Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Christ As "Imperfect" Without the Church

Interestingly, Calvin also sees that God himself has a need, in some way, for union with us. Commenting on the church as Christ's "fullness" in Eph 1:23, Calvin boldly asserts that it is "the highest honour of the Church, that, until he is united to us, the Son of God reckons himself in some measure imperfect...not until we are along with him, does he possess all his parts, or wish to be regarded as complete!" Not that this strictly challenges his self-sufficiency or aseity as such, but rather it is "as if a father should say, 'My house seems empty to me, when I do not see my child in it.' A husband will say, 'I seem to be only half a man when my wife is not with me.'"

Lee Gatiss, The Inexhaustible Fountain of All Good Things: Union with Christ in Calvin on Ephesians, Themelios 34.2 (2009), p. 43


  1. Hello brother, interesting thoughts here... not to challenge Owen or yourself, but without arguing this point, I do question its use or purpose. So, in my curious mind I'm wondering...

    How is God glorified by this contention?

    How is the church built up from such a consideration?

  2. Hi, Tim,

    We can see that God is glorified in the utter humility and condescension that He has lavished upon His chosen ones in His complete identification with them, "...to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:6). Indeed, God is glorified when He bestows favor on the undeserving by virtue of the merits of His Son.

    The church is edified in that union with Christ is the fountainhead of all its felicities. The church is married to One who is Faithful and True, and who has promised never to leave nor forsake her.

    Soli Deo Gloria!

  3. well, I'm not with you yet. I read Eph 1:23 and rejoice in the fullness of Christ... not in his 'imperfectness' or 'incompleteness'. But I will press on with this thought to see if the Holy Spirit will give me better understanding. Thanks.

  4. I admit to being taken aback myself when I first chanced upon these words by Calvin. But then, it was really not an "ontological" statement but a "relational" one.

    You would note that a disclaimer was given regarding aseity.

  5. Erratum: "The church is edified in that union with Christ since He is the fountainhead of all its felicities. The church is married to One who is Faithful and True, and has promised never to leave nor forsake her."

  6. I don't want to miss enjoying this incredible truth you've re-stated above in quotes. Edified almost seems to 'quiet' a word to describe the implications and response to our union with Christ... wow.

    I still can't move towards believing in any form of imperfection or incompleteness wrt the Trinity. Ontological or relational... God is perfect and complete, lacking nothing. While we on the other hand are imperfect and incomplete and the response or result of salvation/sanctification is that we are being restored as imagebearers of the One who is perfect and so we can agree with James when he puts this progressive description to the believer "..that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing".

    I know God purposed in eternity to 'create' the world and us in it. I just don't want to make that a reason to believe it was a response to something lacking in the Trinity.
    (btw, I did catch my error in referring to Owen rather than Calvin...my bad ;)

    And.. in all of this, I am very much the student as these thoughts are new to me and so I'm just doing my best to see them proved out in Scripture. Either way, I appreciate you bringing me to think this over. Blessings brother.

  7. I share your sentiments, brother, but we can treat Calvin's statement as an athropomorphism that serves to magnify the depth of Christ's union with His bride, much like what Scripture does when it seems to portray God as having "changed His mind" (which we know cannot be true).

    Thank you for taking the time to visit the blog.

    Grace and peace to you in the Name of Christ.


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