Pastor Chad's Itinarary

Thursday, June 30, 2016

"John Calvin: The Scholar, Theologian, and Pastor" (pt.2)

Calvin: The Theologian
John Calvin had an insatiable appetite for writing and it showed itself true in his theological writings. He had a special way of crafting words together, especially as it pertained to theology. Of all of Calvin’s giftedness given to him by God, his ability to write is ranked as one of the highest. Calvin’s depth and breadth in education helped make him one of the most prolific writers in all of church history. His giftedness in writing is noticed even today, as there are still a vast number of his theological writings that are being published.
            Calvin handwrote the majority of his work published. Calvin was known for his fast and efficient handwriting. His writings were in Latin, which were “largely Ciceronian in style and wonderfully clear.”[1] He wrote mostly concise and lucid sentences; however, there were times where he would interweave sentences that were full of imagery. God gifted Calvin with the intellectual wherewithal of piecing together the language with his prose.
            One of the greatest theological contributions Calvin made was his writing of the Institutes. The Institutes of the Christian Religion was first published in 1536 when Calvin was only 27 years old. The book became famous almost instantaneously and became the doctrinal compass for the Protestant movement. Not only did Calvin produce the Institutes, but he also published commentaries. His commentaries had the largest impact on the Protestant movement, not because he produced the largest amount of writings, but because of his scholarly methods of approach within the scriptures.
            Calvin’s commentaries were pastoral in content and sumptuous in scholarship. The Commentary on Romans was the first commentary published by Calvin in 1539, which was a masterpiece. Calvin, like Luther, saw the book of Romans as the most important book of the Bible. Calvin, in his brilliance and consistency, would eventually write commentaries on most of the Old Testament and all the books of the New Testament, except for Revelation, 2 and 3 John. Within the commentaries, one can sense the theological mind and heart of Calvin.
            Calvin rarely wrote a manuscript out and usually preached extemporaneously from his Greek or Hebrew Bible. However, some of Calvin’s more well-to-do parishioners thought it would be a good idea to hire someone to write out his sermons. Nevertheless, “the preservation of the sermons in published form was not Calvin’s idea and was not a project he was particularly enthusiastic about.”[2] The purpose for his sermons to be transcribed was for the common man to be able to read and understand Calvin, since his other writings were too challenging to some.
            The letters of Calvin may be the most underrated of all his writings. There are over four thousand that have been published called, Corpus Refomatorum. As Calvin grew older and more physically fatigued, the duty of answering all the correspondences he received was overwhelming. Yet, he continued to write and respond to those who contacted him. During his correspondence to Servetus, he employed the pseudonym “Charles d’Espeville,” but his true identity was no secret to Servetus and others who received his letters. These letters were easily recognized due to Calvin’s pastoral heart, theological precision, and doctrinal dogma when he was trying to encourage, exhort, or rebuke the recipient.
Calvin’s theological writings and mind was not only used on paper, but also in the classroom. John Strum, a native of France, who was a scholar at the University of Paris, started a school in Strasbough, which Calvin was appointed as lecture of the Scriptures. Calvin lectured three days a week by giving exegetical courses on the Gospel of John and the Epistles of Paul. Calvin’s teaching in Strasbourgh would eventually pave the way for his academy in Geneva. Although Calvin was a faithful preacher, writer, and professor, he earned only a “florin per week for his lectures.”[3] He would supplement his income by other means such as lawyering on the side, giving private lessons, or land lording. One of the greatest pains he must have experienced was when he had to sell part of his library. He was noted for complaining about the cost of living in Strasbourgh when he stated, “I can not claim a single penny my own. It is astonishing how money slips away in extraordinary expenses.”[4]
