Thursday, January 15, 2004

So, the name of Calvin is an oft-spoken one at the Redd household these days, probably since there are numerous discussions on the subject of predestination at the good old Andrew Peterson Messageboard. And also, I'm reading a good bit on the great Reformer these days, both his own work (Institutes) and Keith Mathison's look at his view of the Lord's Supper. One thing I've quickly realized is that Calvin is marginalized by most evangelicals. His name is synonymous with predestination, the TULIP, etc. This is a shame, because the guy did not devote such a huge portion of his writings to those subjects! I've heard it said that Luther actually wrote more on the subject of election than Calvin, but as it stands, the latter is more often associated with the "Doctrines of Grace." Anyway, in reading more of his actual work, I'm developing an appreciation for Calvin's scholarship, grasp of the Scriptures, and ability to pull it all together in the big picture. (He also has the same agressive tone that seems to have dominated theologians of that day -- although not to the same extent as Luther.) We'd do well to study his works, as well as others from antiquity.

The current section I'm reading from Institutes is on faith. The following is lengthy, but I really enjoyed Calvin's assessment of faith and assurance of the believer.

Thus the disciples, while reprimanded by their Master for the weakness of their faith in crying out that they were perishing, still implored his aid, (Matth. 8: 25.) And he, in rebuking them for their want of faith, does not disown them or class them with unbelievers, but urges them to shake off the vice. Therefore, as we have already said, we again maintain, that faith remaining fixed in the believer's breast never can be eradicated from it. However it may seem shaken and bent in this direction or in that, its flame is never so completely quenched as not at least to lurk under the embers. In this way, it appears that the word, which is an incorruptible seed, produces fruit similar to itself. Its germ never withers away utterly and perishes. The saints cannot have a stronger ground for despair than to feel, that, according to present appearances, the hand of God is armed for their destruction; and yet Job thus declares the strength of his confidence: "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." The truth is, that unbelief reigns not in the hearts of believers, but only assails them from without; does not wound them mortally with its darts, but annoys them, or, at the utmost, gives them a wound which can be healed. Faith, as Paul (declares, (Eph. 6: 16,) is our shield, which receiving these darts, either wards them off entirely, or at least breaks their force, and prevents them from reaching the vitals. Hence when faith is shaken, it is just as when, by the violent blow of a javelin, a soldier standing firm is forced to step back and yield a little; and again when faith is wounded, it is as if the shield were pierced, but not perforated by the blow. The pious mind will always rise, and be able to say with David, "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me," (Psalm 23: 4.)

(Institutes III.2.21)

Good stuff. It almost makes me forget he was French. ;)

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