Been tying to make an assault on some as yet unread books on my shelves. I've not bought anything new for a while, no books to review and no lectures to prepare for. At least for a bit. I got hold of this one must have been a couple of years ago. When I was thinking about election in Christ in the writings of Thomas Goodwin (see here). If ever I do some more degree level studies, I'd like to do some work on election in Christ. Don't know whether that'll ever happen.
Anyway, Muller is an important interpreter of Calvin's thought and has gone to a lot of trouble to trace the lines of continuity between Calvin and the Reformed Orthodox tradition that followed in his wake. Basically, if you think Calvin was a 'pure biblical theologian' and that the Reformed Orthodox were little better than a bunch of hair-splitting scholastics, you need a good dose of Muller to set you straight.
As you can see from the title, the subject under consideration is Christ and the decree. In the first chapter, Muller expertly sets out Calvin's teaching on the subject. It's a marvel of biblical insight and conceptual clarity. Muller gives special attention to the interplay between the Reformer's thought on the person of Christ and the divine decree.
The Son as God is author of the decree to save together with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In their internal will as well as in their external actions, the persons of the Trinity are undivided. In that triune decree the Son is chosen to carry out the work of mediator. As the Elect One he will take human nature to redeem those who were chosen in him. Muller explains, "Christ stands as mediator, between God and man but also between the decree and its execution and must somehow be subordinate to the decree." (p. 36). The eternal decree is fulfilled in time through Christ's incarnation and saving work. Calvin is clear that the Son was subordinate to the decree only in as much as he was mediator who would take on flesh, not as God, per se. Muller further summarises Calvin's thought,
As mediator Christ is subordinate to the decree while as Son of God he is one with the Father and in no way subordinate. The Son of God stands behind the decree while the Son as mediator is executor of the decree. The relationship between the distinction concerning the decree and its execution and the extra calvinisticum now becomes clear. In the execution of the decree or work of salvation, the Son is wholly given, in subordination to the eternal plan, as mediator. But the Son as God a se ipso cannot be wholly contained in the flesh or in any way subsumed under the execution of the decree. (p. 38)
Yes, Christ was designated the Elect One in whom we were elected to salvation, but he was never less than the electing God, homoousios with the Father and united with him in saving purpose. The value of Calvin's Christocentric doctrine of election is that his account directs the believer to Christ as the 'mirror of our election'. We don't have to try and pry into God's hidden decree to see whether we are elect. We simply look to Christ. He is the Elect One in whom we were chosen. If we are in him now by faith, then we were graciously elected in him in eternity, Acts 13:48. The eternal decree; its execution in time, and its application in the experience of the believer are in, through and by Christ. He is all in all.