John Calvin: Renaissance/Reformation (1509–1564)

THE INSTITUTES OF THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION
Chapter 1:
The Knowledge of God and of Ourselves Mutually Connected—Nature of This Connection

Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain. Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty. In particular, the miserable ruin into which the revolt of the first man has plunged us, compels us to turn our eyes upwards; not only that while hungry and famishing we may thence ask what we want, but being aroused by fear may learn humility. For as there exists in man something like a world of misery, and ever since we were stript of the divine attire our naked shame discloses an immense series of disgraceful properties every man, being stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness, in this way necessarily obtains at least some knowledge of God. Thus, our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us . . . that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.


John Calvin 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.

In his book The Great Books Reader, John Mark Reynolds said:

Oddly, despite his influence, few who aren’t theologians read Calvin. He doesn’t appear on the curriculum of many “great books” programs. If my students are not Calvinists, the few things they think they know about Calvin are often false and almost always negative. Simultaneously, Calvin is being revived in conservative evangelical circles hoping to deepen their intellectual and theological rigor. Too frequently these students know Calvin but have never thought critically about his ideas.

Both Calvinist and non-Calvinist students are often shocked when they read Calvin, because as with any seminal thinker, he often is more flexible than later creedal formulations in the Reformed communities. Calvin may be a Calvinist, but he’s not a narrow one!

 Do you align completely with a creed?  Why or why not?

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

 

John Mark Reynolds is the president of The Saint Constantine School, a school that aspires to preschool through college education. He is also a philosopher, administrator, and joyous curmudgeon. Reynolds was the founder and first director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. He was provost at Houston Baptist University where he was instrumental in starting the graduate Apologetics program and a cinema and new media arts major. John Mark blogs at Eidos on the Patheos Evangelical platform and has written for First Things and the Washington Post. He is an owner of the Green Bay Packers.

 

D I G  D E E P E R


 John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion

Russell D. Moore

If today John Calvin were discovered alive and in suspended animation, frozen in a block of ice somewhere in the French Alps, most people probably wouldn’t consider this good news. After all, the unfrozen Calvinist lawgiver rarely is thought of as the kind of figure modern audiences would want to drag back up.

His writings don’t have the wink-of-the-eye, puckish grin that even his contemporary Martin Luther seems to sometimes convey in his many writings. Moreover, Calvin, although associated with some bland but commendable features such as hard work and thrift, is mostly known for awful things, such as burnings at the stake and the predestination of people to hell.

Calvin is too important, though, to leave him frozen in caricature, and he’s too significant to leave him simply to his tribe of theological partisans. John Calvin—most significantly in his Institutes of the Christian Religion—offers insight to all in the Christian tradition, including those who consider themselves the furthest away from “Calvinism.”

The Institutes was written first in 1536, with the final version completed in Latin in 1559. Calvin, a French convert from Catholicism to the ideas of the Protestant Reformation, quickly established himself as the early protest movement’s most influential theologian. While those who have never read Calvin firsthand often assume the volume is obsessed with speculative notions about divine sovereignty and the order of God’s decrees of election and reprobation, the excerpt here better represents something of the broader tone and substance of the Reformer’s thought.

The tome’s initial sentence establishes a core theme in Calvin’s work: “Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.” At first glance, this statement might seem to be exactly what we might expect from one so often associated with coldly cerebral Christian rationalism and abstract speculation. But the discussion Calvin begins on “knowledge” is far more complex, and far more engaging, than that.

First of all, Calvin here is setting the context for a vision of all of life as theological. By this, I don’t mean merely that Calvin believes there is what some would call a Christian “worldview,” a theologically informed way of thinking about all aspects of existence. Calvin means more than this. He means that every human being is, by definition, a theologian.

Every “word”—that is, every means a person has for making sense of his reality—is inescapably a “word about God,” a theology.

