Friday 10 July 2009

Modern Reformation on Calvin at 500

Today is 10 July. 500 years ago, John Calvin was born – Happy Birthday!

As providence would have it, my special June/July copy of Modern Reformation arrived a few weeks ago, devoted to ‘Calvin at 500: Does He Still Matter?’

No prizes for guessing their answer…

Of course, in true Reformation style, the Editorial promises that the focus will not be on Calvin’s Geneva or his personality or his influence in the history of the church, but on ‘his God-centered, gospel-saturated theology’ (2).

Along these lines, Michael Horton writes the opening essay, declaring that Calvin’s obsession ‘was the tender mercy of the Father, shown towards sinners in the Son and through the Spirit’, and that Calvin was ‘even more interested in God’s fatherhood than his sovereignty’ (3).

A Roman Catholic scholar, Dennis E. Tamburello, contributes a piece on the legacy of the Reformed tradition, focusing on the centrality of Christ (particularly in terms of his grace – for justification and sanctification), sacramental theology (with the most important feature being ‘not what happens to the bread and wine, but what happens to us, who receive the Eucharist in faith’, 9), the Holy Spirit (which pervaded every aspect of Calvin’s thought), and thankfulness to God as a key element of the Christian life (preventing faith degenerating into self-interest or fear).

For those who can’t afford a trip to see the sites, Douglas Bond takes readers on an imaginary tour of the most important places in the life of Calvin – Noyon, Paris, Orleans, Bourges, Basel, Strasbourg, and, of course, Geneva.

A special section on ‘the many faces of Calvin’ contains mini essays on Calvin’s influence – Calvin and Anglicanism, Calvin and Karl Barth, Calvin versus the Calvinists, Calvin and Vatican II, Calvin and Jonathan Edwards, Calvin and the continuing Protestant story, Calvin and Max Weber, Calvin and the Lord’s Supper, Calvin and Luther, and the issue of whether Calvin was a cultural transformationist.

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