Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
John Calvin is 500 years old this month. In fact his birthday took place last week. All over the world, Presbyterian churches were celebrating the Frenchman’s birth and how his theology brought Presbyterianism into being.
Calvin was a great teacher and at the end of his classes he used to quote today’s verse. I guess that during the uncertain times of the reformation, he needed to encourage his students to persevere. If God was on their side, then the Reformed movement would prevail. 500 years later, we are still here.
But there is a darker and more ruthless side to Calvinism which has marred Presbyterianism throughout our history. I came across an example of this several years ago in the shopping mall. I met a Calvinist preacher who thought that I shared his severe views. He stopped me and asked me to watch and listen to his four year old son.
“Son,” he said, “tell Rev. Stuart the five fundamentals of Calvinism.” The wee boy looked up at me and perfectly recited them. There was no pleasure in his face or brightness in his eyes. He looked absolutely lost and soulless, but his father was beaming with pride. I honestly wanted to punch the other preacher in his face. Those five fundamentals of Calvinism were meant to free us from church tyranny and lead us towards our freedom in Christ. That Calvinist preacher was using the same controlling power and religious fear over his son that the medieval Catholic Church used to abuse and spiritually enslave the whole of Europe prior to the Reformation.
Thankfully, we live in an enlightened age where Presbyterians are taught to love God, mercy, and justice. I hope and pray that one day that wee lad will reject the rigid religiosity of his misguided father, and find the freedom in Christ that his soul truly deserves.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, protect from being over zealous with our faith and keep us free from the snares of religiosity. Help us to seek and experience Your perfect freedom. Grant us opportunities to share the same precious qualities with our families and friends. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.