Fesko's Beyond Calvin (10), Metaphysics and Justification, pt. 6 (Zanchi)

Fesko turns next to Zanchi as the first representative of the period of "Early Orthodoxy" (41-44). Fesko notes some helpful studies on Zanchi in a footnote and appropriately mentions his often overlooked but real importance as a window into a period of transition. However, we detect more of the author's characteristic over-reaction when he blames "the towering figure of Calvin" for the neglect. The way Fesko speaks, I wonder how there can be a fairly healthy body of scholarship on any other sixteenth-century figure - even Luther or Zwingli - given the alleged monopoly of Calvin's tower, not just in the 19th century but apparently even into the present. Perhaps Fesko believes the shadow created by the Calvin tower has guaranteed it is always winter in Reformation and post-Reformation studies, but never Christmas? But I digress. A few remarks on the Zanchi section, then:

1. Having noted there are thankfully some studies out there on Zanchi, the author then states: "Some have been dismissive of his contributions, albeit based entirely on secondary sources" (41, italics mine), and then footnotes only one example: William Evans, Imputation and Impartation, 49-50. We are confused from the start since we have been led to expect "some" but find only one listed, but perhaps if we go to Evans we will find him referring to others. Alas, we do not. Moreover, we also do not find in Evans the "dismissal" of Zanchi of which Fesko accuses him. Instead, over these two pages we read Evans outlining Zanchi's role in the development within Reformed theology of the language used for relating divine and human activity in salvation. Evans, in this section, correctly notes that the earlier Reformation theologians, both Lutheran and Reformed, had definitively established a positive relationship of divine monergism and real human involvement in salvation, but these basic convictions quickly resulted in controversies in both traditions. The controversies were more pronounced within Lutheranism, but Reformed theologians too quickly began to try to expound on the divine-human relationship in salvation in order to fend off destructive misunderstandings.

One facet of this development is Zanchi's (and others') employment of the Thomistic conceptual structure and vocabulary for the psychology of faith. Note that I say Thomistic "conceptual structure and vocabulary," which is what Evans focuses on, and that this is not the same as suggesting they imbibed Thomism as a whole or even per se. Instead, this process is reflective of the high comfort level Reformed theologians enjoyed with the deployment of various scholastic distinctions and forms of argument in order to better explicate shared theological convictions.

Fesko has claimed Evans "dismisses" Zanchi, but when we turn to Evans himself we read him introducing Zanchi as one who endeavored, with his teacher Vermigli, "more fully to explain the relationship between the divine and the human, the change which grace effects in the human person, and at the same time to guarantee the gratuity of justification" (Evans, 49). Evans also stresses "the importance of the development" of the increasing use of habitus language in Zanchi as something that "should not be underestimated" (emphases mine). And then refers specifically to Zanchi as "crucial to this development," a development Evans regards as inevitable given the need to explain faith and grace more fully (Evans, 49, emphasis mine). We do not find anything like a dismissal of Zanchi here. Perhaps Fesko disagrees with what Evans notes regarding Zanchi's role in a period of transition, but disagreement with an author does not easily translate into an argument that the other person has dismissed his subject.

2. Fesko then moves to a commendation of Zanchi as a theologian of union with Christ and, regrettably, he again adopts the procedure of elevating Zanchi by demoting Calvin:

"While union with Christ appears somewhat incidentally in Vermigli and appears more strongly in Calvin, union features more prominently in Zanchi. In fact, unlike Calvin, it is fair to say that the doctrine of union with Christ took on a greater significance for Zanchi's soteriology. Calvin's employment of the doctrine of union with Christ pales in comparison to Zanchi's use of the same..." (41-2).

Please note:

a. There are essays on both Zanchi and Vermigli to come later in the book so we must defer more substantial remarks till that point. But it must be stated here that to suggest union with Christ "appears somewhat incidentally in Vermigli" can only be said by someone who has not read much in Vermigli, who perhaps has read Vermigli only in English translation, and who has perhaps forgotten that he will later in this book devote an entire essay to Vermigli on union with Christ.

b. Comparing (or contrasting) the relative significance of union with Christ for Calvin and Zanchi in this way is tendentious at best. To claim, too, as Fesko does, that Zanchi's doctrine of union with Christ "helps contextualize Calvin's doctrine" (43, italics mine), is simply extraordinary in the contexts of both history and theology. To be sure, Zanchi uses the union idea with extraordinary frequency, but "significance" must mean more than "union word count," and the suggestion that Zanchi's theology of union with Christ is as significant as, or even more significant than, Calvin's theology of union with Christ is a remarkable historical proposal.  For those familiar with the literature it borders on the absurd and begs for proof. But it is not a proposal defended or documented in this essay. We will see if it is warranted in light of the essay on Zanchi to come.

