Saturday, March 03, 2007

Bruce McCormack and Calvin

In Bruce McCormack’s article “What’s at Stake in Current Debates over Justification?” the author notes that the (Reformer’s view of justification) "break with Medieval Catholicism was actually less than complete due to a residual commitment to Medieval Catholic understandings of regeneration and a shaky grasp of the relationship of justification and regeneration.”(pg. 84) based on the Reformer’s failure to directly engage in ontological issues.

McCormack cites that both Luther (pg.94) and Calvin failed in this regard. What is particularly interesting is to hear Calvin articulate a relationship between justification and regeneration that has the latter FOLLOWING the former (I always thought Calvin believed regeneration came first).

McCormack writes “Calvin makes justification to be logically prior to-and the foundation of – that bestowal of the sort of adoption by means of which the believer is regenerated. On this view, regeneration would have to be seen as the logical consequence of the divine verdict registered in justification. In sum, Calvin’s understanding of justification is strictly forensic or judicial in character. It is a matter of a divine judgment, a verdict of acquittal. And the means by which it is accomplished is imputation”.

Even though Calvin’s states this plainly, McCormack later notes that Calvin became less clear of the relationship of justification before regeneration in his other writings on soteriology (pg 101 -103) and Eucharistic feeding (pg.104). McCormack notes that lack of clarity was a result of Calvin refusing to engage in ontological questions (pg .105).

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