Theology of the Reformers - Lesson 8
An Overview of Calvin's Theology
In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of John Calvin's theology, its historical and cultural context, and its significant influence on the Protestant Reformation. You will explore the key components of Calvin's theology, including the sovereignty of God, predestination, salvation by grace alone, and the authority of Scripture. You will also learn about the theological implications of his teachings on the church, sacraments, Christian living, and the role of government, as well as the lasting legacy of his theology in the Reformed tradition and its impact on society.
An Overview of Calvin's Theology
TH230-08: An Overview of Calvin's Theology
I. Background and Context of Calvin's Theology
B. Historical and Cultural Context
C. Influences on Calvin's Theology
II. Key Components of Calvin's Theology
A. Sovereignty of God
B. Predestination and Election
C. Salvation by Grace Alone
D. Authority of Scripture
III. Theological Implications of Calvin's Theology
A. Church and Sacraments
B. Christian Living
C. The Role of Government
IV. Legacy and Influence of Calvin's Theology
A. Reformed Tradition and Calvinism
B. Impact on Theology and Society
- Through this lesson, you gain insights into church history as a theological discipline, the Reformation, key figures, theological contributions, and the lasting impact of the Reformation on theology and the church.0% Complete
- Through this lesson, you grasp Augustine's pivotal role in shaping Reformation theology, influencing key figures like Luther and Calvin, and leaving a lasting impact on the church.0% Complete
- 0% CompleteThrough this lesson, you gain insights into Scholasticism, Humanism, and Mysticism, understanding their roles in shaping the Reformation and the influences of key figures within each movement.0% Complete
- 0% CompleteIn this lesson, you explore Martin Luther's life and theological contributions, uncovering key events leading to the Reformation and examining the lasting impact of his work on Christianity.0% Complete
- 0% CompleteThrough this lesson, you gain a comprehensive understanding of the diversity in the Reformation in Saxony, its theological differences, and its impact on society and modern theology.0% Complete
- 0% CompleteIn this lesson, you gain insight into Huldrych Zwingli's life, theology, and contributions, exploring his views on the Lord's Supper, role in the Swiss Reformation and Anabaptist movement, and key writings, while also understanding his lasting impact on the Reformation.0% Complete
- 0% CompleteBy studying this lesson, you gain insights into John Calvin's central role in the Swiss Reformation, his theological contributions, and the lasting impact of his ideas on church organization, education, and social reforms.0% Complete
- 0% CompleteThrough this lesson, you gain insight into John Calvin's theology, its key components, and its lasting influence on the Reformed tradition and society.0% Complete
- 0% CompleteBy studying this lesson, you gain a deep understanding of John Calvin's theology in Book One of The Institutes, focusing on the knowledge of God, Christ, providence, and predestination, and its impact on Protestant theology.0% Complete
- 0% CompleteIn this lesson, you explore the key themes and insights from Book One of Calvin's "Institutes of the Christian Religion," gaining a deeper understanding of God's sovereignty, human humility, and the centrality of Scripture in Reformation thought.0% Complete
- 0% CompleteGain insights into Book Two of Calvin's "The Institutes," exploring the knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ, sin's nature, law and gospel, and its lasting impact on Protestant theology.0% Complete
- By examining Calvin's Farewell Address and other Reformation issues, you gain insight into the key themes and controversies that shaped the theological landscape and learn about the enduring influence of the Reformers.0% Complete
The leaders of the Protestant reformation built on the thoughts and teachings of scholars who came before them and spent their lives seeking God and explaining his Word.
Dr. Timothy George
Theology of the Reformers
An Overview of Calvin's Theology
[00:00:04] Theology of the reformers type, Calvin's theology. Now then, here we go with John Calvin and his theology. What I wanted to do today was a kind of general overview of Calvin's thinking. I've designed the course, as you can tell from that little outline I gave out several weeks ago. The first half of the course is more or less lecture introduction. I'm looking at Calvin in the context of the whole Reformation, and we've kind of done that with Lutherans, the England, the Anabaptists. Not very adequately, but at least we've touched on those major themes. The latter half of the class will be devoted to more A going through the institutes, just as you're doing in your assignments we'll be doing in this class. Not my lecturing all the time, but more discussion, interaction, I hope, with you as we go through the major points in Calvin's Institutes looks one through four. However, before we launch into that part of the course, I wanted to take a little time today to give you an overview of Calvin himself, some of the shaping factors in the way he did theology, and then maybe to look at two or three of the major doctrines that we associate with him. This is a kind of general overview. We'll come back to a lot of these issues, I'm sure, as we start plowing through the institutes and confront how he actually developed them and presented them there. But that's the strategy for our work today. And so to begin with, I want to talk about five aspects of Calvin's impact, the mystery of his impact and their five features. And this is kind of drawing together the the biographical work that I've done already. And you've read, of course, about him with the more systematic presentation that will follow, but five factors that help us to understand the approach he took, the methodology he developed, how that was implemented in terms of his own work in the institutes as well as in the commentaries and in his preaching.
[00:02:18] And the first thing is Calvin, as a jurist or a lawyer, I referred to this last week briefly, and I want to say just one or two more words about it. Calvin is concerned with how things work in the life of the church. Luther wasn't very much concerned about that, frankly. He was a monk. He was an academic, scholastic theologian. He had a Ph.D. in theology. Calvin was neither of those things. He was neither a monk, nor did he have a doctorate in theology. He was a lawyer, and therefore, he was very concerned with a system, an organization of how the church fits together. He wanted to conform this as nearly as possible to the pattern set forth in Scripture as he understood it. And so questions of church quality of officers and their responsibilities in the life of the church, of the organization of the Church and its impact on the world, its relationship to the state, to the civil society, all of those kinds of things become very important for the way Calvin develops his reformation in Geneva, and they also are reflected in the shape of his theology itself. He was an organizer and a re reformer of institutions. Now in the study of church history generally, there are three basic areas where I always try to touch base when I'm teaching church history. One is what you might call intellectual history or the history of theology ideas and the power of ideas to shape institutions and events. The second one is spirituality, prayer, worship. What really moves a person as a believer in Jesus Christ? And the third one, though, is institutional history. And it's in that third aspect of the study of institutional church history that Calvin stands out as one of the great all time leaders and and formulators of the life of the church.
