the other hand, we have it in earthen vessels...

Fr. Gregory Hogg said...

Pr. Weedon,

Chemnitz explicitly says that the *gifts* are finite. And "effects," here, has to be understood as equivalent to "creations," not as divine energies, since Chemnitz says that the gifts are "not themselves the essential, *uncreated*, and infinite attributes of the Deity."

It seems to me--and again, I need to think on this more--that Chemnitz' voice (Christology) is Jacob's (Eastern); but his hands (his soteriological presuppositions) are Esau's (Western). Having begun by Cyril, are you now perfected by Nestorius? If we do not affirm that all Christ is by nature, Christians become by grace--i.e. that by grace, Christians actually share the uncreated divine energies, not merely created gifts--then we make the incarnation, obedience, atonement and resurrection of no effect.

To put it another way: for Lutherans, what implications does the second-article rejection of "finitum non est capax infiniti" have for the third article? Christ walks on water, because of the communion of attributes: why then does *Peter* walk on the water at his Lord's command?

Mone me si erro.

William Weedon said...

Check out, though, what he goes on to say in the following paragraphs:

For if the Deity, which through grace dwells in the saints as a true light, sends forth the rays of His power and pours out this power upon the saints, and as a living fountain causes the river of His blessings to flow in and out of the believers, we must assert that this takes place much more fully and far more perfectly in this flesh in which dwells the whole fullness of Godhead bodily. (p. 248)

He's keeping a vital distinction between the hypostatic union and the mystical union here; but the language he uses of the mystical union above sounds like he's making an energy/essence distinction in some undefined way for His indwelling in us vs. the way in which the fullness of deity indwells our blessed Lord.

Gotta run! More later, if we have a chance. I'm still studying this chapter.

William Weedon said...

Oh, and notice that in the next paragraph he states: "But on the other hand these infused gifts are not actually the essential attributes of the divine nature. Rather, they are His workings (energia?) outside the divine nature which are infused into the human nature of Christ in such a way that they inhere in it, as they say in the schools, formally, habitually, and subjectively, by which the very humanity of Christ in itself and according to itself is formed and perfected, so that it can be an instrument characteristic of, suitable for, and properly disposed for the deity, through which and in communion with and in cooperation with which the divine power of the Logos can exercise and carry out the workings (energia?) of His divine majesty. These gifts, like the substance of the human nature intself, to which they formally inhere, are in themselves created and finite.

Back to square one... He is defining the energia, then, as created effects of the attributes which essentially dwell in our Lord via hypostatic union?