Original Research

The emergence of John Calvin as pastoral figure from his letters

Raymond Potgieter
In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi | Vol 48, No 1 | a1829 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ids.v48i1.1829 | © 2014 Raymond Potgieter | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 April 2014 | Published: 05 November 2014


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Abstract

The gaunt austere figure of John Calvin portrayed in paintings is often synonymous with the view of a stern, authoritarian, dogmatic person, and a strict disciplinarian. Discovery of a more complex figure, however, awaits anyone dipping into Calvin’s letters, in particular when writing pastorally to comfort, encourage, point towards hope and so forth. However, this is no second figure emerging – merely a more balanced portrait of a servant of God who has not always been fairly portrayed. This portrait must be seen as closely associated with his writings. Because theology is for the nurture and maturing of the Church and therefore cannot be divorced from it, the pastoral nature of some incidents does, however, allow the humanity of Calvin to shine through more clearly.

Johannes Calvyn: Meer as ‘n sistematiese teoloog. Johannes Calvyn se skraal asketiese voorkoms soos in skilderye uitgebeeld, skep dikwels die indruk van ‘n stroewe, dogmatiese en dissiplinêre figuur. Uit sy briewe en veral uit sy pastorale geskrifte blyk dit egter dat hy ‘n warm en gevoelvolle persoon was wat mense getroos, bemoedig en hoop gegee het. Dit is nie ’n nuwe voorstelling van Calvyn nie, maar bloot ’n meer gebalanseerde beeld van die bekende dienskneg van God wat nie altyd getrou voorgehou is nie. Trouens, hierdie getrouer beeld van hom word deur sy ander geskrifte onderskryf. Omdat teologie onder meer oor die pastorale opvoeding en opbouing van die Kerk gaan, kan daar ook met ’n oop gemoed na hierdie eienskappe van Calvyn in sy teologiese geskrifte gesoek word. Dit is juis die ontdekking van hierdie eienskappe in Calvyn se geskrifte wat daartoe bydra dat sy medemenslikheid duideliker sigbaar word.

 


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