c. Regarding the oddity of depending on what I call "union word count," we find the same methodology in the author's remark that "Zanchi's devotion of an entire locus on union with Christ is unparalleled in Calvin" (42). Besides the fact that Institutes 3.1.1 - the introductory chapter on "the way we receive the grace of Christ" which focuses on the Spirit of union with Christ - does this very thing (and thus "unparalleled" becomes another example of overstatement), since when is it sound methodology to scan a table of contents (there is no "locus" on it) in order to discern theological function or importance? And yet this is not the only example out there: I have encountered the suggestion that the Westminster Standards do not have an important role for union with Christ because there isn't a distinct chapter on it. Perhaps not having a chapter called "union with Christ" is instead evidence of the contrary, namely, that it is so widely important that it permeates many chapters and is not reduced to one. (I suggest you try this out.) At the least, this is a specious approach for a scholarly argument and seriously damages what remains of the author's credibility in dealing with the issues and the texts.

d. Fesko proceeds to note that Zanchi "can also talk about justification and sanctification employing causal language" (42-3), and a bit later states that Zanchi's statements "show that Zanchi saw no conflict between union with Christ and causality language" (43), yet again indicating he continues to attack the phantom authors who allegedly argue otherwise. Significantly, he then quotes Zanchi as follows:

"As the vine branches or olive branches do not bring forth fruit from themselves, but only by the power of the vine or live tree in which they are engrafted, so we likewise do not of ourselves do good works, but by virtue of Christ's Spirit, into whom we are incorporated, and from whom we draw even that life, by which we live, Christ himself working in us by his Spirit "both to will and to do of his good pleasure." "For without me," he says, "you can do nothing" (43, quoting from Zanchi, De Religione, 21.3 (I.362-63)."

It's a beautiful statement by Zanchi, but Fesko needs to qualify what we are reading so he goes on to say immediately: "Now in the very next section Zanchi then goes on to write: 'Good works are not the cause, but the effects of our union with Christ, and our justification, and our life.' Zanchi identifies both union with Christ and justification as the cause of good works..." (43). I am tempted to enter now into a lengthy corrective, but I'll just point out what seems rather obvious: at the very most, this quote suggests Zanchi sees good works as the "effects" not only of union with Christ and justification but also of "our life" - does this not lead us naturally to ask in what way are good works the effects of each of these realities? Presumably they are not effects in entirely the same way but in different respects, so what are those differences? We are given only the quotation followed by the selective assertion, not an explanation of how it conforms to the author's specific thesis.

e. As another example from this section, we read the author on Zanchi and the "two kinds of righteousness," imputed and imparted. He writes, "Couched in the doctrine of union with Christ, Zanchi explains that righteousness is given to the believer by two different ways: imputation and real communication" and then quotes Zanchi as follows:

"These two means of communicating other good things, and especially the justice and righteousness of Christ, are so joined and linked together in themselves, as it were the cause and the effect, that they are not severed asunder, nor ought to be severed by us, no more then [sic] the sun beam can be severed from the sun, or the sun from the beam" (43, quoting Zanchi, Spiritual Marriage, 134)."

After which the author states: "Here Zanchi employs an analogy very similar to Calvin (the sun and its rays), and possibly even gleaned from him, but yet is not averse to saying that imputed righteousness is the cause of imparted righteousness - they are linked as cause and effect" (43-4). But are they so linked? Perhaps so, but in light of the context of union with Christ for this statement, which the author has just noted, isn't it more likely, or at least possible, that the "sun" is Christ or union with Christ rather than imputed righteousness? Since the author sees the possibility of a Calvin source for the "sun and rays" image (which traces back, I note, to Melanchthon as well), I note that we should hear Calvin's voice in the "sever" image as well, since Calvin uses that image very frequently but in order to argue that justification and sanctification are inseparably given in union with Christ, not imputation, so that to contemplate one without the other is to "sever Christ" or to "tear Christ into pieces" (see, at length, Life in Christ, pp. 228-41).

