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Showing posts from 2007

A Call for Collaboration

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

It has been a hectic couple of weeks here at DET central. Between holiday traveling and trying to finish up a paper before Christmas break, and my newfound addiction to Tom Clancy novels (I prefer John Clark to Jack Ryan, however), I have been swamped. The good news is that everything is on track for the end of this semester – my first as a PhD student – in mid-January.

But enough update. On to the point.

For whatever reason – perhaps the effects of Christmas cheer – I have been thinking about theo-blogging collaboration. I can honestly say that the #1 reason for DET’s existence is collaboration. The solo stuff I do most of the year is simply a prelude to, and a way of building traffic and engagement for, collaborative projects. Along this line, I’m excited to say that there will be a 2008 Barth Blog Conference, so stay tuned for more information. (Check out the 2007 Barth Blog Conference.)

The success, and I hope that it will soon be conti…

Charles Wesley: And Can It Be That I Should Gain?

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quickening ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, a…

TF Torrance: The Effect of Dualism upon Biblical Interpretation

I have been doing A LOT of reading in Torrance’s work on theology and science, and it has been quite illuminating. It becomes increasingly clear to me that TF was on to something important here, and that engagement with this material is vitally important. In any case, the paragraphs below are – I think – a good introduction to a lot of this stuff, albeit in a form that assumes more than it explains, as directly implied to the question of biblical interpretation.

Thomas F. Torrance, The Ground and Grammar of Theology: Consonance Between Theology and Science (T&T Clark, 2001), 28-30."[L]et me refer to the positivist restriction of knowledge to observational phenomena. According to this view, we derive the rational components of knowledge, such as scientific theories, by deducing them from observations – for there is, it is alleged, no direct cognitive access to rational forms or theoretical structures, but only indirect access by way of logical inference. The effect of thi…

Requiescat in pace: Thomas F. Torrance

I have been watching this one for a few hours, and it has been slowly spreading through the blogosphere, but it seems that Thomas Torrance has died this morning at the age of 94. It was first reported here by a student at Edinburgh, who assures me that the news was broken through Prof Larry Hurtado of the Div School in an internal e-mail to the students and faculty. It has since been commented upon here, here and here. To the best of my knowledge, there has been no official, public announcement by any of the institutions in question. Such will likely be made both at Edinburgh and here at PTS sometime tomorrow.

My deepest condolences to the Torrance family.

Thomas F. Torrance was undoubtedly the greatest theologian working in the English language during the 20th century. Moreover, he was a major figure in Reformed-Orthodox ecumenical discussions, and make contributions to the interdisciplinary relationship between theology and science. Still, he is perhaps best known for spear…

Barth and Piper on the Relation of God’s Love and Glory

Every now and then, the work of John Piper flits across my mind. I read his Desiring God (Multnomah, 1996) during the period of transition from High School to College, but I have since come to be…let’s say…‘skeptical’ about the veracity of his position. In any case, I am working on a project with a faculty member here at PTS, and Piper’s work came up briefly there. So, he has been on my mind.

At the same time, I am reading Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics 2.1 (T&T Clark, 1985) for a PhD seminar currently underway, and I came across a bit of text (reproduced below) and the contrast between Barth and Piper jumped out at me. I wanted to post about it.

So, here are quotes from both Piper and Barth on the relation between God’s love and God’s glory. As you will see, Piper makes God’s love for us subordinate to God’s glory, while Barth makes God’s glory subordinate to God’s love for us.

Piper: “God’s ultimate goal therefore is to preserve and display his inifinte and awesome great…

2008 Karl Barth Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary

Another piece of news. I'm beginning to feel like the theological Associated Press!

The Center for Barth Studies has posted an announcement of the 2008 Barth conference. Here you will find information about the date of the conference (June 22-25), the conference cost ($100 USD), and the current list of confirmed speakers (which includes Kathryn Tanner and Nigel Biggar).

The topic of the 2008 Barth conference is: “Karl Barth and Theological Ethics”

While you are surfing the Barth Center website, be sure to check out the book review section.

Warfield Lectures, 2007: Update

As faithful readers of DET are well aware, three of your dedicated theo-bloggers from Princeton Theological Seminary banded together to provide coverage of the 2007 Warfield Lectures, presented by Dr. Kathryn Tanner. An index with links to coverage of all the lectures is available in my 'Collaborative Projects' section, to which there is a link at the top of the right side-bar.

