Calvin’s “Temporary Faith” for the Reprobate

April 30, 2014

by Ron F. Hale 

I’m sorry, but I have a tender heart toward the theological creature in the Augustinian/Reformed tradition called the reprobate.  It gets even worse! Did John Calvin teach that God gives a “temporary faith” to the reprobate—making them think they are saved—when they are not?

A great deal is said by John Calvin concerning the reprobate in his classic Institutes of the Christian Religion and in particular book III, chapter II, section 11.1 To help, I will divide his long paragraph into four (4) sections and add commentary. The emboldened phrases will be my emphasis added.

Since many evangelicals do not normally make use of this term, it is important to define reprobation or the reprobate:

Reprobation: From the Latin verb reprobare, to reprove. This is the belief that God has eternally condemned all non-elect persons to eternal condemnation for their sins. Calvin insisted “that this is not just a matter of God’s ‘passing over’ the non-elect, but an actual hardening so that they are actually strengthened to resist the gospel,” although he also taught that humans are unable to understand the full counsel of God on this issue and must humbly trust His goodness and justice in this.2

I believe in election and that it “is consistent with the free agency of man.”3 Thus, the idea of the reprobate is a problem in decretal theology. Since many Calvinists do not see any conditionality in the sovereign decree(s) of God, they must either adhere to a system where God decides to choose some (the elect) and rejects or predestines others to hell (the non-elect or the reprobate), or they go with the less harsh version, where God only predestines the elect to heaven but the non-elect go their own way in sin without a harsh decree but with a fate that is sealed because of God’s non-choosing.

Section One:
Calvin says, “I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them.”

What happens when one of the elect of God fall away from the church? And, what happens when some of the “reprobates” or non-elect persons live a Christian life that better reflects God’s grace and glory than some of the Elect? This is why Calvin said, “yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them.” Most Southern Baptists view people as either “saved” or “lost” persons. Therefore, the plight of the reprobate (according to Calvin) can be a shocking storyline.

Section Two:
Calvin said, “Hence it is not strange, that by the Apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and by Christ himself a temporary faith is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption.”

Notice the phrases “by Christ himself a temporary faith, is ascribed to them” and “instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness” and “without the Spirit of adoption.” The Jesus that I personally know and have studied about in the New Testament would never be involved in such a “bait and switch” by crediting temporary faith to a person thereby making them feel mentally and morally assured of their faith–when they are not a child of God.   

Section Three:
Calvin said, “Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father. Therefore, as God regenerates the elect only for ever by incorruptible seed, as the seed of life once sown in their hearts never perishes, so he effectually seals in them the grace of his adoption, that it may be sure and steadfast. But in this there is nothing to prevent an inferior operation of the Spirit from taking its course in the reprobate. Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith. We may add, that the reprobate never have any other than a confused sense of grace, laying hold of the shadow rather than the substance, because the Spirit properly seals the forgiveness of sins in the elect only, applying it by special faith to their use. Still it is correctly said, that the reprobate believe God to be propitious to them, inasmuch as they accept the gift of reconciliation, though confusedly and without due discernment; not that they are partakers of the same faith or regeneration with the children of God; but because, under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common with them.

Calvin is implying that some kind of lower work of the Spirit is taking action in the reprobate leading to a confused sense of grace, yet the reprobate continues to believe he or she is counted among the elect. Yet, while the reprobate sincerely believes, Calvin applies to the non-elect professed believer a cloak of hypocrisy. How can the reprobate be charged with hypocrisy, when he or she has been duped in the first place?  

Section Four:
Calvin said, “Nor do I even deny that God illumines their minds to this extent that they recognize his grace; but that conviction he distinguishes from the peculiar testimony which he gives to his elect in this respect, that the reprobate never attain to the full result or to fruition. When he shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection. He only gives them a manifestation of his present mercy. In the elect alone he implants the living root of faith, so that they persevere even to the end. Thus we dispose of the objection, that if God truly displays his grace, it must endure for ever. There is nothing inconsistent in this with the fact of his enlightening some with a present sense of grace, which afterwards proves evanescent.”

Yes, Mr. Calvin, it is inconsistent for God to enlighten some (the reprobate) with a present sense of grace, which turns out to be evanescent or short-lived! A “present sense of grace” appears to be a false sense of grace—given not “for keeps” but to deceive. Is this divine sadism?4

In closing, while John Calvin seeks to explain the assurance of salvation for the elect in this section of the Institutes, he digresses to the extreme in dealing with the reprobate. In the theological world of Calvin, it seems that he would give this piece of advice to reprobates who feel the love of God in their hearts: “Get over it!” Alas, the idea of God giving a temporary faith impugns His character—showing that He does not seek the highest good for those created in His own image.

© Ron F. Hale, April 19, 2014


1 http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/calvin/bk3ch02.html#eleven.htm
2 Shawn D. Wright, “Glossary of Some Important Theological Terms,” in the book, Calvinism: A Southern Baptist Dialogue, Nashville: B & H, 2008, 284. This book contains articles by both Calvinist and Non-Calvinist writers.
3 The Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
4 In the book Whosoever Will by Allen and Lemke, Dr. Kenneth D. Keathley mention the writings of R. Olmstead, in his book Staking All on Faith’s Object (140-141), and says, “In Olmsted’s opinion, Beza’a teaching on the fall of the reprobate “comes perilously close to ascribing the matter to divine sadism.” Beza was a second generation major follower of John Calvin. Keathley also mentions the work of Kendall in his book Calvin and English Calvinism (36), that Beza said the reason that God gave a temporary faith to the reprobate was that “their fall might be more grievous.”

