Monday, May 21, 2007
'Calvin: Institutes of Christian Religion' by Dr Samuel Ling concludes
All praises and glory be to God. Our seminar on Calvin's Institues Part 1 has concluded successufully. We had around 55 participants this time.
Very broadly, the topics we have covered included:
Misconceptions on Calvin.
Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.
Doctrine of the Trinity
God’s work of Creation
Doctrine of Man
Doctrine of Providence.
The notes prepared by Dr Ling were important excerpts and selections from Part 1.1 to 1.18 of the Institutes with bilingual texts for cross references (the precious notes itself was already worth the fees!)
Much stress was placed on the misinterpretation of Neo-Orthodoxy on Calvin’s Institute. Against the claim that we cannot really know God, Dr Ling emphasized that the very fact that Calvin wrote the Institutes was to help believers know God through the Revealed Word. God has accommodated and revealed in human language so that we can really know Him. Although we could not know God ‘as He knows Himself’, we can concretely know what He has revealed. Through revelation, He has made Himself known. Calvin also said that we should not try to speculate on what God had not revealed. If we ask what God was doing before He created the world, we get the reply “He had been building hell for the curious”.
On the topic of Trinity, Dr Ling brought us to revisit the basic terms such as ‘hypostasis’ in Greek and the problems of translation into Latin. Other terms discussed include essence, person, subsistence, etc. Different terms were used in church history to differentiate the doctrine from wrong teachings. Dr Ling believes that no analogy can fully describe the Trinity. Whenever we try, we are doom to failure in some sense. So his classic definition of the Trinity was: The Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God. The Father is not the Son and the Spirit is not the Son (and vice versa). And there is only one God (of course there were a lot more explanation made!). Dr Ling believes if we slowly think it over and over again, we will realize we can understand what the definition means even without an analogy.
In the Q&A session, Dr Ling answered many of our questions regarding Reformed theology including the ever popular topic on predestination. He corrected our misconception that Reformed Theology was all about election. He broadened our understanding on the doctrine, that rightfully predestination included all of God’s counsel encompassing all of creation. Denial of God’s control over everything would only leave us the option that everything that happens in this world is due to pure randomness and chance.
Of course there are lots more other things we have learned. Maybe I should save it to discuss in our upcoming study group (book club). Come and join us to share what you have learnt.
Dr Ling also selected some related hymns and led us to sing them (guess who’s the pianist?). To us, this is a demonstration and application that theology should not be ‘hard-headed and emotionless’. Instead, true theology should produce true religion (piety) and a heart bursting out in awe and worship.
As usual, we had many books sold at the seminar. Rare and excellent books specially recommended by Dr Ling. A lot were snapped right away as Dr Ling gave special discounts. Some of you even complained in the response form that there are not enough books! OK, we will try to prepare more next time. For those who didn’t come, you don’t know what you have missed.
At the end of the seminar, even though tired and exhausted, all of us were reluctant to leave, or rather reluctant to let our beloved Pastor Ling leave us. But the good news is that he will be back again soon this November. Meanwhile, we better digest, revise and get prepared.
See and download all photos here: