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Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church
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Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  218 ratings  ·  31 reviews
Accomplished theologian J. Todd Billings recovers the biblical theme of union with Christ for today's church, making a fresh contribution to the theological discussion with important applications for theology and ministry. Drawing on Scripture and the thought of figures such as Augustine, Calvin, Bavinck, and Barth, Billings shows how a theology of union with Christ can ch ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 1st 2011 by Baker Academic
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Garry Geer
May 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book isn't perfect, but it came along at a great time for me. I've been reading a fair amount on the Union with Christ from other authors. Billings did a great job in teasing out some of applications without really stretching the text. He had a far more organic view on revelation and sanctification as it related to union with Christ.
Mar 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: rts
A helpful paradigm for understanding salvation and ministry through the lens of our Union with Christ. Especially loved the chapter on UwC and the Lord's Supper and the implications for fighting for justice in the world. The last chapter critiquing incarnational ministry maybe needs a bit more nuance but has some helpful thoughts.
Greg Bailey
Nov 21, 2017 rated it liked it
This book is not so much an explication of the doctrine of union with Christ as an examination of facets of it. Nevertheless, it was helpful for me in places, especially the sections on adoption and divine accommodation.
Apr 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Pretty good, though some chapters felt a little too long. It’s also interesting to see many of the issues for which the author retrieved the past are in some ways now dated. That being the case, still quite good.
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Though densely theological, and sometimes ponderous, the content of this book is still fairly accessible and excellently well layed out. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting to dig a little deeper into theology.
Jul 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great suggestions for the Church moving forward from a Reformed stance.
Kris Lundgaard
Feb 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Worth lots of reflection, discussion--and action.
Coram Deo Church
Union with Christ is not currently available at local libraries.
Dan Glover
J. Todd Billings has written an accessible, articulate and challenging book dealing with various doctrinal and practical implications of the Christian's adoption by God through the saving work of Christ and by the agency of the Spirit. While not an exhaustive exploration of the doctrine of union with Christ, this study does explore various aspects and implications of it. This is a work of theological retrieval, drawing on past and often forgotten sources, especially Calvin, to bring something lo ...more
May 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Cool book, introducing us to theologians of long ago, helping us to understand substantial truth, really fun. The only thing that kept me from rating it 4 stars was the last third of the book, which got all mumbo jumbo, to me. The author seemed to really want to make a point and got too complicated trying to make it. I LOVED the first quarter of the book, that was 5 stars. My quotes below are from that section.

This was very enlightening:
"In this parable, the day-laborer working in the countrysid
Kessia Reyne
Sep 13, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: school
Here Billings attempts a "theology of retrieval" with Reformed thinkers of the past, reframing, as the subtitle indicates, theology and mission in the theme of "union with Christ." This idea of union with Christ used to be much more prominent than in modern-day thinking, and reflects the "in Christ" motif prevalent in the New Testament.

