Category Archives: Calvin

Another Portrait of Calvin I’ve Never Seen Before

From the newly published volume by Brill.  This is a very interesting portrait in that not many of Calvin as a very young man seem to exist.

That One Time Calvin Told Farel that the Latter’s Nephew Had Died, of the Plague…

Last Sabbath-day your nephew was seized with the plague.1 His companion and the goldsmith who bore testimony to the Gospel at Lyons brought me word immediately. As I had taken some pills to relieve the complaint in my head, I could not go to him myself. Every thing, however, which was required for the preservation of his life was both faithfully and carefully attended to.

A woman, acquainted with both languages, was engaged to sit up with him, and in some degree accustomed to the care of persons suffering under such maladies. Not being able to undergo the fatigue of constant attendance herself, she got her son-in-law to assist her. Grynée visited him frequently; I did so too as soon as my health allowed it. When our friend Du Tailly saw that I did not fear the danger, he insisted on sharing it with me: we were with him for a long while yesterday, and as the signs of approaching death were now evident, I imparted spiritual rather than bodily comfort.

He wandered a little in his mind, yet had so much consciousness of his state as to call me back to his chamber that he might entreat me earnestly to pray for him; for he had heard me discoursing of the benefit of prayer. This morning, at about five o’clock, he departed to the Lord. — John Calvin (in a letter to William Farel)

Why Are So Many Politicians Destined for Destruction?

I say that all the reprobate will be convicted of guilt by their own consciences, and that thus their condemnation is righteous, and that they err in neglecting what is quite evident, to enter instead into the secret counsels of God, which to us are inaccessible. The Scripture, however, shews us clearly, that God has predestined men to such ends as he chose them to reach. But as to why or how this is done, we must remain ignorant, because it has not been revealed to us. – John Calvin

Fun Facts From Church History: Calvin was No Coward

[Calvin] himself in 1547 confronted the Council of Two Hundred. Feeling had then been running high about the laws for the enforcement of public morals. The Council itself was sharply divided. Calvin, of course, was fiercely abused by those who were opposed to his policy. The Council met on December 16. Word was brought to him that sharp contention had arisen at the meeting, and that threats of violence had been uttered. The streets were filled with excited throngs. He said that he would himself attend the Council. His friends remonstrated, but in vain. He passed through the streets to the council chamber, at the doors of which, as he tells us in his letter to Viret, a tumultuous assembly was gathered.

‘Fearful,’ he says, ‘was the sight. I cast myself into the thickest of the crowd. I was pulled to and fro by those who wished to save me from harm. I called God to witness that I was come to offer myself to their swords, if they thirsted for blood.’

In his farewell words to the ministers of Geneva, just before his death, he refers to this incident, and says that when he entered the Council they said to him, ‘Sir, withdraw, it is not with you we have to do;’ and that he answered, ‘No, I shall not! Go on, rascals, kill me, and my blood will witness against you, and even these benches shall require it.’ He indeed could truly say, ‘The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’*

*C. H. Irwin, John Calvin: The Man and His Work (Bellingham, WA: The Religious Tract Society, 1909), 114–116.

When You Feel About Your Work Like Calvin Felt About His…

You express it this way-

IF the reading of these my COMMENTARIES confer as much benefit on the Church of God as I myself have reaped advantage from the composition of them, I shall have no reason to regret that I have undertaken this work. — John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, vol. 1, xxxv.

Amen.  And speaking of commentaries

It’s True

Calvin’s Right About Baptism as Practiced in the Early Church

The mode of baptism “ought to be optional to churches according to the diversity of countries. Yet the word ‘baptize’ means to immerse, and it is clear that the rite of immersion was observed in the ancient church.” -John Calvin

Danger all Around- But Providence Intervenes

For what else can you say of it, when neither cold nor heat in any considerable degree can be endured without danger? Now whithersoever you turn, all the objects around you are not only unworthy of your confidence, but almost openly menace you, and seem to threaten immediate death. Embark in a ship; there is but a single step between you and death. Mount a horse; the slipping of one foot endangers your life. Walk through the streets of a city; you are liable to as many dangers as there are tiles on the roofs. If there be a sharp weapon in your hand, or that of your friend, the mischief is manifest. All the ferocious animals you see are armed for your destruction. If you endeavour to shut yourself in a garden surrounded with a good fence, and exhibiting nothing but what is delightful, even there sometimes lurks a serpent.

