(Photo: Desiring God)
Hundreds of Reformed believers passionate about preaching the Scriptures and making Christ known have convened in Minneapolis for three days of talks centered on the life and teachings of 16th century reformer John Calvin.
Lamenting that many churches today have lost confidence in the truthfulness and authority of the Bible, Julius Kim, associate professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Seminary in California, called Christians to heed Calvin's voice.
"In many of our churches the Bible has been functionally rejected in place of what we could gain from some sort of rational exercise on the one hand or some sort of emotional experience on the other," Kim said at the national conference, hosted by Desiring God Ministries, on Friday.
"We need to hear Calvin's voice once again calling us back to the Scriptures as our only source of truth and life," he emphasized.
For Calvin, the idea that Scripture alone is the only source of religious truth was the principle element of his vision of Reform, said Kim, who also serves as associate pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Escondido, Calif.
"Why is it important that the Bible alone is the only authority?" he asked. "For Calvin, nothing was more important than getting this right."
The annual conference this year is themed "With Calvin in the Theater of God," in commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.
The theme is based on what Calvin stated in his most famous work, Institutes of the Christian Religion: "While it becomes man seriously to employ his eyes in considering the works of God, since a place has been assigned him in this most glorious theater that he may be a spectator of them, his special duty is to give ear to the Word, that he may the better profit."
John Piper, who leads Desiring God, explained that Calvin saw the world as God's theater where the glory of God himself was ever on display. The aim of the Sept. 25-27 conference, Piper said, is to look at the majesty of Jesus and his purposes for the world and to sanctify the name of God through Jesus Christ.
"God is infinitely valuable and infinitely glorious," Piper said at the Religious Newswriters Association's annual convention earlier this month. "You are made to find your ultimate joy not in being significant but in knowing the infinitely significant one."
Kim also highlighted on Friday the emphasis on the glory of God.
What the Scriptures principally teach, according to Calvin, is that God alone deserves glory, Kim said. "At the end of the day, what's most important is that God is glorified, not only in his creation but also in his plan of redemption."
The conference comes as reports indicate the emergence of New Calvinism. New Calvinists defy evangelical mainstream, which they feel has watered down the Gospel, and embrace the fundamentals of Calvin's teachings which include belief in the sovereignty of God, the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, the total depravity of humanity, and the doctrine of justification by faith alone.
What the New Calvinists are embracing today is the Truth, according to Piper.
"If you want to understand the new Reformed people, they preach the Bible," Piper said. "They really believe in Truth.
"That marks Calvin and it marks us today."
As evangelicalism is seeing a growth of New Calvinists, Kim pointed out on Friday that Calvin ultimately didn't want to produce Calvinists. He wanted to produce biblical Christians.