Friday, August 23, 2013

John Calvin: Faith and Hope, Inseparable Companions

John Calvin
We could call John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion a theological treatise—and it is—but the word "treatise" makes me think stodgy, boring, and lifeless. So, for that matter, do "institutes" and "religion."

But once you get past the old-fashioned language of the translations, the Institutes is nothing like that. Let me show you.

Faith, writes Calvin, is "a firm persuasion of the truth of God—a persuasion that it can never be false, never deceive, never be in vain." And hope? "[H]ope is nothing more than the expectation of those things which faith previously believes to have been truly promised by God."

"Thus," he continues,
Faith believes that God is true;
Hope expects that in due season he will manifest his truth. 
Faith believes that he is our Father;
Hope expects that he will always act the part of a Father towards us.  
Faith believes that eternal life has been given to us;
Hope expects that it will one day be revealed.  
Faith is the foundation on which hope rests;
Hope nourishes and sustains faith. 
The words are Calvin's; the formatting is mine. These sentences are found in the middle of one of his long, dense paragraphs. I think of this as a piece of hidden devotional poetry.

Can you see Calvin's heart? His love for God? His love for his fellow believers, too?

[Quoting from Book 3, Chapter 2, Section 42. You'll find the Institutes online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library, or better yet, buy a real book.]


  1. This is great! It's like parallelism in the psalms.

  2. I'm reading the Institutes very, very slowly. I am still struck with how readable and devotional it is. Good stuff.