Thursday, July 9, 2009

7/10/09- 500th birthday of Calvin

(Calvin by Titian)

1 Now a man of the house of Levi married a Levite woman, 2 and she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. When she saw that he was a fine child, she hid him for three months. 3 But when she could hide him no longer, she got a papyrus basket for him and coated it with tar and pitch. Then she placed the child in it and put it among the reeds along the bank of the Nile. 4 His sister stood at a distance to see what would happen to him. 5 Then Pharaoh's daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. 6 She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry for him. "This is one of the Hebrew babies," she said. 7 Then his sister asked Pharaoh's daughter, "Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?" 8 "Yes, go," she answered. And the girl went and got the baby's mother. 9 Pharaoh's daughter said to her, "Take this baby and nurse him for me, and I will pay you." So the woman took the baby and nursed him. 10 When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh's daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, [a] saying, "I drew him out of the water."
(Exodus 2:1-10)

Calvin (from his will): In the first place, I render thanks to God, not only because he has had compassion on me, his poor creature, to draw me out of the abyss… make me a partaker of the doctrine of salvation, of which I was altogether unworthy, and continuing his mercy he has supported me amid so many sins and short-comings, which were such that I well deserved to be rejected by him a hundred thousand times — but what is more, he has so far extended his mercy towards me as to make use of me and of my labor, to convey and announce the truth of his gospel; having no other hope nor refuge except in his gratuitous adoption, upon which all my salvation is founded; embracing the grace which he has given me in our Lord Jesus Christ, and accepting the merits of his death and passion, in order that by this means all my sins may be buried; and praying him so to wash and cleanse me by the blood of this great Redeemer, which has been shed for us poor sinners, that I may appear before his face, bearing as it were his image.

W. Stacy Johnson points out Calvin was born while Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel and died when Shakespeare was born, thus he was a product of the Renaissance. Calvin considered himself a Christian humanist. Calvin was born in Noyon, Picardy France 7/10/1509 (500 years ago today). He was the son of Gerard Calvin (lawyer and secretary to the bishop; a son of coopers) and Jeanne LeFranc Calvin (a daughter of an innkeeper). Calvin was one of seven children. The oldest, Charles, became a priest and was later excommunicated. Antoine had been a chaplain as well. He went with Calvin to Geneva ran a bookstore, became a city council member and was on the hospital’s board. Two younger brothers died in infancy. Marie, his step-sister followed him to Geneva. Another step-sister may have become a nun in Noyon. Calvin’s mother died when he was three, but was said to be very pious and beautiful.
Calvin was a seminal figure of the Reformation. Luther said, he “perused Calvin’s books with singular pleasure” (1539). Melanchthon called Calvin simply “the theologian.” Bucer said “Calvin is a truly learned and singularly eloquent man, an illustrious restorer of a purer Christianity.” Calvin had many friends and admirers, but also many detractors and enemies. As Piper said, this was “uncannily like Jesus- either you followed him or you turn against his teaching.”
From a secular point of view, Calvin is one of two to form the classical French language (along with Rabelais). He was influential (according to Max Weber) in helping the move from feudalism to capitalism and the forming of the western middle class. He was influential in a revival of republican democracy with checks and balances. Some say American governmental philosophy was heavily influenced by Calvin’s ideas of checks and balances.
In Calvin’s adopted city of Geneva Switzerland Calvin was known for his social work. John Knox who was in exile in Geneva said, Geneva "is the most perfect school of Christ that ever was in the earth since the days of the apostles. In other places I confess Christ to be truly preached; but manners and religion so sincerely reformed, I have not yet seen in any other place..." Calvin started a hospital, a public school and university (girls were included), sanitized the sewers, and helped decrease crime in general. As a churchman, Calvin organized presbyterian polity giving an equal place for elders and ministers. Over 20 million today would call themselves Presbyterian or Reformed and might consider Calvin a Moses-like figure for them. But far more in the church have been affected by Calvin’s work and thought.
Theologically, Calvin is well known for his emphasis on the glory and majesty of God. He fine-tuned Augustine’s doctrine of predestination, and creatively spoke of how sanctification and justification work together. He is often called the “Theologian of the Holy Spirit” because he emphasized that the Holy Spirit makes the Bible real to us, and the sacraments real to us as well. The Holy Spirit unites us to Christ- and the idea of union or adoption played a key part in his theology. It is important to remember his 500th birthday for it effects us in many ways. In the March 12, 2009 issue of Time magazine Calvinism was named as the third top idea sweeping the world today (along with a deeper awareness of the environment and the need to cut down on gas guzzling cars). Calvin’s ideas not only still live, but they thrive.

Prayer: Thank you Lord that you drew Moses up out of the water, and you drew a Calvin up to lead you people. Draw good leaders for your people in the future.

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