If you want to attract an honorable lady, be an honorable man.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Calvin: The Man Behind the Myth

   Almost anybody in all reformed circles has heard of Calvin. His "Tulip" points have had a major impact on the world, and his works made a drastic wake during the Reformation. A lot of his views are held by many I know, myself included. Recently for some of my school studies, I have had to read "the Institutes of the Christian Religion" by said John Calvin. Now, let it be said here, I went into this expecting to agree with most everything he wrote, so I was rather unpleasantly surprised when I found that he was further off course that I realized. I will admit that I was reading a quote "abridged translation", but I think the main ideas that he propounded would not have been affected  significantly by that version. Now for all you reformed crowd, hang on, because I think you are about to receive a shock. Don't worry, When he's right, he's right. But when he's wrong, he's wrong.
     Calvin holds true to a lot of biblical doctrine, and after some looking around, it appears he gets a lot of razzing about some of his main doctrines. I will list some of the major points that he agrees with scripture on, and the scriptures that back them up (thank God for the chaps who did all the work of finding them, and for giving me scripture searches and Google to find those chaps!)
1. Man is fallen by his own stupid sin, and God is a righteous God, perfect in wisdom and virtue.

  • Genesis 6:5: "The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
  • Genesis 8:21: "And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.
  • Psalms 51:5: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me."
  • Mark 7:21-23: "For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."
  • John 3:19: "And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil."
  • John 6:44: "[Jesus said,] 'No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.'"

2. Man can really know nothing till he has a knowledge of God

(Pro 1:7)  The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

3. The Bible is God's Holy Inspired Word.

2Ti 3:16-17  All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:  (17)  That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

4. God rules and governs all things by His infinite providence

Psa 145:9  The LORD is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works.

5. God made everything by his infinite and powerful word

Genesis 1 and 2

Psalms 8:3-9 -- When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars,which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalms 104:24-28 -- How many are your works, O Lord! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number - living things both large and small.... These all look to you to give them their food at the proper time,. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things.

Psalm 19:1 -- the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.

6. Christ is our Prophet, Priest and King

  1. John 14:24 "These words you hear are not my own; they belong to the Father who sent me."
  2. Act 2:22 "Ye men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, A man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know."
  3. Mark 6:4 But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.
  4. Luke 4:43 And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent.

Hebrews 2:17, 4:14-15, 5: 5-6, 6:20, 7:17, 7: 24-27.


Matthew 2:2
Matthew 2:6
Matthew 21:5  
Matthew 25:31  
Matthew 27:11

7. Christians must live a life of total self-denial

Mar 8:34  And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
Mar 8:35  For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it.

8. Through Christs death, those who believe in him are justified and made right with God.

  1. John 3:16, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."
  2. Rom. 3:22, "even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction."
  3. Rom. 3:24, "being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;"
9. All people, either saved or unsaved, are predestined to their fate from before the beginning of time.

Proverbs 16:4, Romans 8:30, 9:13, 9:15, 9:17-18, 11:5, Ephesians 1:5, 1:11, 2 Timothy 2:20, Jude 1:4.

      He mainly gets chewed out about his propounding of predestination, all the opponents say that man is a free being, and must make his own decision to chose God or to reject him. This is true, to a point. Calvin backs this point up with scripture, and I show of plenty of verses that agree with him.

      BUT. (my mom hates it when I start a sentence with "but") He also has some things that are kinda screwy. Some are more obvious than others, and some are more offbeat than others.
1. Calvin believes that salvation cannot exist outside the church. Here is a quote. (note, this is a abridged translation, but the point is clear)
""beyond the limits of the church, we have no hope of forgiveness of sins and no salvation."
He is rather confusing as to whether he refers to the "church" as the physical gathering of believers, or just the collective group of believers worldwide. He says once that the "church" is the total collect group of believers, but in his arguments it seems like he also means the physical gathering.
Whichever way he defines it, he is messed up there, for the Bible makes it clear you do not have to be in church to be saved. Granted, believers should go to church, but just because they don't, don't mean they aint. :) Sorry, lapsed into redneck there.
2. He seems a bit antinomian.  (sp?) In one of his arguments about the moral law, he seems to fall into the "the law was then" group, moving to "we are under Christ and grace now," which is all true, but seeming to weigh to heavily on the grace, not law, part of the spectrum. That point wasn't quite as obvious, just in subtle undertones.
3. He believes that Christ descended into hell. I know that is a huge debate topic, and I won't go into that here, but he says in this section here
that Christ couldn't just die a physical death, but he had to die a spiritual death as well, and go to hell and fight hand to hand with the armies of hell for our salvation. I have no idea where he got that Biblically, but I can't find anything that lines up with it.
4. He believes that by circumcision in the OT the Jews were made the people of God. It wasn't they by faith following God, but the physical act itself - works based salvation almost. Because he believes that, he believes that since baptism is the new "circumcision", if we are not baptized, we can't be saved - again, a almost works based faith. Then, because it is the act of Baptism that makes us saved, infants can thereby be baptized and be let into the family of God, spurring his interest and hunger for God, and he will then serve God the rest of his life. He ties this belief back to the infant circumcision. He says if the infants were circumcised and let into Gods family then, then why shouldn't we baptize them and let them into Gods family now? He obviously misunderstands baptism and circumcision. It is not the act that saves us, but our faith, believing that what God said was true, is true, and obeying it, that saves us. Baptism is just an outward expression that that person had committed to follow God and obey him. I can sorta see his point about the circumcision, but from what I understand, no one is ever saved because their parents made a decision for them. In acts 8:27-40, we see demonstrated that you are baptized after you have confessed Christ.

