(Photo: AP / Anja Niedringhaus)
Hundreds of Christians have gathered in Boston this week for a four-day event commemorating the influence of the Reformation on Western Civilization over the last half a millennium.
Hosted by Vision Forum Ministries, “Reformation 500 Celebration” will highlight the influence of Reformers on the Church, the family, the state, and the founding of the United States.
“Reformers like [John] Knox, [Martin] Luther, and [John] Calvin championed the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, opening the door for broad-sweeping cultural reform,” noted event organizers, listing three of the most influential theologians of the 16th century.
Calvin, especially, will be a key focus in this week’s festivities as this year marks the 500th anniversary of his birth.
“Calvin’s biblical worldview in particular took strong root in the New World - one reason why scholars describe him as the true ‘founder of America,’” noted organizers.
Born on July 10, 1509, John Calvin is credited for his profound influence over major religious figures and entire religious movements. His ideas have also been cited as contributing to the rise of capitalism, individualism, and representative democracy in the West.
"The children of Calvin and the Reformers gave us the rise of nation states that embraced republican representative government,” pointed out Doug Philips, president of Vision Forum Ministries.
"Calvin's legacy included respect for life, a defense of the biblical family, and the rule of law under God.”
That legacy, according to Philips, contrasts starkly with that of 19th century naturalist Charles Darwin, whose birth 200 years ago will also be marked and celebrated this year.
Though he acknowledges that no two men of the millennium have done more to shape the thoughts of mankind or to affect the political and social destiny of nations than Calvin and Darwin, Philips listed Marxism, totalitarianism and eugenics as among the results of Darwin’s legacy.
"The reforms of Calvin resulted in the blossoming of Christendom. Darwin foreshadowed the darkness of modernity," he stated.
To highlight Calvin and Darwin’s diametrically-opposing worldviews, Vision Forum Ministries will host a “boxing match” Friday between two re-enactors representing the two figures.
The head-to-head debate is among the events of this week’s Reformation 500 Celebration and will be held just two days before Darwin apologists gather in Cambridge, England, to celebrate the legacy of Evolutionism as part of the 2009 Darwin Festival.
"This debate will feature an intense crossfire of ideas as the contrasting worldviews of Calvin and Darwin collide in a great conflict,” Philips reported.
In addition to the debate, Reformation 500 Celebration will feature more than forty sessions presented by over a dozen historians and speakers and spanning the Reformation period to the present.
On Saturday, America’s Independence Day, the “mega-conference event” will climax with the world-renowned music and fireworks celebration on the Esplanade by the Charles River with the Boston Pops Orchestra.
According to organizers, a Fourth of July celebration is a fitting way to conclude Reformation 500 Celebration as it acknowledges the providence of God in America’s founding and the birthplace of her spiritual heritage.
Reformation 500 Celebration will be only one of countless events that will be held around the world to mark the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth, which is only nine days away. The quincentenary is being observed around the globe with the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches acting as a central organizer of "Calvin 09."