Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Reading Calvin


I am rereading Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.  I want to truly study it.  I finished the Introduction, which in itself is interesting.  It struck me that one can take the introduction two ways:  that Calvin was trying to serve the church humbly ad dedicated his life to a work that would guide the reader , a serious student of theology, through the scriptures, or that he had a massive ego and believed his guide was the true one.  If the second, he surely dedicated his life to it and created one of the most influential books in history, so maybe his ego wasn’t misplaced.  Considering what he wrote about, I conclude it was the former.  He couldn’t have written that eloquently about the sin of man and the almightiness of God and been that arrogant.

I have also been reading penitential psalms.  Psalm 51, to be specific.  I have heard multiple sermons on that psalm and thought I’d heard it all, but I realized that we miss a big part of it.  We evangelicals see sin as something to let Jesus forgive and move on.  Confess it, get it over with.  Dwelling on it is just not living in grace.  Keep short accounts with God—don’t let sin get a foothold.

I agree with the spirit of this, except that we tend to overlook how awful sin can be.  How, as in this psalm, it eats away at one.  How it destroys.  Confession is not brushing cobwebs off oneself.  We should take a lesson from David, not to hold on to it, but to acknowledge what it is.  Nathan confronted him publicly.  What if our most private sin was held up in public?  How would we respond then?  Would we take more time to confess, seeing ourselves in the eyes of others?  Would that make a difference? 

I took a class in grad school on the meaning of “public.”  It was fascinating.  One thing I learned is that our view of public and private aren’t the only ones, and the ancient world turned the ideas on their heads.

2 comments:

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