Calvin at 500
Who is the man behind the hype? This is what a two-day conference in May aimed to find out, as it explored the life, work and faith of John Calvin.
Nearly 60 delegates – a mixture of ministers and laity – attended the conference organised and hosted by the Reformed Theological College (RTC) in Knockbracken, Belfast.
The conference looked at the impact on and relevance of Calvinistic teaching for the church today. Delegates were encouraged to think not just about the contribution of Calvin to Christian theology, but about the God he so delighted to magnify and serve.
Four professors each delivered a paper that sought to divorce the false celebrity of Calvin from the reality of Calvin’s faith and lifelong work for the sake of the gospel.
Robert McCollum, professor of pastoral theology and homiletics, dealt with Calvin as a pastor – a side of Calvin often lost through caricature. He focussed on Calvin’s deep love and care for his flock. Norris Wilson, professor of Old Testament, spoke on Calvin as a preacher of the OT, drawing attention to Calvin’s thorough coverage of the OT in his preaching.
Edward Donnelly, professor of New Testament and college principal, began with the startling claim that Calvin has more to teach us about worship than anyone since the apostles. He substantiated this by examining worship in Geneva as it developed under Calvin.
David McKay, professor of systematic theology, apologetics and ethics, spoke on Calvin’s missionary theology, highlighting how little has been written on this. Richard Gamble, professor of systematic theology at the seminary of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, gave four keynote addresses.
He highlighted two of the five points of Calvinism (irresistible grace and the perseverance of the saints), spoke of Calvin as a ‘New Testament exegete’, and examined Calvin on spirituality.
Most of the conference papers will appear in November’s Reformed Theological Journal (www.rpc.org).