Calvin’s Legacy

Posted On July 22, 2016

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College and chief academic officer of Ligonier Ministries, participated in a Google Hangout on the legacy of the Reformer John Calvin on July 8. He was joined by Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III, chancellor of Reformed Theological Seminary, and Dr. W. Robert Godfrey, president of Westminster Seminary California, who was participating from Geneva while on Ligonier’s Rhine River Cruise.

With Calvin’s birthday on July 10 and the five-hundredth anniversary of the start of the Reformation coming next year, Drs. Nichols, Duncan, and Godfrey reflected on Calvin’s legacy, in particular his essay The Necessity of Reforming the Church. Calvin’s writings, they agreed, are clear and rich, and they are helpful for understanding church history, knowing Scripture, and facing down the evils in the world today.

Calvin especially had much to say about the church. He hadn’t planned to be a pastor, but in answering this call, he realized that it entailed more than preaching sermons. To pastor a people means helping the gospel to take root in their heart and lives. Still, Calvin did emphasize the importance of preaching, and he preached with passion. “So intense was his preaching that [Calvin] burst a blood vessel,” Dr. Nichols said. Dr. Godfrey pointed out that Calvin never divorced the Christian from the church. Worship and salvation were just as important to him as the sacraments and church government were.

One lesson to be learned from Calvin is that as Christians, we should always strive to faithfully follow the biblical patterns of Scripture. Dr. Duncan said, “Calvin believed you lose the soul of the church [salvation and worship] if the body isn’t functioning according to God’s Word [the sacraments and government].”

Drs. Nichols, Duncan, and Godfrey were unanimous in saying that the Reformation is not over. The church is reformed, and will continue to be reformed according to the Word of God.