Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Radical Impact of Being "In Christ"

Another head post but well worth reflection for your own walk in Christ and with Christ.

Plato offered one solution: ascent is "natural" to the human soul, a matter of "like being drawn to like." The powerful engine driving this ascent is Plato's concept of participation, such that things "participate" in the eternal for their very existence. Housing shards of the eternal, the material sphere has an innate, "natural" longing to return to its original divine home.  The Christian must reject this pantheistic description of participation outright. At the same time, however, the Christian story itself is one of ascent. It begins and ends with the revelation of a personal, triune God who calls creation to "return" to communion with him. In the Garden of Eden, humans were called the imago Dei; the Spirit continues this ascending vocation by making those in the church "like God" or "like Christ" (I John 3:2; Rom. 8:29). What, then, is the engine that drives Christian ascent?
Calvin brilliantly synthesized the two movements of ascent and descent into one primary activity: the ongoing story of God himself with us. God has come as man to stand in for us (descent), and yet as man he also leads us back to the Father (ascent). The entire Christian life is an outworking of this ascent --- the appropriate response to God's descent to us --- that has already taken place in Christ. Thus, for Calvin, the only appropriate human ascent is a matter of participating in Christ. Calvin's theology of response, Christ as our response, having made the perfect response to God, vitalizes us to respond in his response. Ascent, then, is neither a matter of the soul's latent powers nor of conscientious Christian endeavor but of communion: it is a participation in Christ's own response to the Father, whether that be desire for God, prayer, obedience, vocation, or worship.
This hints at a different way of conceiving the divine-human relationship, such that two distinct beings are brought into a rich relationship in which their identities are not diminished but enhanced. Theological anthropology stands to be enriched precisely here,where Calvin's insistence or participatio Christi has radical implications for our notions of what it means to be human, what it means to be a "self," and what it means to be in relationship with God and others. Ascent functions as a concrete entry point into Calvin's doctrine of participation, enabling us to focus more specifically on the core element of participation that makes the best sense of his theology. [Julie Canlis, "Calvin's Ladder," 3-4]

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