Skip to comments.Is It Fitting for Calvinists to Adopt the Theology of a Man, and One Who Murdered Servetus?
Posted on 08/19/2018 12:48:40 PM PDT by CondoleezzaProtege
As my friend Doug Phillips has pointed out, this year has brought, in the providence of God, a strange confluence of anniversaries. The two men who have had the greatest impact on these United States may well be, on the one hand, Charles Darwin, and on the other John Calvin. Darwin was born two hundred years ago this year, Calvin five hundred years ago. Our perspective on each of these men will serve as a potent bell-weather for our perspectives on a whole host of issues. In the culture wars most of our enemies will celebrate the birth of Darwin and mourn the birth of Calvin. Our side, on the other hand, will have many Calvin fans, and precious few friends of Darwin. Many of us who give thanks to God for the ministry of John Calvin will be gathering together to celebrate his influence and the influence of the Reformation at Vision Forums Reformation 500 event this summer in Boston. I will have the opportunity to speak to Calvins influence in giving the western world, and especially these United States a truly free economy. You can read up on that event here.
That said, in answer to the question, of course it would be wrong to adopt a theology of a man. Those who accuse Calvinists of doing so, however, expose their own historical ignorance. Calvinists are not followers of Calvin. Neither are they followers of a theology created by Calvin. Instead we are they who embrace a system of thought that has a long and honored history in the church. If our theology derived from any lone man, and it didnt, that man would be Saint Augustine , whom Calvin quoted more than any other scholar. Our tradition includes the Puritans, and the Pilgrims, the Dutch Reformed church, the Scottish Kirk that blossomed under John Knox. It includes the German Reformed church and the French Huguenots. Calvinism existed before Calvin and it thrives now five hundred years after his birth. Ours is the theology of the Reformation.
Which still is reason enough in some peoples minds to reject it. Some point out the all too painful reality that in some instances the power of the sword was used during the time of the Reformation to settle theological disputes. Servetus was indeed put to death in Geneva , the town where Calvin served, and put to death not for what we would today consider crimes, but for propagating heresy. More broadly still the Reformed during the time of the Reformation believed it fitting to wage literal war against theological opponents on both ends of the spectrum. They warred with Rome , and together with Rome warred against the Anabaptists. My spiritual fathers took up carnal weapons in their quest to make known the reign of Christ over all things. I believe they were wrong to do so, horribly, horribly wrong.
The willingness to use the power of the state in this kind of context was, in my judgment, both grievous error, and terribly common error. It was, in fact, evidence of an insufficient Reformation. Our spiritual fathers sadly here followed in the footsteps of their immediate fathers, Rome herself. The Anabaptists, though they erred and continue to err in denying the fittingness of Christians to wage just war, rightly understood that war was not the right means to persuade those either outside the kingdom, or even occupying a different corner of the kingdom. In a similar manner, Calvin erred, in my judgment, in not urging the city fathers of Geneva against the execution of Servetus. (Remember, however, that however muddied their conception of appropriate spheres of authority, it was the civil government, over which Calvin had no authority, that condemned Servetus.) Calvin murdered no one. He did have a deficient understanding of the appropriate limits of state power.
We would be wise to remember that all our heroes save one had feet of clay. As we this year celebrate the 500th birthday of Calvin, let us not fall into a hagiography that he himself would not approve, turning heroes into sinless saints. Let us not, on the other hand, however, succumb to revisionist history that would turn heroes into monsters. Let us give thanks for that Biblical theology that we sometimes call Calvinism, and give thanks for Calvin.
Doug Philips has since resigned from Vision Forum due to allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct. R.C. Sproul has since passed away. The article was written in 2009.
"Servetus was indeed put to death in Geneva , the town where Calvin served..."
Geneva was both a failed theocracy and a terrorist state - the ramifications of which were reflected upon by America's own founders as they pondered the notion of religious liberty in the colonies . This is the case even as John Calvin's contributions to theology overall have had a positive influence on the forging of our constitutional principles.
Calvin himself oversaw the death sentences of numerous people, including women and children. Justifications for their deaths ranged from adultery, to witchcraft, to being disobedient to one's parents (in the case of a child.) The methods of execution ranged from being burned alive to beheadings. Calvin and his men also oversaw the brutal burning and destruction of numerous pieces of sacred art, cathedrals, and other Church property.
