Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Legacy of John Calvin

As I am currently sick, and original thought comes at a steep price, I will here simply mention a slim volume concerning John Calvin which I have just finished. The Legacy of John Calvin, His Influence on the Modern World, by David W. Hall is a quick read. An overview of the enduring influence that Calvin had on the ideas that eventually shaped modern civilization in general and America in particular, I heartily recommend this book.

A thorough review being beyond the powers of my feeble and feverish mind at the moment, (assuming my mind, in full health, would be capable, is still rather a stretch) I will merely quote J. I. Packer, as he is quoted in the book.

"It is now four hundred years (in 1964) since John Calvin died. Why should we concern ourselves with him today? Why should we regard him as a man worthy of commemoration at the present time?

It would be answer enough to this question simply to point out that his influence on history was so immense that you cannot begin to explain modern Britain- England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland- nor modern Europe, nor modern America, nor indeed any English-speaking country anywhere, without making reference to him. You cannot leave him out of the story of any part of the Western world.

It is not always realized, but it is true nonetheless, that for a century and more after his death John Calvin was quite literally the world's most influential man, in the sense that his ideas made more history than did the thoughts, or actions, of anyone else who was alive at the time...

If we look at more recent history, and think of men like Edwards, Brainerd, Whitefield, ... Wilberforce, Spurgeon, Carey, ... we see at once that the evangelical movement which began with revival in the eighteenth century, and the social and missionary movements which overflowed from it throughout the nineteenth century, could not have been what they were without John Calvin; for these great leaders, and a host of others who stood with them, were all Calvinists in their basic creed.

Thus we may fairly say that if we are going to understand our religious and cultural heritage in this mid-twentieth century, it is absolutely essential that we should know something about Calvin."

And later: "At the heart of Calvin's Christianity there was a vision and a passion. The vision was of God on the throne, God reigning in majesty. How often Calvin used the words "majesty" and "glory"! How often he dilates on the greatness of God! The passion corresponded to the vision. It was the passion expressed in that great phrase which has become the slogan of Calvinism- soli Deo gloria! It was the longing that the Almighty Creator and Redeemer, the Source and Stay and End of all things, should receive the praise and worship and adoration that were his due."

I pray that as I read through John Calvin's summa pietatis, that I too may capture that vision, and better understand the gift of God in my Savior, Jesus Christ.

Soli Deo gloria- to God alone be the glory!

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