Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Westminster Wednesday: More on "Unionism"

In this article, Dr. John V. Fesko reviews two books that deal with the doctrine of union with Christ and its relation to John Calvin's theology. He gives approval to J. Todd Billings' Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ, while hesitant to afford the same to Mark A. Garcia's Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin's Theology.

While acknowledging the scholarship of both volumes, the ahistoricity of Garcia's work lends Fesko to wonder about whether the Gaffin "school of thought" (upon which Garcia's position bases heavily), as pertaining to these issues of the ordo salutis, justification, sanctification, and how they integrate with union with Christ, is something that is destined to replace the orthodox, Reformed understanding of the said concepts. He rightly comments that "Time will tell whether the Gaffin-school reading of Calvin that Garcia has put forth will endure scrutiny. It does appear, however, that Billings's reading of Calvin is a more accurate portrait. Others have arrived at similar conclusions."

Dr. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. responds in this article.

1 comment:

  1. It would be helpful to avoid polemical descriptions such as "unionism" or "unionists" as if this were the central dogma under which every theological concern may be subsumed by those who hold to the priority of union with Christ in Reformed soteriology. That is surely not the case and thus the words are unfair.

    I'm also baffled by your comment on Hart's post that, "unionists acknowledge that their view is indeed contrary to systematic and historical formulations but sacrifices these in the altar of supposed exegesis (biblical theology)." You must be referring to proponents of NPP and FV, but be careful not to confuse that discussion with what's at issue here. This is surely not the case with Gaffin, and those associated with him, as is clear in his response to Fesko in your link above.

    Also, your statement that the "classic, orthodox, Reformed position" is that mystical union is grounded on the priority of justification. How do you understand, then, Calvin's statement in 3.11.10 that it is in "mystical union" that "we have fellowship of righteousness with him," not as we "contemplate him outside ourselves from afar in order that his righteousness may be imputed to us but because we put on Christ and are engrafted into our body"? Seems evident here that, to use Calvin's words, "mystical union" is the context for justification. That's because the personal union in the application of redemption is the ground for imputation, where what is Christ's is declared legally to be mine because of the relationship established by the Spirit and through faith. I believe you'll find this to be a primary line of thought in "classic, orthodox, Reformed" theology as it developed into the 17th c. as well.


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