Paris Needs Prayer, Jean Cauvin

What a terrible day in Paris! People in general, but the Parisian in particular, needs to know that they are safe even when they are pressed into the reality–as we all are!–of the circumstances of the day, that they really aren’t; at least not humanly speaking. As the events of November 13th, 2015 illustrated in an horrific and unimaginable way, the Parisian today needs to peacefrenchknow that even if such horrific types of events intersect with their lives and their psyches, that God in Jesus Christ is for them; that He loves them, and that He demonstrated this love for them at His cross (cf. Romans 8.6). The Parisian needs to know and rest in the evangelical reality that God in His providential care has them in His big hands, and that no-one can pluck them out of His hands, not even a terrorist with a Kalashnikov or hand grenade. The Parisian knows better, or as well as anyone else today, how fragile this life is, and how the circumstances of life can change in an instant and in a very violent way! In the face of this they need prayer; they need dialogue with the Triune God who loves them, He desires that the Parisian would cry out to Him, and seek their rest and security in Him and in His mighty care. French theologian, Jean Cauvin or John Calvin says this to his countrymen about their need for prayer, and what it will supply for them in this very trying time,

Words fail to explain how necessary prayer is, and in how many ways the exercise of prayer is profitable. Surely, with good reason the Heavenly Father affirms that the only stronghold of safety is in calling upon his name [cf. Joel 2:32]. By so doing we invoke the presence both of his providence, through which he watches over and guards our affairs, and of his power, through which he sustains us, weak as we are and well-nigh overcome, and of his goodness, through which he receives us, miserably burdened with sins unto grace; and, in short, it is by prayer that we call him to reveal himself as wholly present to us. Hence comes an extraordinary peace and repose to our consciences. For having disclosed to the Lord the necessity that was pressing upon us, we even rest fully in the thought that none of our ills is hid from him who, we are convinced, has both the will and the power to take the best care of us.[1]

I cannot think of a more timely word from Calvin for our French-Parisian compatriots. The reality is that things like this can continue to happen, in Paris and elsewhere; and they most likely will! Is the ultimate answer for individual people going to be live in fear and paranoia; is the answer going to be for more surveillance, or the boning up of weaponry, is that the answer? No, the answer as Calvin has so eloquently lain bare, is for the Parisian to talk with God; to pray. To commit themselves into His hands, and it will only be here where an ‘extraordinary peace’ and sense of security will take hold; as the petitioner to God finds this in the One who holds all things together in His big hands and by the word of His power.

I am praying for the Parisians today, please join me!  le Seigneur a pitié !

[1] John Calvin, Institutes II/2, 851.



  1. I shared this quote from N.T. Wright recently that seems timely, and Christians should take heed when they beat the drum of war against ISIS.

    “God’s work in the world is never merely pragmatic. It isn’t simply ‘We can organize a program to go and do this.’ If you think we can do God’s work like that, read the lives of people like William Wilberforce and think again. You can’t. You need prayer, you need the sacraments, you need that patient faithfulness—because we are not wrestling against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers and the world rulers of this present darkness.” -N.T. Wright


  2. What is righteous about allowing evil acts to continue. Some thoughts on this by c.s. Lewis, “why I am not a pacifist”.


  3. I agree, Jim … absolutely!!


  4. Yes, Jim, let’s beat the wardrums and go to war. Let’s go after ISIS, the very creation of a 100 plus years of Western meddling in the Middle East. Let’s go create more monsters. Let’s cut off one more head of the hydra, only to spawn 2 more. Let us go off to war with no understanding because we need to ‘do something’.

    Bobby, I appreciate your sentiments. But everyone on the internet has to offer up their 2 cents on this or that attack. If you watch the news, you know what happened. Can we not let people grieve before we offer our commentary (even if with the best intentions)? Can we not stand before the Throne in silence (at least for a time)?



  5. Anthony, you think ISIS and the slave trade are comparable things? I don’t.


  6. […] a quick housekeeping note in regard to commenting here at The Evangelical Calvinist. I actually don’t get that many comments anymore (blogging has changed since I started 10 […]


  7. I am trying to understand what is wrong with urging victims of terror and their friends to pray to Almighty God. I am trying hard. I am not succeeding.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Yes, I didn’t understand that either, Bowman.


  9. I’ve restored your comment, Cal.


  10. On those beating wardrums we are hearing, Cal is right to be cautious.

    ISIL is three things: (a) reunification of Sunni Arabs divided by the British Iraq-French Syria border established by the Sykes-Picot Agreement written into the Versailles Treaty, (b) a political community for those who want to live C9 Islam, (c) a de facto state that outrages the West with forced migrations, barbarity, and terror to show other Muslims its utter seriousness about being (b). Let’s think this through.

