Comments on Calvin — that’s what I usually got when I told various friends that I decided to create both a Twitter and Facebook account attributed to the Reformer’s words. I think this is because while Calvin is very influential, he is also controversial. More than being controversial, though, he is widely misunderstood — especially from those outside of the tribe, and entirely from people who have never read his work. I find that people who have read Calvin the least criticize him the most.
It was a Saturday evening, and I was reading Michael Horton’s,“Calvin on the Christian Life.“ Almost every page was saturated with a copious amount of Calvin’s quotes. “These thoughts are brilliant,” I thought to myself. “I need to share this with someone! But how?”
That’s when the idea of a Twitter account entered my brain. I created the account — and haven’t looked back since. Why did I create the account?
Here are five reasons:
1) To point people to Jesus. Calvin’s work was ruthlessly and unapologetically biblical. Calvin understood the Christocentric nature of the Scriptures: “Every doctrine of the law, every command, every promise, always points to Christ.” Rightly understanding that the Bible is about Jesus, Calvin took pains to make sure his work would point us to him. Whether prayer, providence, or predestination — anyone who has read Calvin knows that his words are centered on Christ’s finished work.
2) To point people to Calvin’s Institutes. Steve Lawson says that Calvin’s, “Institutes of the Christian Religion” was the greatest work that came out of the Reformation. Some would go so far as to say that Calvin’s Institutes is the most influential book of all-time, outside of the Bible, of course. Either way, I’m always surprised to meet so many Christians who have never heard of the Institutes, let alone care to read it. This is probably because it is over 500 years old, and is over 1,500 pages long (pending on the version you get). Numbers like this can intimidate people and I get it. But this book is better than gold, and it is more than worth the time and energy and labor to read it. I’m hoping that some of the quotes that are 140 characters long would encourage people to read his book that is over 1,500 pages long.
3) To alleviate the caricatures. Notice I said alleviate, not eliminate. There’s no way I plan on ending all the negative things said about Calvin, and I don’t care to. Heck, some of those things are true. The man struggled with pride and anger. I’m not coming to his aid to defend him as much as I am trying to show people that not all the condescending content you read about him online is true. For example, Calvin is often criticized for his belief in the doctrine of double predestination. His critics would accuse him for rejoicing over the fact that God predestines people to hell. But this is not true. Calvin himself said, “I pray for the salvation of every person” and, ” … it is our duty to pray for all who trouble us; to desire the salvation of all people; and even to be careful for the welfare of every individual.” Some of the adverse things you read about him online are true. Most of them are not.
4) To encourage people to read more widely. Some of my favorite authors alive today are Tim Keller, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul. I love reading them. But I think there is a problem if I’m only willing to read them. Many Christians either spend too much time reading the Puritans and Reformers or no time at all. There should be a balance. I think Christians should not just read wisely, but widely. Read C.S. Lewis. Read some fiction. Read some excellent secular books on leadership and business. Be especially sure to read Scripture and your favorite Reformed writers often. By revealing Calvin’s work on Twitter, I’m hoping this will spark more of an interest for people to not only go back and read other Reformers as well, but also to consider reading material outside of what they typically read. It take a brilliant thought to help spark this. And Calvin’s mind qualifies.
5) To encourage myself to read more Calvin. What better way to keep yourself honest than to have thousands of people looking for a Calvin quote everyday that you have to post? Creating this account has been a huge joy for multiple reasons. Mostly because other people are encouraged by Calvin’s words, but also because I myself gladly and willingly have to carve out regular time to read in order to post. There are so many books and sermons and letters to choose from — and the journey has just begun.
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