Skip to comments.9 Things You Should Know About John Calvin
Posted on 05/28/2014 7:41:25 PM PDT by ReformationFan
Yesterday marked the 450th anniversary of the death of John Calvin. Here are nine things you should know about the French theologian and Reformer.
1. From an early age, Calvin was a precocious student who excelled at Latin and philosophy. He was prepared to go to study of theology in Paris, when his father decided he should become a lawyer. Calvin spend half a decade at the University of Orleans studying law, a subject he did not love.
2. Calvin wrote his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, at the age of 27 (though he updated the work and published new editions throughout his life). The work was intended as an elementary manual for those who wanted to know something about the evangelical faith"the whole sum of godliness and whatever it is necessary to know about saving doctrine."
3. Calvin initially had no interest in being a pastor. While headed to Strasbourg he made a detour in Geneva where he met the local church leader William Farel. Calvin said he was only staying one night, but Farel argued that it was God's will he remain in the city and become a pastor. When Calvin protested that he was a scholar, not a preacher, Farel swore a great oath that God would curse all Calvin's studies unless he stayed in Geneva. Calvin later said, ""I felt as if God from heaven had laid his mighty hand upon me to stop me in my courseand I was so terror stricken that I did not continue my journey."
4. Calvin was a stepfather (he married a widow, Idelette, who had two children) but had no surviving children himself. His only son, Jacques, was born prematurely and survived only briefly. When his wife died he wrote to his friend, Viret:
I have been bereaved of the best friend of my life, of one who, if it has been so ordained, would willingly have shared not only my poverty but also my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance.
5. During his ministry in Geneva, Calvin preached over two thousand sermons. He preached twice on Sunday and almost every weekday. His sermons lasted more than an hour and he did not use notes.
6. Around 1553, Calvin began an epistolary relationship with Michael Servetus, a Spanish theologian and physician. Servetus wrote several works with anti-trinitarian views so Calvin sent him a copy of his Institutes as a reply. Servetus promptly returned it, thoroughly annotated with critical observations. Calvin wrote to Servetus, "I neither hate you nor despise you; nor do I wish to persecute you; but I would be as hard as iron when I behold you insulting sound doctrine with so great audacity." In time their correspondence grew more heated until Calvin ended it.
7. In the 1500s, denying the Trinity was a blasphemy that was considered worthy of death throughout Europe. Because he had written books denying the Trinity and denouncing paedobaptism, Servetus was condemned to death by the French Catholic Inquisition. Servetus escaped from prison in Vienne and fled to Italy, but stopped on the way in Geneva. After he attended a sermon by Calvin, Servetus was arrested by the city authorities. French Inquisitors asked that he be extradited to them for execution, but the officials in Geneva refused and brought him before their own heresy trial. Although Calvin believed Servetus deserving of death on account of what he termed as his "execrable blasphemies", he wanted the Spaniard to be executed by decapitation as a traitor rather than by fire as a heretic. The Geneva council refused his request and burned Servetus at the stake with what was believed to be the last copy of his book chained to his leg.
8. Within Geneva, Calvin's main concern was the creation of a collège, an institute for the education of children. Although the school was a single institution, it was divided into two parts: a grammar school called the collège and an advanced school called the académie. Within five years there were 1,200 students in the grammar school and 300 in the advanced school. The collège eventually became the Collège Calvin, one of the college preparatory schools of Geneva, while the académie became the University of Geneva.
9. Calvin worked himself nearly to death. As Christian History notes, when he could not walk the couple of hundred yards to church, he was carried in a chair to preach. When the doctor forbade him to go out in the winter air to the lecture room, he crowded the audience into his bedroom and gave lectures there. To those who would urge him to rest, he asked, "What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?"
10. He was so wrong
And just how much time have you spent studying his life and work? Do you know what he actually taught and why? Have you been a Berean in the Acts 17 sense and searched the Scriptures to disprove Calvin?
Proverbs 18:13 “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.”
Of the five points of Calvinism (TULIP) I hold that Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, and Preservation of the Saints are Biblically based. Limited Atonement and Irresistible Grace are not.
You got it. Anything I’d have written at age 27 would have either been renounced or attenuated by now. Same with Calvin’s immature rubber-stamping of Augustine’s proclivities. Too bad so many people are willing to go to the mat for this misguided fellow today.
