You may not find a better answer than J.I. Packer’s from his introduction to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. It is certainly more than five points:
Watch this 6-minute video from John Piper about John Calvin’s ministry in Geneva, Switzerland.
HT: Desiring God
Here’s an 8-minute interview with Kevin DeYoung about his new(ish) book The Hole in Our Holiness. Desiring God will post other short videos in the next week from the rest of the interview.
John Calvin is often black-eyed because of his aggressive, sometimes virulent personality. Even the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church claims that “Calvin was the ‘cruel’ and ‘the unopposed dictator of Geneva.’” Bruce Gordon, a Calvin biographer, states that Calvin knew how to manipulate relationships, intimidate, bully, and humiliate. In other words, he was a normal human being like you and me. Calvin seemed to be aware that his character hindered his ministry as in many of his writings he confession and lamented his sinfulness.
For many of Calvin’s critics the infamous “Servetus affair” defines his posthumous reputation. Michael Servetus was a theologian who taught doctrines contrary to the historic Christian faith in Geneva, the city where Calvin ministered. He was arrested in August 1553 for denying the Trinity and that Christ was the eternal Son of God. He was executed two months later when he was burned at the stake. To Calvin, Servetus was outside the circle of orthodoxy, for Servetus publicly denied the essentials of the faith and encouraged people to embrace his doctrines. Calvin was zealous for God’s reputation and did play a role in Servetus’s execution. Therefore, many think that John Calvin was racing around Switzerland and all of Europe hunting down heretics. Even more, many Christians categorically dismiss the doctrines Calvin taught because of this perception.
Before assuming Calvin was a heretic-burning maniac and dismissing his teachings, consider these points:
- People were often executed in Calvin’s day to maintain public order, and heresy was a capital offense. Because of the inherent connection between church and state, anyone who disturbed the peace could be branded as a revolutionary who may do harm to the common good.
- Calvin did not oppose Servetus because he was an Arminian. In fact, Servetus was not an Arminian, but a Pelagian (he denied original sin), a Modalists (he denied the Trinity), and a Pantheist (he rejected the fundamental distinction between Creator and creation). Calvin did not oppose people who disagreed with his theological system. For example, he agreeably disagreed with the likes of John Knox over the English prayer book controversy. In reality, Calvin only opposed people who opposed the gospel.
- Servetus was the only person put to death for religious opinions during Calvin’s time in Geneva, even though executions for heresy were common elsewhere. Alister McGrath, a historian and Calvin biographer, states that Calvin acted more as a technical advisor or expert witness, rather than prosecutor. Additionally, the great historian Roland Bainton notes that Geneva’s prosecutor was a noted enemy of Calvin and acted independently of Calvin in Servetus’s trial.
- Though this may count for little in some eyes, Calvin asked that Servetus receive a more humane execution of beheading rather than being burned at the stake. Calvin’s request was denied.
In Calvin’s zeal to protect his flock, he often lacked mercy and grace, as was most certainly the case with Servetus. We must not, however, envision that if Calvin were alive today he would be seeking out heretics to roast. At the same time, we know that Calvin was not an innocent bystander in this situation; yet his legacy is not in jeopardy because of Servetus’s death. Let us remember that Calvin failed us, and not just in the Servetus affair. Like the great men and women of the faith who went before him and came after, Calvin’s virtue lies in pointing us beyond himself to the only One who never failed us and never lacked mercy and grace. Like you and me, Calvin was a great sinner in need of a great Savior.
The amazing truth about being made in the image of God is that man is the pinnacle of God’s creative activity. Think about it for a moment: you look like God. In Genesis 1:26 the Triune God says, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” The next verse says God’s image-bearers were complete in that they were made “male and female.” Imago Dei (Latin for “image of God”) is the doctrine that humanity, both men and women, is in some respect designed to resemble divine likeness. Millard Erickson writes that the image of God “is the powers of personality that make humans, like God, beings capable of interacting with other persons, of thinking and reflecting, and of willing freely.” Wayne Grudem says being made in the image of God means that we are, simply, like God.
