Reflections of a Broken Man

On Calvin by StephenMac
September 18, 2009, 11:23 pm
Filed under: Reflections

**currently listening to a random playlist while avoiding doing my doctrine essay… perhaps I can just borrow duck5‘s blogposts…**

Wednesday and Thursday, I attended the Calvin@500 conference. For a proper review of the conference, Dr. Mark Thompson, one of the speakers has provided a fantastic overview. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get my comment on his blog to work, so I’ll post it here along with my own reflections.

The first thing to notice is that it was unlike any other conference I’ve been to. Here, academics presented topical papers (the topic being the life and work of John Calvin, and his continuing importance and relevance today), and were grilled by the audience during question time (Is this normal for conferences? Dr. Thompson seemed to cop the worst of it, but he wasn’t alone in the grilling…). There was an audio interview providing a bio of Calvin, a variety of papers, and a few interviews and panels. Unfortunately, I probably failed to appreciate much of what was said, simply due to the fact that it was a little above my level, but there were many gems that I managed to pick up while there.

Overall, I think there were a few things that stood out. First was an appreciation, and possibly even excitement, about making a better effort to read his writings. I haven’t yet finished my set readings for last summer, (which, actually, was the topic of the last paper presented on wed night), but many of the talks did fill me with a fresh appreciation for, and the desire to take seriously, Calvin’s works. Second, I think, was Calvin as a model for ministry. Something that has really struck me of late has been my lack of pastoral concern, or rather, to see the importance of pastoral ministry. Calvin was not an academic in the sense of being in an ivory tower. His insight and perception stems from knowing and caring for his congregation as people, not subjects of study. He was intensely pastoral. Third, there was a genuine presence of God in Calvin’s work and writings. By this, I do not mean that Calvin is the word of God etc… But as many speakers acknowledged, Calvin was so intensely focussed on knowing God better and conveying this to his readers/hearers that Calvin’s conversations with God would come through his work. In some sense, God is mediated to us through Calvin’s work. This is something that should affect us as pastor/teachers, in that when we preach the word, the congregation should be confronted with God’s words as the preacher preaches from God’s Word. There is an immediacy and presence which stems from Calvin’s bible-centered work.

There were some specific points that I really appreciated. The two talks on thursday morning from Oliver Crisp and Peter Adam were fantastic. Dr. Crisp spoke on petitionary prayer in Calvin’s thought. I think I really appreciated the clarity and simplicity of Dr. Crisp’s presentation. Calvin’s description of God’s sovereignty is quite strong, leading many to believe that he was overly deterministic. Where then is the place of prayer, particularly petitionary prayer (asking for stuff) in Calvin’s view? Dr. Crisp showed how Calvin believes that prayer plays a very important part in God’s overall providence, allowing us to participate in His work by ordaining not only the end (answered prayer) but also the means (my prayer). The other paper that really stood out was Dr. Adam, who spoke on Calvin and preaching. There were 5 core ideas that Dr. Adam mentioned: Preachers need to (a) Engage with congregation (b) Engage with God (c) Engage with the Bible (d) Engage with Theology and (e) Engage with training. A very challenging, yet at the same time edifying, paper.

Further reflections to come…



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