5. He believes similar things about communion. In the act of communion, we are spiritually feeding on Christ and the drinking has something else weird tied to it as well.
6. He holds the sacraments on the same level as Gods word.
"The sacraments have the same function as Gods word: they offer Christ to us and in him, the treasures of grace."
Not much needs so be said there. He obviously holds actions up way to high and puts them in place of our salvation.
Over all, not to bad, but not as good as he could be. His main theological points are excellent, and I like his stand on Predestination. Overall, I think he had a pretty decent stand on the principles of the faith. I wouldn't say I'm a Calvinist, but I would say he had a lot right.  


  1. David,

    Read Calvin's commentary on Matthew 5:17-19. That should clear up the antinomianism bit for you. You can find his stuff online. He's no antinomian. What he means is that we're not under the law, but under grace.

    As far as the thing about fighting the armies of hell thing goes, I don't know, but I do believe that Christ actually drank the complete wrath of God on the cross, because God's wrath had to be poured out on somebody in order for it to pass from us and justice to still be preserved.

    The circumcision thing has to do with external covenantal standing, not salvation. I'm a paedobaptist myself, so I know about this. A lot of people misunderstand the presbyterian-paedobaptist understanding of baptism because they're so used to believers baptism. Our understanding of baptism is not that it's salvific; it has to do with an external covenant.

    What's really so weird about his position on communion? He's not preaching transsubstantiation, (which he debated with Luther). If communion isn't spiritually feeding on Christ I'm really not sure what it is!

    The sacraments, as institutions of God's word, do indeed have the same function as God's word. That doesn't mean that they are in the place of our salvation. I honestly don't know what makes you think that Calvin is saying anything of the sort.

    In other words, I disagree with you almost completely! ;)

    Except for the point about the salvation and the church...Calvin is a little confusing on that point.

    Thanks, brother.

    Stand Fast,

    Andrew R.

  2. I know he drank the full wrath of God, but he has something where Jesus went down to hell and fought hand to hand combat with Satan's armies, or something similar. Just plain weird.
    As for the baptism thing, in the New Testament all we see is believer baptism, not infant baptism. I have heard a few arguments for paedobaptistism, but the ones I have heard don't line up with the New Testament model.
    He does say almost that same line on the sacraments, that it has the same function as the word. I disagree with that, because nothing has the same position as Gods word. Sacraments are mere outward symbols of our faith. The verse says that scripture is profitable for doctrine, reproof..... that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly furnished for all good works. It doesn't say scripture and sacraments, it just says scripture. Nothing we could ever do could ever come even close to par with Gods Word. Besides, that would mean somehow that something we could do could come on par with our salvation given by free grace.
    So in review, I disagree with you! :) Thanks for posting your view though!

  3. Hey David, you may or may not remember me. But I used to go to y'alls church, Heritage Baptist, a few years ago. I recently have gotten reconnected with Lisa, and I found your blog.
    I just wanted you to know, I think you did a great job outlining all of this. Many people don't know all about what John Calvin really believed. When you said "When he's right, he's right. And when he's wrong he's *wrong*!" you were so right! He was right on on a lot of points, but then he was way off on others. Such as, as you mentioned Baptism.
    Anyway, thanks for taking the time to post this, I enjoyed reading it.

    In Christ Jesus,

    1. Howdy Sadie!
      Sure I remember you. I saw that you were following Perry's blog, and immediately recognized the name, but I figured you probably wouldn't remember me from Joe Shmo. I have changed a LOT since you last saw me.
      Glad you found my blog! Join the crowd, I'd love your comments on my posts.

    2. Actually I always have remembered you as "the code boy" because you were constantly coming up with codes you were sure us girls would never be able to decipher. And I can see by your posts that you have changed a lot. :)


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