Academic Articles

After a decade in the works, my book on the Lord's Supper and the gospel is finally out! It's available here at Amazon, and other booksellers as well. The book, Remembrance, Communion, and Hope makes the case for how a renewed theology and practice of the Lord's Supper can lead to a deeper embrace of the gospel itself. Thus, it's not just a book about the particulars of "what the bread means," or "how Christ is present" at the meal. Through the sign-action of the Supper, the book probes the character of the biblical drama of salvation. Here is one aspect of that drama of salvation that is often missed today: Jesus Christ is our true spouse. God has entered into covenant with his people, which both the Old and New Testaments compare to marriage. Specifically in the New Testament, we are betrothed to Christ -- as a people, and as individuals. Our...

The new book, Remembrance, Communion, and Hope, will be out in a few weeks! Here's a meditation from the book on the durable, eternal love that we're incorporated into in the Christian life and worship: "As mind-bending as it may seem, when the Spirit incorporates us into the loving communion of Jesus the Son, we are incorporated into a durable, eternal love that is older than creation itself. This is a love that does not move to and fro like the updating of one’s 'relationship status' on Facebook; it is not a product of Valentine’s Day swooning. This eternal love echoes through the ages in the praise the creation itself sings to the Creator. 'Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy.' (Ps. 96:11–12)  In the sign-act of the Supper, God...

In this Pro Ecclesia article, I set forth my vision for a theology that is both Catholic and Reformed: J. Todd Billings, “Catholic and Reformed: Rediscovering a Tradition,” Pro Ecclesia 23:2 [2014] 132-46.    ...

In this article, I explore the implications of recent historiography on how to relate Calvin to the broader catholic tradition. I argue that, although anti-Roman Catholic in many ways, there are important ways in which Calvin maintained broad continuity with the broader catholic tradition. While many modern Reformed theologians seek to use Calvin in their own efforts to marginalize the exegesis and theology of pre-modern catholic theology, these efforts rely upon a decontextualized account of Calvin's theological writings. From the article: "In the end, the catholic Calvin is one which disrupts  the "either/ or" dichotomies that dominate much in contemporary theological discourse. It is a portrait of Calvin that is inconvenient for many of his Reformed followers and for his non-Reformed  detractors as well. While there is no doubt that Calvin and his  followers  in  Reformed  orthodoxy  were antagonistic to their Roman Catholic contemporaries, their theological vision was not formed by building...

This article explores John Calvin's soteriology through examining his multivalent and yet succinct 'sum' of the gospel: the double grace of justification and sanctification received in union with Christ. The essay begins with a description of the scope and range of this teaching in Calvin, its biblical, patristic and Reformational sources, and its application to a wide range of doctrinal loci. After this, particular features of Calvin's account are highlighted as promising for contemporary retrieval. The essay concludes with historiographic reflections that intersect with ongoing disputes in interpreting Calvin's teaching on union with Christ and the double grace. Click here: J. Todd Billings, "John Calvin's Soteriology: On the  Multifaceted 'Sum' of the Gospel," International Journal of Systematic Theology, Volume 11, Number 4 October 2009, 428-447.  ...

by J. Todd Billings From the Church Herald, April 2007 (denominational magazine for the Reformed Church in America) There is a new buzz in the neighborhood, called "emergent churches" or the "emergent conversation." Whether they self-identify as "younger evangelicals" or "postmoderns" or "post-evangelicals," this group of Generation X and Y Christians moves to a different dance from the "baby boomer" generation. No more seeker-sensitive, boiled-down Christianity, with its obsession with "relevance"--as if the New Testament was written in 1970 or so. Instead, "ancient" is better, and "tradition" is becoming a good word again. While we should be cautious about passing trends, the movement known as the emergent church has begun to capture the attention of the RCA. Brian McLaren, a key emergent leader, addressed the 2006 General Synod on how to become a missional church. In west Michigan, steeped in Reformed perspective, 12,000-plus persons flock weekly to Mars Hill Bible Church, with emergent...

There has been a considerable amount of recent research on the Christian doctrine of "deification." In this article, I position Calvin's theology of salvation in relation to this discussion. “United to God through Christ: Calvin on the Question of Deification,” Harvard Theological Review 98:3 (July 2005): 315-34.

By J. Todd Billings Modern Theology 21:1 January 2005 For about a decade, John Milbank has been developing a trinitarian theology of grace using the language of “gift” and “gift-giving”. In the first part of this essay, I examine a series of his early articles which articulate his gift theology, as well as his account of opposing viewpoints.2 In these early works, the Reformed tradition as such is never referred to, but Reformation thinking in general is an invisible opponent which exemplifies a “donative” or “unilateral” view of grace. Milbank criticizes doctrines in which grace is “passively” received, along with its corollary in Anders Nygren’s “unilateral” portrait of agape.3 After presenting Milbank’s early gift theology, I give a possible response in terms of Calvin’s theology of grace. The second part of this essay continues the same task with Milbank’s more recent book, Being Reconciled, published as the first in a series of books...

By J. Todd Billings Missiology: An International Review 32:2, April 2004 “Incarnational Ministry” has been a significant missiological concept for over two decades. It has earned a place in missiological textbooks, and still spurs debates.[1] Yet, although the notion obviously has Christological roots, there has been little systematic theological reflection on the topic. Certainly, some of this may be due to the variety of ways in which the concept is used. Writers employ it to promote and explain the process of missionary inculturation,[2] criticize the distant missionary compound approach as colonial rather than incarnational,[3] and justify “relocation” as a central principle for urban ministry.[4] In general, this cluster of related yet distinct meanings[5] is justified with a references to two sets of verses: Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be...