The Bereans, on the other hand, were not adherents of sola scriptura, for they were willing to accept Pauls new oral teaching as the word of God (as Paul claimed his oral teaching was; see 1 Thess. 2:13). The Bereans, before accepting the oral word of God from Paul, a tradition as even Paul himself refers to it (see 2 Thess. 2:15), examined the Scriptures to see if these things were so. They were noble-minded precisely because they "received the word with all eagerness." Were the Bereans commended primarily for searching the Scriptures? No. Their open-minded willingness to listen was the primary reason they are referred to as noble-mindednot that they searched the Scriptures.
Why did the Bereans search the Scriptures? Because they were the sole source of revelation and authority? No, but to see if Paul was in line with what they already knewto confirm additional revelation. They would not submit blindly to his apostolic teaching and oral tradition, but, once they accepted the credibility of Pauls teaching as the oral word of God, they put it on a par with Scripture and recognized its binding authority. After that, like the converts who believed in Thessalonica, they espoused apostolic Tradition and the Old Testament equally as Gods word (see 2 Thess. 2:15, 3:16). Therefore they accepted apostolic authority, which means that the determinations of Peter in the first Church council, reported in Acts 15, would have been binding on these new Gentile converts.
By contrast, the Jews of Thessalonica would have condemned Peters biblical exegesis at the Council of Jerusalem. They would have scoffed at the Churchs having authority over themthe Torah was all they needed.
Ray, S. (1997). Why The Bereans Reject Sola Scriptura. This Rock Magazine. Retrieved May 28, 2014
Calvin - no matter what, you are destined before you were born so no matter what sort of Christian life you lead if you were destined for Hell, well there you went. Predestination.
Yes, that is why I know he is wrong!
11. He was a cruel arrogant SOB that had those who disagreed with him burnt at the stake.
12. No one knew of God’s love better than Calvin.
I don’t know if you are a fan of John Piper, but the following link is a biographical sketch of John Calvin that he presented at a pastors conference in 1997.
Please note that you can read, listen from the web-page, or download the msg as an MP3. The length is ~1.5 hrs
Give it up! They can’t help being against Calvin.
How much time have you spent really studying the Doctrines of Grace? Do you really understand what Calvinists believe and why? Are you sure? That’s are rhetorical questions for you to consider. I have neither the time nor inclination to debate it and you don’t have to prove anything to me.
I was an ardent Arminian for nearly 40 years. Due to a convergence of circumstances, one day I decided to really study what Calvinists believe and why. What I discovered changed my life and ultimately my entire family. Short of salvation it’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I now realize what I had been presented as “Calvinism” was a weak caricature. That same caricature is the common understanding among American evangelicals.
Piper gives a compelling argument here:
IMO, piper does his homework. He doesn’t pull any punches; he presents contrary opinions and then logically walks through why he believes what he does.
If you have the time to listen, I believe - if nothing else - that you will be blessed by hearing the word of God exposited by a man who loves God and loves the Word...
If anyone says that it is not in the power of man to make his ways evil, but that God produces the evil as well as the good works, not only by permission, but also properly and of himself, so that the betrayal of Judas is no less his own proper work than the vocation of Paul, let him be anathema.
If anyone shall say that the grace of justification is attained by those only who are predestined unto life, but that all others, who are called, are called indeed, but do not receive grace, as if they are by divine power predestined to evil, let him be anathema.
The Council of Trent (1547). Decree Concerning Justification. Canon 6 .
Post of the year!
I guess I believe in them in a broad sense, not in the way Calvin address them. With total depravity I hold that yes man cannot do any good, but he can come to God by himself. With Unconditional Election I hold to the idea that we saved by grace alone and nothing we have done special. As for preservation of the Saints, I hold that once saved always saved.
Predestination is Biblical? Then we’re all doomed. What do we need Yashua for?
Honest question from a Catholic.
“No man can come to Me unless the Father who hath sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the Last Day.”
My time-line and experience is similar to yours.
Bottom line for me: God is either sovereign - or he is not.
If he is not sovereign (irresistible grace), then he can not be omnipotent, and therefore he is not God...
450 years after his death, John Calvin can still divide a room full of people into various fighting clusters just by the mention of his name.
And BTW, Calvin was not nearly as Calvinist as his followers became after his death.
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
That’s a gross mischaracterization of Calvin, not to mention biblically ignorant. I’m embarrassed for you.
Limited Atonement means that Christ died only for those who were meant to be saved, not for all mankind.
