Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Humility of Calvin's Calvinism

The first chapter of the book, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, and Doxology is one written by the editor Burk Parsons on the humility of Calvin's Calvinism.

I wanted to make some comments about it because it sets the tone of the entire book. Rev. Parsons is the minister of congregational life at Saint Andrews Chapel in Sanford, FL and is editor of Tabletalk Devotionals.

" It has not been my habit to refer to myself as a Calvinist; if memory serves, I have never done so, primarily because I don't think John Calvin would want me to."

That made me think of the quote in the foreward by Ian H. Murray, "We may be sure that the man who wanted no stone to mark his grave would want no festivities to mark the anniversary of his birth."

Getting back to Rev. Parsons he writes that he normally just says, "I am a Christian". But if he were pressed about Calvinism I would respond by saying , "Yes, I am a Calvinist because I am a Christian, and I am a Christian because I believe in the gospel."

Rev Parson's chapter has more great quotes:

19th century Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon- "I have my own private opinion that there is no such thing as preaching Christ and Him crucified, unless we preach what nowadays is called Calvinism. It is a nickname to call it Calvinism; Calvinism is the gospel, and nothing else."

I like this one from Christopher Catherwood: "We must be 'Bible Calvinists' not 'system Calvinists'. ... though Calvin did not make that mistake himself, it is arguable that many of his followers have done so over the ensuing centuries- and I include myself, as a Calvinist, in that caution."

"Calvin said we are to be 'daily taught in the school of Jesus Christ'."

Calvin's biographer Jean Cladier said, "Calvin was a man whom 'God mastered'."

In spite of a thorough understanding of man's depravity, Burk notes: "We find no trace of despair or cynicism in Calvin; rather, we find a hope that does not disappoint because it is founded and focused on the majesty of God and His word."

Stephen J Lawson is quoted, " As a preacher, Calvin's primary aim was to communicate to the common person in the pew. He was not seeking to impress his congregation with his own brilliance, but to impact them with the awe-inspiring majesty of God."

Burk closes with an incredible tribute:
" Among all the faithful voices of the past, there seems to be one who arises above them all. It is a voice of a man who desperately wanted us to hear not his own voice but the voice of God in His word... Calvin was a man who died to himself and sought to take up his cross daily...He strove to live for God's kingdom... He was a man who did not try to develop a system of theology that complemented the Word of God; rahter, he strove to derive his theology from the Word of God....Calvin's Calvinism is Christ-centered, Spirit empowered, God glorifying, gospel driven."

He quotes B.B. Warfield : "Here we have the secret to Calvin's greatness and the source of his strength unveiled to us. No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he; no man ever more unreservedly surrendered himself to the Divine direction."

So how did I become pulled into Calvinism originally? I have always felt a deep 'yes' to doctrines that humble man and exalt God. When I first read of Calvin, I had a big YES.

This year was the first time as a Bible teacher that I was asked that question. One of my students is a bright well-trained Baptist (which was my background by the way). He raised his hand one day about 1/3 through class and asked, "Coach, are you a Calvinist?".
I said, "I don't like answering that question because a slogan may not define what I mean by that label or what you mean by that label. But I will tell you that what I mean by Calvinism is the agreement I have about his understanding of the Bible."
He responded,"I don't agree with it at all. But I have been reading about it."
I said, "Good for you , keep reading, and look at it Biblically."
He wasn't fighting me. We were in a good place.
"By the way, _______, don't just chalk it up to a Presbyterian thing. You know the fastest growing element of Calvinists are Reformed Baptists including the head of the Southern Baptist Seminary, Dr. Al Mohler."
He looked at me in shock and it was back to the lesson.

No comments: