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Archive for the ‘John Calvin’ Category

John Calvin. A Little Book on the Christian Life.  Sanford, FL: Reformation Trust Publishing, March 2nd 2017. 126 pp.

5 out of 5

Purchase: Westminster Amazon

Are you looking for a practical devotional that’s biblically sound and theologically driven?  This work titled A Little Book on the Christian Life might something worth considering.  My wife and I read this as our evening devotional and we found this an excellent work.  It is an extraction from the second edition of John Calvin’s classic work The Institute of the Christian religion that was originally a chapter titled “On the life of a Christian man” in the book but later throughout Protestant history it has been adapted as a stand-alone book on the Christian life.

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prpbooks-images-covers-Piety

Joel Beeke. Piety: The Heartbeat of Reformed Theology.  Piety Phillipsburg, NJ:
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, April 17th, 2015. 40 pp.

I have benefited greatly from the works of the author Joel Beeke who has been a great example of how one can be doctrinally strong, historically rooted while also embracing sound “experiential religion” with holy sanctification.  That was what compelled me to read this booklet since I wanted to be edified by Beeke’s summary of what biblical piety is.  I think he manages to do that in forty pages and surprisingly eighty two footnotes!

At the outset Beeke indicate his awareness that tday the term “piety” often has the connotation of a self-righteous “holier-than-thou” attitude.  This however is not consistent with what the Bible teaches nor faithful to Reformed theology.  Instead as Beeke tells us in the booklet “Reformed theologians viewed piety as the heartbeat of their theology of godly living” (Kindle Location 18).   Beeke surveys the work of John Calvin, William Ames and Gisbertus Voetius as exemplars of the Reformed faith who also advocated a form of pietism.  Reformed piety must not be confused with “Pietism” that is often associated with later German origins which stresses the importance of right action but has a low regard for doctrines and theology.  Instead Beeke’s thesis is that the historical Reformed and Biblical understanding of piety is one in which sound theology is the source for Christian living.  For instance, we live as our supreme goal for the glory of God and this also mean our piety ought to be for the glory of God.

I don’t want to give the whole book away but I also want to add that Beeke end with some practical pointers and biblical instruction to develop true piety.  I think this booklet is helpful and the cost of it is reasonable.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

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Note: The following are rough notes from the conference.  Internet is slow at the conference.

CarlTruemanTrueman admits he is a historian and not a theologian

This is not a theological or biblical reflection but there is a role for historical contemplation because of how the nature of some of the objection against inerrancy

The Reformers spent comparatively little time on doctrines of Scripture
That’s because the Reformers inherited it from the church and had intentionally no problems with it.

Factors:
1.) The theologians in the middle ages was working through the issue of source of revelation
2.) The black plague which makes people see him as arbitrary

By the time near the reformation Luther saw scripture as only reliable source

We remember Luther’s bondage of the will was about the will but clarity of Scripture and the latter was more foundational

We must not have the battle for the bible without the battle for the God behind the bible

Aquinas made a good distinction between revelation and inspiration

Remember the key issue in reformation was not scripture yet we see their language about scripture match the same high view of Scripture of those before them

In this message three reformers are whom we look at: Luther, Calvin, Bullinger

For Luther how he uses Scripture is insightful:
Scripture is recommended against the devil
Luther believed the word did it all for the reformation

Calvin believe in inspiration
Did not hold to dictation theory

Bollinger was someone who was better known for earlier protestant circles than today

Letter 82 of Augustine to Jerome is important and a stunning statement of dealing with error: faulty manuscripts, own misunderstanding,

Is error a modernist concept?  Reformers did understand the word difficulties concerning interpretation
Luther on chronology prefer interpretation that does not presupposes error
His approach may not be adequate but he wishes to preserve the integrity of the bible

Secondly the Reformers believe in a trustworthy God that led to a trustworthy Bible
The connection is so close
Why should we do it? Because together it is very powerful

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Reformation for Armchair Theologian

