Ministerial Meanderings

God centered theology in a man centered world.

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Location: Springfield, Missouri, United States

I was born in Washington D.C. and raised in Laurel, Maryland. I served in the United States Air Force for 20 years then retired. Then God led me to become a pastor. I was converted to Christ in the summer of 1966. I enjoy the company of my wife, children and grandchildren. I live with my three cats Hobbs, Taz, and Chloe.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Calvin at 500

Yesterday, July 10th, was the 500th birthday of John Calvin. Calvin is one of those enigmatic figures in church history. People either love him or hate him but very few people who know of him are passive about him.

John Calvin was only 8 years old when Martin Luther posted his 95 Thesis on the church door in Wittenburg, Germany (October 31st, 1517). While Luther went on to lead the way in the Reformation, it is Calvin's name that is most often associated with "reformed theology."

Calvin's chief contribution to the Reformed cause was his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion. This monumental book explained, in clearest terms, the doctrine of the Protestant Reformers. The original version of the book followed the outline of the Apostle's Creed. It was revised and updated several times before it's final edition was released. It is still widely read among Christians today. My own copy is within easy reach of my right hand as I type these words. Calvin was a Christian model of piety, hard work, zealousness, evangelical passion, and study of the divine word. As John Piper describes it, Calvin's two chief passions were the majesty of God in the word of God and the glory of Christ in salvation. These two thoughts were the foundations of everything he taught and wrote.

Many people charge that Calvinistic theology kills an evangelistic impulse in the people who hold it. In other words, if you are a Calvinist, then you will not want to win people to Jesus. Yet Calvin trained hundreds of evangelists. More than 500 were sent back into Calvin's native France, where many were martyred for the faith. Others travelled to other European countries carrying the Reformed doctrine with them. Calvin maintained a correspondence with almost all of them.

But Calvin's zealousness also surrounded him with controversy. Chief among these was the infamous burning of the heretic Michael Servetus. Servetus denied the Trinity and was condemned by the Catholic Church and sentenced to be executed. But he escaped from his captors and made his way to Geneva to confront Calvin. Calvin recognized Servetus and had him arrested. The city leaders also condemned Servetus and sentenced him to be burned at the stake. Calvin argued that Servetus should be beheaded, but to no avail. Calvin spent much time arguing with Servetus trying to get him to profess faith in the Trinity, thus changing his method of execution, but also to no avail. The day Servetus was executed, Calvin spent in private prayer for Servetus' salvation. History however, has laid the blame for Servetus' death at the doorstep of Calvin.

Calvin spent much time also in conflict with the city leaders and with the libertines in the city (those who loved their sinful lifestyles). They would threaten his life and do things to frighten him and confuse him. They would play loud music outside his house, or fire guns over the roof of his house.

Calvin's writings have influenced western thought in the areas of education, government, philosophy, charity, finances .... in fact, it is hard to think of an area of life that has not been touched by Calvinistic thinking. Now, many sources report that Calvinism is having a resurgence in the church and the world. Time magazine has reported that the resurgence of Calvinism is one of the top ten influences shaping 21st century life in the United States.

At 500 years Calvin is still relevant to the Church and to the world. This is not something that is easily done. We often say in church what God could do with one man who has the devote and zeal of an Apostle Paul. Calvin was one such man. 500 years after his birth, he still touches our lives. One man, utterly devoted to the majesty of God in the word of God. One man, utterly devoted to the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ in the salvation of sinners. One man, 500 years old, still being used mightily of God. Would that we all had a little bit of Calvin in us.


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