John Calvin: For a New Reformation (Thomas & Tweeddale, editors)

Discussion in 'Recent Acquisitions' started by Stephen L Smith, Jan 20, 2020.

  1. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    My book "John Calvin: For a New Reformation" arrived today. I only have had a chance to have a quick skim but have greatly enjoyed what I have read so far. It is a substantial work.

    One of my favourite sections of Calvin's Institutes is on "Word and Spirit" in 1:9. Joel Beeke in the chapter on the Holy Spirit makes some helpful comments. Beeke says "When Word and Spirit are properly coalesced, worship. preaching, and personal experience are enriched and empowered in a way that glorifies the triune God".

    Beeke concludes the chapter on Holy Spirit: ".... Calvin teaches us how radically dependent we must be on the Holy Spirit for every temporal, spiritual, and eternal blessing. Without the Spirit, we could not live; our religion would be a sham, and we would be relegated to the abyss of condemnation. Without the Spirit, there would be no real ministry of the word, no real church, and no real commemoration of the sacraments. How much we must thank God for the person and ministry of his precious, indispensable Spirit! And how much we should pray to exercise the faith that the Spirit produces in us as we wait for greater measures of his sovereign outpouring in our lives and in the life of our churches".

    The book makes a number of helpful observations about Calvin's contribution to Covenant Theology. The only (small) disappointment for me was that there is no chapter on Calvin's contribution to Worship. Given that Calvin gave very important teaching on this area, convictions that are very important today, I found this omission unfortunate.

    Overall though, I am looking forward to a great and weighty read.
  2. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    I met John Tweeddale in Edinburgh a few years ago - he is a really good guy.
  3. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    If you don't have this book yet Daniel, I know enough of your reading habits to know you will really enjoy this book. At over 600 pages, it is a substantial work.
  4. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    This book is a historical, theological, and spiritual gem. I'll continue to add insights as I continue to read the book.

    Calvin's intellectual roots are to be found in Renaissance humanism. The watch word was Ad fontes - back to the sources. In God's providence this would help Calvin accept evangelical convictions. The source of Church renewal could only be found at the fountainhead of the Christian faith - the Scriptures. Calvin noted that the teaching of the Reformers went back to Christianity's "source, and as it were, clearing away the dregs restored it to its original purity".
  5. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    One thing I am finding very interesting about this book, and it is an important point, is that Calvin was a committed pastor. He was known for his preaching, teaching, theological writing, letters, and counselling. He took pastoral calling very seriously. In this sense he was the model pastor.

    However, what I found especially fascinating was Calvin's involvement in the Consistory (the Reformed equivalent of the Bishops court). Calvin devoted much time to this. They dealt with many issues including family problems, and sexual immorality. The authors point out that the morals of 16th century Geneva put our modern Western Societies to shame. Punishments could be severe for sin. Generally those seeking counsel were asked to attend services and regularly hear sermons. The Reformers believed much pastoral counsel is done through the preached word. Martyn Lloyd-Jones gave the same advise to those he counselled.

    Calvin was not a perfect man and chapter 4 has some valuable pastoral insights. Calvin had a bad temper and he sought to overcome this - "Calvin's ministry was a combination of sharp irritability and sweet humble consecration". We are reminded that treasure is found in "earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us". 2 Cor 4:7. Calvin's ministry is proof that one does not have to possess sinless perfection to be widely used as a good Christian pastor.
  6. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Junior

    Sounds good. I’ll read it vicariously through you.
  7. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Here is the link. All you need to do is "add to shopping cart" and follow the instructions to purchase it. It is worth every cent :)
  8. Rutherglen1794

    Rutherglen1794 Puritan Board Junior

    Oh, is that all?
  9. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Yes. You are welcome to read my summarised notes as I make my way through the book, but you will get far more out of it by reading the book for yourself.
  10. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Chapter 6 is an important and informative chapter on Calvin's approach to preaching.
    1. Calvin's view of preaching is that preaching should be expository. True preaching will expound and apply a passage of scripture. Calvin preached through entire books of the Bible.
    2. First and foremost Calvin prepared his heart. He believed that he was proclaiming the truth of a holy God and prepared himself accordingly. He studied the scriptures including hermeneutics, sound exegesis, and literary analysis. He used his legal training to great advantage, especially in following the logic of the scripture and using persuasive argument. He had a sound grasp or the original languages and also of historical theology.
    3. Calvin launched the sermon with a reading of scripture. He gave a brief instruction which often included linking it to the previous weeks sermon. This linkage would help the audience grasp the flow of the book of the Bible under consideration. He used spontaneous delivery. He knew he was preaching to the common man and wanted to instruct and edify them. Calvin relied of the Spirit of God, and wanted his heart to be engaged, his delivery to be natural, and his vocabulary to be understandable.
    4. Calvin's application of the truth was a wise mixture of self-examination and pastoral exhortation. He taught his listeners to carefully examine their lives in light of the proclaimed truth.
    5. Calvin closed with prayer.
    Food for thought: Across the top of the Reformation wall, the motto of the Genevan reformation is etched for all to read "Post tenebras lux" - "after darkness light". Calvin's preaching was highly instrument in bringing light to a spiritually darkened age.
  11. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Moderator Staff Member

    Chapter 7 is devoted to the history and development of Calvin's Institutes - rightly called "one of the wonders of the literary world".

    Calvin's first edition was published in 1536. This edition consisted of about 520 pages. Calvin made further expansions in 1539 and 1543. In 1550 he produced a Latin edition.

    The final and fullest edition was produced in 1559. It was divided into 4 books. Thomas Norton translated it into English. It went through 11 editions by 1632.

    The Institutes advocates a system of truth and this system of truth is essential to salvation and growth in grace.

    Some specific theological emphasis:
    • The knowledge of God as creator and redeemer.
    • Where knowledge of God exists in creation, we need the spectacles of scripture to bring that information into sharp focus. The doctrine of total depravity impacts our knowledge of God. We need the correcting lens of scripture.
    • There is a fundamental difference between God as He is in Himself and God as He is revealed to us. This is not to posit a Kantian divide rendering the knowledge of God epistemologically impossible, but to avoid unscriptural speculation about God Deut 29:29.
    • B.B. Warfield called Calvin the theologian of the Holy Spirit. It would be more accurate to call Calvin the Trinitian theologian. Calvin develops the doctrine of the Trinity in theologically rich ways.
    This is the end of Part 1. I am taking a break from reading the rest of the Book for a while to catch up on other reading. Part 2 details Calvin's key doctrines; particularly the key doctrines in the Institutes.

    Hope these comments encourage a good number of you to read this very informative book.

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