This week I had the awesome opportunity to sit in on lectures given by some incredible theologians on the Gospel of John and Calvin. I know you all wanted to be there really bad so here is a quick summary of what was presented….also I would love to relive it if anyone wants to talk about any of this sometime, especially election… I have also been reading Karl Barth on election in the second volume of Church Dogmatics…can’t get enough of it!
A few notes:
First: Just because I mentioned Calvin does not mean you should think of TULIP…that is hyper-Calvin. Not Calvin.
Second: Grace- As opposed to the Nominalists of his day who believed that God helps those who help themselves, Calvin said this isn’t grace because grace is free. Neither is grace a perfecting of nature, like Roman Catholic theology would say, but a new nature according to Calvin. Grace comes to us when we are at our lowest, when we deserve it the least. He presents the idea of only the be-graced will as being free, as that which establishes freedom. And we have been begraced :)
On the same note, regarding mercy, Calvin says “God deigns to embrace the sinner with his pure and freely given goodness, finding nothing within the sinner except his miserable condition to prompt him to mercy…and so he seeks in himself the reason to benefit man.” He also says, “When a man is laid low by the consciousness of sin and stricken by fear of God, and afterwards looks to the goodness of God- his mercy, grace, salvation, which is through Christ- he raises himself up, he takes heart, he recovers courage, and, as it were, returns from death to life.”
Third: How to view Predestination for Calvin- 1. Don’t demonstrate inordinate curiosity for Predestination, 2. Predestination as pastoral care as removing weight from people, 3. Nothing can be credited to man without dishonoring God and giving pride to man.
Fourth: Jesus- We aren’t saved by a perfect understanding of the work of Jesus Christ but by his work. Fully man and fully God, there must be these two complete natures after the incarnation without confusion, change, division, or separation in order for God and humanity to be reconciled in Christ for “Only what is assumed is healed!” according to Gregory of Nazianzus. Don’t forget that the Incarnation isn’t God’s “plan b.” He has always been for us. John Calvin says that faith is “A firm and sure knowledge of the divine favor toward us, founded on the truth of a free promise in Christ, and revealed to our minds, and sealed on our hearts, by the Holy Spirit.”
Fifth: Gospel of John- It’s awesome. You should read it. Actually while you’re at it, read the New Testament in the next year. Dr. Brunner suggested using the Lectio Divina and reading one chapter a day which only takes a few minutes. Being that it’s July 14th, that would put you on 1 Corinthians 14- now go! He handed out a list of his favorite verses and so here is mine from John: 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Sixth: Dr. Finch’s 10 Disciplines for Church Theologians: 1. Cultivate self-awareness, 2. Embrace Scripture plus one theologian (cough Karl cough Barth), 3. Brush up on Christian history, 4. Identify your hermeneutical tendencies, 5. Be aware of personal history and theology, 6. Be consciously Christocentric, 7. Be consciously Trinitarian, 8. Come to conclusions, 9. Monitor your lived theology, 10. Last and never least: Pray.
Some great quotes from the week:
“When mediation runs into sin it becomes redemption.” -Karen Peterson-Finch
“To burn people at the stake is not Christ-like behavior.” -Karen Peterson-Finch
“One thing never forbidden to us is laughter” -John Calvin
“Life is short, the world is fragile, all of us are vulnerable, but we are here because it is our calling.” -C.S. Lewis
“It’s really women who should be having a meeting if men should be ordained.” -Dale Brunner
“Jesus doesn’t say, ok I’ll come back and give you the Great Commission when you have your act together” -Dale Brunner
“The 7th commandent: Be especially nice to girls” -Dale Brunner
“If grace were at all related to work or worthiness, it would not be grace at all.” -Karl Barth