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available

Norm Miller

The more I read the Institutes, the more I think Calvin sometimes is projecting the god he wants God to be. At times, he writes as someone who had serious issues in childhood. He is sometimes vindictive and judgmental. What is most flabbergasting is his belief in his own ability to know why God did/did not do certain things. E.g., what verses from the Bible, or what instances of biblical record could Calvin draw from to deign to assert this?: “He only gives [reprobates] a manifestation of his present mercy.” Or this? “…but the Lord, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse, instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption.” Is Calvin a seer? How on earth does he purport to know this? Furthermore, is God a sadist, as you asked, rhetorically?

I cannot fathom why so many follow such a man, especially one who attributes so much to God from extra-biblical ‘inspiration.’

There are times when we also need to be reminded that, the Calvin that so many thousands today believe in and teach is the same Calvin who sought to establish a theocracy in Geneva, who baptized babies, and who, as the historical record shows, wanted Servetus dead. I suspect the latter three points are *never* topics of discussion and teachings at T4G, e.g.

    Max

    “… Calvin sometimes is projecting the god he wants God to be.”

    Whew! The SBC dilemma is getting more complicated. Let me see now …. under the big tent which is stitched into a fabric of something-for-everybody black words on white pages (BFM2000), we have not only made room for two soteriologies, but two Gods?! Soooo … what is the Baptist Faith and Message? … the one we should take to a lost world of not-yet-elected reprobates?

    Carl Peterson

    Norm,

    Whether you agree with Calvin or not it is good to be fair to him and his opinions on what the Word of God says. Part of being fair is looking at the source material. Calvin gives many verses to support his claim especially in the sections right before the one quoted.

    Also history shows that Calvin was actually more lenient on Servetus than many others. And he was of course a person of his times. Many who were in power would put heretics to death or in Calvin’s case did not believe it was wrong to do so. The Bible is also full of men (like Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Peter, and Paul) who had some really poor judgment. I am happy that we serve a risen savior and not men. However, I am also happy that we can read and listen to what fallible men said in the past.

    BTW if you are not going to learn from “shady” men and baby baptizers then you better throw out the traditional doctrine of the Trinity, Incarnation, Justification by faith. Just to name a few.

      Norm Miller

      Carl: I stand by my statement on Calvin. Reading his Institutes is sickening. Also, read what Robert posted about Bruce Gordon’s book on Calvin at this date/time stamp in these comments: 2014/05/02 at 4:06 pm.

      Per Calvin being “lenient” on Servetus: since when is murder “lenient”? And note that one charge against Servetus as heresy was his anti-paedobaptism views. So, either way you go, Carl, Calvin missed it. Murder a man for saying it was wrong to baptize babies.

      Per Calvin being “a man of his times”: that is a patently weak excuse for murder. That same anemic cultural argument that you use in an attempt to excuse Calvin for murder then may also be applied to modern times; thus, your view excuses Christian women for having abortions, Christian men for committing adultery, and church youths for “sexting.” Why? Well, b/c these are people of their times, and others are doing the same thing. Really, Carl? Culture should never be gauge or guide of believers’ behavior. In fact, the reverse ought to be true. So, to say that Calvin did nothing out of the ordinary as compared to other murderers of his time makes Calvin no less of a murderer. And to cite biblical figures such as you did does not excuse Calvin; it merely indicts them, too.

      Last, the “shady” men comment: does that apply to those who wrote the Scriptures? That is where I learn about the Trinity, Incarnation, Justification by faith, just to name a few. I learn about God from inspired writings, not ‘Instituted’ ones.

Tim Rogers

Brother Ron,

Are you tapped into my cell phone? Peter Lumpkins and I were discussing this very thing yesterday as we discussed Hebrews 6. :) The falseness of faith to make one believe one is saved when in fact that person is not saved seems strange to the God that in Jesus Christ went to the cross to die for all. This is an absolute travesty in that people would follow some kind of teaching like this.

Ron F. Hale

Tim,

I don’t believe in “tapping” — but the “bugs” are really bad this Spring.

A key point that I have contended for over the last several years is for individuals to thoroughly read the works of Mr. Calvin before buying into the system. Reading what others “think he wrote and taught” is much different than actually studying his constructs.

Blessings!

hariette petersen

the more I read of Calvin’s writings, the happier I am to be a child of God who KNOWS the Savior died to set me free from such gobbly gook. Thank You, Jesus for your love, your sacrifice and your intervention on my behalf. Thank you for becoming sin for me and receiving me as Your own forever.

there’s such confusion in these passages that point to more confusion for a lost soul… God is not the author of confusion… John wrote what he wrote that we might KNOW… where in the world (or rather, in the Bible) does Calvin get this kind of thinking? are there Scripture references? or is this his personal philosophical theology? do you think maybe he had a brain tumor or something…?

Lydia

My question on this one was always, who would know who these “Christian looking” reprobate are? Not even the reprobates! He is literally selling a bait and switch tactic by a Holy God. And I often wondered if Calvin had decided that the gentle servant Castellio was reprobate and that is why he treated him so cruelly over time. Perhaps it was a special doctrine that gave him carte blanche to deal with close dissenters?

Thanks Ron. Calvin’s writings need to be analyzed in depth. And yes, it is sadism. I think the man had serious mental issues and was given way too much power too young. How anyone can read history and think him a hero of the faith is beyond me.

volfan009

Ron,

Has anyone ever called you an “old reprobate?” Just wondering…..lol.

