Happy Birthday, John Calvin

john_calvinOn July 10, 1509, John Calvin was born in Noyon, France.  Today is the 50oth anniversary of his birth.

Growing up in a fundamentalist, Baptist church I rarely heard the name of Calvin mentioned, and when I did it was generally as pejoritive.  Most of my life, I associated Calvin (and Calvinism) with a sub-Christian, anti-Evangelical tinge.

However, in the last six years or so, I have come to deeply appreciate Calvin and his teachings.

So it is appropriate on this day to remember one of the greatest influences in the history of theology, and arguably in the development of Western society.

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Marilynne Robinson, God and Calvin

Andrew Brown interviews Marilynne Robinson.

There are two remarkable things about Marilynne Robinson, who won the Orange Prize for fiction: she’s a very good writer, and she’s a very serious Christian. Her two most recent novels. Gilead and Home, have retold the story of the Prodigal Son from different viewpoints, set in a small town on the Iowa prairie in 1956. “Retelling” is not what you think when first you read them; then the overwhelming effect is of being told a story, and hearing a voice, for the very first time.

But both are, in fact, books about the workings of grace in human life, just as Brideshead was. But they are Calvinist, not Roman Catholic, and their pleasures are very much more humble; also, I think, more vivid. Towards the end of Gilead an old pastor talks about the world around him:

“I love the prairie! So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turn radiant at once, that word “good” so profoundly affirmed in my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing. There may have been a more wonderful first moment “when all the morning stars sang together and the sons of God shouted for joy” but for all I know to the contrary, they still do sing and shout and they certainly might well. Here on the prairie there is nothing to distract attention from the evening and the morning, nothing on the horizon to abbreviate or delay. Mountains would seem an impertinence from that point of view.”

Gilead is one of my favorite novels (and Home is next on my reading queue.)  It is such a breath of fresh air compared to what passes for fiction in the Christian market today.

(ht:  Justin Taylor)