Monday, July 6, 2009
Calvin's 500th Birthday - July 10
It's helpful to know where we come from (okay, you grammar mavins, "It's helpful to know from where we come" ... or for those who love the cadences of the King James Version, "from whence we cometh").
Anyway, like our biological family of origin, we have a spiritual family of origin located in Geneva, Switzerland. Though we can trace our faith-roots all the way back to Abraham (we are the children of the promise made by God to Abraham - see Romans 4:16-16 - Jew and Gentile alike), our immediate "church" history begins with the Reformation and specifically with John Calvin, a Frenchman who was converted to the Protestant way of things under a Paris Law School professor who had been reading Luther's tracts (Calvin was trained as a lawyer).
Both Calvin and his professor fled Paris in the night when Roman Catholic authorities mounted a fierce campaign against the Protestant movement, and by fierce, I mean, the possibility of being executed.
Ultimately, Calvin goes to Geneva, a city of refuge and freedom; there, he begins to write and teach, ultimately framing his "Institutes of the Christian Religion" or commonly called, "The Institutes" (1536-1554, in its various editions).
A Scottish gentleman by the name of John Knox fell under Calvin's teaching and upon Knox's return to Scotland, formed what would come to be termed "the Presbyterian Church."
In turn, Scottish immigrants brought the Presbyterian Church to America, and the rest is history.
In the way we think about God and the way we govern ourselves (with Elders), we are descendants of John Calvin - and can rightly be called Calvinists, though what this means exactly varies widely among his descendants.
In sum, Calvin's greatest contribution is "peace of mind and heart" with regard to God - that is, in Jesus the Messiah, we have a clear and perfect representation of Yahweh, the Lord Almighty, and we see God favorably and lovingly dealing with us - to forgive our sin, to overcome the snares of death, to help us fulfill the original mandate to Abraham (to be a blessing to the the nations, to creation itself - see Romans 8:20) with eternal assurance, as well. God's perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18).
In his extended discussion on "Justification" - that is, "God putting us right with God," Calvin writes:
Here, indeed, we are especially to note two things: namely, that the Lord's glory should stand undiminished and so speak, in good repair, and that our consciences in the presence of his judgment should have peaceful rest and serene tranquility (Book 3, Chapter 13, Sections 1).
In a world where fears run high, it is a good thing to be anchored in Calvin's grasp of God's goodness and faithfulness to us! For body and for soul, in life and in death, for this life for the life to come. In Jesus the Messiah (our spiritual location - "we are in Christ"), we are safe! Though this life has its share of perils, "we fear no evil" (Psalm 23), and though death awaits all of us, Christ has conquered death in his resurrection from the dead. In Christ, we make our journey through time with confidence, liberated from the spiritual craziness of a desperate world and freed from the material consumption of a frightened world.
In Jesus the Messiah, the Christ, we are right on track!
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, I give myself to you in faith and obedience.
Amen and Amen.
Happy 500th Birthday to John Calvin