Lately I have been dipping into a book, “The Piety of John Calvin” by the foremost Calvin scholar and translator, Ford Lewis Battles. It is delight to read and casts a wider and more human/humane picture of Calvin than we often read. (If you are obsessed with the Calvin and Servetus controversy I suggest you read the excellent work listed below).
This book has an extra level of joy and that is the providence we see in its pages – the hand of God at work. Battles was a Rhodes scholar who went to study at Oxford in the 1930s. One of his teachers was none other than C.S. Lewis who introduced him to the classics of theology. Battles stated that this led to a “rebirth into faith all too imperfectly received in my childhood when I was sent to the early Christian fathers by my academic supervisor, C.S. Lewis of Oxford University.” (p11).
Battles died in 1979. “The Piety of John Calvin” has since been republished with a preface by his daughter, Nancy, who describes her father’s pre-laptop computer attempt in developing a well catalogued version of Calvin’s work and that his effort to do this well was inspired by the medieval monks who spent a great deal of effort producing handwritten and illuminated works.
I hope to write more about this book in the future but my question for today is a simple one. Are we aware of the saints who preceded us who have shaped and directed our lives? Who has inspired us to do well, to serve well and live well? In an age when “the present” is king and we deify this moment on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, do we stop long enough to reflect on the positive influences from the past?
These saints of the past may have come to us via books and studies we have pursued. Let us be thankful that God has given us a lineage of influences linked throughout the centuries. For Battles, church fathers, medieval scholars and C.S.Lewis were just some of the intersections that God put along his path.
PS. A balanced article by the renowned scholar Lorraine Boettner on “Calvin and Servetus”: http://the-highway.com/servetus_Boettner.html