I mentioned yesterday that in the latest Confessional Presbyterian Journal, Richard B. Gaffin Jr. reviews Cornelius P. Venema's revised/updated doctoral dissertation Accepted and Renewed in Christ. The "Twofold Grace of God" and the Interpretation of Calvin's Theology. I mentioned that while Gaffin generally appreciated the work, he did have some quibbles.
One of Gaffin's concerns relates to how Venema places union with Christ within Calvin's soteriology. He says:
Where one might most expect an accent on union, however, it is missing. So for instance, the Summary (148-149) to the (important and helpful) chapter on the relation of justification and sanctification states that "these two aspects of God's grace in Christ...remain inseperably joined by virtue of their common foundation in Christ's redemptive work through the power of the Spirit." That, of course, is true as far as it goes. But for Calvin, especially by way of summary, it is true only as union with Christ is indispensable for mediating that common foundation and only as the inseperability involved exists as an integral consequence of that union; justification and sanctification (in its initiation and continuation) are inseperable (as well as distinct) only as they are, coordinately, the immediate fruit of union. (p272)Gaffin quotes the following from Calvin as support for this statement:
...we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value to us. (3:1:1, quoted p273)A powerful quote indeed and at first glance seems to back up Gaffin's thesis. Yet the arguments are complex and worth ploughing through. Did Calvin hold to this? This interchange between Gaffin and J.V Fesko (of WTS and WSC resp.) will provide further food for thought.