In addition, this truth is grounded above all in the creaturely nature of humanity. Referencing the apostle Paul’s speech to the Athenians at Mars Hill, Calvin notes that it is in Creator God, by necessity, that every human person “lives and moves” (Acts 17:28). For Calvin, the universal impulse of humanity to worship gods or ideologies or themselves is hardly a coincidence of evolution. The sense of the divine is embedded in all human persons, as part of God’s image itself. This awareness is activated by the icon of God’s glory present in the created cosmos all around us. If we do not acknowledge this primal reality, we simply cannot apprehend ourselves as we really are, or the universe as it really is.

Further, it is not simply that all persons ought to be able to realize there is a God, if only they were to pay careful enough attention to the evidences for His existence. It is instead that all persons do, immediately, recognize this. Moreover, they recognize not only God’s existence, but they also recognize, personally, the God who is. So why is there not a universal worship of the God in whom Calvin believes, the God of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, the God of Jesus of Nazareth?

———

This is where John Calvin’s view of sin emerges. Again, he’s oft-misrepresented as having a gloomy, world-denying pessimism about humanity. Some of his followers throughout the centuries have yielded to this caricature. But Calvin’s view of sin isn’t censorious or cranky. Instead, this doctrine explains why worship is so difficult for humanity as it is. It is not, in Calvin’s view, that we sin because we believe the wrong things; it is, rather, that we believe the wrong things because we sin.

In other words, human persons, in our fallenness, crave our own autonomy—the illusion that we are gods to ourselves. In order to protect this delusion and remain “free” from our Creator, we convince ourselves of what deep in our consciences we cannot deny—the reality of God, His moral law, the coming judgment.

Calvin here, echoing Paul, anticipates some of the psychological theories of later centuries in presenting a picture of the role the affections play in shaping the way we think. Sigmund Freud may have been quite wrong about many things, yet who can deny that human persons are motivated by more than merely rational impulses but additionally by an often dark and nearly incomprehensible psychic undertow? Calvin would root this in the fallen nature of the human condition. In order to know God and to know ourselves, Calvin insists, we must face this truth.

This is hardly a “pessimistic” picture, though, in the larger mosaic of Calvin’s thought. Human persons can rightly read the cosmos, and ourselves, through the revelation God has disclosed in the person of Jesus Christ and in the “spectacles” of the Scriptures.

Calvin’s view of revelation, and of knowledge as fundamentally a question of worship, grounds the importance in Protestant Christianity of preaching and widespread reading and study of the Bible in the languages of the people. This tradition, as it expanded in missionary movements and revivalist awakenings, shaped much of the trajectory of modern European and American thought.

Reading John Calvin’s Institutes, you’ll likely find points of disagreement, perhaps even major disagreements. But also you’ll probably—whatever your religious communion—find the insights of a mind shaped by immersion in the Scriptures, in the church fathers, in Western classical thought. And, behind this, you’ll discover a man who recognized something of what it meant (1) to be a creature, and (2) to look in worship and humility for the Creator in whom he lived and moved.

Russell Moore, PhD, is the dean of the School of Theology and senior vice-president for Academic Administration at Southern Baptist Theology Seminary. He is also a senior editor at Touchstone magazine and author of several books, including Adopted for Life and A Theology for the Church.

John Mark Reynolds, The Great Books Reader: Excerpts and Essays on the Most Influential Books in Western Civilization (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2011).

Desiderius Erasmus: Renaissance/Reformation (1466–1536)

IN PRAISE OF FOLLY
An Oration…Spoken by Folly

At what rate soever the world talks of me (for I am not ignorant what an ill report Folly has got, even among the most foolish), yet that I am that she, that only she, whose deity recreates both gods and men, even this is a sufficient argument, that I no sooner stepped up to speak to this full assembly than all your faces put on a kind of new and unwonted pleasantness. So suddenly have you cleared your brows, and with so frolic and hearty a laughter given me your applause, that in truth as many of you as I behold on every side of me seem to me no less than Homer’s gods drunk with nectar and nepenthe; whereas before, you sat as lumpish and pensive as if you had come from consulting an oracle. And as it usually happens when the sun begins to show his beams, or when after a sharp winter the spring breathes afresh on the earth, all things immediately get a new face, new color, and recover as it were a certain kind of youth again: in like manner by but beholding me you have in an instant gotten another kind of countenance; and so what the otherwise great rhetoricians with their tedious and long-studied orations can hardly effect, to wit, to remove the trouble of the mind, I have done it at once with my single look. . . .


