Thesis 8. Evangelical Calvinism endorses a supralapsarian Christology which emphasizes the doctrine of the primacy of Christ

Since I have this handy, and have a minute, let me share Thesis 8 from our edited book (2012) Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church; which Myk and I co-wrote:

Thesis Eight

Evangelical Calvinism endorses a supralapsarian Christology which emphasizes the doctrine of the primacy of Christ.

As a direct result of thesis 5 and its concomitant doctrine of God, Evangelical Calvinists subscribe to a broadly conceived supralapsarian Christology along the lines of that famously propounded by John Duns Scotus. That is to say that, Evangelical Calvinists embrace the idea that who God is for us in Christ is grounded in the pre-temporal reality of his choice to be for us apart from and prior to the “Fall” or even the creation itself. This, theologically coheres with the Evangelical Calvinist conception of God’s life being shaped by who he is as love, and thus both chronologically and logically places his love and his self-determining freedom as the primary mode of God’s life; and thus the basis from which he acts, even in wrath. As such an Evangelical Calvinist may confidently assert that: “There is no wrath of God that is not first experienced as the love of God for you.”[1]

As one of us has argued elsewhere: “The sine qua non of the Scotistic thesis is that the predestination of Christ took place in an instant which was logically prior to the prevision of sin as absolutum futurum. That is, the existence of Christ was not contingent on the fall as foreseen through the scientia visionis.”[2] It is through this matrix that Evangelical Calvinists can be said to hold to a “supralapsarian Christology,” that is that we believe in God’s primacy over all of creation; and thus his choice to be for us is in Christ is not contingent upon sin, but instead it is the result of the overflow of who he is as the God for the other—God is Love!

The election of the eternal Son for us that occurs pre-temporally becomes temporally externalized in the Incarnation of Christ, and ultimately finds its resounding crescendo in being actualized through the cross-work of Christ, exemplifying that God’s life of over-flowing love is in fact cruciform in shape as it is revealed within the conditions of a post-lapsarian world.

In salvation God accomplishes multiple things but perhaps four may be pointed out here: 1) God’s glory is revealed; 2) God’s salvation is accomplished, 3) God’s judgment is made manifest, and 4) God’s damnation of the sinner outside of Christ is realized. All four of these components find their extrinsic locus in the person of Christ as the primary exemplar and mediator of God’s life for humanity. Each of these—God’s glory, salvation, judgment, and damnation—take on significance as Jesus’ God-shaped humanity brings God and humans together in himself. The Father is glorified through the Son’s loving submission as the scapegoat, sacrifice, and representative for fallen humanity; and through this ultimate act of the obedient love of the Son, the Father brings reconciliation (salvation) to humanity as Christ enters into the wilderness of humanity’s sin, bears the weight of that sin in his “being” for us; and thus suffers the tragic damnation that rightfully belonged to sinful humanity. Through this mediation of life for life (substitution), Christ not only pays the penalty for sin; but as a corollary with who he is as love, he reconciles humanity’s non-being with his resurrected being of life and thus brought God and humanity together in a spiritual union such that reconciled and adopted sinners may now experience the love of the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Abba, our Father, and our worship, by the Holy Spirit, may be acceptable to God.

Supralapsarian Christology, correctly understood, does not reflect an Amyraldian, or a hypothetical universalism; but rather an actualized universal atonement which recreates humanity through Christ’s humanity, and provides salvation for all who will believe through Spirit generated, Christic formed faith. A purview that genuinely can claim to be “Christ-conditioned.”[3]

[1] This idea is forcefully presented by Torrance in a sermon “The Trinity of Love,” when he defines the love of God according to 2 Corinthians 13:14 as a holy, pure, true, and only love, and as such: “If God in His love gives Himself to me, His love would burn up my self-love; His purity would attack my impurity; His truth would slay my falsehood and hypocrisy. The love of God would be my judgment. God’s love is wrath against all self-love. God’s love is a consuming fire against all that is unloving and selfish and sinful,” Torrance, When Christ Comes, 187.

[2] Habets, “On Getting First Things First,” 349.

[3] See Purves, chapter 5, and Goroncy, chapter 10.

Advertisements

3 comments

  1. I’ve seen this before, but re-skimming it is helpful. How might this effect your understanding of the Fall? Irenaeus came to the same conclusion, but saw the coming presence of Christ as the capstone of man. In other words, Adam was “immature” (whether this means he was a literal youngin’ is a different matter). I’ve become more sympathetic to this over-and-against the Augustino-Roman view (Adam lacked the donum superadditum of grace) and the Federal Reformed view vis. a covenant of works. The latter leaves the question of why man, in original righteousness, failed and thus becomes the necessitated predestination of the Fall.

    I reject that vociferously, but I wonder if you have any thoughts on this area. I know your busy, just curious when you have time to make a comment!

    Like

  2. Addendum: Does the “image”/”likeness” division found commonly in the East enter into your theo-logic at all? I’ve moved towards it, but also curious about your thoughts as well.

    Like

  3. I think I’m happy to simply let the Fall be the Fall, and accept that it happened as disclosed in Scripture w/o feeling the need to appeal to some sort of causal theory. I’m not Eastern, but yes I do like Irenaeus’ recapitulation theory, and I like the Athanasian images of the Image idea.

    Like

Comments are closed.