(Editor’s Note: Bethany Tanis has authored many great comments on the BJS website, particularly concerning Calvinism and so we asked her to do a little writing for us on the relationship between Calvinism and Evangelicalism. It is a good thing for the Brothers and all our readers to understand the various denominational tag lines out there as we seek to uphold the Lutheran Confessions and distinguish them from false confessions. Bethany has a Ph.D. from Boston College in modern British history and is starting an assistant professorship in modern European history at Aquinas College, Grand Rapids, MI in the fall. This is part three of a five part series. To view the other posts in this series click the “related posts” button under the Brother’s Cafe.)
John Calvin’s emphasis on the importance of human reason led to the adoption of the philosophical presupposition that the finite cannot contain the infinite (finitum non est capax infiniti). In good Lutheran fashion, we may ask, “What does this mean”? Remember that Calvin grew up in France and received a humanist education. Much of humanism at this time was tinged with the effects of the neo-Platonic revival. According to Plato, the material world isn’t really “real.” Instead, the highest and most real things are ideas or “forms.” The world of material reality and the world of ideas or forms do not intersect; the only possible connection is through the mind elevating itself to contemplate ideas. Coming from this background, Calvin and his followers argued that the divine cannot join itself to the material in a way that allows for interpenetration. This has dramatic implications for Christology and Calvin’s doctrine of the sacraments!
While Calvin confessed the Incarnation and adhered to Chalcedonian Christology – Christ has two natures in one person – his philosophical presuppositions forced him to deny the full communications of attributes between the human and divine natures of Christ. In practice, this led Calvin and his followers to hold a near Nestorian Christology, which emphasized the separateness of Christ’s human and divine natures. Much of American Evangelicalism today is influenced by Calvin’s near Nestorianism, which splits Christ’s humanity from his divinity. In fact, Pastor Klemet Preus recently wrote a series of essays for the Brothers of John the Steadfast on this very topic! Again, Calvin’s desire to separate the natures of Christ derives from his philosophical presupposition that the finite (the human nature) is not capable of the infinite (the divine nature). Taken to its logical end, this belief would lead to a denial of the Incarnation itself! Indeed, errors in Christology always effect others doctrines. In our next essay, we will examine the influence of Calvin’s belief that the finite cannot contain the infinite on his Eucharistic doctrine.
 See David P. Scaer, Christology, Confessional Lutheran Dogmatics Series Vol. 6 (Fort Wayne, Indiana: Luther Academy, 1989), 25-27.