Thursday, September 30, 2010

Calvin's Contribution

One point Belloc made that I thought was interesting was that Calvin transformed the reformation from a purely negative thing to another religion. He felt that Luther was a anti-Catholic. He needed the Catholic church for his theology to work. Calvin didn't. His Institutes of the Christian Religion could stand on its own. He moved from a list of gripes to a full system of theology. That meant the Reformation had much more staying power than it would have had without Calvin.

Calvinism became much more like Islam. It was obviously influenced by Catholicism but it could make sense of itself apart from Catholicism. Certainly the Calvinism I was raised on was like that. Catholicism was only mentioned in the context of the reformation. But Muslims are a bit more honest about the major role their founder played. They say that Jesus was greater than Moses but Mohamed was greater than Jesus. Calvinists would never say Calvin was greater than Jesus. But does that not make sense? Jesus brought something in the first century. Calvin improved on it in the 16th century. So the same logic should apply.

Now Calvin would say that he was restoring the faith that Jesus brought. He was more than restoring. There was nothing like the Calvin's Institutes in the early church. Nothing like TULIP. Calvin organized things into much more up to date philosophical categories. If what he wrote was true it was clearly a huge step forward. Besides, Calvin believed the church Jesus founded needed to be fixed. We are not talking about a few repairs here and there. We are talking major foundational renovation. There were errors everywhere. Calvin corrected them all or at least the vast majority of them. If Calvin can fix what Jesus built does that not make Calvin greater?

The logic seems obvious to Muslims but not so much to Calvinists.The reason is obvious. It flies in the face of the Christian teaching that Jesus is God. With Jesus God became man. With Calvin God became inhuman. Calvinists love and respect the teaching of Jesus much more than the teachings of Calvin. This is good. They believe in predestination because they have to. They believe in the resurrection because they want to. They don't really understand how much of their experience of Jesus was changed by Calvin. Not just by his actual teaching but by the logical long term consequences of his break with the church. The decline of sacramental spirituality. The growing confusion over what God's word really says. A father is responsible not just for what he intended his children to become but for what they actually become.

No comments:

Post a Comment