Calvin’s theological writing gives one insight to his mind and heart as it pertains to the Bible. Calvin’s theology was defiantly more reformed than that of his Catholic upbringing. By being a pastor, writer, and professor of the Scriptures, Calvin had an outlet when it came to his theological convictions. Calvin was known largely for his strong convictions on the sinfulness of man and God’s decree in predestination of his elect. Sadly, Calvin’s views on other theological convictions are just as helpful, yet these two doctrinal positions seem to have acquired him the most opposition.
Calvin did not set out to base his whole ministry of pastoring, writing, and teaching around the doctrine of election. As a matter of fact, “Calvin did not begin with predestination and then proceed to atonement, regeneration, justification, and other doctrines. Predestination became an issue in the context of the history of salvation.”[5] The issue arose for Calvin as he reflected on why, when the gospel is proclaimed, there are some who respond to God by repentance and faith and others do not?
            Calvin’s understanding of election started with salvation. He taught and wrote those who were saved, i.e., the elect, were only saved because of God’s sovereign election and predestination. The same sovereign choice of those to salvation was the same sovereign choice of God for others to condemnation. Calvin wrote, “Therefore, as any man has been created to one or the other of these ends, we speak of him as predestined to life or to death.”[6] Thus, Calvin’s assertion is that the purpose behind God’s predestination and election is in God, and not the creature.
            Likewise, Calvin’s understanding of man’s spiritual inability gave the logical reasoning behind Calvin’s doctrine of unconditional election. This would also be the reasoning why some are saved and others are not. Those who are not sovereignly elected to salvation are not elected to hell, but are passed over by God’s grace for reasons only He will ever know. Calvin gave this insight to election and reprobation when he said, “We assert that, with respect to the elect this plan was founded upon his freely given mercy, without regard to human worth; but by his just and irreprehensible but incomprehensible judgment he has barred the door of life to those whom he has given over to damnation.”[7] Calvin’s understanding of election and predestination was not something he made up; rather it was based upon the clear teaching from Scripture.
            Consequently, lest someone think Calvin to be arrogant in the doctrine of election, he was sympathetic toward others who delayed in teaching it when he wrote, “Their moderation in this matter is rightly to be praised, because they feel that these mysteries ought to be discussed with great soberness.”[8] Calvin’s only desire was to stay committed to the Scripture as he exegeted the text, unlike today, where sermon series are stopped at Romans 8 or Ephesians 1 due to the lack of confidence in the Word of God. Calvin believed that the scriptures were sufficient because he believed that Christians have a duty to know and believe all that God sees fit to teach them in His Word.
            Calvin was an impressive writer, preacher, and professor; however, all of Calvin’s accomplishments were due to him being rooted and grounded in his theology. Calvin was a brilliant theologian and it affected every area of his life. His doctrine and theology was Christocentric and God-glorifying, which made him a brilliant writer, professor, and theologian. He never intended for a theological system or specific doctrines to be ascribed to him with his name attached to them. Thus, Calvin believed and held that the doctrine of predestination and election brought about humility to the Christian, rather than boasting. Calvin’s theology and the boldness to write changed the course of church history, affected a generation of pastors, and the people of God in a major way, the effects of which can still be felt today.

