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Reformed. Christianity. Evangelism. Modern Culture.
The label Calvinist is thrown about flippantly. In some circles it’s used with a snarl and a growl. In most cases people do not actually know what it means. However Times Herald has noted that….
This label that once was considered very bad in almost all Christian circles is enjoying incredible new popularity. Surging numbers of Christians are attending Calvinistic conferences and reading Calvinistic books and articles.
Calvinism is still misunderstood and is recovering from so many decades of bad press. In spite of that, however, more people opening called themselves Calvinists or variations of that, like mild Calvinists or moderate Calvinists. Have you been labeled a Calvinist? How can you know if you or someone else is such an animal? In a moment I’d like to give you a simple test to determine just that.
The nickname Calvinist comes from the Reformer John Calvin (1509-1564). Although John Calvin taught through books of the Bible day-by-day in Geneva, Switzerland, he is known mostly for teaching that God is sovereign over the salvation of sinners. He taught that God chose to save some people before time began, and then predestined that they would become believers in Christ. …Read More!
Quoting John Calvin:
Scripture is superior to all human wisdom. Unless this certainty, higher and stronger than any human judgment, be present, it will be vain to fortify the authority of Scripture by arguments, to establish it by common agreement of the church, or to confirm it with other helps. For unless this foundation is laid, its authority will always remain in doubt. Conversely, once we have embraced it devoutly as its dignity deserves, and have recognized it to be above the common sort of things, those arguments—not strong enough before to engraft and fix the certainty of Scripture in our minds—become very useful aids. What wonderful confirmation ensues when, with keener study, we ponder the economy of the divine wisdom, so well ordered and disposed; the completely heavenly character of its doctrine, savoring of nothing earthly; the beautiful agreement of all the parts with one another—as well as such other qualities as can gain majesty for the writings. ~John Calvin
HT The Old Guys
“He therefore…is a fool in this world, who, renouncing his own understanding, allows himself to be directed by the Lord, as if with his eyes shut – who, distrusting himself leans wholly upon the Lord, places his whole wisdom in him, and yields himself up to God in docility and submission. It is necessary that our wisdom should in this way vanish, in order that the will of God may have authority over us, and that we be emptied of our own understanding, that we may be filled with the wisdom of God.”-John Calvin
Today’s “successful gospel preacher” is measured by how much health, wealth and prosperity he pronounces upon or promises the congregation. But what would the Christian’s life be like without any challenges and trials? Did God promise a walk of blissful exsistence? How about the Apostle Paul and the church fathers or the Reformers for instance-did they have health, wealth and prosperity as we are promised by most televangelists? [In stark contrast] despite the incredible amount of work he produced, let alone sermons he prepared, its almost unthinkable to figure out how and when preachers like John Calvin had time to fall ill. But hold onto your socks! Calvin suffered from poor digestion, migraines, kidney stones, gout, tuberculosis, and lung hemorrhages, possibly brought on by too much preaching and teaching-oh and not to forget some good haemorrhoids too. In a letter to his friend Heinrich Bullinger he described an occasion of his health as thus:
At present, I am relieved from very acute suffering, having been delivered of a calculus [i.e a stone] about the size of the kernel of a filbert [i.e hazelnut]. As the retention of urine was very painful to me, by the advice of my physician, I got upon my horseback that the jolting might assist me in discharging the calculus. On my return home I was surprised to find that I emitted discolored blood instead of urine. The following day the calculus had forced its way from the bladder into the urethra. Hence still more excruciating tortures.
This excerpt is from a story recounted to Andrea Ferrari an Italian Reformed pastor. It’s the testimony of a Chinese student Yi Wang in Italy. Born in an atheist family he had never met a Christian until he left his motherland China and travelled to Europe. Yi says…
Being a Christian was never part of my life plan. I used to have many plans, from big ones of studying abroad and establishing the career to the small ones of dawdling with girls in clubs. But I never planned to be a Christian, not even in my dreams. After moving to Italy, I came in touch with Christianity for the first time. I didn’t reject everything about it, but looked down on it as something inferior. My belief was pretty much like Immanuel Kant: Christianity, like other religions, has a positive effect indeed to the personal morality and social mood, but unfortunately it cannot be tested by the science and human rationality. So I respected religious people, but, as an evolved human being, I disdained to believe any religion. The Bible says: “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” What I thought was just the opposite: “the heavens and earth mock and deny God.” When I recall it today, it was such a transgression. I used to resist him, thinking that I had no faults and he has no right to judge me. But he let me realize that I was always sinning against him and that there are much more terrible faults than the lack of secular ethics and morality. I cannot understand how God has such mercy to send his only Son to die for me, a son of disobedience. …Read More!
