Long before Gilead made Marilynne Robinson famous, she wrote an outstanding collection of essays called The Death of Adam. Being a staunch Presbyterian, she rose to the defense of John Calvin who generally gets a bad rap for the brand of Calvinism that basically says that God predestined some people for heaven and others for hell. While many people do believe that, it’s a bad reading of Calvin and a worse reading of the Bible.
In his Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin wrote:
We are not to reflect on the wickedness of men but to look to the image of God in them, an image which, covering and obliterating their faults, an image which, by its beauty and dignity, should allure us to love and embrace them.
John Calvin was a humble man, though Voltaire went on to call him the “Pope of the Protestants.” He saw every man as an image bearer of God and therefore immeasurably valuable.
Let us first and foremost consider Jesus, who died that we may live. Let us likewise look to our right and our left to see our neighbor standing beside us and to know – His death was for them as well.
How precious they must be to God.
How worthy of our embrace.
1 John 4:9
In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
D I G D E E P E R
Beginning in 1970, master calligrapher Donald Jackson expressed in media interviews his lifelong dream of creating an illuminated Bible. Following a Saint John’s University-sponsored calligraphy presentation at the Newberry Library in Chicago in 1995, Jackson discussed a handwritten Bible with Fr. Eric Hollas, OSB, former executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota. Between 1996 and 1997, Saint John’s explored the feasibility of the Bible project, Jackson created first samples, and theologians developed the illumination schema. The Saint John’s Bible was officially commissioned in 1998 and funding opportunities were launched. The public was introduced to the project in 1999 and production was completed in 2011, with the final word penned in May 2011 and touch-up work completed by December 2011.
The Saint John’s Bible is divided into seven volumes and is two feet tall by three feet wide when open. The Bible is made of vellum, with 160 illuminations. The version of the Bible used is the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSV-CE). A copy of the Bible has been presented to the Pope at the Vatican in several volumes, with the final volume being presented on 17 April 2015.
Marilynne Robinson and John Calvin
“I want to overhear passionate arguments about what we are and what we are doing and what we ought to do. I want to feel that art is an utterance made in good faith by one human being to another. I want to believe there are geniuses scheming to astonish the rest of us, just for the pleasure of it.”
Marilynne Robinson, from The Death of Adam: Essays on Modern Thought
We have the love of God towards us testified also by many other proofs. For if it be asked, why the world has been created, why we have been placed in it to possess the dominion of the earth, why we are preserved in life to enjoy innumerable blessings, why we are endued with light and understanding, no other reason can be adduced, except the gratuitous love of God.
But the Apostle here has chosen the principle evidence of it, and what far surpasses all other things. For it was not only an immeasurable love, that God spared not his own Son, that by his death he might restore us to life; but it was goodness the most marvelous, which ought to fill our minds with the greatest wonder and amazement. Christ, then, is so illustrious and singular a proof of divine love towards us, that whenever we look upon him, he fully confirms to us the truth that God is love.
He calls him his only begotten, for the sake of amplifying. For in this he more clearly showed how singularly he loved us, because he exposed his only Son to death for our sakes. In the meantime, he who is his only Son by nature, makes many sons by grace and adoption, even all who, by faith, are united to his body. He expresses the end for which Christ has been sent by the Father, even that we may live through him: for without him we are all dead, but by his coming he brought life to us; and except our unbelief prevents the effect of his grace, we feel it in ourselves.