Little did I know that this year, 2009, marks the 500th anniversary of John Calvin’s birth – in fact his birthday was yesterday July 10 (1509). During our days in Geneva earlier this week we discovered much activity underway to commemorate the occasion. Theologians from around the world have come here for conferences and symposiums (a big one ends today, Calvin500) on Calvin’s enormous influence on the entire western world. Calvin is even getting credit for capitalism as we know it, I look forward to reading this new book on that topic soon. (You’ll note on the book cover this book is one of several in a Calvin500 commemoration series.) If you are interested, this blog will fill you in on all the Calvin Quincentenary happenings here in July.
To go along with Thomas’ blog series – What should we get Pastor Dennis? – I thought Pastor Dennis might like this commemorative John Calvin bobblehead they were selling at the conference. HA! (Actually, what I REALLY want to get him costs $22,000.)
Anyhoo, I chalk it up to more providence that I happen to be here at this time. I commented in the last post something to the effect that it’s as if God is saying to me – Come here (to Europe) and when you are here I will put you within earshot of the testimony of these cloud of witnesses. Listen to them with fresh ears.
Even the mention of Calvin’s name instantly conjures up rigid religious categories and boxes of theological thought and controversy. But I’ve been able to break out of all of that for a few days thanks to a little phrase that caught my attention on a Calvin500 banner outside St. Pierre’s Church in Geneva. The banner stated that one of the goals of Calvin500 is to “surpass the overly simplistic representations of the Reformer.”
Here’s my thought there… I personally know how frustrating and miserable it is to have people pigeonhole me unfairly, inaccurately and intentionally inoculating others to me by spreading a bad report that my doctrine falls short and ALL WITHOUT EVER HAVING READ FIRST HAND even one of my books, sat through even one of my messages live or even CD, or without having ever spoken to me personally.
Reading that statement on that banner made me think, to a great degree, I’ve kind of done that with Calvin. Yes, I waded ankle deep into Calvin in seminary (beyond the standard history/theology requirements I took an elective on the Theology of the Reformers, had to read a couple books, write a few papers, etc…) but I didn’t really “listen” to him or sit at his feet for any length of time. And it’s been my loss.
Thinking back it wasn’t that I didn’t like him, I just didn’t like his followers. It’s often said that Calvin wasn’t a “Calvinist” and that his followers took his ideas to places he did not venture. So, I’m saying we’d all do well to ignore what people say and go straight to the source.