The swath of Calvinism, and 'Christ-conditioned-Election'
April 26, 2011
It is curious to me, Scot McKnight is discussing the variety of Calvinisms, but he gets stuck on the usual problem of the classic way of framing double predestination, etc. There is really no discussion on the varieties of Calvinism in the post. He fails to highlight Scottish Theology or Evangelical Calvinism; he fails to notice what Janice Knight has labeled The Spiritual Brethren; and then he fails to address the Barthian reformulation of Reformed theology (that “EC” has certain affinity for, through TFT, esp.). This seems like a major over-sight, and it does not serve McKight’s readers well; whatsoever. In fact, it’s posts like his that, I believe, continue to polarize this issue between the usual “sides” of Arminian and Calvinism parties (in their classical theistic forms). Many folks who read McKnight, or even Olson, I think are being given the wrong assumptions; that in fact there really isn’t any variation within the broader stream of Calvinist history. Below I am simply offering a little repost of how Evangelical Calvinists parse double predestination and election; through a so called ‘Christ-conditioned election’ wherein Christ is both the elect and reprobate in Himself for us!:
I think Myk Habets provides a good summation of how an Evangelical Calvinist (Thomas F. Torrance) thinks of election:
One of the distinctive features of a Reformed doctrine of election is the recurring instance that election ‘is christologically conditioned.’10 Following Calvin, Torrance claims that Christ is the ‘cause’ of election in all four traditional senses of ‘cause’: the efficient and the material, the formal and the final. ‘He is at once the Agent and the Content of election, its Beginning and its End.’11 Election proceeds from the eternal decree of God but this eternal decree of election assumes in time once and for all the form of the wondrous conjunction of God and humanity in Christ.12 The hypostatic union is the heart of any understanding of election as Torrance makes clear when he writes, ‘How are we to relate God’s action to our faith? The secret of that is seen only in the God-manhood of Christ, for that is the very heart of election, and the pattern of our election, and is visible only there since it is election in Christ.’13 (Myk Habets,”The Doctrine of Election in Evangelical Calvinism: T. F. Torrance as a Case Study,” Irish Theological Quarterly 73 (2008) 336)
What this illustrates is that the Evangelical Calvinist still speaks of election, even in Classically Reformed terms; but instead of grounding election in Creation (as the Classic approach does, by way of “decree”), it is based in Christ.
PS. I must admit, it gets rather old to see folks talk about Calvinism, and “Reformed” theology, and fail to actually identify the actual history available within the Calvinist stream. Further, it bothers me that Barth is so often overlooked (and I’m not even Barthian, per se) when discussions of Reformed theology are brewing; Barth stands in the Reformed tradition whether you like that or not (it’s a fact)! You can’t pigeon-hole the Reformed tradition to a particular grouping of agreed upon confessions, like the three forms of unity; Calvinism is much more expansive than that, one of it’s hallmarks is semper reformanda (always reforming), and to be involved in the ongoing practice of confession-making. There are many Reformed Confessions available in the history beyond the ones that are notable (and thus identifying of what “counts” as Reformed Theology today), that Karl Barth, T. F. Torrance and many others press as exemplary of the Reformed emphases they wish to forward (like the Scot’s Confession, The Bern Confession, even, for Barth, the Westminster Confession [in qualified ways]). Anyway, I get hot and bothered when I see posts like Scot Mc., entitled the way they are, and then only to realize that there really isn’t any variety, according to the author he appeals to, after all (that’s why folks need to come over here ;-) ).