Robinson on (Not) Reading John Calvin

I find it curious that frequently the most ardent opponents of Calvinism are those who have read John Calvin the least.  Justin Taylor recently had a nice post on reading through the Institutes in one year, which you can find here.  It reminded me of an observation Marilynne Robinson made in the Introduction to The Death of Adam, a collection of essays on modern thought.

     “In several of the essays in this book I talk about John Calvin, a figure of the greatest historical consequence, especially for our culture, who is more or less entirely unread.  Learned-looking books on subjects to which he is entirely germane typically do not include a single work of his immense corpus in their bibliographies, nor indicate in their allusions to him a better knowledge than folklore can provide of what he thought and said.  I have encountered an odd sort of social pressure as often as I have mentioned him.  One does not read Calvin.  One does not think of reading him.  The prohibition is more absolute than it ever was against Marx, who always had the glamour of the subversive or the forbidden about him.  Calvin seems to be neglected on principle.  This is interesting.  It is such a good example of the oddness of our approach to history, and to knowledge more generally, that it bears looking into.  Everything always bears looking into, astonishing as that fact is.”

There is so much talk about Calvin, but so little study of his work.  Make reading the Institutes one of your priorities in 2012.  Let’s fix the problem 🙂


About C. M. Granger

I'm a firm believer in God's sovereignty, man's responsibility, and a gracious orthodoxy. I love the Puritans and the Reformers, but I don't believe our understanding of theology reached it's zenith in the 16th and 17th centuries. I love the Reformed Creeds and Confessions, but I'm not a strict confessionalist. I'm Reformed in my soteriology (I'm a moderate Calvinist), but not in the historical sense of the term (I'm a Baptist). Some of my favorite theologians/commentators are Kevin Vanhoozer, John Frame, D.A. Carson, Thomas Schreiner, Andreas Kostenberger, Peter O'Brien, David Peterson, Douglas Moo, and GK Beale. The list of dead theologians/commentators would be too long to list here. I think it's important to read widely, to read primary sources for yourself, and to accurately represent the positions of those whom you oppose. I believe it's imperative to have a proper balance between systematic and bibilical theology. I try to never make a round verse fit into the square hole of a theological system.
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