David

    Ron F. Hale

    David,

    Yes, but they left out the “old.” :)

Doug Sayers

Thanks Ron, You have shown how one of the best ways to refute Calvinism is to let Calvinists speak for themselves. They will eventually step in it while trying to defend their erroneous presuppositions. It does take some nerve to blame the Holy Spirit for those with vain, spurious, and lukewarm faith in Christ. The reason Calvin had to go there is to protect his interpretation of what it means to be “dead in sin” and his deficient views of common grace. It would be impossible to have any “sense of His goodness” when you supposedly:

Cannot see anything desirable in God or Christ.
Lack the spiritual ability to appraise spiritual truths.
Are only free and capable of resisting the Holy Spirit.
And my favorite: What can a dead man do? Nothing but stink. (Unless, of course, God forces some inferior operations of the Holy Spirit on him) !?

When we build on an error we usually have to add more error to compensate.

Also, he really exposes the fatalism of the Reformed system in these sections of the Institutes.

    Ron F. Hale

    Doug,

    Great points — thanks for adding these additional thoughts.

    Also — I’ve enjoyed your fine articles and look forward to future writings.

    Blessings, Ron

    Max

    ” … one of the best ways to refute Calvinism is to let Calvinists speak for themselves. They will eventually step in it while trying to defend their erroneous presuppositions.”

    Yep, professors of aberrant theology eventually talk themselves into a hole. One of SBC’s seminary presidents was a bit overly defensive of his presuppositions when he said “… if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going to end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this new Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing …” That essentially would place the majority of Southern Baptists (non-Calvinists) not committed to the gospel nor wanting to see the nations rejoice in Christ in his mind! There is no shortage of arrogance in reformed ranks when they profess that they have a corner on the truth and have been predestined to restore the gospel which has been lost by the rest of us.

Lydia

“Has anyone ever called you an “old reprobate?” ”

Vol,

That is exactly what I call our dog.

    volfan007

    Lydia,

    lol

    David

Christian

What is the solution for the SBC? I do not want to support Calvinism, yet it seems no one will at least let the churches designate our funds. I suspect most of the SBC church’s prefer not to support it either. Our schools should reflect our beliefs also. Something is “rotten” from the top down! If my pastor should decide to lead our church away from the SBC, I would probably support him. My pastor already says going to the annual convention is a waste of time. If that is true, why should we send our money. Wake up SBC before you collapse inward!

    Ron F. Hale

    Christian,

    Despite our differences, I’m a Southern Baptist and will always remain in the SBC and support the Cooperative Program, Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for International Missions, the Annie Armstrong Offering for North American Missions, and our State missions offering. I will try to attend Associational meetings, state convention meetings, and attend the national convention’s that I can afford, I’m in, and I’ve been in, and I’m going to stay in until I can’t give, go, or know what’s going on around me. I have faith toward the future and … waiting for Revival.

Robert

Norm and Lydia you both brought up John Calvin’s character. As one of my mentors strongly reminded me when evaluating a comment, claim or doctrine: consider the source. And in the context of Christian leadership the Bible is absolutely clear what is expected of Christian leaders (I will not quote the qualifications here as I assume that all are familiar with them already).

Norm you wrote:

“The more I read the Institutes, the more I think Calvin sometimes is projecting the god he wants God to be. At times, he writes as someone who had serious issues in childhood. He is sometimes vindictive and judgmental. . . . I cannot fathom why so many follow such a man, especially one who attributes so much to God from extra-biblical ‘inspiration.’
There are times when we also need to be reminded that, the Calvin that so many thousands today believe in and teach is the same Calvin who sought to establish a theocracy in Geneva, who baptized babies, and who, as the historical record shows, wanted Servetus dead. I suspect the latter three points are *never* topics of discussion and teachings at T4G, e.g.”

And Lydia you also spoke of Calvin’s character:

“Calvin’s writings need to be analyzed in depth. And yes, it is sadism. I think the man had serious mental issues and was given way too much power too young. How anyone can read history and think him a hero of the faith is beyond me.”

The definitive biography currently on Calvin (definitive according to Calvinists as well) is Bruce Gordon’s: CALVIN.

Look at this description of Calvin and ask yourself how this person compares to what the New Testament says about Christian leaders:

“John Calvin was the greatest Protestant reformer of the sixteenth century, brilliant, visionary, and iconic. The superior force of his mind was evident in all that he did. He was also ruthless, and an outstanding hater. Among those things he hated were the Roman church, Anabaptists and those people who, he believed, only faint-heartedly embraced the Gospel and tainted themselves with idolatry. He saw himself as an instrument of God, and as a prophet of the Church he brooked no rivals. He never felt he had encountered an intellectual equal, and he was probably correct. To achieve what he believed to be right, he would do virtually anything. Although not physically imposing, he dominated others and knew how to manipulate relationships. He intimidated, bullied and humiliated, saving some of his worst conduct for his friends.”(from the preface)

Does that sound like a man of godly Christian character? I would say No.

A “ruthless and outstanding hater” is the opposite of the New Testament references about elders.

It is clear that Calvin was intelligent. But we do not follow, or better, we should not follow a leader who does not manifest godly character. By no stretch of the imagination could the person described by Gordon be viewed as someone manifesting the fruit of the Spirit. Instead he manifested the “works of the flesh.”

