Anthony Tuckney (1599–1670) On Union With Christ -- By: Youngchun Cho

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 79:2 (Fall 2017)
Article: Anthony Tuckney (1599–1670) On Union With Christ
Author: Youngchun Cho

Anthony Tuckney (1599–1670) On Union With Christ

Youngchun Cho

Youngchun Cho is assistant pastor at Jubilee Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, PA.


This article investigates the soteriology of Anthony Tuckney (1599–1670), an influential member of the Westminster Assembly, focusing on his understanding of union with Christ. Tuckney presented union with Christ as undergirding and permeating the whole of the ordo salutis. The believer is first united to Christ through faith and then participates in every redemptive benefit as a result of this union. Yet Tuckney did not deny the need to make a distinction between each benefit in an orderly manner. In Tuckney’s soteriology, union with Christ and the ordo salutis are complementary, not competitive. This study aims to rebut the accusation that the Westminster Standards pursued logical precision at the expense of the dynamic aspect of union with Christ.

According to Geerhardus Vos, the distinguishing mark of the Reformed understanding of salvation is the primacy of union with Christ: “One is first united to Christ, the Mediator of the covenant, by a mystical union, which finds its conscious recognition in faith. By this union with Christ all that is in Christ is simultaneously given.”1 It has been widely acknowledged that John Calvin represents this uniqueness of Reformed theology, which emphasizes union with Christ as the central soteric reality of the gospel.2 Recent

studies have further demonstrated that Calvin’s substantial understanding of union with Christ was a product of dialogues with such other sixteenth-century Reformers as Heinrich Bullinger and Peter Martyr Vermigli.3 Later seventeenth-century Reformed theologians, however, have been criticized as being obsessed with the language of causality and the ordered structure of soteriology, having thereby abandoned the heritage of union-centered theology of the Reformation and tending toward legalism instead. The Westminster Confession of Faith, which is considered the most representative example of seventeenth-century Protestant orthodoxy, has been particularly contrasted with Calvin in this regard.

For example, James B. Torrance criticizes the Westminster divines for following the soteriology of William Perkins’s The Golden Chain rather than Calvin’s Institutes; as a result, the Confession presents God as a harsh Judge instead of a benevolent Father, admits the priority of law over grace, denies the converting effect of the Lord’s Supper,...

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