October 17, 2012 by Jason Hood
What Calvin rejects in monasticism is its
elitism and separatism . . . not the “rituals” associated with it. So Calvin “storms the monastery” as it were, not to demolish the disciplines of the community but to liberate these formative practices from their separatist captivity.
“For Calvin,” Boulton observes, “monastics are mistaken only insofar as they make elite, difficult and rare what should be ordinary, accessible, and common in Christian communities: namely, whole human lives formed in and through the church’s distinctive repertoire of disciplines, from singing psalms to daily prayer to communing with Christ at the sacred supper.”
That is from Jamie Smith, “John Calvin’s Catholic Faith.” (In a footnote he points out that he has previously cited Calvin’s affirmation of a “holy and lawful monasticism”: Desiring the Kingdom, 209 n.118.)
Smith’s/Boulton’s/Calvin’s point is that Christ is Lord over everything, and that Christians need to be shaped for all their vocations (for all of life, that is) by the same activities that fueled the better parts of monastic Christian service. Smith certainly takes his shots on the way to making the point: “our ‘functional Zwinglianism’ offers little anchor for resisting the spirit of the age.” I have no doubt Calvin would agree.
The point is that monks did almost all manner of things–from plant genetics to music to the preservation and transmission of ancient manuscripts to hospitality, prayer, liturgy, evangelism and fasting–to the glory of God. And in these vocations, they were in fact not going beyond the ordinary Christian life; they were being shaped for service and mission. So from one angle, the Reformation goal was to widen participation in this dedicated life of service, not restrict it.
This is but a sub-point for the larger argument of Smith’s essay, summed up in this way: “Protestantism, on this account, is not the demolition of Catholic Christianity, but rather its expansion and democratization.”0 Comments
April 27, 2012 by Jason Hood
Yesterday’s post identified two positive factors that contributed to the advance of Calvinism. However, other factors that had more to do with non-Calvinist options.
(3) Market share. Hansen points out similar themes in his book. In particular the decline in (a) robust orthodoxy in mainline churches and seminaries and (b) dispensationalism left behind (sorry) a void, and Reformed campus ministries and church plants were in place to fill it. I know many who went to college over the past twenty years, encountered Reformed theology in RUF, InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, or Campus Outreach and could not bring themselves to return to weak churches with little or no teaching on grace or on orthodox Christianity. As a result the Reformed church plants in my area and elsewhere are full of young adults who grew up in Methodist and Baptist churches, went to college, and asked John Calvin into their hearts.
(4) Lack of Competition, at least when it comes to making a theological case from the Bible. There are plenty of Christians who aren’t Calvinists, and plenty of work done to present Arminian, Wesleyan, Roman Catholic, or other views. But these attempts are often grounded in philosophy or emotion. If they include biblical exegesis, they seldom focus on it. I’m always struck by the fact that few people–even those with seminary educations–have even heard of the approach to election in Rom 9-11, etc. called “corporate election” (and I’ve heard the same from other Reformed and Arminian friends).
One major exception was produced my teacher I. Howard Marshall: Kept by the Power of God (1967) addressed Calvinism by challenging a certain notion of perseverance (“once saved, always saved”) on exegetical grounds. It was highly influential, turning erstwhile Reformed thinkers like Scot McKnight and Clark Pinnock (who was responsible for the book’s publication in the USA in the 1970s) away from Calvinism, and is arguably one of the three most influential NT dissertations in the last half of the 20th century (Martin Hengel and Richard Hays would be the other, although I could be missing something important). Marshall wrote a follow-up essay a few years later, available online.1 Comment
April 26, 2012 by Jason Hood
At least, these four seem to be relatively overlooked. The full-blown movement today–described by Collin Hansen (book and article) and feted by Time in 2009 as one of the ten big ideas changing the world–manifests itself in large conferences and bestselling books. But other, earlier factors played a part in the reformation resurrection; we’ll look at two today, and two tomorrow.
(1) Caedmon’s Call. Years before Lecrae’s reformed rap hit the market, Calvinist theology reached young college students through the music of Caedmon’s Call. Thriving without massive Christian radio play, the acoustic-driven band infused its albums with themes like election, lack of merit, and inability to choose. Before 2000 rolled around we were hearing that
We’re all stillborn and dead in our transgressions
We’re shackled up to the sin we hold so dear
So what part can I play in the work of redemption
I can’t refuse, I cannot add a thing.
(2) Ad Fontes. And it’s not just Calvin, Luther, and Edwards. (I discovered my affinity for Calvin in an undergraduate course on philosophical theology; my Bible-hating prof providing a mocking portrait of Calvin). The Calvinist origins behind the modern missionary movement (including William Carey in Britain and the first American overseas missionaries, led by Adoniram Judson) undercut the criticism that Calvinism was anti-evangelism and anti-mission. The Calvinist founders of the Southern Baptist Convention provided credibility for Dortian Baptists. And beyond the soteriological side of Calvinism, there’s the worldview side of things. Richard Mouw, Francis Schaeffer, Al Wolters (see his Creation Regained) and even Chuck Colson mediated Abraham Kuyper and other older Reformed thinkers who provided a pathway to engagement with the world.1 Comment