Does Calvin Have Anything To Say To Contemporary Christianity?

"As soon as that Old Horse dies, the better," said the lecturer.

He was talking about Calvinism, to a student, at morning interval. The relevance of Calvinism summed up in one sentance. Its relevance? It has no relevance, according to the lecturer.

The lecturer is not alone in his opinion. For most evangelicals, Calvinism is an old, confusing and negative relic of the past — an old approach to Christianity that has nothing to say to the contemporary church.

Yet, the reality is that church needs to hear from Calvin's teachings more than ever before.

One major way in which the church needs to hear from Calvin is in his view of Scripture — Calvin has a high view of Scripture.

Whether we realise it or not, we are living at a time when the church does not have a high view of scripture. The church has a high view of celebrity pastors, theories of cultural relevance and music, but a high view of scripture is rare.

Here are a few snippets from John Calvin: A Heart for Devotion, Doctrine, Doxology     by Various Contributors.

Let me begin with a quote from Calvin…

"The glory of God so shines in his word, that we ought to be so affected by it, whenever he speaks by his servants, as though he were near to us, face to face."

Can you sense the power in that statement? This is not just dry doctrine, it is experiential Christianity of the highest degree. Calvin had a high view of scripture because it was the means by which we encounter the Most High God.

Burke Parsons, (author of chapter one) quotes a popular Calvin biographer:

"According to Parker, Calvin "had a horror of those who preached their own ideas in place of the gospel of the Bible: `When we enter the pulpit, it is not so that we may bring our own dreams and fancies with us."

Is this not something that every modern preacher needs to hear?

In the early days of my preaching, sometimes I used to foolishly labour within my heart for hours, searching for something to say, as if somehow I needed to find fresh revelation. This is a common contemporary problem. Too many preachers are preaching their own ideas instead of the Word of God and the gospel of Christ.

Parsons' continues . . .

"Calvin was not concerned with offering to his congregation the quaint meditations of his own heart. Although it has become popular in many churches for the pastor to strive to "pour out his heart" to his congregation, such was not Calvin's aim in his preaching, for he had offered his heart to God alone. As a result, Calvin did not think it was profitable to share the ever-changing passions of his own heart, but to proclaim the heart of God in His never-changing Word."

I remember when I first came to Christ, I used to love it when folks "preached from the heart", however, it is not enough. In fact it is a poor substitute. It is not that we need preaching with no heart. No, we need preaching of His Word from hearts that are full of God. But the content must be God's word, not the contents of our heart.

Another approach which is popular in the contemporary preaching circuit (particular amongst the celebrity pastors) is the obsession with talking about themselves. They talk about their vision, their experience and their plans. Calvin corrects this too. Parson argues:

"Calvin was not concerned that his congregants behold him but that they behold the Lord. This should be the aim of every pastor, and, if necessary, every pastor should place a placard behind his pulpit with the following words inscribed: "Sir, we wish to see Jesus" (John 12:21). Such was Calvin's aim in his preaching and in all his life."

It is no wonder that Parson's concludes the chapter on Calvin with the following words:

"This is Calvin's greatness-his ultimate surrender to God. In this is Calvin's legacy for those of us who desire not simply to wear the five-pointed badge of Calvinism, but who desire to clothe ourselves in the humbling power of the gospel (1 Peter 5:5). Let us not be so easily satisfied with a simple insignia of a simplistic Calvinism; rather, let us drape ourselves with Calvin's Calvinism, a Christ-centered, Spirit-empowered, God-glorifying, gospel-driven Calvinism that shines so brilliantly that the deceitful darkness of sin would be conquered in our hearts so that, in turn, we might shine as the light of Jesus Christ to this dark world-for His kingdom and His glory."

This is exactly the sort of stuff that can correct and help the contemporary church. Don't you think?