"If our theology derived from any lone man, and it didnt, that man would be Saint Augustine , whom Calvin quoted more than any other scholar."
Saint Augustine? The Catholic?! Shouldn't he get some of the credit for our nation's foundations? Every literate Westerner, every thinker in colonial American times was well-versed in his landmark book City of God. Watch as Protestants find a way divert credit to the Catholic saint for his indelible contribution to our civic life and instead lay blame on him for Calvin's propensity for burning people alive.
Martin Luther was an anti-Semite who Hitler often quoted as numerous Lutheran-identifying Germans embarked upon the Holocaust. John Calvin was a murderer who ruled over the terrorist state of Geneva, Switzerland in the Reformation Era.
Read how the late R.C. Sproul explains what the attitudes of Protestants should be to the sins of these incredibly fallen but otherwise great men...
Thanks for posting that. I miss RC greatly.
BTW-I'm a Calvinist because I FIRST read and agreed with Augustine's writings. John Calvin, in his "Institutes of the Christian Religion" quotes extensively from the early church fathers. I agree with Calvin because I agree with the early church fathers.
Yeah there’s a real tendency to put blinders on when moderns pick up a book of St. Augustine.
They get all giddy on his statements on grace and then forget that he was a bishop who said Mass, celebrated the feasts of the martyrs, and wrote rules for nuns. Not your grandma’s Presbyterianism, that’s for sure.
A friend of mine who is a Calvinist made a good point that I have yet to give a solid rebuttal to. As Protestants we hold that Christ did it all for our salvation and there is nothing we can do to earn it. If this statement is true then it follow that if we choose Christ we have done something to earn our salvation.
Going right for the Hitler comparisons, eh?
Way to disqualify the thread from the very start.....
Luther was no different from his Roman Catholic teachers. See, for example, the bull Cum Nimis Absurdum from the same time period.
Not a Calvinist, but got to ask: Is it fitting for ANY Christian to adopt the so-called “theology of a man,” especially since he murdered an Egyptian servant? (Moses)
Agree with them on what, exactly? Grace?
There are giant swaths of Augustine's writings that I am not sure how any Calvinist could read without twitching. He wrote quite a few sermons celebrating the feasts of the martyrs for instance.
I guess what with all the heat being thrown at the Catholic church this week, its no surprise someone is trying to deflect the attention.
There is a German problem - a real, documented problem - of racial superiority that is much, much older than Protestantism. Tacitus, the Roman historian, points this out very clearly.
Even if we concede that Luther was “anti-Semitic” it has more to do with him being German than him being Protestant.
Of course orthodox Lutherans were generally persecuted or kicked out of Nazi Germany. The official established church certainly capitulated, but they were exposed, rightly, by dissenters and exiles as having forsaken Christianity itself.
The ancient story of Germany is long and complex. Part of it includes Protestantism, and Christianity, and the rest of the western world. But it is also its own unique and problematic history...and sadly, from the very beginning, it undeniably included notions of racial and ethnic superiority and separatism.
Is it fitting for the billions others besides the billions who have embraced the 10 commandments to adopt the so-called “theology of man,” especially one responsible for the manslaughter of Urriah to cover up adultery?
As my friend Doug Phillips has pointed out...”
LOL. If RC were alive, I bet he’s wishing he could have a do over on THAT particular introduction......
Doug Phillips...creepy cult leader.
RC Sproul: a theologian of stellar quality
Until Cornelius popped on the scene, Peter could have been called an “anti-Gentile” (see also when Paul had to oppose Peter to his face over this kind of matter...Galatians 2)” But hey, an anti-gentile sounds like the perfect candidate for the Pope prototype.
Calvin, the disciple of the Catholic Augustine?
Calvin, the disciple of Catholic Augustine’s Amillennialism? Which was the main impetus behind Calvin and Geneva’s burning of Servetus...and other assorted victims as described in the lead article. Protestant Europe in Calvin’s time, being the millennial kingdom Protestants, following the lead of the Amillennial RCC before them, must exterminate heretics in God’s “kingdom.”
Calvin, the father of “once saved always saved” theology?
Poor argument as Christ told us to believe Him.
Here is the question: Do you want a solid rebuttal or do you want to believe what he believes?
Here is a rebuttal that is accepted by people who sincerely want the answer and I offer it to you but not to him:
“Trusting the One who did it all, is NOT doing part of it!”
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.