Monday, February 11, 2008

Done with Calvin (for now)

I just finished reading Calvin's Institutes. Or I'm done with it, anyway. I confess to skimming a few hundred of the 1500+ pages. His civil government stuff was at the end of the book and I was already growing weary, and he just kept going on and on about the Eucharist debates. I agree--enough already!

It is impossible to review a book of such significance (and length) in a mere post, but one thing in particular stood out; Calvin is throughly evangelical. Or perhaps more aptly stated, evangelicals are thoroughly Calvinistic. When it comes to the doctrine of Scripture, soteriology, authority of the Church, the relationship between faith and reason, the sacraments, etc., it is clear Calvin did much of the heavy lifting for later evangelicals. The debt we owe to him, for both his strengths and weaknesses, is immense.

In my mind, Luther was the more colorful theologian--more provocative, more original and daring. But Luther is also harder to codify and systematize. In many respects, this makes him harder to appropriate and less useful. Calvin, on the other hand, is less speculative, more pragmatic, and more delineating. Consequently, a great deal of Calvin's system has been adopted wholesale by later generations of evangelicals in a way that Luther's has not.

1 comment:

Matthew Westerholm said...

as we were talking earlier, though, interesting the contrast between the men. "We played a pipe and you didn't dance" for Luther, and "we played a dirge and you didn't mourn" for Calvin.