Category Archives: Calvin

A Major Deadline Every Week

Reading this, this morning and finding myself in a significant amount of pain from a tooth extraction this week, prompted me to think on the following:

When you’re a pastor with responsibility to teach/preach every Sunday (or more frequently even) it is like having a major deadline at work every week. It doesn’t matter what else comes up, how many holidays in the week or how many sick days you have – the next Sunday is still only seven days away.

As I consider this I am stirred to give thanks for:

  1. The external affirmation of my call to pastoral ministry beginning many years ago with the church I grew up in, in the States and further affirmed by other churches where I’ve been privileged to minister over the years. From my time in seminary to this day, especially during hard weeks, I am helped by remembering that going into pastoral ministry wasn’t just an idea I came up with on my own. My church leadership and those within my church family affirmed my desire for ministry and sent me for theological training.
  2. My seminary training. I cannot imagine doing the work of the ministry without the training I received in Greek, Hebrew, Church History, Systematic Theology, Biblical Theology, Hermaneutics, and Exegesis. I am thankful for the courses I had in counselling and preaching as well. But frankly I could have done without those as much of that you learn just by doing ministry. Not one minute of one day of six years of graduate theological education has been wasted. I know there have been many men in the history of the church who have served faithfully without such training, I am just so very thankful I am not one of them!
  3. My wife. I was married in between my first and second semesters of seminary. (After only knowing each other for four months.) Our first 5+ years of marriage was spent with me studying full-time, working full-time, teaching in church (and serving in other areas like creche, and my wife in music), and adding three children to our family! The last 7+ years has been spent serving in various ministry roles and moving all over the world! I cannot imagine ministry, nor do I believe I would still be in ministry, if not for the sacrificial service of my wife.
  4. My pastor in my 20’s. The Lord blessed me beyond description in giving me a pastor during my 20’s, while in Uni and a couple of years after, who modeled and taught me a love for the Word, reading/studying sound theology, how to be a husband & father, & how to shepherd the flock. Related to this post and this past week, I am so thankful for the appetite he gave me for reading sound theology. By God’s grace I have been privileged to build a significant theological library and have continuously read extensively. This was all modeled and encouraged by my pastor. One huge blessing from this, is I am never really “starting from scratch” in preparation. For this I am very thankful.

I am certainly thankful for more, but Sunday is coming, there are people to visit, and preparation to complete! 🙂


2014 Reading Plans as You Plan to Read

I hope your planning to read in 2014. Specifically, I hope you are planning to read your Bible and good theology in 2014.

From my experience, most people won’t do either without a plan.

Here are some helpful plans for you Bible reading:

Just pick one and plan and get started in the New Year. Even if you tried last year and didn’t make it very far, it is worth your time and effort.

Don’t worry yourself about getting through the Bible in one-year. It is far better for the Bible to get through you than for you to get through the Bible. If getting through in a year seems daunting take a plan and follow it over two years. A plan will still help your reading to be systematic.

How about reading some good, solid theology in 2014 as well? I generally try to read a large theological work each year, one that I need to plan and pace myself in so that I can get through it in a year. Yet, similar to the above, without a plan I probably just wouldn’t do it.

You can listen to a seminar I have given on this at our annual Stand for the Gospel Conference – Learning to Read to the Glory of God (notes).

Here is an excerpt:

Francis Bacon, “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested.”

5 pages/day, 5 days/week, 50 weeks/year = 1,250 pages/year = Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology

10 pages/day, 5 days/week, 50 weeks/year = 2,500 pages/year = 2 Vol. Edition of Calvin’s Institutes

15 pages/day, 5 days/week, 50 weeks/year = 1,250 pages/year = 3,750 pages/year = Bavinck’s 4 Vol. Reformed Dogmatics

As a suggestion why not give Calvin’s Institutes a go! If you need some encouragement on why check these links out:

If you don’t already have a copy of this magisterial work here are some suggestions:

Here is a pre-made reading plan for Calvin’s Institutes:


Free Book for a Lady in New Zealand

I have a copy of Simonetta Carr’s latest book Renee of France (part of the Bitesize Biography series) to give away! (See my review here.)

