Monday, February 19, 2007

Reading Calvin

You might have guessed that I'm reading some of Calvin's stuff at the moment. Really just his chapter on prayer in book III of the Institutes. I'm doing this as preparation for a series of studies I'm going to lead soon. But it is an encouraging exercise for me, even though it is work related. I once read that a critical proportion of your work time should be enjoyable and should use your best skills, aptitudes and interests, otherwise you will really struggle in your job. (The assumption was that all jobs include tasks that do not fit these criteria. I can't remember the critical proportion, but it might have been 25 to 30 percent.)
Anyway, here is an interesting section I read today. The context is Calvin's exposition of "Our Father" in the Lord's Prayer. This means a corporate and family love between Christians, because 'all of us in common should call him 'our Father''. For a number of reasons, I'm more and more conscious of the whole inclusive and gender-neutral language debate. Suffice to write that when Calvin writes 'man' or 'brothers' I think he means 'people'. But, when he writes about God as Father, I think he means, well, Father. My christology (seriously modified over the last few months) is actually forcing me to react against gender-neutral language in reference to God. Funny, in coming to Princeton, I am actually becoming more conservative. Hmm.

I've taken this snippet from the Library of Christian Classics/Ford Lewis Battles edition, because it is a far better translation than the 19th century text I have quoted in recent posts:

"Let the Christian man, then, conform his prayers to this rule in order that they may be in common and embrace all who are his brothers in Christ, not only those whom he at present sees and recognizes as such but all men who dwell on earth. For what God has determined concerning them is beyond our knowledge except that it is no less godly than humane to wish and hope the best for them. Yet we ought to be drawn with a special affection to those, above others, of the household of faith, whom the apostle has particularly commended to us in everything [Gal.6.10]. To sum up, all prayers ought to be such as to look to that community which our Lord has established in his Kingdom and his household." Institutes III.XX.38

I hope you will agree this is an interesting and encouraging thought for the day.


Danny said...

Coincidently I was looking at Institutes iii. in the library yesterday… also the Ford Lewis Battles edition - xxv. 5 & 8 Calvin’s views on burial as a sign of the resurrection

Anonymous said...

Having referred to Robert Schuller in the last post, he's in my mind - and I recall hearing him say that, when he was a student, he produced an index of Calvin's Institutes. Perhaps, he knows more theology than his critics give him credit for!