Calvin, the man

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by doulous, Apr 25, 2006.

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  1. doulous

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    This quote so saddened me that I felt compelled to start this thread. I have read in numerous posts about the deficient character of John Calvin. Some on the BB have called him a murder. Others have gone on about his supposed volitale temper and persecution of those who disagreed with him. No verifiable sources are ever provided, just accusations.

    I will not build upon the work of others. Here is an article on John Calvin that should be read. Read it slowly. Let it soak in. Perhaps it will tone down the personal attacks against this servant of Jesus Christ.

    The character of John Calvin
     
  2. Rippon

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    That was an excellent resource . There were so many noble things said about that servant of the Lord .

    Loraine Boettner in his book " The Reformed Doctrine Of Predestination " has a whole chapter dedicted to Calvinism in history . In it he devotes some time to the man himself . I just want to quote a little from it . Dr. Boettner refers to the words of Professor Harkness . " Calvin lived ,and died , a poor man . His house was scantily furnished , and he dressed plainly . He gave freely to those in need , but he spent little upon himself . The Council at one time gave him an overcoat as an expression of their esteem , and as a needed protection against the winter's cold . This he accepted gratefully , but on other occasions he refused proffered financial assistance and declined to accept anything in addition to his modest salary . During his last illness the Council wished to pay for the medicines used but Calvin declined the gift , saying that he felt scruples about receiving even his ordinary salary when he could not serve . When he died , he left a spiritual inheritance of unestimated value and a material estate of from fifteen hundred to two thousand dollars . "
     
  3. Benjamin

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    From what I’ve read about him and taking into consideration the writers agendas. I think I would be very apprehensive being back in that day to insult his gospel being under his authority of power. I reverence no man living or dead and feel admirers of his doctrines building him up and labeling themselves with his name problematic and contrary to many teachings in the Bible but in fairness I also find it problematic to attempt to make out this man the devil. I’m sure he was a very devoted, faithful man of God but I would perceive him as very controlling in his personal beliefs and judging those of the contrary as enemies of the truth. I find the C/A debate useful as an exercise to study the Word but find both systems to be very arrogantly presented as absolutes and would never call myself anything but a Christian and trust only in God’s Words.
     
  4. Andy T.

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    When it comes down to it, every system comes across as arrogant - i.e., that the one holding it believes it to be true and opposing ideas to be false. We all believe something. Otherwise, we would believe something else. Everyone has a system, whether you label it or not. Some are rightly classified as C, some as A, and many more inbetween. But none of us escapes the fact that we do believe something about the matter at hand.

    I don't disagree that sometimes the presentors of various systems can be arrogant. But to call the system itself as arrogant does not make much sense - ascribing an attitude to an inantimate object.
     
  5. doulous

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    I share your concerns about elevating the teachings of men beyond scripture. It is a danger that needs to be avoided at all costs. Whether it be Calvin or Arminius, one would do well to be a student of scripture. Yet the scripture tells us, 2 Timothy 2:2 2 And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also. To the extent that John Calvin was one of those "faithful men" is the extent to which I will give creedance to his teachings.
     
  6. Magnetic Poles

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    Calvin was no man of God. He murdered those with whom he had theological differences. A notable example, his burning of Michael Servetus at the stake. I am confounded by why so many think this evil person was a man of God. Once one researches the facts of his life, it becomes clear that he was a murderous, evil tyrant.
     
  7. Calvibaptist

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    M.P, do you have any verifiable evidence that John Calvin, who was not the civil authority of Geneva and had no power to put someone to death, lit a match and burned Servetus at the stake? Or is this just another one of those historical "facts" people like to make up? I would be curious to see your research.
     
  8. Andy T.

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    Oh and yes, along with Calvibaptist's request, you said, "he murdered those" indicating there was more than one victim. Please show us where he was responsible for other peoples' death beyond M. Servetus...
     
