Calvin on the Gospel

July 27, 2009

Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

all riches is poverty,
all wisdom folly before God;
strength is weakness,
and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

children of God,
brothers of Jesus Christ,
fellow townsmen with the saints,
citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,
heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom

the poor are made rich,
the weak strong,
the fools wise,
the sinner justified,
the desolate comforted,
the doubting sure,
and slaves free.

It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone.

For, he was

sold, to buy us back;
captive, to deliver us;
condemned, to absolve us;

he was

made a curse for our blessing,
[a] sin offering for our righteousness;
marred that we may be made fair;

he died for our life; so that by him

fury is made gentle,
wrath appeased,
darkness turned into light,
fear reassured,
despisal despised,
debt canceled,
labor lightened,
sadness made merry,
misfortune made fortunate,
difficulty easy,
disorder ordered,
division united,
ignominy ennobled,
rebellion subjected,
intimidation intimidated,
ambush uncovered,
assaults assailed,
force forced back,
combat combated,
war warred against,
vengeance avenged,
torment tormented,
damnation damned,
the abyss sunk into the abyss,
hell transfixed,
death dead,
mortality made immortal.

In short,

mercy has swallowed up all misery,
and goodness all misfortune.

For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.

If we are able to boast with the apostle, saying, O hell, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting? it is because by the Spirit of Christ promised to the elect, we live no longer, but Christ lives in us; and we are by the same Spirit seated among those who are in heaven, so that for us the world is no more, even while our conversation is in it; but we are content in all things, whether country, place, condition, clothing, meat, and all such things.

And we are

comforted in tribulation,
joyful in sorrow,
glorying under vituperation,
abounding in poverty,
warmed in our nakedness,
patient amongst evils,
living in death.

This is what we should in short seek in the whole of Scripture: truly to know Jesus Christ, and the infinite riches that are comprised in him and are offered to us by him from God the Father.

John Calvin’s preface to Pierre Robert Olivétan’s French translation of the New Testament (1534).

HT – Justin Taylor (Justin did this layout of the text)


Book Review – John Calvin: His Life and Influence

June 4, 2009

Robert L. Reymond’s John Calvin: His Life and Influence (Christian Focus, 2004) is an excellent introductory work on the life, work, and writings of the often misunderstood, John Calvin. This book had been reprinted in 2008 in anticipation for the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth taking place this year. It is fitting to spend this year focusing on the life and teachings of this great servant of God, and Reymond is a helpful guide along the way.

Reymond is former Professor of Systematic Theology at Knox Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, FL, and now regular pulpit supply at Holy Trinity Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, FL. The four chapters of this book comprise a series of four popular lectures the author gave on four consecutive Wednesday nights in February 2002 at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Chapter 1 (or lecture 1) is God’s Preparation of the Future Reformed. Here Reymond highlights the young live of the soon-to-be reformer, his studies, his conversion, and how God shaped him through all his experiences and education.

Chapter 2 (or lecture 2) is The Young Reformer and His Institutes. This chapter moves from his young life to his beginning as a reformer and especially in the writing of his Institutes, the magnum opus of the Protestant Reformation.  This point goes to Calvin’s expulsion from Geneva.

Chapter 3 (or lecture 3) is The Mature Reformer of Geneva and His Accomplishments.  This chapter moves to Calvin’s life outside of Geneva, his return to Geneva and the importance of this period especially in his writings.

Chapter 4 (or lecture) finalizes the life of Calvin and deals with his last years in Geneva, his emphasis on his influence on others all over the world, and the difficulties in his life especially the burning of Servetus.

It concludes with 3 appendices looking at opposing biographies of Calvin, his influence on Western history, and recommend biographies on Calvin.

Why another biography when there body of secondary literature on Calvin and Calvin studies is probably only rivaled by those of Jonathan Edwards? Reymond’s book provides a helpful, positive, but not hagiographical look at a much misunderstood figure, his thinking, writing, influence, written for non-specialists. In this, Reymond excels!

The best chapter in my opinion is the last where he deals with the difficult issues in Calvin’s life and His influence. While he does not completely defend Calvin in the burning of Servetus, Reymond does show how the situation is not unusual in the time period Calvin was ministering. Also, Reymond emphasizes the importance of studying the primary resources and writings. Too many who think they know so much about Calvin and Calvinism have never once actually read Calvin. So, he encourages people to especially read his Institutes. I cannot agree with Raymond more. To not read the original sources is to allow others to tell you what someone else believes. Just as we learn Greek and Hebrew to help understand the Scriptures and not rely on someone else’s translation we must read the writings of those we seek to understand.

Whether friend or foe of Calvin one must know about him and his thought since he was such a profound figure in the life of the Church. Guides like Reymond help to wade through the mire of what is written about Calvin and help to bring added and needed clarity about him and his thinking. Especially important is helping those in the church know better about Calvin and Calvinism since there is great misunderstanding in this.

So, if you are looking for an introductory biography to Calvin I would recommend Reymond’s book highly. For those with knowledge of Calvin and Calvinism you will probably still enjoy it but would probably want to turn to some more techinical works on his life and thinking. And more than anything, as Reymond says, read the Institutes! There is no substitute for reading the primary sources when understanding historical figures and historical theology.


Centre for Mentorship and Theological Reflection

May 11, 2008

CENTRE FOR MENTORSHIP AND THEOLOGICAL REFLECTION

“The Cross is Our Theology” – Martin Luther

Learning from John Calvin

about Ministry Today

Date: Thursday, June 05, 2008

Time: 6:30pm – 9:30pm

Venue: Van Norman Centre, Tyndale University College & Seminary – 25 Ballyconnor Court, Toronto, ON

Dr.Timothy George, Executive Editor of Christianity Today and Dean of Beeson Divinity School

“Learning from Calvin about Ministry Today”

Dr. Victor Shepherd,

Winner of the Centre’s Best Preacher Award

“My ministry is dearer to me than life”

Dr. Dennis Ngien, Founder, Centre for Mentorship and Theological Reflection

Founder’s charge

No registration needed, except pay $3.00 parking fee.

For further information, please contact Dr. Dennis Ngien at: dngien_center@yahoo.com.