Sunday, July 06, 2008

The Gospel Is Not A Doctrine of the Tongue

The Swiss theologian John Calvin is much maligned by his critics. Though his name has become a reproachful byword in some circles, the simple fact is that very few of Calvin's most vocal critics have bothered to read his writings in any depth. As with any human interpreter, of course, he is a fallible interpreter and should be read with discernment and compared with the scriptures. Whatever you may think about his various ideas, one thing is clear: The eager student of the Bible can gain much by perusing his works. His insights are very often compact, piercing, thorough, and sometimes quite witty!

There's a short booklet called "Golden Booklet of the True Christian Life", which is an English translation of a portion of Calvin's Institutes. The excerpt I'm sharing has to do with the insufficiency of external Christianity.

"Let us ask those who possess nothing but church membership, and yet want to be called Christians, how they can glory in the sacred name of Christ? For no one has any communion with Christ but he who has received the true knowledge of him from the word of the gospel. The apostle denies that anyone actually knows Christ who has not learned to put off the old man, corrupt with deceitful lusts, and to put on Christ. External knowledge of Christ is found to be only a false and dangerous make-believe, however eloquently and freely lip servants may talk about the gospel. The gospel is not a doctrine of the tongue, but of life."

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