- 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: 2 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,875,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ (Changing Paradigms in Historical and Systematic Theology) 1st Edition
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"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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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. Billings further reveals an important underpinning for Calvin which was the duplex gratia, the double grace of gift and gratitude; how justification and sanctification, though distinct, are inseparable.
Another significant topic for Calvin that Billings points out was how this participation in Christ began before the fall of Adam. Humanity in union with God has always been humanity at its fullest. Through the fall that union was disrupted, and brought a distortion to human nature. But sin is not the essence of human nature, only an accident. Therefore, salvation is a gracious restoration to the primal state, which will enter into its fullest purpose at the return of Christ in which redeemed humanity will enjoy a Trinitarian union that will render us conformable to God. But, as Billings makes crystal clear on numerous occasions, this deification will always be a differentiated union, the Creator-creature distinction will never be annihilated. Humanity will never be absorbed into divinity.
Billings shows the development of Calvin's theology of participation in Christ, from his 1536 edition of the "Institutes" through to its final edition in 1559. He draws heavily from Calvin's commentaries, especially his work on Romans which impacted much of Calvin's thinking on this subject. Billings also shows how Calvin's "The Bondage and Liberation of the Will" was the critical place where Calvin developed some importantly nuanced ideas of participation in Christ that he simply assumed, but never stated, in his later material.
For years I have read Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion" as well as his commentaries, and wondered how this important theme of participation in Christ, which I kept bumping into, was understood by Calvin. As I read Billings' book, "Calvin, Participation, and the Gift", it all began to come clear. I enjoyed reading this volume, and would highly recommend it to others interested in the subject. Unfortunately this nicely bound 218 page book is priced well outside most personal budgets, but would be a great addition to a seminary library, as well as to the religion section of any university or public library.