On Jan.9, 2016 Justin Taylor posted this excellent article on the Gospel Coalition website on how and why to read Calvin’s magnum opus, the Institutes of the Christian Religion.
If you have never read this classic work because you are intimidated by it or argue you don’t have time, read on. Perhaps 2016 is the year you take on this massive (in size, scope, and significance!) tour de force.
Here is Taylor’s important introduction:
If you haven’t yet read C. S. Lewis’s introduction to Athanasius’s On the Incarnation, I’d highly recommend it.
He wants to refute the “strange idea” “that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books.”
Lewis finds the impulse humble and understandable: the layman looks at the class author and “feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him.”
“But,” Lewis explains, “if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator.”
Lewis therefore made it a goal to convince students that “firsthand knowledge is not only more worth acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire.”
I suspect this holds true with respect to evangelical Calvinists and one of the great theological classics: Calvin’s Institutes. Are we in danger of being a generation of secondhanders?
Let me forestall the “I don’t have time” objection. If you have 15 minutes a day and a bit of self-discipline, you can get through the whole of the Institutes faster than you think.
From there, Taylor says this, while also providing three (3) main reason why we should read Calvin’s Institutes:
The McNeill-Battles two-volume edition (for now the generally accepted authoritative standard) runs about 1800 pages total—so you could technically read it twice in one year at just 15 minutes a day!
Three reasons why this book in particular should be a particular object of serious study:
The Institutes may be easier to read than you think.
The Institutes is one of the theological wonders of the world.
The Institutes has relevance for your life and ministry.
To read the rest of what Taylor has to say on this subject – something that applies to many classics of the Christian faith (read Lewis’ comments above again!) – visit the Gospel Coalition link below.