I appreciated many of Billings' insights, particularly his beautiful exposition of adoption into Christ in the first chapter. His defense of "extensive [total] d
Robert D. Cornwall
This is a a Reformed exposition of the doctrine of union with Christ by a professor at Western Theological Seminary in Michigan. Billings seeks to use the image of "union with Christ" as a way of understanding how we as Christians might be engaged with God in the work of redemption, a work that is entirely in the hands of God, but through union Christians can engage in this work of grace. This is a deeply reformed book, rooted in Calvin and Barth. Those in the missional community may want to att ...more
Brian Collins
Dec 31, 2016 rated it liked it
This is not so much a study of Union with Christ as an application of that that study to various areas of theology and practice. I found especially helpful his critiques of "incarnational ministry" and contextualization." He also includes a helpful discussion that demonstrates that apartheid developed in South Africa not because of orthodox Reformed theology but in the departure from it in an effort to be missional and contextualize the church's ministry. He quotes John de Gruchy: “Despite the f ...more
Roy Howard
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Billings employs a creative theology of retrieval to address current concerns in the practice of ministry. Union with Christ becomes the focal reality - real participation in living union with the living Christ - that changes the conversation around such topics as incarnational ministry, social justice and the Lord’s Supper, and missional practices. He offers a sharp critique of "Modern Therapeutic Deism" and offers an alternative perspective that brings John Calvin's theology to life in astonis ...more
Aug 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a phenomenal book. Billings work on the doctrine of union with Christ is thought provoking and convicting. Throughout this book, he has an emphasis on doing retrieval theology and I think he does this well, by primarily looking at Reformed theologians. I appreciated the chapter in which he put Calvin and Bavinck in conversation with one another. His critique of Incarnational ministry and his solution of Participation ministry was also very helpful. I encourage anyone who desires to delv ...more
Peter Bringe
Oct 09, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
This was a very good book as far as it went. It explains the Calvinist doctrine of union with Christ and gives a few implications of this doctrine for ministry. This doctrine was central to Calvin's thinking, and central to his conception of our salvation. Justification and sanctification both result from our union with Christ. Union and communion with God through Christ is the other side of the coin to the doctrine that man is enslaved to sin when he is apart from Christ (when he has no communi ...more
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Billings has given us a strong example of the fruits of a theology of retrieval. By recovering past theologies from Calvin, Ursinus, Junius, Barth, and the Belhar Confession, he helps the reader view contemporary theological debates with new eyes. In an age that can't hold God's closeness and God's incomprehensibility together, Chapter 3 ("On Communion with the Incomprehensible God") is worth the price of the book alone. Highly recommended!
Kylie Hetherington
Jan 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014
Billings in his theology of retrieval of the great and mysterious doctrine of Union with Christ, not only retrieves a fulsome theology of Union, he liberates Calvin from cliches and challenges some of Western evangelical sacred cows like the notion of incarnational ministry. It is a thought provoking read on the two-fold grace of salvation and sanctification and how that should, according to Billings work it's way into community, justice and ministry. Worth the read!
Anthony Rodriguez
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: theology
The first three chapters were terrific reading. Chapter four was surprising in its turn to more practical matters but ultimately very good. I found chapter five overly long and seemed to be a particular issue that probably mattered more to the author than most readers (the terminology of "incarnational ministry"). It was a good point, but took up too much space for such a small book. Overall, I enjoyed this book. I'd actually probably give it 3.5 stars, but why not just round up?
Jan 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: theology
Excellent book engaging a few prominent ministry models (such as the pervasive Incarnational model) and doctrines (exceptionally good chapter on total depravity and decently solid chapter touching on the Lord's Supper).

Definitely more on the academic side, but it would definitely benefit pastors and ministry leaders. In fact, I would challenge most pastors to read, if not at least engage, the concepts therein. Highly recommend it!
Apr 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
Review forthcoming, as soon as I have access to a keyboard that isn't a phone

Here it is:
Dec 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very deep thinking

I read this book as part of a reading group. If I was reading it on my own I would not have finished it. Not by any means that it is poorly written. It is very academic and not a quick read. I will say that I appreciate the author's insights and I found chapter 5 to be my favorite.
Alex Houston
Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
Todd Billings covers a subject that should shape the Christian's life, this is a major doctrine that is sadly neglected in much of the Church. Who we are in Christ is an implication of the gospel that needs to be focused on every day.
Samuel Kassing
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This was a really good read. Dense but rich. I'd probably recommend reading a more accessible book on Union before you sink your teeth into this. Overall this was a great book and my understanding of adoption, mystery and "participation ministry" have been deepened because of it.
Robbyn Abedi
Jan 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I'd give it 3.5 stars if an option. A good but not great read on the fullness of Union with Christ. Regardless, a good starting point.
Hannah Gourley
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
started out enjoying it...wandered too far into uninteresting topics
Ben Duncan
Oct 21, 2013 rated it liked it
The author wants to "retrieve" a more robust place of union with Christ in the theological formulations of Reformed Christianity. This book is not a bad book, but it is tedious.
David Luke
Dec 31, 2014 rated it really liked it
A stimulating read on the theme of union with Christ examining it from a biblical, theological and missiological perspective. A little laboured in places but very provocative.
Apr 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
The subtitle of Todd Billings's "Union with Christ" is "Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church." Billings stays true to this aim, carefully explaining the doctrine of union with Christ and then unpacking its ministry application. Billings is stronger on the former (unpacking the doctrine) than the latter (landing its ministry application), but I'm grateful that he did the work to apply the doctrine.

Billings is not shy about making significant claims about union with Christ. It is not a
Ben Simmons
Jul 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
A fascinating look at the concept of union with Christ and how it shapes different areas of the Christian life. You can tell that the chapters were originally separate lectures, but they hang together well. I appreciate how Billings utilizes the concept of union with Christ to question/correct pop-evangelical trends and distortions. His use of other Reformed sources such as Bavinck and Barth (alongside the expected use of Calvin) was also refreshing. Billings does theology within the Reformed tr ...more
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J. Todd Billings is the Girod Research Professor of Reformed Theology at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, MI (Th.D. Harvard). His first book, Calvin, Participation, and the Gift, won a 2009 Templeton Award for Theological Promise. His third book, Union with Christ, won a 2012 Christianity Today Book Award. His 2015 book, Rejoicing in Lament, gives a theological reflection on providence and ...more

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