"Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ." - Jerome

Friday, July 10, 2009

Happy 500th Birthday John Calvin!

This is the 500th Aniversary of the birth of John Calvin, the French/Swiss Reformer. Some can go overboard in hero-worship or villifying of Calvin. I was first introduced to Calvin as a villian in Restorationist and Baptist circles. "Calvinism" was as evil of a term as "pagan." Later, I actually read sections of the Institutes and found a different character. John Calvin certainly was neither a messianic being sent from above, nor a villianous demon from hell. Yet, he was a man with great devotion to Christ, His Church and the Word of God in Scripture.

Calvin is frequently misunderstood. I remember hearing that Calvin was a cold intellectual technician of predestinarianism. Then, I heard another college professor complain that Calvin's commentaries were not technical enough, but read more as devotionals. Chesterton once commented that if one person says a certain man is too fat and another too skinny, and one person says that certain man is too tall and another person says too short, one starts to doubt the people talking rather than trying to imagine a tall short fat skinny man.

There is a set of lectures, if one is interested, on how reading Calvin revealed a different picture than what is typically painted especially by foes. They are worth a listen if you are encountering Calvin and are interested in a different picture of the man:

"The Calvin I Never Knew" (itunes download)


Andrew said...

You have no idea how much more I respect you for not hero worshipping Calvin, as I imagine all the Reformed Blogosphere will be doing today.

In my uneducated opinion he was the most brilliant of Theologian of the Protestant Reformers (possibly a tie Melanchthon). While I don't believe he was correct, he was certainly sincere and was very devoted to Christ.

One misconception I had about Calvin that was cleared up was that he was anti-Tradition, but the more I read of his stuff, he heavily quotes from Jerome, Augustine, Bernard of Clairvaux and Gregory the Great. He definately had quirks but he is portrayed very wrongly by most Evangelicals.

In Capernwray Bible School our Baptist Principal would always mock "calvinism" and use the word as a derrogatory slur, without realizing that most of his theological heroes were Calvinist and that many of his theological beliefs like Eternal Security are from Reformed Theology.

Mr. Julio Martinez, Jr. said...

Andrew you're going to have to correct what you mean by "[Calvin] wasn't correct." Are you saying he was wrong an all issues, or is there something specific that you are mentioning?

Andrew said...

I'm a Roman Catholic ... so I'm sure you can guess where I disagree with him.

He might be right and I might be wrong - he was certainly smarter than I am. But I was just meaning to say that he was very sincere and seemed to love God in his fashion.

Jared Nelson said...

Though not my idol, Calvin is a model (along with Melancthon, Bucer and Bullinger) of Reformation Christians with definite convictions on theology with a willingness to engage those Trinitarian Christians outside their confession in real, intelligent and (relatively) respectful dialog.

Matthew Lush said...

I listened to those audio lectures a year ago; I absolutely loved them! It truly opened my eyes to the pastoral love of Calvin. I always jokingly viewed him as the cold hard theologian.