[00:04:48] So those of you who believe in committees and see how committees work in a church, that's something Calvin would very much appreciate. Getting committees together. And when you look at Presbyterian Church polity, that's a lot of what it is. I mean, what is a session in a Presbyterian church? It's a committee. Now, I realize, you know, it has a theological meaning. And in the in Calvin's view and so forth. But that's really what it is. It's a group of elders coming together to confer, to think about what's going wrong with the church. How can it move forward in a better way? How can it be conformed more? Now, the congregational polity now, unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your view, we've we've become much more Presbyterian. We have all kinds of committees now that do these kinds of things. But historically, when you look back to some of the early Baptist and Congregationalist things, Church was facing an issue. You just throw it out that everybody talk about it, try to discern the will of the Lord in that and then move forward. That's a very open Presbyterian way to do things, and it's a very un Calvinist way to do things. So keep in mind, as you're reading the institutes and working on Calvin, his mind was shaped by institutional factors. He was concerned with how things worked and with how to make them work better. Now, I'm not putting this down. I think there is great strength and virtue in this, but it does lead to a different cast of mind than, say, Martin Luther had, or certainly that the Anabaptist had. You know, that that was not their cup of tea. Any comments about that? You follow what I'm saying? Does it ring true to you when you read the Institute? Here's the mind of somebody that's thought through how this works.
[00:06:35] It'll become clear to you when you get to vote for when he's talking about the church and the state. It's the last chapter in the institute or about the sacraments or discipline or polity or officers. You'll see how this is very carefully shaped in his thought. Sir, I want you to know that we're going to. You know, for you, that's a really good question. And I think if he were here, he would say everything he did. He tried to conform to the pattern of scripture. Now, as a matter of fact, those of us who may not agree with every part of his polity, when we look back on it, it seems to us that he was he was playing a little bit loose and fast with some of that, and probably more the latter than the former. But that's a matter of discussion among Calvin scholars as to what really motivated him. He would certainly say everything he tried to do was based on the pattern he found in Scripture. I don't believe and we shouldn't get out too much on this poverty thing. We'll come to that and do season. But I don't believe myself that Calvin was such a strong advocate of divine right Presbyterian polity as later in the tradition, people like Basil, for example, and others. Thomas Cartwright in England of Great Puritan Presbyterian became he thought this was the best way to do it. But when he's writing to the English refugees, for example, they have a much more congregational type governance of their church. He seems to give some allowance for that in their circumstances. Certainly when he writes to Archbishop Cranmer in England, he doesn't disparage the role of bishops in the church as long as they're godly people and well versed in scripture.
[00:08:27] And maybe he would just being a very prudential and wise statesman there. But my my reading of him is that there were more important issues than the shape, precise shape or form of church government as he put things together. But he was very concerned that it be done in a systematic, orderly way to the end, that not as an end in itself, but to the end that the Word of God might be purely preached and the sacraments rightly administered and discipline duly dispensed among the believers. That was the purpose of it. People would that the same. Well, what a good question. You guys are full of good questions today. I would say this, too, that if I were John Calvin answering your question, I'd say, why have you never read the Old Testament? And you would say, Yes, but I've also read the New Testament. I mean, the problem is here is one of covenantal continuity. Do we look to the Old Testament for the pattern of church state relations, as the early Puritans did in this country, as John Knox did in Scotland, and as some. It doesn't extend as Calvin did himself. Or do we stand with the Anabaptist and the Early Baptist and say, No, in the New Testament, we don't find this kind of closed symbiosis between church and state. So does that answer your question in a non answering kind of way? Now let's go to point number two. One is Calvin as a jurist and the effect of juridical training on his theology. Number two, the inner circle of close friends. The inner circle of Calvin's close friends. Now, this is very apparent when you look at Luther Luther's table talk and all. Have you read that or parts of it? Luther was such a gregarious person and there in Wittenberg and the home where he and Kati held for.
[00:10:47] You know, they were always having 50 or 60 students boarding with them and they ate their meals together. And there's all this drinking and bantering and so forth. And you just get this picture of theology and community in Wittenberg. Now, the stereotypical view of Calvin is that this was not the case in Geneva, but I want to contend that that is a false stereotypical view of Calvin, that Calvin was in fact capable of very close friendship and developed close friendships with a number of people whose own contribution to his life and the fellowship they shared was a shaping factor in his theology. That's what I'm claiming. It's a bit of a controversial thing to claim, and it's a little hard to prove how somebody fellowship impacted the way they did theology. But I think in fact, that can be done. Let me just mention two or three things. First of all, I've already mentioned Burrell, Ian Burrell, this very dynamic evangelist from France, 20 years older than Calvin, who persuaded him to stay in Geneva in the first place, take up the work of reform, who also persuaded him to go back to Geneva after he had been gone for three years to Strasbourg? Well, even though Farrell moved to New Seattle and became the reformer of that city, he and Calvin maintained a very close relationship. And sometime go and look at Calvin's letters. They've been collected in four volumes, edited by a French scholar named Joel Barney in an 82 days. And you can read the correspondence between these two and how Burrell, even though he was nowhere close to Calvin's caliber of thinker or theologian. Nonetheless, because of the relationship they had, the experiences they had shared was able to give him direction and even I think, influenced his thinking, especially perhaps on the Eucharist and some other areas.
