ElectionBook2 - HERMENEUTICS AND ELECTION doctrine of God,...

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HERMENEUTICS AND ELECTION165doctrine of God, and not predestination that was moved into soteriology.‘Calvin did not move the doctrine of predestination at all in 1559: he left itin approximately the same place that he had located it in 1539.’40This meansthat, from its early iterations, predestination in theInstituteswas hedgedaround with specifically soteriological concerns. Tremendous care must betaken with this observation. Older scholarship often wrongly argued thatCalvin moved predestination out of his doctrine of God to make a specifictheological point about the meaning of the doctrine, and we must eschewattributing to its location any significance which is simply not there.41Thedistinction to make here is between the placement of the doctrine as impor-tant for the contextual argument and didactic purpose of the overall work,and the placement of the doctrine as important for the actual content anddefinition of the doctrine itself. Where Calvin actually locates election in the1559Institutescannot be used to derive the content of the doctrine, even asits location is not insignificant and ties the doctrine in a particular way tothe recurring argument of Book III. The significance lies in Calvin’s attemptto establish ‘a suitablemethodusor path through the topics for the sake ofteaching the whole in a suitable manner’.42The unfolding argument of theInstitutesfurther contributes to Calvin’s hermeneutics of election, but it isnot this argument which determines what election means. Rather, electionbeing what election is, Calvin is able to expound it as the climax of a care-fully structured argument about the nature of faith.In Book III, famously titled ‘The Way in Which We Receive the Grace ofChrist’, Calvin argues for union with Christ by the Spirit as the heartbeat ofhis soteriology. ‘First, we must understand that as long as Christ remainsoutside of us (quandiu extra nos est Christus), and we are separated fromhim, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human raceremains useless and of no value to us (nobis esse inutile nullisque momenti).’43The driving force of this presentation is faith alone in Christ alone as the waywe experience Christ’s benefits. At the same time, given that ‘not all indis-criminately embrace that communion with Christ which is offered throughthe gospel’, Calvin’s doctrine of faith is annexed to ‘the secret energy of theSpirit’.44This means that Calvin’s introduction of his main subject matterin Christ through the preaching of the gospel as the outworking of eternal election –could have been a significant influence.40Muller,TheUnaccommodated Calvin, p. 183.41Cf. Muller, ‘The Placement of Predestination in Reformed Theology: Issue or Non-Issue?’,CTJ40.2 (2005), pp. 184–210; cf. also Muller, ‘The Myth of Decretal Theology’,CTJ30.1 (1995), pp. 159–167; idem, ‘Found (No Thanks to Theodore Beza): One“Decretal” Theology’,CTJ32 (1997), pp. 145–153.
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Term
Fall
Professor
Dr. Lee Barrett
Tags
Theology, Calvinism, John Calvin, Christian terms

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