Saving union with Christ in the theology of John Calvin : a critical study
Some Calvin commentators assert that Calvin argues for the sole view that, in the Father's eternal plan of election, the nature and scope of saving union with Christ is limited to a particular number of the elect. The nature of saving union with Christ is actualized for the believer, by the gift of faith, through a sovereign operation of the Spirit. Prior to this gift of faith, men and women are deemed sinners and excluded from God's salvific work in Christ. Other Calvin commentators assert that Calvin argues that in the Incarnation, God established a saving union between Christ and all humanity. Prior to the illuminating work of the Spirit, in the work of salvation, men and women were embraced by the Father, once and for all, in the person of Christ in virtue of the Incarnation. This thesis argues that, in unfolding the nature of our redemption, Calvin presents both views of our saving union with Christ inconsistently. In his Christological themes, he argues that men and women were savingly united, once and for all, with Christ. This is argued in his presentation of our union with Christ's Incarnate Priesthood, with the Irenaean notion of recapitulation and in his understanding of faith as an acknowledgement of the objective reality of the Father's benevolence toward us in Christ. However in looking at the divine initiative as he presents it from the human response, with his pneumatological insights, Calvin argues that the union which God established is solely between Christ and believers. This is actualized through the gift of faith which is selectively granted to a particular number of the elect. Calvin presents us with an ambiguity as the nature of how we have been savingly united with the person of Christ. In the light of this inconsistency, we go further and work out a resolution beyond Calvin's conception by looking at the theological methods of Karl Barth and Thomas F. Torrance. These two theologians provide a much more consistent approach in unfolding the nature of our redemption in the light of the Incarnation which Calvin grasped but failed to develop.