My dinner party of timeless wits would include Voltaire,  Mark Twain, Oscar Wilde and Desiderius Erasmus.  I would also throw in Dorothy Parker as a ringer. Each explored folly from a different (and occasionally profane) angle, yet their common target was the smug, self-appointed illuminati.

In his book The Great Books Reader, John Mark Reynolds said the following:

In Praise of Folly must be understood as the product of Erasmus’s Bible-saturated mind. His was a mind too broad for fundamentalism, which rejects reason, and too honest for intellectualism, which rejects revelation.

The fundamentalist burns with anti-intellectual zeal, and in reaction sophists are often swollen up with intellectualism. The fundamentalist and the sophist justify their excesses by the sin of their opposite. Fundamentalism and sophistry give piety and philosophy bad reputations with society.

 

Desiderius Erasmus said ” In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”  What did he mean?

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

 

John Mark Reynolds is the president of The Saint Constantine School, a school that aspires to preschool through college education. He is also a philosopher, administrator, and joyous curmudgeon. Reynolds was the founder and first director of the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University. He was provost at Houston Baptist University where he was instrumental in starting the graduate Apologetics program and a cinema and new media arts major. John Mark blogs at Eidos on the Patheos Evangelical platform and has written for First Things and the Washington Post. He is an owner of the Green Bay Packers.

 

D I G  D E E P E R


Erasmus’s In Praise of Folly

Greg Peters

Desiderius Erasmus was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands. As a well-educated man (he studied in Belgium, France, Italy, and England), Erasmus became one of the leading lights of the European Renaissance and was a frequent critic of the late medieval Catholic Church, though, once more, he remained in the Church until his death and did not become a Protestant. He is often thought of as the intellectual father of the Protestant Reformation.

Beginning in 1505, Erasmus set out to translate the New Testament into Latin. This endeavor helped him realize the unreliability of the existing edition of the Greek New Testament, so he set out to edit a new Greek edition. This was published in 1516 and has come to be known as the Textus Receptus (“Received Text”); it was the edition used by the translators of the King James Version. His best-known literary work, though, is In Praise of Folly, a critique of Church abuses and the world, published in 1511.

This is an oration in which Folly, personified as a woman, claims that what appears to be Folly outwardly, actually, is wise inwardly. Folly rails against that which she judges to be foolish in the areas of politics and society.

Erasmus’s biting satire is also used to level criticisms against the Church, including theologians, monks, and clergymen. He makes vitriolic comments about contemporary political leaders and members of the learned professions. The work is highly rhetorical as well, so that Erasmus may express his opinions (through Folly) on a wide range of topics without having to offer grounded support.

For the Christian, it’s the latter sections of this work that are most interesting. Here Erasmus turns his attention to a simpler biblical Christianity, over against the highly philosophical and scholastic theology of the later Middle Ages. For Erasmus, Jesus Christ was foolish for taking on human nature and dying on the cross; as well, he commended the foolish lifestyle to his disciples. That is, rejecting all worldly notions of the “good life” in order to chase after holiness and that which is spiritual: “this happiness of Christians, which they pursue with so much toil, is nothing else but a kind of madness and folly.”

In fact, for Erasmus, “all Christian religion seems to have a kind of alliance with folly and in no respect to have any accord with wisdom.” This being the case, the folly must be praised and must be sought after, since it is the very essence of the Christian religion. In Erasmus’s estimation, “folly is more excellent than wisdom.”

In Praise of Folly is a brilliant play on the Pauline interplay of wisdom and foolishness:

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? . . . For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. . . . But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:20, 25, 27)

———

Erasmus’s work elaborates on this theme by showing that the truly wise are utterly foolish; those who think they are wise are the true fools.

