Institutionalized

Keith and I were talking the other day, and something we’re plotting out for the future of this blog is to do a series where both of us (and anyone else interested) read through Calvin’s Institutes. I grew up Presbyterian, attend a Presbyterian church now, but I know that that doesn’t make one a Calvinist or Reformed or however you want to style. I figure you cannot really support any idea or belief without first understanding what it is. So, am I a Calvinist? I have no idea at all, because I’ve never read John Calvin. Could you imagine someone going around saying that they were a big fan of The Godfather without ever actually watching the film? I mean you can fake it up to a point, maybe you’ve seen some of the cliched scenes so you know that Marlon Brando has to make someone an offer they cannot refuse or that someone gets shot at a tollbooth. You can steer the conversation towards those things, you can repeat stuff you’ve heard real Godfather fans say, but you’re still a poseur.

I’ve never seen The Godfather myself and yet there’s enough cultural debris from this film scattered around that I too can stuff marshmallows in my cheeks and make people offers they cannot refuse. But I don’t have any idea what happens in the movie. Likewise, I have little bits of Calvin here and there, but I really don’t know what the major arguments of his magnum opus actually are and what is merely extended commentary by his followers. Some of what Reformed theology teaches makes sense, other bits seem crazy to me. Just like getting around to watching The Godfather (which I tried to once, but when I turned it on, it was just a bunch of people talking and it bored me so I changed the channel), I really have to read Calvin for myself.