The nature of justification in the theologies of John Calvin and Karl Barth : a comparative and critical study
This thesis is a comparative investigation into the nature of justification according to John Calvin and Karl Barth. It traces the conceptual roots of both systems respectively, and follows their ramifications as well. Calvin's system seems to stem primarily from: 1) an administration of justice and atonement derived from his understanding of the Hebrew cult with its various rituals and customs, and 2) the motif of spiritual union with the risen Christ. Justification addresses human guilt as it has its universally objective basis in the atonement itself, while its actuality is fulfilled in one's exercise of faith and in one's spiritual union with Christ. Justification is thus an acquittal of human guilt based upon the reality of atonement and one's spiritual union with Christ through faith. Barth's view, on the other hand, plays down the importance of Old Testament administration of atonement (for specific reasons) and focuses upon the being and history of Jesus Christ (Heilsgeschichte), the God-man who is divinely with us (without reservation) in his humanity. Christ's unique property of being with us, thus takes on ontological qualities on account of his divinity, and consequently his justifying history (i.e. his life, death and resurrection) is supremely vicarious, such that his life, death and resurrection incorporates our being into it. Justification therefore is seen not only as an acquittal but also a reconstitution of our being. Barth places uncompromising emphasis on the sovereign objectivity of our justification in Christ's history. He thus emphasises, perhaps disproportionately, the emptiness of our disposition before the atoning Christ, a concept which Calvin also employs. This has significant implications for the problem of simul iustus et peccator.