Saturday, July 18, 2009

Is Calvin Still Relevant After 500 Years? It All Depends

( Michael Horton

According to many Protestants-including some evangelical leaders-the Reformation may be over. In an age of rampant secularism, the threat of militant Islam, and moral relativism, surely the issues that unite us are greater than our differences. It seems that a lot of today's heirs of the Reformation are weary of fighting age-old battles and most people in the pews cannot even identify the flash points. Something about the pope, and Mary and the saints, or something.

For that matter, surveys reveal that most evangelicals hold views about salvation that are, if anything, worse than the official position of the Roman Catholic Church. While it's undeniable that Calvin had a major impact on Western history, it is not clear at all whether his driving concerns are still regarded widely as relevant in contemporary Christianity.

I have to admit that I've been a little uneasy with this whole "Calvin 500" celebration. And I'm not sure that a rigorously God-centered minister like Calvin-who demanded to be buried in an unmarked grave, within a plain pine casket-would appreciate all the attention. I am even a little more confident that he would not approve of all the attempts to turn him into an important person for all the wrong reasons. This is where Calvin is brought out by some as the tyrant of Geneva and by others as the pioneer of modern liberties and all sorts of other concerns that were, at best, tangential to the Reformer's interests.

What was central to Calvin's interest also happens to make him more relevant than whatever he may have incidentally and inadvertently done to improve Western culture. Calvin's obsession, the nearest I can tell, was the tender mercy of the Father, shown toward sinners in the Son and through the Spirit. I agree with B. B. Warfield's assessment that Calvin was even more interested in God's fatherhood than his sovereignty. Calvin's robust doctrine of the Holy Spirit leaves its mark on every theological topic. And as for the "in Christ" part of it all, this is the nearest thing to a "central dogma" that I can think of for Calvin.
Is the Reformation Over?

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