[00:12:56] But, sir, another one of these people that was in the inner circle, Martin Boozer, the reformer of Strasbourg, I alluded to the close friendship that he and Calvin enjoyed during their years in Strasbourg and afterward. And again, it was Booth, sir, maybe more than anybody else that stressed to Calvin the importance of discipline in the life of the church. And a number of the reforms that he had begun in Strasbourg. Calvin later carried back to Geneva. Boozer was also one of these mediating theologians. I mentioned Strasbourg as sort of halfway on the border between France and Germany. And so Booth, sir, was, even though he was German speaking, not French speaking, he was very concerned to bring the Lutherans and the Reformed branch of the Reformation, Zwingli Calvin, together into some kind of harmony. He was never able to pull that off. But it was Booth, sir, more than anybody else who was responsible for getting together the colloquy of Marburg, where Zwingli and Calvin met in 1529 to talk about the Lord's Supper. And it was Boots, sir, who continue to be a bridging figure between Calvin and Melanchthon Luther's successor in Wittenberg. A third figure would be Bollinger, the US ly and g r He was zwingli successor as the reformer of Zurich and the major major League theologian in his own right. In fact, probably a case could be made that apart from Calvin himself, Bullinger is the most influential of the shapers of the reformed tradition, maybe more so than Zwingli, because the English was cut off in the prime of his life and Bullinger took that emphasis and carried it forward, modified it at certain points. On this issue of the Lord's Supper, it was Bullinger in 1549 who invited Calvin to come to Zurich, and together they shaped a new understanding of the Lord's Supper that brought together Zurich and Geneva.
[00:15:26] And that document was called the Consensus Figurine, whose tag you are in us. And in my book, John Calvin in the church, I have a chapter in there about the consensus to arenas and the role that Bullinger had as a negotiator across the table with Calvin trying to meet him halfway. And there was a great deal of influence that flowed both ways, I would say, between those two. And then, of course, there was Baiser Théodore Baiser, who was Calvin's successor in Geneva, and the first rector of the Academy of Geneva. I could mention Pier Viera. The Air E.T., another close associate of Calvin and Basa. And we can extend that list to include a number of the other people that came into contact with Calvin as well. But don't forget his letters. Hey, I know you don't have a lot of time to do extra reading. I'm asking you to read them. But right now. But I am asking you to remember them. And whenever you do any work on Calvin, it's always a good idea to go back and check his correspondence and see who. Who is writing to him. To whom was he writing? What's the influence? Because his theology was developed out of this inner circle of close friends that shared his life and his concerns. He was not a Lone Ranger theologian. There was theology and community in Geneva as well as in Wittenberg, know of a different kind. They drank wine in Geneva and beer and given their. Now three. Calvin as a biblical theologian. Calvin as a biblical theologian? Well, I mean, this in itself covers a whole waterfront. And we'll have to come back to this, especially when we come in book one to look at Calvin's doctrine of holy Scripture, how that fits into his whole theology.
[00:17:35] But I want to point out a few things here as an overview. One, his mastery of the biblical languages, both Greek and Hebrew. This is one of the amazing things about Calvin is his ability to enter into both the Greek and the Hebrew mindset and to master these ancient languages in such a way as he could become such a profound commentator on the Scriptures, the Old Testament, as well as the new. And here I think you see one of the major themes of Calvin in that the Jewish scriptures, the Hebrew scriptures, were not merely the Old Testament. Rather they were God's initial written revelation. His first and lasting word of God to his people. And there's a very real sense here for Calvin and the whole reform tradition, what we call the Old Testament, was not superseded by the New Testament. There's a sense in which for Calvin, the Old Testament is the primary test. That's where the whole covenantal motif is developed that Calvin will carry forward. Now, I don't mean to say by that that he plays down the New Testament. No. He would see them as being on a par, as being equally the Word of God and equally valid, though of course he does recognize and he talked about this in book two, doesn't he? The differences between the two promise and fulfillment, shadow and light. He can talk about that, but in a way that that fundamental unity is never at jeopardy or Calvin. So his command of biblical languages and his appreciation for the unity of the covenants is one of the things of the covenant, I should say, in two dispensations, one covenant in two dispensations gave a shape to the way he went at doing his entire theology.
[00:20:01] Now, sometimes it's presented that there is a great tension between Calvin the Reformer and Calvin, the biblical theologian. And sometimes Calvin of the institute is contrasted to Calvin of the commentaries because they don't always seem to say the same thing in the same way. And that's true. They don't. But I would I would suggest that we shouldn't overplay this distinction because the purpose of the institutes has to always be kept in mind. That's a danger in doing a course on Calvin, the way I'm doing it, that is having you read the institution, outline it and interact with it. The danger is that if that's all you ever read of Calvin, you'll come out thinking, Well, that's the way Calvin did theology. But no, that isn't really true. The institutes are not a systematic theology, and it is a mistake to try to make them fit that kind of mold. I don't think there was such a thing as a systematic theologian before Friedrich Schleicher, FileMaker invented systematic theology in our modern sense of the way of talking about all doctrines fitting together on around a certain center and everything having its place in good order. Now you can be seduced by the institutes because it's so orderly and it's so logical and it's so compelling. The way he develops this architectonic structure that you'd come out thinking, Wow, that's systematic theology. No, it isn't. What the institute is, is a handbook for you to use as you read the Bible. That's what he intended it to be. It's kind of like the notes in the old Scofield reference Bible. And if you ever seen the Scofield reference Bible, that's kind of what I grew up on. At the at the end of the page, they had notes that went along with the text, and they some of them were good, and some of them were kind of trashy, frankly.
