Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Legacy of John Calvin

I've just begun David Hall's little book written for Calvin's 500th birthday called The Legacy of John Calvin. His book gives 10 ways modern culture is different because of John Calvin:
1. Education
Others had tried for some time and failed, but Calvin was successful in establishing a university in Geneva which for the first time brought education to more than just the aristocratic elite.

2. Care For the Poor
Calvin established a mercy ministry called The Bourse Francaise, which was involved in housing orphans, the elderly and other incapacitated people.

3. Ethics and Interpretation of the Moral Law
Calvin's interpretation of the Ten Commandments as ethical pillars was widely influential for generations of character development.

4. Freedom of the Church
Calvin sought to free the church of state or other hierarchical interference.

5. Collegial Governing: The Senate

Calvin argued for limitation of government and the place of divine sovereignty over human government. Calvin felt Jethro's advice to Moses came from God and was worth using as a model.

6. Decentralised Politics: The Republic
Calvin's early republican mechanism prevented consolidation of all government power into a single council. It predated Montesquieu's doctrine of the separation of powers by two centuries. Calvin's political system was daringly democratic and provided checks and balances, separation of powers, election by the residents, and other elements of the federal structure that would later be copied as one of Geneva's finest exports.

7. Parity Among All Professions: The Doctrine of Vocation
The sacredness of ordinary vocations. After Calvin, one could be called to medicine, law or education just as a clergyman was called to serve the church. Calvin taught that any area of work had dignity and could be a valid calling from God. This was a radical change in worldview.

8. Economics and Profit: The Invisible Hand.
Geneva became a bustling centre of trade and commerce under Calvin. Wherever Calvinism spread, so did a love for free markets and capitalism. But Calvin was careful to point otu that material success was not necessarily a sign that one was one of the elect.

9. Music in the Vernacular: The Psalter

One of Calvin's early initiatives was to translate music designed for public worship into the language of the day. The singing of Psalms in their own languages enabled Protestants to confess their beliefs.

10. The Power of Publishing Ideas: The Genevan Presses
If Martin Luther seized on the potential of the printing press, Calvin and his followers elevated the use of the press into an art form.

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