The purpose of this post is to announce that one of Dr. Tanner's Warfield Lectures has been published in the Princeton Seminary Bulletin. This lecture was #4, and - if one wanted to do some comparative analysis - you can access Chris' notes on its original presentation.

Dr. Tanner's published lecture is entitled, Kingdom Come: The Trinity an Politics.

Here are her two introductory paragraphs, which set the tone for the essay:In contemporary theology, the Trinity is often enlisted to support particular kinds of human community - say, egalitarian, inclusive communities, in which differences a…

Happy Thanksgiving, 2007

I refer you to the Thanksgiving Meditation that I posted last year.

Wolfhart Pannenberg, 'Introduction to Systematic Theology' (4)

Wolfhart Pannenberg, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991).

Learn a little something about Pannenberg.

Chapter 4: Christology Within a Systematic Framework

Pannenberg’s short volume concludes with a consideration of Christology. I must confess that this chapter was the hardest for me to get my mind around, and I’m not entirely sure that I succeeded. This means that what follows will be more descriptive than critical.
The Church
Pannenberg gives us a tidy definition of the church in the opening sentences of this chapter:“The Christian church is the community of those who by baptism, faith, and eucharistic communion share in the ministry and death of Jesus Christ and thereupon live in the hope for the new life of his resurrection. Thus the church has been called the ‘body’ of Christ.” (53)The conviction of this community is that Jesus Christ has universal significance, and this conviction provides the community with an impetus to mission. However, this…

Scripture a Double-Edged Sword

Would that we all took the sword-like potential of Scripture as seriously as does this cartoon .

Wolfhart Pannenberg, 'Introduction to Systematic Theology' (3)

Wolfhart Pannenberg, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991).

Learn a little something about Pannenberg.

Chapter 3: The Doctrine of Creation in an Age of Scientific Cosmology

Part of my attraction to the work of TF Torrance is his understanding of theological science and the relation of theology and science, so I very much enjoyed this chapter wherein Pannenberg engages scientific cosmology. In keeping with Pannenberg’s apologetic impulse, which we saw in the first chapter, this chapter seems to be predominantly a ground-clearing exercise, interested in suggesting ways in which Christianity can be understood in harmony with scientific cosmology. It seems to me that theology must attempt to find this harmony whenever possible, and so it was interesting to see Pannenberg engage in this task.
Mechanical Universe
Pannenberg recounts how scientific cosmology developed in the 18th and 19th centuries to view the world as a mechanical system. While God was or…

Eberhard Busch Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary

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On Thursday evening, November 8, 2007, Eberhard Busch – Karl Barth’s last research assistant and Emeritus Professor of Reformed Theology at Göttingen – lectured at Princeton Theological Seminary. The title of his lecture was “A Swiss Voice: The Campaign of the Swiss Government Against the Voice of Karl Barth During the Second World War,” and this title is self-explanatory. It was a fascinating lecture that sought to dispel the myth that Barth was not politically active during World War Two, and Busch drew much upon original archival research in Swiss and German government archives that have only recently been opened for such research.

Below are my notes from the lecture. They are not well formed, nor have I gone back to edit them. Thus, they do not give a precise or comprehensive account of what was said, but they do give an indication. Undoubtedly this information will become available in traditional print form in due course.

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Eberhard Busch –…

Calvin on Ordination and Pastoral Obligation

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.5.4 - Abuses in the appointment of the presbyter ("priest") and deacon.
"Here is a noble calling, by reason of which bishops boast that they are the apostles' successors. But they say that the right to create presbyters belongs to them alone. In this they very wickedly corrupt the ancient institution, because they create by their ordination not presbyters to lead and feed the people, but priests to perform sacrifices. Similarly, when they consecrate deacons, they do nothing about their true and proper office, but ordain them only for certain rites concerned with chalice and paten.

But in the Council of Chalcedon, on the contrary, it was enacted that there should be no ordinations free of pastoral obligations, that is, that a place be assigned to the person ordained where he is to exercise his office. This decree is valuable for two reasons. First, that the church may not be burdened with needless expense, and s…

Wolfhart Pannenberg, 'Introduction to Systematic Theology' (2)

Wolfhart Pannenberg, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991).

Learn a little something about Pannenberg.