So here goes…

This book will be given to a lady in New Zealand. No, I am not saying the book is only for ladies, I am just trying to be creative with the giveaway! J (Whoever wins the book ought to share it with the men in their life.)

Email me: joe AT howickbaptist DOT org DOT nz

  1. Your name & address where I can post the book
  2. Answer the following questions:
  • Who was Renee’s father?
  • Who was Renee’s husband?
  • Was Renee’s husband Protestant or Catholic?
  • Throughout Renee’s life she struggled with whether it was appropriate to participate in a particular religious activity, sometimes doing so, and sometimes choosing not to; what was this activity?

I will collected all the emails I receive (they must be received by the 21st of March) with correct answers to the above questions and draw a winner on the 22nd of March.


Review: Simonetta Carr’s Renee of France

I am always waiting for the next book to roll off the printing press from Simonetta Carr (Amazon, Author Page, follow her on Twitter). Unlike her Christian Biographies for Young Readers (FB Page) which are beautifully bound books for children covering significant figures from church history, and unlike her Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata which is a more lengthy historical fiction (more historical than fiction: here, here, here, here) novel for older children, Renee of France is a Bitesize Biography written for adults.

Last year I read Weight of Flame to my eldest daughter. In this book we learned or Renee of France (Olympia Morata was part of Renee’s court in Ferrara, Italy in the 1530’s), prior to this I had never heard of Renee. Yet, she corresponded with John Calvin throughout much of her life (up to within the final days of Calvin’s life) – more than any other woman, & met him in person has he visited her court. I had to read this book!

This is certainly a bitesize biography. Each chapter leaves you wanting to know more, yet with a helpful bibliography including original source and language materials you have all you need to dive into more.

Renee of France is written with an engaging flow providing suspense and intrigue, keeping your interest, and yet Simonetta in no way sacrifices clarity and accuracy.

Here are some thoughts I had while reading this, which are perhaps uniquely interesting:

  1. Simonetta is concerned not only with historical facts, but also theology and doctrine. She writes a biography of a significant figure in Reformation history, but in the account of her life she addresses many key doctrines that were under attack at that time.
  2. Simonetta has carefully considered the implications of Renee’s life and her struggles to our lives today. You read an account of a woman who lived 500 years ago and yet you can see how we wrestle with many of the same struggles (doctrine and practice) today. In the final chapter, Simonetta takes the time to address these areas directly.
  3. The subject of this book, Renee of France, provided a unique opportunity to peer into the life and pastoral care of John Calvin as Simonetta wove quotes and allusions to their longstanding correspondence throughout the book.
  4. This book is a helpful addition to a dearth of sound resources on the women God has used through the history of His church. We have been so blessed to have many helpful books written on men throughout church history, yet this can, at times, lead to the impression that women were uninvolved. This is far from true and Renee of France demonstrates this with helpful clarity.

This book isn’t just for women to read! It is for anyone. I believe any Christian would be blessed & challenged by the life of Renee of France. (You can read Carl Trueman’s review here.)


The Legacy of John Calvin: His Influence on the Modern World

I just finished reading:

The Legacy of John Calvin: His Influence on the Modern World


Description: David Hall identifies 10 seminal ways that Calvin’s thought transformed the culture of the West, complete with a nontechnical biography of Calvin and tributes by other leaders. The Legacy of John Calvin is brief enough for popular audiences and analytical enough to provide much information in a short space.
Table of Contents: PDF
Sample Chapters: PDF