[1] Ibid., p.148.
[2] Ibid p.104
[3] Timothy George, Theology of the Reformers, (Nashville: B&H Publishers, 2013), 189.
[4] T.H. L. Parker, John Calvin: A Biography, (London: Westminister John Knox Press, 1975), 69.
[5] George, 241.
[6] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill; trans. Ford Lewis Battles; Library of Christian Classics, XX-XXI (Philadelphia: Westminster John Knox, 1960), 3.21.3.
[7] Ibid., 3.21.7.
[8] Ibid., 3.21.3

Monday, June 27, 2016

"Fiery Trials = His Glory Revealed"

This article was written by a dear friend who wanted to remain anonymous. I wanted to post it on my blog since what was written could be a blessing to many Christians right now. I am quite sure if you have been walking with Christ for any period of time you will be able to relate. May the Lord use it for His glory.

“I have given them Your word and the world has hated them…… Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.   As You sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world….”  John 17:14…18

I really wish everyone loved me.  That I was their favorite.  Their best friend.  That they always considered me kind and who they could come to anytime they needed me.  That they loved me as much as I love them.  What movie have I been watching?   As children of God, we have the life of Jesus living inside of us.  His life gives us His desires to have (here & now) a life where love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control are all the normal parts of our day. We long for that beautiful way of living.  We long to see it in others.  We long for everyone to love one another more than themselves, and everyone to honor and consider one another.  (Doesn’t it sound wonderful?)  But, so often I forget to quit looking for that kind of love while still in these bodies.  We aren’t in Heaven.  Not yet.  And because I sometimes forget, it is very painful.   As sinful human beings, we can be  inconsiderate, rude, mean-spirited, selfish, looking only at our four and no more.  We can betray.  Reject.   Often times these things happen from the ones we least expect it.  The ones we love the most.   We feel crushed and want to give up.  We want to isolate ourselves from them.  Cut them off.    But we shouldn’t.  Because these things, which our enemy will always intend for evil, will be used for a wonderful, divine and eternal purpose if we believe God.

 “Consider it pure joy, whenever you face trials of many kinds…”

The trials of rejection and betrayal are nothing new under the sun.  Joseph experienced  it - betrayed by his brothers.  He should have been loved by them more than anyone.  Supported and built up by them.  Instead he was hated.  Talked about.  Plotted against.  Gotten rid of.   He could have isolated his heart and become bitter.   He chose, instead, to walk before God.   He knew that God was his, and he was God’s.  That was all that mattered to him.  God needs to be who matters to us the most.  If He is, we can walk in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control ~ no matter how others treat us, and God will use that for a good which goes above and beyond all that we ever imagined.  Joseph was still very hurt as evidenced by his bursting out and crying so loudly that the Egyptians could hear him.  But he chose to believe God and His hand at work in his life, stating “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you… preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”    He didn’t want his brothers to be distressed.  He didn’t want them to be angry with themselves. He didn’t want them to pay for what they had done to him.   He saw their actions as a part of God’s plan.  Joseph considered God in the mix,  knowing that the testing of his faith had a divine, eternal purpose.  How could seeing other’s hurtful actions toward us as part of God’s plan affect our ability to forgive?  That’s a game-changer for me.  Give me those glasses, please.     

Presently I am at a season of life where it seems  trials are all around me.  If I look to the east, they are there.  To the north, to the south, to the west.   This morning as I prayed, “Lord, what on earth?”  He reminded me, “Exactly.  You are on earth.”    Immediately  my thoughts went to 1 Peter 4:12: “ Do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.”  Do people mistreat you?  Rejoice!  There’s a reason for it.  Do people hate you and for the life of you, you can’t figure out why?   God says, “Do not be surprised, my brothers and sisters, if the world hates you.”   Stop being surprised!  Memorize these verses until you stop being surprised.   After all, aren’t trials meant to prove something?

1 Peter 4:13 “But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed. “  

There is a promise here ~ His glory is going to be revealed in the situation.  Don’t blow it.  Don’t be disobedient.  Be obedient…and His glory will be revealed in it.   How can I be obedient?   Treat them with truth and kindness. (Proverbs 3:3)   Intercede for them.  (Acts 7:60)  Thank God for this situation. (Phil. 4:6)  This is God’s will.  Always.  No exceptions.  Joseph said to his brother-betrayers, “God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”  Here is a “selah” moment.   What if this very situation of betrayal you have experienced is God’s plan so that you are ahead of them in prayer?  Interceding for them….blessing the ones who have cursed you, praying for the ones who have used you, doing good to those who hate you. (Luke 6)   This is your big chance to participate in the sufferings of Christ so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed!  What if it is your prayers God uses to pave the way to preserve that person?  And not only them, but their remnant (family) for the greatest deliverance of all - salvation through the cross of Jesus?  What if you are their Joseph?  Could it be this is what the whole situation is about?  What if Joseph had believed the enemy and made it all about his hurt?  What if it was never about hurting you, but saving them? 

As Jesus prayed, we have:  sanctification His Word (which must be our “go-to”…not other people), protection from the evil one and special orders that we be sent out.  He is the God & Captain of His army, sending out His soldiers with His own armor and power over the enemy, to be a part of the great rescue mission.   We will take some hits, but be aware that the enemy will try to discourage us  with these hits and tempt us to make it about us instead of the ones who need rescuing.  Don’t be distracted.  Don’t make it about you.  Be their Joseph.  

