Tag Archives: representation

Dying with Christ & Justification

In recent years a number of scholars have increasingly pointed out the relationship between participating in Christ’s death and changing sinners’ status before God. Two passages that are especially relevant to this conversation are Galatians 2:15-21 and Romans 6-7. What’s unique about both of these passages is their use of the term, “systauroo” or “co-crucify.” Gorman explains, “the restoration to right covenant relations is therefore an experience of death and resurrection, or resurrection via death.” (Inhabiting, 63) According to Gorman we are co-crucified and co-resurrected with Christ. In Romans 6, one gets “into Christ” by baptism. Justification requires death to the law, there is co-crucifixion, and resurrection to new life. All of this is participatory. And it results in our justification.

Cranfield makes a similar point. In writing of Romans 6:1-14, He argues that there are four different senses in which we may speak of dying with Christ and being raised with him. These four senses are: juridicial, baptismal, moral, eschatological. Regarding the first point Cranfield says that “God willed to see them as having died in Christ’s death and having been raised in his resurrection.” Constantine Campbell explains,

By speaking of dying and rising with Christ, Paul appears to be delving into the mechanics of how the gift of God in Jesus Christ has overturned the juridical implications of sin and death. The logic appears as follows. The consequence of sin is death, judgement, and condemnation. By dying a representative death for sinful humanity, Christ fulfilled the legal requirement for sin. Once this legal requirement had been satisfied by death, the new life of Chris is no longer bound by sin or the juridical consequences it entail. The way in which the benefits of Christ’s representative death are apprehended is by identification with him in his death. This is where participation and representation come together: Believers spiritually partake in the death and resurrection of Christ, who has represented them in these acts…. The reason that believes have been set free from the condemnation of the law and death is that the righteous requirements of the law have been met through their dying and rising with Christ. (Campbell, 337)

Tannehill, however, makes a stronger point. He says that the death and resurrection of Christ are events in which the believer herself participates. New life “is based upon personal participation in these saving events.” (Tannehill, 1) The person is actually included in Christ. This is no mere legal representation. Believers somehow actually die with Christ and are raised with Christ.

That sounds right to me…


Jonathan Edwards Week – Edwards and Atonement

What does Jonathan Edwards believe when it comes to atonement? Well, its nothing terribly interesting – he takes the traditional reformed line when it comes to this doctrine. However – in one of his miscellanies he says something that has been used by other theologians (John McLeod Campbell initially) to argue that he might have theoretically been open to a different theory of atonement. Lets take a look at that miscellany real quick:

oo. Satisfaction. Now some may say why could not God, of his mercy, pardon the injury only upon repentance without other satisfaction, without doing himself any hurt? I also ask, why could he not of his mercy pardon without repentance? For the same reason he could not pardon without repentance without satisfaction. For all repentance man is capable of is no repentance at all; or which is the same thing, it is as little as none in comparison of the greatness of the injury, for it cannot bear any proportion to it. Now I am sure, it would be as dishonorable for God to pardon the injury upon repentance that did not bear the least proportion to the injury, as for him to pardon without any repentance at all. Wherefore, we are not forgiven now because our repentance makes any satisfaction, but because therby we reject the sin and receive the satisfaction already made.

Here he starts with the same sort of question Abelard asks in his commentary to the Romans – why could God just not forgive without satisfaction being made? It seems obvious to me that the his answer to the question is basically – “because that makes no sense whatsoever.” You see this in his second question – why could God not forgive without repentance? The answer is supposed to be obvious – he can’t – just like God cannot pardon when there is repentance without satisfaction. Why can’t God pardon without repentance without satisfaction? Because our repentance is not enough. Our repentance is too small in comparison to the offense we have committed at all. Therefore satisfaction needs to be made.

This is where other theologians come in – McLeod specifically. McLeod picks up on this supposed insight – that our repentance is not enough to merit forgiveness – and he says that if there were a sort of repentance that was equal or greater to the offense committed against God then that would merit satisfaction. McLeod goes on to argue that Christ – our substitute – makes exactly this sort of repentance. Christ repents perfectly on our behalf.

There are a few problems with this though…

1)How can Christ repent for someone else? Repentance can only happen at the hands of the perpetrator. This however is not actually as big of a problem as one might think. If Christ and the elect actually have an organic – real – and not merely legal union – then Christ’s repentance really is his peoples repentance and Christ can really repent for them because they are one metaphysical entity.

However there is a bigger problem…

2)At what point does Christ actually repent? Where do we see Christ’s vicarious repentance in scripture at any point? We don’t. Aside from the fact that vicarious repentance would have been an impossibility in Edwards’ mind, I think the lack of a scriptural basis for this is this particular theory’s fatal flaw.