Like many of my colleagues, I’m getting to do quite a bit reading of Jean Calvin these days. In short, there are few things that I’ve been surprised by this time around with Ol’ Calvin.
1. Based on the first bits of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, I like Calvin’s thinking until he starts making his jumps concerning revelation and Scripture.
In other words, I agree with Calvin that the universe is a mirror for the splendor of God. I also agree that every human being intuitively knows of with God. While I would add that not all may call this sense ‘God’, there is a significant degree with which I think everyone wrestles with conscience and intuition in ways that affirm what Calvin describes as ‘God’.
2. My question for this post though is this: do we really think that Calvin would have gone as far with his elevation of Scripture to the place of “Scripture can relate to us what revelation in creation cannot” had he known what we now know about Biblical redaction history and the like?
Honestly, I’m really not so sure that he would have. I honestly think that if Calvin had been around in a world less influenced by the rise of the printed text as the holder of Truth, he would have been ok with his first two statements about how God is revealed without needing to say that Scripture was the ultimate place of knowing and discovering God. I mean you can even see the evolution of the primacy of the text in Calvin from Luther (a very short jaunt in time). It is almost as if the impending and revolutionizing affects of the printing press so influenced Calvin that he totally disregarded Luther’s deus obsconditos for a God who could most be found in text. This is very unfortunate!
SO what you ask? I don’t know, I guess I just found myself reading Calvin again and thinking that on several levels I can agree with him; however, he makes a couple of jumps that I am not so sure he would even make if he were living today. The pressures of the revolution of texts on his writing just keep becoming increasingly obvious.
Back to the books…or online pdfs…or video lectures? Hmm, I wonder if anything possess the authoritative claim on revelation anymore?