Bags of Bran


Calvin has more to offer than Calvinism
January 30, 2015, 3:27 pm
Filed under: Bible, Biography

I really enjoy reading Calvin’s Institutes. I think you would too, whether you identify yourself with Points or TULIPs or whether you have avoided all that discussion. “Calvinism” as shorthand for a soteriological system is useful as far as it goes, but it certainly does not subsume an entire system of faith. The Institutes does, indeed, present an entire system of faith. And it is a compelling system on many levels.

Calvin wrote as a seasoned pastor in his final edition of the Institutes. There is no chapter on five points; the doctrine of election itself is buried late in the third book; and it is written in a very warm, devotional tone. You get the sensation that Calvin really wanted his readers to grow in their Christianity. His arguments are very much rooted in responsible uses of the Biblical text. Even where I disagree with his interpretation of the text, I can see where he’s handled it carefully, given his presuppositions. But, in contrast with many in our day, myself included, there is a pervasive humility throughout all of the books.

I think this is a result of his long experience in the pastorate: teaching people who don’t know the arguments yet requires patience and the ability to break profound things down into their elements and present them simply, without debasing or distorting them. What a skill Calvin demonstrates here, and what a reproof to those of us who desire to say profound things profoundly.

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