The Wondrous Exchange

This is the wondrous exchange made by His boundless goodness. Having become with us the Son of Man, He has made us with Himself sons of God. By His own descent to the earth He has prepared our ascent to heaven. Having received our mortality, He has bestowed on us His immortality. Having undertaken our weakness, He has made us strong in His strength. Having submitted to our poverty, He has transferred to us His riches. Having taken upon Himself the burden of unrighteousness with which we were oppressed, He has clothed us with His righteousness.

—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.17.2

The Hinge

Luther would not say that “good works make a person good,” but that “a good person does good works.” In other words, Christ’s righteousness—an “alien righteousness”—is imputed to us, and on that basis we then live out our Christian lives. John Calvin largely agreed and said that this understanding of justification was that on which the church stands or falls; it is “the hinge on which religion turns,” and all other doctrines are to be reassessed in its light.

—Dennis Okholm, Learning Theology through the Church’s Worship: An Introduction to Christian Belief, 164-65

All to Him

We do exhort men to worship God neither in a frigid nor a careless manner. . . . His benefits towards ourselves we extol as eloquently as we can, while we call upon others to reverence His Majesty, render due homage to His greatness, feel due gratitude for His mercies, and unite in showing forth His praise.

—John Calvin, On the Necessity of Reforming the Church http://www.lgmarshall.org/Calvin/calvin_necessityreform.html

In Christ

By Him fury is made gentle, wrath appeased, darkness turned into light, fear reassured, despisal despised, debt cancelled, labour lightened, sadness made merry, misfortune made fortunate, difficulty easy, disorder ordered, division united, ignominy ennobled, rebellion subjected, intimidation intimidated, ambush uncovered, assaults assailed, force forced back, combat combated, war warred against, vengeance avenged, torment tormented, damnation damned, the abyss sunk into the abyss, hell transfixed, death dead, mortality made immortal. In short, mercy has swallowed up all misery, and goodness all misfortune. For all these things which were to be the weapons of the devil in his battle against us, and the sting of death to pierce us, are turned for us into exercises which we can turn to our profit.

—John Calvin, “Preface to Olivétan’s New Testament”

The Glory of the Savior

It follows that every good thing we could think or desire is to be found in this same Jesus Christ alone. For, He was sold, to buy us back; captive, to deliver us; condemned, to absolve us; He was made a curse for our blessing, sin offering for our righteousness; marred that we may be made fair; He died for Our life.

—John Calvin, “Preface to Olivétan’s New Testament”

The Glory of the Gospel

Without the gospel everything is useless and vain; without the gospel we are not Christians; without the gospel all riches is poverty, all wisdom, folly before God; strength is weakness, and all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made children of God, brothers of Jesus Christ, fellow townsmen with the saints, citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven, heirs of God with Jesus Christ, by whom the poor are made rich, the weak strong, the fools wise, the sinners justified, the desolate comforted, the doubting sure, and slaves free. The gospel is the Word of life and truth. It is the power of God for the salvation of all those who believe.

—John Calvin, “Preface to Olivétan’s New Testament”

Worship in Revelation (7)

Christian worship takes place, as in Revelation, both in heaven and on earth. We worship in the Spirit, and as we do so we are taking our place amongst the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven. At this point I must pay tribute to John Calvin’s eucharistic theology, which like that of the eastern orthodox churches insists that the real action is taking place in heaven and that we, so far from bringing that magically down to earth, are instead caught up to heaven. The Sursum Corda, “lift up your hearts,” is the sign of what is really going on. Heaven is not a long way away. It is where Jesus and the Spirit are, revealing the Father and drawing us into worship, love, and obedience.

—N. T. Wright, “Freedom and Framework, Spirit and Truth: Recovering Biblical Worship,” 10

REFORMATION 500: Hymn Debate

As much as hymn singing has always been one of the most effective builders of Christian community, it has also always been one of the strongest dividers of Christian communities. In the early decades of the Reformation, Calvinists broke with Lutherans over several important matters, but one was existentially apparent at every gathering for worship: the singing. Lutherans sang hymns that with considerable freedom expressed their understanding of the gospel (like Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” or “From Heaven High I Come to You”), and they often sang them with choirs, organs, and full instrumentation. Calvinists, by contrast, sang the psalms paraphrased and with minimal or no instrumental accompaniment (like the 100th Psalm, “All people that on earth do dwell,” which was prepared by William Kethe for English and Scottish exiles who had taken refuge in Calvin’s Geneva during the persecutions of England’s Catholic Mary Tudor). However natural it may now seem for Protestant hymnals to contain both Luther’s “A Mighty Fortress” and Kethe’s “Old One Hundredth,” in fact it took more than two centuries of contentious Protestant history to overcome the visceral antagonism to “non-scriptural” hymns that prevailed widely in the English-speaking world. It was even longer before organs, choirs, and instrumental accompaniment were accepted.

—Mark Noll, “Praise the Lord: Song, Culture, Divine Bounty, and Issues of Harmonization” http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2007/novdec/9.14.html

Freedom of Form 4: Calvin

The Master . . . did not will in outward discipline and ceremonies to prescribe in detail what we ought to do (because He foresaw that this depended on the state of the times, and  He did not deem one form suitable for all ages). . . . Because He has taught nothing specifically, and because these things are not necessary to salvation, and for the upbuilding of the church ought to be variously accommodated to the customs of each nation and age, it will be fitting (as the advantage of the church will require) to change and abrogate traditional practices and to establish new ones. Indeed, I admit that we ought not to charge into innovation rashly, suddenly, for insufficient cause. But love will best judge what may hurt or edify; and if we let love be our guide, all will be safe.

—John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, IV.10.30

Calvin on Worship

We do exhort men to worship God neither in a frigid nor a careless manner; and while we point out the mode, we neither lose sight of the end, nor omit any thing which bears upon the point. We proclaim the glory of God in terms far loftier than it was wont to be proclaimed before, and we earnestly labor to make the perfections in which His glory shines better and better known. His benefits towards ourselves we extol as eloquently as we can, while we call upon others to reverence His Majesty, render due homage to His greatness, feel due gratitude for His mercies, and unite in showing forth His praise. In this way there is infused into their hearts that solid confidence which afterwards gives birth to prayer.

–John Calvin, “On the Necessity of Reforming the Church” (http://www.lgmarshall.org/Calvin/calvin_necessityreform.html)