John Calvin's 504th Birthday Party (2013)
Warm greetings to each of you. Thanks for coming to my — 504th! — birthday party. Calvinists, of course, rarely overcelebrate events — for most of us the practicing joy and doing celebrating takes a bit of effort. I’ll do my best, and invite you to do so to.
For some years now, I’ve dutifully been showing up on your campus for my birthday. But I must admit that my delight has always been a bit muted: for so long this place has been overwhelmingly Dutch. All your presidents have had Dutch surnames. But now at — long — last you have president whose surname is French! Thus my unmuted, full-throated joy at coming this.
I’ve come on a tractor. (And yes, make no mistake, on a “Jean Deere” tractor!) Why? Well, because I want to teach you what T.U.L.I.P. really means:
- Total Depravity - We who know tractors make a big deal of colors. If you wish to see the essence of vileness, perversity, depravity, then consider all pretender-tractors, especially those painted red. But this brilliant green reminds me daily of the once-unsullied freshness, delight, and grandeur of a spring day in the original creation.
- Unconditional Election - In all instances, save this one, choosing is based not on merit, attractiveness, or the creature’s inherent worthiness. But in this instance, I’m convinced, this tractor was chosen on the basis of one foreseen merit — the sound of its engine. To my ear, a 1941 Jean Deere B produces a sound “than which none greater can be imagined.”
- Limited Atonement - On this point, I’ve racked my brain on what to say — what’s to say when there’s nothing to say? Besides 4-4.5 point Calvinists reject this one anyway, so let’s skip it.
- Irresistible Grace - Again, usually it’s the other way around: The lover woos and draws the beloved home. But here it’s the reverse: this machine’s color and shape, its unrivalled power, and, yes, its engine’s sweet sound — all these drew me this tractor. My heart was strangely warmed.
- Perseverance of Saints - The one who owns this tractor, himself a convinced Calvinist, says he rode this machine a few years ago from Calvin to NW Iowa. He reports it didn’t miss a stroke in 700 miles. So, talk about perseverance of people — I’d prefer to talk about perseverance of my namesake tractor!
I once wrote: “There is not a blade of grass, not a flower in the field that’s not intended for us to rejoice.” Having met this tractor, I now add: “….nor a Jean Deere." Give me a tractor like this, and I’ll scorn the pomp and riches of France’s King Francis I!
So, my Calvinist friends, while keeping ourselves from idolatry, let us also adore with wonder: Behold, in its green splendor, the tractor of all tractors, a 1941 Jean Deere B!.Thanks for coming to celebrate with me. And now, let us eat cake!