I will be going a little more into reformation Sunday in my preparation for worship article. But here I want to pass on an updated article from 2009 about John Calvin. I don’t usually do this, but I think for Presbyterians, understanding who are theological leaders are is important, and John Calvin and his theological understandings are central to how we see and envision ourselves.
John Calvin is well known by Presbyterians. His theology as learned through his institutes on the Christian Religion and commentaries, have been a cornerstone for the Reformed movement. In 2009, the church celebrated the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth.
There is a lot of debate around who he was and what his theological stands really meant. Certain historical caricatures of his harsh and somber reputation have threatened to overshadow his remarkable gifts to the church. As Presbyterians we recognize his monumental contributions to theology, church government, education, language, music, and politics as well as the more troubling aspects.
A French humanist and supporter of the protestant reformation, John Calvin, a refugee in Geneva, transformed the provincial town into an intellectual capital of Europe whose political and ecclesiastical institutions would in subsequent centuries serve as models of democratic development for modern societies. Over the years, he was able to attract to Geneva renowned scholars, highly qualified craftsmen and more modest families fleeing persecution. He thereby boosted the economic dynamism of the region: to which the development of watch-making and banking activities remain a testament to this day. At the same time, he was able to make Geneva a land of refuge, by inspiring local attitudes with liberal and generous views.
As both a lawyer and theologian, Calvin was deeply involved in the reorganization of political and social institutions: he fought for a fair relationship between Church and State; his views on law gave the justice system a solid ethical foundation; and by reorganizing the General Hospice, he brought concern for the poor back to its place in the life of the town. Perhaps his crowning achievement was the creation of the College and the Academy, where the quality education offered to all, without distinction, which ensured the wider influence of a model dynamic society that was open to the world and to development.
The French-speaking world can also thank Calvin for his decisive contribution to the development of the French language, turning it into the kind of scholarly language that was suitable for formulating and sharing ideas.
As we celebrate Reformation Sunday this week, we remember John Calvin who was a patriarch of our tradition.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen