Wednesday, 20 June 2018

3. Augustine cannot be cited as counterevidence

Calvin explains that he thinks Augustine is not speaking against the Church being grounded upon scripture, but that the consensus of the Church can impel people to turn to Christ.  Is it possible that those who have not yet received the gift of faith can be influenced by Church teaching to come to Christ?
In our world today the Church is often portrayed as uncaring or irrelevant.  When was the last time you heard a news report about the positive benefits of being a disciple of Christ? Calvin appears concerned that as St. Augustine comes with such a reputation of being a theological heavy weight, readers of the Institutes may be tempted to think that Augustine’s words some with the same weight as scripture.  Calvin makes his position clear- scripture is for him the inspired word of God and the Church points to its truth.
How readily does the Church direct people towards the Scriptures today?

Saturday, 26 May 2018

2. The Church in itself is grounded upon Scripture

How do you react to Calvin’s assertion:

Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as black and white things do of their colour or sweet and bitter things do of their taste.

In this sentence Calvin is refuting the argument that the Church is responsible for decisions on the truth of material contained in the Canon of Scripture, the Bible.  Calvin is saying that scripture’s truth was clear before the foundation of the Church, that it self- authenticates.  What more evidence do you need in a world that seems to demand evidence for every event and observation?  Many would take as evidence material on social media as truth, whilst others consider scientific experiments as infallible.  Yet they would have problem with the scriptures –denying their inspiration by God and the copious documentary and archaeological material that points to their veracity.  How true are the scriptures for you?

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Chapter 7 Scripture must be confirmed by the witness of the Spirit. Thus may its authority be established as certain and it is a wicked falsehood that its credibility depends on the judgment of the Church

1 Scripture has its authority from God not from the Church

Chapters 7-9 of this Book are about the authority of the Bible.  Prior to the Reformation the Church was the agent through which scripture was interpreted and explained.  Calvin regards the “consent of the Church” in weighing scripture as a “pernicious error”, for him it mocks the Holy Spirit.  Yet questions centred on the authority of written work are often raised in our world today- who is qualified to interpret and give meaning to a text? In addressing this questions Calvin makes the case for inner testimony -  a self- authentication of the Bible as the work of God, even if distilled and written down by fallen humanity.  If someone asked you who is the overall author of the Scriptures what would you say?

Friday, 23 March 2018

4. Scripture can communicate to us what revelation in the creation cannot

Do you believe Calvin with the title to this section? Can something written by fallible human hands reveal things about God that His magnificent creation cannot?  Calvin justifies his position through reference to the Psalms such as Psalm 18:8-9 where the law of the Lord is “clear, enlightening the eyes”.  The contemplation of creation is not sufficient without the testimony of scripture.  He regards the word of God imparting revelation through Jesus Christ in the New Testament as central because he refers to the Jews as “seeking God without the Word”.  His evidence for this comes from the story of Jesus’ meeting with the Samaritan woman in John’s Gospel chapter 4.  So many people today seem to think revelation of God starts and ends with creation- are you one? If not then which passages of scripture reveal Jesus Christ to you?

Thursday, 22 February 2018

3. Without scripture we fall into error

Calvin believed that God’s likeness revealed in the “beautiful form of the universe” is insufficiently effective” to give human beings guidance towards Him. This guidance is provided by God’s Word of Scripture.  How do you respond to those who say that they know God through the landscape of the hills or the starry night sky and pay no attention to the scriptures?

Calvin describes our world as an “inexplicable labyrinth” unless we are directed into it through the “thread of the Word” and uses the example of David calling God “regnant” (Psalm 93:1, 96:10) as not his power but doctrine through which God exerts sovereignty.  What part of the labyrinth has been unravelled for you by the power of God’s Holy Word.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

A Book Review illustrating the wider implications of John Calvin's Theology

Women Reform and Community in Early Modern England

Melissa Franklin Harkrider

The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, 2008

As we engage with Calvin’s institutes and the issues of Theology, Ecclesiology and Politics that were prevailing in Continental Europe at the time of their writing we may wonder about their effects more widely.  England underwent a Reformation in the sixteenth century and the issues that John Calvin wrote about on this process as this book amply illustrates. Katherine Willoughby, Duchess of Suffolk was one of the highest ranking noble women in sixteenth century England.  As Protestantism developed in England her approach to faith changed.  She embraced many of the ideas that had their origin in the Genevan Reformation of John Calvin.  These affected her use of political power and status as this book describes in chapters on Catholicism and Reform and Evangelicalism.  For those sustaining an interest in Calvin the chapter about what happened when Katherine fled England during the reign of Queen Mary is particularly interesting.  Katherine Willoughby’s views of the Eucharist were influenced by her friendship with Martin Bucer and she adopted the doctrine of predestination following John Calvin and the later Calvinist reformers.

In 1554 Katherine and her husband requested permission to settle in Wesel and joined the English Church there.  Although they supported the doctrine of predestination they rejected the physical presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  They upheld the self-government of the church supervised by the minister and groups of elders. They did not adopt the Genevan Liturgy in common with English churches in Frankfurt and Strasbourg.

This book assists us in that it awakens our thoughts about the rapid spread of the Protestant Reformation in particular the one stimulated by John Calvin.  By the time Katherine Willoughby and her husband were settling in Wesel in 1554 at the time of the Marian persecution in England Calvin had produced three editions of the Institutes (1536, 1539 and 1550).  He had yet to produce the version he regarded as the most complete and authoritative (the 1559 version).  Events in Europe involving the persecution of Protestants, not just in England had precipitated the translation of the Institutes into Spanish in 1540 and Italian in 1557.  The story of Katherine Willoughby opens our eyes to these events and sets them in a wider European context.  It also gives interesting insight into the role of women within the protestant reformation and is a worthy read for this reason too.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

2. The word of God as Holy Scripture

Calvin believed that the patriarchs obtained their knowledge of God through “oracles and visions” and by “the work and ministry of men”.  He also believed that the law was committed to Moses and that Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4).  As a result Calvin thinks that any human being “should contemplate God’s works” and “prick up his ears to the Word”.  Do you do this day by day? How?  In this respect Calvin notes especially the development of doctrine indicating that it is not possible to obtain “even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless someone is a pupil of scripture”.  How many teachings and doctrines of the Church today are put forward without reference or with only a passing acquaintance of Scripture?  Are you equipped to be a pupil of Scripture?  If not then what do you need to do?