Fiery ordeals are the invitation to participate in His work.   It’s what we are sent out into:  “to bring a great deliverance” to someone.   To actively walk in our ambassadorship with the message of reconciliation.  So the next time I find myself being mistreated, rejected, or betrayed,  I’ll see that as a call to participate in His work in the life of someone who needs Him ~ knowing that we will all see His glory revealed.


Write this truth on the tablet of my heart, Father.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

"John Calvin: The Scholar, Theologian, and Pastor" (Introduction and pt.1)

     As a seminary student I have the privilege to research and write on various topics assigned by my professors. I took a class on the Reformation this past Spring, which one of my assignments was to research and write on a particular subject or person pertaining to the Reformation. So I chose to research John Calvin, as a scholar, theologian, and pastor. 
     I found my time of research to be helpful in grasping a better understanding of John Calvin. Since becoming a student of theology it seems to me that many evangelicals are easily turned off by John Calvin. Yet, most have never taken the time to read or study his life as a scholar, theologian, or pastor. However, God used John Calvin in a mighty way by paving the way for solid and sound theological writings that is beneficial for many today. Therefore, I wanted to share my my research and writing with you on "John Calvin: The Scholar, Theologian, and Pastor." I will post the paper in a series over the next few weeks. I pray it would be a blessing to you. 

John Calvin: The Scholar, Theologian, and Pastor

Throughout the course of church history, there have been few more influential, widely disliked, and grossly misrepresented people than John Calvin. Calvin’s impact on church history, especially during the time of the reformation, has been largely contributed to his theological writings, lectures, letters, and sermons. Calvin’s deep intellect and theological giftedness prepared him to be one of the greatest theologians who has ever lived. However, with influence and leadership comes opposition and criticism. Calvin suffered from both.
One of the major features in the reformation of the 16th century was to bring the pure teaching of Scriptures, and that alone, to bear upon the church. This type of movement brought about false accusations of who Calvin was and what he believed. Even today, there is a misconception and preconceived notion that John Calvin was an evil and unapproachable man. Therefore, in this paper, I will argue that John Calvin was not the vicious, and cold-hearted ivory tower pastor-theologian as some claim, but rather that Calvin’s theology was tailored for the mind, heart, and the church. I will prove this argument by first examining Calvin’s childhood and education, secondly, by reviewing his life as a theologian, and lastly, how his education and theology affected his heart as a pastor.

Calvin: The Scholar
                        Jean (John) Cauvine was born to his parents, Gerard and Jeanne Cauvine, on July 10, 1509, north of Paris at Noyon, Picardy. His parents were a hard working, middle class, prosperous family. Gerard, John’s father, was a determined individual who made his way up through the “ranks of ecclesiastical office, from notary, to notary apostolic and notary fiscal until, in 1497, he was made bourgeois.”[1] His father’s hard work and determination could be seen throughout the life of his son, John. Calvin, who followed in his father’s footsteps by being diligent in his work, achieved a number of major accolades throughout his life and ministry including recognition as a statesman, theologian, and pastor.
            John’s parents’ marriage lasted roughly twenty years, as Jeanne, his mother, died in 1515. Calvin had five brothers, two who passed away in infancy, and two half-sisters who survived into adulthood. John’s mother’s death took place when he was still a young child, likely less than six years old or as young as 4 or 5 years old. Although his mother died at an early age, she was faithful to encourage John and his other siblings in devotion to the Lord.
            With his mother’s passing and his father’s rapid success, Calvin left for Paris to attend the College de la Marche at the age of 12. It was here that Calvin “studied Latin under one of the most well-known teachers of that time period, Marthurin Cordier.”[2] Latin was an essential language that one needed to learn in order to advance in the world. Calvin’s day at the College of de la March probably would have been very rigorous on him mentally, as it was a difficult world of “rote learning and corporal punishment.”[3] Thomas More’s Utopia comments “that English school masters would sooner beat their boys than teach them.”[4]
            Calvin would further pursue his education by leaving the College de la Marche for a monastery school at Montaigu. This monastery was a strict school and was established in order to prepare young men for the priesthood. It was here that Calvin learned the valuable lesson of living a disciplined life. The school was located in one of the most dangerous parts of the city, known for its violence, lack of food, and the strictest of discipline. The students at Montaigu began each day at with;
prayers at 4 o’clock in the morning, followed by lectures until 6, when Mass was said. Then followed by breakfast. From 8 until 10 o’clock came the grande classe, followed by discussion. Dinner at 11 was followed by Bible readings and prayers. At midday, students were questioned about their morning’s work, then rested from 1 until 2. More classes were held from 3, followed by vespers. Between supper and its accompanying readings and bedtime at 8, further interrogations took place in the chapel. On two days of the week, an allowance was given for recreation.[5]

