Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Union with Christ, a Few Books

Calvin wrote, "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 for us...For, as I have said, all that He possesses is nothing to us until we grow into one body with Him. It is true that we obtain this by faith” (Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 3.i.1). Exploring this doctrine of our union with Christ has been a joy for the past three or so weeks, and I look forward to posting more here as I continue to think through implications for how I understand the story of the Bible, my salvation (including my right standing before God and my living this salvation out daily), and the ministry of the church.

Here's a few of the books I've read recently on Union with Christ, and a couple I'm diving into now.

1. Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church, by J. Todd Billings. This book was an easy read with good practical reflection on what the doctrine of our union with Christ means for life and ministry. Maybe a little lean on exploration and explanation, but great on reflection. 175 pgs.

2. Union with Christ: In Scripture, History, and Theology, Robert Letham. This one makes a good companion to Billings as he doesn't reflect much on practical implications, at least not as richly as Billings. On the other hand, he explores different aspects of our union with Christ and does a good job Biblically. He does, however, skirt the debate on the priority of justification vs. the priority of union. 150pgs.

3. All Things Made New: A Theology of Man's Union with Christ, by Lewis Smedes. Smedes does a good job of explaining how the doctrine of our union with Christ has been formulated in different traditions throughout the history of the church. It's hard reading, and I think his faults are glaring. He seems to conflate the Spirit and the Son in unhealthy ways and is so anti-mystical I think he misses some important streams of truth. I'd stay away unless you really want to dive into the deep end. 250pgs.

4. Imputation and Impartation: Union with Christ in American Reformed Theology (Studies in Christian History and Thought), by William Evans. I haven't tackled this yet, but it's on my list for this month, mainly because he interacts with Nevins and Hodge and explores their debate regarding the doctrine of union with Christ and how it plays out in the church. Not for those who want in intro to the beauty of this doctrine. 270pgs.

5. Life in the Trinity: An Introduction to Theology with the Help of the Church Fathers, Donald Fairbairn. He was quoted so heavily in my class that I felt compelled to pick it up for myself. I appreciate any book that helps me explore doctrines through the eyes of the early church. I haven't opened it yet, and probably will only read the chapters that relate to my research, at least initially. 225pgs.

6. Calvin's Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension, Julie Canlis. I'm really excited about this book. I haven't read it yet, but was introduced to Canlis' research through the class. Canlis seeks to 'place Calvin within the mystical tradition', which sound good to me! Starting it tonite! 250pgs.

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