Irresistible Grace means that those who were meant to be saved cannot resist the power or calling of the Holy Spirit.
In a nutshell Calvinism is basically that everything in creation was predestined to happen a certain way and there is very little that we can do about it. If you were called to be saved, you will be saved, if you are called to be damned, you will be damned.
You are forgetting about man’s freewill. God could exercise his sovereignty and prevent all bad things from happening and calling all of those to him. However God’s love is so great that he will let his own children curse him and reject him and will not force them to love or even acknowledge him.
I am not up for a debate on the five points. I’m amidst a busy week. All I will say is that verse is a weak response to John 6:44. I’m embarrassed to say that’s just the kind of response I used to have. A careful look at the text reveals that John 3:16 teaches that everyone who believes in Christ will be saved. Whoever believes will receive everlasting life. The text says nothing, absolutely nothing, about who will ever believe. It says nothing about fallen man’s natural moral ability to believe. Reformed people and non-Reformed people both heartily agree that all who believe will be saved.
By the way, in John 6:44, Christ HIMSELF said: “No man can come to Me unless the Father who hath sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the Last Day.”
No man can come to Me unless God...
Yes, it is Biblical.
Ephesians 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will
Romans 8: 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.
30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
You're right, we are all doomed! Were it not for His calling some of us out, we would all be cast into the Lake of Fire.
John 3: 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of Gods one and only Son.
here’s another one Calvin was NOT a apostle, nor a prophet, nor anointed by God.
He was a theologian.
Why do “reformers” insist on creating a new doctrine around Calvin?
Is not the scripture (Sola Scriptura) good enough?
We can’t help but think for ourselves.
The thing about Total Depravity is that if we were truly dead in our trespasses and sins, then we truly lacked the capacity to "come to God". A heart that is dead cannot discern that which is spiritual - until it is quickened, or made alive by the spirit of God.
So then, even the faith to believe is a gift, lest we boast about how much faith we have.
If you're interested, check out my links to Piper. As I said, he has done his homework, and is way more eloquent then I. And most importantly, you will be blessed...
Regarding your 2nd point; I think you could also make the argument that God's love is so great that he will let his children curse & reject him, but in the end he will irresistibly draw those who are his own - for. his. names. sake. (why else would he do it?).
Peace to you brother. I gotta hit the rack!
Those people are called hyper-Calvinist. They out-Calvin Calvin.
Even Calvin believed in common grace; many FR Calvinists do not.
“What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?
Okay, I kind of had to smile at this. “Works mean nothing....but look busy, just in case!”
If God is sovereign and omnipotent, then he has the right to limit his power.
I have spent enough time to reject TULIP. The problem is hinted at in the article: “From an early age, Calvin was a precocious student who excelled at Latin and philosophy...Calvin wrote his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, at the age of 27”.
Calvin should have spent more time learning of the Lord from studying scripture and less time trying to impose a 27 year old’s philosophy upon it.
He would read we are “dead” in our sins, and take that as a literal statement, without looking at the many passages that describe us as sick, captive, blind, enemies of God, etc. He failed to realize that scripture is often written of in a poetic style which is not meant to be taken literally, at least not out of context. For example:
“In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.”
That is hard to reconcile with:
“There is none righteous, not even one;
11 There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
12 All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.
At least, it is out of context. In context, one can understand it simply enough without concluding there is a conflict between the two. A little humility goes a long way when reading God’s Word, and humility is not something 27 year old men writing systematic theology are noted for. It reminds me of J Vernon McGhee’s comment that there were 2 days in his life when he could have explained all there was to know about God - the day he entered seminary, and the day he left!
One of the main failures of Calvin was his failure to grasp the corporate nature of election: we are elect IN CHRIST. Being “In Christ” is something that a tribal herder could understand, but that is foreign to someone raised in a world of nation/states. We are the Elect because we are “In Christ”. This quote explains it fairly well:
“We have already noted that Gods Old Covenant people were chosen in Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. More specifically, God chose Abraham and his descendants, but limited his election of Abrahams descendants to only some of them by his choice of Isaac as the head of the covenant through whom Abrahams covenant descendants were to be reckoned. He then limited his election of the covenant descendants even further by his choice of Jacob as the head of the covenant. At the same time, and as already pointed out above, people not naturally related to Jacob and so not part of the elect people could join the chosen people, becoming part of the elect. On the other hand, individual members of the elect people could be cut off from the covenant people due to violation of the covenant, rendering them non-elect.