So to assess the author's claim we must turn dutifully to Zanchi's text, using the very same edition the author quotes (the 1592 English translation). This is what we find (pardon the length but the wider context is the point, I'm afraid) - the section in which Zanchi's statement is found is headed with "Nowe touching those benefits which concerne the spirituall life, the communicating of them is thus," under which we read as follows:

"(1) God has set and established all good things in Christ alone the Mediatour, so that unlesse they be communicated, and come from Christ as from the fountaine, none can be made partaker of them. (2) To this have almost all the Scriptures relation, which teach that salvation is to be sought in Christ alone, 1 John 5... Coloss. 1. ... Again, 1 John 1. ... and infinite other such like places. By which is sufficiently prooved, that in the Sonne of God alone, made man, are all the treasures of heavenly and divine good things; as the Apostle in plain words testifieth. Coloss. 2.3. (3) These treasures are truly communicated to them alone, who are so united to Christ, that they are made one bodie and one flesh with him. (4) For the Apostle saith, that Christ is the Saviour of this bodie, that is, of the Church, which is his bodie and flesh, and of all the faithfull, who are one flesh with Christ, and bones of his bones. (5) But this union and incorporation cannot be made but by his Spirite, and by our faith, as the Scriptures everywhere teach. (6) Therefore this communication of the treasures of Christ, doth truly belong and appertaine to the whole Church, the true and onely spouse of Christ, and to every faithfull man therein which hath the Spirite of Christ" (132-4).

And then we have the lines quoted by Fesko: "(7) But this communication is of two sorts: either by imputation, or by reall communicating," etc., lines which, if Fesko had quoted them more extensively, would come shortly to include these as well:

"(12) For the latter part [of Psalm 32, quoted] noteth inherent righteousness, the former noteth imputative righteousness; and he hath joyned both together, that we may not thinke that the one may be severed from the other. (13) For it falleth out so also oftentimes in mariage matters. To whom soever it shal happen to be made the spouse and wife of some King, to her are usually given espousals, rich gifts, and princely ornaments to weare, whereby she may be discerned from other women, and may also be knowne apparently to be the wife of such a King."

And then, in Zanchi's transition from imputation to "real communication" (sanctification and its good works), we read,

"And thus much of the former means, whereby all the treasures of Christ, and especially his righteousness is communicated to us, to wit, by imputation. But of the latter means whereby the benefits of Christ are communicated, that is, by reall communication, there are almost infinite testimonies in the scriptures, so that it needeth no long proofe..." (139).

It would appear that, in context, while his language is sometimes ambiguous, it is union with Christ rather than imputation which functions as the true "sun-source" of the "treasures of Christ," and especially the twin treasures of imputation and renovation. Indeed, his procedure sounds almost like an echo of Calvin's own in Book 3 of his Institutes: union with Christ by the Spirit, and then the two principal benefits, except that Zanchi discusses imputation first and renovation second.

f. Lastly for now, and at a more general level, it is clear the author is parading the importance of union with Christ in Zanchi in order to redress what he perceives to be a blinding neglect or oversight in the literature. I am grateful he wishes to point us to Zanchi on union with Christ, and I agree more attention to Zanchi on this question would be interesting and useful. But I cannot help but smile as I read the author arguing in this way about Zanchi, Calvin, and Calvin-myopia, not least because (1) he is evidently offering a corrective to my own alleged neglect of Zanchi on union in favor of Calvin, and (2) in the book he is zealously critiquing, I wrote the following:

"Though his is easily the more familiar, Calvin’s theology is not the sixteenth-century Reformed theology most impacted by the doctrine of union with Christ. This distinction should belong to Jerome (Girolamo) Zanchi (1516-1590) whose treatise De spirituali inter Christum et ecclesiam, singulosque fideles, coniugio (Herborn, 1591, drawn from his exposition of Ephesians) applies a marital-type union idea to a wide range of theological questions. This text was translated as An Excellent and Learned Treatise, of the spirituall marriage betvveene Christ and the Church, and every faithfull man. Written in Latine by that famous and worthie member of Christ his Church H. Zanchius: and translated into English (Cambridge: Printed by John Legate, printer to the University of Cambridge, 1592). The marital-union possessio and proprietas model associated with Luther above is also present in Zanchi, Spirituall Mariage, 43. Cf. also the discussion in Zanchi’s 1585, De religione christiana fides, esp. Ch. XII, recently published as De religione Christiana fides – Confession of Christian Religion, 2 vols, ed. Luca Baschera and Christian Moser (Studies in the History of Christian Traditions 125; Leiden: Brill, 2007)" (Life in Christ, p. 78, n. 98).

I will need to repeat this quotation from my book when I come to the later essay on Zanchi, but for now I leave it to the reader to compare Evans and Garcia with the author's interaction with the historical texts he uses and the texts and arguments he criticizes.