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The Issues of Belief

As for logic and internal consistency, these mundane rules do not
apply to sacred writings and never have...
- Robert A. Heinlein

Calvinism Theology
Updated: 11/19/2020

Taken from Compton Encyclopedia:

Calvin's theology is a statement of the teaching of the Bible, couched largely in the traditional terminology of the church but directed towards 16th-century theological problems and in particular against three contemporary forces: the doctrines of Rome, the neoclassical paganism of the renaissance and the Anabaptists.  In the Institutio, which is a systematic presentation of biblical doctrine, he sets out to expound the redemptive revelation of God in Jesus Christ.  This he does within the framework of the four parts of the Apostles' creed: Book 1: The Knowledge of God the Creator; Book II: The Knowledge of God the Redeemer; Book III: The Receiving of the Grace of Christ; Book IV: The External Means of Salvation.

His argument runs as follows: man, confronted with signs of God's divinity in his creation, is inexcusable in that he does not recognize him as he is and fails to honour and worship him.  But God comes to man's help and reveals himself clearly in holy scripture as the triune creator. Thus, on this level, scripture is an interpretation of the universe as God's creation.  In Calvin's metaphor, it is the spectacles through which alone man sees the universe aright as the creation and without which it remains to him an enigma.  Yet (Book II) 'to know' God signifies, not merely the knowledge that he is creator, but, properly speaking, that he is the father of men by means of the reconciling and redeeming work of his son, Jesus Christ.

Man is completely a sinner.  He is unable to change his sinfulness into righteousness.  But Christ, by the obedient sacrifice of his whole life and particularly by the voluntary offering of his life on the cross, undergoes the condemnation of God upon the sin of men, in which he has not participated but the guilt of which he transfers, according to the will of God, from men to himself.  Thus God has annulled the wrong relationship of enmity between man and himself and has established the new kinship of father and children in Christ.

These blessings (Book III), already actual in the work of Christ, come to realization in man's life by the inward activity of God the Holy Spirit.  Through him man believes in Jesus Christ, thus being united with Christ so intimately that his possessions become the believer's as well as his cause the believer's cause.  In the power of the Holy Spirit the believer sets out on his course of the Christian life, a pilgrimage of faith, repentance, self-denial and prayer and the end of which is his reception into the heavenly glory where Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father.  But this is a course on which he has not embarked arbitrarily.  He has been called to it by God, yet before he was called it had been God's determination from all eternity that he should be his child in Jesus Christ.

Others were given over to reprobation and destruction.  Calvin's doctrine of predestination was in fact derived from Augustine and Aquinas and represented a venerable tradition in the church.  But (Book IV) man's regeneration does not come about by means of an immediate inward working of the Spirit, but through external media.  The church is the body by which Christ, the head, effects his purpose of restoring man and the creation.  By means of its ministry the elect are called, justified, sanctified and led to the threshold of glorification.  This ministry consists in the declaring the gospel about Christ the reception by baptism into the communion of the church, the building up of its members by the gospel and the Lord's Supper (see EUCHARIST) and, connected with this, the purifying and correcting of the church and its members by discipline-i.e. admonition and, as a final resort, excommunication.

Calvinism appears in many reformed confessions, including the Heidelberg Catechism (I563) and the Westminster Confession (1647).  Although hardly anywhere will there still be found the slavish adherence to its teachings that was characteristic of 'high' Calvinism of the past, there has been a renaissance of Calvin study in many countries in the second quarter of the 20th century, largely inspired by the work of Karl Barth.

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