The true mark by which to discern the Church of Jesus Christ [is] to be where his holy Gospel is purely and faithfully preached, declared, listened to and heeded; where the Sacraments are rightly administered, even though there continue to be some imperfections and flaws, as they will always be among men. On the contrary, where the Gospel is not declared, heard and received, there we recognize by no means the Church. – John Calvin
HT Jim West.
That person has profited well in the knowledge of himself when he is crushed and frightened by understanding his wretchedness, poverty, nakedness, and disgrace. For there is no danger that a person will lower himself too much, provided he understands that he must recover in God what he lacks in himself. — John Calvin
Monergism has a link to 36 free sermons by John Calvin. Click here.
So what really happened between Michael Servetus and Calvin?
In the year 1553 an event occurred which would forever blacken the reputation of Calvin in the eyes of an ungodly world. In that year a heretic named Michael Servetus entered Geneva after fleeing from France after being condemned for his heresy there and escaping from prison in Vienna. He was seen in the streets of Geneva and arrested on August 13. This trouble he had brought upon himself by his book which denied the existence of the Trinity as well as the practice of infant baptism. Though the former is clearly a more serious error than the latter, the latter position identified Servetus with the hated Anabaptists who had spread the revolutionary ideas of socialism and communism. Why Servetus came to Geneva is not clear though the Reformer Wolfgang Musculus wrote that he apparently thought that Geneva might be favorable to him since there was so much opposition to Calvin.
On August 21, the authorities in Geneva wrote to Vienna asking further information on Servetus. The authorities in Vienna immediately demanded his extradition to face charges there. At this the Genevan city council offered Servetus a choice: he could either be returned to Vienna or stay in Geneva and face the charges against him. Servetus, significantly, chose to remain in Geneva. Read More
Once upon a time there was a Swiss pastor called Zwingli. (Okay, that sounds too cheesy). Looking at accounts of Church history and in particular Reformation History how a little known pastor called Huldrych Zwingli became a Reformer (and the people’s pastor). Here is a good story that my good friend Jim West has dug up. Its a sweet story worth reading of how the Reformation was birthed and spread out in Zurich :
1524 marked the completion of the break with the Old Church as far as Zurich was concerned. The changes were made deliberately and under orders from the City Council. They occasioned no revolt, although they were of the most radical description. It was made to appear that the changes came in consequence of the city authorities’ conviction of their scripturalness, and not because Zwingli had insisted upon them. Nor was a step taken without the approval beforehand of the thoughtful classes.
Zwingli and his fellow Reformers argued before the people the propriety of the changes about to be made. Then when a sufficient time had elapsed a public debate was held in the presence of the City Council, and then the Council ordered the changes. The consequence was the changes were made once for all, were fully comprehended, and gladly assented to.
In loving memory of Jim Bublitz who went to be with the Lord not more than two days ago, I will feature this post from his blog – The Old Truth.
In the 19th century, R.L. Dabney wrote –
“All the leading Reformers, whether in Germany, Switzerland, England or Scotland were constant preachers, and their sermons were prevalently expository”; the purpose was to explain the meaning of Scripture. So he says, “We can assume with safety that the instrumentality to which the spiritual power of the great revolution of the Reformation – was mainly due to the restoration of scriptural preaching”.
Martin Luther in 1533 said, “The Word of God is the greatest most necessary, most important thing in Christendom.” And it is. I’ll tell you what, you turn away from the Book and you have endless problems. You turn away from the Book and Jesus becomes a clay toy, you can shape Him any way you want. Truth becomes a clay toy, you can shape it any way you want…
See, people want to reinvent Jesus, shape Him any way they want.
God arms the devil, as well as all the wicked, for conflict, and sits as umpire, that he may exercise our patience. But if the disasters and miseries which press us happen without the agency of men, let us call to mind the doctrine of the Law (Deut. 28:1), that all prosperity has its source in the blessing of God, that all adversity is his curse. And let us tremble at the dreadful denunciation, “And if ye will not be reformed by these things, but will walk contrary unto me; then will I also walk contrary unto you,” (Lev. 26:23, 24). These words condemn our torpor, when, according to our carnal sense, deeming that whatever happens in any way is fortuitous, we are neither animated by the kindness of God to worship him, nor by his scourge stimulated to repentance. And it is for this reason that Jeremiah (Lament. 3:38), and Amos (Amos 3:6), expostulated bitterly with the Jews, for not believing that good as well as evil was produced by the command of God. To the same effect are the words in Isaiah, “I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things,” (Is. 45:7). Institutes 1.17.8
HT: Jim West
I have many times tried to read just a paragraph of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion and made it to only the end of the first sentence to just munch over and over what he meant. I love reading snippets and quotes from his works from time to time. Calvin was an extremely brilliant exegete of the scriptures and his work is still respected to this day. I came across this year plan to go through The Institutes in a year and thought I would just post it. You sure will have learnt a whole lot of Systematic Theology by the time you will have completed. Karl Bart once said:
John Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from Himalaya, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately. What I receive is only a thin little stream and what I can then give out again is only a yet thinner extract of this little stream. I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life with just Calvin.
