I have on my bookshelf a copy of John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, first published in 1536 or 478 years ago. The book, at least the copy I have, is currently republished by Eerdmans of Grand Rapids and was a gift to me from my mother. I really appreciate the book, even though I must confess to never having read it through, it has been an occasional resource. When it was first published it was intended, by Calvin, to be the definitive answer for every question regarding what Christianity stood for. This was the same century that Leonardo DaVinci lived, that the graphite pencil was invented, as well as bottled beer, the compound microscope, and when Galileo invented the water thermometer.
It was indeed an age of discovery. Christopher Columbus had, just forty years prior, discovered land beyond the edge of the ocean. The world was proven to be round. As the sixteenth century unfolded Galileo was well on his way to determining that indeed the earth orbited the sun. Little of what was scientifically accepted as fact during that era is still considered to be the basis of truth today but yet people cling to the traditional reformed theology of John Calvin as if their eternal lives depended on it, they don’t.
I am not sure we are eternal beings, much as we would wish that we are I have my doubts. The eternal soul was a dream of Greco-Roman philosophy and not part of traditional Judaism. Jesus’ lessons on the Kingdom of God, or the Kingdom of Heaven depending on whether you are in Luke or Matthew, referred to more of a utopian idealistic world to be based on the law of love in the here and now, rather than a place where one would go when they died. Let that soak in for a minute and then ask yourselves, what really matters?
What really mattered for Jesus, The Buddha, the indigenous people of the Americas, for the Hebrew people and for Muslims; and what really matters for all of us now, in a much more immediate sense, is whether or not we can find a way to live with one another now, without chaos, what matters is finding peace in the world, and being at peace within our own hearts. Each of the great teachers of the world’s religions shared that goal. It was a goal of living with one another in an orderly way without violence and chaos. It was what Moses longed for when etched the law into the stone tablets he had to offer and it is what Jesus longed for when he attempted to offer the law of love as a reasoning for the all the law and the teachings of the prophets.
It is quite simple. If we could only remove the element of self-serving goals and truly live out the desire to serve others, and if everyone lived by that same governance. The world would be a better place.
Simple, but not impossible, we can do it.