Given that we continue to live in a post-Christian culture that highly prizes so-called “learning” and the primacy of reason, Erasmus’s text is a reminder that there is more to the life of the mind than simply learning for learning’s sake. Though Christians must always be diligent to pursue truth and receive the wisdom offered by God, we must bear in mind that our knowledge is a kind of folly. That is to say, not only is it considered folly by the “world’s” standards but, further, in the Erasmian and Pauline sense, we are fools, by extension, for Jesus: “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10). Reading the entire In Praise of Folly drives this point home—persuasively.

———

Desiderius Erasmus was a prolific author, so much so that his collected works, translated into English, fill approximately ninety volumes (published by the University of Toronto Press). Though a humanist in his learning and a Roman Catholic in ecclesial confession, Erasmus’s work also contains spiritual and pastoral treatises, including On Praying to God, An Explanation of the Apostles Creed, and Preparing for Death.

Though In Praise of Folly is an excellent introduction to Erasmus and his central concerns, the reader who delves further into his literary corpus will not be disappointed. Erasmus is not only a voice of his time or a representative of the Roman Catholic Church; he also is a believer whose works deserve more attention from Christians of all churches and denominations.

Greg Peters, PhD, is an associate professor of Medieval Theology at Biola University’s Torrey Honors Institute.

John Mark Reynolds, The Great Books Reader: Excerpts and Essays on the Most Influential Books in Western Civilization (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House, 2011).

Presbyterians And Predestination

Genesis from The St. John’s Bible

Psalm 24

1 The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
2 For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters.

3 Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
5 He shall receive blessing from the LORD,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
6 This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face.
Selah

7 Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
8 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD strong and mighty,
The LORD mighty in battle.
9 Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
10 Who is this King of glory?
The LORD of hosts,
He is the King of glory.
Selah

Ephesians 1:3–14

3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5 having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6 to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.
13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.


RickJohn Calvin 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. As Ken Kovacs writes in his book Out of the Depths:

The doctrine that consumed Calvin, and you can see it in the first ten pages of the Institutes, was the doctrine of creation. What I mean by this is not creationism, although Calvin believed in a literal reading of Genesis, but a view of the glory of God found in the created order, which, to the eyes of faith, gives profound witness to the love of God in Jesus Christ. Calvin said, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice,” and, therefore, we are “not only to be spectators in this beautiful theatre but to enjoy the vast bounty and variety of good things which are displayed to us in it.” Calvin approaches this amazing world, the “theatre of God’s glory,” as he liked to say, with awe, amazement, or as he said, “wonderment.” God’s rule over the creation is sovereign. Our lives are held in the sovereignty of God. The beauty of creation overwhelmed Calvin, as did the beauty of God (yes, beauty), the God who has called, claimed, loved, and redeemed us in Jesus Christ. And so Calvin invites us to serve this God in the theatre of God’s glory, the world. Marilynne Robinson reminds us that “Calvin was a product of Renaissance humanism, a student of Greek and Roman classics who reread Cicero [106 BC-43 BC] every year, a writer of exceptional grace and lucidity in both Latin and French, a man of prodigious learning, who did not dwell on damnation but rather exulted in a sovereign but not at all distant God, a God whose glory was manifest in the goodness of the world and the potential of humanity.

Is predestination the same as predeterminism?

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John 1:1

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

 

 

Ken Kovacs
Ken Kovacs

Kenneth E. Kovacs is pastor of the Catonsville Presbyterian Church, Catonsville, Maryland, and has served congregations in St. Andrews, Scotland, and Mendham, New Jersey. Ken studied at Rutgers College, Yale Divinity School, Princeton Theological Seminary, and received his Ph.D. in practical theology from the University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland. He is also an analyst-in-training at the C. G. Jung Institute-Zürich. Author of The Relational Theology of James E. Loder: Encounter & Conviction (New York: Peter Lang, 2011) and Out of the Depths: Sermons and Essays (Parson’s Porch, 2016), his current research areas include C. G. Jung and contemporary Christian experience. Ken has served on the board of the Johnson C. Smith Theological Seminary in Atlanta, is a current board member of the Presbyterian Writers Guild, and a book reviewer for The Presbyterian Outlook.

