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Selderhuis, Herman J.
Calvinus Praeceptor Ecclesiae. Papers of the International Congress on Calvin Research.
Princeton, August 2024, 2002. Genève: Droz 2004. 364 S. 4° = Travaux d¹Humanisme et Renaissance, 388. Lw. SFr 100,00. ISBN 2-600-00851-9.
Willem van ¹t Spijker
This volume contains the texts of the lectures and seminars presented at the eighth International Congress on Calvin Research, held in Princeton in 2002. It is dedicated to Wilhelm H. Neuser, who, as its first secretary, had been the stimulating force behind the Congress since 1974. His successor, Herman J. Selderhuis, has edited the present volume. It reflects current research, as it was discussed by more than 100 participants at the conference.
Elsie McKee (who played an important role in the organisation of the Congress) gave a paper, »Calvin and His Colleagues as Pastors: Some New Insights into the Collegial Ministry of Word and Sacraments«. This was based on detailed research of the archives, and shows that both preaching and pastoral care in Geneva were characterised by teamwork, ðpastoral rotationÐ. The underlying vision was that of a ministry at the service of the congregation and its organisation. The ministers shared a ðcorporate responsibility for the whole churchÐ.
Jeffrey R. Watt, in »Childhood and Youth in the Geneva Consistory Minutes«, details the care for the education of children, taking as his point of departure the meaning of the sacrament of baptism. His paper shows how problems related to youth are of all ages, and often are related to generational conflict.
»Methodology in Discussion of ðCalvin and CalvinismÐ« by Christoph Strohm is a thorough discussion of fundamental issues including that of the relation between Reformation and Reformed Orthodoxy. The sources on which Strohm draws are wide, involving disciplines other than theology, such as ethics and philosophy, and especially law and legal argumentation. The result is a view of Calvinism as a comprehensive cultural milieu, within which Ramism and Aristotelianism can be seen as variations.
Max Engammare, in »D¹une forme l¹autre: commentaires et sermons de Calvin sur la Genèse«, examines Calvin¹s biblical commentaries and his sermons, the main difference being the brevitas of the first and the abundantia of the latter. Engammare characterises Calvin¹s sermons as ðhomilétique de la crainte de DieuÐ. In both commentary and sermon the biblical text is always the primary focus. Since 1550, however, this is combined, in Calvin¹s sermons, with a new element, when, addressed especially at refugees, they come to contain a confessional component.
Cornelis Augustijn, Christoph Burger and Frans P. van Stam, at the Free University of Amsterdam, have been working on an edition of Calvin¹s Letters. Under the title »Calvin in the Light of his Early Letters« they present the Letters¹ importance, for example showing Calvin¹s relations with his friends, especially Grynaeus, Bullinger and Farel.
Calvin¹s anthropology is the subject of Christan Link, in »Finalität des Menschen«, the title indicating its perspective. Link draws from Calvin¹s paragraphs on the meditatio futurae vitae in which the reformer developed his view of man as the image of God as ðBeziehungswirklichkeitÐ, in which man¹s existence is realised here and now. This does not refer to a time of origin, or on the other hand, to an eschatological moment, but to the present, in which the imago Dei is at stake.
»Calvin¹s Last Years« is the subject of Robert M. Kingdon¹s contribution. He emphasizes the exegetical background of Calvin¹s view on the church council, as explained in his lectures and in the Institutio. The foundation of the Geneva Academy, far from being an isolated affair, was related to what was Calvin¹s enduring theme and desire in his last years, to spread the Gospel in France. Kingdon concludes with an issue that has been raised at almost every Congress: the need for a scholarly Calvin-biography. Parts of such a biography have often been on the Congress program. A comprehensive view, in which the reformer¹s biography and his theology are integrated, can be assembled from the combined contributions of the eight Congresses convened so far.
Apart from the seven main lectures summarised here, the volume also presents the texts of the 11 seminars held during the same Congress in Princeton. Most of these texts contain material discussed in small groups, and recommendations for further research. Victor E. d¹Assonville Jr, analysing the correlation between the concepts of dogma and doctrina, concludes that while in the concept of dogma the human element matters very much, in doctrina what predominates is the aspect of preaching; doctrine thus refers not to some fixed teaching, but to preaching as act. Wim Janse presents a series of texts that might be attributed to Calvin, A. Lasco, and Beza: the Optima ineundae concordiae ratio, published twice in the Calvini Opera, once as written by Calvin, later as the work of A Lasco. Beza, it turns out, was also to some extent involved in this work. Janse has published the texts he found in Geneva as an appendix; his contribution is the fruit of detailed and still ongoing research. A. N. S. Lane presented his research on texts related to the religious conference at Regensburg in 1541, especially about Calvin¹s view on the consensus reached concerning the matter of justification by faith, an issue of enduring interest. Lane relates Calvin¹s ideas about a duplex gratia (as indicating the connection between justification and sanctification) to the formulation used in Regensburg of the duplex iustitia; Calvin thought of iustitia as one of the fruits of the renovatio. This enabled him to agree with the consensus achieved in Regensburg on this matter, even while admitting that a clearer explanation was needed.
The subjects discussed at the remaining seminars will only be mentioned briefly. Jae Sung Kim presented material on the significance of prayer in Calvin¹s soteriology. Barbara Pitkin analysed similarities and differences between Calvin¹s and Melanchton¹s ideas on poenitentia. Wilhelmus H. Th. Moehn compared Calvin¹s commentary with his sermons on Acts 7:16, focussing on the role of Abraham as ðFather of the Church of GodÐ. Christian Grosse examined the importance of Calvin¹s liturgical arrangements from the perspective of his ideas about worship ðin spirit and in truthÐ. Mihály Márkus discussed a letter of Calvin to Sigismund August II of Poland, which has been included in Calvin¹s Commentary on Hebrews (1549). E. A. de Boer gave an explanation of the procedures at the ðcongregationsÐ in Geneva. Irena Backus conducted a seminar on Calvin¹s knowledge of the Greek language and Greek philosophy. Randall C. Zachman drew attention to the contrasting approach, between Calvin and Beza, when it came to questions of the ðcertainty of faithÐ, an issue related to that of ðpractical syllogismÐ.
The broad range of topics discussed at this Congress shows that, far from being exhausted, there remain issues enough for further study of the Geneva reformer. That so many scholars study Calvin and with much enthusiasm report on their studies promises a continuing and lively future for Calvin Research.