Synopsis of Polanus’ Syntagma (8)

6 January 2010 by Wes Bredenhof

Somebody reminded me the other day that 2010 is the 400th anniversary of the death of Amandus Polanus.  Too bad nobody seems to be planning a Polanus-palooza.  All the world’s Polanus scholars could gather together in Basel and have a great time, all two or three of them.  But seriously, I do think Polanus deserves more attention.  I’m doing my part by continuing this translation of the synopsis of his Syntagma.   We’re at Book V and this is a long one.  Thankfully, he does divide it up into more manageable chunks.  Today’s part deals with creation in general and the angels in particular.

Polanus speaks of the image of God in the angels.  I have not read his full discussion of this in the book — I imagine that he works this out in considerable depth there.  Last week, I mentioned Herman Bavinck and his interactions with Polanus in his Reformed Dogmatics.  Bavinck also discusses this point and cites Polanus.  He does so in a footnote to this statement:  “But Lutheran and Reformed theologians also often have lost sight of this distinction between humans and angels, and called the angels ‘image-bearers of God.'”  Bavinck goes on:

Only a handful, such as Theodoret, Macarius, Methodius, Tertullian (et al.) opposed this confusion.  Augustine expressly states, “God gave to no other creature than man the privilege of being after his own image.”

However great the resemblance between humans and angels may be, the difference is no less great.  Indeed, various traits belonging to the image of God do exist in angels, but humanity alone is the image of God.  (Vol. 2, 461)


Book V

The external works of God are two:  Creation and Providence.

Creation is considered in the following ways:  efficient cause, material, formal, purpose, effects, etc.

The efficient cause of creation is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The material cause of creation is found with the Will, the Goodness, the Wisdom, and the Power of God.

The form of creation is either with regards to the things all creatures have in common, or those things which are proper [or unique] to them.

The proper is either worked from nothing, or formed [from existing matter].

The formation is either making (factura) or forming (figuratio).

The purpose of creation is two-fold:  the ultimate and penultimate.

The penultimate end is in our use in teaching, rebuking, censuring, instructing and comforting.

The effects of creation on the creature are considered either jointly or in its parts.

Jointly, the creation is comprehended in the name ‘world.’  It is considered with regards to efficient cause, material, formation, end, and the things added.

The material of the world is either that from which it was created, or from which it was constituted after creation.

The form of the world is sometimes the world taken together, other times separately.

The form of the world taken together is first internal, then external.

The purpose or goal (finis) of the world is either universal or particular.

The creation considered in its parts is distinguished by way of the days on which they were produced.

The works of the first day were:  heaven and the angels; the internal principles of natural bodies, with their inseparable appearances (accidentibus), space, time, finity, motion; the primal light, and thus the element of fire separated from the other elements; night and day.

Heaven is both the highest and then the starry sort.

The angels are considered either in general or individually.

Generally, the angels are considered in the following way:  1. They are.  2.  They are substantial beings.  3.  Spirit.  4.  Created.  5.  Created in the image of God.  6.  Incommunicable.  6.  Some did not remain upright.  8.  They are not parts of one another.

The image of God in the angels is of two parts:  first it is in the very incorporeal substance of angels.  Second, it is in their excellent properties.

Their properties are:  life & immortality, blessedness & glory.

The life of the angels is either natural or supernatural.

The immortality of the angels is either natural or supernatural.

The blessedness of the angels consists in their wisdom & will, power & freedom.

The wisdom of the angels is observed in their submission, manners, and variety.

The angels individually considered are either good or evil.

In good angels, the name and the substance are to be considered.

The names of the angels are general and proper.

The good angels have a two fold office:  either the works for God or the works for human beings.

The works for human beings are again two-fold:  either dispensing the favour of God and ministering to those who have been chosen to eternal life; or carrying out the judgments of God on human beings.

The judgments of God are carried both in this life and after this life.

The things to be noted of the evil angels:  malice, intelligence, free-will, power, rank.

Thus far with regards to the angels.  What follows concerns the internal principles of natural bodies.

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