Saturday, July 11, 2009

Calvin 500

Few people have impacted Christian theology as much as John Calvin. His Institutes have stood the test of time and continue to inform and correct the multitude of errors that Christianity's enemies and uninformed friends continue to adopt. His commentaries were a masterpiece of brevity and clarity and provided a model for later generations. For Calvin exegesis was exposition, all about explaining the authorial intent and applying it to God's people today.

During this year of 500th anniversary celebrations of his July 10, 1509 birth, I have already availed myself of two scholarly symposia on the impact of Calvin and plan to travel next month to Grand Rapids for a third one. In an era addicted to fads and flaky trends, Calvin stands up rather well. He was right more than he was wrong. Lacking the sheer brilliance of Luther, he applied his lawyerly and literary skills to explaining the five solas of the Reformation without the drama of Luther.

For Calvin, Christianity was not about us (how non 21st century!). Instead, he declared that God was the sovereign of the universe and that we are called to live life to the glory of God. His arguments for election and predestination, so troubling to our leveling democratic values, were clear and convincing. They remain unanswered in any satisfactory way by his critics.

The photograph was part of a surprise party staged by my staff at Atherton Baptist Homes. They know my fascination with Calvin and wanted to have some fun with the old man (me, not Calvin).


Patty said...

Enjoyed the post . . . love the picture! Great staff you have there at Atherton!!!

ZSB said...

Duuuuude. That cake is AWESOME.

Dennis E. McFadden said...

Zach, my youngest (#5 aka God's Providence aka "oops") is going to your alma mater in Grand Rapids next year as a freshman.

Glenn Layne said...

The old man? ...I'm still confused about who turned 500.

Bob Wilson said...

Congratulations! I see Calvin as often a fine exegete and full of insight that has contributed to many thoughtful theological thinkers who I admire, but whether his case on the election passages remains unanswered may remain in the eye of the beholder.

I'm indebted to you for Ben Witherton's "The Problem with Evangelical Theology" which I finally completed. Of course he concludes that Calvin lost his exegetical skills on such passages (while thinking the Wesleyan distinctive are equally eisegetical). My recent professor at Regent is a passionate Calvin lover who got her Ph.D. in Calvin studies at St. Andrews, but told me that when it came to the election passages Calvin lost all sight of Christ. J.I. Packer on the other hand faithfully defended Calvin as the standard.