  9. Calvibaptist

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    Interesting quote from Wikepedia:

    Despite disputes over the level of his participation it is clear that by 1553 Calvin strongly supported Servetus being executed, although he did remain open to the idea that Servetus could be spared death if he converted. In this regard he was within the mainstream of sixteenth century Christian theologians. As Servetus was not a citizen of Geneva, and legally could at worst be banished, they had consulted with other Swiss cantons (Zurich, Bern, Basel, Schaffhausen), which universally favored his condemnation and execution (The History & Character of Calvinism, p. 175). In the Protestant world Basel banned the sale of his book. Martin Luther condemned his writing in strong terms. Servetus and Philip Melanchthon had strongly hostile views of each other. Most Protestant Reformers saw Servetus as a dangerous radical, and the concept of religious freedom did not really exist yet. The Catholic world had also imprisoned him and condemned him to death, which apparently spurred Calvin to equal their rigor. Those who went against the idea of his execution, the party called "Libertines," drew the ire of much of Christendom. On 24 October Servetus was sentenced to death by burning for denying the Trinity and infant baptism. Calvin requested that Servetus be executed by sword rather than fire, and for this William Farel, in letter of September 8, 1553, chided him for undue leniency (The History & Character of Calvinism, p. 176). On 27 October 1553 Michael Servetus was burned at the stake just outside Geneva.

    BTW, when Servetus was executed, John Calvin's health was waning so quickly and he was so incapacitated, he could not even attend the trial. Yet, he still plead with Servetus to recant, requested that Servetus be allowed to live if he did recant, and asked for a quick death if he did not. His final request was not granted however. So, how much power did Calvin have??
     
  10. Dustin

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    Yeah, yeah, and Arminius was a student of Pelagian theology which denied original sin and the sovereignty of God in salvation. Sorry, I'd rather have a murderer preaching sound Biblical doctrine than some guy who tried to take glory away from God our Creator. Most people who sling mud at Calvin just don't like the fact that he got his theology from the same Holy Bible they read, and they CAN'T refute it.
     
  11. npetreley

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    If you can't defeat the message, shoot the messenger. ;)
     
  12. epistemaniac

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    Servetus' death was the result of his breaking the law.

    Here is the story:

    "THE CASE OF SERVETUS.
    IT had been a favourite design of the late celebrated Dr. McCrie, to publish the life of Calvin, and to set at rest the question of Servetus’s death, by instituting original researches in the archives and public library of Geneva.

    This labor was entrusted to his able son, the Revelation John McCrie, who visited the above city for that purpose, and devoted more than a year to collecting valuable historical data for his father. But the venerable Doctor died when on the eve of undertaking the work which was to crown his literary career.

    The Revelation John McCrie accepted as a sacred inheritance from his father, and a fruit of his laborious investigation, the now easy and distinguished task of rehabilitating the Reformer in public opinion, when a premature death disappointed the expectations of his friends and relatives.

    The rehabilitation of Calvin, however, was delayed only to become the more sure by being entrusted to his enemies, and taking place in the very city where the scenes reproachfully ascribed to him were enacted. A Unitarian clergyman of considerable talent and learning, the Revelation A. Reilliet, stimulated by the example of Dr. McCrie, ransacked the archives of Geneva, investigated carefully all the manuscripts and correspondence of the times, preserved in the public libraries of Europe, which bore on this case; and although avowing bitter hostility to Calvinism, yet, as an impartial historian, he published, in 1844, the detailed result of his investigations, which is a complete verdict of acquittal of the mischievous and ungrounded charges brought against Calvin, in reference to Servetus' death.

    The conclusion to which Mr. Reilliet arrives, upon evidence which can never be contested, may be summed up as follows: Servetus, although opposed to the Trinity, was anything but a modern Unitarian. While the latter denies the divinity of Christ, he denied his humanity, and considered
    him the absolute God; thus he was one degree further removed from Unitarianism than the orthodox; otherwise, a thorough Pantheist, who asserted, even before his judges, that the bench on which he sat was God.

    When Servetus came to Geneva, he had just escaped from the prison at Vienne, where the Romish bishops had him sentenced to be burned by a slow fire. He concealed himself in a tavern under an assumed name. But learning that the ministers had lost all influence upon a government which hated their rigid morals, that Calvin at the time was thwarted by them in everything, and that Geneva had become untenable for him, he emerged from secrecy, in the hope of placing himself at the head of a political party, and driving both Reformers and the Reformation from Geneva, and substituting his own rules and tenets. ...

    The Court was partial to Servetus, and would fain have saved him, if his triumphant over-bearance had not ruined his cause; yet, they would not pass sentence upon him, but left the case to the decision of the four Protestant governments of Berne, Basle, Zurich, and Schaffhausen. These all urged that the sentence of the Romish Bishops be carried out against Servetus, and left no other alternative to the weak government of Geneva.

    In the meantime the King of France claimed energetically the execution of the heretic who had escaped from his kingdom under sentence. Servetus entreated as a favor to be executed in Geneva, and not by the slow fire of the Romish Bishops.

