September 21, 2020

Adjectives and Calvinists: A Killer Combination

No one….No one….excels at rhetoric like Calvinists. I’m sorry guys, love ya, but some of you are the biggest fan clubbers I’ve ever seen. Brian Mclaren doesn’t have this kind of devotion. And N.T. Wright can only dream.

Calvin’s birthday has given the rhetorical athletes a chance to really strut their stuff. I know we all can brag, but short of Catholics going on about the saints, do you ever hear anything quite like this? (Note: Please start “William Tell Overture.”)

Towering over the centuries of church history, there stands one figure of such monumental importance that he still commands attention and arouses intrigue, even five hundred years after his appearance on the world stage. Called “one of the truly great men of all time,” he was a driving force so significant that his influence shaped the church and Western culture beyond that of any other theologian or pastor. His masterful expositions of Scripture laid down the doctrinal distinctives of the Protestant Reformation, making him arguably the leading architect of the Protestant cause. His theological thunder defined and articulated the core truths of that history-altering movement in sixteenth-century Europe.

In turn, those lofty ideas helped fashion the founding principles of Western civilization, giving rise to the republican form of government, the ideals of public education, and the philosophy of free-market capitalism. A world-class theologian, a revered exegete, a renowned teacher, an ecclesiastical statesman, an influential Reformer — he was all of these and more. His name was John Calvin.

I think I need to buy a dictionary of adjectives. I’m feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck.

Comments

  1. I’m glad you know some Catholics who “go on” about the saints, iMonk; most of us don’t have enough material to “go on” about. As for bragging, doesn’t that imply taking some credit? (Would that I could “brag” about Mother Theresa or Maximilion Kolbe.)

    Anyway, I wonder how Calvin himself would react to this kind of tribute? I don’t know much about him, but if he found time to be holy–in between bouts of thundering and towering, of course–he would no doubt be embarrassed to the point of humiliation by such an essay. I know what you mean about Billy Graham, Scott, but as far as I can tell, he tends to redirect personal praise sent his way back “up the chain.” Hopefully Calvin would do the same.

  2. MAJ Tony says

    Speaking of comedy and therefore Jack Chick, I should thank that guy. If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably just be a lukewarm Catholic. I actually first found his trash stuck in my college campus Catholic Church lit stand.

  3. And I agree with the intro by Steve Lawson. Calvin was all of that and more in my opinion. I wish there would be more John Calvins, Jonathan Edwards, in the church today, these men bucked what they had heard, traditions, and went straight to the Bible for their doctrine. They in turn were completely transformed and passed what they have learned on to us.

    I would be hard pressed to find anyone today that I could write such an introduction about, but I believe this describes the man of John Calvin as I have come to know him through his many writings. He changed Christianity and the way the Bible is both read and distributed.

  4. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Michael, since we seem to have trodden on some Calvinists’ corns, I hereby give you full permission to dig out the floweriest, fluffiest, sugariest, most pink’n’sparkly fluffy bunnies and kitties excesses of 19th century hagiography for the next RC saint’s day and mock the living daylights out of it… — Martha

    Like the Perfect Painted Plaster Saints version of saint’s biographies?

    Like the one on St Ignatius Loyola that never mentioned he was a Spanish Army Officer and swashbuckler?

    Or the one on St Philip Neri that never mentioned his wacked-out sense of humor?

    Or the one on St Rose of Lima that never mentioned her psychotic self-destructiveness?

    Or the original edited memoirs of St Therese of Lisieux, the ones that bowdlerized out her “little way” of finding God in everyday routine that was the reason for her canonization?

  5. Headless, when you speak of the Little Flower, you hit the nail on the head.

    I read the standard Life of her way back and nearly choked to death on the saccharin. But even there, elements of the real Therese peered through (any fifteen year old who takes advantage of a Papal audience to demand of the Pope that he tell the Carmelites to let her join before the official age of entry is not a swooning, shrinking violet).

    The plaster saints make it sound so easy that it’s setting the bar impossibly high for us to imitate them. We can’t imagine doing things like that in our lives, or being so pious from an early age, so we as much as say “No point in me trying!”

    Which is completely the opposite of what the lives of the saints tell us – that they were ordinary men and women, struggling with problems in their private lives and in the wider society around them, who put their trust in God and with His grace achieved marvels. If everyone from illiterate cripples to heirs to a royal crown could give their hearts to God, what is stopping us?

  6. In a weird way, it reminds me of an infomercial. I kept waiting for the offer of some free doodad to go along with the overblown promotion. 🙂

  7. HUG,
    You’ve read biographies of Ignatius that do not mention his soldiering days? That is bizarre, because a worldly, sinful past is a goldmine of hagiography. Most authors play up the bad parts to great effect.