Purchase: Amazon

Of all the books I have read in the Armchair Theologians series this is the one I learned the most from. There were many things I did not know before about the Reformation that I picked up from this work. The author Glenn Sunshine tells us in the introduction that the book was originally an adaptation of a series of studies and lectures he presented on the Reformation. I thought he did a pretty good job with the history. What I like about this introductory work to the Reformation in contrast with others that I read before is the fact that this book gave more of the historical and political contexts of what was going on while the church and theologians were hammering out a Protestant theology. It was such a tumultuous time period with wars and persecution for Protestants. I appreciated the book’s discussion on the political and social atmosphere that the Reformation took place; there were many times as I read the book that I thought to myself of the biblical truth that what man and rulers might have meant for evil, God brought about good in spite of it. Surely the Reformation would probably not have had a lasting effect if the Catholics were able to militarily wiped out Protestants; but this did not occur since various other wars going on in Europe at that time that tied down or disunited Catholics politically. As a result the Reformation was not militarily crushed and survived it’s infancy. But that does not mean this period was peaceful; on the contrary, by the time the Reformation was reaching the second generation much bloodshed would be spilled with religious wars such as the Thirty Year’s War, etc. I appreciated the author’s decision to discuss the Reformation not just about Luther, Zwingli and Calvin as most classical introduction do, but also how the Reformation spread and fared in other places such as with the Dutch, France, England and Bohemia, etc. It’s a history that’s not always pretty especially with the various rulers’ persecution and political drama. The author did a good job writing this book in a format that is interesting and engaging narrative form. I would recommend this book.

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Calvin For Armchair Theologian

Purchase: Amazon

This is the fourth book I read in the “Armchair Theologians” series, and one of the better ones I would say though my favorite was on Martin Luther. This work does a good job in explaining John Calvin’s biography–how he started out as a humanist and lawyer and eventually a pastor and theologian. Calvin’s story of how he got to Geneva is a testimony of God’s providence–for Calvin was originally taking a detour to another place and happened to visit the city only to be persuaded (well threatened with God’s Wrath) to stay–an important decision that made tremendous impact in history. I appreciated the author’s discussion about the Institutes of Christian religion, and the background for why Calvin wrote this book along with the author’s observation of how Calvin organized his theology. What I appreciate the most about this book is the fact that the author tackled some of the controversies surrounding Calvin with the consideration of Calvin in his historical situation. Evaluating Calvin in this light removes some of the objections people have stated against him or his theology. For instance, in the Predestination debate with Bolsec, the author revealed that Bolsec was the one who initiated attacking Calvin’s view first and also reminded the reader that Bolsec’s negative biography had an ax to grind. It seems that there cannot be any discussion about Calvin’s controversial life without the mention of Michael Servetus. Contrary to some myths, Michael Servetus was not killed by John Calvin since he was a pastor/theologian and not a member of the magistrate. In addition, the book pointed out that Calvin at that time didn’t enjoy a particularly good relationship with the rulers of Geneva so it’s doubtful how much pull Calvin had on the officials during that time. Calvin’s involvement at first was to correct Servetus and he was even originally not in favor of any punishment against Servetus. The book also considered the Servetus controversy in it’s historical setting, and while it does not necessarily excuse what happened it should slow down the modern critic from ignorantly assuming Geneva was a hotbed of Calvinistic tyranny. Geneva at that time had already a reputation for being too tolerant for sheltering what some perceived to be too many theological wild cats and when Servetus came along the officials in Geneva even consulted with other cities as to what to do with him.  Thus, Geneva was under mounting pressure to do something. Readers must remember that this was not a time period in which religious tolerance was at a premium; yet Geneva’s only religious execution was Servetus in contrasts to the multitudes the Roman Catholics managed to kill in religious wars or burn at the stakes those who were Protestants, etc. The most problematic part of the book was the last chapter on the heirs of Calvin, where the author’s careful and thoughtful reflection gets unhinged and his theologically more liberal perspective shows. Elwood thinks that theological Liberals, Barthians, Neo-Orthodox and Liberation Theologians are legitimate heirs to Calvin’s legacy while seeing Conservative Reformed Christians such as those of Old Princeton as the wacky right wing extremists of Calvin’s theological lineage. This would seems strange to most people and no doubt this reveals more of Elwood’s theological paradigm than it does about Calvin’s legacy. Elwood here assumes that Semper Reformanda gives license for him to assume that whatever have changed over time can be rightly called “Calvinistic.”  However I don’t think that’s true to the spirit of Semper Reformanda–Calvin’s principle of “always reforming” assumes a high view of Scripture and the Word of God as normative–something that some of Calvin’s alleged heirs that Elwood asserts in this book have failed to subscribe to.

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shark eating sardines

Here are some of the links on Presuppositional apologetics around the web this session.

1.) A Christian Argument for Purpose and Significance

2.) Chris Bolt’s Farewell to my Readers (Note to Readers: Chris Bolt has definitely been an encouragement in advocating and advancing Presuppositional apologetics).

3.) Calvin’s Sensus Divinitatis

4.) What Sinners Ought to Know from Natural Revelation

5.) A Rant Against the Postmodernization of Scripture

6.) APOLOGETICS 101 – ARBITRARINESS

7.) Observation: Bitter atheism

8.) Secular terrorists

9.) Falsificationism And Christianity

10.) Did you know you’re related to a rat?

Are there any other links that you are aware of?

