“Such is pure and genuine religion, namely, confidence in God coupled with serious fear—fear, which both includes in it willing reverence, and brings along with it such legitimate worship as is prescribed by the law. And it ought to be more carefully considered that all men promiscuously do homage to God, but very few truly reverence him. On all hands there is abundance of ostentatious ceremonies, but sincerity of heart is rare.” – John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1.2.2
I thought it appropriate to kick of my first post on this new blog by pulling this excerpt from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion. I have unfortunately not had the pleasure of reading the Institutes in their entirety, but I always find myself captivated whenever I take the time to read excerpts from Calvin’s magnum opus. Nevertheless, I’ve read enough to get a decent grasp of Calvin’s theology and what I’ve found has been encouraging. Perhaps, if I am even somewhat successful, this blog will succeed in demonstrating how John Calvin’s ideas are not fundamentally Calvinist. Rather, Calvin’s theological observations are consistently Scriptural. Most of his arguments articulate fundamental doctrines that all Christians (reformed or not) should believe without hesitation. This brief selection from Book 1 of the Institutes demonstrates my point perfectly…and there are many more such passages that convey such fundamental Biblical truths. I must admit, I find it perplexing that Calvin is such a controversial figure in Christianity.
But I digresss. Back to the passage at hand:
It is important to note here that Calvin is simply articulating what we read in passages such as Luke 10:27 and John 4:23-24. Moreover, he is critiquing hypocrisy, telling his readers that there are many men eager to praise God, but few do it with sincerity. Calvin is not speaking of a lifeless and cold religion, fused by theological musings in deep dungeons. Rather, he is trying to identify a religion grounded equally in truth, vitality, wisdom, reverence, and enjoyment. What Christian would disagree with Calvin on this?
The more I study Calvinist thinkers (past and present), I find this understanding of religion to be the one of the core aspects of the reformed heritage. Reformed theologians and preachers, such as Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards, burned with an intense fire for the Gospel and derived their boldness from their love for God. They were not cold and lifeless in their religion, but fervent and alive. Modern reformed teachers such as John Piper and Paul Washer have tried to awaken the passions that these men once stirred.
Let’s join with these men as we remember the prayer of the Apostle Paul in Ephesians, which expresses exactly the purity of religion which Calvin regards so highly and finds so rare. And let’s do what we can to make it less rare and more real.
Welcome to Calvin Shrugged.
“For this reason,because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” – Ephesians 1:15-23