[00:22:19] But theologically speaking. But in my view. But but in, in, in any event, that that was a good thing in that they were trying to distill from Scripture and give you the shape. That's what Calvin's doing in the institutes. Those are his notes to the study of the Bible. And so if you really want to understand Calvin as a biblical theologian, you've got to always read the institutes alongside the commentaries. And see how they enforce one another. And if you read Calvin's preface to the 1559 edition of the Institute, which is in the MacNeil Battles edition, that's what he says he's doing. And he tells you very clearly that his purpose. Now. Let's look for a moment, because we're talking here about Calvin's whole theology and how it developed and the role of the Bible and so forth in the institutes. Let's look at how the the institutes themselves were were developed. The early the first edition 1536 a rather small book, certainly compared to what it became, consisted of six chapters. And those six chapters were on the law in which you set forth the purpose of the Ten Commandments and so forth to its own faith. Day, three, day and Latin on faith. And it's really an exposition of the Apostles Creed. No statement of the doctrine of scripture there at all? No, it's very biblical, of course, scriptural. But he doesn't set forth, as he later does in Book one, A Doctrine of Scripture. The third chapter in the first edition is on the Lord's Prayer. They are not saying on prayer. And much of that was subsumed later in chapter 23, which you're reading right now. Four is on the sacraments. This is the 1536 edition. Four is on the Sacraments, which Calvin calls the outward sign that which the Lord represents and testifies his goodwill toward us.
[00:25:05] A testimony of God's grace declared to us by an outward symbol. And he says very clearly, there are only two sacraments. Baptism in the Lord's Supper. Chapter five. In the 1536 edition of the Institute is about what the Roman Catholic Church used to consider the other five sacraments. Calvin has devalued them. They're not they're not sacraments. They're only two of those. But they do have a role in the life of the church. And so he talks about marriage and ordination and these kinds of things. And the sixth chapter is about Christian liberty. And it's where he begins to in a very tentative way, talk about church, government and church and state, how they are related, not with a great deal of detail, but that's where he's coming in. Now he rewrote this edition of the Institute in 1539, again in 1541, again in 1545, all the way through his life. In my in my book, in that chapter on Calvin, I kind of give you those dates of all the different editions of the Institute. And it's a very interesting thing to go back and see how and where exactly Calvin's theology changed or developed or was enlarged as he went through the institutes throughout his whole life. And particularly on something like predestination. Predestination is virtually absent as a theological topic from the first edition of the Institute. Just not there. I mean, he believed in it, I'm convinced. I don't think it's theology. Predestination changed very much at all. From 1536 to his death in 1564. But the way he treated it and the space he gave to it, and the various arguments he developed on its behalf, all of that was shaped by the controversies in which he was engaged. And so that leads me to to say this is my fourth point now.
[00:27:39] One, Calvin is a jurist who Calvin's theology was shaped by his friendships inner circle. Three Calvin is a biblical theologian. His use of language is his understanding of of the continuity of the covenant. And for Calvin as a polemical theologian. In one of my essays on Calvin, I say that one of Calvin's favorite words was Contra in French SEO in degree in Latin Contra Contra. And when you look at the titles of his treatises, many of them contain this word. Calvin Contra, the Anabaptist. Calvin Contra, the Lutherans, Calvin Contra, the Church of Rome, to be sure. Calvin Contra, the Spiritualists, Calvin sometimes even contra other reformers. He was a polemical theologian. And that is difficult for us to take some time because we're not used to theology being done that way a whole lot today, unless we're ready for election of that. Now, there are there are contra theologians still around, and I'm glad they are. I think theology involves this polemical dimension. The problem is sometimes when the polemic takes over and you lose sight of everything else, you come very imbalanced. All right. But Calvin was against some things as well as being for some things. And my point here is that this politicizing had a shaping influence on the way he developed his theology. How could it be otherwise? You know, when you fight and struggle and hold public disputation and write treatises back and forth on whatever it is, predestination, the real presence of Christ in the Lord's Supper indulgences, then that is inevitably going to impact the way you incorporate those items in your summary of the Christian faith. And it certainly did. Calvin. In fact, another one of his favorite words is tumult. Tumult as a good English word is in tumult.
[00:30:21] And he understood the Reformation and Luther himself and his his whole beginning of the Reformation as a wake up call for intense conflict. You shouldn't think that theology is always going to be mild and placid and easy going. There is this other dimension to it, and that's one of the great challenges I think, for evangelical theology today, is to keep this sense that truth is important and that it's very important to be passionate about the truth, God's truth, the truth of Scripture, without at the same time becoming bitter in your spirit. Or judgmental and harsh in your language. That's not an easy thing for anybody to do. And I don't think Calvin pulled it off successfully a lot of times. Certainly Luther didn't either. And I don't know anybody really who does it today perfectly. But it's an important thing to understand that Calvin was a polemical theologian and that this aspect of polemics influenced his thinking. Carl has a great line in one of his. I forget where it comes from. He wrote so much, but and he's talking about this very thing I'm mentioning now. And of course, if ever there was a polemical theologian in the 20th century, it was Carl Bart. You all know his his great blast at Animal Bruner. You know, they were close friends in their early days working in Switzerland and then later in Germany, protesting against the Protestant liberalism of the 19th century and developing what some people call neo orthodoxy or dialectical theology, very close friend. But as the Nazi period arose and and Bruner seemed to be not favoring Nazi ism ever, but he seemed to be open to a kind of natural theology that the Nazis were able to use to their own advantage, and was arguing that there is a point of contact between Christians and all the other religions in the world and really putting forth a kind of reformed version of natural theology.
