Monday, 15 June 2009

The paradoxes of Calvin's thought by François Dermange

At the Calvin event yesterday afternoon François Dermange who is dean of the Geneva Faculty of Theology and professor of ethics gave a brilliant 7 minute introduction to the paradoxes of Calvin's thought.
It was however one of those moments that was slightly unnerving as an interpreter, the speaker had sent two versions of his paper in advance, it had even been translated into English - just enough to lull you into a false sense of security. Then as he started to speak his text was projected behind him but in German, while I was listening to his voice in French and trying to interpret him into English. He didn't read his text at all but spoke freely on the 8 different headings he had developed and got rid of one of them on the way to make up time, I think 5 became 4 but we still ended up at 8 rather than 7. Fortunately he didn't change his headings so I just about managed to keep up (I have a recurring anxiety dream about interpreting philosophical and theological French and the word "rhubarb" coming out of my mouth!).
The 8 theses that Dermange developed on the paradoxes and underlying energy to Calvin's thought were:
Providence and Christology; Humanism and the call to holiness; Gospel and law; the Christian, acting and acted upon; the individual and the church; Idealism and pragmatism - the radical nature of ordinary life; Love and justice; Calvin saint or Prophet?

I found it helpful to think about Calvin's thought and work in terms of dialectical paradoxes but I particularly liked what Dermonge said about the radical nature of ordinary life for Calvin, it sort of helped explain me to myself if that makes sense:

"The Christian way must be lived by everyone where they are, in their family, their jobs, their political commitments. the radical nature of their vocation runs through ordinary life, simple things ..."