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VERDUIN’S THE REFORMERS AND THEIR STEPCHILDREN

Purchase: Amazon

In The Reformers and their Stepchildren, the author Leonard Verduin focuses on the relationship between the Magisterial Reformer’s and the Radical Reformers (what the author calls ‘the Stepchildren’).Verduin’s controversial thesis is that when the ‘second front’ of the Radical Reformers started, the Magisterial Reformers (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin) made a theological (and political) shift contrary to the direction of progress which began in the early days of the Reformation.Verduin believed that the Magisterial Reformers heated reaction towards the Radical Reformers was thoroughly unbiblical in two important ways: (1) the Magisterial Reformers reverted back to Constantine’s Sacrementalism which blurred the identity (or at minimum, the role) of the Church and the State and (2) an ecclesiology which lacks the Biblical prerequisite of voluntary membership on the basis of faith in Christ.These two errors spawned other errors mentioned in the book such as the use of political coercion against the Stepchildren and the persecutions expressed against those who believed in believer’s baptism.

The book is organized into various chapters, each titled after a various derogatory name given by the Reformers to the Radicals. These names drew important aspect of the disagreement between the Reformers and their stepchildren. All the names which are the chapter titles are in the original language which the name originated from.

One of the book’s strength is that very few books concerning the Radical Reformation have receive as much attention as this one did among those who identify themselves with Reformed Theology.It is also stimulating for those who are sympathetic towards the Reformers to consider who these Radicals were that the Reformers dealt with.A further strength of the book is that it provided much documentation.As with any controversial thesis, having many references from primary sources in order to substantiate one’s conclusion is always a plus.Reading the explanatory footnotes and checking the endnotes in the back of the book to know the source of the quotation was actually a delight for me.

The book repeatedly would cite the Reformers’ own words or the words of their followers. These extensive quotes provide much force behind the author’s argument that the Reformers shifted from the early days of the Reformation. For instance, I was surprised to read on page 198 from the early Zwingli who believed that infant baptism was wrong and “ought not to be done.” The author then documents on page 199 of Zwingli compromising during another occasion until finally he renounced his earlier position and fully embraced infants.

One of the weaker chapters in the book was the first chapter titled “Donatisten”. It is a surprise to me that the author viewed the original Donatists of the fourth century in a favorable light. This is new to me, as my limited experience with various sources for church history has portrayed the Donatist as heretical. This interpretation of the Donatists as simply reacting against Constantine’s merger of Church and state was heavily dependent upon secondary sources rather than primary sources. In addition, the author avoided interaction with the Donatist’s theology to see whether they were heretics and he writes on the footnote on page 34 that there were dissenting heretical Donatist groups and that other Donatists disowned the heretical Donatists. It was rather unsatisfactory to see the author’s assertion was just left at that with no further documentation provided. For the caliber of the author’s scholarship throughout the book, this seems inexcusable, especially since the author was trying to present to them as being biblical.

The book could have also been strengthened if the author was able to expound more on the Biblical text that he cited against the Reformers.

Though a small peripheral issue, I also believed that other weaknesses in the book arises when the book goes on to discuss things beyond the treatment of the Reformers and their Stepchildren.On pages 274 and 275, as the last chapter is about to close, the author discusses about the problem of Christians’ vocation as a policeman or an agent of the State.The author simply concludes that it is better to leave such an assignment to unregenerate men.My own biases is clearly shown here, having been a former Marine for six years and a veteran of the first year in Iraq in 2003, but it appear that the author’s counsel that it is better for Christians to stay away from being servants of the state is contrary to the spirit of Luke 3:14, where John the Baptist didn’t tell a group of soldiers to depart from the military, but rather commands them to be upright, which assumes that it was possible.

These weaknesses are minor when one takes into consideration what one can learn here. It definitely made me reconsider my thoughts towards the Reformers. This book is not for the faint-hearted fans of the Reformers! If anything, it reinforces the Reformers’ teaching on sin, that no one is righteous and perfect. The book proves that the Reformers were no exception to the rule. Many times I cringed reading about the various torture and coercion upon the Radicals by the Magisterial Reformers. The accounts of the Stepchildren’s martyrdom was not easy to read, when one realizes that what was taking place was Christians murdering other Christians. The book is a tour de force memorial to the fact that the Reformation was just only beginning of the Reformation, and not the final end product! Having have much of my understanding of the Reformation impact upon theology, culture, and society from sources such as Timothy George, Francis Schaeffer, John Robbins and even Max Weber, that paint the Reformers impact in a positive light, The Reformers and their Stepchildren is a much needed balance to the historical account of the Reformation, the Reformers, and the source of religious freedom. I plan to study more on this in the future.

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