Thursday, June 04, 2009

John Calvin

John Calvin was not a man who inspired immediate confidence in those who first met him (Steinmetz 3). He was a slight man, shy and bookish, never robust and plagued by illness (Steinmetz 3). He is a man of order and peace born into a world of conflict (Parker 9). He was conservative by nature, by upbringing, by conviction, and his theology as so old-fashioned it seemed a novelty (Parker 9). He called himself a “lover of shaded paths and retired groves” as well as “merely a man among the common people” (Parker 9, 17). He also thought of himself as a “God frustrated Scholar” meaning that his plans had been set aside to do God’s will (Gerrish 152).

He had an unbelievable list of physical ailments, an inexhaustible work ethic, and he was sharp-tongued and short-tempered (Gerrish 152). He was irritable and difficult because of these circumstances yet those who were his friends testified to the deep affection and unfailing concern he showed them and to any who turned for him for help (Gerrish 153). Calvin has been chiefly defined as a rigid and systematic bureaucrat and theologian. However, Calvin’s concerns are not motivated by systematic but through pastoral concern (Barrett). He is a practical theologian who juxtaposes themes and leaves them be; he is able to hold together dialectical tensions as theology only makes sense in living and NOT on paper (Barrett).

Calvin will be a shy, thinker, usually at the back of the group, listening. He’s not loud nor have the ego like Luther or Zwingli, not super charming or witty like Erasmus. He will speak in imagistic and metaphoric language and comment on the other reformers actions under his breath. He is best described as the character “Crab Man” from My Name Is Earl. Incredibly profound and insightful, but largely misinterpreted by those around him. He is frustrated by this but keeps trusting that things will work out.

4 comments:

Paul Maurice Martin said...

In all honesty, his life sounds more interesting than his writings! Was it some huge tome called "The Institutes" or something like that, which were his main work?

It may have been me more than him though. At U of Chicago div school, we were force fed so much theology at once that I often felt like cleaning and jerking one of the many massive tomes up toward the ceiling and just letting it drop on ny head to knock me unconscious for the rest of the semester...

Hope I spelled "tome" right, not a word I use every day...

Luke said...

hey Paul,

nah, dude was about as flavorless and drab as his writings. i think he's interesting though because he's usually branded as some uber-rigid and hell-fire and brimstone dude, but that's not Calvin at all. in fact, quite the opposite.

but he did have some pretty progressive thinking for the time, like allowing women to be ordained at a future time when "the minds of men wouldn't shrink at the thought" and spoke about how insecure men are. i thought that to be a ab. fab. insight. but you're right, the Institutes were his main work, so much so that he tirelessly worked on them and he said about his wife "she didn't get in the way of my work." at her funeral. yikes! :-)

societyvs said...

Calvin - I can't say much about this guy - except to say I am still warding off his archaic views in the 21st century (which I think is sad).

His systematic endeavors, as appluadable as they are, are 1/2 the problem with Evangelism and movements that incorporate his teachings. This 'system' of interpretation and teaching take the place of the scriptures and in my personal opinion - Calvin is lauded to a place reserved for Jesus (almost).

Calvin likely hates me (if he is in heaven and can read this crap I write) - but the feeling is seemingly mutual - except I hate what he taught - Calvin would actually just hate me...nevermind anything I said or taught. Ask Servetus.

I am ont saying I would outlaw Calvin from church teachings - but he definitely needs a muzzle.

Luke said...

"Calvin likely hates me "

no. actually you'd see his pastoral side if he was infront of you. it is his followers that come along after him that really put forth a rigid and "hate-filled" theology that Calvin gets saddled with.

after study'n him, i see that he's concerned with the "least of these" in providing structure and continuation in their lives, not seeking to label and condemn people. structure is super important but it can easily be used to exclude those it was supposed to include in the first place, and i think, regrettably, this is what Calvin's followers did... exactly the opposite of what Calvin was intending.