Ten Ways Modern Culture is Different Because of John Calvin
1. Education: The Academy
2. Care for the Poor: The Bourse
3. Ethics and Interpretation of the Moral Law: The Decalogue
4. Freedom of the Church: The Company of Pastors
5. Collegial Governing: The Senate
6. Decentralized Politics: The Republic
7. Parity among All Professions: The Doctrine of Vocation
8. Economics and Profit: The Invisible Hand
9. Music in the Vernacular: The Psalter
10. The Power of Publishing Ideas: The Genevan Presses
11. Epilogue
John Calvin: A Life Worth Knowing
1. Calvin’s Life
2. Calvin’s Friendships
3. Calvin’s Death
4. Epilogue: Humility
Tributes: Measuring a Man after Many Generations
1. Baptists
2. Anglicans
3. Independents
4. Methodists
5. Roman Catholic

”At least an elementary grasp of Calvin is essential to any well-informed self-understanding of Western democracy – indeed, for modernity itself. Unfortunately, many remain unaware of the signal contribution that the leadership of Calvin has made to open societies. We may even credit Calvin’s Reformation with aiding the spread of participatory democracy. Even if this heritage no longer holds a place of honor in our textbooks or in our public tradition, we owe our Calvinistic forefathers a large debt of gratitude for their efforts to establish limited government and personal liberty grounded in virtue. A single man with heart aflame changed the world.” (pg. 38)

This is a brief book – only 112 pages. However, it provides a excellent overview of Calvin’s life and ministry.

More importantly (and quite unique for a book of this length) is offers a helpful (and I would assume surprising to many) description of how Calvin’s thoughts and practices have influenced nearly every part of Western society.


Dissertation Research Sites

Dr. Rod Decker has accumulated a very helpful list for those of us involved in Dissertation Research:

Dissertation Research Sites

Dissertation Research Sites

Here is a VERY helpful list of sources for tracking down dissertations worldwide. It was compiled by a librarian, Tayna Bekcan-Feddernon, on the LIBREF-L discussion list with help of other librarians in that group.

I have not personally checked all these sources yet. If any have incorrect URLs or are inappropriate, let me know. And if you are aware of other such options, please add that in a comment.

Free Dissertation/Thesis Search Sites

Abes: Agence Bibliographique de l’Enseignement Superieur (from France)

Australian Digital Theses Program

Caltech theses

Center for Research Libraries foreign dissertations
University of Chile, provides access to 27,000 etheses from 35 world universities

DART-Europe E-theses Portal (DEEP)
European Working Group of the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD). Access to 106,000 doctoral theses.

Doctoral Dissertations in Musicology
This is an international database of citations for dissertations in musicology that contains over 12,000 records. Dissertations are from approximately 1950 to the present. (This is probably more appropriate for a public or music library.)

Digital Library and Archives Digital Library and Archives allows searching for citations and abstracts of over 6,700 theses and dissertations. Free full-text access is provided for over 4,500 of these items.

Directory of Dissertations in Progress
“The Directory contains 3,804 dissertations in progress at 170 academic departments in Canada and the U.S.” This is a citation database of dissertations in progress in the area of history.

Dissertation Express
Online version of Dissertation Abstracts from UMI Proquest. Good for US theses. It’s free to search the database. To order full text costs $34 each. Digital Dissertations is a subset comprising all dissertations in the Dissertation Abstracts database with a degree date of the current and previous year. It’s easier to search and browse and you also get 24 page previews before you buy. has just a few hundred dissertations and theses in its collection, but the site allows free, full-text access to the first twenty-five pages of each item.

Electronic Theses and Dissertations (UVa)


E-Theses (from Finland)

Full text of theses from the British Library. This is running in beta at the moment

Le Fichier central des thèses (French dissertations in progress)

Index to Theses
(Subscription database)

M.I.T. Theses

Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations (NDLTD)
NDLTD provides access to citations from thousands of digital dissertations and theses that are in PDF format. A significant number of these resources are freely available in full-text and can be viewed online.

OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center

PhdData: The Universal Index of Dissertations in Progress
PhdData has citations from several thousand dissertations in progress from various parts of the world.

Registry of Open Access Repositories (ROAR)

RIM: Research in Ministry Online
“RIM® Online is a freely available database that indexes DMin and DMiss projects from reporting schools of theology accredited by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada. Indexing began in 1981.”

