Discussion Questions for Calvin Meeting, 4/2/2020

Discussion Questions for Thursday, April 2, at 11:30a (click here to join), pages 39-54 (see here for details about schedule and how to login)
Self-Denial with Reference to Other People (pages 39–45 = Institutes, 3.7.5–7)
  1. In Calvin's discussion of self-denial, he is now talking about loving people who are “unworthy of such good if judged by their own merit” (39). Why do we find this so difficult? How do we honor God’s image in others, even those who have wronged us (41)? 
  2. What’s the difference between “the external duties of love” and “the sincere affection of love”? What is dangerous about confusing them? Why do people tend to hypocritically “wear a cheerful face and render their duties attractive by friendly words” (43)? What should we do instead? 
  3. Calvin argues that we should “give help as if it were given to [ourselves]” (43). How is true Christian love different from being a doormat? From giving or telling people what they want? From shielding them from pain + consequences? (In other words, when and how can “helping” actually be hurtful and unloving?)
Self-Denial with Reference to God (pages 45-54 = Institutes, 3.7.8–10)
  1. Why is it significant that Calvin first frames God-ward self-denial in terms of being “calm and patient in this life” (45)? How should we think about and pursue blessing and comfort (46-47)? Calvin acknowledges that people canbecome wealthy and prosperous apart from God’s blessing — but what’s the result (47-48)? 
  2. “We should always look to the Lord, that by his care we might be led to whatever lot in life he provides for us” (48). How do we do this? Are there any areas where you or people in your life need to remember this?
  3. Why does the gospel provide “greater security…than the highest peak of wealth or power” (51)? How do we remind ourselves of this?
  4. What is the remedy for the anger and anxiety that come from all the “unforeseen events we are exposed to in this life” (52–53, e.g., plague, war, famine, death, poverty, etc.)? 
  5. Respond to this statement: “If the believer should be afflicted by illness, he must not be so stung by the severity of his hardship that he erupts in impatience and demands from God an explanation….Indeed, the believer should accept whatever comes with a gentle and thankful heart, because he knows that it is ordained by the Lord” (53). 
  6. Calvin talks about how pagans (ancient Greeks and Romans) consoled themselves by attributing hardship to fortune (i.e. to chance). In what ways do people still deal with or explain suffering in this way? How is it a poor substitute for confidence in the love of the Father, who always acts with “orderly righteousness” (54)?