1996-05-27 - Memorial Day
Today is Memorial day in the United States. We would be remiss if we did not acknowledge that, as Christians, many of the freedoms we have today in this world are owing much to the sacrifice of others to preserve these freedoms. I have one family member in the services and all of us who are close to those in the service owe our friends and families a warm thank you for the work that they undertake.
But today I would like to talk about another kind of memorial. On this day, May 27, 1564, the Christian faith lost a hero. He is loathed by many today and was in his lifetime. His views have been detested by zealous people of all bents and viewpoints. He was a Roman Catholic and never intended to leave Catholicism. He did leave in 1533 and became its most prodigal son. He died 432 years ago today and yet we still speak of him either with reverence or disgust.
I am not ready to name him yet. Because he is so hated, I thought I might try to instill some compassion before I tip my hat as to who I am speaking about. Let us speak of his health. "Just as I was recovering from a quartan fever, an intense, sharp pain seized the calves of my legs Finally it turned into a disease of the joints which extends from my feet to my knees. For a long time a sore in my hemorrhoidal veins tortured me..." He suffered from Inflammation of the kidney and was carried into the countryside on a litter. Based on this we can say he had chronic gout, which was the cause of multiple kidney stones. He also had, chronic pulmonary tuberculosis, intestinal parasites, hemorrhoids, either spastic bowel syndrome or irritable colon, migraine headaches, and was killed by septicemia, a bacteria growing in his bloodstream.
The man, as you may have guessed, is John Calvin. His work, "Institutes of the Christian Religion" is the second most influential book (next to the Bible) since Augustine wrote his Confessions over 1500 years ago. Of the writings of Calvin we can say as the great Baptist preacher Charles H. Spuregon once said, "those who despise it have never read it, or are incapable of elevated spiritual feelings." Seems harsh, but take some time and read the first paragraph of the first book of the first chapter of his "Institutes"; they are some of the most beautiful words ever written by a human hand--you will want to go on.
It is not my purpose to think of Calvin or Calvinism from any other point of view except from that of its ability or inability to bring the challenge of the gospel of Jesus Christ to us today, both to confront the unrepentant and to encourage the household of faith. There is no point in striving to establish a theology of John Calvin, or of Calvinism. Rather, we should strive to establish a theology of Christianity, the only hope for mankind. John Calvin, love him or hate him has saved no one. Christ alone is sufficient for that, but as we strive to flesh this salvation out, we stand on the shoulders of those who have gone before us. John Calvin is one of the foremost and to ignore him and his writings, for any reason, is to suffer loss. I submit that Calvin is one of those spoken of in Hebrews 11:38a and on the memorial of his death I commend him to you.
Soli Deo Gloria,