Born to a Lutheran family, I owe my first name to Martin Luther. I attended a Lutheran church community in southern Brazil for most of my life, learned a bit about Luther in Sunday school, and studied him further in the pre-Confirmation course I did as a teenager. Although I studied hard, there’s only so much you can learn about theology when you’re 13 years old—that is: not that much, really. I see now that I then lacked the maturity to grasp many ideas.
Calvin first appeared in my readings through History books that portrayed him as an austere while influential theologian and pastor, and placed an unbalanced emphasis on his doctrine of predestination. In my first year of law school I read about him in Weber’s The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which stressed the (perceived) importance of the doctrine for the development of capitalism.
God’s mysteries led me from growing up Lutheran to getting involved in a Calvinist church community during my master’s in New York, and later coming to Geneva, the “city-church” where Calvin implemented his reformed theology. In New York I started to study more about Calvin’s theology with one of the pastors at City Grace Church, but I couldn’t advance much—I blame the (endless) readings for my master’s and later for the bar exam, but deep down I know it’s my own fault. Yet, as I mentioned in an earlier post, when I came to Geneva I was determined to give it another try.
And so I did. Surely the best thing about my long commute here is that it gave me time to read a book comparing Calvin and Luther—their personalities and life paths, as well as their thoughts on different topics. I won’t try to summarize the conclusions here. In fact, the author of the book doesn’t present any conclusions. In the postface he explains that synthesizing the contributions of the two theologians would harm their individual coherence—a view to which I fully subscribe. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t draw my own conclusions, without attempting a merger.
Through the eyes of those two great historic examples (not models), I understood better (or solidified the conceptions I already had about) God’s grace, my own helplessness, the foundations of Christian life. My trust in the Lord’s perfect will certainly increased as I studied the lives and works of those two men who submitted to Him wholeheartedly.
I also found out we (the three of us!) have a lot in common, from our anguishes to our interpretations of the Bible to our… academic background?! Yes: Luther was headed to law school and dropped out to go to seminary (so to speak); Calvin was already a lawyer (so to speak) and gave it up to become a theologian and pastor. (Will that ever happen to me? God knows. I don’t think it will, but what do I know?)
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This is only the 5th but already the last post I write in the city of Calvin for the time being. The blog hasn’t even had a proper chance to acquire a French accent, and I’m already off to new adventures elsewhere in this world. Ironically, I’m leaving the city of Calvin for the country of Luther! But I’m not leaving unchanged. Yes, I have more work experience, more knowledge on international investment law, more people in the to-be-missed list—but those are all expected results of yet another short-term stay in a foreign land. What I mean is I’ve changed in deeper ways.
Reading the Luther/Calvin book certainly helped in significant part, but it wasn’t just that. Many other factors—including testimonials and prayers and messages and biblical passages and learning by both faith and experience—have drawn me closer to God over the past few months, in a process that is still (and I hope will remain) ongoing.
In particular, I’m much more confident—most importantly, not in my own abilities, but in His plans! To be specific, but not really, as of yet things haven’t quite worked out for me as I wanted, career-wise. Not at all. Normally, being the control freak that I am, I would be very frustrated, but that’s far from being the case now! Throughout this time in Geneva I’ve been having such clear assurances of God’s continuous love and provision that I’m not even slightly bothered.
If He hasn’t given me what I wanted so badly and asked for, and even if He never does, I’m okay, because I know He has something even better for me. “He’s up to something.” And while He doesn’t reveal it to me, I’m at peace.
Perhaps this is a good phase that will fade away, when my old dramatic self strikes hard again. But perhaps I’m no longer the odious control freak I used to be, and won’t ever go back there. I’m hoping and praying it’s the latter!