Rightly said there Karl! I guess I too would have loved to listen to him teach through the book of Job or Ephesians.
Finally, to introduce the student to the study of the Scriptures Calvin wrote this following text. This program is no substitute or supplement for regular reading of God’s Word. Rather, the former is designed to serve as a aid to the latter.
Grant, Almighty God, that, since to a perverse, and in every way a rebellious people, thou didst formerly show so much grace, as to exhort them continually to repentance, and to stretch forth thy hand to them by thy Prophets, — O grant, that the same word may sound in our ears; and when we do not immediately profit by thy teaching, O cast us not away, but, by thy Spirit, so subdue all our thoughts and affections, that we, being humbled, may give glory to thy majesty, such as is due to thee, and that, being allured by thy paternal favor, we may submit ourselves to thee, and, at the same time, embrace that mercy which thou offerest and presentest to us in Christ, that we may not doubt but thou wilt be a Father to us, until we shall at length enjoy that eternal inheritance, which has been obtained for us by the, blood of thine only-begotten Son. Amen
John Calvin was born in 1509. He died in 1564. This year on the 27th of May we will read what Philip Schaff wrote about John’s death. Before he died his last wish was to be buried in an unmarked grave with no witnesses and no ceremony. Schaff writes:
… Calvin spent his last days in almost continual prayer, and in ejaculating comforting sentences of Scripture, mostly from the Psalms. He suffered at times excruciating pains. He was often heard to exclaim: “I mourn as a dove” (Isa. 38:14); “I was dumb, I opened not my mouth; because thou didst it” (Ps. 39:9); “Thou bruisest me, O Lord, but it is enough for me that it is thy hand.” His voice was broken by asthma, but his eyes remained bright, and his mind clear and strong to the last. He admitted all who wished to see him, but requested that they should rather pray for him than speak to him.
On the day of his death he spoke with less difficulty. He fell peacefully asleep with the setting sun towards eight o’clock, and entered into the rest of his Lord. “I had just left him,” says Beza, “a little before, and on receiving intimation from the servants, immediately hastened to him with one of the brethren. We found that he had already died, and so very calmly, without any convulsion of his feet or hands, that he did not even fetch a deeper sigh. He had remained perfectly sensible, and was not entirely deprived of utterance to his very last breath. Indeed, he looked much more like one sleeping than dead.”
He had lived fifty-four years, ten months, and seventeen days.
This year’s conference began with evening dinner on Thursday 3rd May followed by sessions led by Dr. Bernhard Kaiser. Dr Kaiser is founder and director of the Institute of Reformational theology in Reiskirchen near Giessen, Germany and is a lecturer in Systematic theology at the Selye-Janos University in Komamo, Slovakia. His passion is teaching the relevance of reformation Theology for today’s generation.
This year’s programme delved in to Reformation Theology (the Solas) …Read More!
So what does Ephesians 2:1-5 say and how does it apply to me?
“Seeing then that we are so corrupted in our souls and that there is neither thought nor affection which is not utterly perverted, let us not think it strange that God with his own mouth pronounces us dead, despite the fact that through our own foolish pride we imagine that there is some life in us. And that is the very thing that St. Paul deals with now in saying that the Ephesians were partakers of the above-mentioned grace, though they were dead through their own sins and iniquities. …Read More!
He may have been apparently forgotten as a theological light weight but to the keen eye Martin Bucer’s role in the reformation was and is invaluable. Bucer was an ecclesial diplomat pastor with deep coherent theological conviction.
Martin Bucer played a part in the Reformation and his impact was in the city of Strasburg. Martin Bucer is not as well known as Martin Luther and John Calvin but he did make an impact on Strasburg until he was forced to flee the city.
Bucer was born on November 11th 1491. He was influenced by the Humanistic teachings of Erasmus and he read and accepted the arguments of Martin Luther. He had been a Dominican monk but he left in 1521 and became the chaplain to Franz von Sickingen, a protestant knight, and in 1522 became pastor of Landstuhl in the Palatinate. Here he married Elizabeth Silbereisen – a former nun. In 1523, Bucer became a minister in Strasburg where he preached in the cathedral.
