It was John Calvin's 500th birthday on Friday.... I know he's dead but you know what I mean....If we know anything about Calvin it's likely to have something to do with five points, tulips and predestination (which, actually, isn't a bad start) but I discovered something else about twenty minutes ago whilst catching up on LICC's Connecting with Culture. He really helped us to see the dignity and value of ordinary hard graft. Allow me to quote Graham Tomlin's article:
John Calvin, the famous Genevan Reformer, was born 500 years ago (on Friday). To be frank, the contemporary world finds him a bit of an embarrassment, with his reputation as a serious party-pooper, prosecuting people for dancing at weddings and laughing in church. Under his influence, Geneva was a valiant, yet perhaps unsuccessful, attempt at creating a Christian city – a place where church and state worked together to make holiness of life a real possibility. Nonetheless, his influence looms large over Western society in several key areas.
First, he gave a new dignity to ordinary life and work. Until the Reformation, really serious Christians became either monks or priests. Calvin, on the other hand, argued that the primary way we show love for one another is by working for the good of other people through useful work that contributes to society, which is a the good gift of God. Ordinary secular work was not an unfortunate necessity, a drudgery that all sensible people should try to avoid, but was dignified by becoming the main means of showing our practical concern for others.
Whatever work we do, whether as doctors, bus drivers or teachers, should be seen through the lens of the contribution it makes to the running of a healthy and well-functioning society. As Alistair McGrath put it, 'The Calvinist was encouraged to engage directly with the world rather than to retreat from it.' Calvinists, though sometimes a little dour and serious, certainly were hard-working, dedicated to the good of the common life, rather than purely interested in their own salvation from this world.
Thanks John - and a belated happy birthday!