The treatment and value given to prayer stand so dominantly at the center of Calvin’s complete life work that here the systematic theologian, the biblical scholar, the church teacher and the pastoral counselor all are speaking to us with equal force. (Udo Smidt, Das Gebet bei Calvin)

A Reshaped Life-View

One of the most remarkable renewals brought by the Reformation was a shift in the whole idea of what it meant to be worthy and do good. The very purpose of life was redirected. Preoccupation with acquired virtue and earned status was displaced by confidence in friendship freely received and permanently guaranteed by God’s unearned love.

Scriptures Alone, Grace Alone, Faith Alone

The revolution in Christian ethics, like so much else in the Reformation, may be seen as an indirect result of the return to the Scriptures. Even before the Reformers, many common people had the intuitive feeling that the medieval Church had set up its own system of hoops, which you had to jump through to merit eternal reward. The traditional approach to life, spelled out in the official canons, was removed from the joyful spontaneity that one could recover through renewed focus on the spirit of Jesus in the Gospels.

The Reformers found it tragically unchristian that the Roman Church should have contrived to manipulate people’s conscience using a kind of balance sheet of earned “merits.” The religious establishment had been less than honest in leaving lay people with the superstition that God keeps score on your pious activities: as you light a votive candle, venture forth to venerate the relics of some saint, subsidize a mass, or contribute to a building fund. One could even receive papers in connection with certain special donations (“indulgences,” ...

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