mgpcpastor's blog

May Australian Presbyterian Magazine – John Calvin

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The May edition of Australian Presbyterian magazine features John Calvin. Commemorating the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth, the lead interview features Dr Ligon Duncan, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Jackson, Mississippi. His insights into Calvin’s life and legacy make interesting reading.
As an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson Duncan’s personal experience as a pastor/theologian mirrors Calvin’s own, though that is not explored in the interview.
The interview challenges various conceptions about Calvin. His perceived harshness must be balanced with a rounded view of his life and an appreciation of the times in which he lived.
Unless I missed it, Servetus is not mentioned. Doubtless Calvin critics will see this as an evasion. I found it sort of refreshing because the situation has been covered to the point of exhaustion in most scholarly and popular treatments of Calvin’s life.
I found the implications of Calvin as theologian and pastor interesting. The heritage of this leader of the reformation (the Presbyterian and Reformed churches) have seen theologians as usually being in the academy, or even para-church ministries, and pastors serving in churches.
Perhaps this has been part of the reason that theology has come to be popularly portrayed as impractical. Scan the shelves of a local Christian bookstore and you will notice the emphasis on ‘practical teaching’.
This is all the more concerning as Duncan identifies the doctrine of Justification by Faith as being central to the reform movement that both Luther and Calvin spearheaded. While deficiences in practice could be observe, the solution was not in changing the practice, rather the solution was in changing the false understanding of the Scriptures that nurtured the spiritual climate in which deficient practice could flourish.
Many Christian books and growth programs assume the power of the Holy Spirit without emphasising the central truth that justification by faith alone is the central and necessary change that each of us must undergo before we can experience growth and change.
I am thankful for a rise in pastor/theologians in the Calvinist churches, at least in the United States, and look forward to that being mirrored in our country in years to come.
The need for this stems from the sad truth that a clear understanding of justification by faith is becoming more distant to many Christians, clouded as it is by messages of prosperity, healing, prophetic voices, apostolic leaders, social justice, emergent fogginess, liberalism and now green theologies, among others.
We don’t have to personally like John Calvin. There was only one perfect man. He died to atone for John Calvin’s sins, as well as for mine and for those of all of God’s people. This enables us to appreciate Calvin’s single minded pursuit of understanding the Scriptures and trying to teach them as cleary as he could. You don’t have to agree with Calvin conclusions, to be inspired by his commitment.
Just love the Scriptures as the Word of God and seek to proclaim their teaching of justification, by grace alone, through faith alone.
Calvin may never be the man of the year, but he singleheartedly loved the Man of All History. We can do no less.

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