    The Calvin eulogy is actually pretty tame. Maybe if they exhumed his corpse 20 years after he died and found the body perfectly incorrupt as well as a golden tulip growing out of his mouth with the words “solo deo gloria” engraved on the stem, it would interest me.

    And Martha,
    Are you saying that you don’t believe St.Nicholas, as an infant, fasted from breast-milk on Wednesdays and Fridays?

    And I suppose St.John the Baptist just had the hiccups when he leapt in the womb?

    For shame – real Catholics delight in child saints.

  8. AoibhinnGrainne says

    HAHAHAHAHA!!!!! 🙂

    :gasp:

    Laughing some more…

    :intake breath:

    Oh my…the William Tell Overture just did it for me. I am a musician. I have every jot and tittle of that thing memorised from Conducting Class, over 30 years ago!

    And I am a recovering Calvinist.

    :”) Beginning to giggle…

  9. Curtis, precocious infant piety is one of my bugbears. The opportunities such a topic provides for a deadly combination of sentimentality, tweeness, and clucking like a brooding hen drives me batty.

    We have a local example here; there is still a devotion to a child called “Little Nellie of Holy God” and if your stomach is strong enough, here’s an account dating from 1911:

    http://www.knocknovena.com/Little%20Nellie%20of%20Holy%20God.htm

    I think this is probably the Catholic equivalent of that baby preacher video Michael posted on here, or does anyone remember “God’s Little Elvis”?

  10. Memphis Aggie: for a Christian version of The Onion, try larknews.com. But iMonk is hard to beat sometimes.

  11. Martha,
    Haha, I am familiar with Little Nellie and, oh boy, how the tooth does ache. I find Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich the same way. I feel like I’ve gorged myself on ice cream and cake after reading about her. At least she doesn’t talk like Tweety Bird, though.

    But not all child saints are so appalling. Dominic Savio and Maria Goretti come to mind.

    There is a certain logic to such cases. If God does not reward effort with grace but gives it freely, why should he not give it to children, even the unborn? Ex ore infantium perfecisti laudem, Super senes intellexi, &c…

  12. I don’t know why Calvin got such an introduction. I always thought that Hobbes was the one who brought sanity to Calvin. 😆

    For the person who asked about religious humor a la The Onion, I urge you to check out http://www.theoniondome.com/ an Orthodox equivalent or you might try the Protestant humor site http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/

    Of course, if you are easily offended, stay away from them.

  13. Rasselas says

    Funny, funny stuff bro!! Its even funnier to wake up to the “fact” (after doing the hard work) that good old Jean would have nothing to do with these people 🙂

    ….and wonderfully liberating

  14. tanegeel says

    And to think that 500 years from now, they’ll be pouring the hyperbole on the tribute to you, Michael:

    Towering over the internet’s longest-running theological soap opera, there stands one figure of such monumental importance that he still inspires flaming and arouses the watchbloggers, even five hundred years after his appearance on the World Wide Web….

  15. Funny, tanegeel!

  16. Memphis Aggie says

    Thanks Ted I checked it out, it looks amusing.

  17. desiderius says

    Some of these posts are indicative of Total Depravity 😉

  18. Debbie said, “He changed Christianity and the way the Bible is…read…”

    Well, I guess I can’t deny that.

    I would have almost sworn this had to come from something published by Banner of Truth Trust. Well, Ligonier’s a close second. I have a mental picture of lots of high fiveing over at the Puritanboard.

  19. he was literally hunted down and he gave his life to his beliefs.

    Um…he literally died in his sleep at the age of 54 as the result of his numerous health problems. Just so we’re clear.

  20. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Headless, when you speak of the Little Flower, you hit the nail on the head.

    I read the standard Life of her way back and nearly choked to death on the saccharin. — Martha

    You know, if the writers of those bowdlerized Lives of the Saints were around these days, they could make a HUGE pile of money by going Protestant and writing Sweet Christian (TM) Bonnet Romances for the CBA/ECPA…

    The Calvin eulogy is actually pretty tame. Maybe if they exhumed his corpse 20 years after he died and found the body perfectly incorrupt as well as a golden tulip growing out of his mouth with the words “solo deo gloria” engraved on the stem, it would interest me.

    Are you saying that you don’t believe St.Nicholas, as an infant, fasted from breast-milk on Wednesdays and Fridays?

    And I suppose St.John the Baptist just had the hiccups when he leapt in the womb? — Curtis

    You forgot all the Victorian Holy Card pictures of the newborn infant Christ solemnly blessing Mary, Joseph, the three Magi, the Shepherds, and the animals with the Sign of the Cross (using the exact gesture of a Papal blessing). Tell me when you run across a RL newborn who acts like that instead of crying, sucking, and pooping.

    Haha, I am familiar with Little Nellie and, oh boy, how the tooth does ache. — Curtis

    From what little I know after going down that link, I don’t think I want to know.