    Truthfully, (a) is the natural order of things, surely just, and maybe wise. President Woodrow Wilson opposed Sykes-Picot as immoral and diplomatically foolish. He was right, as everyone now sees. More recently, and well before ISIL, Vice-President Joseph Biden proposed independence for the Sunni of that region, and was opposed on the grounds that, no matter what the Sunni want, a united Iraq needs their oil revenue, and Turkey needs a united Iraq to contain the Kurds. But Iraq seems destined to be a Shiite country unwilling and unable to govern in Sunni territory, and the Turks have been notably reluctant to restore the status quo ante that was established for their benefit. So be it: the Sunni in East Syria and West Iraq are safer and more free than they were, and it is unlikely that “destroying ISIL” would improve that.

    As for (b), it is time-travel religion, somewhat like a bunch of Christians taking over Idaho and reinstituting C1 Temple worship, Roman coinage, slavery, etc on the authority of the New Testament. “We are not at war with Christianity. The vast majority of Christians are peaceful, law-abiding people who do what we tell them to do. But a small extremist minority are determined to impose their Bible law on the modern world…” It is not obvious that an international order that can accommodate Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iran, Pakistan, India, and other religious states has no room for another one. If one does not desire war with Islam per se, then it is hard to object to this. If one wants to fight for a more secular-looking successor state to ISIL, then one actually does want war with Islam per se. Drumbeaters are not often clear about that.

    The real problem is (c). Clearly ISIL is sponsoring violence beyond its borders, and other states must protect their nationals from it. This is largely theater to show the Muslim world that ISIL is truly serious about (b) and that Muslims elsewhere should be too. For that reason, it is often explained as a recruiting tool that could lose its value. But because ISIL also opposes secular order per se, and must expand its territory to show the legitimacy of its caliphate, it is also possible that the violence could get much worse. Thousands of lives and billions of dollars depend on which is truly the case.

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  11. Bowman,
    First, I guess it is ok now to give an opinion as you have. I am familiar with the history and the situation in the region as I have family there working with refuges every day. I am not beating war drums; however, negotiation with the unwilling for whatever reason and being nice doesn’t appear to change many minds.

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  12. Briefly, and as less flustered, polemical, and aggressive as possible:

    I am frustrated because a very public, spectacle event in a beloved Western city receives all sorts of outpouring. But murder happens everyday in major cities like Baltimore, Detroit, or in horrible war-torn countries where the media does not raise up a flare. I’m irritated that we are so easily dragged by the nose into whatever the particular narrative is.

    No doubt the 100+ victims of an Islamic terror attack in Paris remain dead and many families are ruptured. This, of course, needs prayer. But we can be to quick to allow an attack on the Western psyche to be construed as a deep blow to mankind properly (Christianly) conceived. At least, any deeper than the 100+ dead on the Russian airplane, which is already on its way to being forgotten.

    I know it’s your blog Bobby, you are entitled to write as you please, and I apologize for using it as a platform to snarl. God bless you with every blessing on account of Christ Jesus your lord, my lord, our lord, the Lord.

    in peace,


  13. Jim,

    This is where we’re called to more than a failure of the imagination. The response ought not be merely “if not the olive-brance, the sword”. That might be the game nations play, but I can’t see that we as Christians could ever advocate or back such an opinion. The only other alternative to violence is not nice-liberal-diplomacy, which you rightly criticize.

    And then of course, part of the reason ISIS has persecuted Christians so viciously is on account that all Christians have become seen as a 5th column for the West. This may be a pretension to kill them and take their stuff, but I doubt it’s so calculated (considering the Christians who’ve remained are not necessarily wealthy). Christians (whether American or European) calling for the sword will only prove the point in their minds.

    Maybe you’re ok with this, but I am not a Niebuhrian. I don’t think a realism requires violence. I don’t think the Christian tradition as a whole requires this either. ISIS represents an Islam that has fully embraced the Void, and worships Death. But to say that change only really happens at the edge of a spear is equally nihilistic. Its the Apollo/Dionysus paradigm.

    I don’t expect President Obama, President Hollande, or anyone else, to understand this. But I plead the Church to think through beyond the impasse of “pacifism” so-called/limp-wristed liberalism, or, war, bloodshed, death.

    Maybe I’m oversimplifying your position. Forgive me if I attribute to you wrongly. But I think CS Lewis was woefully incompetent in this matter, and his friend JRR Tolkein had a much keener insight into the darkness of violence.



