Friday, December 19, 2008
Next year is the 500th anniversary of the birth of the Genevan theologian and reformer, John Calvin. Love him or loath him, Calvin is one of the main figures in the history of Christian thought. In my opinion, engagement with the thought of Calvin is a rich and profitable experience. His magnum opus, the Institutes of Christian Religion, was written and rewritten throughout his ministry. Aimed at theological students preparing for ministry, it is pastoral in its aims.
Here is a two page PDF file, which if you print it out folds into a neat daily reading guide for 2009. Follow it daily and you will read through the entire Institutes in 2009. What better way to kickstart your theological reflection in the new year? As Karl Barth wrote to a friend when he was lecturing on Calvin, ' I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin.' That may be a bit excessive - but a few minutes each day for a year would not hurt.
PS You will need to buy a copy of Battle's edition of Institutes. It is available on Amazon
Thursday, December 04, 2008
This week I preached at the CICCU carol service. A really exciting opportunity to share the claims of Jesus with a large number of Cambridge students. John 1 is a tricky passage to preach on - it is like an overture to an opera, and one is left thinking what on earth can you leave out in order to deal with it!
One thing that may be worth reflecting on. At the end of this sermon I invite people to pray and become Christians. It has been pointed out to me that a lot of evangelistic speakers now are shying away from doing that at the end of a talk. I have downloaded a number of evangelistic sermons and it is the case - many speakers offer a general prayer 'Help us to understand these things', or encourage listeners to attend a course, or to buy a book or to talk to a friend. All perfectly fair things to mention. Still, I confess to being a bit concerned that many are unwilling to actually pray and lead people to commit their lives to the Lord.
It is difficult to exposit a passage so that one can pray such a prayer, but it seems to me to be of the essence of evangelistic expository preaching. It impresses upon people the reality, urgency, need and nature of crying out to be saved. I wonder why people are not aiming for such prayers so often now?
Here is the sermon if you want to have a listen: