Graced Exchange and Vision of God in Calvin’s Atonement Theology

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Carl Mosser


John Calvin structured his soteriology and doctrine of atonement around the patristic principle of graced exchange, the idea that Christ became what we are in order to make us what he is. In them, Christ’s descent to hell and the believer’s ascent to God represent the two furthest poles of the exchange. Descent to hell and ascent to God both involve vision of God. Calvin explains descent to hell as the terror sinners experience in their souls when they sense God’s wrath and judgment. In the passion and crucifixion, Christ arraigned himself before God’s tribunal as our surety to make satisfaction. Standing in the place of the accused, he saw God as an angry judge prepared to punish sin. As a real human being with the affections and infirmities common to human nature, Christ could not help but experience terror in his soul and even fear for his own salvation. Christ willingly underwent this ordeal to prove his obedience, demonstrate his love for humanity, and secure a more lavish redemption than otherwise possible. Christ emerged from the ordeal victorious and the Father accepted his obedience as satisfaction for our sin. As a result, the redeemed are adopted as sons who will ascend to God and see him face-to-face as a propitious Father.

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Mosser, Carl. “Graced Exchange and Vision of God in Calvin’s Atonement Theology”. Reformed Theological Review 82, no. 1 (April 1, 2023): 48–74. Accessed February 23, 2024.


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