  14. Cal,
    I hear you and yes you did.


  15. Cal’s point could be historicized.

    A century ago, the horrors of our own Civil War were still remembered, and wars fought elsewhere seemed to be Games of the Great Powers played in endless and cynical moral ambiguity. Most American Protestant pulpits were pacifist. A young Presbyterian named Dwight Eisenhower apologized to his devout mother for joining the Army. To Protestants, war was unambiguously wicked.

    The Second World War changed American minds by being The Good War. The enemy was incinerating millions of Jews. Our closest ally was in mortal peril. We were attacked without provocation. The brothers Niebuhr counseled Americans to take up the responsibilities of their imperial power. The war effort literally mushroomed.

    The Cold War maintained the change by being The Unavoidable War. The enemy had ICBMs with nuclear warheads aimed at the American heartland. And he had an ideology of world conquest. Thus, until late in the Vietnam War, even liberals were reluctant militarists. Democrats lost the 1968 presidential election by managing the American hesitation less adroitly than Richard Nixon. Nevertheless, presidents retained almost unlimited power to fight The Unavoidable War until the Soviet empire disintegrated.

    The First Iraq War looked like the The Good War. Iraq had a dictator, invaded Kuwait, massed troops on the Arabian border, and had a Baathist ideology of conquering Arabs.

    The Afghanistan War looked like The Good War.

    The Second Iraq War looked like The Unavoidable War. America had been attacked. Iraq was said to have weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was also said to have terrorist allies who would carry them to the American heartland. There was a global Axis of Evil that had to be stopped before it stopped us. Again, presidents received an Authorization to Use Military Force of vast scope and indefinite duration. The next president will still have this authority.

    So then, ISIL. Public opinion notwithstanding, the main point of keeping Sunnis in Iraq is to deny Iran a client state, and to keep Turkey happy by preventing the accidental liberation of Kurdistan. The civil war in Syria is old-fashioned Great Powers rivalry, with the Powers vying to win just to show that they can. So the purely moral hesitation about fighting ISIL is that, while evil deeds are indeed being done against innocents, the project of intervening to take territory away from a secessionist state is clearly a Game of the Great Powers of the sort that American Christians once regarded as wicked.


  16. Who said war is good? I suppose if one was sitting in restaurant or a stadium and bombs go off maybe one would think differently. Maybe not.


  17. Bowman,

    Respectfully, you missed my point and I’m not quite sure your historiography is correct. Americans were actually quite feisty in some quarters for WW1, including Protestants and Roman Catholics (I recall the bishop of Baltimore equating the ‘Great War’ as God’s war against the barbarian German hordes). And World War 2, only in retrospect, was considered the ‘Good War’. I’m not sure whether most Americans understood, realistically and not, say, propagandistically, why Japan bombing Pearl Harbor means we need to invade ‘fortress Europe’.

    There’s also the issue that many a Protestant (particularly respectable mainline, not fundie bible-thumping) tied their pacifism to the means of Western civilization and social-justice. I think it’s here why the same Protestants would become the hawks, or at least the Real Politik, of the Cold War. It was tied to a civilizational project. It’s for similar reasons I would make the controversial claim that Richard Niebuhr is really a Western pagan who uses Christian symbols.

    I’m explicitly rejecting the liberal imperial nation-state project, whether Christianized or not. My non-violence is not couched in that the US can accomplish more by not bombing and initiating negotiations. I’m not a pacifist in that regard. I’m also not a pacifist in saying that I wouldn’t hit someone if they were mercilessly attacking my literal, flesh-and-blood, neighbor. I might. Peace-Making is a vocation Christians are called to, and non-violence is the way.

    But how can an actual church-community actually contribute without recourse to cheerleading or wagging our heads at the violence of the nation-state. Was the Church biting her nails when Roman Emperors would march to this or that war? Before you throw-up in your mouth because you are hearing “Yoder…Anabaptist…” (maybe not you Bowman, but an onlooker), this isn’t a Constantinian rant. The Church is not founded on account of Emperors, and the Church isn’t, by necessity, corrupted by Emperors. But presently, Christians are despised as bigots and overly moralistic hypocrites. There’s truth to the accusation.

    But back to my original point: what should we do? Let’s think outside of the politics of thinking/hoping/expecting that the US or France or Russia is somehow bearing God’s Wrath justly against ISIS, or what have you. I do not think there is any ‘Good War’. The doctrine of ‘Just War’ is a bad joke. We ought to ask what can the Church do? And as we begin to ponder, it might become clear why the Christians in America suffer from a Babylonian captivity.

