ENGLISH VERSION - Bulletin Nº 41 June 27, 2021
THE CALVINIST ETHICS
by Rev. Renato Souza Prates
It has already become a fact that in today's Brazil we are experiencing what Rev. Augustus Nicodemus calls “the revival of Calvinism”. Known Arminian groups such as Baptists, Assemblies, Methodists, and Neo-Pentecostals have recently adhered to the Reformed faith. Even within Presbyterian churches we have noticed an awakening in the study of Calvinism, especially among young people and teenagers.
However, we have noticed that while Calvinist or Reformed theology has been widespread, another aspect of Calvinism has been overlooked in lectures, congresses and messages: Calvinist ethics. Ethics, according to the classical interpretation is the study of morals. Unlike other approaches, Calvinist ethics is based on God's revelation in His Word.
The distinction between right and wrong is not resolved through an empirical discovery of natural law, as was the case with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, nor through the logical formalism of Kant, and certainly not through the impossible calculation of the utilitarianism of the greater good. for greater numbers, but by the revelation of God in the Ten Commandments.
This revelation comes from the following points: First, of God's act of creating man in his own image and of the basic moral principles implanted in his heart, later violated by sin; Second, from the specific instructions given to Adam and Noah, which undoubtedly went beyond and expanded innate bestowal; Third, from the most comprehensive revelation given to Moses; Fourth, of the various subsidiary precepts given in the rest of the Bible.
Following Calvin's lead, Westminster scholars devoted questions 91-151 of the Larger Catechism to the moral law. Take question 139 as an example:
Q. 139. What are the forbidden sins in the seventh commandment? (Thou shalt not tamper)
A. The sins prohibited in the seventh commandment, in addition to neglect of required duties, are: adultery, fornication, abduction, incest, sodomy, and all unnatural lusts, all impure imaginations, thoughts, purposes, and affections; all corrupt or foul communications, or listening to them; lewd looks, impudent or flippant behavior; immodest dress; the prohibition of lawful marriages and the permission of unlawful marriages; allowing, tolerating or having brothels and their attendance; the embarrassing vows of celibacy; the undue delay of marriage; having more than one wife or more than one husband at the same time; divorce or wrongful abandonment; idleness, gluttony, drunkenness, impure society; chants, books, pictures, dances, lewd spectacles and all other provocations to impurity, or acts of impurity, whether in ourselves or in others.
As we can see from this example, Calvinist ethics interprets the moral law or the Ten Commandments, rather than just taking them literally. The Calvinist ethics was so influential that through it, Reformed groups transformed the realities of cities and even entire countries such as Switzerland, England, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Holland and even the United States of America, which was formed by Calvinist groups.
The big question we can ask is: Given the current crisis of corruption that our country and our city are experiencing, have we really been Calvinists? I believe we are very close to a theology, yet very far from a Calvinist practice.
Today we are going to reflect on Calvinist Ethics according to the text of Colossians 3.18-4.1.
In chapter 3 of the Letter to the Colossians, the Apostle Paul, writing under divine inspiration, offers several ethical recommendations to the Colossian believers, and from verse 18 onwards, we want to highlight the social duties that start with the believer's family, through work and if reflect on our relationship with Christ Jesus. According to Calvinist ethics, the believer should lead an exemplary life in these three areas: family, work, and church. Today we are going to reflect on the first two areas: Calvinist ethics in the family and at work.
1st Recommendation: Ethics in the Family (18-21)
a) Wives must be submissive (18). The expression submission in this context does not mean “subservience” or “blind subjection”, but a respect or consideration for the one who has the responsibility to be the head of the household: the husband. The idea here is that the husband is a troop leader who goes ahead of his soldiers in a battle and takes every risk for it. That is why the wife owes respect and consideration to her husband. It is through submission that Christian women evangelize their non-Christian husbands (1 Pet 3:1-2).
b) Husbands should love their wives (19). This is the sacrificial love that Christ had for us, to the point of giving up his own life to save us, as recorded in Ephesians 5, from verse 22. As head of his family, the husband is a general who goes ahead, who protects and that provides all the resources for the maintenance of your home.
c) The children must obey your parents (19). Because in doing this they please God, because they fulfill the fourth commandment, prolonging their existence on the face of the earth.
d) Parents should not provoke their children's anger (21). Discipline is good and should be present in the home, but it should never be replaced by anger or provocation.
Have we been Calvinists in our home?
2nd Recommendation: Calvinist Ethics at Work (22-4.1)
When it comes to work ethics, one of the most difficult things for Brazilians is not to fall into the trap of the “Brazilian way”. There are many scams coming from workers, from a lame excuse not to go to work to corruption and fraud in the service.
One of the ways in which the German sociologist Max Weber wrote his famous book “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism” was that he realized that every Calvinist prospered in his work, and work prospered with the Calvinist. But what we see today is something totally different: someone who claims to be a Calvinist gets up to speed on the job and still harms the company's development.
Verse 22 says that servants or workers must obey your master in everything, not only in appearance, but as if serving the Lord, because in fact this glorifies God.
A few years ago I learned of a fact that saddened me a lot: a Presbyterian believer who decided to get ready in the company to be sent away, thus guaranteeing his labor rights. This is a disgrace to Christianity! A real Calvinist would never do this, but he would be true to his standard and negotiate a peaceful exit from his job. And even if he were wronged, he would be sure that he would be rewarded by the Lord, as verse 24 says.
But labor commitments do not end with employees' duties. There are also obligations for bosses. The first verse of chapter 4 says that masters must treat their workers fairly, because they also have a Lord in heaven.
Another characteristic of a Calvinist is to always treat those who work for him fairly. On Fantástico's “Secret Boss” show, a boss disguised himself as an employee and went to one of his companies to find out how his supervisors worked. He was amazed at the way one of his foremen treated all employees politely, encouraging them to do their jobs as if they were doing it for God! Here it is worth a time for reflection for you, the employer.
How do you treat those who work for you? Do you grant your workers rights, such as a formal contract, for example? Deposit the Guarantee Fund? Do you give a vacation? Do you pay your workers on time? Or are they out there speaking ill of the boss who claims to be a Calvinist? The thing is serious. If saying a Calvinist is one thing, living as a Calvinist is another matter!
Today we learn a little about Calvinist ethics, which is the ethics of the Word of God. This ethics covers all areas of our life, both family, professional and ecclesiastical. May God bless us to always obey His Word!
From this Sunday on, you will enjoy a Revelation Series with Dr. Joel Beeke. It is amazing studies from which we can lear more about this instigating book.
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