Institutes of the Christian Religion

Monday, January 7, starts our 12 month journey through Institutes of the Christian Religion. I am looking forward to being challenged in my walk with Christ by this remarkable work that has been challenging its readers for over 500 years.

In the introduction to the McNeill-Battles two volume edition, it is noted that Calvin wrote this work not as a summa theologiae but a summa pietatis — that is, a sum of all piety not a sum of all theology. Calvin’s theology flowed from his piety. Piety, a word that has lost its historic full meaning, was an honest word, it was a praiseworthy dutifulness or faithful devotion to one’s family, country or God. Piety, Calvin states, is a prerequisite for any sound knowledge of God.

Need another reason to read Institutes? This from the introduction.

Perhaps no other theological work has so consistently retained for four centuries (now five) a place on the reading list of studious Christians. In a wider circle, its title has been familiar, and vague ideas of its content have been in circulation. It has, from time to time, called forth an extensive literature of controversy. It has been assailed as presenting a harsh, austere, intolerant Christianity and so perverting the gospel of Christ, and it has been admired and defended as an incomparable exposition of Scriptural truth and a bulwark of evangelical faith. Even in times when it was least esteemed, its influence remained potent in the life of active churches and in the habits of men. To man Christians whose worship was proscribed under hostile governments, this book has supplied the courage to endure. Wherever in the crises of history social foundations are shaken and men’s hearts quail, the pas of this classic are searched with fresh respect. In our generation, when most theological writers are schooled in the use of methods, and of a terminology, widely differing from those employed by Calvin, this masterpiece continues to challenge intensive study, and contributes a reviving impulse to thinking in the areas of Christian doctrine and social duty.

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