The Christology of John Calvin and Oliver O’Donovan as Resource for Political Discipleship

Mark McDowell
Assistant Professor of Systematic Theology
Reformed Theological Seminary, Dallas
ETS Annual Meeting (2023) Proposal

The Christology of John Calvin and Oliver O’Donovan as Resource for Political Discipleship

In Rowan Williams’ Christ The Heart of Creation the author argues that the riches of traditional Christology provides theology with an account of created existence that highlights its own integrity and dignity, and underscores the possibility of viewing the asymmetrical relation between finite and infinite action as mutually informing and non-competitive. With strict attention to the single subject and reality of Jesus Christ and by making careful distinctions on the ‘coincidence’ of the infinite and the finite in the hypostatic union, Williams seeks to demonstrate that creaturely particularity and divine agency operate alongside one another, in fact, through the former the latter is present and active in the world. In other words, Williams is boldly committed to the argument that a classically-inflected Christology can illumine the relation of God to the world.

One modest approach to what Williams suggests is to look at the Christological reflection of John Calvin from the sixteenth century and Oliver O’Donovan from the 21st as a means for understanding God’s kingly rule in the civil sphere. A second aim of this paper is to map out the political implications that derive from both Calvin and O’Donovan as a resource to instruct the Christian’s political responsibilities as an aspect of discipleship.

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