Strasburg had long suffered from poor priests in terms of quality and absentee bishops. The city was also a major centre of the book trade so it was very susceptible to the influence of the printed word. The writings of Martin Luther and Melancthon were widely circulated and as early as 1521, preachers had arrived in Strasburg to “preach the pure Gospel”. Read More
In this day when discipline is hard to institute in a church, its not that uncommon to find this long forsaken practice all together abandoned to the detriment of the body of Christ. So, what is the purpose of church discipline?
The first is that they who lead a filthy and infamous life may not be called Christians, to the dishonor of God, as if his holy church [cf. Eph. 5:25-26] were a conspiracy of wicked and abandoned men. For since the church itself is the body of Christ [Col. 1:24], it cannot be corrupted by such foul and decaying members without some disgrace falling upon its Head.
Therefore, that there may be no such thing in the church to brand its most sacred name with disgrace, they from whose wickedness infamy redounds to the Christian name must be banished from its family. And here also we must preserve the order of the Lord’s Supper, that it may not be profaned by being administered indiscriminately.
For it is very true that he to whom its distribution has been committed, if he knowingly and willing admits an unworthy person whom he could rightfully turn away, is as guilty of sacrilege as if he had cast the Lord’s body to dogs.
On this account, Chrysostom gravely inveighs against priests who, fearing the power of great men, dare exclude no one. “Blood,” he says, “will be required at your hands. [Ezek. 3:18; 33:8.] If you fear a man, he will laugh at you; but if you fear God, you will be revered also among men. Let us not dread the fasces, the purple, the crowns; here we have a greater power. I truly would rather give my body to death, and let my blood be poured out, than participate in that pollution.” Therefore, lest this most hallowed mystery be disgraced, discretion is very much needed in its distribution. Yet this can be had only through the jurisdiction of the church. Read More
On a lighter note, apparently John Calvin is being remembered for being the 52nd best dressed man of all time. Or so they think.
Because the most famous minimalist in world history knew a man didn’t need expensive clothes or bright colors to convey authority. Black and white, worn with the requisite gravity, can be powerful and intimidating. Just look at the Secret Service. Or the Reservoir Dogs. ~MSN
Of course always take what ever fame and glory the world offers with a good pinch of salt.
A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet. [Prov 29:5] Read More
God has recently given us the opportunity to discuss some theological issues with other Christians who believe differently than we do on a number of points, most notably the doctrines of grace. [This post was adapted from Monergism] In such a circumstance, given the overwhelming supply of scriptural evidence that comes to bear on the topic, it seemed to me that the best approach would be a simple categorized scripture list: the fact that the entire paper would be scriptures, with the exception of a few brief explanatory notes, would underscore the truth that this is God’s own word and teaching; and the fact that it would be categorized would facilitate the ready comparison of scripture with scripture so as to lead one to a full-orbed understanding of the biblical teaching. Although I found a few good scripture lists of that nature available online, none of them was laid out in quite the progression that I was looking for, and so I developed my own. I’m posting it here with just the scripture references. Below, for your convenience I have provided a condensed version and a full version of the study. The study is also available in print from Monergism Books. Read More
Looking back through the recent past, Christianity has gone through roller coasters. The reformation brought us out of the darkness of Roman Catholicism and departure from Scripture. The term Reformation is a historical term that goes back almost four centuries. It refers to a period when the church underwent a “reformation” as men of God attempted to return Christianity to the authority of Scripture. The desire of the Reformation was not to change God’s word but rather to bring the church back to the early Christian church. Led by men like Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin, John Knox and the others. The Reformation churches split off from the errors of the medieval Roman church and began what we know today as Protestantism. The Protestant churches were born out of the Reformation. Read More
An attempt to clear up some of the misunderstandings about Calvinism. This is not meant to be a detailed doctrinal defense of Calvinism’s Doctrines Of Grace.
1) Calvinism and Hyper-Calvinism are poles apart. The terms are not to be used synonymously. A Hyper-Calvinist is not just a zealous Calvinist. We both consider each other to be “mongrel” Calvinists. No man will actually call himself a Hyper-Calvinist.
2) Yes Calvinists are split into several factions. But then so are many such doctrinal schools e.g. Dispensationalism, Church Government, Worship – do we sing only the Psalms or use hymns? Which hymns? Do we use music? Which music? Which set of texts do we base our Bible translation on? Is it the Textus Receptus that is important or the (KJV) AV? or both? etc.
3) The term free will needs to be defined to avoid confusion. Calvinists will either affirm it or deny it, depending on what they think you mean. This sometimes leads to charges of contradictions. Consult the standard Calvinist Confessions e.g. the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter 9 for a defining of terms. But There’s More