Contend Earnestly: Augustine, Luther and Calvin

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Augustine, Luther and Calvin

This is the first of the series of "The Swans Are Not Silent." This series is a series of books that are quick bios on the the lives of different people in the history of Christendom. The reason for the title of this series comes from a quote from Eraclius. Piper tells us the following:

At the age of seventy-one, four years before he died on August 28, A.D. 430, Aurelius Augustine handed over the administrative duties of the church in Hippo on the northern coast of Africa to his assistant Eraclius. Already, in his own lifetime, Augustine was a giant in the Christian world. At the ceremony, Eraclius stood to preach, as the aged Augustine sat on his bishop's throne behind him. Overwhelmed by a sense of inadequacy in Augustine's presence, Eraclius said, "The cricket chirps, the swan is silent."
The reason that Piper chose to title this series, "The Swans are NOT Silent" is because the legacy of understanding of the sovereignty of God by Augustine has been anything but silent. So, the idea behind this book of biographies is to show that the swans from Augustine to Luther to Calvin were not silent but heralded the truth of Sovereign Joy.

In this book, Piper gives three biographies in Augustine, Luther and Calvin. He focuses on four topics to which he really wants to drive home in these men:

1. Do not be paralyzed by your weaknesses and flaws

Piper does admit that the men being studied in this book are flawed. They are not perfect. Which is good, because they are not Christ, and we, as humans, can learn from them and their understanding of working out their salvation with fear and trembling. These men, although imperfect, continued to bear fruit for the sake of the glory of God.

2. In the battle against sin and surrender, learn the secret of sovereign joy

This was shown most clearly in the life of Augustine. Although he went from complete paganism and the love of women, to believing in complete heresy, God brought him through this to his side for the glory of God. Augustine saw this as God's complete work of salvation through him, which if it weren't for God, Augustine would have never come to God on his own.

3. Supernatural change comes from seeing Christ in his sacred word

Luther was the found in the light of this thesis statement. Luther focused in on the sacred study of the word of God. He saw that this is where Christ was to be found through the Holy Spirit, prayer and meditation. He made sure that people, especially those caught in the bounds of Catholicism, realized that our only hope is found in the Word of God and not in the knowledge and tradition of men.

4. Therefore, let us exult over the exposition of the truth of the gospel and herald the glory of Christ for the joy of all peoples.

Piper shows this in the life of John Calvin. When Calvin found Christ in the Scriptures and was caught up in Reformation doctrine, he did what he only knew he should do: Preach. John Calvin's life was known for his preaching. Preaching for John Calvin was faithful, verse by verse, exposition of the word of God. Here he found that through this preaching the exaltation and glory of Christ was found and given for us all to enjoy. So much so that when he was preaching in Geneva, he was banished by the city council. When he was allowed to return three years later, he picked up the exposition in the next verse. John Calvin firmly believed in the preaching of the word of God.

This small book was a great quick intro to the lives of these men. By no means it is exhaustive, but that wasn't its intent. I would recommend this to anyone who either wants a quick refresher or for those who know very little about these men. You will notice that the overall these in these pages is the Sovereign Joy of our God. Recommended. Link to Buy.


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