[00:32:47] Carl Bart came out with his almost vicious, certainly strong, strident response, which he entitled with just one word in German nine any in exclamation point. Well, it became very, very personal between Bart and Bruner, even though they had been close friends and close associates after that. Nine from BART was published, I think in 1533, something like that. They never spoke to one another for 40 years, 35 years till the early 1960s, right before they died. There was a brief reconciliation. But for all that time, they lived at enmity with one another. Well, I hope you're hearing me saying two things there. There's no such thing. And so and so I didn't give you the quote in the context of that. Carl Bart said, Unless we have the courage that we were speaking English, you might say guts to say, damn, na moose, let us condemn. We ought to omit the craziness we believe and just go on with theology as usual. Unless you have the courage to say damn numerous, you ought to omit the creativeness and go on with theology as usual. You can't have dogmatic without polemics and be honest. But how you do the polemics are there is the question. Okay, enough said. Number. What number? I'm out. I'm ready for five. Okay. Discipline. The role of discipline in Calvin's theology. And we'll come to this specifically in book four when he's talking about the marks of the church. For Calvin, discipline is not technically a third mark of the church. There are only two. He agrees with Luther, their preaching of the word administration of the sacraments. But discipline has a much more prominent role in Calvin's understanding of the church and of theology than it does in Luther's. In this way, you can see to some extent, the influence of his polemic against the Anabaptists, for whom discipline was an essential part of the church.
[00:35:22] If you didn't have discipline, according to the Anabaptist way of thinking, you didn't have a church. And that view was later carried over to the English separatists and to the early English Baptists. Well, and in fact, it's picked up in the reformed confessions, like the Scots confession of 1560 or the Belgian confession. Some of these later confessions of the reformed tradition incorporate discipline along with preaching of the word in the sacraments as one of the marks of the church. Why this great focus on discipline? Well, again, this connects in a way back to my first point about Calvin as a jurist. Calvin was concerned with the visible church. He was concerned with the purity and the holiness, the sanctity of the church. And remember the context in which he is working. 16th century, the wars of religion. Geneva itself is surrounded by hostile forces, attacked several times during Calvin's own lifetime by the Roman Catholics who want to take over the city again for all Calvin and the Protestants in the Rhone River. And then, of course, all of the churches to whom Calvin is riding in France, the, you know, churches, these these minority communities who are living in great tension, trying to survive in a hostile environment, how important it was for them to have an understanding of the Christian life that included discipline and to be able to enact that discipline within their own ranks in order to ensure the purity of the community. Isn't it often that way? Don't you find that true? I think it was that way in the early church. Read Tertullian at Harvard. I did a seminar one year with the George Johnston Williams and we read all of Tertullian his works, that seminar in Latin. That's why I don't feel bad about asking you to read a little bit in English.
[00:37:39] So if you want a hard seminar, you read all of Tertullian in Latin in one semester. That's what we did. But you read, you read Tertullian reading in English if you have to. But here you've got somebody that's breathing fire. I mean, you read Tertullian My goodness, He wants to boil people in oil and they're the Christians because they're not living up to their Christian commitment. Well, but see, he was living in an age when people were being shoveled into the arena to meet the ravenous beast, boiled alive in oil. And so it called forth this kind of rigor ism and focus on discipline. By the way, Dr. Bray wrote a great book on Tertullian, his first book, it's called Tertullian Holiness and the Will of God, Holiness and the Will of God and so on. This very topic, a community. But it's always been that way several years ago. This program is continued on side B. Please fast forward to the end of the slide, then turn the tape over. I took a visit to some of the countries in Eastern Europe, Hungary, what was then Yugoslavia, and I was amazed at the discipline of those Christians there. The intensity with which they took the Christian faith and the price they were willing to pay to live a distinctive Christian way in a hostile environment. Well, this was what was going on in the 16th century. To Calvin emphasizes discipline because of the need of these refugee Christians to survive in a hostile environment. Well, let's take a little break, maybe 5 minutes or so. We'll come back and I'll finish up on his theology. Comments or questions on the first part of the presentation. I found a lot of stuff at you. So, yes, sir, I made the first one when you said it would be fine.
[00:39:54] I do not know that they need to be strong without the onslaught of document allocation. They work for the North as both and say, for example, especially the French refugee churches in France, who are in a very hostile environment because they were a small Protestant minority in a largely Roman Catholic country where it was against the law to be anything other than Roman Catholic. So there was both the kind of imposition of Roman Catholic ecclesiology and theology, but also it was a very dangerous political situation because they were guilty of treason. And so it was both. So what you want to be reluctant to interfere with? Well, eventually what happened, of course, in France was that these these Huguenot churches began to develop a great deal of political clout of their own, especially as some of the nobility converted to the Calvinist cause and took up the force of arms to defend them. And so there you have the beginning of the wars of religion. And you forget we forget that today. You know, France is predominantly a Catholic country, nominal Catholic. Okay. But very few. But I mean, that's the history. That's the culture. Not so. In the late 16th century, there was a it's still a minority, but some historians estimate as much as 40. 45% of the French people were converted to the Calvinist movement. I mean, it was a significant force. Same is true in Poland. You think of Poland today as a dominant Catholic country. The popes from Poland, 16th century, there was a vigorous Protestant movement in Poland, much of it Calvinist in its orientation. Yeah, the brethren were very strong in Bohemia. The Moravian, you know, come from there. Mm hmm. Oh, pretty good. Well, think that's right.
