Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Myths about Calvin

I said I would put this together so here are the top ten myths I hear about John Calvin.

1. John Calvin was not a Calvinist. This may sound very strange but I so often here people tell me that John Calvin did not believe in what we call Calvinism today. Quotes of his on human responsibility are often taken out of context and are somehow claimed to be about the freedom of the will. People seem to do the same thing with Spurgeon as well.

2. John Calvin was a hateful murderer. This is the one I hear most often. When Calvin comes up in conversation the idea the Michael Servetus was killed by Calvin will innevitibly be part of the conversation. It is true that he was put to death but there is more to the story than that. John Calvin actually risked his life to go back to France at one point of his life to try and convert Servetus to Orthodox trinitarian Christianity but Servetus never showed. There was a long and complicated history between the two and it is obvious that Calvin showed nothing but kindness to the man. When Servetus came to Geneva for refuge, Calvin discussed it with Melancthon, Ferrel, and the other reformers and they all agreed that Servetus should be put to death. Calvin was not the only one responsible for this. Rome had often said that the protestant movement would accept all kinds of heresy as long as it was not catholic. Servetus' death was a statement that this was not true.

3. John Calvin was the dictator of Geneva. This is flat out not true. Many of the people didn't even like Calvin. In fact Calvin didn't like Geneva too much either. He wasn't even a citizen until the end of his life.

4. John Calvin was a hyper Calvinist. It seems that everyone wants to claim Calvin as their own. Hyper Calvinists often say that they are the only ones truly in line with Calvin's thought. If you read the institutes you will find nothing like hyper Calvinism. He discusses common grace and has no problems with offering the gospel. He also accepted synergists as fellow believers. He and Melancthon were good friends.

5. John Calvin was a five point Calvinist. Didn't I just say that Calvin was a Calvinist? Yes, he was. However, it may be better to call him a 4 1/2 pointer. From what I have read, Calvin seemed to believe that Christ did indeed die for every single person, including the non elect. It took Beza to fully develope the doctrine of limited atonement.

6. John Calvin was a heartless theologian. It's claimed often (especially on a popular video on youtube) that Calvin had no true spirituality and was nothing more than a dry intellectual. Read Calvin's prayers. He was a man of deep spirituality.

7. Calvin created the five points of Calvinism. He didn't. They were put together by the Synod of Dort to refute the five points of the Remonstrants.

8. Calvinists are followers of John Calvin. People always assume that I agree with all John Calvin ever said because I'm a Calvinist. Calvin's name just happened to be tacked onto a theological system which had existed over 1000 years before his birth.

8 is all I can come up with now. Perhaps I'll add more later.


Donald Partridge said...

check Calvin's Commentary on 1 Jn 2:2 and you will see your need to correct your belief that Calvin rejected definite or limited atonement.

David Gray said...

That would be this...

And not for ours only He added this for the sake of amplifying, in order that the faithful might be assured that the expiation made by Christ, extends to all who by faith embrace the gospel.
Here a question may be raised, how have the sins of the whole world been expiated? I pass by the dotages of the fanatics, who under this pretense extend salvation to all the reprobate, and therefore to Satan himself. Such a monstrous thing deserves no refutation. They who seek to avoid this absurdity, have said that Christ (63) suffered sufficiently for the whole world, but efficiently only for the elect. This solution has commonly prevailed in the schools. Though then I allow that what has been said is true, yet I deny that it is suitable to this passage; for the design of John was no other than to make this benefit common to the whole Church. Then under the word all or whole, he does not include the reprobate, but designates those who should believe as well as those who were then scattered through various parts of the world. For then is really made evident, as it is meet, the grace of Christ, when it is declared to be the only true salvation of the world.