This Summer I will be teaching one of the adult Sunday School classes on the Theology of John Calvin (formerly known as Calvinism). In light of this, I would like to offer 11 reasons why you should study John Calvin this Summer.
John Calvin is the biggest influence on Western civilization.
You cannot read the history of the Western civilization accurately without considering John Calvin. It is a shame that any history book would not mention the man who shaped the largest group of organized people in the Western world. Calvin was at the forefront of the Reformation and was one of the pioneers of bringing the gospel back to the Church and to the world. The Reformation did not just change the Church but changed the entire world. To take John Calvin out of our history books is like trying to take the light out of the Sun.
John Calvin was very practical.
First and foremost, Calvin was a pastor. Everything that Calvin wrote was for the purpose of application. He wrote for the church and for the people. Even when Calvin gets into the depths of theological arguments in The Institutes he is writing for the purpose of the truth changing our lives. Theology is meant for living and we “do” theology wrong if it is only an intellectual activity. Calvin didn’t fall into this trap of keeping theology only intellectual. In this class, we will be working out how each of the doctrines discussed applies to all of life.
John Calvin’s “Big God” theology is the most needed theology today.
We are living in an age that is plagued with self-centered theology, self-esteem movement, and raising the “Selfie Generation”. What we desperately need is someone like Calvin to speak loudly and clearly into our culture to show us how “big” God is. Calvin is completely and entirely God-centered in his theology. True Calvinism is God-centered and not man-centered. In an age that is filled with many self-help books and other books that some often consider to be “solid” Christian books are mostly man-centered writings that treat God like a reputation builder or self-esteem booster. Calvinism takes our eyes off of ourselves and rightly places them on Him.
Because Calvin’s “Big God” theology is also pastoral and practical, we can see that true Calvinism counsels the soul. In an age that is overly obsessed with psychological theories and self-esteem fixes, we need to have the answer to true heart change and we find it in true Calvinism. Calvin shows us that when we truly understand and grasp God’s gospel by faith we are changed. True life change happens after true heart change. In this Sunday school class on Calvinism, we will not only study his theology but we will see how it actually changes and counsels our souls.
John Calvin is one of the biggest influences on the PCA.
The PCA, and other Reformed denominations, owe deep gratitude to John Calvin. Without Calvin, and without Calvin’s Institutes, we would not have such lasting influence on the Church. The PCA is deeply influenced by Calvin and Calvinism at its core and to truly understand the PCA we must understand Calvin.
John Calvin had a massive influence on the founding fathers of America.
One historian has said, ““Calvin was virtually the founder of America.” Another has said, “[The] Earliest and most influential settlers...were Calvinists and brought with them the Bible and the Reformed confessions of faith.” We when forget Calvin we forget much of the values of the founding fathers.
John Calvin and Calvinism is often misrepresented (even by “Calvinists” at times).
We have often met self-proclaimed “Calvinists” who fail to proclaim what Calvinism really is. We often give lip service to the TULIP but this is not all of Calvinism. There is so much more to Calvinism and to being Reformed. This Sunday school class will explore more important themes such as the doctrine of Scripture, the Holy Spirit, the Church, the place of the Law, the person and work of Christ, and especially prayer. There are several people who say they are Calvinist but do not have a full awareness (and sometimes accurate perception) of what Calvinism is.
Calvinism is Missions Minded.
Calvin was very influential on developing and sending out missionaries. When someone grasps the depths of Reformed Calvinism they are propelled to proclaim this glorious God to the people. Doctrine doesn’t disrupt missions but rather empowers missions. The more we know the more we can show. As we will see in the first week, Calvin was a major influence on the men who transformed France, Scotland, America, Holland, and England.
Calvinism restores the centrality of the Word.
Calvinism moves us from our opinions about God to God’s Word. The Scripture index at the end of the Institutes is several pages long. There are around 3,000 Scripture references. Calvin “reformed” Europe to put the Bible back at the center of the Church and, therefore, also the pulpit. Preaching became central to not only worship but also even in the architecture of the buildings. Instead of the sacraments being in the center the pulpit was moved to the center. The Reformation is centrally a restoration of preaching God’s Word. For today, we need this now more than ever because of our emphasis on entertainment, seeker sensitive messages, and programmatic-centered churches. Where the truth of God is pushed to the side, God is pushed to the side.
Calvinism shapes your entire worldview.
John Calvin wholly embraced the theme of the Reformation which was “Soli Deo Gloria” (To God alone be the glory). Calvinism is not a theology that stays in the church but rather overflows into every area of life. The Bible should not only influence us on Sunday but rather should be our worldview for everything that we do. Whenever someone teaches on Calvinism they must never stop at merely what Calvin says but rather show how it changes the way we live. The Bible never gives us content that is simply meant to stay in our heads. That’s what the Pharisees did. True knowledge turns into true living.
Calvinism changes the way you work.
One of the specific ways Calvinism changed much of the European culture during the Reformation was in the area of work. When God is big, work becomes a way to worship God. Our work is not primarily for financial gain, social status, or self-fulfillment. All of work is for worship and Calvin applied his theology to the everyday workers.