Your house perpetually liable to fire, menaces you by day with poverty, and by night with falling on your head. Your land, exposed to hail, frost, drought, and various tempests, threatens you with sterility, and with its attendant, famine. I omit poison, treachery, robbery, and open violence, which partly beset us at home, and partly pursue us abroad.

Amidst these difficulties, must not man be most miserable, who is half dead while he lives, and is dispirited and alarmed as though he had a sword perpetually applied to his neck? You will say that these things happen seldom, or certainly not always, nor to every man, but never all at once. I grant it: but as we are admonished by the examples of others, that it is possible for them to happen also to us, and that we have no more claim to exemption from them than others, we must unavoidably dread them as events that we may expect.

What can you imagine more calamitous than such a dread? Besides it is an insult to God to say that he hath exposed man, the noblest of his creatures, to the blindness and temerity of fortune. But here I intend to speak only of the misery which man must feel, if he be subject to the dominion of fortune. —  John Calvin

Church Discipline in Calvin’s Geneva

If you missed the zoom session yesterday you can watch it here.

A Wonderful Session on Calvin and Church Discipline in Geneva

Zoom comes through again.  One thing that has come out of the pandemic that I hope remains is the ability to meet and sit in on conferences remotely.

In person is better, of course.  But if you can’t attend- Zoom is the next best thing.

This Week’s Meeter Center Conversation Features an Author Whose Book I’ve Reviewed

You can read my review of this volume here. It’s great to hear the author talk about the book herself.

This Week’s ‘Folios’

Save the Date: Calvin Congress 2022

This email arrived one year ago today:

Dear colleagues,

It is still a little early, but we want to make sure that you start planning to attend the next Calvin congress, so we would like to draw your attention to the place and time of the event: August, 22–25, 2022 at MacKenzie Presbyterian University, Sao Paulo, Brazil. We are delighted that MacKenzie, through the Andrew Jumper graduate school of theology, is willing to host the Calvin Congress. We are still working on the program, but please note the dates. We hope to have the website up to date soon, and we will publish new information as soon as possible.

Please forward this message to all colleagues who might be interested.

Kind regards,
Karin Maag
Arnold Huijgen

I’ve never been to South America.  This should be brilliant!

It’s Almost As Though Calvin is Watching CNN

“Today, those who occupy seats of judgment wish to be exempt from all reproof & would claim for themselves a free liberty in sinning such that they think they do not belong to the common class of people and imagine themselves exempt from all reprehension.” – Calvin on Amos 5: 10

“For today nearly all rulers are gross and stupid; they are like horses and brute beasts.” – Calvin on Daniel 6: 3-5

Via Jon *The Calvinator* Balserak

Reformation Conversations at Meeter

The Meeter Center cordially invites you to the next in our series of Reformation Conversations. On Wednesday, November 11, at 3:30 PM Eastern standard time, we will be discussing church discipline in the Reformation era. Our lead speaker is Dr. Jeffrey Watt, Professor of History at the University of Mississippi. His forthcoming book, _The Consistory and Social Discipline in Calvin’s Geneva_, published by the University of Rochester Press, will be released on November 15.

Jeff Watt will be joined by Dr. Scott Manetsch (Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) and Dr. Karen Spierling (Denison University), for a three-way conversation on this fascinating topic, followed by a moderated Q&A based on audience questions submitted via the Chat function on Zoom. Sign up at the link below. The Zoom link will be sent out a week before the session.

Sign up here.

Calvin in America

The International Museum of the Reformation in Geneva is presenting a temporary exhibition on Calvin in America from October 28, 2020 to February 28, 2021.

Read all the details here.

If You’re Looking For Something to Do On September 23rd

This may be just the thing-

Creator and Creation according to Calvin on Genesis

In her work Rebekah Earnshaw provides an analysis of Creator and creation according to Calvin on Genesis. This offers a new theological reading of Calvin’s Genesis commentary and sermons, with an eye to systematic interests.