It seems clear that by the marks of a Christian (including love of the brethren, love of the lost, the character traits required of elders) he does not fit these things at all. I believe later Calvinists intentionally overlook and minimize his lack of character, his hatefulness towards others, his sinful actions towards others and focus on the **content** of his beliefs and theology and writings instead.

I was taught that a godly person is seen in their character first, second in the content of what they teach or promote.

There is no way looking at this person who was “an outstanding hater” that you could conclude that he was an example in character of what a Christian leader ought to be. Ironically some modern Calvinists seem to follow Calvin’s example: like him they tend to be very smart but also very hateful of all others who believe differently and they tend to sometimes be extremely verbally abusive in their interactions with those who believe differently: manifesting the same traits as Calvin. How many times do we see Calvinists who have to be removed from discussion lists or permanently banned? How many of these Calvinists have no hesitation in attacking other believers who believe differently (including Traditionalists) as Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, and even heretics? Calvin similarly had no hesitation or ever showed any remorse in attacking others who believed differently with extremely hostile language, with labels, with acidic comments. He not only attacked them verbally he even had no qualms about murdering them, having them imprisoned, banished, etc. Consider this source before you ever esteem such a person or follow his writings or teachings.

I completely reject the veneration of Calvin by modern Calvinists as we should honor people worthy of honor (which biblically speaking is godly persons who exhibit godly character). In the world they may esteem someone’s intellect or intellectual accomplishments (Einstein being a perfect example of this) while at the same time overlooking or minimizing their character or immorality. But I do not think that ought to be the Christian way. We ought to esteem people who exhibit godly character, who trust the Lord in difficult circumstances even if they are hated by the world.

Robert

    Norm Miller

    Both barrels, point blank. Nice shot, Mr. Bruce Gordon.
    (And thx to Robert, too.)

      Robert

      Hello Norm,

      The thing about the Bruce Gordon biography is that the quote I gave is just a brief description from the preface! In the rest of the book Gordon provides incident after incident where the description presented in the preface are shown to be accurate of Calvin and occur repeatedly in his life. Everybody can mess up sometimes, but reading Gordon’s book you see this track record of Calvin’s that is completely unacceptable. Some have even questioned whether or not the man was a saved person based upon these many incidents. Many folks intending to attack Calvin will appeal to the Servetus incident (and granted it is appalling and shows real problems with Calvin). And yet there were many, many other incidents that Gordon records and describes. It is the totality of these incidents that reveal Calvin to be an “outstanding hater”, manipulative, ruthless, willing to do anything to get his way. It is amazing that someone could read about these incidents and not reject both Calvin as a person and his unbiblical system of theology.

      Both sadly and ironically what results from Calvin’s character is a theology in which not surprisingly God is very similar in his character to Calvin (both hate their enemies and would do anything to destroy them). As some have noted (e.g. Roger Olson the prominent Arminian author) if Calvin is correct about God and his character, then it is difficult to distinguish the character of God from the character of the devil (both seek to destroy the majority of humanity, both want to see and will do whatever it takes to ensure that the vast majority of human persons end up suffering eternally in hell). It is very sad that anyone would follow Calvin as an example or desire to maintain, defend and promote his theology if they really know about the man.

      Robert

        Ron F. Hale

        Robert,

        You have shared some intriguing material, may I encourage you to write an article utilizing the book for references? I’ve enjoyed reading your comments in the past! Blessings!

wingedfooted1

“How many of these Calvinists have no hesitation in attacking other believers who believe differently (including Traditionalists) as Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, and even heretics?”

“It doesn’t matter what ‘most Baptists’ believe or what is the ‘traditional Southern Baptist understanding.’ For a long time I’ve been stating that most American Christians, including most Baptists, are semi-Pelagian, not Arminian and not merely non-Calvinist.” – Roger Olson, a prominent arminian

    Robert

    Wingfooted1 I had said of Calvinists that:

    “How many of these Calvinists have no hesitation in attacking other believers who believe differently (including Traditionalists) as Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians, and even heretics?”

    You quoted this and then wrote:

    “It doesn’t matter what ‘most Baptists’ believe or what is the ‘traditional Southern Baptist understanding.’ For a long time I’ve been stating that most American Christians, including most Baptists, are semi-Pelagian, not Arminian and not merely non-Calvinist.” – Roger Olson, a prominent Arminian”

    Now I agree that it is wrong to unfairly label those you disagree with (whether it is Calvinists labeling Traditionalists as Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians or heretics: likewise it is wrong if others unfairly label people as Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians or heretics).

    I have noted at this blog that you have repeatedly quoted Olson and made comments that suggested that you personally have some sort of problem with Arminians or Arminian theology. For example in the past you have tried to claim that Arminians are actually “1 point Calvinists”. It appears that you are concerned or troubled by Arminian beliefs in some way: Wingfooted1 what is your problem with Arminian beliefs? I ask this because Baptists hold many Arminian beliefs whether they view themselves as “Arminians” or not.

    While many Arminians do not hold to eternal security, as for myself I hold to both depravity (but not holding the same conception as Calvinists in regards to depravity) and to eternal security. I would also be labeled as an Arminian by many people (I deny unconditional election, see election as conditioned upon faith, I deny limited atonement, I see the atonement as being provided for all and applied only to believers, I deny irresistible grace believing that the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work enables but does not necessitate faith: note these are all traditional Arminian beliefs). So I hold what are considered traditional Arminian beliefs. I am also strongly opposed to Calvinistic theology so it would be error to refer to me as a “1 point Calvinist” because I affirm depravity.

