Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fallen

Russell Moore wasn't sure he should be the one chosen to write an essay about John Calvin because:
I consider myself a conscientious objector in the Calvinist/Arminian wars. First of all, it’s because I find the issue more complicated than such partisanship can convey, and I think both sides are right at certain points. Second, I find the polemics rather boring compared to the glory of the big scope of God’s kingdom. Third, I don’t think the distance between mainstream Calvinists and mainstream Arminians is really all that great. And, finally, because I find the professional Calvinists and professional anti-Calvinists to be shrill and exhausting. ....
He believes reading Calvin is worthwhile whatever theological camp toward which you lean:
.... Calvin is often misrepresented as having a gloomy, world-denying pessimism about humanity. Some of his followers throughout the centuries have yielded to this caricature of the Reformer. But Calvin’s view of sin isn’t censorious or cranky. Instead this doctrine explains why worship is so difficult for humanity as it is. It is not, in Calvin’s view, that we sin because we believe the wrong things. It is instead that we believe the wrong things because we sin.

In other words, human persons, in our fallenness, crave our own autonomy—the illusion that we are gods to ourselves. In order to protect this delusion, and remain free from our Creator, we convince ourselves of what deep in our consciences we cannot deny—the reality of God, his moral law, the coming judgment.

Calvin here, echoing Paul, anticipates some of the psychological theories of centuries later in presenting a picture of the role the affections play in shaping the way we think. Sigmund Freud may have been quite wrong about many things, but who can deny the fact that human persons are motivated by more than merely rational impulses but also by an often dark and nearly incomprehensible psychic undertow? Calvin would root this in the fallen nature of the human condition. In order to know God and to know ourselves, Calvin insists, we must face this ghostly truth. ....

As you read Calvin’s Institutes, you will probably find points of disagreement, perhaps even major disagreements. But you will probably—whatever your religious communion—find the insights of a mind shaped by immersion in the Scriptures, in the church fathers, in Western classical thought. And you will find behind that a man who recognized something of what it meant to be a creature, and to look in worship and humility for the Creator in whom he lived and moved. [more]
The book in which Moore's essay on Calvin's Institutes appears is John Mark Reynolds' The Great Books Reader: Excerpts and Essays on the Most Influential Books in Western Civilization.

Moore to the Point – John Calvin for Everybody