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Shadows of Divine Things

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This site is devoted to theological and philosophical investigations of the spiritual meanings of life, current events, music, spiritual growth, nature, and learning to be attuned to listening to the 'language of God.' The name of this blog comes from one of Jonathan Edwards's journals which he called 'Shadows of Divine Things,' and later renamed 'Images of Divine Things.' As a Christian I am continously on a spiritual journey to grow more into the image of Christ, to understand what it means to be crucified with Christ. To seek the truths of the Christian Faith is of upmost importance, and to know that any truths that are found outside of Christianity are present there because they ultimately point to God. I have an M.A. in theology and apologetics and I completed one year of graduate studies in Philosophy at Marquette University.

Monday, January 02, 2006

John Calvin’s Calvinism

Calvin’s theology is one that is distinctly “Reformed” and quite rich in its content. Many thinkers and theologians since the days of Calvin have written numerous volumes in an attempt to delineate Calvin’s theology. However, as one nineteenth century Calvinist scholar describes, “No servant of Christ, probably since the days of the Apostles and of the Gospel witnesses of their century, has been more grossly misrepresented or more maliciously maligned than the faithful, fearless and beloved Calvin.” (Henry Cole, 1855).

If Cole is correct, which in many respects I believe he is (especially today), then it seems incumbent upon both professional theologians and lay theologians alike to pay closer attention to what Calvin himself is actually espousing. Too often I read contemporary works that deal with John Calvin’s theology only to discover that the author’s research includes secondary works (works about Calvin or Calvin’s thought) about Calvin and no primary works (actual works by Calvin) are used. There is nothing actually wrong with consulting other theologians about John Calvin’s theology (and anyone else’s for that matter). But to do this at the expense of consulting the actual works of John Calvin (and anyone else’s for that matter) can be and often is detrimental to the end result of attempting to understand Calvin (and anyone else for that matter). The point is if we want to really understand what Calvin taught, we should begin with the works of John Calvin.

It is to this end that I will attempt to cover certain doctrines from Calvin’s work over a lengthy period of time and post them here for all to read. Let me declare upfront that I am not attempting in any fashion to exhaust Calvin’s theology. This medium (i.e. blogging) could never actually allow such a task, since it seems that by definition, blogging is simply logging thoughts in short formats so others can read and respond. However, I am hoping that the short ‘reviews’ or descriptions of Calvin’s theology which I will post here will serve a twofold purpose. First, I hope it will cause you the reader to take up Calvin’s actual works and read them. Second, I hope that it will cause you the reader to react by responding to my posts which will spark discussion among other readers here. And that these discussions will cause you, the reader, to take up Calvin’s actual works and read them. In short, purchase Calvin’s actual works and read them, since it is by doing that that you will gain a better understanding of Calvin’s Calvinism.

So pull up a chair, grab your favorite beverage, smoke ‘em if you got ‘em, and let’s discuss Calvin’s theology from Calvin himself.

Be patient with me in this series since it may in fact extend over several weeks or possibly months of posting. The theological issues of John Calvin that I intend to discuss are as follows:

1) The knowledge of God as creator and God as redeemer.
2) The human condition
3) Calvin’s Christology
4) Calvin’s Soteriology
5) Calvin’s Ecclesiology

Each of these issues will probably require multiple posts so you can see why this series may take some time. While I will be using several different works by Calvin, the main thrust of my posts will stem from Calvin’s magnum opus titled The Institutes of the Christian Religion. The translation I prefer of the Institutes is Henry Beveridge’s, so it will be the one I employ.

I wanted to provide a reading list of some of the works by Calvin that I have enjoyed reading over the years, so here it is (please post in the comments section any other works by John Calvin that I failed to list but that you would recommend):

1) The Institutes of the Christian Religion (The Battles’ translation is pretty standard today, but I recommend Beveridge’s translation)

2) The Bondage and Liberation of the Will (translated by G. I. Davies)

3) Concerning the Eternal Predestination of God (translated by J.K.S. Reid)

4) A Reformation Debate (this is simply a translation of the exchange via letters between Calvin and Jacopo Sadoleto; edited by John C. Olin. You can also find this in John Dillenberger’s collection titled John Calvin: Selections from His Writings)

5) Calvin’s Calvinism: Treatises on the Predestination of God & the Secret Providence of God translated by Henry Cole. This is a two works in one book. Cole translates two of Calvin’s treatises which up to that day, 1850’s, had never been translated into English).

These are a few to get you started. Once again please post any recommendations of other works in the comments section. I hope you enjoy and benefit from this series.

9 Comments:

Blogger Jeremiah Kier Cowart said...

Hey there! I wonder whether you've ever read Calvin's "Short Treatise on the Lord's Supper?" I think it is contained in a book also by J.K. Reid on Calvin's treatises. And if you have read it, I'd like to get your thoughts on it. Calvin's comments on this issue seem to me to be very far away from a view toward the Eucharist that would assert "it's merely a symbol." His view, it seems to me in my immature readings, could almost properly be called a "real presence" view, though not a "transubstantiation" view. Have any thoughts on this you'd like to share in future posts? I'd like to see your reflections on this or any view he has on sacramental theology. It seems to me that he and Luther both had a higher view of the sacraments than do contemporary Calvinists or Lutherans, and this seems a shame.

2:56 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Jeremiah,

Actually I will cover the issue of the sacraments when I get to Calvin's ecclesiology. But thanks for asking, and yes, I do have that book and the treatise on the Lord's Supper is in it.

3:07 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Ben Myers said...

I agree about the Beveridge translation of the Institutes -- it captures the rhetorical flavour of the Latin much better.

For an accurate general picture of Calvin, I reckon it's also vital to read some of his commentaries and expository sermons, since he devoted the vast majority of his time and effort to exegesis, not to theology. Even the Institutes was really written as a handbook to help readers of Calvin's commentaries.

10:08 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Ben,

very true, especially sine that is the bulk of his work.

At one time I had a set of Calvin's commentaries but I had to sell them at a time when I really needed money to pay bills
:-(

However, I will certainly get them again soon.

10:16 PM, January 03, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Sold the commentaries! Oh, poor chap. But you could probably find them online now I guess, at ccel.org or somewhere like it.

Sorry I'm a bit behind on your posts, I've just been catching up.

This looks like a great series, looking forward to it.

2:35 PM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Chris,

Regarding the commentaries, they are online, but I am 'old school' it is far better to have the actual books there for me to "use" and "see" on my shelves. There is a greater aesthetic quality to actually having the books as opposed to looking at the content on some computer screen (when it comes to the actual books vs. online anyway).

I know that CBD now has a complete set for $150.00, so I will probably order those here real soon.

2:41 PM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Chris Tilling said...

Yea, I know what you mean.

4:30 PM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger Ben Myers said...

Some years ago I was preaching a series of sermons in a Reformed church, and a member of the congregation asked me if I would like his old set of Calvin's commentaries, which he no longer used. As a poor penniless student, I was especially grateful!

5:57 PM, January 04, 2006  
Blogger T.B. Vick said...

Ben,

Wow, what a blessing!

7:06 PM, January 04, 2006  

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