All Frame and his students all the time this week. Pardon the obsession.
Justin Taylor continues to aggregate with a post about the value of reading Calvin’s Institutes. He includes several quotations from J. I. Packer (though why gospel-co-allies should pay attention to Barth I’m not sure):
The Institutes is one of the wonders of the world.
Karl Barth, the most influential theologian of the 20th century, once wrote: “I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin.”
Packer explains that Calvin’s magnum opus is one of the great wonders of the world:
“Calvin’s Institutes (5th edition, 1559) is one of the wonders of the literary world—the world, that is, of writers and writing, of digesting and arranging heaps of diverse materials, of skillful proportioning and gripping presentation; the world . . . of the Idea, the Word, and the Power. . . .
“The Institutio is also one of the wonders of the spiritual world—the world of doxology and devotion, of discipleship and discipline, of Word-through-Spirit illumination and transformation of individuals, of the Christ-centered mind and the Christ-honoring heart. . . .
“Calvin’s Institutio is one of the wonders of the theological world, too—that is, the world of truth, faithfulness, and coherence in the mind regarding God; of combat, regrettable but inescapable, with intellectual insufficiency and error in believers and unbelievers alike; and of vision, valuation, and vindication of God as he presents himself through his Word to our fallen and disordered minds. . . .”
This is the problem of contemporary “Calvinism.” It abstracts Reformed theology from Reformed churches and Reformed ministry.
Ironically, Taylor gives as a reason for reading Calvin that “has relevance for your life and ministry.”
It can be read as simply an exercise in historical theology, but it should also be read to further your understanding of God’s Word, God’s work, and God’s ways. Packer writes:
The 1559 Institutio is great theology, and it is uncanny how often, as we read and re-read it, we come across passages that seem to speak directly across the centuries to our own hearts and our own present-day theological debates. You never seem to get to the book’s bottom; it keeps opening up as a veritable treasure trove of biblical wisdom on all the main themes of the Christian faith.
Does Taylor really mean to suggest that reading Calvin might lead to baptizing infants and joining a presbytery? I doubt it.