The Five Points of Calvinism Restated for Evangelical Calvinism in a Christ Concentrated Key

I have done this before, but let me reframe the so called 5 Points of Calvinism within an Evangelical Calvinist way of thinking of things:

  1. otal Depravity – He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him. II Corinthians 5.21
  2. crucifiednconditional Election – By his poverty we have become rich. II Corinthians 8.9
  3. imited Atonement – We have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer us who lives, but Christ who lives in us, and the life which we now live in the flesh, we live by the faith of the Son of God who loves us and give himself for us. Galatians 2.20
  4. rresistible Grace – In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God …. and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1.1;14
  5. erseverance of the Saint – Therefore He is able also to save [i]forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. Hebrews 7.25

What needs to be underscored is how a doctrine of the vicarious humanity of Christ grounds and conditions this redressing of the so called 5 Points of Calvinism. At every turn the humanity of Christ for us is the referent in regard to this great salvation that we participate in by the vicarious faith of the Son of God. It is He, as our mediator, between God and man (humanity), that blazed the holy trail for us; we simply echo his yes to the Father for us, out of his yes for us by the Holy Spirit. If you are wondering what the vicarious humanity of Christ is all about, then check out this list that Christian Kettler has put together in his published PhD dissertation on the topic:

1. Christology includes the “double movement” of the way of God to humanity and the way of humanity to God, contra Docetism and Ebionitism. The “Creator Son,” “the Word of God,” is identical with Jesus of Nazareth (Athanasius). Thus, the radical significance of Christology is “the coming of God himself into the universe he created.”

2. God coming as a human being, not just in a human being removes all possibility of a “deistic disjunction” between God and creation. The possibility of the interaction of the living God with space and time is opened up.

3. The vicarious humanity of Christ is the heartbeat of salvation history. From the circumcision of Abraham to the Incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, the interaction of the humanity of Christ with creaturely form provides a basis for the knowledge of God and the reconciliation of humanity within the structures of space and time.

4. However, the reality of the humanity of Christ, as the reality of the “Creator Son,” “the Word made flesh,” is not limited to the structures of space and time. This is what is expressed in the Reformed doctrine of the so-called extra Calvinisticum, the significance of the vicarious humanity of the risen and exalted Christ.

5. The reality of the vicarious humanity of Christ stresses the inability of fallen humanity to know and respond to God. The Lutheran emphasis on finitum capax infinitipaved the way for the nineteenth century doctrine of the religious capacity of the human spirit.

6. This integration of the divine and creaturely provides the basis for the mediatorial ministry of Christ.

7. The divine Logos in human flesh, as the vicarious humanity of Christ, communicates the very life of God in humanity (Campbell). Salvation is based on the communication of this life (Irenaeus, Athanasius). In this way, Christology is dynamically related to soteriology. In effect, Christ becomes the “very matter and substance of salvation.”

8. The work of the vicarious humanity of Christ is based on the twin moments in salvation of substitution/representation and incorporation. Christ not only takes our place, and becomes our representative, thereby creating a new humanity (substitution/representation), but also incorporates us into this new humanity (incorporation). Our actions become his actions. Our life becomes his life, the life of God.

9. The “correlation and correspondence” produced by the vicarious humanity of Christ provides an “inner determination” of life. There is a “reciprocity” of being which creates “wholeness” and “integrity” and presents a “contradiction” to the forces of darkness. [Christian D. Kettler, The Vicarious Humanity of Christ, 127-28]

In this key of things, theologically, Jesus in his vicarious humanity became us, he became totally depraved (but remained without sin through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit) for us; he in his vicarious humanity graciously and freely chose our reprobate humanity, and thus his vicarious humanity can be understood to be unconditionally elect; it is he in his vicarious humanity that the atonement is limited to, for there is no other real humanity but his alone for us; it is his choice to be for us, in his vicarious humanity that is irresistible, given the fact that he made this choice over our heads (as it were) without our approval or not, and he invaded our humanity with his making all things right in his resurrected and ascended humanity for us; and it is he who as our high priest, mediates for us through his priestly an intercessory work at the right hand of the Father that ensures for us that we truly are his for all eternity, and thus his humanity in the Incarnation and resurrection will always persevere for us before the Father, and it is through his humanity that we live and move and have our being, now and not yet.