Rutgers Electronic Theses & Dissertations (RUetd)

TEL: thèses en ligne

Theses Canada Portal
Theses Canada provides access to bibliographic citations for all the theses in the National Library of Canada Theses Collection. Access to full-text theses is available for all items published between January 1, 1998 to August 31, 2002.

Thèses de l’Université de Lyon 2

TREN: Theological Research Exchange Network
TREN provides citations to 6,800 theological theses/dissertations and conference papers. Items can then be purchased through this site. The opening page actually states that they have 10,000 theses/dissertations, but the search page allows searching of 6,800 items.
[Note: I am quite sure that TREN has nowhere near 10,000 theses and dissertations; most of these are papers from various conferences, though they do have some theses and dissertations. RD]

University of Miami Electronic Theses & Dissertations

Vidyanidhi: Digital Library and E-Scholarship Portal (from India) (free searching) The advanced search screen allows you to limit by Content to Thesis/Dissertation. Here is the link:


The Wall Street Journal Comments on Calvin500

Calvin’s Legacy: Dour Autocrat or Democracy’s Hero?


WestminsterOnline – YouTube

Some excellent short videos on YouTube by Westminster Seminary. Check out the ones on Calvin.


Calvin500 – Summary

This week in Geneva there have been:

  1. 15 evening sermons
  2. 16 academic papers
  3. 4 academic Keynote addresses
  4. 6 Young Calvin Scholar Papers
  5. One Geneva Lake Boat Cruise
  6. One Calvin-Walking Tour
  7. One Banquet
  8. Little sleep
  9. Good food
  10. Great coffee
  11. Wonderful fellowship
  12. Encouraging time in the Word
  13. Challenging time for the mind and heart
  14. Wonderful times via Skype with Mandy and the kids
  15. Little sleep

Tomorrow at 6am I will board a train for Zurich to begin my long trip home:

  1. 3 hour train from Geneva to Zurich
  2. 13 hour plane from Zurich to Singapore
  3. 15 hours in Singapore visiting with a friend of ours
  4. 8 hour plane to Brisbane
  5. 4 hour plane to Auckland
  6. 1 hour plane to Napier

Approx. total travel time: 44 hours!

I am so looking forward to being home!




Calvin500 – Day #5 – Final Day

Today started in a slow crawl. Wow am I exhausted.

After my normal breakfast and walk to The Cathedral, it was time for four more papers and a Keynote address…

Paper #1 was from Dr. Andrew McGowan: “John Calvin’s Doctrine of Scripture.”


Unless we understand Calvin’s doctrine of Scripture we will have a hard time understanding his theology in other areas.

Calvin had a high view of Scripture and did not believe there were errors in Scripture. However, it would be anachronistic to call him an inerrantist.

Unlike the American use of the term inerrancy, Calvin was at the head of 500 years of the European tradition of infalliblity. “The Scriptures are without error and they cannot fail to fill God’s desired purpose.”

This is a very controversial topic and one that is hotly debated between the US and the rest of the world. I am not saying I agree or disagree with McGowan at this point, just summarizing his statements.

Paper #2 was from Dr. Michael Horton: “Union and Communion: Rediscovering Calvin’s Eucharistic Theology.”

Dr. Horton serves as the editor of Modern Reformation which I subscribe to and look forward to getting each issue! Although, like I told him, but the time I get my copy in New Zealand the rest of the Internet has already been blogging about it for weeks! I sat with Dr. Horton at the banquet in the afternoon as well. It was great to get to know him a bit personally and chat a bit about theology. When I asked him if he had children he answered, “Yes, four, one 9 year old and three 6 year old!” Yes, that’s right triplets. He said this is the longest he has been away from his family since they were born. He confirmed the blessing adding to your quiver in multiples, and at the same time the tremendous challenge as well!


Ok, to be honest, at this point I was standing most of the time to just not fall asleep. It had nothing to do with Dr. Horton, but everything to do with exhaustion, so my notes are a bit scarce.