    When it comes to “Pelagian”, I would reserve Pelagian for someone who denies that we need the grace of God at all in order to be saved. A Pelagian believes we can come to God on our own, without any grace coming from God. A Pelagian believes we can initiate our own conversion.

    A Pelagian denies ALL CONCEPTIONS of depravity.

    I am wondering wingfooted1 how do you personally define Pelagian?

    And what is your own view of depravity?

    You may not hold to a Calvinistic conception of depravity (I don’t either), but what is your view of depravity?

    Robert

Lydia

“It seems clear that by the marks of a Christian (including love of the brethren, love of the lost, the character traits required of elders) he does not fit these things at all. I believe later Calvinists intentionally overlook and minimize his lack of character, his hatefulness towards others, his sinful actions towards others and focus on the **content** of his beliefs and theology and writings instead.”

Robert, Yes! Historical facts about Calvin disqualify him right off the bat.

Most of the YRR I have known (young men in or out of seminary) had no clue about the historical Calvin. They have been indoctrinated with various elements of Calvinism but are ignorant of the details of history. (I was just talking to a friend the other day how ironic it is that an SBC seminary president often writes about infant baptism. But it has become necessary for obvious reasons. One example: Barnabas Piper left the Baptist church over that issue but now works for Lifeway. Not sure what his dad expected when he was promoting Calvin as a great theologian. There are many examples of that sort of thing and the confusion)

So when historical facts are brought up they go into defense mode with some of the most bizarre “Non Christian” arguments I have ever heard. “He was a man of his time”. And my favorite, “Burning heretics was legal at the time”. The Nuremberg Defense for their favorite theologian? If they can read the facts of what transpired in historical 16th Century Geneva under the reign of Calvin and not be appalled but make excuses, that should give us all pause. It IS something to publicly disagree with. Young people are listening. If we do not think Calvin was a tyrannical despot, what is that teaching them?

I often wonder if they had done their homework on Calvin early on by reading secular history, what might have transpired. Are hearts so callous the facts of Calvin’s behavior and character not have mattered? Would they have been able to connect dots that perhaps Calvin had a diabolical interest in structuring the details of his ST the way he did?

All this does is create more callous hearts. And ignorant minds.

If we do not connect the dots of the Cross to Resurrection and living as the Kingdom now, we should give it up. That makes us frauds. “Evil” Christians might fit the Calvinist construct but it is a lie..

I see the Calvinist resurgence in larger terms as part of our society’s steady march toward collectivism and an oligarchy. Authoritarianism is on the rise in both government and church.

    Norm Miller

    Lydia: Another commenter mentioned Calvin being a “man of his times.” (Wow, just typing that again makes me see and even feel what a lame excuse for murder that is.) Anyway, here is my response to that person:

    “Per Calvin being “a man of his times”: that is a patently weak excuse for murder. That same anemic cultural argument that you use in an attempt to excuse Calvin for murder then may also be applied to modern times; thus, your view excuses Christian women for having abortions, Christian men for committing adultery, and church youths for “sexting.” Why? Well, b/c these are people of their times, and others are doing the same thing. Really, Carl? Culture should never be gauge or guide of believers’ behavior. In fact, the reverse ought to be true. So, to say that Calvin did nothing out of the ordinary as compared to other murderers of his time makes Calvin no less of a murderer. And to cite biblical figures such as you did does not excuse Calvin; it merely indicts them, too.”

Lydia

Norm,. My contention is that Calvinism does not do as well when there is public TWO way communication. That is why it has to be authoritarian. That is why they need ruling elders, keys to the kingdom, and sin sniffing cultures. Their focus is not on living out the resurrection now. Being new creatures in Christ.

Your comment above points out the cognitive dissonance in their arguments. If it was ok in the 16th Century why aren’t such things ok now? Is there MORE Holy Spirit now than in the 16th Century? Perhaps the real problem is that their system actually delayed individual liberty/worth going back to Augustine. How much of it is pagan Greek Philosophy? That is the scary part.

The problem is we allow them to frame the conversations and spend way too much time on defense Their system only works if we totally ignore common sense, reason and any logic whatsoever. They have to appeal totally to mystery. But that means there is a bigger problem.

I now promote reading ABOUT the Puritans and 16th Century Geneva to young people getting sucked into this system. I ask them how such devoted Christians could behave so cruelly to people. Maybe it was what they believed about God? They obviously thought they were glorifying God. How can that be? The problem comes from the filters they are being taught about reading the bible.

Carl Peterson

Norm, Lydia, and Robert

I am addressing this to all of you since the topic is the same. you state that Calvin is a horrible person, murderer, etc so we should not follow his teaching at all. He should be disqualified because of his character.

Let me first clear up a few points.

Norm, the reason why Robert might not want to give a blow by blow summary of Gordon’s book is because Gordon (in the preface nonetheless) states things like “What made Calcin, Calvin and not another 16th writer was his brillance as a thinker and writer and above all his ability to interpret the Bible. His coherent, penatrating, and lucid of God’s abiding love to humanity . . . continued down through the ages to instruct and inspire.” Seems like Gordon paints a more realistic and honest picture of Calvin than those commenting above. When I was at SWBTS I remember many professors telling me to read Calvin’s commentaries on the Bible. many of these Profs were not reformed (and still not) but they thought Calvin’s commentaries were well worth reading for edification even if one does not agree with everything Calvin wrote or believed.

