Union with Christ

ISBN: 9780801039348
Format: Paperback
Pages: 192
Pub Date: February 2011
Book Website

Union with Christ

 Christianity Today 2012 Book Award Winner

J. Todd Billings recovers the biblical theme of union with Christ for today’s church, making a fresh contribution to the theological discussion with important applications for theology and ministry. Drawing on Scripture and the thought of figures such as Augustine, Calvin, Bavinck, and Barth, Billings shows how a theology of union with Christ can change the way believers approach worship, justice, mission, and the Christian life. He illuminates how union with Christ can change the theological conversation about thorny topics such as total depravity and the mystery of God. Billings also provides a critique and alternative to the widely accepted paradigm of incarnational ministry and explores a gospel-centered approach to social justice. Throughout, he offers a unique and lively exploration of what is so amazing about being united to the living Christ.

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“This is an important book on an important topic. Billings brings his expertise regarding Calvin to bear not only on misconceptions about the great Reformer but also on contemporary misconceptions of Christ and Christian ministry. Drawing on rich personal experiences, he offers an accessible and rewarding study, demonstrating that the centrality of union with Christ can solve many theological problems in a way that has direct practical significance for today.”
George Hunsinger, Princeton Theological Seminary
“J. Todd Billings has a wonderful grasp of theological reflection, old and new, brought into conversation with contemporary issues. He has written a breathtaking book that theologians and pastors will find provocative and instructive.”
Andrew Purves, Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
 “What does the doctrine of adoption have to say to a ‘moralistic, therapeutic, deistic’ teenager? How does the Reformed understanding of sin actually underscore human freedom? Are we getting too loose in our talk about ‘incarnational ministry’? Can we talk about a relationship with Christ without descending into sentimentalism? How does Christ’s work for us connect with his work in us by his Word and Spirit? Only after reading this book will you see just how related are all of these themes. And the integrating framework is union with Christ. In this fresh, winsome, learned yet down-to-earth exploration, Billings displays the research of a scholar and the heart of a pastor. This is one of the best books available on the heart of the gospel and its relevance for our lives.”
–Michael Horton, Westminster Seminary California
 “If Reformed theology is going to make the comeback that many of us have been praying for, this marvelous book offers the kind of careful thinking that will make it happen. Todd Billings illuminates concepts such as adoption, divine incomprehensibility, and incarnation in a way that has profound implications for ministry in the twenty-first century.”
Richard J. Mouw, Fuller Theological Seminary
 “This meditation on union with Christ is a beautiful example of how careful study of the Bible, history, and theology work together to support faithful and vital ministry and life. Featuring both brief and lucid explanations of key concepts and provocative descriptions of the countercultural implications of this scriptural theme, this volume will be useful to both beginning students of theology and ministry as well as seasoned veterans.”

John D. Witvliet, Calvin Institute of Christian Worship; Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary



“Billings examines the doctrine of ‘union with Christ’ in light of careful historical and exegetical reflection. . . . Union with Christ will start fresh conversations about this important New Testament doctrine.”

–Christianity Today

“The author builds a strong case that, in union with Christ, grace restores and transforms nature. It will become quickly obvious that Billings has intentionally laid the groundwork in Union with Christ for reaching across the fences within the Christian community. I not only strongly recommend the book for Reformed readers, but also think that perceptive Orthodox, Catholic, and Anglican readers will find it worth their time.”


“This book is an enormous gift to the church today. In it, Billings does retrieval theology of the best kind: rooted in Scripture, respectfully attentive to the tradition, pointedly engaged with pressing ecclesial and social concerns. . . . This little book deserves a wide and careful reading. It is well-written, and truly it is packed with wisdom. I could hardly be more enthusiastic in recommending it to theologians, students, and pastors alike.”

Trinity Journal

“This exceptionally well-written book shows the value of a theology of retrieval for the framing of ministry today. . . . Retrieving Calvin’s theology of union with Christ as the central claim of the Gospel, the author provides a lens through which all ministry of the contemporary church is examined, as well as key doctrines. Any theologian who can demonstrate convincingly why the Reformed doctrine of total depravity is good news for contemporary culture deserves a wide reading by church leaders. Seriously. This is theological retrieval of the best kind that offers a coherent theological vision for ministry in union with Christ that bears visible witness in the world. . . . It is a remarkable gift to the church that holds the possibility of profound reorientation and revolution in the practice of ministry.”

Presbyterian Outlook

“Throughout the book, Billings deals with complicated theological issues in a way that makes them accessible, without making them simplistic–the mark of an effective teacher. . . . [Billings’s study] is proof that the method of theological retrieval can produce creative and timely results. It is also proof that modern theological reflection may be able to move beyond the doctrinal dead end of so much twentieth-century thought that tended to either ignore the tradition of Christian theology or warp it to its own purpose. Billings shows great promise for continuing to contribute to a renewal of theological reflection, in dialogue with the past, to address the challenges of ministry today.”

–Calvin Theological Journal

“It is one of the best books of its sort and draws us deeply into the very heart of the gospel. . . . I am glad, given the lovely recent interest in contemplative spirituality, that [we have] this sort of solid resource for the theological and Biblical underpinnings of our communion with God and the implications for our daily living.”

–Byron Borger, Hearts & Minds Books blog

“Todd Billings is one of the most prolific Reformed theologians writing today, having published significant studies on the theology of John Calvin and the theological interpretation of scripture. The present book, a brief pastoral dogmatics, brings the doctrine of union with Christ to bear on several topics of theological and spiritual import. In keeping with his previous work, Union with Christ: Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church demonstrates Billings’ exceptional capacity for marshalling a wide range of scriptural, historical, sociological and pastoral resources in service of clear and constructive theological argumentation.”

International Journal of Systematic Theology

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