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Calvin prof starts multi- generational Bible study

Professor Noe draws on scripture and John Calvin’s writing as he leads a study on suffering.  Photo courtesy David Noe.

Professor Noe draws on scripture and John Calvin’s writing as he leads a study on suffering. Photo courtesy David Noe.

Professor Noe draws on scripture and John Calvin’s writing as he leads a study on suffering. Photo courtesy David Noe.

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Professor David Noe of the classics department began a Bible study in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC) tradition on March 13. The study meets Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. in the Fellowship Room of Raybrook Manor, a retirement home within walking distance of Calvin. This study focuses on the topic of suffering from the perspective of the Bible and John Calvin’s “Institutes,” and emphasises principles of faithful teaching and sanctifying fellowship.

Noe, a ruling elder in the OPC, teaches the study from John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion,” III.6-10, called “The Golden Booklet of the Christian Life.” The biblical focus is Mark 8:34 and Matthew 16:24. Based on these verses, Noe teaches three main topics concerning suffering in the Christian life: 1) self-denial, 2) cross-bearing and 3) meditation on the future life.

Each Wednesday night consists of a time of teaching during which questions are welcome, a time of discussion and then time for fellowship and prayer.

Junior student Ryan Heckaman said, “The 20 or so regular attenders are of one of the widest age ranges I’ve ever done a Bible study with, from teens through people in their 80s. Hearing people talk and ask questions is always interesting because you aren’t sure exactly what people may ask or say and the views are very diverse.”            

Noe’s interest in creating this new Bible study came from many sources. One of the most influential causes was the shift away from students of CRC background attending Calvin. Noe noted that many students don’t have a Reformed background and so have never received a clear explanation of the Reformed faith. He was interested in creating a safe space to teach historical Christianity and Reformed theology as a simple expression of the Reformed faith.

Another reason for Noe’s interest is that this Bible study is an exploratory study. Noe and several core families are interested in planting a church near Calvin’s campus to reach out to conservative or curious students. Noe is also very focused on creating an environment of serving God, one another and the community in this study and in any future church plant.

In order to continue the study and to discover if there is enough interest for a church plant, the group will need to find additional core families who will attend the study and will welcome and encourage the college students attending during the school year. Right now, there are about five core families consistently attending in addition to Raybrook residents and college students from Calvin and other local schools. Noe said that the involvement of college students in church is exciting because they have so much energy and enthusiasm to offer.

The current study of suffering ends May 10, aligning with the end of the semester. Though most college students will be leaving the Grand Rapids area for the summer, the study will continue through the summer with students who remain in town and the growing core of families. Beginning May 17, the study will move to the topic of “The Sacraments of the Old Testament and Their Fulfillment in the New Testament.”

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