Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Why Yes, My Child, I am a Calvinist
I was asked to write a post on the topic of “Calvinism.” Not possible.
What is Calvinism? That question is like asking “What is pasta?” or “What does an American look like? So, over a span of time I will post several short essays on the topic, unless I get bombarded with requests to stop. BTW, for those few of you reading this, I do not advertise this blog or anything. If you would like others to read these things, pass on the URL!

This is a topic on which I have great experience and some knowledge. I became a Christian at L’Abri Fellowship, in Switzerland, under the tutelage of Francis August Schaeffer. I graduated from a Presbyterian – and Reformed - seminary. I consider myself to be in the flow of “Calvinist” thought.

What is a Calvinist? Depends on who you ask. There are the caricatures, of course. When I want to put the worst face on things I tell people I’m a Calvinist. They always think the worst; that I must be some unfeeling, emotion-challenged automaton who only knows the Five Points of Calvinism and the sovereignty of God – and generally hates people, the world, and kittens. There is a pretty good explanation of “Calvinism” from a non-partisan viewpoint on Wikipedia.

When I’m feeling that a question has been asked which actually seeks an answer regarding my theological viewpoints, I usually respond that I am a Christian of the Reformed persuasion. The first and most important element of my belief system is that Jesus saves. There’s a lot of freight in that one statement, but what it all boils down to is this essential truth.

After that we have to understand that the Reformed faith came out of the Reformation of the 16th century. The Church of the time (AKA Roman Catholic) was falling down under the weight of corrution and ignorance. Martin Luther was by no means the first to try his hand at reforming the church (he had no intention of leaving; he wanted the church to be better). God chose Luther's time and Luther's activities, however, to begin a cleansing movement. Following Martin Luther, John Calvin was a reformer, born in Noyon, France and best-known for his leadership of the city of Geneva during the first tumultuous years of the Reformation. At some point, I will spend a little time on Calvin's life and times, as well as that of Martin Bucer, an important influence on the entire Reformation.

Reformed theology is often thought of in reference to the acronym TULIP (see explanation in Wikipedia article) and several Confessions of faith, including The Westminster Confession of Faith and catechisms, The Heidelberg Catechism, and the London Confession of 1689. Calvin was the first great systematizer of Reformed theology. His Institutes of the Christian Religion remain a wonderful explanation of theology. His commentaries on books of the Bible are still on my shelves and well-thumbed.

There are more than 700 different denominations of churches across the globe which refer to themselves as Reformed. There are at least 7 or 8 different “strands” (not a technical term!) of Reformed theology in the US at this time. Another topic for me to get into at another time.

That’s enough of an intro at this time. I’ll see if there are any responses – questions – before proceeding.

4 comments:

sunnie said...

...but you do hate kittens...

Peter D. Nelson said...

Well I'm glad to see that you recognize the futility of writing "a post" on Calvinism. Like what you've done so far although I would disagree with your thought of Wikipedia being non-partisan, since I don't believe that there is any sort of neutrality when it comes to this teaching.

Curt said...

Peter,
Thanks for the note. I do agree on the "neutrality." I guess it's a "lowered expectations" thing. While reading the Wikipedia articles, I didn't sense anyone writing through a sneer - or wanting to pat me on the head and say, "there, there."

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