Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Calvin on the Christian Life

Calvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God ForeverCalvin on the Christian Life: Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever by Michael S. Horton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Crossway has been releasing books in a series of books, “Theologians On the Christian Life.”  Wesley, Schaeffer, Bonhoeffer, and Warfield have been featured and there is a list of upcoming volumes that look quite good.  Michael Horton was enlisted to look at John Calvin’s life and thought for this series and I think he did a great job.

The subtitle of this volume is “Glorifying and Enjoying God Forever” and that is a good tagline on the thought of Calvin as presented here by Michael Horton.  There is much, much to be enjoyed in this work.  Repeatedly, and for good reason, Horton focuses on the maxim “distinction without separation” as a summary of Calvin’s position on many issues.  

Especially for the Reformers and their successors, faith and reason, doctrine and life, sacred and secular were on speaking terms. It is striking to us in our contemporary context to discover the same theologian writing a sermon or a lecture, a poem on nature or a hymn to nature’s Creator and Redeemer, a Hebrew or Greek grammar, and some calculations on planetary movements—in the same week. Truth, goodness, and beauty drew all disciplines together in a unified body of knowledge. No less when exploring the heavens than when poring over Scripture, one was engaging in pious meditation upon God’s works.

Horton spends a good portion in the beginning of the work outlining some key tenets of Calvin's theology, which is perfectly reasonable since the reformer believed strongly that "sound doctrine is the soul of piety."  Horton also deals with Calvin’s emphasis on the corporate nature of Christian faith and piety, the idea of the Theatre of God with the creature living “coram Deo”, the "sensus divinitatis", Calvin’s understanding of proper political involvement, the role of work in the life of the Christian, the purpose of the arts, and much more.  The connection Horton shows in Calvin's thought between Christian liberty and justification is an area that I am looking forward to studying more.

Calvin on the Christian life focused on an issue that was more important than simply seeing how Calvin dealt with the Christian life.  In the grand scheme of things, really, what does it matter how one man interacted with his world?  Where this work offers its greatest benefit is in displaying how all Christians can weave the truth of the Gospel throughout their everyday life and how God’s word guides our every waking moment.  The theology in this book was interesting.  The biographical aspects were fascinating.  But seeing how one can live as a Christian, a consistent life of obedience and faith, was encouraging and edifying.  This book is part historical theology, part biography, part Christian living….but it is entirely pastoral.  I would encourage everyone to be blessed by Dr. Horton’s work on Calvin and the Christian Life.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher to provide a review.

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