Friday, 2 January 2009

2009: the year of the Calvin

Jean Calvin was born in July 1509 – so all around the world this year, there will be celebrations of his 500th anniversary. Princeton Seminary has organised “A Year with the Institutes”, a wonderful programme in which people can join together reading through Calvin’s Institutes this year. The seminary will provide a daily text (just a few pages), together with an audio reading of the text. So you can subscribe to the audio version through iTunes (it’s all free), and by the end of the year you’ll have gone through the entire Institutes. All the details are here.

So why don’t you join in the fun, and read Calvin’s Institutes this year! No matter what you might think about Calvinist theology, the Institutes is one of the most remarkable theological works ever written. And don’t be taken in by those rumours about Calvin’s gloomy austerity – as far as works of dogmatics go, the Institutes is almost unrivalled for its sensitivity to scripture and its pervasive pastoral warmth. If you want to learn what it really means to think theologically, you could hardly find a better guide than Calvin. Even his mistakes are full of momentous significance; even in his worst moments, he is a magnificent figure who towers above most others.

Anyway, to help correct the impression of Calvin’s bleak austerity, here’s Oliver Crisp’s new painting of the young Calvin – a portrait in a sort of Flemish style, painted recently in Princeton. I think this beautifully captures something of Calvin’s personal sensitivity, his resolute but deeply pensive sense of vocation and commitment to the will of God:

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