    I find Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich the same way. I feel like I’ve gorged myself on ice cream and cake after reading about her. At least she doesn’t talk like Tweety Bird, though. — Curtis

    Talk like Tweety Bird? WTF?

    And do I really WANT to know?

  21. My apologies to everyone for some of the posts that got on here while I was gone. I’ve deleted them.

    Sense of humor people. Acquire one.

  22. Black Angus says

    Apparently Clavin refused a gravestone and a few months later no-one could accurately say where he was buried. I can see why he did that.

  23. Michael,

    I kind of wish you’d left some of those posts up, as they really proved your point.

    🙂

  24. Headless, by “talking like Tweety Bird” I think Curtis was referring to the ‘cute’ attempts at dialect that the Little Nellie memoir was written in; you know, having the pious child lisping in her quaint working-class brogue saying “gib” for “give” and “dem” for “them”, while everyone else speaks Standard English.

    Though since I’m from County Waaaaaderfuuuhrd (local pronunciation of “Waterford”) myself, I can’t throw stones in this glass house 🙂

  25. Martha,
    Yes, by Tweety Bird, I was referring to her cutesy lisp. “Mudda” instead of “mother” and so on. A freakish cross between Shirley Temple and Sarah Palin.

    I should write a quaint infancy narrative for M. Jean Chauvin… “Gosh golly, mamma, I dunno how preacha say Jesus die for AWWWL folks when da Bible say he done die jis’ fer dee elect”

  26. That truck was predestined to run over you!
    🙂

  27. Curtis, her parents were from Waterford and she was reared in Cork, so she probably did have an accent sounding sumtin’ loike dat, bye! (something like that, boy!)

    But I do wish the reverend father had restrained the novelistic impulse and just put it all in English 🙂

  28. (Yeah, I’m late to the party. What’s new?)

    A long time ago I decided that, even though I believe in the (actual) fundamentals of the faith, I’d never self-identify as a fundamentalist because of all the skubala that the hyper-fundies have attached to that word.

    Even though I am theologically very similar to John Calvin, I’m this close (thumb and forefinger an angstrom apart) from adding “Calvinist” to that list.

  29. Christopher Lake says

    Man, I take some time to read and comment on some other blogs (and on Facebook), and I miss some gems here! 🙂

    I’m a Christian who is a joyful “five-pointer” (as in Calvin, Piper, Storms, desiring and enjoying God, etc.), but this avalanche of rhetorical overkill is one of the funniest things that I have read in some time! That’s it, I’m posting it to my Facebook page– my friends will get a kick out of it, five-pointers or not!

  30. Christopher Lake says

    This was written by Steve Lawson? What is the book? I have to know! 🙂

    I admire Lawson as a powerful expository preacher, but you’re right, Michael– his rhetoric got loose from him this time and created something sublimely, if unintentionally, comedic! (I agree what much of the *substance* of what he wrote here, but man– it’s almost Faulkneresque!)

  31. Christopher Lake says

    I agree *with,* not “what”

  32. When Mary Tudor was Queen of England (about which Calvin did have a thing or two to say!), a number of English Protestants found it suddenly more congenial to spend time abroad, in places like Geneva. Sir William Stafford was one of them. He was such an admirer of Calvin that when his youngest son was born (to his second wife Dorothy), Sir William actually proposed to name the boy “Calvin” (thus forever derailing the historical timeline of comic strips, among other things ;)).

    The story is that when John Calvin himself found out about this, however, he was appalled, and persuaded Sir William to name the boy John instead. So perhaps Calvin exhibited a bit more humility than some of his posthumous admirers would like 😉

  33. Ok… this post adds nothing to any profitable discussion at all. Please dispute any of the claims below with a historian (Calvinist or not, Protestant or not, Christian or not), and they will laugh at you.

    “All of these statements about Calvin are true. He wasn’t the most important man in the world, no one is saying that. But there is nothing similar to this description and a Catholic presentation of a saint.

    In turn, those lofty ideas helped fashion the founding principles of Western civilization, giving rise to the republican form of government, the ideals of public education, and the philosophy of free-market capitalism. A world-class theologian, a revered exegete, a renowned teacher, an ecclesiastical statesman, an influential Reformer — he was all of these and more. His name was John Calvin.”

    Intelligent commentary on any of these would have been informative, or possibly helpful. This post however is simply uninformed and annoying.

    Believe me, there are plenty of things Calvinists can and should be given a hard time about. But this is just not one of them.

  34. Well, if those statements are true, then what’s the problem?

    I do have a problem with adjectives like “revered.” And “ecclesiastical statesman” is a real problem. This has been the problem with the Church ever since Constantine. It’s the “bad marriage” (English for “Pergamos”) between church and state.