Dispelling Caricatures

Posted: September 24, 2011 in calvin, calvinism, controversy, history, theology

Russell Moore offers a clarifying portrayal:

If today John Calvin were discovered alive and in suspended animation, frozen in a block of ice somewhere in the French Alps, most people probably wouldn’t consider this good news. After all, the unfrozen Calvinist lawgiver rarely is thought of as the kind of figure modern audiences would want to drag back up.

His writings don’t have the wink-of-the-eye puckish grin that even his contemporary Martin Luther seems to sometimes communicate in his many writings. Moreover, Calvin, although associated with some bland but commendable features such as hard work and thrift, is mostly known for all kinds of awful things: such as burnings at the stake and the predestination of people to hell.

Calvin is too important, though, to leave him frozen in caricature, and he’s too significant to leave him simply to his tribe of theological partisans. John Calvin—most significantly in his Institutes of the Christian Religion—offers insight to all in the Christian tradition, including those who consider themselves the furthest away from “Calvinism.”…

As you read Calvin’s Institutes, you will probably find points of disagreement, perhaps even major disagreements. But you will probably—whatever your religious communion—find the insights of a mind shaped by immersion in the Scriptures, in the church fathers, in Western classical thought. And you will find behind that a man who recognized something of what it meant to be a creature, and to look in worship and humility for the Creator in whom he lived and moved.

I often find that many of those who most vehemently oppose Calvin and his theology have never actually read him, at least not at length.  Do it (I dare you), with a humble mind and gracious heart, and I think you will find that he has much to offer.

You can read many of Calvin’s works for free at CCEL.org.  For more on the real Calvin, click here.

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