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Calvin, Participation, and the Gift: The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ

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Is the God of Calvin a fountain of blessing, or a forceful tyrant? Is Calvin's view of God coercive, leaving no place for the human qua human in redemption? These are perennial questions about Calvin's theology which have been given new life by Gift theologians such as John Milbank, Graham Ward, and Stephen Webb.

J. Todd Billings addresses these questions by exploring Calvin's theology of "participation in Christ." He argues that Calvin's theology of "participation" gives a positive place to the human, such that grace fulfills rather than destroys nature, affirming a differentiated union of God and humanity in creation and redemption. Calvin's trinitarian theology extends to his view of prayer, sacraments, the law, and the ecclesial and civil orders. In light of Calvin's doctrine of participation, Billings reframes the critiques of Calvin in the Gift discussion and opens up new possibilities for contemporary theology, ecumenical theology, and Calvin scholarship as well.

230 pages, Hardcover

First published November 15, 2007

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About the author

J. Todd Billings

12 books37 followers
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 lament in light of his 2012 cancer diagnosis. His latest book, The End of the Christian Life, explores how the journey of authentic discipleship involves embracing our mortal limits. He is married to Rachel M. Billings, an Old Testament scholar (Ph.D., Harvard). They have a lively household with two young children and a very opinionated cat.

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
237 reviews7 followers
March 26, 2021
Clearly written, insightful summary of Calvin's teaching on the duplex gratis and how it informs his theology proper, salvation, ecclesiology, and the law, among other loci. Billings is especially concerned to refute 'gift' theologians, most clearly represented in Radical Orthodoxy (RO), who argue that Calvin's view of divine gift is unilateral and thus at best a minimization of human responsibility to a passive reception of God's salvation. After his clear exposition of Calvin, contra RO, he summarizes how his findings answered the objections of the same. In my opinion, one of the best treatments of Calvin's theology I've read; it has the additional bonus of refuting Barthian interpretations of Calvin. Highly recommended.
May 5, 2017
Много добра - задълбочена, ясна и разбираемо написана въпреки сложната тема. Предметът със сигурност няма да е интересен (и понятен) за повечето хора, но за останалите е задължителна .
Това е третата книга на Билингс, която чета и нито една не ме е оставила разочарован.
Profile Image for Stephen.
Author 4 books8 followers
November 7, 2012
In his award winning first book, J. Todd Billings explores the relationship between God's gift of salvation and the activity of believers. In conversation with the 'Gift theologians' who have consistently maligned Calvin as someone unable to account for any meaningful action on the part of the believer, Billings shows that Calvin's doctrine of participation avoids false dichotomies and expresses God's empowerment of believers for a life of gratitude and service. This book moves at a high level, but is relatively accessible for the genre. Whether you are interested in the philosophical discussion of 'Gift' or simply trying to understand how to hold justification and sanctification together in a meaningful way, I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Andy.
39 reviews7 followers
December 8, 2012
This is a really nice book that offers an account of Calvin's theology of participation. Against those who read Calvin's view of God as a tyrant and humans as robots, Billings explores Calvin's richly textured themes of adoption, participation, and engrafting and shows that Calvin's is not a God who despotically controls life but as gracious Father that restores it.
Profile Image for Darryl Burling.
83 reviews48 followers
September 5, 2020
A good analysis of Calvin

A good analysis of much of Calvin's thoughts regarding participation. This is not a 100 level book though. My rating is less a reflection of Calvin's thought and more of the quality of Billing's work.
Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews

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