Some thoughts on Calvin

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Ghoti2

Active member
Nov 8, 2019
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#1
I just ran across this old article.
“The two big obstacles to admiring Calvin are a chill authoritarianism and his repulsive doctrine of double predestination”, says Christopher Howse.​

Was John Calvin really a monster?

By Christopher Howse

5:36 PM BST 25 Jul 2009

It is 500 years since the birth of John Calvin, that astonishing man. He knew he was great. In a letter in 1554 to the Polish king, Sigismund II, urging upon him the need for a reformed Church, he laid claim to a remarkable position.

The papacy, he said, had apostasized, but "God himself brings the remedy in raising up fitting and upright teachers to build up the Church, now lying deformed among the ruins of Popery, and this office, which the Lord has laid upon us when he made use of our services in collecting churches, is one that is altogether anomalous."

I came across this passage in a new biography by Bruce Gordon (Calvin, Yale, £25), late of St Andrews University, now at Yale, both institutions deeply formed by Calvinism. So wide has Calvin's influence become in the half millennium since his birth that we hardly register his name in a brand of underwear (Klein) or a strip-cartoon (and Hobbes).

This week's Church Times asks: "Was Calvin a monster?" Beginning Dr Gordon's book, I was ready to learn to love John Calvin. Finishing it, I found myself not quite up to the task. He repels intimacy. In his denunciation of Genevan citizens who defended the sinful practice of dancing, for example, his tone sounds like that of Mohammed denouncing the evil people of Mecca. One day the city is not going to tolerate them.

The two big obstacles to admiring Calvin are a chill authoritarianism and his repulsive doctrine of double predestination.

Calvin's influence in Geneva can seem like that of Savonarola in Florence, the century before. Both changed the religious practice of a city, with the co-operation of the ruling magistrates. The difference is that Savonarola was burnt and Calvin joined in the burning.

A half-mad heretic called Servetus was burnt at the stake at Geneva in 1553. Calvin said that he would have preferred to see him beheaded. Best of all he would have liked him to recant. The same preference was expressed at the time by churchmen surrounding Queen Mary in England, who sent Protestants to the stake. Burning was a convention of state law at the time, but it does not win our hearts. Even by the arguments of the day, who was to say which were the right culprits to burn?

Worse, if true, is a doctrine of predestination that puts men and women in eternal fire by God's long-laid plan. It is not that some kind of predestination is untenable. If people go to heaven by God's grace, his gratuitous gift must have been decided from all eternity. That is different from God creating people with the intention of sending them to hell.

In 1551 Calvin was confronted by a reformer called Jérôme-Hermès Bolsec, who accused him of making God out to be the author of evil in deciding the fate of the damned before their creation. Bolsec was imprisoned by the magistrates and lucky to be banished from the city.

I had hoped to find Calvin's doctrine not as bad as it was reputed to be, but a more inspiring side to his mind was a conviction that all depended on the grace of God. He followed in practice the teaching of St Paul. Indeed Dr Gordon makes Calvin out to have identified with St Paul so closely that he began to see himself as a second Apostle chosen by God to remake his Church.

Dr Gordon also portrays Calvin as a man accustomed to being the most intelligent person in the room. In a letter to Cranmer in 1552, while Edward VI was still alive, Calvin rebuked the Archbishop for mishandling the reformation, saying: "How very remiss you have been in many matters."

Calvin's hopes for unity among reformers were constantly dashed. Far from the reformers in Poland following his lead, most of their ministers had by the year of his death in 1564 embraced strong anti-Trinitarian sympathies. In other words they did not express belief even in the same God as Calvin.
 

Ghoti2

Active member
Nov 8, 2019
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#4
Paul never mentions hell.
That's true. In Paul’s letters there is no explicit mention of eternal punishment or hell. Paul does talk about the coming day of judgment and wrath (1Thess 1:9-10; Rom 2:5, Rom 5:9; 2Cor 5:10). But here, Paul does not talk about a space of eternal punishment, but instead warns of the consequences for sin, reminding people that “you reap whatever you sow” (Gal 6:7).
 
Oct 9, 2018
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#5
The tyrannical reign over Geneva by the theocrats who enforced Calvin's ideals about how a Christian society should operate, testifies against him.
 
Apr 15, 2017
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#6
1Co 1:11 For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you.
1Co 1:12 Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.
1Co 1:13 Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?

1Jn 2:27 But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.

Act 17:10 And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews.
Act 17:11 These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

2Ti 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

I never understood why people care to take heed to people that are popular among many people and listen to them when the Bible explains it all.

And it appears when someone has a great following, and people look up to them as a spiritual giant that most of the time they are false.

Because we see the truth to behave like Christ led by the Spirit is not as popular as those that preach otherwise, and no one looked upon as a spiritual giant to represent acting in holiness, and righteousness, and goodness.

But those of the worldly persuasion claiming Christ that enjoy the world, believing sin does not affect their relationship with God, and they enjoy money and material things for their wants are more popular, and have more representatives.

Why do I care to listen to Calvin, and what difference does it make when I have to read the Bible for myself and find out what it says and not take people's word for it alone, and when I read the Bible I will find out what it means anyway without Calvin's input.

And the word of God has been around before Calvin and he did not start the truth so why do people look up to him.

Read the Bible for it will tell the story without Calvin and you have to anyway.
 

