Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Calvin: Justification, Union with Christ, and Good Works
In reading Calvin on Rom. 3.22, I found this:
‘Faith is therefore said to justify, because it is the instrument by which we receive Christ, in whom righteousness is communicated to us. When we are made partakers of Christ, we are not only ourselves righteous, but our works are also counted righteous in the sight of God, because any imperfections in them are obliterated by the blood of Christ. The promises, which were conditional, are fulfilled to us also by the same grace, since God rewards our works as perfect, inasmuch as their defects are covered by our free pardon.’
1. It seems to me that for Calvin, union with Christ is logically prior to any act of imputation (in contrast, I think, to Michael Horton and Bruce McCormack who I believe argue vice-versa, namely, that union is based on imputation - others can enlightenment me if that is indeed the case).
2. In union with Christ, good works, actually become good. Here we have, I think, a link between justification and works that can make better sense of passages like 2 Cor. 5.10 and Rom. 14.10, etc. Here is the tension I find in Calvin's thought: (a) He rejects justification based on the gift of faith and renewal of the Spirit, (b) He rejects justification based on works of the law = moral effort, but (c) He grants that in Christ God can "reward" good works. Although what he means by reward is not spelled out.