Calvin was no saint but he was not boogeyman either. He was a human who was a person of his times. A time when heretics were executed for their crimes. Servetus was a heretic. That is not really debatable unless you disagree with the Trinity.

So let’s ask did Calvin kill Servetus? (I am not even asking if he murdered him like what was claimed). Short answer is NO. The Genevan Council executed Servetus. Calvin requested for a more humane execution but that was denied.

Did Calvin have a role in the execution of Servetus? Yes. Servetus was a heretic and Rome and pretty much everyone else in the church wanted him executed. Let’s see how Oxford Scholar Alister McGrath puts it.

Alister McGrath: It is not entirely clear why Servetus should have chosen to visit Geneva; possibly he had paused in the city on his way to seek refuge in Basle, as Calvin before him. He had already been condemned as a heretic by catholic authorities in France; he had, however, escaped from prison in Vienne, and made his way to Geneva, to be arrested on 13 August 1553. Alister E. McGrath, A Life of John Calvin (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 2000), pp. 118-119.

Alister McGrath: Although it was Calvin, acting as an individual, who arranged for Servetus’ accusation and arrest, it was the city council who—despite their intense hostility to Calvin—took over the case and prosecuted Servetus with vigour. (This caused some surprise to outside observers: Wolfgang Musculus wrote of his belief that Servetus evidently expected to benefit from the hostility of the city council towards Calvin.) It should be noted that Calvin’s role in these procedures was subsequently that of technical advisor or expert witness, rather than as prosecutor. On 21 August the Genevan authorities wrote to Vienne, asking for further information concerning their captive. In particular, they requested ‘duplicates of the evidence, information and arrest warrant’ against Servetus. The catholic authorities at Vienne immediately demanded the extradition of Servetus to face charges there. The city council then offered him a choice: he could either return to Vienne, or remain at Geneva and face the outcome of Genevan justice. It is significant that Servetus chose to remain at Geneva. Alister E. McGrath, A Life of John Calvin (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 2000), p. 119.

While later Purtian john Owen was not for the execution of heretics other reformers were all for it. Especially Servetus.

Bullinger wrote to Theodore Beza privately on August 30, 1553, saying, “But what is your most honourable senate of Geneva going to do with that blasphemous wretch Servetus? If they are wise, and do their duty, they will put him to death, that all the world may perceive that Geneva desires the glory of Christ to be maintained inviolate.”

I think it sad and wrong to put heretics to death (execution). But it is a sign of those times. Only in recent history has heretics not been executed.

So in Summary did Calvin murder Servetus? No. He did even have the athourity to put him to death. He was the expert witness in the trial.

Lydia wondered “if they had done their homework on Calvin early on by reading secular history, what might have transpired?” It seems some in this thread do not know the history. I think Calvin was wrong in what he did but I can find fault in Luther, Zwingli, Augustine, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory of Nazianzus, Aquinas, the SBC , etc. And US also. What are those in the future going to say about us when our cultures aborts so many babies and we do little to stop it. What about the SBC’s history with slavery. Is that not why there is a SBC? Because the SBCers promoted slavery. I will listen to Calvin, luther, Cyril of alexandria, Greg. of Naz., Aguinas, etc. and where they are true to scripture (as far as I can tell) I will follow there teachings. The demonization of Calvin(ists) or Arminians or Traditionalists does not help anyone.

    Norm Miller

    Carl: If the Holy Spirit of God indwelt Calvin so much as to make him the most enlightened theologian (very nearly) of all time (some may say), then how could Calvin have overlooked the sin of murder? I completely undid your argument of “a man of his times.” I can’t fathom why you will still be citing it. The Holy Spirit is timeless, Carl, as are the truths of God. Further, Calvin is cited in a letter as wanting Calvin dead, and is reputed to have wanted Servetus to be beheaded rather than murdered by burning at the stake. Frankly, I care not whatever else he wrote. He was ignorant about baptizing babies, and was apparently oblivious to the the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill.” If you want to defend a baby-baptizing murderer, go ahead.

      Carl Peterson

      Norm,

      Hmm. Is anyone a murderer if they believe in the death penalty and ask the government to put someone to death for crimes whose punishment is death? You throw out the label murderer but cannot back it up. Also I think you have you to reject the teachings of most of church history if you reject the teachings of anyone who baptized babies. You might think it wrong (and maybe it is unbiblical) however it is historical fact that most Christians have believed in Padeobaptism. And again throw out the Trinity and the incarnation if you do not want to learn from despicable baby baptizers. One can not agree with al lthe teachings of others to learn from that teacher. For instance I loved it when Dr. Yarnell spoke at chapel. He had some great chapel sermons at SWBTS. I was greatly edified by that man of God as seminary. I know Dr. Allen also. Another great man of God. I learned much from him and his graciousness when I worked at the seminary. He was a dean but he was also very humble. It was very good to see. Reminded me of Phil 2 but I do not think Dr. Allen would say so. I speak about those men because i disagree with them theologically on some pretty big issues. One is that I am a Calvinist ad they are not and have written against Calvinism. Still I enjoy reading their articles (even the ones against Calvinism) and hearing their sermons because I know they are men of the Word (in both sense) and are trying to love God and others and give God all the glory and honor. I do not have to reject all of their teachings because they do not agree with all of mine.

      So I guess you can still claim that Calvin was a murderer even though history is against you.