[00:42:00] Yeah, There is an interesting point there. I think it's it's certainly true to say that he was a self-assured. That's not an exaggeration. At times, he borders on maybe arrogance. But, yes, he could. He could. And he could change his mind. He could change his mind. He could be admonished. And he was by some of these especially his close friends. It kind of depended on who you were that was admonishing him as to whether he would listen. But if he really felt that, you know, you you had the interest of the reform at heart and you were committed to the scriptures. Yeah. He he could be admonished. Yeah. Are going to play in the movie theater before. Do you? Why do you think that? And we're going to continue the. They'll good. Senator Toomey. Well, remember, Luther died in 1546. And so, you know, he and Calvin never met. They did. Calvin did send him his commentary on the Lord's Supper. And Luther said it was a pretty good book. Luther had Calvin had great respect for Martin Luther. In fact, if anything, I would say he was easy on Luther. He didn't care as much for Zwingli, whom he also never knew, of course, because when he died in 1531. But he didn't like his theology very much. And I think he was actually closer to Luther than to Zwingli on a lot of things. But the common opinion is is the opposite of that. But remember, also in this polemic business that Calvin had a great concern for the unity of the church, and he really did try his very best, I think, to bring together the reformed and the Lutheran branches of the Reformation. And he writes to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in the early 1550s that he would be willing to cross a thousand C's if he could just see the unity of the church restored.
[00:44:23] And so his polemics were less directed against the other reformers than they were against people that he would consider a rank heretics or the Church of Rome or something like that. And Luther, he had a I think a special is he saw God raising him up as a prophet like Elijah, come to bring a new age. So you think. I thought it was important. It was great. Yeah, that's good. Yeah, right. Yeah. What's going on? Oh, I'm coming. Not to be an alter ego broken. They did not seem to try to bully. Go. You want to go on a ride, right? Yeah. I don't know what I was for. Yeah. Yeah. You know. That's right. That's right. Knox had it. Knox was more like feral. I would say he's that fiery. You know, if you don't do it, God will continue kind of person. Calvin was a little cooler than that. He wouldn't he wouldn't be quite that bombastic, though. He could be various serving scoundrels asses. I mean, he calls people some pretty bad names. Dogs of. Yeah. Yeah. He didn't suffer fools gladly. That's true. I would have preferred that, Mr.. They. Yeah, I heard you're taking. Know, you get a lot of fans. They might print it in Christianity Today. I don't know. So it doesn't look good. Well, I agree with you. And I think that's one of the things you got to say about these reformers. You know, they had feet of clay, they had warts. You know, they weren't perfect. And so the only thing I can't I can't say anything to justify them in this respect any more than I can to justify their use of coercion against the anabaptists or whomever it was. But I will say this.
[00:47:03] Remember, they themselves were attacked and a great deal was at stake. So, Luther, for example, in the early 1520s and some of the vicious things he wrote against the peasants, what he saw there was the whole structure of the church and the gospel itself at stake. If this rebellion got out of hand and there was a total holocaust in the land. And so he was reacting under that kind of pressure and with a great deal of concern for things that ultimately matter. Now, the way he did it and the tactic he took and Calvin certainly, too, I find very difficult to justify. So but that's the only thing I can say is when we're being critical of these people on these points, or we should be critical, we have to be very careful that we don't do it self-righteously because we ourselves have our own blindspots. Now, let me go to Calvin's theology. But what I want to do here is really to talk about some of the famous doctrines that you associate with him a little bit. What was Calvin's distinctive contribution to Protestant theology? Karl Hall hll famous German church historian in the early 20th century, once said that John Calvin was Luther's best disciple. I think there's a lot of truth in that. The differences between the two are clear and distinct. Various points, but the similarities are much greater. And so we could take Luther's great theme solider Isaiah Sola Scriptura the church and see how Calvin rethought those great themes of the Reformation. So let's take at least I don't know how far we'll get today with this, but let's take Sola Grazia to begin with, Grace alone. Now, if Calvin is known for anything other than the burning of surveillance, it is his harsh doctrine of predestination.
[00:49:30] John Wesley, the great Methodist leader, wrote a hymn in which he pilloried this doctrine. Thou hast compelled the loss to die, has reprobate it from thy face, hast others save that the passed by or mocked with only damning grace. How long thou jealous God? How long shall impious worms, thou word disprove thy justice stain, thou mercy wronged, deny thy faithfulness and love still shall the hellish doctrine stand and thee for its da author claim No, let it sink at thy command down to the pit from whence it came. I used to sing. This is a methodist hymn, so doesn't want to throw Calvinists in hell. But he wants to get their doctrine there for sure. Welcome to. Well, he would say that was a possibility, especially in your case. But know, unfortunately, I know that now there's no doubt that Calvin did teach the doctrine of predestination. Occasionally you meet some nice, sweet moderate, a liberal Presbyterian who says, Oh, Calvin didn't really teach that. And of course, you know, that just expresses their own ignorance of Calvin. If they think that you can think he was wrong about that, as a lot of people do. But to say that he didn't teach the doctrine of predestination is kind of inexcusable. And of course, you're finding in Reading Book three that in fact he did teach it, but he did also call it a decree. And McRae hurried a horrible decree. He didn't teach it with glee. He didn't teach it with, Well, I've got a corner on the truth. And if you don't see this, then you're not a you're not a true Christian. You never had that kind of attitude toward this doctrine. Why did he teach the doctrine of predestination? Well, he taught this doctrine not because he was a dour despot or a mean man, but because he believed, rightly or wrongly, that it was mandated by holy Scripture.
