Calvin in ’09

Gift cards. To some they are the very antithesis of the gift giving spirit associated with Christmas. Whether or not they are one more sign that the apocalypse is upon us I can’t say, but having received an American Express variant for Christmas, I did make use of it shortly thereafter.

What did I purchase? The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin (Published by Hendrickson).

The work was originally written in Latin, and since my 2 years of high school Latin mostly taught me that there was a shortage of Latin teachers and not much beyond that, I must read a translation of Calvin’s magnum opus.

I’ve read books on Reformed theology who cite Calvin but have never read anything written by the man himself. It seemed best to go straight to the source, especially one associated with so much controversy (is that the right word?)

I started reading and found it not too difficult to follow, it is an immense help that the edition I purchased has footnotes as well as several indices (Scripture, people, works) in the back. Didn’t get out of Book 1 before I found out that the good folks over at Reformation 21 are blogging through Calvin’s work in 2009:

Blogging the Institutes

So without further ado, we present the unofficial poster of “Blogging the Institutes”,

john-calvin

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John Calvin on Injustices committed against the Christian

This is from Calvin’s masterpiece, Institutes of Christian Religion (1:17:8),

When unjustly assailed by men, overlooking their malice (which could only aggravate our grief, and whet our minds for vengeance), let us remember to ascend to God, and learn to hold it for certain, that whatever an enemy wickedly committed against us was permitted, and sent by His righteous dispensation.

I gather that this might not be well received in some circles…

Christianity Brings out the Worst in People

“Christianity must be a most extraordinary thing. For not only (as I understood) had Christianity the most flaming vices, but it had apparently a mystical talent for combining vices which seemed inconsistent with each other. It was attacked on all sides and for all contradictory reasons. — GK Chesterton in Orthodoxy

I was recently privy to an elucidation of what Chesterton alludes to. A complaint was made that a certain charitable Christian woman was “too nice” to her fellow congregants. So much so, that the congregants, filthy quislings that they are, were portrayed as folks who took advantage of the woman’s charity.

Oh the outrage that this venerable woman would, at the drop of a hat, stop what she was doing and rush to the aid of her brothers and sisters of Christ. As a recipient of such actions, though not coming from this woman, I most appreciate this example of faithworks.

Ironically enough, the plaintiff above also showed displeasure when people did not lend her a helping hand in an hour of need.

The episode brought Lucian’s The Death of Peregrinus (to mind. I have not read this work but learned about it as it was referenced to in Fanning the Flames: Probing the issues in the Acts within a chapter having to do with the way the first Christians were perceived by their Greek and Roman critics.

Lucian’s mid-second century unflattering description of Christians is in part, as follows,

The activity of these people, in dealing with any matter that affects their community, is something extraordinary; they spare no trouble, no expense.

Peregrine, all this time, was making quite an income on the strength of his bondage; money came pouring in. You see, these misguided creatures start with the general conviction that they are immortal for all time, which explains the contempt of death and voluntary self-devotion which are so common among them; and then it was impressed on them by their original lawgiver that they are all brothers, from the moment that they are converted, and deny the gods of Greece, and worship the crucified sage, and live after his laws.

All this they take quite on trust, with the result that they despise all worldly goods alike, regarding them merely as common property. Now an adroit, unscrupulous fellow, who has seen the world, has only to get among these simple souls, and his fortune is pretty soon made; he plays with them.

What certain unbelievers see as “stupid” and “misguided” is actually service to the Lord. To the Lord because by serving His body, the Church, one serves Him.

That this requires denial of self (not as its own end of course) is paramount not to mention counter-intuitive to the deep-rooted selfishness natural to us after Adam’s sin.

That this is not, can not, be understood by those who willfully remain outside merely gives testimony to the truth in the Apostle’s words,

But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.

May we go forth and tell those still in darkness about this “crucified sage” and show the love He teaches us.