Essentially, Calvin’s ecclesiology grows out of his Eucharistic theology.

He also presented an interesting question which needs some thought on my part, “Is the church instrumental in the ongoing redemption of the world or the ambassadors proclaiming the redemption?”

Paper #3 was from Dr. Henri Blocher: “Calvin and Divine Election”


Today was the day for more controversial papers!

Calvin was not the first or only Reformer to hold to the doctrine of divine election.

St. Augustine was the first of the church fathers to articulate this doctrine.

Thomas Aquinas started as semi-pelagian but changed his view to agree with Augustine’s.

Divine election should not be one’s central doctrine, but should flow from one’s doctrine of Divine Majesty (Holiness of God/Glory of God) and Human Depravity.

He then gave three area of controversy:

1. The relationship between election & justice

There is no arbitrariness to God’s choosing. His choice is always consistent with His justice.

Calvin does not attempt to answer all apparent contradictions, i.e. how can God be good, loving, righteous and yet condemn people to hell? We must stop where revelation stops and bow down to divine majesty.

2. The Lapsarian Controversy.

This is very technical so whoever reads this, if you don’t get concerned, just skip over it or ask me about it later…

The question is what is the place of God’s electing in His plan/council in relation to the Fall?

Supra-lapsarian => God chose to elect before He decreed/ordained the Fall

Infra-lapsarian => God ordained/decreed the Fall and then chose to elect some who fell.

Majority of Calvinists were Infra and have read Calvin as such.

Dr. Blocher was arguing for Calvin as Supra…

3. Double Predestination

The idea that God, in the same way, predestines some to be saved and others to be damned.

Dr. Blocher was very direct with this…

”In using predestination in the same sense for both the saved and the reprobate, Calvin went beyond Scripture. This was unusual for Calvin, but it is clear you do not find the use of this term, this way in Scripture. So being a true Calvinist I am differing with Calvin in favour with Scripture!”

Paper #4 was from Dr. Jae Sung Kim: “Calvinism in Asia”

Dr, Kim lives in Korea where he teaches systematic theology.


He delivered a fascinating and encouraging paper on the history and missionary expansion throughout Asia.

As he pointed out most of the early missionaries to Asia (and most of the world for that matter) were committed Calvinists. There committed to God’s sovereignty spurred them on to go into all the world and proclaim Christ.

He gave an overview of India/China, Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia.

This was an important presentation, in my option, as Calvinism is often seen as a Western idea. (There are not more Calvinistic Evangelicals in Korea that anywhere else in the world!) In addition it, once again, refuted the claim that Calvinism and mission is incompatible – it is, in fact just the opposite!

Today’s Keynote address was from Dr. Bruce McCormack: “Union with Christ in Calvin’s Theology: Grounds for a Divinization Theory?”

Dr. McCormack teaches at Princeton Seminary and is an expert on Karl Barth.

Ok, I was unable to take notes and listen to this one. I will have to wait for the book!

After the final paper we went to the closing Banquet.



At the banquet, Geoff Thomas gave some closing remarks on “What I have learned from John Calvin & Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones.” Pastor Thomas was then given a “Lifetime Achievement Award” for faithful pastor ministry.

The food was fantastic! The restaurant was packed. There were a lot of announcements and other things for those who were on the tour and were departing tomorrow, but all in all it was a good time.

Tonight at The Cathedral there were three more sermons delivered:

Rev. Ted Donnelly: “More Than Conquerors” – Rom. 8:37

Dr. Hywel Jones: “One of a Thousand” – Job 36:1-4

Dr. Derek Thomas: “Adoring the Majesty of God” Rom 11:33-35

I did not attend any of this final sessions.

I came back to the hostel in the afternoon to wash clothes and pack and it has taken me all day to get my clothes washed and dried. I now need to pack and I have to be on a train for Zurich by 6am in the morning.

1 Comment

Posted by on 09/07/2009 in Calvin, Calvin500, Conferences

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