The beauty of God’s creation of man is that it was not complete with the creation of male. If men are honest, we know we are incomplete in ourselves (and for those of us who are married, we’re reminded of that daily). God, in his wisdom, provided a helper for us. Adam was found by God to be alone and this was “not good” (Gen. 2:18, the only time this phrase appears in the first two chapters of Genesis). God therefore decided to make Adam a “helper fit for him” (v. 18). In making Adam a helper, God took a rib from Adam’s side, creating woman, and God brought her to Adam (v. 22). Here we see the first wedding with God, as the Father, walking Eve down the garden aisle to her husband Adam who bursts out into song as he rejoices over his wife (v. 23).
Eve’s creation draws out many implications. Here’s two: 1) Because Eve was made a “helper fit” for Adam, she was meant to compliment and correspond to Adam as one who would assist and challenge him in the cultural mandate that God gave to mankind (see Gen. 1:28). Therefore, wives are to help and support their husbands as they assist them in their God-appointed calling. 2) Eve was taken from Adam’s rib, illustrating the fact that she is to stand beside Adam as equal. She was not taken from behind to be inferior nor from the front to be superior. Therefore, wives are equal to their husbands in worth, value, and dignity. Yet, they are not the same in role and function. Wives stand beside their husbands and operate in the relationship with their unique abilities and skills.
There’s been debate throughout the centuries as to what “image” and “likeness” means. Are they different? Identical? Sparing the details, it’s probably safe to say they mean the same thing. Martin Luther asserted this view, while saying that the uncorrupted divine image is God’s intention for mankind, but only a corrupted image is what is present after the fall. John Calvin adopted a similar view. This seems to be the preferable view in light of several Scriptures (e.g. Gen. 9:6; Acts 17:27-28; 1 Cor. 11:7; James 3:9). The fall distorted God’s image in mankind so that now we do not perfectly represent God’s image and likeness. But there’s no evidence from Scripture that men and women have completely lost God’s because of sin. Therefore even non-Christians are to be loved and cared for because of their inherent value as image-bearers of God.
Though we do not perfectly reflect God’s image, we still have hope! Jesus Christ has bested God’s image as the only obedient man. He is the complete revelation of the image of God. One of the reasons God prohibited the worship of images in the Law (Ex. 20:4) is due to the fact that he already had an image of himself, waiting to be sent, whom we would worship: Jesus Christ. Hebrews 1:3 perhaps puts it best: “[Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.” We have failed to represent God as he intended, but praise be to God, Jesus is all that we were supposed to be.
Through his redemptive work in the gospel, Jesus now creates a new humanity (Rom. 5:12-21; 1 Cor. 15:20-28). In light of the gospel, we are now being restored back into imago Dei (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:16). On the last day, when Christ returns in great glory, the image of God in believers will be fully restored. The apostle John tells us about this great hope: “Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).
Check out these helpful resources to dig deeper into the image of God:
I saw The Adjustment Bureau starring Matt Damon a couple months ago with my wife. We both liked it, but we both realized it made God look unpleasant, rigid, and frustrated by the way man responded to the “plan” he has for us.
Over at The Gospel Coalition blog, Colin Smith writes a tremendous analysis of the film. Here’s the crutch:
The Adjustment Bureau suggests that you need to make choices that will deliver you from a dark and sinister God. But the real story is about how you need the sovereign God to deliver you from the dark and sinister power that inhabits your choices. The film suggests that your will is supremely good and that God cannot be trusted. But the real story is that God is supremely good and that you dare not trust your own will. The Adjustment Bureau suggests that the best plan for your life is the one that originates with you. The real story is that pleasures beyond anything you can imagine are at God’s right hand, and he is able to deliver you from the self indulgent choices that would keep you from them.
The Adjustment Bureau is a good film worth seeing, but it puts God in the place of man and man in the place of God. Its message needs not so much an adjustment as an inversion.
Happy Mother’s Day, fellow bloggers and readers. I hope today was as good for you as it was for my wife and me. What better way to finish the weekend than by subscribing to the blog? If you already subscribe, perhaps you can invite your mom–or someone else–to do the same? After all, it’s free.
What are you waiting for?