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Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ (Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology) Hardcover – February 9, 2008

ISBN-13: 978-0199211876 ISBN-10: 0199211876 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Series: Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology
  • Hardcover: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199211876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199211876
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 0.9 x 5.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,880,748 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"I know of no other monograph that offers such a comprehensive view of the theme of participation in Calvin's work. Billings makes a persuasive case for the central importance of this motif in the Reformer's thought. This is an erudite yet very readable book." -- --Don Compier, Graceland University

"I warmly recommend Billings's book as a serious piece of scholarly research that is not afraid to tackle some of the more popular theological schools of thought in a manner that is respectful, thoughtful, and analytically powerful. Billings is the first to systematically analyze Calvin's theology of participation. He manages to pull together a Calvinian doctrine of participation which can stand on its own strength and which presents a genuine, and in decisive ways original, contribution to Calvin research. Any further critique of Calvin's theology as based on coercion or violence will have to give an account of Billings's masterful scholarship." -- --Hans Boersma, Regent College

"In the best sense, this is a work of deep theological recollection: with a view to rescuing Reformed theology from its Zwinglian captivity, it restores an appreciation for the catholicity of the Reformed tradition. In the course of defending Calvin against his radically orthodox despisers, Todd Billings carefully and persuasively articulates a vision of Calvin's theology as a source for contemporary constructive theology. And one could hope that the rich vision of sacramental participation he so deftly describes might trickle down into Reformed practice. Billings invites us to imagine how different our Reformed churches might be if they were actually 'Calvinist.'" -- --James K.A. Smith, Calvin College

"This fine study by Todd Billings gives us fresh ways of looking at a familiar figure. Lucidly written, meticulous, precise, and extremely well informed, Billings's discussion of participation, that ancient Pauline category, opens the door both to new historical and constructive insights. An indispensable study for students of Calvin, historians of Christian thought, and theologians of the Gift." -- --Kevin Madigan, Harvard Divinity School

"This is a valuable study of what is an important thought much neglected theme of Calvin's. It should be read by all with an interst in Calvin's theology." -- --Anthony N.S. Lane, London School of Theology

About the Author

J. Todd Billings is Assistant Professor of Reformed Theology, Western Theological Seminary.

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Michael Philliber on August 4, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Often John Calvin is characterized as describing God in a cold, hard way: a deity who is easy to displease because of His vast holiness, but hard to be loved by His failing human creatures. Sometimes this depiction grows from apocryphal stories of Calvin's dealings in Geneva, and sometimes this portrayal is nurtured through a misreading of his writings. That is why J. Todd Billings' discerning book, "Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ" is exceptional. This densely argued book is written for Calvin scholars, seminarians and pastors who are ready to work through Calvin's thinking on what participation in Christ means, and how it holds together the Christian life.
To narrow the theological playing field, Billings takes on a specific set of dialogue partners by discoursing with the assessments of "Gift Theologians" like John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, Graham Ward and Simon Oliver. Therefore, throughout "Calvin, Participation, and the Gift", Billings will reflect on their critiques, and allow Calvin to answer for himself. Yet the thoughtful interchange is empty of rancor or acrimony. The final chapter gives a delightful summary of the discussion that will be helpful for most readers.
In "Calvin, Participation, and the Gift" J. Todd Billings demonstrates how Calvin's teaching on believers' participation in Christ, though not a formal category of his theological framework, was an important aspect which shaped a whole network of themes. With his broad ingestion of biblical and patristic sources, Calvin cultivated a far-reaching and lively doctrine of participation which flowed through his thinking on prayer, the sacraments, ecclesiology and obedience to the law.
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By Always1957 on January 2, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Full disclosure: I am a friend of the author. I found it fascinating and instructive; but I must say, it helps to be already interested in Calvin and the theological issues around his work, both during his time, and among modern scholarship.
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More About the Author

J. Todd Billings is the Gordon H. Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI. He received his B.A. in Philosophy and Literature from Wheaton College (IL), his M.Div. from Fuller Theological Seminary and his Th.D. from Harvard. His first book, "Calvin, Participation, and the Gift," won a 2009 Templeton Award for Theological Promise. His third book, "Union with Christ," won a 2012 Christianity Today Book Award. His most recent book, "Rejoicing in Lament," gives a theological reflection on providence and lament in light of his 2012 cancer diagnosis. He is married to Rachel M. Billings, an Old Testament scholar (Ph.D. Harvard). They have a lively household with two young children, and one Welsh Corgi.