Discussing
A cheery Happy 500th Birthday to a non-dour Reformer: John Calvin

Nathan Bierma

John
July 10, 2009

I enjoyed how you paraphrased his writing and it makes me want to know more about him. Thanks, in God's Grace John

Nbierma
July 10, 2009

Update: from Christian Bell: 'I'm pleased to announce my new project: readCalvin.com, a new rendition of John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.' http://bit.ly/readcalvinannc

Rick
July 10, 2009

Beautiful paraphrase. And a great little teaching. I am encouraged this morning by this. The institutes sit on my bookshelf gathering dust as much as I have tried to plow my way through them. Thanks Nathan.

Russ
July 11, 2009

Even "Basics of the Christian Faith," while an improvement, doesn't get to what Calvin had in mind. Wilfred Cantwell Smith and Ford Lewis Battles have noted that "religio" in the 16th century did not refer to a "religion" that existed alongside other religions, or even a systematic theology, but rather to what we would call piety or even spirituality.

SiarlysJenkins
July 11, 2009

Dour or cheery, he still burned Michael Servetius at the stake. He also advanced the concept of predestination, which has convinced millions that they don't need to bother being saved, since they either are or are not. I give him credit for debunking the special status of saints and the Virgin Mary, although I really don't mind that millions of Roman Catholic women still find some comfort in veneration of the latter. Just so long as it is not mandatory.

Steven Koster
July 12, 2009

Servetus was indeed burned at the stake in Geneva, but not by John Calvin. I recall it had more to do with the town civil government and Servetus' own provocative actions.

I'd also suggest presdestination is often misunderstood. It's not so much that you don't need to choose God, but that in the end, God chose you first, which is simply a basic aspect of a merciful God in control, much along the lines of being known by God even in a mother's womb (Ps 139).

Mrben
July 13, 2009

I would agree - Calvin's concept of predestination was often misunderstood. I recently read "Spurgeon vs Hyper-Calvinism", which did a great deal to help me understand Calvinism a bit more through the ministry of Spurgeon, and his battle against the "hyper-calvinists" who, among other things, didn't believe in preaching the gospel because of their misunderstanding of predestination.

(FWIW, people also misunderstand "Total Depravity" alot of the time)

Nbierma
July 13, 2009

more on myths about John Calvin here - http://tinyurl.com/mksknx

Bethanykj
July 13, 2009

Nathan, I think the dry translation you are noting is a trend based on the (popular post-enlightenment) assumption that "content" and "style" are not interlinked. As you point out, tone makes a dramatic difference in how something is read, and how often it is read. Good evidence that style is more than mere decoration.
One thing I appreciated in my small engagement with original Calvin is his use of metaphor. Often very visual and evocative!

Nbierma
July 13, 2009

good points. so you think theologians just adopted the content/style dichotomy uncritically?

or was there a new wrinkle, one which plagues Bible translations: that overly literal and overly formal rendering is the most 'faithful' to 'The Truth' of the original source?

Bethanykj
July 13, 2009

Both. I think our concept of what counts as "faithful" and "truth" are inextricably tied to classical and enlightenment ideas of communication and the truth (see Plato on the Sophists, for example). I suspect that our theologians, especially in that era, never considered that there might be another way of thinking about it.

Nbierma
July 13, 2009

Rhetorically, though, is the simpler explanation just that excessive formality is a form of reverence?

Teci
July 14, 2009

Thanks for the great intro on the great reformer :) Having a contemporary translation recalls the spirit of the Reformation itself.

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