Tuesday, January 06, 2009

1 The Institutes: The Gospel Doesn't Go Out Without a Reaction To It

In the closing sections of his letter to King Francis, Calvin addresses one last objection of the Roman church to Reformation teachings, and finally exhorts the king to act according to truth and not violent rumors and false charges.

Certainly, as the Reformation spread across Europe, tumult and rage followed in its path. The peace was certainly disturbed, but rarely because of actions taken by Reformers (the radical reformers of Muenster, referred to by Calvin, are a rare exception) but because of opposition to the doctrines by the established church and those who had vested interests in the political and ecclesiastical (and politico-ecclesiastical) power structures associated with it. The simple fact of the matter was, as Calvin notes, that Satan and the enemies of truth who serve him were not about to lay idle as the darkness of the Roman church and European society was pierced by the light of the true Gospel:
Lastly, they do not act with sufficient candor when they invidiously recount how many disturbances, tumults, and contentions the preaching of our doctrine has drawn along with it, and what fruits it now produces among many. The blame for these evils is unjustly laid upon it, when this ought to have been imputed to Satan's malice. Here is, as it were, a certain characteristic of the divine Word, that it never comes forth while Satan is at rest and sleeping. This is the surest and most trustworthy mark to distinguish it from lying doctrines, which readily present themselves, are received with attentive ears by all, and are listened to by an applauding world.
Thus for some centuries during which everything was submerged in deep darkness, almost all mortals were the sport and jest of this lord of the world, and, not unlike some Sardanapalus, Satan lay idle and luxuriated in deep repose. For what else had he to do but jest and sport, in tranquil and peaceable possession of his kingdom? Yet when the light shining from on high in a measure shattered his darkness, when that "strong man" had troubled and assailed his kingdom [cf. Luke 11:22], he began to shake off his accustomed drowsiness and to take up arms. And first, indeed, he stirred up men to action that thereby he might violently oppress the dawning truth. (p. 27-8, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
It's interesting to compare Calvin's situation to ours today. When the church pampers the world, and refuses to stick to its principles, and adopts the world's methods, message and ethics, then the world happily applauds... but the minute a prophetic voice arises to speak Biblical truth, that voice is violently shouted down and opposed. The opponent, ultimately is the same today as it was for Calvin, though then it was the Roman church, and today the liberal churches in conjunction with secular humanists and secularly-oriented people... violence generally does not and has not arisen from the true church, but against it.

Calvin's final word is to remind the king that his responsibility is, before God, to attend to truth, and act in justice - to bring down appropriate penalties to check those who on "pretext of the gospel" would act in a manner deserving of such punishment... but to recognize the truth of the teachings Calvin is presenting him in his Institutes, and act appropriately, allowing its peaceable teaching and propagation. Sadly, this advice seems to have fallen on deaf ears.

In a moment reminiscent of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, as they stood and proclaimed that God would rescue them, but even if He didn't they still would stand in His camp, and not bow down to the idol, Calvin finally stakes his claim - that he will maintain the standard of Biblical truth, if it means going down in flames.

Oh, for the courage of John Calvin... for men who would stand as he stood, against the tide of public opposition. These are men we need in our churches, and now.


John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Calvin-admiring site; please visit & comment.

And forget, please, "conservatism." It has been, operationally, de facto, Godless and therefore irrelevant. Secular conservatism will not defeat secular liberalism because to God both are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and thus predestined to failure. As Stonewall Jackson's Chief of Staff R.L. Dabney said of such a humanistic belief more than 100 years ago:

"[Secular conservatism] is a party which never conserves anything. Its history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today .one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution; to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward towards perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt bath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard, indeed, to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It intends to risk nothing serious for the sake of the truth."

Our country is collapsing because we have turned our back on God (Psalm 9:17) and refused to kiss His Son (Psalm 2).

John Lofton, Editor, TheAmericanView.com
Recovering Republican


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