I hope you can see better now how evangelical Calvinism’s redressing of the so called 5 points of Calvinism offers an exciting and edifying way forward that is genuinely Christ concentrated, Christ conditioned, such that all things start from his life for us to the glory of the Father.

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4 thoughts on “The Five Points of Calvinism Restated for Evangelical Calvinism in a Christ Concentrated Key

  1. Hi Bobby,

    Thanks for this summary of how TULIP can been understood through the EC lens.

    I really love this stuff. I love the christocentrism. When I consider the distinction between the carnal union with Christ, and the spiritual union i can see that the above outline is basically to do with the carnal union, ie., incarnational atonement. From there I see there to be two options, either universalism (which we’d both deny) or some articulation of spiritual union with Christ, whereby the concrete and objective salvific work in Christ for humanity is then applied to the individual person.

    This is where my nagging question arrises. How do you define how EC is distinct from federal Calvinism ‘at the point of spiritual union?’

    Because at the end of the day the atonement Christ achieves vicariously is still applied to some and not others.

    Or should I say that Christ’s atonement for sin is vicariously applied to all, yet some ‘opt out,’ refuse God’s grace for them in Christ and so condemn themselves. So when we’re baptised, we’re ‘born again’ into a reality that is already true, now consciously living into that reality.

    But it still seems to me that there is still some divine illumination that has to happen for us to choose to live into the vicarious humanity of Christ; what is typically or traditionally called irresistible grace. I get the revised irresistible grace in the carnal union, but surely it’s still required salvifically in our spiritual union with Christ?

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  2. Hi Josh,

    1) Baptism in my view has nothing to do with the appropriation of salvation ( ie I don’t hold to baptismal regeneration).

    2) And the focus is on life, and the reality that Christ brings the conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment to the whole world by the Holy Spirit. Like I have said over and again why people reject God’s choice for them in Christ is the surd and mystery of sin.

    I guess what makes the above so hard to appreciate is that people are still trying to apply analytical deterministic logic to this while we reject that kind of mechanical thinking in regard to God’s sovereign free Triune life. Until folks read and appreciate a couple of books by TF Torrance like Ground and Grammar of Theology and Divine and Contingent Order then the metaphysic we appeal to, theologically, and how hat gets cashed out in human agency in God/world relation, this appreciation will never materialize.

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  3. 1. I agree with your comment on baptism. My point wasn’t necessarily the act of baptism, but the reality it points to- being born into the new life in Christ.

    2. Part of my struggle is that in scripture it doesn’t only seem that people ‘reject’ God’s choice for them in Christ, but it also seems that God ‘irresistibly and actively pursues some individuals,’ like Paul’s encounter with the risen Christ, and in John 3, “the Spirit goes where he wills,” not to mention Rom 9. My difficulty is in reconciling those kinds of texts with EC which I really want to embrace.

    However, I will work on your recommended reading 🙂

    Thanks.

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  4. Josh,

    It is all about hermeneutics, something that most who are attempting to seriously engage with EC fail to appreciate. The passages you note above, if read theologically-exegetically (and we all read the bible through a priori theological lenses) from a certain theological direction, are not problematic whatsoever in reading them in a faithful and biblical way. Just as you read the Bible from a Trinitarian lens, we as Evangelical Calvinists not only do that, but we extend that same kind of theological-exegetical way into the way we read things at an anthropological level; and we read anthropology through the humanity of Jesus Christ, as if he is the real human, the genuine imago Dei.

    But I think it is important for people to admit that they all are reading the bible from a very theologically driven point of view. I would argue that the reason the way you currently read those passages seems more “natural” is because of the history of ideas vis-a-vis the whole Calvinist/Arminian matrix and how that has so saturated Western ways of reading the Bible. The way we read Scripture, admittedly would be much more easy for an Greek Orthodox person to appreciate than a typical modern day Protestant Bible reader. But ironically, the way we read Scripture, it can be argued, and has been in our book, draws from many themes that the Reformed themselves (in its history) picked up from the Patristics.

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