Calvin's Ladder


Julie Canlis, Calvin's Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010)


Canlis, Julie. Calvin's Ladder: A Spiritual Theology of Ascent and Ascension. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2010

Publication life cycle / General notes

Grew out of a doctoral thesis at S. Andrews. Engages T. F. Torrance extensively; according to the index, on pp. 9, 21, 41, 58, 61-62, 65, 75, 76, 78-82, 84, 95, 98, 105, 120, 165-166, 168, 169, 204.


This groundbreaking study offers a sweeping overview and reconsideration of John Calvin's theology. In Calvin's Ladder Julie Canlis recovers some of the common (and neglected) themes that Calvin shared with the patristic fathers. She shows that his works are shot through with a vibrant theology of "participation," thus placing Calvin within the Christian mystical tradition. A work of both theology and spiritual formation, Calvin's Ladder suggests an entirely distinctive way of conceiving the relation between God and humanity, challenging not only old caricatures of Calvin but also our own self-portraits.


"Calvin brilliantly synthesized the two movements of ascent and descent into one primary activity: the ongoing story of God himself with us. God has come as man to stand in for us (descent), and yet as man he also leads us back to the Father (ascent). The entire Christian life is the outworking of this ascent — the appropriate response to God's descent to us — that has already taken place in Christ. Thus, for Calvin, the only appropriate human ascent is a matter of participating in Christ. Calvin's theology of response, Christ as our response, having made the perfect response to God, vitalizes us to respond in his response. Ascent, then, is neither a matter of the soul's latent powers nor of conscientious Christian endeavor but of communion: it is a participation in Christ's own response to the Father, whether that be desire for God, prayer, obedience, vocation, or worship." Introduction, p. 3.