One of the charges that N.T. Wright makes repeatedly in his discussion of the Reformation tradition on salvation is that the tradition has restricted the meaning of salvation and the atonement to only one aspect when it really encompasses much more. In particular, he charges that it has forgotten the renewal of all creation and the work of the Spirit.
In reading through Herman Bavinck’s discussion of Christ’s work, particularly the work of reconciliation, he lists many “benefits that accrue to us from the reconciliation of God-in-Christ”:
the juridicial, that is, the forgiveness of sins; justification; adoption as children; the right to eternal life and the heavenly inheritance; also redemption, which, however, sometimes has a broader meaning as well;
the mystical, consisting in being crucified, buried, raised, and seated with Christ in heaven;
the ethical, that is, regeneration, being made alive; sanctification, being washed, cleansed, and sprinkled in body, soul, and spirit;
the moral, consisting in the imitation of Christ, who has left us his example;
the economic, that is, the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant, the inauguration of a new covenant; the freedom from the law; the cancellation of the bond with its legal demands, the breaking down of the dividing wall, the reconciliation of Jew and Gentile and all other existing sets of opposites into unity in Christ;
the physical, that is, the victory over the world, over death, over hell, and over Satan.
In a word, the whole enterprise of re-creation, the complete restoration of a world and humanity, which as a result of sin, is burdened with guilt, corrupted, and fragmented, is the fruit of Christ’s work. [Sin and Salvation in Christ, Vol. 3 of Reformed Dogmatics, 452 (Scripture references not included for the sake of space)]
In other words, the very points at which Wright criticizes the Reformed are points that Bavinck makes sure to include in his summary of what Christ accomplished in his work.
The point of all of this is not to criticize Wright. The point is this: we ought to be thankful for the tremendous amount of reflection that the Reformers and their heirs put into their understanding of Jesus’ person and work. His work of reconciliation was far greater than we are accustomed to thinking, and it ought to remind us that God’s global mission is far more dazzling than our small imaginations often take us.Read More