DB7

Junior Member
Dec 29, 2014
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#7
All the sub-apostolic, medieval, scholastic and modern theologians were paradoxes. One must admire their devotion and dedication, their acumen in many areas, the rigour and ardency. But, at the same time, they could be impetuous, radical, austere, pedantic and cruel.
I simply regard them all as having some good traits and teachings, and mutually some iniquity and heresy?
Martin Luther resurrected the 5 solas which are beautiful, but what about consubstantiation and the peasant war, or his temper?
Calvin gave us the institutes, with many truthful tenets, but conversely, he burned Servetus, was accused of tyranny, and believed in double predestination.
Aquinas was a brilliant thinker aiding us apologists remarkably with his proofs of God, but who believes in transubstantiation?
Augustine appeared to be profound and devout, but Original Sin and total depravity is too radical.
Abelard was very intelligent and developed viable theories of atonement, but couldn't control his libido or arrogance.
etc...

Humans are human, appreciate them all in the right measure and the proper balance, ...but Paul, now that was one great theologian and saintly human!
 
Jul 18, 2017
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#8
Paul never mentions hell.
He does indirectly. He uses the term anathema (translated accursed) and the meaning is given below. There may be other passages, but these are just from memory.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness...

But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God...

But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile...

For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God...

But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed (Gk anathema). As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed (Gk anathema)....

If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema (accursed). Maranatha...


Thayer's Greek Lexicon
STRONGS NT 331: ἀνάθεμα (anathema)
b. a man accursed, devoted to the direst woes (equivalent to ἐπικατάρατος): ἀνάθεμα ἔστω, Galatians 1:8; 1 Corinthians 16:22; ἀνάθεμα λέγειν τινα to execrate one, 1 Corinthians 12:3 (R G, but L T Tr WH have restored ἀνάθεμα Ἰησοῦς, namely, ἔστω); ἀνάθεμα εἶναι ἀπό τοῦΧριστοῦ, Romans 9:3 (pregnantly equivalent to doomed and so separated from Christ). Cf. the full remarks on this word in Fritzsche on Romans, vol. ii., 247ff; Wieseler on Galatians, p. 39ff; (a translation of the latter by Prof. Riddle in Schaff's Lange on Romans, p. 302ff; see also Trench, § v.; Lightfoot on Galatians, the passage cited; Ellicott ibid.; Tholuck on Romans, the passage cited; BB. DD., under the words, Anathema, Excommunication).
 
Jul 18, 2017
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#10
The two big obstacles to admiring Calvin are a chill authoritarianism and his repulsive doctrine of double predestination.
Calvin was not the only Reformer who held to Reformed Theology. But his name is now closely associated with TULIP, which presents a false gospel. So in spite of his zeal against the Roman Catholic Church, he ended up promoting a false gospel, ans well ans persecuting other Christians. Which tells us that no theologian or scholar should ever be placed on a pedestal.
 
Oct 9, 2018
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#13
Who administered the burnings? Was it the clergy or the Geneva city council?

How did this differ from the surrounding states of the day?
The authority to execute is ultimate over the mortal human, for herecy implicates the ruling of the church and 22 is an inordinate number with the exception of the papists who killed hundreds of thousands which is testament against the papacy.
 
Feb 9, 2014
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#14
But that doesn't mean it's a theocracy. A theocracy is a very specific historical meaning- a governing structure where the clergy assumes civil authority.

If a state actor enforcing the state cult is a theocracy, we would have to consider virtually every state before the modern era a theocracy-ancient Rome, medieval Europe, Buddhist Japan, and so forth. That's simply too broad a definition to have any descriptive value and certainly less in the case of Reformation-era Geneva.

I agree with you that 22 was probably 22 too many, but it's important to weigh these things in context. Heretic execution was a practice even among Protestant sects outside Geneva.

The authority to execute is ultimate over the mortal human, for herecy implicates the ruling of the church and 22 is an inordinate number with the exception of the papists who killed hundreds of thousands which is testament against the papacy.
 
Oct 9, 2018
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#15
But that doesn't mean it's a theocracy. A theocracy is a very specific historical meaning- a governing structure where the clergy assumes civil authority.

If a state actor enforcing the state cult is a theocracy, we would have to consider virtually every state before the modern era a theocracy-ancient Rome, medieval Europe, Buddhist Japan, and so forth. That's simply too broad a definition to have any descriptive value and certainly less in the case of Reformation-era Geneva.

I agree with you that 22 was probably 22 too many, but it's important to weigh these things in context. Heretic execution was a practice even among Protestant sects outside Geneva.
And those actors seeking to use the force of law to enforce their ideology are theocrats even if the over all govco is not a theocracy. I never said Geneva was a theocracy, what I said was that theocrats in power in Geneva were tyrannical, and that their form of tyranny was informed by Calvin's teachings on how a Christian society should run.
 
Jul 3, 2015
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#16
That's true. In Paul’s letters there is no explicit mention of eternal punishment or hell. Paul does talk about the coming day of judgment and wrath (1Thess 1:9-10; Rom 2:5, Rom 5:9; 2Cor 5:10). But here, Paul does not talk about a space of eternal punishment, but instead warns of the consequences for sin, reminding people that “you reap whatever you sow” (Gal 6:7).
Amen. Scripture teaches that those not found in Christ at the end of this age shall perish.
In fact, from Genesis onward, the fate of the ungodly is said to be one of death/destruction.


 
Apr 22, 2013
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#17
Although Paul didn't use the word Hell, he did say stuff like THIS:
2 Thessalonians 1:3-9 King James Version (KJV)
3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

4 So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure:

5 Which is a manifest token of the righteous judgment of God, that ye may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which ye also suffer:

6 Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;

7 And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,

8 In IN FLAMING FIRE TAKING VENGEANCE on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:

9 Who shall be PUNISHED WITH EVERLASTING DESTRUCTION from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power;