    A most important point established by Reilliet is, that the condemnation of, Servetus was purely political. He was sentenced by the magistrates of Geneva, not as a heretic, but as rebel, who attempted to subvert the constitution of Geneva. The purely theological quarrel disappeared before
    this motive for condemning him. The judicial sentence in the list of charges brought against Servetus, does not mention at all, either the attacks against Calvin, or those against the ministers of Geneva. Servetus well understood that if he could free himself from the suspicion of being a man of bad repute, and dangerous to the public tranquillity, his doctrine by itself would not form a sufficient motive for condemning him, or, at least, would not draw down a very severe castigation.

    When the sentence was irrevocably passed, Calvin and his colleagues used all their efforts to have the punishment mitigated, by at least substituting the sword for the fire, but the little council rejected the request of Calvin. It is to him, notwithstanding, that men have always imputed the guilt of that funeral pile, which he wished had never been reared!
     
  13. Magnetic Poles

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    First of all, Calvin was involved in other deaths besides that of Servetus. From Wikipedia:



    Secondly, Calvin could indeed have spared Servetus, but instead, wholeheartedly supported the execution on the basis of Servetus not believing in the Trinity. His one concession was to favor the sword rather than burning. Some consession, but still the fire it was. Calvin has blood on his hands, and his practices carried on to the mindset that fostered the infamous Salem Witch Trials, in which innocent young girls were murdered at the hands of religious fanatics.

    No, you cannot whitewash the bloody legacy of John Calvin. He, like Torquemada, did not believe in the freedom of religion and freedom of conscience that are hallmarks of a free and civilized society. There is a special place in hell for those who try to force belief at the end of a sword, by fire, or threat of other annihilation.
     
  14. Dustin

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  15. Calvibaptist

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    </font>[/QUOTE]OK, just so you get the full account of what Calvin said, here is the full quote from his book "Harmony of the Law" which was an exposition of the Mosaic Law (specifically Exodus 22:18), not a call to arms against people in Geneva accused of witchcraft.

    BTW, even the quote in Wikepedia that you pasted doesn't say that Calvin was responsible for those 23 deaths. It says that their understanding of OT Law was responsible for the deaths. So, would you suggest that Moses was an evil man because he demanded the death of witches? Or maybe you would like to call God evil?
     
  16. rsr

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    I'm not sure what "Calvin the man" has to do with theology.
     
  17. Calvibaptist

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    Here is another interesting section from Schaff's History of the Christian Church about the things that went on in Geneva under the direction of the Consistory:

    BTW, all of these punishments are abhorrent to my mind. But, to the modern mind, stoning children for disrespecting parents is abhorrent. Yet it is part of the Mosaic Law. I disagree with Calvin's uniting of church and state, but it was the method of the day when he was around. It does not make him evil, just misguided in this area.
     
  18. Calvibaptist

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    I would imagine that because he is a theologian, and his character has been called into question to discredit his theology, this thread is important.
     
  19. npetreley

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    Nothing. I understand why the OP wanted to address this, but I think it just leads to the kind of pointless discussion that has taken place in this thread. The character of Calvin, no matter what you think of it, regardless of whether or not your opinions of his character are based on fact or fiction, has nothing whatsoever to do with whether or not Calvinism is Biblical and has merit.

    Also, for the umpteenth time, Calvin did not invent "Calvinism". I forget who said it (R C Sproul?) but historically speaking, Calvin amounts to little more than an after-the-fact footnote to Luther's work on the Bondage of the Will. And Luther's work amounts to little more than an exposition of the Bible, which is the measure of truth.
     
  20. epistemaniac

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    and here's the thing... lets suppose that Calvin was &lt;GASP&gt; a sinner, what does that prove in regard to his theology? Exactly nothing. To say otherwise is to commit the informal fallacy called "the genetic fallacy" which is reject an idea or proposition based on it's source. If we did that, rejected another person's ideas because they sinned, then any one of us could totally reject any other persons points simply because they are a sinner, for we know that in their hearts they have lusted (committed adultery), hated (are guilty of murder), coveted (guilty of theft), dishonored God in a myriad of ways, for failing to always and continually love the Lord thy God with all their heart, soul, mind and strength, and loving their neighbor as themself..... and any number of other sins... yet, we take what any other sinner says, and compare it to Scripture... we say amen to what we can, and disagree with the rest.

    Secondly, it was said "There is a special place in hell for those who try to force belief at the end of a sword, by fire, or threat of other annihilation."

    Since when does any one else get to say who goes to Hell and who doesn't? I thought all such judgments belonged to God alone?

    blessings,
    Ken
     
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