Sunday, February 10, 2013

The New City Catechism: Analysis Part 6

Christ

Heidelberg Catechism:

Q12: Since then, by the righteous judgment of God, we deserve temporal and eternal punishment, is there no way by which we may escape that punishment, and be again received into favor?
A: God will have his justice satisfied: and therefore we must make this full satisfaction, either by ourselves, or by another.

Q13: Can we ourselves then make this satisfaction?
A: By no means; but on the contrary we daily increase our debt.

Q14: Can there be found anywhere, one, who is a mere creature, able to satisfy for us?
A: None; for, first, God will not punish any other creature for the sin which man has committed; and further, no mere creature can sustain the burden of God's eternal wrath against sin, so as to deliver others from it.

Q15: What sort of a mediator and deliverer then must we seek for?
A: For one who is very man, and perfectly righteous; and yet more powerful than all creatures; that is, one who is also very God.

Q16: Why must he be very man, and also perfectly righteous?
A: Because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned, should likewise make satisfaction for sin; and one, who is himself a sinner, cannot satisfy for others.

Q17: Why must he in one person be also very God?
A: That he might, by the power of his Godhead sustain in his human nature, the burden of God's wrath; and might obtain for, and restore to us, righteousness and life.

Q18: Who then is that Mediator, who is in one person both very God, and a real righteous man?
A: Our Lord Jesus Christ: "who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption."

Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q21: Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A: The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Q22: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A: Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her,yet without sin.

Q23: What offices doth Christ execute as our Redeemer?
A: Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of a prophet, of a priest, and of a king, both in his estate of humiliation and exaltation.

Q24: How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A: Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in revealing to us, by his Word and Spirit, the will of God for our salvation.

Q25: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A: Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering up of himself a sacrifice to satisfy divine justice, and reconcile us to God, and in making continual intercession for us.

Q26: How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A: Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us,[71] and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

Q27: Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?
A: Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross; in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.

Q28: Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?
A: Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day, in ascending up into heaven, in sitting at the right hand of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.

Westminster Larger Catechism

Q36: Who is the Mediator of the covenant of grace?
A: The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fulness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.

Q37: How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A: Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q38: Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A: It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death, give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q39: Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A: It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q40: Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A: It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us as the works of the whole person.

Q41: Why was our Mediator called Jesus?
A: Our Mediator was called Jesus, because he saveth his people from their sins.

Q42: Why was our Mediator called Christ?
A: Our Mediator was called Christ, because he was anointed with the Holy Ghost above measure, and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king of his church, in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation.

Q43: How doth Christ execute the office of a prophet?
A: Christ executeth the office of a prophet, in his revealing to the church, in all ages, by his Spirit and Word, in divers ways of administration, the whole will of God, in all things concerning their edification and salvation.

Q44: How doth Christ execute the office of a priest?
A: Christ executeth the office of a priest, in his once offering himself a sacrifice without spot to God, to be reconciliation for the sins of his people; and in making continual intercession for them.

Q45: How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A: Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.

Q46: What was the estate of Christ's humiliation?
A: The estate of Christ's humiliation was that low condition, wherein he for our sakes, emptying himself of his glory, took upon him the form of a servant, in his conception and birth, life, death, and after his death, until his resurrection.

Q47: How did Christ humble himself in his conception and birth?
A: Christ humbled himself in his conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, he was pleased in the fullness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her; with divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement.

Q48: How did Christ humble himself in his life?
A: Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law, which he perfectly fulfilled; and by conflicting with the indignities of the world, temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh, whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition.

Q49: How did Christ humble himself in his death?
A: Christ humbled himself in his death, in that having been betrayed by Judas, forsaken by his disciples, scorned and rejected by the world, condemned by Pilate, and tormented by his persecutors; having also conflicted with the terrors of death, and the powers of darkness, felt and borne the weight of God's wrath, he laid down his life an offering for sin, enduring the painful, shameful, and cursed death of the cross.

Q50: Wherein consisted Christ's humiliation after his death?
A: Christ's humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell.

New City Catechism:

Q20: Who is the Redeemer?
A: The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, in whom God became man and bore the penalty for sin himself.

Q21: What sort of Redeemer is needed to bring us back to God?
A: One who is truly human and also truly God.

Q22: Why must the Redeemer be truly human?
A: That in human nature he might on our behalf perfectly obey the whole law and suffer the punishment for human sin; and also that he might sympathize with our weaknesses.

Q23: Why must the Redeemer be truly God?
A: That because of his divine nature his obedience and suffering would be perfect and effective; and also that he would be able to bear the righteous anger of God against sin and yet overcome death.

Q24: Why was it necessary for Christ, the Redeemer, to die?
A: Since death is the punishment for sin, Christ died willingly in our place to deliver us from the power and penalty of sin and bring us back to God. By his substitutionary atoning death, he alone redeems us from hell and gains for us forgiveness of sin, righteousness, and everlasting life.

Q25: Does Christ’s death mean all our sins can be forgiven?
A: Yes, because Christ’s death on the cross fully paid the penalty for our sin, God graciously imputes Christ’s righteousness to us as if it were our own and will remember our sins no more.

Q26: What else does Christ’s death redeem?
A: Christ’s death is the beginning of the redemption and renewal of every part of fallen creation, as he powerfully directs all things for his own glory and creation’s good.

On the topic of Jesus Christ, the different catechisms again go at it differently. How then should we proceed in comparing them? Christology is normally discussed under two parts, speaking of the person of Christ and the work of Christ. Using this systematic categorization, we can examine how the New City Catechism compares to the older Reformed catechisms.

On the person of Christ, it can be seen that the New City Catechism does a good job at explaining the reason why Christ must be very God and very Man. Granted, it is not as technical as the older Reformed catechisms, but it does not omit anything serious in its explanation of these basic points on Christ's person. The Heidelberg Catechism does this beautifully also, but certainly the New City Catechism explains this truth well and succinctly. Here, the Westminster Short Catechism does not explain it well, but a good explanation can be seen in the Larger Catechism. As a minus point, the New City Catechism does not use the traditional Chaceldonian language of Christ having two natures in one person, a point which the Westminster Catechisms do state.

On the work of Christ, we see that the Westminster Catechisms excel here. The New City Catechism is inferior to the Westminster Catechisms in this regard. It is acknowledged that the New City Catechism confesses the substitutionary atonement of Christ as well as Christ's imputed merit to us. Yet, the Westminster Catechisms with its delineation of Christ's work as prophet, priest and king clearly shows Christ's work in detail, of which its omission does diminish our understanding of Christ's work. Unlike the previous section on the person of Christ, the New City Catechism does not give a succinct expression of Christ's work as prophet, priest and king as mediator on our behalf. The New City Catechism further complicates matters with its question and answer 26, which states that Christ's death "is the beginning and the redemption of every part of fallen creation." While that can be construed as speaking of Christ being the first fruits of the Eschaton, it is vague enough to mean other less orthodox teachings such as the New Apostolic teaching of Institutional redemption. As such, that question and answer reduces the value of the New City Catechism.

The New City Catechism is of mixed value here. While it does a good job in its question on the person of Christ, its answers on the work of Christ is reasonable but inferior in its speaking of Christ's mediatoral work in general, and is disastrous in speaking when it ventures into speaking of Christ's work as it pertains to the Eschaton, something which should be rightly spoken of in the context of the work of the Holy Spirit, and not of the work of Christ.

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