        Norm Miller

        History is not against me, Carl. Rather, the Bible is with me.
        Allow me to illustrate in this way: Abortion is legal, but is it murder?
        Laws come from the character of God, cf. the Decalogue.
        Will we say that the “laws” of Geneva that murdered heretics came from God’s character?
        You keep putting the cart before the horse in this matter.
        Another illustration. Suppose my teenaged son came to me and said, “Recreational marijuana is now legal. Can I start smoking pot?”

        All things legal in the minds of men are not moral in the heart of God. When you understand that, you will also call Calvin a murderer. I am done making and remaking this point with you. A “man of his times” is a dog that won’t hunt in these woods.

          Carl Peterson

          My first response did not go through so I will make this one shorter. I never said what Calvin or Geneva did was right. I just did not call it murder. It is not jsut an either or or a black and white choice. Calvin could be wrong but not a murderer. He was not a murderer as David was. But I think you would be fine hearing what David had to teach you. Also I think your hypo with your son helps my case because I would not label your son using legal recreational marijuana to be the same as if he used illegal recreational marijuana. Still wrong but different. And BTW kill does not equal murder. You have to show why the killing is murder. Some killing can be justified. Maybe you are a pacifist but I am guessing you are not. So I can say that the humans in Geneva did things that were wrong and not in God’s character (just like the SBC and us today) but still not cal it murder.

            Norm Miller

            Carl: I have approved all your comments. I am not sure what happened to the comment you said “did not go through.”

              Carl Peterson

              Norm,
              Did not mean that you did not approve the comment. i received an error message and when I went back to the comment it was gone. I spent some time on the other one and i was tired. Did not want to spend much time on the second one. sorry for any misunderstanding.

Lydia

Carl, I remember the time I was flying out of Little Rock during Clinton’s reign. In the card shop they were selling briskly some postcards with pictures of Bill Clinton’s 3rd grade class. The inscription was from his teacher who said he was her most brilliant pupil . We heard that refrain all through his 8 years in office. There are such things as brilliant reprobates who claim Christ.

So what is your point, again?

Carl, common sense in connecting dots has to enter into the picture at some point. .

    Carl Peterson

    Lydia,

    Huh?

Lydia

Writing in 1561 to the Marquis Paet, Calvin said,

Honour, glory, and riches shall be the reward of your pains; but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those scoundrels , who stir up the peoples to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard.

    Carl Peterson

    Lydia,

    What is your point? It is still true that the Genevan council put Servetus to death. Also you have not proven the execution was murder. You have only show that Calvin agreed with it. I never said he did not. BTW do you think the killings in the OT of those who did not worship Yahweh were murder? Obviously some were but were all of them? The Isrealites executed many because they did not believe in God.

Lydia

So, history gives us at least 2 letters where Calvin actually brags about exterminating Servetus. But wait, we have another letter that shows us it was premeditated murder. To Farel:

“Servetus wrote to me lately, and besides his letter sent me a great volume full of his ravings, maintaining with incredible presumption in the letter that I shall there find things stupendous and unheard of till now. He declares himself ready to come hither if I wish him to; but I will not pledge my faith to him; for if he did come here, I would see to it, in so far as I have authority in this city, that he should not leave it alive.”

Lydia

Carl, I will never convince you the man was a tyrannical despot and fraud. But you can be sure I do not trust anyone who believes his “doctrines” which I believe are systematized Greek Pagan Philosophy in which he adds byzantine details of his hateful view of God. He impugns God’s character. He forced a “bait and swtich” god on people or they would be punished. I fear for those who follow his philosophy and what they can do in the Name of Christ as “glorfying” to God. His rule in Christendom should be a lesson of how NOT to be a follower of Christ.

And since I believe in our personal responsibility as believers none of the typical arguments will work with me. I believe we are responsible and accountable for not only our beliefs but our behavior, deeds, actions as those who represent the kingdom here.

I had a YRR pastor tell me just a few weeks ago that good and evil reside in believers so we have to expect evil from Christians. If that is so, what was the point of the cross? (Even the demons believe) To excuse it? What else can he believe with Calvin as his role model? He has a skewed understanding of sin, walking in the light, growing in holiness, etc.

I think we have yet to see the real damage from this love affair with Calvin.

Lydia

Carl, since I do not subscribe to the determinist god paradigm of Calvin so I do not read the OT the same way as you might. That is a whole other subject but not worth the time if we are simply debating from different premises concerning a determinist God construct.

    Carl peterson

    Lydia,

    It has nothing really to do with so called decretal theology. The point is about what is murder and if executing heretics and those that hate God is murder or not. I was trying to show that it is not so simplistic. I will bow out of the conversation also. We will maye just have to agree to disagree. But since you cannot trust me, I do not know if that will work. I am sorry you have had a bad experience with the minister. I hope that has not provisioned the well for all reformed ministers and people. And btw I also believe in man’ s responsibility. I do think one has to not be too simplistic in its application however.

Lydia

“It has nothing really to do with so called decretal theology. The point is about what is murder and if executing heretics and those that hate God is murder or not. I was trying to show that it is not so simplistic.”

Carl, But is IS simplistic. The problem is I simply do not want to even try to understand that sort of thinking anymore. It is a black hole of mental gymnastics that I think leads away from Christ.

Why not ask: How come Calvin did not offer to lay down HIS life for Servetus? What kind of am impact might that have had on Servetus? How come Calvin was on the other side of the love of Christ? Do you really think Jesus Christ is confused as to whether Servetus’ burning as a heretic was murder or not? Is that really where you want to go?

I am a simple peasant, Carl. I like it that way.

