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Approaching Calvin Today in “The Spirit of the Explorer”

Morse, Christopher

A century ago at Union Seminary where I teach in Manhattan a public celebration was held in honor of the four hundredth anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. The speaker on that occasion in 1909, a distinguished theologian of the day, began his address by apologizing for the difficulty of saying anything original or new about Calvin. "There are," he remarked, "certain great thinkers whose systems it is possible to approach in the spirit of the explorer, conscious as one turns each page of the chance of some new discovery; but with Calvin it is not so." I am happy to have this opportunity to be with you today because I have found this judgment not to be true. For some years it has been my privilege to offer a seminar on Calvin’s theology for graduate students. Most, but not all, are Presbyterians or members of the Reformed Church in America, and they enroll in the course not because they especially want to, but because they are trying to meet ordination requirements. They often begin the course with a sense of apprehension, sometimes even dread, because of the negative associations that have come to surround the mention of Calvin.


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Union Seminary Quarterly Review
Union Theological Seminary

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Union Theological Seminary
Union Theological Seminary
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September 16, 2015


An address delivered at the Stated Meeting of the Salem Presbytery,
High Point, North Carolina on the 500th Anniversary of John Calvin’s Birth, October 20, 2009.