This analysis is presented in four chapters: The Creator, The Agent and Act of Creation, Creatures, and Providence. Calvin on Genesis gives unique insights into each of these. First, the Creator has priority in Calvin’s thought. The Creator is l’Eternal, who is infinitely distinct and abundantly for creatures in his virtues. Second, the agent of creation is triune and the act of creation is “from nothing” as well as in and with time. This is a purposeful beginning. Third, Calvin affirms creaturely goodness and order. The relation of humans and animals illustrates Calvin’s holistic view of creation as well as the impact of corruption and disorder. Providential sustenance and concursus are closely tied to the nature of creatures and the initial word. Fourth, fatherly governance for the church is presented separately and demonstrated by Calvin’s treatment of Abraham and Joseph.

Earlier presentations of Calvin on Creator and creation are incomplete, because of the lack of sustained attention to Calvin on Genesis. This analysis supplements works that concentrated on the Institutes and Calvin on Job, by bringing new material to bear. Further, throughout this analysis lies the implicit example of a biblical theologian, who pursues what is useful from scripture for the sake of piety in the church.

Insights from Calvin’s thought on Genesis provide a foundation for systematic work that reflects on this locus and the integrated practice of theology.

Rebekkah’s little book (just over 200 pages) aims to

… provide …  a theological analysis of Creator and creation according to Calvin on Genesis. This brings together three elements: a doctrinal locus, a man, and his exposition of a biblical book in commentary and sermon. Until now, this combination has not been thoroughly scrutinised. Therefore, the question at hand is what contribution do these texts make to our understanding of Calvin’s theology in this area and, hence, in what areas might contemporary theological research be furthered by heeding this new insight.

A simple enough thesis, right?  But filled with perilous paths and dangerous potential pitfalls.  For instance, which of Calvin’s materials to examine?  In what languages?  How extensively?  With what focus?  All of these dangers are seen in advance:

This investigation is prompted and shaped by four factors of increasing specificity: theological interest in Creation, the inclusion of exegesis of Genesis in previous theological work on Creation, publication and translation of Calvin’s Genesis sermons, and limited attention to Genesis in earlier treatments of Calvin on Creation. Each of these makes the present question significant and can be considered in turn.

As part of her survey of the material, E. remarks

This sweeping survey of treatments of Calvin on Creation cannot do justice to their scholarship. However, the purpose here is more modestly to identify that within these earlier works there has been some reference to Calvin’s treatment of Genesis, but there has been no study of its contribution as a whole in this area. The brief comments from the end of Book One of the Institutes remain the authoritative account despite more recent broadening of the horizons within Calvin studies to focus on other texts or diachronic analysis.

This volume remedies that.  Quite nicely and thoroughly.  As she notes later on

Throughout his work on Genesis Calvin promotes faith in the Creator that issues in piety; that is, his exegesis develops doctrine with pastoral outworking. This is not accidental, as Calvin happens to be a theologian who enters a pulpit. Rather, Calvin continually concerns himself with the use of Creation in accordance with scripture in the life of God’s church. His conclusion to his first Genesis sermon is typical in this regard.

That, then, is what we need to remember about these words of Moses, and we must, in short, apply ourselves to this endeavour and become acquainted with God our Creator in such a way that we pay him homage with our lives, acknowledging him also as our Redeemer and confessing that we are doubly obligated to him, so that we may dedicate ourselves completely to his service in all holiness, righteousness, and integrity.

Calvin may be outdated in terms of his scientific understanding of the ‘how’ of creation.  But he remains incredibly relevant when it comes to the theological ‘why’ of creation.  And this book, well written and well executed, helps we 21st century folk hear that ‘why’ with a certain clarity and forcefulness.

Depravity Soils Every Life From Birth

We are vitiated and perverted in all parts of our nature, and then, on account of this corruption, are justly held to be condemned and convicted before God, to whom nothing is acceptable but purity, innocence, and righteousness. And hence, even infants bring their condemnation with them from their mother’s womb; for although they have not yet brought forth the fruits of their unrighteousness, they have its seed included in them. Nay, their whole nature is, as it were, a seed of sin, and, therefore, cannot but be odious and abominable to God. Believers become assured by baptism, that this condemnation is entirely withdrawn from them, since (as has been said) the Lord by this sign promises that a full and entire remission has been made, both of the guilt which was imputed to us, and the penalty incurred by the guilt.  — John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion

Praying With Calvin

GRANT unto us, O LORD, to be occupied in the mysteries of thy Heavenly wisdom, with true progress in piety, to thy glory and our own edification.—AMEN.