He was born on July 10, 1509, meaning this month marks the 500th anniversary of his birth. His life’s prayer, symbolized by a heart on fire being held out by an open hand, was “I offer my heart to you, O Lord, promptly and sincerely.” The impact of his life centuries later bears a strange witness to this prayer. For people who hear his teachings rarely remain unaffected by them. Their hearts too become enflamed –either with these teachings or against them.
I speak of John Calvin, and the response to his name or teachings (known as Calvinism) invokes the same reaction five centuries later as it did in his age. Many loved Calvin in his day. One called his academy at Geneva, Switzerland, as being “the most perfect school of Christ since the days of the apostles.” One of his successors, writing a biography of Calvin, compared him and other godly men to stars, “since they by their brightness show the way of happiness to others.” Yet many in Geneva scorned Calvin, believing that their happiness was the last thing Calvin desired. So despised was he that the most popular name for dogs in Geneva became “Calvin” in order to ridicule him!
If nothing else can be agreed upon about Calvin, most anyone will acknowledge his influence. He wrote thousands of tracts, letters, commentaries and books that are still widely translated and read today. One of his books, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, is still considered to be one of the clearest defenses of Protestant theology ever written. His teachings helped spread the Reformation throughout Europe like wildfire, and were brought to colonial America by its founders. He is credited for such things as bringing a healthy separation between civil and church authority that were influential on the democratic view of government; transforming care for the poor from almsgiving to vocational training; returning congregational singing, study of the Bible and access to the sacraments to the lay people (which had been forbidden to them in the medieval period).
Indeed, pastors and rulers from many European nations sought Calvin out; yet through it all he lived modestly to the point that, when he died, he even insisted his grave remain unmarked lest it be venerated wrongly. One of his chief denouncers, Pope Pius, said: "The strength of that heretic, consisted in this, that money never had the slightest charm for him. If I had had such servants my dominion would extend from sea to sea."
On Friday, July 17th, our congregation invites you to come and learn more about this incredible man. We will have three short presentations of John Calvin, done not only in honor of his birthday, but also in celebration of Bill VanDoodewaard’s recent accomplishment. Bill is a pastoral intern at Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church who has just completed his PhD in Church History from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. After being with us for three years, Bill and his precious family are moving away later this month as he takes up a teaching assignment at Patrick Henry College in Virginia.
As you hear of Calvin’s life, ministry and teaching, we can promise one thing. Your heart, one way or another, will start burning!
A Seminar on John Calvin
In Honor of His 500th Birthday
and in Celebration of Bill VanDoodewaard’s PhD
Friday, July 17th
Sycamore Reformed Presbyterian Church
7:00-7:30 Calvin and His Fascinating History
7:45-8:00 Calvin and His Tireless Ministry to the Poor
8:15-8:30 Calvin and the Awful Doctrine of Predestination
Refreshments & Nursery Provided! Questions Invited!
See more at Sycamore RPC Newsletter.