29 April 2013

The Heart Makes the Theologian

It would do a great deal of good if the many litigious firebrands in the Reformed world today patterned themselves as theologians after John Calvin. Too often the feeling is that true holiness consists of crossing all the theological "t"s and dotting all the doctrinal "i"s. The editors of Calvin's Institutes for the "Library of Christian Classics" edition offer this summary of Calvin the theologian.

“One who takes up Calvin’s masterpiece with the preconception that its author’s mind is a kind of efficient factory turning out and assembling the parts of a neatly jointed structure of dogmatic logic will quickly find this assumption challenged and shattered. The discerning reader soon realizes that not the author’s intellect alone but his whole spiritual and emotional being is enlisted in his work…He well exemplifies the ancient adage, “The heart makes the theologian.” He was not, we may say, a theologian by profession, but a deeply religious man who possessed a genius for orderly thinking and obeyed the impulse to write out the implications of his faith. He calls his book not a summa theologiae but a summa pietatis. The secret of his mental energy lies in his piety…

"But he knows experiences that lie beyond his powers of thought, and sometimes brings us to the frontier where thinking fails and the mystery is impenetrable to his mental powers. At this point he can only bid us to go reverently on if we are able. He would not, he says, have the sublime mystery of the Eucharist measured by his insufficiency—“by the little measure of my childishness”; but he exhorts his readers not to confine their comprehension of it by his limitations, but to strive upward far higher than he can lead them…

“Calvin insistently affirms that piety is a prerequisite for any sound knowledge of God. At the fierst mentionof this principle he briefly describes piety as “that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces.”…Theology was no concern to him as a study in itself; he devoted himself to it as a framework for the support of all that religion meant to him.”

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