    I’m sorry for the long and seemingly unending list of what may seem tangents. But are there no otherways beyond asking or hoping for the Nation-State to wield the sword?


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  18. Addendum: And as Bowman eludes to in the confusion of war or not against Islam. ISIS isn’t the problem, fundamentally, it’s the murder and violence being enacted. This is the horror. Not living underneath an Islamic Caliphate. Christians accomplished much, even as subjected dhimmi (John Damascene was quite productive). Life is precious, even the vile murders and rapists, and we ought to hope that repentance comes, not their full absorption into the Void through a bullet in the head or an exploded bomb. Let’s not let our democratic and liberal sensibilities get the best of us (and of course, I write this comfortably from my heated apartment with my functioning computer).


  19. Addendum secundum: The above is not an apology for ISIS or an explanation. I hope the murders and terrorist spectacles stop. Even the Terror of the French Revolution devoured itself and something more judicious and prudent emerged. The nihilism of the Republic and ISIS are quite similar. I pray God save us from Muslim Jacobins.


  20. The way I see the geo-politics of this is that there is a globalist agenda driving much of it; an agenda that has somewhat gotten out of control. But ultimately war is an industry and always has been; especially since the advent of the military industrial complex. The more chaos, the more those at the top profit. Refugees and instability in the middle east and across the globe creates conflict and big business and profiteering for the minions who thrive in such realities.

    I see, using the imagery of Revelation, this military industrial complex and the globalists behind it (big banks, corporations, etc.) as the Beast, as such, it will require Jesus to come back in Revelation 19 style to finally put his last enemy ‘death’ to Hades. Until then, I do believe that God providentially uses even some of the most corrupt among the amalgamation that makes up the Beast to bring about some justice for the most neglected among us (I think of Babylon or Assyria like in Is 10 or Jer 50–51 etc). That does not mean we need to endorse knee-jerk bombings of ISIS or anything else; it also does not mean we can simply default back into mere expediency. If we were a people who relied upon God we would seek His wisdom in all of this and pray to the One who in Himself is Providence for us in Jesus Christ. We would ask Him what to do. But of course we won’t do that because America and the Nations of the World (except for ISIS) have so ruptured divine discourse with profane and political discourse that to think of doing such a thing in a meaningful way would simply be foolish for the various anti-Christs who are the leaders of the nations today.

    I do think Christians have a real and prophetic role to point the secular in the right direction, morally etc. Of course even Christians can’t agree on what that looks like, even in this thread. I am confident though that neo-Marxism is the not the Christian way, and that there will be no Utopia on this earth apart from the coming of Jesus Christ! Come quickly!

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  21. Thanks Bobby, that’s solid. Come quickly indeed

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  22. Cal and Bobby, we seem to agree.

    The received account of changing American attitudes toward the *prospect* of war reflects each generation’s experience of war and the churches and political movements influential at the time. Before a war, a natural American isolationism coupled with memories of the last war drives assessments of the prospect of fighting. During a war, Americans usually rally around the flag, whether they agree with the war or not, as they did during the First World War. After a war, *retrospective* evaluations set the standard for future wars. Cal’s facts and mine fit the usual account.

    Presently, a case for war persuasive to Americans must sound like either a Good War (like the Second World War) or an Unavoidable War (like the Cold War), and not like a Game of Great Powers (like the Spanish-American War or, in liberal memory, the Vietnam War and the Second Iraq War). The ambivalence that Americans feel about the prospect of fighting ISIL almost singlehandedly to contain the fallout of Iraqi Shiite policy reflects their inability to see such a fight as either a Good War or an Unavoidable War. Conversely, those voices who want such a war emphasize facts that frame fighting ISIL as either Good or Unavoidable. Meanwhile, there is a reasonable case that war against a de facto state producing oil that has upset regional players would be a forbidden Game of Great Powers, but this perception has not broadened and hardened into a public consensus.

    Amid this fluidity, Cal urges Christians not to blindly follow the old liberal internationalism of the Niebuhrs in which the mere accumulation of power seems to generate a duty to use it, while Bobby notes that, even if we frame events in apocalyptic instead, we can pragmatically accommodate some beastly habits that have justice as their byproduct. President Obama is fond of the Niebuhrs, and it may be that their counsel is more useful to a caesar pursuing the enemies of man with satellites, drones, and special forces than to churches that now seldom send men into the infantry to fight, take territory, and die. Today, tall professionally fit neighbors ask us to pick up their mail and newspapers; they are away for a week or so; rumors leak of an assassination half a world away; on their return, they gratefully collect their mail and news, and mow the lawn. Anthony’s quotation above from Tom Wright seems an apt capstone to the thread.

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