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Sola Dei Gloria

The Glory of God in the Thought of John Calvin


Billy Kristanto

The study examines the understanding of the glory of God in the thought of John Calvin. The examination is carried out from the historical observation in the first part and the systematic evaluation in the second part. The author describes the development of the concept of gloria Dei in Calvin’s Institutes as well as its significant role as a counterpart to the major Christian doctrines. Following a survey of the historical background, the presence of gloria Dei in the first, second, and last editions of the Institutes is discussed. In the systematic part, the concept of gloria Dei is analyzed in the context of its dynamic presence throughout the central doctrines such as the doctrine of creation, anthropology, Christology, soteriology, eschatology, and ecclesiology. The systematic evaluation shows that gloria Dei is one of the loudest cantus firmi in Calvin’s theological composition.


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1. Prelude To study Calvin in our time is to risk spending too much of one’s life time on the works of this controversial person.1 Even Barth himself had his difficulties with Calvin, as indicated by Barth’s use of words like “tyranny” and “Pharisaism”, which seem to be an apt and natural description of the Genevan system. “No one who has proper information would really have liked to live in this holy city,”2 Barth asserted. On the other hand, Calvin’s presence is inevitable in the work of nearly all contemporary theologians. In this study, I propose a view of Calvin’s theological thought from the per- spective of gloria Dei. Doxology or the praise of God will be included under the concept of gloria Dei. I will examine this as a counterpart in the context of some major doctrines. By counterpart I mean a kind of root doctrine (Stammlehre) – though identifying the central doctrine in Calvin’s theology is problematic, as is acknowledged in recent scholarship, due to the organic character of Calvin’s thought – or a “proscenium arch”3 that frames the stage for the major doctrines such as the doctrine of creation, anthropology, Christology, soteriology, escha- tology, and ecclesiology. 1 “Calvin ist ein Wasserfall, ein Urwald, ein Dämonisches, irgendetwas direkt vom Himalaja herunter, absolut chinesisch, wunderbar, mythologisch; es fehlen mir gänzlich die Organe, die Saugnäpfe, dieses Phänomen auch nur in mich aufzunehmen, geschweige denn richtig dar- zustellen. Was in mich eingeht, ist nur ein dünnes...

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