Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Selderhuis on Calvin

Being the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth on the 10th of July, and yes, we had a cake and some nice French wine, I had to read another book on Calvin.
Generally I don't think Selderhuis is a good a read as McGrath or Parker on Calvin, or of course Wendel. However, having said that, the running theme of the Pilgrim Life is a good one and is well integrated to Calvin's life and time.
A few interesting comments from the book.
Selderhuis writes that Calvin devoted his life to the defense of God, page 22. This may be true but I find it a rather negative aim in life. Does God need any human to defend him? Can we not better give our lives to celebrate God, to enjoy him, to know him, to live in his presence?
I really liked the note on page 63 that the faith, which Selderhuis sees in Calvin, which depends upon God's mercy produces humility in a believer, not a smug self assurance. May it be so in our lives.
On page 117-118 writing of how Calvin engaged with his enemies, Calvin sought to make his enemies his friends and sought to achieve this by self-restraint. I think there are too many who would rather see an enemy destroyed than have an enemy changed into a friend. It would be good to reflect upon this example of Calvin and seek to win more friends for ourselves, even from our 'enemies'.
One final point, on page 208 - Calvin wrote of "the right of excommunication conferred upon us", by the city council in Geneva. I found the notion of what was for Calvin a crucial element in church discipline being conferred upon the church by a civil authority interesting. All the more since I've recently read my friend Marjory MacLean's book 'The Crown Rights of the Redeemer' in which much is made of the granting of a status upon the church of Scotland. No doubt, I'll have more on this later.
If this doesn't encourage you to read Selderhuis, I hope it may encourage you to read another account of Calvin's life and work, or even better - read Calvin himself.

1 comment:

David Shedden said...

Thanks for this Gordon. Look forward to your review of The Crown Rights of the Redeemer.

Having read and thought about things for a few years now I'm sure that most of the weaknesses of Presbyterianism in Scotland derive from its relationship to the state. I think future historians will conclude that the 1920s killed the Church of Scotland.