on John Calvin and gratitude.

Some one posted the following on the Pentecostal Theology Worldwide Facebook page:

Calvin’s greatest gifts were as a logician, not a theologian. Oh, that he had been an equally skilled exegete!

a follow up comment was given:

His commentaries were pretty groundbreaking. You can’t limit him to predestination.

Then once again my friend Monte shared.  I know some might think this a biti weird but Monte does good work and I want to share it before it gets lost on Facebook somewhere.  Consider the following:

I also believe that Calvin is another greater Reformation theologian terribly miss-understood and miss-represented by the later Reformed scholastic enterpise. I do not believe that Calvinist doctrines of predestination really define the centre of Calvin’s theology; maybe the centre of later Calvinism, but not Calvin! 

But I am not a “Calvin” expert; I depend on secondary sources! But I feel blessed with a good interpreter of Calvin: the Reformed philosophizer Nicholas Wolterstorff. Wolterstorff consistently argues that the “centre” of Calvin’s theology is “gratitude.” God is king of creation, which he gives to us as “gift.” Our proper response is “gratitude.” Gratitude however, issues in “suffering,” because out of gratitude we partner with God in the reforming of creation back to its original purpose according to God’s decrees. 

I like the way Wolterstorff explains this: 
“Though there are strands in the Reformed tradition for which sovereignty is God’s principal attribute, I don’t think I ever thought of God much in terms of sovereignty [referring to his growing up in the Reformed tradition]. God was majesty for me, indescribable majesty. And graciousness, goodness; God is the one who blesses, blessing calling for gratitude. To be human is to be that point in the cosmos where God’s goodness, is meant to find its answer in gratitude: John Calvin told me that.

Recalling the time when his son tragically died in a mountaineering accident, Wolterstorff then shares: “Now everything was different. Who is this God, looming over me? Majesty? . . . What I saw then was tears, a weeping God, suffering over my suffering. . . . Life eternal doesn’t depend on getting all the questions answered; God is often as much behind the questions as behind the answers. . . 

It moved me deeply to discover one day that John Calvin alone among the classical theologians had written of the suffering of God. . . To wreak injustice on one of one’s fellow human beings, said Calvin, is to wound and injure God; he said that the cry of those who suffer injustice is the cry of God.

There is a grace that has shaped my life. It came to me in the form of being inducted into a tradition of the Christian Church. . . But was it grace I experienced when I heard God saying to me, in the voice of the Palestinians and the South African blacks, you must speak up for these people? . . . And was it grace I experienced when my son was killed?

God is more mysterious than I had thought— the world too. . . . And there’s more to being human than being that point in the cosmos where God’s goodness is meant to find its answer in gratitude. To be human is this: to be that point in the cosmos where the yield of God’s love is suffering.”


Nicholas Wolterstorff, “The Grace that Shaped My Life,” in Hearing the Call: Liturgy, Justice, Church, and World (Eerdmans, 2011), 15-16.

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One response to “on John Calvin and gratitude.

  1. Pingback: Wow – First Presbyterian Church of San Anselmo

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