Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Calvinistic response to compassionate ministry

Good article:

Far from being hindered by theology, the ministry of mercy is furthered by theology, properly understood. Consider the story of Calvin’s Geneva. Prior to the Reformation, the city was infamous for its immorality. Among its common vices were drunkenness, disorderly conduct, gambling, and prostitution. On occasion Genevans had been known to run naked through the streets singing vulgar songs. Unfair business practices were common.

When the Reformation came to Geneva, the city’s Council of Two Hundred passed civic ordinances that were designed to promote the Protestant religion and restrain public indecency. Yet the Council quickly discovered that laws alone made little difference; what was needed was a change of heart. There would be no social transformation without biblical proclamation.

So the Council decided to do something that no city council would even think of doing today: they hired a theologian, John Calvin. The way Calvin reformed Geneva was simply by preaching the Bible, teaching the great doctrines of the Christian faith. Calvin preached verse by verse, chapter by chapter, and book by book. He preached five, six, seven times a week. And he preached what people eventually called Calvinism: the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners.

The result was not just that people came to Christ and grew in grace, but that the whole urban environment was transformed by the practical application of gospel mercy. Taverns were closed, reducing alcoholism. Sewers were cleaned, eliminating illness. The refugees that were streaming to Geneva from all over Europe were offered Christian hospitality. Deacons were organized to care for the poor. A job program was developed in the clothing industry. Schools were opened, not just for boys, but also for girls. One visitor said that under the teaching of sound doctrine, with its faithful application in practical mercy, the city of Geneva had become “the wonderful miracle of the whole world.”

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At 9:22 AM, Anonymous Chuck said...

I applaud this post on your blog given that you're Wesleyan, but as an earlier post you made showed, Wesley and Calvin had great similarities just as Wesley and his Calvinist brother in revival Whitfield. Spurgeon's work too was noted for its emphasis on compassion. He uttered this biblical paraphrase of the confrontation on Mt. Carmel "Let the God who answers by orphanages - let Him be God."

Today, all the social structures we consider compassionate and "the government's work" or "secular medicine's work" derived from Christian ministry that has now coopted them for their purposes.

At 9:29 AM, Anonymous Chuck @ Mission Lawrence said...

I also love the "Hour of Holiness" from WTS!


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