In Touch July 10, 2009
Posted on July 10, 2009 by under Touché,

“Happy 500th John Calvin”

Today is the 500th birthday of John Calvin.  On Sunday a Calvin College graduate accused me of not mentioning this significant day because of my loyalties to Hope College. (The definition of an atheist in West Michigan is someone who does not care who wins the Hope/Calvin game.)  But far be it from me to let collegiate rivalries cloud a celebration of one of my heroes of faith and a day to remember one who has shaped our world and our church in such significant ways.  Last week The New York Times stated: “Calvin’s legacy has been traced in everything from modern marriage and modern science to modern liberal government and of course modern capitalism. By many accounts, he is a major source of modernity’s very understanding of the self.”

The Reformed branch of Protestantism is rooted in the Reformation of the 1500s. Its primary leader was John Calvin of Switzerland, whose reform movement spread to Scotland, where it became the Presbyterian Church, and the Netherlands, where it became the Dutch Reformed Church.

“Calvin was a product of Renaissance humanism, a student of the Greek and Roman classics who reread Cicero every year, a writer of exceptional grace and lucidity in both Latin and French, a man of prodigious learning, who did not dwell on damnation but rather exulted in a sovereign but not at all distant God, a God whose glory was manifest in the goodness of the world and the potential of humanity” (NY Times July 3, 2009).

Calvin, at his request, was laid in an unmarked grave.  He did not want any special attention drawn to him as a person.  His desire was not to have a church, a movement, or maybe even a college  bearing his name, (I just had to get that in). His influence and his teachings, however, continue to shape and reform the church that he said is always being reformed according to the word of God.  The beauty of the reformed expression of Christianity is summed up in the first question and answer of the Westminster Shorter Catechism: 

What is the chief end of humanity?

Humanity’s chief end is to love God and enjoy God forever.

Whatever your college loyalties, Calvin’s birth is worth celebrating.

Sola Dei Gloria, (To God alone be the glory)