Happy Birthday, Jean Calvin

This year is the 500th anniversary of Jean Calvin’s birth.  Most of the folks I associate with in theological circles have an important disagreement with the reformer–we believe that God ultimately intends salvation for all people.  But sometimes I think one of the important contributions of Calvin is that he was willing to leave that the ultimate question of who will enjoy eternal life with God up to God.

In the meantime, we can concentrate on doing what we know is God’s will on this earth here and now.  That includes trying to establish peace and justice, building schools and hospitals, caring for the sick and poor.  It certainly includes worshiping God, teaching his word, and proclaiming the Gospel.  We can leave the ultimate results up to God and follow our daily responsibilities.

Possibly related, my friend the Vagabond Professor sent me a link to an article by Matthew Parris entitled “As an Atheist, I Truly Believe Africa Needs God.”  The article is not a satire, it is serious.  Parris describes the Christians he met in Africa:

The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world – a directness in their dealings with others – that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

Here is another excerpt:

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I’ve just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Perry might have added “Post Calvin.”

Princeton Theological Seminary has provided a site for reading through Calvin’s institutes in brief daily selections here.  If you prefer to read the Institutes in the original French, Calvin 09 has the links.  The site even has a Calvin Shop for those who think the Reformer needs to be comercialized.