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John Calvin was one of the truly great Christian exegetes and, indeed, systematic theologians of all time—never mind that I disagree with a great deal of what he has to say about God, his sovereignty, the nature of his grace, and election, predestination, and human freedom.

I attended Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which is largely in the Reformed tradition, even though I was an evangelical Methodist. I read Calvin, Theodore Beza, both Hodges (Charles and A. A.), B. B. Warfield, G. C. Berkouwer, Louis Berkhof, Cornelius Van Til, and various other Calvinists. I enjoyed taking a class on Calvin with T. H. L. Parker at the University of Durham in England during my doctoral studies and reading in his commentaries. The end result was discovering that when it comes to careful exegesis and consistent theological systems, Calvin had set the bar high.

Along the way, I also discovered exactly why I am not a Calvinist, and I became a more convinced Arminian as a result of reading Calvin. I also discovered that Calvinism is actually in the main a redoing of Augustine's theology. Calvin's is not at all a distinctively Protestant form of theologizing. But he deserves full marks for working out the logical implications of Augustinianism to the nth degree, as well as for adding some new wrinkles.

Above all for me, he is to be respected for understanding that biblical theology can only be done on the basis of a detailed and comprehensive exegesis of all the relevant material. This is precisely what I have tried to do in my career. I needed to follow Calvin's lead and begin by researching and writing commentaries on the entire New Testament corpus. Exegesis is the basis for all good biblical theology, and the latter should not be ...

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In the Magazine

September 2009

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