What if you could pick your very favorite Reformed teacher to teach your family devotions?
I mean, the best, the most famous, and right in your own home.
I mean, what if you could have John Calvin himself, right in your own living room? Impossible, of course!
Over the past few months, in my free time, I have been working on a little project I have wanted to do for a long time. This is, to get the basic teachings of Calvin’s Institutes into the hands and hearts of as many Reformed families as possible. To do this, I am abridging the work down to the simplest, though most profound, core of each chapter, and adding questions for review and family devotion.
I hope to have the whole book done late this summer. But I have also decided to release each chapter for free at American Vision in the meantime. When I get them all done, I will compile them and publish them as a book—probably around 250 pages, with 80 or so lessons, each only a few pages.
Calvin’s classic Institutes has long been neglected even in seminaries, let alone Reformed homes. It’s hard to imagine these days that it was largely for the use of average evangelicals that Calvin designed it in its completed form. After all these centuries, and in the year of celebrating the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I hope to remedy this neglect with this new edition.
I can remember the first time I read Calvin’s Institutes. Holding this huge, daunting theological treatise as a young Reformed convert, I anticipated a rigorous, tough intellectual challenge. I was shocked at how pastoral and devotional it actually was. It is direct where it needs to be direct, often convicting, but also often inspiring, warm, elevating, victorious, and encouraging. I thought, “Why aren’t more people reading this?”
The only answers I could think of to that question are 1) it looks too long, 2) Calvin has a reputation for theological acuteness that intimidates a lot of people, and 3) Calvin often takes long diversions to argue his points against opponents and alternative arguments. There may be more, but these stand out to me.
With that, however, I realized I could remedy all such problems with a single edition that saved the core teaching of each chapter along with its pastoral and practical applications and best rhetoric, and edited out all the long expositions, repetitions, references to other theologians (except a few of the great quotations from Augustine), detailed debates, etc. A little over 1/4 through the work now, I think I am succeeding in that goal, and will now start presenting the chapters here.
The goal is to get each chapter, no matter how long normally, down to about 2 or 3, maybe 4 pages. In places where this is not possible, I will create more than one lesson. In other places, I have combined chapters or even rearranged a couple (so, you scholars, please no critical comments about stuff out of place, not designating all the original chapter and section, etc.; this is designed to be smoothed out for basic family devotion). Also, I am using (obviously) Beveridge’s translation, since it is public domain (I also prefer it in many places to Battles’s), but also smoothing out the language with my own edits, and even providing my own translation in a very few places. (Again, potential critics, this is for ease-of-use for modern, average families, not a scholarly edition.)
Please feel free to give feedback at support at americanvision dot org. And please, start using these for family devotions.