It was here that Calvin was introduced to the studies of grammar, logic, and rhetoric that would prepare him for his higher theological training, which he would soon forsake.
            With Martin Luther’s impact on neighboring Germany gaining more strength, a career in the church was looking less and less desirable to John’s father. Calvin was 16 or 17 years old when his father sent him to Orleans to begin studying law, which was not Calvin’s desire. After his education at Bourges, he moved to the University of Bourges to study Greek, which was deemed as an undesirable thing to do. It was while Calvin was at Bourges that he began to teach rhetoric at an Augustinian convent and preach regularly. It was also during this time (1530) that some suggest the evidence of evangelicalism began to appear in his teachings.
            Although not much is known concerning Calvin’s conversion experience, some suggest that it was during his stay at the Bourges that he was converted to Christ. There is one little passage in the preface to his Latin commentary on the Psalms where he simply writes, “God subdued my heart to docility, which had become hardened against the truth of the gospel.”[6] But those few words give us a wonderful insight into the mind and heart of John Calvin. This phrase, “God subdued me,” would become the hallmark of Calvin’s life and teaching until his death in 1564.
            It was God’s subduing Calvin that would prove his utter allegiance to Christ and His work as a gospel minister. Calvin’s affections toward Christ and calling by way of his conversion can be understood, as he sought to compare himself to David when he wrote,
For although I follow David at a great distance, and come far short of equaling him, or rather, although in aspiring slowly and with great difficulty to attain to the many virtues in which he exalted, I still feel myself tarnished with the contrary vices. Yet, if I have anything in common with him, I have no hesitation in comparing myself with him. In reading the instances of his faith, patience, fervor, zeal, and integrity, it has, as it ought, drawn from me unnumbered groans and sighs that I am so far from approaching them. It has, however, been of very great advantage to me to behold in him, as in a mirror, both the commencement of my calling and the continued course of my actions, so that I know more certainly that whatever that most illustrious king and prophet suffered was exhibited to me by God as an example for imitation.[7]

God’s calling of Calvin led him from Bourges to Paris, whereby he left his studies of law in order to further study classics, as well as other disciplines. It was around this time that he wrote his doctoral thesis on the stoic philosopher Seneca, which was titled, De Clementia (On Mercy).
            Although Calvin wrote very little of his childhood, one could sense his formative years spent with his parents played a huge impact on his role in the reformation. From his father’s desire for his children to be educated to his mother’s spiritual investment through devotions, each one had an important role in Calvin’s life. By the time Calvin was in his early twenties, he had suffered the loss of both parents, moved in order to his continue his studies, and experienced his conversion unto Christ. God providently used all of his childhood experiences to prepare him as a scholar in bringing reform to Geneva.

[1] Burk Parsons, A Heart For Devotion, Doctrine & Doxology (Lake Mary, FL: Reformation Trust, 2008),  19.
[2] Ibid. 20.
[3] Bruce Gordon, Calvin, (Cornwall: MPG Books; 2009), 5.
[4] Thomas Moore, Utopia, trans. Clarence Miller (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001), 19.
[5] Burk Parsons, John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion Doctrine & Doxology, (Lake Mary: Ligoner, 2008), p.20
[6] John Calvin, Commentary on the Book of Psalms, trans. James Anderson (Endinburgh: Calvin Translation Socitey, 1845) 31:22.
[7] Bruce Gordon, Calvin, 33.