In one of his chapters in The Federal Vision, Rich Lusk notes how Calvin was accused by Westphal, a Lutheran, of teaching that one can gain assurance of salvation through the doctrine of election. This was a misunderstanding on Westphal’s part (and of very many since) of the real emphasis of Calvin’s teaching. But, Lusk notes,
For Calvin, Christ is the mirror of election (p.91)
This was one of these statements that made me smile (this is the real test of the pithiness of a statement!) because it captures something very important. Let me explain.
Christians want assurance. They look at themselves in the hunt for evidence that they really are in the faith. So they look at their lives and actions to see if they are really doing the right Christian stuff. But then they are rightly wary of a kind of works righteousness. So they look inwardly at the heart to see whether there is encouragement from their own faith, their own love towards Christ. But our hearts are not a source of comfort. There is much sin there still. Only the most arrogant and willfully blind people can gain any comfort from this exercise.
What Lusk does here in commenting on Calvin is to identify the right direction in which to look. It is not towards self but away from self, to Christ. This is where the metaphor of the mirror kicks in, because it is there, in him, as we look towards him that we see ourselves as we truly are, raised up, alive, seated with him. Then we gain assurance of election to eternal life. This made me smile.
Now, lest this bee seen as approval of Lusk’s chapter, I should note that the next lines in his paragraph go like this,
… and of course Christ is clearly seen in his ordinances… Calvin would have us start with the covenantal administration of baptism and work back to the decree.
To me, this seems to spoil the earlier statement quoted above. The natural corollary would be “and of course Christ is clearly seen in his word“. Now, Lusk does mention the word later in his essay, but it is a backdrop to the main act – baptism. I don’t understand why the word is absent from his view here.