Monday, February 16, 2009

Calvin and Spiritual Multiplication

And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. II Timothy 2:2
Come follow me, Jesus said, and I will send you out to fish for people. Matthew 5:19

Calvin: “Balduin twits me… that I have no children. God had given me a son. God has taken my little boy…but I have myriads of sons throughout the Christian world.”

The Reformation would not have worked without a passing of the baton. In simple terms (more complex below) Luther passed it to Melanchthon, Zwingli passed it on to Bullinger, Calvin passed it on to Beza. Melanchthon, Bullinger, and Beza all wrote to preserve the teachings of their great leaders. Melanchthon wrote the Concords, Bullinger wrote the Second Helvetic Confession, and Beza wrote his autobiography of John Calvin.
The great movements of history have been most fruitful when the time was ripe for new ideas combined with a desire to pass the baton on to the next generation. Passing the baton has not always been without its problems. Think of Robert Schuller or Charles Stanley and their sons/successors. When someone wants to pass the baton but still control it, there are all sorts of problems.
Jesus saw it as important to call together a group of people in front of whom he could live his faith with integrity. These twelve often called their own disciples. Peter was followed in part by John Mark (who also learned from Barnabas and Paul) and Clement of Rome. John was followed by Papias. Paul had his Timothy, Titus, and Silas. It seemed that the model for the spreading of the gospel from Jesus himself was to have an intimate circle of disciples, then a larger circle, and then a much larger circle. Time, energy, and finitude tend to limit our intimacy with only a few.
Calvin was influenced by Erasmus, Luther, LeFevre, and Farel. Calvin in turn influenced Knox, Beza, Viret (Lausanne), Olevianus (Palatinate of Germany), John Augusta (Czeck/Hussite). Beza lit Peter Cartwright’s torch, and he influenced English and Irish Reformed thinkers. Zwingli (by Martin Santa of Kalancseh) and Bullinger (by John a Lasco), influenced the Reformed church in Hungary, Poland, and Romania.
The other influence and spread of the faith happened by Calvin’s sending out of Reformed Protestant missionaries (in 1561 Geneva’s church sent out 151 missionaries to areas of France), and graduates from his university/seminary in Geneva. Of course Calvin’s writings- dedicated to political leaders all over Europe were influences all over Europe. His Institutes spread his influence without his physical presence. His letters were held in great regard, and he wrote many. Calvin made many friends famous and not famous.
He treated the refugees with special concern, as he himself was a refugee. Refugees flooded Geneva at the rate of a thousand a year. He found homes for them and helped the politicians welcome them and set up work for them. He set up church services in English, Italian, Spanish, and Felmish for them.
Christian discipleship today has been translated into first “apprenticeship” and now “mentoring” in the secular world. The idea is that to multiply your faith take just a few people and reproduce your faith in them. If they continue to reproduce their faith in just two or three others, then the faith continues to grow, prosper, and bear fruit.

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