Chapter 2: Problems of a Christian Doctrine of God

I liked this chapter much more than I did the first one, so maybe my earlier distaste was simply part of my general distaste for prolegomena. In any case, I can’t deal with all the content packed into this chapter, so I’ll have to hit high points.
Theology, Philosophy, Metaphysics
Pannenberg argues that “the theologian is called to restate the doctrine of God in terms of rational argument” (23), and he makes two points related to this. First, he notes that “the concept of God which was developed by medieval and early modern theology in close contact with classical metaphysics is in need of rather radical revision” (ibid). But, he notes secondly that a significant difficulty in going about this ‘radical revision’ is “the desolate state of metaphysics in modern philosophy” (ibid). That is, the philoso…

My Most Recent Publication

A Report on the Second Annual Karl Barth Conference, Karl Barth Society Newsletter 35 (Fall, 2007), 1-4.

Regular readers of DET may remember that, coming off the success of the 2007 Karl Barth Blog Conference, things were uncharacteristically quiet here during the second annual Karl Barth conference held at Princeton Theological Seminary back in June. Well, this is why. My reporting on the conference was spoken for by the Barth Society Newsletter, the editor of which (Paul Molnar) asked me to provide such a report because of my involvement in organizing the conference.

In any case, if you are a member of the Karl Barth Society of North America, my report will show up in your mailbox in a few days (if it hasn’t already). It will also appear in due course in the digital collections of the Princeton Theological Seminary library.

This issue of the newsletter also includes information on the upcoming Barth Society meetings in conjunction with the 2007 AAR conference in San Diego, a revi…

Remembering the past on Reformation Day: Martin Luther, Sylvester Mazzolini and Indulgences

It is sometimes easy to forget the sort of Roman Catholicism that Martin Luther was seeking to renew at the dawn of what would be called ‘The Reformation.’ That Roman Catholicism looked very different than today’s version. (I’ll leave it to the Catholics to explain to me how they could have changed in these ways without internal contradiction.) So, when I came across this bit of text, I thought it warranted posting – especially on Reformation Day.

Heiko A. Oberman, Luther: Man Between God and the Devil (Doubleday, 1989), 192-4.On October 31, 1517, Luther sent his ninety-five theses, and probably the first version of the Sermon on Indulgences and Grace, to Cardinal Albrecht of Mainz, for whom Tetzel was working. Hieronymous Schulze, bishop of Brandenburg, to whose see Wittenberg belonged, was also informed of the contents of the theses and sermon. Instead of replying, Archbishop Albrecht forwarded the documents to Rome in December 1517: His Pontifical Holiness will know how “such…

Wolfhart Pannenberg, 'Introduction to Systematic Theology' (1)

Wolfhart Pannenberg, An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991).

Learn a little something about Pannenberg.

In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I have never before read Wolfhart Pannenberg, or at least as far as I can remember. Furthermore, in the course of my MDiv studies at Princeton Theological Seminary I can remember Pannenberg being treated in any detail only once in a lecture, although his name tended to come up with some regularity in conversation and discussion. All of that is to say that what follows is my attempt to get some sort of provisional handle on Pannenberg for the first time, and that I should not be mistaken as any sort of authority on his work. Indeed, if there are any Pannenberg enthusiasts or authorities reading this, please point out things that I have gotten wrong!

In any case, I picked up this tidy little volume (69 pages of text, although they are bound with something like 34 blank pages at the end, no doubt …

Announcing a Mini-Series on Pannenberg

Wolfhardt Pannenberg has been appearing as part of the conversation throughout the theo-blogosphere lately. There have been a number of posts devoted entirely to his thought. Kevin has asked some good questions about how Pannenberg deals with theodicy. Alex, to whom I awarded the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ not too long ago, has a series going on the first volume of Pannenberg’s Systematic Theology (post 1 / post 2 / post 3 / post 4). Pannenberg also pops up more or less randomly from time to time in various discussions, like this one about what it means to be ‘biblical’.

It is beyond doubt in my mind that Pannenberg deserves and rewards serious attention, and I intend to give him some here at DET. So, I will publish a mini-series (to be indexed as usual) of four excurses into Pannenberg, to be posted on Monday mornings for the next four weeks. I do hope that you will follow along and interact with me as I interact with this significant thinker.

Lest you need more encouragement,…

Reading Scripture with John Calvin: 1 Peter 3.5-7

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1 Peter 3.5-7

[5] For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their husbands, [6] like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear. [7] Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

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COMMENTARY:

Unfortunately, this section (which Calvin treats as two different entries, and which I have combined) contains more of the same sort of notions about women as we saw in the previous section. Having acknowledged that Calvin was a man of his age when it comes to these matters, I do not want to dwell on them further here.

