Calvin makes a wonderful point about the Christian life and the Gospel:
“It is not apprehended by the understanding and memory alone, as other disciplines are, but it is received only when it possesses the soul, and finds a seat and resting place in the inmost affection of the heart.” III.VII.V
Does the Gospel sit on your heart and rest there – soothing your heart, becoming an inmost affection? And when I say “Gospel”, its very easy to think that the “Gospel” is some quick fix pill, that it is the “Gospel” – the word itself, is what saves us. It would be wrong to think this idea of the word “Gospel” saves us, because only Christ alone saves us. When I say Gospel and I think when Calvin says Gospel he isn’t saying sit there and look at the word “Gospel” because it will save you… no, the Gospel is about Christ and points to Christ, so look at Christ. And therefore Calvin is really asking –
Does Christ find a seat and resting place in the inmost affection of the heart?
Calvin goes on to say –
“With how much better reason, then, shall we detest these trifling Sophists who are content to roll the gospel on the tips of their tongues when its efficacy ought to penetrate in the inmost affections of the heart, take its seat in the soul and affect the whole man a hundred times more deeply than the cold exhortations of the philosophers” III.VII.V
Calvin seems to hate the idea of the good news of Christ and what he has done on the Cross, to be just mere clever talk on the tips of our tongues. To be mere apologetic lunchbars and sermons with no heart. Calvin is crying out to have Christ penetrate the inmost affections of our hearts so that we may not be cold and dull Christians or philosophers. Christians should be the ones who most in society display emotions and yet we shy away from it – we say that we should not trust emotions when it comes to Christianity or theology. No instead we should kill all our emotions so that we can roll the gospel on the tip of our tongues and allow our hearts to become cold and dead. That is attractive Christianity isn’t it?
Just to note I don’t believe our emotions have bearing on our standing with God, for example if we feel far from God the reality is very different. However we seem to have developed an undersatnding that all our emotions are not to be trusted and yet we live by our emotions daily and we see that from scripture too – just look at the prayers and psalms, bursting with emotions and affections.
So I say – bring back the emotions and the affections! Bring back Christ in the heart and let him sit there and let him bring back the tears, wailing, sackclothes, joy, dancing and singing. That feels more real to me.