From “Evangelical” Salvation to ‘Evangelical’ Salvation

[T]he real advance has obviously been made when we come to the INSTITUTIO of 1559, in which unio cum Christo [union with Christ] has become the common denominator under which Calvin tried to range his whole doctrine of the appropriation of the salvation achieved and revealed in Christ. For now in the Third Book, before he can speak of faith, of conversion and renewal, of the vita hominis christiani, of abnegatio nostri as its sum, of the necessary bearing of the cross, of the relation between this and the future life, then — and only then — of justification, of Christian freedom and prayer, of eternal election as the ultimate presupposition of the whole, and finally of the future resurrection, according to the view attained in 1559 he has first to make it plain how it can come about at all that what God has done for us in Christ, as declared in the Second Book, can apply to us and be effective for us. The answer given in the noteworthy opening chapter of the Third Book is to the effect that it comes about through the arcana operatio Spiritus, which consists in the fact that Christ Himself, instead of being extra nos, outside the man separated from Him and therefore irrelevant to us, becomes ours and takes up His abode in us, we for our part being implanted into Him (Rom. 11:17) and putting Him on (Gal. 3:27). (Karl Barth CD 4.3.2, 550-51 cited by Charles Partee, The Theology of John Calvin, 195)

How much of “Evangelical” theology has missed this point? By “only” viewing Christ as the instrument of salvation; what’s missed is the fact that God in Christ through the Spirit is salvation! Union with Christ becomes the center which all other soteriological concerns should find their orbit. If we hope to be “saved” at all, it will only be because we participate with God through Christ by the Spirit. In this way salvation is understood in personal, relational, trinitarian terms versus the usual “Evangelical” instrumentalist, substantialist, qualitative terms. There is a huge difference between the two approaches. I wonder if you too appreciate the significant weight in this difference of approach and understanding?

13 thoughts on “From “Evangelical” Salvation to ‘Evangelical’ Salvation

  1. Bobby: Ultimately I will myself have to go with God’s sovereign/eternal decree in Salvation! The balance of the Westminster Confesstion here is maintained nicely! (Chapter III) Once again this is the forgotten key element in your EC!

    “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” – Rom. 9:22-23 ; Eph. 1:5-6 ; Prov. 16: 4.

    You forgot about them “elect Angels” of God! (1 Tim. 5:21) 🙂


  2. Westminster is intentionally forgotten for EC.

    And I cannot follow the Angelic Doctor’s analogic reasoning in re. to the Angels etc. It seems superfluous, and not scientific (and thus not theological) to try to make inferences from Angels to men, or vice versa. I know about the “elect” Angels; it’s just that I like to try and forget about the substance metaphysics that leads to the theory of causation that we see God working through abstract/impersonal decrees with Angels or humans.


  3. Bobby,

    In simple words, you simply reject that whole path! As it does not set well with your suppositions! 😉 And this also rejects the whole scholastic history, early and later. No, I will go with people like Richard Muller; His book: The Unaccommodated Calvin, Studies in the Foundation of a Theological Tradition. (I wish I had a case lot of this book! I would send one to everyone who is considering the EC! 😉 *And you know I disagree on a theological level here! Barth and Torrance were great Christian men!


  4. Fr Robert,

    You sure do like to hang around a lot for disliking EC so much; why?

    But I will say this, I am not as polarized as you would have me to be; for me it doesn’t come in these all or nothing dichotomies as you present them here. But I don’t really feel burdened to defend who or what I can appropriate in my own theological construction. But again, yeah, it doesn’t bother me to not be associated with the scholastics Reformed; not at all.


  5. “Scientific”? Modernism and postmodernism ya mean! 😉 Here both Barth and TFT fit in quite nicely! It was here that Colyer’s book broke down for me! Note, “Since for Torrance, Jesus Christ is “the Origin or Principle,” not only of all our knowledge of God, but also of all that God has done and will continue to do in the created universe.. Sounds nice, but it really is a ‘theology of glory’!


  6. Bobby, please don’t take this wrong? But I do consider the EC to be flawed theologically, and in its biblical use! And I “hang around” as I hope something of a pastor and teacher, to try and speak about our Biblical God! I have been seeking our God biblically and theologically for over 40 years! The pastoral is really the only reason I blog! But I am obviously theologically inclined, and I hope so in a biblical way! I take James 3:1 very seriously! 🙂 And note the whole rest of James 3:2-18…real Christian wisdom lit. Note again, “For we all stumble in many ways.” (verse 2)


  7. Fr Robert,

    I don’t consider the God of Thomas Aquinas to be the “Biblical God;” as you know! Your ref to ““For we all stumble in many ways.” is hilarious. 😀

    PoMo? Come on, if anyone has provided that within the history of ideas it is the scholastics rationalist or intellecutalists metaphsyics and anthropology; wherein the intellect is the defining feature of man. I think Colyer presses the “scientific” point too much, probably. But TFT’s kata physin approach is in the same mode that Athanasius provided for us; note Molnar on TFT on this point:

    [T]orrance’s view of God the Creator was strictly determined by his Trinitarian theology so that, in order to understand his explication of the doctrine of creation, it is important to realize that his thinking remains structured by Athanasius’ insight that it is better to “signify God from the Son and call him Father, than to name God from his works alone and call him Unoriginate”. What this means is not only that, following the Council of Nicaea, Athanasius stressed the centrality of the Father/Son relation for understanding God the Father Almighty who is the Creator, but that he wanted to stress that this same relation must have “primacy over the Creator/creature relation. The latter is to be understood in the light of the former and not vice versa.” Or, to put it another way, “while God is always Father he is not always Creator” and “it is as Father that God is Creator, not vice versa”. . . . Molnar, Thomas F. Torrance, 73

    This is much more pastoral and biblical in my mind. Btw, I came to the “Reformed faith” through the so called Spiritual Brethren or Free Grace Calvinists like Richard Sibbes, John Cotton, or Robert Eaton to name a few. The history of Calvinism is not just scholastic; sorry Fr Robert. But I have constructively worked with TFT/Barth here as well, obviously.

    A good historical book that counters Richard Muller’s thesis (besides Janice Knight’s) is Max Holt’s edited volume: Adaptations of Calvinism in Reformation Europe (St Andrews Studies in Reformation History).

    Anyway, you’re not the only pastor out there Fr Robert (with all due respect); as you know, and so it is better, I think, on the blogs, to simply engage on material points instead of more formal posture. But whatever.


  8. Fr Robert,

    That’s enough! You cross the line with your “personal” or “pastoral” advice way too frequently (if you want to pastor someone get another parish). I am really considering deleting your comments here, they are out of line; and if I have to tell you again, you’re done here! You don’t know me from Adam, and I am not interested in getting this kind of feedback from someone I only know from the blog. This is your last chance, cross this line with me again and you’re done here!!


  9. Fr Robert,

    In lieu of your response back to me, which I deleted, I think it will do us good to not interact for awhile; so I have placed you on what WP calls the “blacklist” for now. Maybe someday we will be able to have better interactions, in general; but not until, at least, you realize the boundaries and/or limits that I have already told you multiple times not to cross here at the blog. You repeatedly imply or say things that I find out of line, and so this is why I have taken the action I have for the moment.

    Take it easy. God Bless.


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