However, I mentioned previously that Calvin did in fact have some rather salutary views on the marriage relationship, a…

Bethge on Bonhoeffer’s Relationship to Barth

Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Man of Vision, Man of Courage (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), 134.

"In the relations between the two men four phases can be distinguished, which can be summarized roughly as follows:
The phase of Bonhoeffer’s unilateral knowledge of Barth through the latter’s writings, beginning in 1925. In 1927 and 1929 Bonhoeffer, excited by and grateful for the Barthian message, while holding fast to the principle of finitum capax infiniti, raises a number of theological-epistemological questions directed at Barth. These, however, as formulate in Sanctorum Communio and Act and Being, do not become fully known to Barth until after Bonhoeffer’s death.
The phase of eagerly sought meetings between 1931 and 1933. Bonhoeffer hopes for Barth’s support in his concern for the concrete ethical commandments of the Church, but does not receive it in the form that he desires.
The phase of theological differences, accompanied by a very close alliance in church polit…

Augustus Toplady: Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee;
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy wounded side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Save me from its guilt and power.

Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.

Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to the cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.

While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgment throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.=========================
"[T]here are hymns that contain doctrinal insight to rival that of the best theology ever produced. The fact that they are falling out of the church's collective memory is something to be deeply regretted as it is one more facet of what at times seems to be a …

Dan Treier on Word and Spirit, Revelation and Scripture

Daniel J. Treier, Virtue and the Voice of God: Towards Theology As Wisdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006), 197-8. The Spirit helps to give the Word form. In that pattern of possibility we learn a lesson about the form the Christ-centered theological meaning of Scripture takes. The form of access is personal – holistic, embodied, and social – not strictly cognitive…the Spirit tans-forms us by the renewing of our minds in such a way that we are con-formed to Christ. Yet, although the Spirit’s renewal always takes a form like Christ’s and therefore fits within and extends the patterns of his mind in Scripture, two reminders balance this out with remaining freedom for interpretative practice.

First, who raised Christ from the dead so that he could ascend triumphantly as the God-man? The Spirit. Their relationship is not simply asymmetrical in favor of the Son, but always interpenetrating and mutually on the move. Second, what is the form of Christ? Not the form of God given fr…

Calvin on the Internal Witness of the Holy Spirit

John Calvin, Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion (Translated by Ford Lewis Battles; Edited by John T. McNeill; Library of Christian Classics vol. 20-1; Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Press, 1960). “God alone is a fit witness of himself in his Word, so also the Word will not find acceptance in men’s hearts before it is sealed by the inward testimony of the Spirit.” (1.7.4)

“Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearths through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by his power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utte…

Mark Husbands and Hope College

Mark Husbands was my adviser during my time at Wheaton College. He was, at that time, in the midst of completing his dissertation under John Webster on Barth’s ethics of prayer. (I’ve read the MSS, and you will definitely want to pick up a copy when Columbia finally gets around to publishing it.)

Mark is one of those rare teachers of theology who has the inexplicable gift of passing on to his students the joy of studying theology. So, when I heard a number of months ago that he would be leaving Wheaton College this past summer to take up a post at Hope College, I was torn between excitement for Mark and sadness for Wheaton College.

In any case, Hope has published a press release detailing Mark’s new position, giving a quick introduction to his theological work, etc. I recommend that you check it out (all you Wheaties especially) and keep your eye on Mark's scholarship as it continues to blossom.

Barth's 'Evangelical Theology: An Introduction'

Karl Barth, Evangelical Theology: An Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1963).

Quote from the Book: "Theological work can be done only in the indissoluble unity of prayer and study. Prayer without study would be empty. Study without prayer would be blind." (p. 171)

Bonus quote! "A lazy student, even as a theologian, is no student at all!" (ibid.)

This is one of the finest theological works that I have ever come across. For those interested in taking up a study of Karl Barth's theology, this is one of the best places to begin. Based on the lectures he delivered at Princeton Theological Seminary in the 1960s, and edited by himself and his son Marcus, this work is a series of succinct and mature reflections on the task of theology. As usual with Barth, these essays never give one a comfortable place to rest but tirelesly press on towards the ideal of dogmatic theology. Also, these essays never loose their freshness no matter how many times one takes them up…

Martin Luther: A Mighty Fortress

I have been thinking about good hymns lately, and how it is sad that people don't know them better. So, I thought I would post the lyrics of such a hymn from time to time.