Carl peterson

Lydia,

I will let others judge for themselves regarding Calvin and the theological tradition that bears his name. I will not however judge him over harshly for something I do not know if I would do if in the same situation. It is easy to say you would lay down your life but much harder to do. Jesus called us to do it knowing that He was really the only one who could do it. I will rely on Him and His works and not judge my fellow sinner before pulling the plank out of my own eye.

Lydia

“I will not however judge him over harshly for something I do not know if I would do if in the same situation.”

And this is what scares me the most. You do not know whether or not you would go along with burning someone to death because they disagreed with you about doctrine? Seriously? My goodness, burning at the stake is a bit “harsh”, dontcha think? You do understand that banishment was available as an option for Calvin and the petit council, right? So I find it amusing you think of “harsh judgement” in light of the deed that actually burned a man to death.

And yes, we most certainly must judge Calvin’s actions because of his influence for so long. If you say we must not judge, what do you do with 1 Corin. 5 that says we must judge those in the Body (not the world!). John “judged” Diotrephes behavior in a letter for all to read for 2000 years. And they were only words.

    Carl Peterson

    Lydia,

    Obviously I was saying that I do not know if I would give up my own life for a heretic if I was put in that place. It had nothing to do with going along with the execution. Big difference. I also never said we should not judge all. But I do believe one needs to judge fairly and with love, mercy, and grace. BTW the punishment seems harsh to us but would not seem as harsh to them. That is part of what I meant about being a man of his times. We think it is very cruel but we are most likely in the minority (historically speaking). In a sense, Each time period has its own peculiar sins. Our time period has abortion, homosexuality, and possibly grand selfishness that were possibly not as present in the 16th century.

    I really hope this can be my last post on the subject

Robert

Hello Carl,

I am not going to let you make your “defense” of Calvin without a response.

You wrote and named me and others and wrote:

“I am addressing this to all of you since the topic is the same. you state that Calvin is a horrible person, murderer, etc so we should not follow his teaching at all. He should be disqualified because of his character.”

John Calvin was “horrible person” and his lack of Christian character *does* disqualify him as a Christian leader.

I quoted from Gordon’s book which is a reliable and well accepted biography of Calvin (probably the best available today).

Gordon speaks absolutely clearly that Calvin was an intelligent person, but also an “outstanding hater” a manipulative, vindictive person who would do whatever he could to get his way. If we compare what the NT says about the requirements of a Christian leader, Calvin fails.

It is true that Servetus incident is part of the picture, but it was not just that incident, it was many incidents.

If we presented someone as a pastoral candidate for a local church or for a seminary position and they were the person Calvin showed himself to be by his actions, we would never hire such a person (or would we???). They would be disqualified from any Christian leadership position where godly character mattered, unless we jettisoned the Biblical requirements and focused solely on his intellect or his theology (which we accepted and believed). But this is not the Christian way, this is not right, for people who are biblical and consistent with scripture, the character of a Christian leader takes precedence over their intellect or theological positions. If character does not matter then we can have really smart people with no character or bad character in leadership positions (sounds like some in the US government!).

It is interesting Carl that you quote the following portion of Gordon:

“What made Calcin, Calvin and not another 16th writer was his brillance as a thinker and writer and above all his ability to interpret the Bible. His coherent, penatrating, and lucid of God’s abiding love to humanity . . . continued down through the ages to instruct and inspire.”

This speaks of Calvin’s *intellect* (even his enemies freely admitted he was very smart and educated) but *not* his character.

You then added:

“Seems like Gordon paints a more realistic and honest picture of Calvin than those commenting above.’”

So now you say Gordon paints a more realistic and honest picture of Calvin, but again Gordon wrote of Calvin:

“John Calvin was the greatest Protestant reformer of the sixteenth century, brilliant, visionary, and iconic. The superior force of his mind was evident in all that he did. He was also ruthless, and an outstanding hater. Among those things he hated were the Roman church, Anabaptists and those people who, he believed, only faint-heartedly embraced the Gospel and tainted themselves with idolatry. . . .To achieve what he believed to be right, he would do virtually anything. Although not physically imposing, he dominated others and knew how to manipulate relationships. He intimidated, bullied and humiliated, saving some of his worst conduct for his friends.”(from the preface)

So according to this “more realistic and honest picture of Calvin”:

“He was also ruthless, and an outstanding hater. . . . To achieve what he believed to be right, he would do virtually anything. . . . he dominated others and knew how to manipulate relationships. He intimidated, bullied and humiliated, saving some of his worst conduct for his friends.”

If I heard a modern professing Christian leader was like this in their character I would not allow them any leadership in the church whatsoever.

And yet you Calvinists look the other way, put it all under the rug, all in the name of Calvinism!

The system is so dear and precious to you that you are willing to rewrite history, put Calvin’s evil character under the rug or in the closet, rationalize Calvin as a “man of his times”, all in order to preserve, defend and promote your Calvinistic system.

So character no longer matters for Christian leaders, all that matters is that someone is smart and holds to the Calvinistic system.

And you wonder why non-Calvinists who do know the facts of history and the facts of the Calvinistic system are so strongly against this and oppose this?

But that does not bother you at all since again all that matters is the Calvinistic system of theology preserving it, defending it, promoting it, doing whatever you can to make it control and take over the SBC (especially the seminaries and leadership positions).

How ironic that a system developed by a man who lacked godly character is now the model and he is the model for what some people want for SBC leadership including pastors of local churches.

Robert

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available