What Caused the Fall of Adam?

Every evangelical knows of the fall of mankind, but what did that have to do with you or me? Why would have Adam’s fall, better yet how could have one single piece of fruit have such infliction and such vengeance on the whole of human race? John Calvin helps explain exactly what happen at the fall and its implications to humanity saying;

As the act which God punished so severely must have been not a trivial fault, but a heinous crime, it will be necessary to attend to the peculiar nature of the sin which produced Adam’s fall, and provoked God to inflict such fearful vengeance on the whole human race. The common idea of sensual intemperance is childish. The sum and substance of all virtues could not consist in abstinence from a single fruit amid a general abundance of every delicacy that could be desired, the earth, with happy fertility, yielding not only abundance, but also endless variety. We must, therefore, look deeper than sensual intemperance. The prohibition to touch the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a trial of obedience, that Adam, by observing it, might prove [Read more…]

What is the Sum of True Wisdom?

Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. But where does one find his or her’s wisdom in a day and age that seems to claim so many truths. John Calvin helps break down how the evil of man can still yet be used for the good things of God and how God uses that to lead His people to find Him.

Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, [Read more…]

The College Days of John Calvin

Last night I was looking through my Logos library, searching for something to read before bed. William Blackburn’s book, College Days of Calvin, caught my eye. While I wasn’t able to find out much about Blackburn online, the little I did find seems to indicate that he was a fairly prolific biographer, particularly of those involved in the Reformation.

His book is a fascinating glimpse into the young and formative years of John Calvin. While much of the book is worth sharing, I was particularly impressed with Blackburn’s account of Calvin’s encounter with the one only referred to as, the hermit of Livry. The hermit’s presentation of the Gospel and evangelistic vigor was both encouraging and convicting. Apparently I wasn’t the only one who felt that way. In fact, his presentation was so grand that, as Blackburn accounts, the hermit of Livry is later seen as such a threat to the Catholic Church that he is burned at the stake for sharing the Gospel.

I’ve included Calvin’s encounter with the hermit below:

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To the Ministers of the Church of Basle

Here is the opening of a letter John Calvin wrote to the ministers of the church of Basle regarding the persecution in France.

GENEVA, 13th November 1537. The urgent business on account of which we have thought it right to send this person by express to you may be stated in few words. A new outbreak of the cruel rage of the ungodly has burst forth at Nismes, as the place is now called, no mean city, a town of Languedoc, against the unhappy brethren who reside there, scattered up and down, and that at a time when we might have suspected nothing of the kind. Not very long ago we had obtained letters from the town councils of Strasbourg and Basle, by which the safety and personal security of all those, who were then imprisoned throughout France on account of religion, was commended to the care of Count William. That eminent person, as was reported, had obtained of the king that they should all be set at liberty. We rested secure in this expectation, until word was brought to us, that the fire of persecution was again raging in that quarter. Two persons have been burnt, concerning the manner of whose death you will hear from the eye-witness himself, for he can relate to you in Latin what he has narrated in detail to us. [Read more…]

Calvin on Baptismal Mode

I’ve been reading about baptism lately and came across this comment by John Calvin (Institutes IV, xv, 19) on the issue of mode.

Whether the person baptised is to be wholly immersed, and that whether once or thrice, or whether he is only to be sprinkled with water, is not of the least consequence: churches should be at liberty to adopt either, according to the diversity of climates, although it is evident that the term baptise means to immerse, and that this was the form used by the primitive Church.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Institutes I, v, 9

We see there is no need of a long and laborious train of argument in order to obtain proofs which illustrate and assert the Divine Majesty. The few which we have merely touched, show them to be so immediately within our reach in every quarter, that we can trace them with the eye, or point to them with the finger. And here we must observe again (see chap. 2 s. 2), that the knowledge of God which we are invited to cultivate is not that which, resting satisfied with empty speculation, only flutters in the brain, but a knowledge which will prove substantial and fruitful wherever it is duly perceived, and rooted in the heart. The Lord is manifested by his perfections. When we feel their power within us, and are conscious of their benefits, [Read more…]

Plenary Session—Part 3

After giving us a whirlwind history of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa, John W. de Gruchy concluded his remarks by demonstrating from the recent history of his country how Calvinism both supported and eventually refuted Apartheid, by reclaiming some of Calvin’s social justice mandates.

Kathy Dawson

Plenary Session—Part 2

John W. de Gruchy from the University of Cape Town is now speaking about the influence of Calvin via the Dutch Reformed Church on South African society throughout its history. Calvinism first became established in South Africa in 1652, close to the same time it arrived in America.

Kathy Dawson

First Plenary Session—Part 1

Herman Selderhuis, President of the International Calvin Congress is concluding his remarks on “Survival of the Fittest? A Brief History of the Reception of Calvin’s Theology.” The gist of his paper was that Calvin’s works were not particularly well accepted when first published, but have stood the test of time partially because his theology seems to have avoided some of the polarity of the time and worked well with governing powers.

Kathy Dawson

In Geneva

We’re sitting here in the CICG conference with all the Calvinites awaiting the start of the International Calvin and His Influence Conference in Geneva. Our room looks like a United Nations set up with Smart tables and chairs, headsets for translation and a large panel table on the podium up front. There are people from many different parts of the world including a good representation of Presbyterians from the United States.
We’ll be live blogging here from the conference once it begins. We– being Columbia Theological Seminary students and faculty in attendance.

Kathy Dawson