Saturday, 18 July 2009

Geneva for Calvin 500

I have just returned from two weeks holiday: one week was spent in Geneva attending the Calvin 500 event and the other week was spent in the south of England (Calvin went with me there as well because during it I read Selderhuis' recent biography of the Reformer).

The Calvin event has been detailed elsewhere, so I will not say too much about it except to say that I preferred the sermons to the lectures. It may also be bias on my part but among the preachers I preferred those with a Celtic background. This does not mean that the others were not very good -- in fact, I enjoyed all the sermons I heard and most of the lectures.

It did me good to meet persons from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Uganda, Europe and elsewhere gathering together to give thanks to God for using John Calvin to give them an understanding of the Bible that has gripped their thinking since they first understood what he was saying.

It was also very pleasant to be with Christians who did not accept the common caricature of Calvin as having a fatalistic view of predestination in which God is depicted as unfair. Of course, anyone prepared to accept without qualifications the contents of the Bible soon discovers that its writers say that God has an eternal plan, conceived before the universe was created, which includes his choice of an innumerable number of sinners as his people. It is not surprising that Calvin discovered the Bible teaches predestination. What is surprising is that some can say they have read it and not seen any reference to God's sovereign plan.

While an obvious emphasis was placed by various speakers on topics such as Calvin's teaching on the authority of the Bible, on the Lord's Supper, and on sanctification, I was challenged especially by three aspects of his thought that several speakers mentioned.

First, along with other Reformers and pastors, Calvin's preaching of and writing about the doctrine of justification by faith alone through Christ alone brought spiritual liberty to imprisoned souls. It struck me that a sermon which does not mention this wonderful doctrine may leave some hearers in a cell of spiritual imprisonment, no matter how many listeners are helped by other doctrines referred to in a sermon.

Second, Calvin realised that God was involved in every circumstance of life. For him, divine providence was very real and he observed that God was never inactive but always working for the benefit of his people. I should always remember this reality.

Third, Calvin anticipated the wonderful future that belongs to God's people, that whatever the difficult circumstances of life, those who trust in Christ should look ahead to the inheritance their Father has planned for them.

It seemed to me that forgiveness took care of Calvin's past, providence took care of Calvin's present, and glory occupied Calvin's thoughts of the future. Why should anyone be ashamed of being a Calvinist?


John Foxe said...

Dear Malcolm,

it was lovely to meet you in Geneva and if you are ever way down south in Hertford, do look me up!

Yours in Christ,

James Horgan.

Malcolm Maclean said...

Thanks for getting in touch. I'll remember to pray for your church in Hertford, and will contact you if I am near there.