Darren Sumner on the extra Calvinisticum

I am finally getting around to reading my friend’s, Darren Sumner‘s, essay, “The Twofold Life of the Word: Karl Barth’s Critical Reception of the Extra Calvinisticum,” International extraJournal of Systematic Theology 15 (2013). Darren is a recent PhD from the University of Aberdeen who studied with John Webster (who is now at St. Andrews). 

The Extra has actually been around longer than Calvin, but Calvin deployed it in its most Protestant and Reformed expression in his debates with Luther around the eucharist and the ubiquitous presence of the body of the Lord therein. I have read others (and Calvin himself) on the Extra (Bruce McCormack, Myk Habets, et. al.), and so Darren’s engagement will be good and interesting because he is a former student of McCormack’s at Princeton Theological Seminary, and he interacts with Myk Habets’ essay on the same topic (and as I understand it, is constructively critical). I thought though, without getting into the nitty gritty, in case some of you have never heard of this, or would like a precise definition of what the Extra entails; that I would share what Darren shares about it, briefly, in the introduction to his essay.

The purpose of this article is to examine the dogmatic place of the ‘so-called’ extra Calvinisticum in an effort to determine whether it is an indispensable tenet of Christology – particularly in the Reformed tradition. This doctrine states that the Word of God is not entirely circumscribed by his assumed humanity, but continues to fill and sustain the universe even while he is incarnate in Jesus Christ. In other words he exists in two ways, both ensarkos and asarkos, because – as the Reformed  dogmatics typically put it – finitum non capax infiniti.1 The term has its origins in Reformation debates over the Eucharist: the Reformed rejected both the bodily presence of Christ in the sacrament and the Lutherans’ innovative expansion of the communicatio idiomatum that undergirded it, since, they argued, there is no sharing of attributes between the natures. In its origins as a piece of negative theology – as the denial of Lutheran ubiquity and the genus maiestaticum – the extra Calvinisticum aimed at nothing more than this. It was an attempt by the Reformed to maintain: (1) the proper, Chalcedonian distinction between the natures, and (2) that the natures remain unaltered and undiminished. Therefore the Word is fully incarnate in the human Jesus, but is etiam extra carnem – also outside the flesh.

peace to you.

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