Thanks for your thoughtful responses to my questions. Judging by your responses I think I was not clear enough in a few places.
1. I am a confessionalist and think that the historic Reformed confessions ought to be the definition the adjective “Reformed.” Thus I am encouraged to see you (or anyone) seeking to apply the WCF to a contemporary theological issue. My chief interest in your post was to note a certain irony in this situation.
As I noted in response to a comment, my chief point was observe that your initial comment suggests that some form of confessionalism has found purchase beyond the narrow confines of the separatist Presbyterian/Reformed ecclesiastical world. There are theologians and writers within the NAPARC world who would sooner jump off a bridge than make an argument that such and such a view is not confessional. In other words, here we have a significant mainline voice attempting to argue a creedal/confessionalist case to people who should be confessional when many in our own circles are committed to biblicistic methods. This is ironic. I hope my intent is not lost in the discussion.
2. I was a little cryptic in my comments about Barth and Van Til. I only meant to say that, it seems to me, in contrast to the way evangelicals often seem to read Barth—as if his context were Wheaton or Moody rather than Berlin, you rightly placed him in his post-Kantian context. Barth was a Modern theologian. He has no time for an historic Adam or the covenant of works etc. He accepted Modernity as a given.
3. I only raised your own work in Christology as a matter of context. It’s what historians do. If I am writing on the history of the doctrine of justification it would be only fair for someone to note my own dogmatic interests in the current controversies over justification. I was careful not to claim much about your views other than to suggest that any sort of kenotic view would be, from the perspective of the Reformed confessions, idiosyncratic. What I said was, “I’ve perceived that McCormack is defending what might politely be called an idiosyncratic Christology, so that his entrance into the controversy is not innocent.”
4. I did not intend to characterize your reading of Chalcedon as idiosyncratic. What I said was, ” I am puzzled by his analysis of the Definition.” I doubt that my puzzlement rises to the level of an accusation. I suggested that your reading of the Definition was not obvious. I am not a Patrologist, however, and your argument has alerted me to some important issues and stimulated me to further study.
5. On the text critical questions in the Second Helvetic, I was using the Latin text in Schaff’s Creeds of Christendom (1931). He doesn’t alert the reader to any textual-critical problems in the text. I am familiar with Müller’s BSRK, having had access to it in the UK and elsewhere, but unfortunately we do not have it in our library (something I’ve asked the Library to remedy).
I see that Niemeyer’s Collectio Confessionum (1840; which I do have at hand) has a footnote on p. 484 which says, “hypostases vel substantias.” I assume that David Schaff must have had BSRK and Niemeyer to hand and yet he chose to ignore this variant. It would seem that there’s considerable doubt as to whether this variant is the correct reading. I look forward to seeing BSRK. Even if it is the correct reading, it is evident from the grammar that he’s using it as a synonym for “naturas” or “substantias.” In other words, I’m not sure I see the point. Bullinger may have used “hypostases” but if he did he meant “naturas” or “substantias.” If Bullinger himself changed the reading, why is it an issue?
6. Thanks for clarifying what you were saying about Calvin. I’m skeptical about your claims concerning the WCF’s Christology only because I’ve never read anyone making such a claim about the divines’ intent, but I’ll keep an open mind as I look into it. I do try to model for my students the ethos: “its not being right but getting it right.” As a historian I’m committed to telling the truth about the past as best I can.
7. I quite agree with you that the Reformed orthodox held that Christ was graced by the Spirit with all manner of gifts.
You complain that I didn’t engage you on this point, but my point wasn’t really to engage the substance of that discussion, at least not in detail, and not on a blog, but to observe the dynamics of the current discussion and to raise questions about some things I noticed along the way.
Maybe we have different understandings of the medium, of what a blog is and does? I see it as a medium to alert readers (thus the links to the original documents) to interesting questions and discussions and to encourage the development of confessionalism in my own little world. I use it to rant and have fun. I don’t do much “academic” work here because the medium doesn’t lend itself to that. It’s too ephemeral.
I hoped that my intent was clear when I said, “whether the HTFC report is orthodox or right or wrong, interests me less than how McCormack gets to his criticism and it interests me less than the fact that he’s paying attention to these sorts of discussions.”
I’m thrilled that someone in the mainline academy is reading and taking seriously not only the WCF but Reformed orthodoxy. I’ve noted your interest in Reformed orthodoxy. In fact, I do so in a forthcoming book as an encouragement to NAPARC types to follow suit.
8. I deliberately haven’t engaged the substantive issues in re WTS/P simply because I realize that they have enough on their plate and, having been in their shoes not very long ago, I decided that I would let them work it out for themselves. If Pete’s views are confessional, then he should stay. If they aren’t, then he should go. If my views aren’t confessional then I should go. That’s the point of having confessional schools.
Your posts have been most stimulating. A colleague and I were looking up texts yesterday (in between marking term papers) and working through some of the Christological issues you raise.
Mark Jones comments here.