[00:51:45] He found it in the Bible. And of course, at this point, he was in good agreement with Martin Luther. They were both radical augustinians. And remember, I think I told you at the beginning of the semester that quotation or my teacher at Harvard, Williams, George Williams, said the Reformation was the acute Augustinian ization of Christianity. You see that very clearly in Calvin, who again and again and again and again is quoting Saint Augustine. And of course, Luther himself was an Augustinian monk. But I would quote this from the Institute Book three Chapter 21 paragraph or section four 321 four. Great quotation on predestination. Profane men. That's another way of saying stupid, I guess. Profane men, I admit, in the matter of predestination, abruptly seize upon something to carp, rail, bark, or scoff at our desire only to have them generally admit that we should not investigate what the Lord has left hidden in secret, and that we should not neglect what He has brought out into the open so that we may not be convicted of excessive curiosity on the one hand, or of excessive ingratitude on the other. You want to read that again? Profane Men, I admit, in the matter of predestination, abruptly seize upon something that Corporal Barker scoffed that I desire, only to have them generally admit that we should not investigate. But the Lord has left hidden and secret, and that we should not neglect what He has brought out into the open so that we may not be convicted of excessive curiosity on the one hand, or of excessive ingratitude on the other. So Calvin wants to walk a fine line between overemphasizing predestination, becoming guilty of excessive curiosity, prying into all of the decrees of God in ways that Scripture does not, and on the other hand, keeping our lips zipped about it so that we don't ever mention it.
[00:54:33] Don't ever say anything about it. And therefore we end up being guilty of ingratitude to God for saving us by His grace in the first place. He wants to walk a line between curiosity, excessive curiosity, and excessive ingratitude. And so he's very sensitive to the order in which predestination comes in the Bible. And this is one of the things where there is change in the way he developed his theology. I mentioned that in 1536, the first edition of the Institute predestination elections hardly mentioned at all once or twice. 1539 It assumes a little larger role because that's also the year he wrote his commentary on the Romans. So he's working through Romans 9 to 11 and all that. And where does he place predestination in the early editions of the institutes once it assumes a kind of theological locus for him? He places it in book one. He puts it under the doctrine of God. The knowledge of God, which is, after all, the logical place to put it. If you think about it, if you really want to be logical, that's where Thomas Aquinas puts predestination and the summa theological. It's in book one. That's later on where Basil and some of the later Calvinist tradition replaces predestination back in the context of the doctrine of God. Calvin had it there to start with, but he deliberately moved it. And this is right pertinent to what you're doing now. And but very he moved it from book one to book three. Why he took it out of the context of the knowledge of God and put it in the context of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit and the Christian life and salvation and prayer. That it comes right after prayer. Why? Well, he said he wanted to follow the same order with reference to election and predestination that the Apostle Paul did in the book of Romans.
[00:57:00] Now look at Romans, the structure of the book of Romans. Romans doesn't start with predestination, does it? Jacob? Have I loved Esau? Have I hated? And why has the pot said to the potter, Why did you make me that? You don't find that in chapter one. Where does Paul start? ROMANS He starts. ROMANS With general revelation. God has revealed himself to all people in creation, all this kind of theology of conscience in everyone's conscience. He begins with an appeal to general revelation, and then he moves on in chapters two and three to talk about human sinfulness and the fall and the impact of sin in terms of our relationship to God. And then he moves on in chapter four and five and six to talk about justification and the work of God in our lives. The Holy Spirit shed a broad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. ROMANS five, eight. God commands his love to us and that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. His great Christological focus in the four or five and six. Now you get into chapter seven and eight and what's Paul dealing with is dealing with the Christian life, the struggle that's going on in me in chapter seven. I want I'd like to do good, but I can't. And the good I would do, I don't do. And you know all that rigmarole he's talking about that about the outworking And then in chapter eight, magnificent, great, powerful Mountaintop chapter begins with the word. There is therefore now no condemnation of those that are in Christ Jesus then redeemed from the law. He looks into the future. He sees what God is going to do. I reckon the sufferings of this present world not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us.
[00:58:54] He gets into a little eschatology and ends on that tremendous. No, there's nothing that can separate us from the love of Christ that things do come things present. Nothing in all creation can separate us from the love of God, the love of God in Christ Jesus. And only, only when Paul has taken you all the way through, as it were, the drama of salvation, the life of an individual believer. Only when you come to the end of Chapter eight and that great focus on the love of God. Does He begin in nine, ten, 11 to unfold this in terms of God's great mystery of election with reference to the people of Israel and to the believers in the church at Rome? I think it's both corporate and individual. And even when he gets all the way to the end of Chapter 11. You've dealt with those murky waters, nine, ten and 11. He's worked you through all of that argument. When he gets to the end of Chapter 11, how does he in the whole discussion, all the deaths, all altitude over who can understand, who can fathom the mystery of God? It's a dark theology, isn't it? To him, the praise of glory forever and ever. Which is just another more elegant way of saying, you know, we'll understand it better. Bye bye. Now, Calvin, who is a great student of Paul, wants to follow the method of Paul, and he wants to see predestination in the context of the Christian life. It's not a presupposition with which you begin your theology and from which everything else follows in a nice logical order ala Thomas Aquinas, our. Some later reformed theologians. It is an expression of gratitude to God. It's what John Newton wrote about.
[01:01:18] Amazing Grace. How sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was locked down blind. But now I see. I'm amazed by this. It's surprising to me. And so what you. What you do then, is to give thanks and glory and gratitude back to God for His undeserved, unilateral, transcendent and eternal favor which has been shown to you in his son, Jesus Christ. And so that's why he took predestination out of book one and put it near the end of book three in the context of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit in dealing with the Christian life. Because the purpose of the doctrine of predestination is not to somehow get us to pry into the mind of God. And why did he choose this one and not that one? And these kinds of questions that inevitably come to our mind. We began to think that way. The purpose of the doctrine of predestination is to get us to give gratitude and praise and glory to God. It's an ex post facto reflection. You look back on your life, you look back on your salvation, You look back on how it was you came to faith in Christ. And in the context of that, looking back, that retrospection, you say, How could this be? I was dead. Now I'm alive. I was lost. Now I'm found. I was blind. Now I see. And the only explanation that you are given is the explanation that God in his mercy and grace has chosen you, has predestined, aided you, has given to you the gift of eternal life. Well, that's my interpretation. You take it home and put it on your player piano and see how it sounds. But I think that makes a lot more sense than sort of seeing predestination as the center of Calvin's theology, around which everything else has to revolve in some kind of rigid, schematic way.