Ken’s weekly sermons at CPC can be found at http://kekovacs.blogspot.com/

 

 

D I G  D E E P E R


 Marilynne Robinson and John Calvin

Marilynne Robinson
Marilynne Robinson

“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

John Calvin
John Calvin

“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.”

John Calvin, from his commentary on 1 John 4:9

The St. John’s Bible

Genesis from The St. John’s Bible

The Saint John’s Bible is the first completely handwritten and illuminated Bible commissioned by a Benedictine Abbey since the invention of the printing press.

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).[1] 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.[2]

The scriptorium of The Saint John’s Bible is located in Monmouth, Wales.

 

The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyám

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The Rubáiyát
Omar Khayyám

The moving finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.


Omar Khayyam was born in 1048 in present day Iran.  In the Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Ernst Troeltsch points out the rise of Rationalism in the Muslim world at that time, and with perhaps the exception of Voltaire, no poet or philosopher was more cynical than Omar Khayyam, the high priest of free-thought and of pessimism. His masterpiece The Rubáiyát has often been compared to Ecclesiastes and reading the two together offers rewards on many levels, including a good contrast of Islam and the God of Israel.  One of the fundamental differences between Islam and Christianity is Pessimism vs. Optimism.

Here is a good example of the two.  In Ecclesiastes we have this in Chapter three:

“What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

Whatever is has already been,

and what will be has been before;

and God will call the past to account.

And I saw something else under the sun:

In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,

in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

I said to myself,

“God will bring into judgment

both the righteous and the wicked,

for there will be a time for every activity,

a time to judge every deed.”

The Teacher’s acceptance of God’s beautiful plan differs from Omar Khayyam’s nonaccepting attitude:

Ah Love! could you and I with Fate conspire

To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,

Would not we shatter it to bits—and then

Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire!

Beyond this is Jesus Christ.  He is Emmanuel, God among us, the remedy for pessimism and the recognition of God’s transcendence and His eternal love for man.  He is our Savior.  The Rubáiyát says once the moving finger has written nothing can change your destiny or fate. Nothing but the blood of Jesus.

 

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Ephesians 1:7

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.

D I G  D E E P E R


 

 

There are volumes on Ecclesiastes in all the great commentaries, and treatments of it in the volumes on Introduction. See A. J. Arberry, ed., The Legacy of Persia (Oxford: Clarendon, 1953); R. N. Frye, The Golden Age of Persia (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975) and Edwin M. Yamauchi, Persia and the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1996).  A few of the many separate commentaries are those of Moses Stuart, Andover, 1864; H. Grätz, Leipzig, 1871; G. Wildeboer, Tübingen, 1898; E. H. Plumptre, Cambridge, 1881. Other works are those of J. F. Genung, Eccl, and Omar Khayyám, 1901, Words of Koheleth, 1904, and The Hebrew Lit. of Wisdom in the Light of Today, 1906; C. H. H. Wright, Book of Koheleth, 1883; S. Schiffer, Das Buch Coheleth nach Talmud und Midrasch, 1885; A. H. McNeile, Intro to Eccl, New York, 1904.

On the similarity to Omar Khayyam: J. F. Genung, Ecclesiastes and Omar Khayyam, Boston, 1901; A. Buchanan, Essence of Ecclesiastes in Metre of Omar Khayyam, London, 1904. On the history of interpretation: S. Schiffer, Das Buch Coheleth nach Talmud und Midrasch, Leipsic 1885; M. M. Kalisch, Path and Goal, London, 1880.

Finally, a good overview is found with Samuel Macauley Jackson, ed., The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge: Embracing Biblical, Historical, Doctrinal, and Practical Theology and Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Biography from the Earliest Times to the Present Day (New York; London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1908–1914)