Aug

24

2011

Justin Taylor|12:00 am CT

Beautiful Language about a Beautiful Savior

In an address on Christian eloquence John Piper wrote:

The attempt to craft striking and beautiful language makes it possible that the beauty of eloquence can join with the beauty of truth and increase the power of your words. When we take care to create a beautiful way of speaking or writing about something beautiful, the eloquence—the beauty of the form—reflects and honors the beauty of the subject and so honors the truth. The method and the matter become one, and the totality of both becomes a witness to the truth and beauty of the message. If the glory of Christ is always ultimately our subject, and if he created all things, and if upholds all things, then bringing the beauty of form into harmony with the beauty of truth is the fullest way to honor the Lord.

John Calvin is an exemplary model of this. His beautiful and arresting prose, saturated with biblical truth, can capture the mind and heart more than prosaic prose which clunks to the ground.

For example, consider this section of his preface to Pierre-Robert Olivétan’s 1535 translation of the Bible.

“To all those who love Christ and his gospel,” Calvin writes:

Without the gospel

everything is useless and vain;

without the gospel

we are not Christians;

without the gospel

all riches is poverty,

all wisdom, folly before God;

strength is weakness, and

all the justice of man is under the condemnation of God.

But by the knowledge of the gospel we are made

children of God,

brothers of Jesus Christ,

fellow townsmen with the saints,

citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven,

heirs of God with Jesus Christ,

by whom

the poor are made rich,

the weak strong,

the fools wise,

the sinners justified,

the desolate comforted,

the doubting sure, and

slaves free.

The gospel is the Word of life.

Or consider this section from Institutes 2.16.19, where he explains that “We see that our whole salvation and all its parts are comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.”

If we seek salvation

we are taught by the very name of Jesus that it is “of him.”

If we seek any other gifts of the Spirit,

they will be found in his anointing.

If we seek strength,

it lies in his dominion;

if purity,

in his conception;

if gentleness,

it appears in his birth. For by his birth he was made like us in all respects that he might learn to feel our pain.

If we seek redemption,

it lies in his passion;

if acquittal,

in his condemnation;

if remission of the curse,

in his cross;

if satisfaction,

in his sacrifice;

if purification,

in his blood;

if reconciliation,

in his descent into hell;

if mortification of the flesh,

in his tomb;

in newness of life,

in his resurrection;

if immortality,

in the same;

if inheritance of the Heavenly Kingdom,

in his entrance into heaven;

if protection, if security, if abundant supply of all blessings,

in his Kingdom;

if untroubled expectation of judgment,

in the power given to him to judge.

In short, since rich store of every kind of good abounds in him, let us drink our fill from this fountain and from no other.

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