While I'm convinced that there are as many bad hymns as there are bad worship songs, if not more, there are a number of excellent hymns that stand heads and tails above even the best worship songs. Their superior musicality, emotive power, and doctrinal heft convince me of this. Indeed, there are hymns that contain doctrinal insight to rival that of the best theology ever produced. The fact that they are falling out of the church's collective memory is something to be deeply regretted as it is one more facet of what at times seems to be a concerted effort to fail catechetically.

Here is the first one: Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God"

==============================A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing;
Our helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing:
For …

Breaking News: Eberhard Busch to Lecture at PTS

That's right! DET is here with the scoop, breaking the story FIRST in the theo-blogosphere!

Eberhard Busch, Barth's last research assistant and renowned interpreter, will lecture at Princeton Theological Seminary on November 8th, 2007. Get the full story from the Barth Center website.

The title of Busch's lecture will be "A Swiss Voice: The Campaign of the Swiss Government Against the Voice of Karl Barth During the Second World War"

I think it is safe to say that the PTS bloggers will bring you multiple takes on this exciting lecture from a world-class Barth scholar.

In new from the wider Barth-scholarship world, Busch will deliver this address again at what Austin Seminary is calling its "first Karl Barth symposium." To be held November 13-15, 2007, the symposium's aim is to invite "pastors to take a closer look at the theological contribution of Karl Barth." Daniel Migliore, Charles Hodge Professor of Systematic Theology here at PTS, wi…

A Spoof on Stewardship

I found this photocopied in my files. It is dated May 15, 1978, and was authored by Kent I. Groff, then pastor of Waynesboro Church in Waynesboro PA. I presume that I photocopied it out of some publication, but I have no idea what that publication may have been. In any case, it's pretty funny and I wanted to share it. If anyone knows who published it, I would be interested in hearing from you. Also, if you hold copyrights to this document and aren't happy that I have posted it, contact me and I will be happy to take it down.

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"A Spoof on Stewardship"

I'd like to give to the church, Lord,
But you see I'm still in diapers,
And I don't have any money of my own.
I'm sure you understand.

I'd like to give to the church, Lord,
But you see I'm just a toddler,
And I haven't learned to count yet.
I'm sure you understand.

I'd like to give to the church, Lord,
But Daddy only gives me a nickel allowance
And 10 percent wo…

Balthasar Blog Conference

Inspired by the great success of DET’s own Karl Barth Blog Conference this past June, David Congdon has announced that he is organizing a blog conference on the work of Hans Urs von Balthasar.

David already has some good plenary posts lined up, and is looking for some more as well as responses to those posts. Be sure to check it out, and – if you know anything about von Balthasar – be sure to participate.

Also, planning for the second annual Karl Barth Blog Conference here at DET is already underway. Stay tuned for more information and for an opportunity to get involved.

TF Torrance on 'Westminster Theology'

Thomas F. Torrance, Scottish Theology: From John Knox to John McLeod Campbell (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1996), 128-130.The overall framework in which this Westminster Theology was expressed derived from seventeenth-century federal theology formulated in sharp contrast to the highly rationalised conception of a sacramental universe in Roman theology, but combined with a similar way of thinking in terms of primary and secondary causes. Moreover, it operated with a medieval conception of the order salutis (reached through various stages of grace leading to union with Christ), which reversed the teaching of Calvin that it is through union with Christ first that we participate in all his benefits. Tied up with the federal theology this gave the Westminster Confession and Catechisms a very legalistic and constitutional character in which theological statements were formalised at times with 'almost frigidly logical definition'.

In line with an increasing tendency in seventeenth-c…

So, You Want to Read John Calvin?

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In the comments thread on my recent post about Martin Luther’s early theological studies, Joshua asked me to recommend some reading on Calvin. As anyone who reads this blog with any frequency is sure to know, I have quite the soft spot for Calvin, and find it hard to turn down any opportunity to point people toward his work and good work about his work. In any case, I thought that I would structure this post in the same was as I did my very successful post entitled, So, You Want to Read Karl Barth?.


I have never read John Calvin before. Which of his books should I read first?

There are three ways to go at this. First, and this is what I personally recommend as best, you can start with Calvin’s famous (and infamous) Institutes of the Christian Religion. There are a few different editions of this out there in English, but the one that I recommend is the McNeil / Battles edition. The Institutes is a good place to start not only because it is the most comprehensive statement of Calvin…