Finally, the Apostle Paul would argue, God limited his election even further to Christ as the head of the New Covenant (Gal. 34; see especially 3:16; cf. Rom. 34; 8), which is the fulfillment of the Old. Paradoxically, this also widened the election of Gods people because all who are in Christ by faith are chosen by virtue of their identification with Christ the corporate covenantal head, opening covenant membership to Gentiles as Gentiles. Just as Gods Old Covenant people were chosen in Jacob/Israel, the Church was chosen in Christ (as Eph. 1:4 puts it). And as Ephesians 2 makes clear, Gentiles who believe in Christ are in him made to be part of the commonwealth of Israel, fellow citizens with the saints, members of Gods household, and possessors of the covenants of promise (2:11-22; note especially vv. 12, 19). Indeed, any Jews who did not believe in Jesus were cut off from the elect people, and any believing Gentiles who stop believing will likewise be cut off, while anyone who comes to faith, whether Jew or Gentile, will be incorporated into Gods people (Rom. 11:17-24).
In the New Covenant, Gods people are chosen corporately as a consequence of their union with Christ, which is effected by faith. While this is not quite the traditional Arminian position, it fully supports Arminian theology because it is a conditional election. Most directly, such election is conditioned on being in Christ. But then being in Christ is itself conditioned on faith, meaning that the divine election of Gods people and the election of individuals for salvation is ultimately conditional on faith in Christ. (Misconceptions, pp. 7, 8, emphasis his)”
Thus Calvin ended up exalting election over faith, so that we are saved by grace thru election, and then given faith to be saved. In reality, we are saved by grace thru faith, and then placed “In Christ” where we are predestined to become like Christ.
When Jesus commanded us to “Repent and believe”, he was not giving an impossible command. God took the initiative in revealing Himself, and reaching down to man, and making it possible for man to respond. Those who respond with faith - faith is something we do in response to someone else, by definition - are placed In Christ, and sealed with the Holy Spirit. And In Christ, we have access to everything:
“It is by God’s grace that you have been saved. 6 In our union with Christ Jesus he raised us up with him to rule with him in the heavenly world. 7 He did this to demonstrate for all time to come the extraordinary greatness of his grace in the love he showed us in Christ Jesus. 8-9 For it is by God’s grace that you have been saved through faith. It is not the result of your own efforts, but God’s gift, so that no one can boast about it. 10 God has made us what we are, and in our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do.”
“I have been bereaved of the best friend of my life, of one who, if it has been so ordained, would willingly have shared not only my poverty but also my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance.”
Whatever Calvin was or was not, that’s a lovely quote. Would to God that was true for more husbands and wives.
The ignorance of this statement is that Calvin didn't even invent his doctrines. Luther wrote the same thing in his Bondage of the Will, as did Augustine in his anti-Pelagian books. Calvin's views were the views of the Reformation.
I find that most people, especially those who claim to have studied the most on it, are breathtakingly ignorant on even the most basic definitions or facts of history. I suspect it might either be that they take their studies on websites that reinforce their views rather than sticking to the scripture or checking the source texts they hate.
It is safe to assume then that whoever seeks God has been called out by God...All church attending Catholics then are closet Calvinists...
“Around 1553, Calvin began an epistolary relationship with Michael Servetus, ...In time their correspondence grew more heated until Calvin ended it.”
And then he had Servetus burned at the stake. Heated correspondence indeed.
You're suggesting that all who attend church are seeking God, and that is not necessarily true. Churches are full of unregenerate attendees and members, who are seeking after their own righteousness. Churches are also populated by saved people who, instead of being teachers, (Hebrews 5:12) ...need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God's word all over again..."
It is amazing the ignorance of the modern church.
And you don't see a big red flag problem here, (not personal, or that you are unusual) ?
I’m not debating it. Believe as you will. I used to make those same arguments, so I know where you are coming from. I even bought a complete set of J. Vernon McGee’s commentaries decades ago and went through the Bible with him. We likely had many of the same influences.
When you stroll into heaven singing I have decided to follow Jesus, I’ll be the one belting out Amazing Grace.
By the way, did you know Calvin had nothing to do with TULIP?
He just really wanted to behead him ...
I don’t know how, but I must have missed that big red flag.
Okay - then again - if we’re predestined then those who are predestined for Hell no matter what then what do we need Yashua for? What what His death all about.