[01:03:30] Now, let me go on and talk about not only the election or predestination. We're still under solar Grotzinger here in my outline, but I want to talk also about Providence. Because underlying this emphasis on the priority of grace was an almost overwhelming sense in Calvin of utter contingency. What do I mean by that? Well, I mean, there's nothing more certain in life than that. Life is uncertain. And so he has this great description. This is from book one. You've already read this, but it's one of my favorite passages in all of Calvin, in which he describes the utter precarious character of human existence. This could be written by a 20th century existentialist by Albert Camus or Jean-Paul Sartre or somebody like that. Innumerable are the evils that beset human life, innumerable to the deaths that threaten it. We need not go beyond ourselves since our body is the receptacle of a thousand diseases, in fact holds within itself and fosters the causes of diseases. A man cannot go about unburdened by many forms of his own destruction and without drawing out a life envelop, as it were, by death. Or what else would you call it when he neither freezes nor sweats without danger? Not true. Now, wherever you turn, not only are things hardly to be trusted, but they also openly menace and seem to threaten immediate death. Embark upon a ship, You are one step away from there. Mount a horse. If one foot slips, your life is imperiled. Go through the city streets. You are subject to as many dangers as there are tiles on the roofs. If there is a weapon either in your hand or a friend's arm awaits, all the fierce animals you see are armed for your destruction.
[01:05:53] But if you try to shut yourself up in a walled garden, seemingly delightful there, a serpent sometimes lies hidden. Your house continually in danger of fire, threatens in the daytime to impoverish you, and that night even to collapse upon you. If you ever think at night you can't sleep, roof might fall on. Your field since it is exposed to hail, frost, drought and other calamities threatens you with barrenness and hence famine. I pass over, he says. Thank goodness. Poisonings, ambushes, robberies, open violence, which in part besiege us at home, in part, gorgeous abroad. And so a few days ago, in beautiful Republican suburban in Shelby County, a teenager goes in and kills two or three people. Amid these tribulations, must not man be most miserable since, but half alive in life. He weakly draws his anxious and languid breath as if he had a sword perpetually hanging over his head. That's life. That's life for everybody. Because God causes the rain and the sunshine to to come on the just and the unjust alive. Now, how can you live in that kind of world? It is precisely this world of flux and change of danger and contingency, which is the special theater of God's glory. Did you pick up that term in Calvin? You talks about that a lot. The world is the theater of God's glory, this very world that he's just described, because he says God is actively present in every moment of the creation. He is the rector mundi. That's a Latin phrase, the governor of the world. He's not a lazy God in a watchtower who looks on from a distance, kind of like an absentee landlord, sort of God. You know, he has those gentleman apartments over there in the slums.
[01:08:34] And every now and then he goes by to pick up the rent, but he doesn't get his hands very dirty with what goes on there. He's an absentee landlord. This is not Calvin's God. Calvin's God is involved. He is intimately connected and related to this world which he made and which he is moving in his providence and all of the contingencies that it involves toward some destination, toward some denouement, which will come in his own time and in his own way. And within all of this, the church God's people have a very special role to play. And so Calvin brings together providence and predestination in a much more explicit way than Luther ever did. I'm not saying Luther didn't agree with it, but Luther didn't think it through in this kind of way. And so Calvin cannot only talk about God's general providence at work in the world at large, but he can also talk about his special providence. If you can talk about his way in which he works in the lives of those who know him and who belong to him by faith in Christ, someone had a comment or question? Yes, sir. Yeah, it's book. One of the interviews that long quote I gave you. Somebody have it real handy. I didn't bring my I don't have the reference here, but I can find it for you. In fact, I think I quoted or part of it in my theology of the reformers, but it's in book one in the section on Providence. I'll give that to you later if you don't. Can't find it. Any other comment or question on this question of Providence? The relation of Providence and predestination and Calvin? Well, how do we know all of this? How do we understand it not? Calvin says by observing the world or nature or human beings.
[01:11:04] And here again, you know, we've got to think about Calvin's theological methodology. And this goes back to that debate between Carl Bart and Emil Brunner that I referred to earlier in the early part of this century. Their debate on natural theology and whether there is such a thing in Calvin. It is true that Calvin has a theology of nature. It is not true that he has a natural theology, in my judgment. So I think Bart was right and Bruno was wrong on that point. So Calvin says, we do not apprehend in a human manner, nor in the light of natural feelings, but by faith alone, the invisible providence of God. He says. Again, this is from his commentary on the songs Until God Became My Teacher. I failed to discover by my own reflections how the world was governed. So don't think that simply because you're a smart scientist or you're a good observer of nature or something like that, that this is going to become immediately clear to you. Oh, no. It's only as you put on the spectacle. That's Calvin's favorite word for the scriptures. You put on the spectacles of God's revelation in the Bible and begin to look at the world and nature and creation and history with these spectacles in place that you begin to really understand what God himself has done and has revealed. So again, we're back to Calvin as a biblical theologian, not a speculative or philosophical theologian. Well, I think we better call it quits for today and next time. After the break, we'll meet again and begin our discussion of book one of the institute's. So come prepared for discussion interaction questions for a 24 page 223 is that quote from book one. Thank you.