Monday, October 24, 2005

More Calvin than I thought

It's been a busy few months getting these Carts going, and now that they're going, we've got to figure out whether they're going anywhere or not.

But in the margins, I've been reading Christ, Baptism and the Lord's Supper, by Leonard J. Vander Zee (a Christian Reformed pastor). I picked it up because Kellsey and I have been thinking about the second in that list since Kellsey was pregnant.

I've thoroughly enjoyed the book, cover to cover, and highly recommend it. In particular, I think it does an excellent job in articulating the differences between Reformed Traditions of Calvin and Zwingli. Baptists are in the Zwinglian Stream, all other Reformed folks are in the Calvinian Stream, except for where they've been influcenced by the Zwinglian stream, which is pretty much everywhere in America. (Didn't use the heavily and unhelpfully freighted adjective "Calvinist" on purpose, thank you.)

These are two wholly different theological paradigms for looking at the world (and, by extension, baptism and the Lord's Supper), but Vander Zee also brings them together in, you guessed it, the Lord Jesus Christ, the One True Sacrament. (All you InterVarsity Staff lurkers who are reading this will hear Calvin-Barth-Torrance-Deddo bells ringing now.)

Among the many, many thoughts that zipped around in my head as I read this one was: Dang, but the more I read of Calvin (he shows up alot in this book), the more I really really like him, and discover that Karl Barth and T.F. Torrance are very thorough students of Calvin and follow him very closely. In fact, I am discovering that my stream of theology (Reformulated Reformed Theology, as my professor once called it), is actually quite Calvinian. One might say that Calvin, in my eyes, is rescuing himself from the Calvinists who utterly turned me off of him.

Funny how I've had to back into really liking Calvin from a starting point of really liking Karl Barth. Who, in turn, I had to back into liking from starting out with T.F. Torrance & Sons.

Anyway, back to the book: Communion has, for a long time, been my favorite part of Church. I mean, if I could take Communion every Sunday, I would. I thought that perhaps I was a closet Orthodox or Anglo or Roman Catholic (and perhaps I still am) for thinking something very special was happening at Communion and that it was the highest point of any service. But, lo and behold, I find that Calvin thought the same thing and for much better reasons than I. There sure is a great deal of room here in the Reformed Theology Tent. I am grateful for this.

Other streams of thought which sprung up during the reading of the book (and in no particular order): Modern Evangelicalism has some strong leanings towards the Gnostics and their anti-flesh/world beliefs - I think this is a correct assessment; Many Dyed-in-the-wool Presbyterians are more Anabaptist in their approaches to Baptism & the Lord's Supper than they are Calvinist; A solidly Trinitarian Theology is absolutely essential in making sense of the Scriptures that surround Baptism & the Lord's Supper; A solidly Chalcedonian view of Christ (One Person, Two Natures) is essential in making sense of them as well.

This is a great book for those who are interested in Baptism & the Lord's Supper as well as those who are interested in continuing reading in the Athanasius-Augustine-Calvin-Barth-Torrance Theological stream (you know who you are).

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