Category Archives: John Calvin

Understanding Calvin

There are a lot of misunderstandings in the Christian Church about John Calvin.  I recently heard a clip of a Bible study on the Internet, where a pastor told his people that John Calvin didn’t believe in a literal resurrection.

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The dear brother, in his zeal for Christ (and I mean that), went on to say something to the extent of hell having no fury compared to a Calvinist when his beliefs are challenged.  Those weren’t his exact words, but it is a pretty accurate summary of what was being said.

The problem here is that my brother in Christ was wrong with what he said about Calvin.  I don’t know if he has spent anytime in Calvin’s Institutes, but I wish he would.  And no, I don’t mean in place of the Scriptures.  To infer that would be a non sequitur.  Rather, I mean alongside the Scriptures.  Examine what Calvin truly believed, not just what somebody with an agenda told you about what Calvin believed and taught.

The thing is, we all have our agendas, don’t we?  Of course, we do?  On the flip side, I’ve seen it by many Calvinists with their view of the Fourth Commandment.  Most of them have read John Calvin on the sabbath, and yet what they say Calvin teaches about the Sabbath seems to be different than how I see it.  But if you simply question whether Calvin seemed to take more of a Continental view of the Sabbath, as opposed to the Puritan view, you hear good brothers in Christ saying things like, “Well, you can’t just take snippets of Calvin on a subject or you’ll get him out of context.”  They also say, “You know, Calvin wasn’t right on everything!”  True and true!  Yet one has to wonder sometimes, if nothing more than simply to play advocate, if the Calvinists understand John Calvin anymore than those that are vehemently opposed to the truths that he taught.

The bottom line seems to be, if you want to know what Calvin believed about a literal resurrection, read his Institutes.  If you want to know what Calvin believed about the Sabbath, read his Institutes.  If you want to know what Calvin believed about traducianism, read his Institutes.  If you want to know what Calvin believed about election, baptism, expiation, the law, the Scriptures, grace or __________, read his Institutes and you’ll probably find an answer.  It only seems fair, does it not?  Perhaps no other figure in the history of Christianity has been as much of a lightning rod as Jehan Cauvin, and very few have been as misunderstood and misapplied, from both sides.

You won’t agree with everything he says, but maybe, just maybe, you’ll find he makes more sense than just what you’ve been told about him.

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If you are interested in diving into the Sabbath issue, here is a good starting point from one of the most respected Reformed ministers alive:

http://www.ligonier.org/learn/qas/how-are-we-keep-sabbath-todays-society/

Though my strict Sabbatarian friends will almost certainly accuse me of starting you at the wrong point there.

Blessed Assurance?

Did John Calvin see assurance as blessed?

But assurance I do not understand to mean that which soothes our mind with sweet and perfect repose, releasing it from every anxiety.  For to repose so peacefully is the part of those who, when all affairs are flowing to their liking, are touched by no care, burn with no desire, toss with no fear.  But for the saints the occasion that best stimulates them to call upon God is when, distressed by their own need, they are troubled by the greatest unrest, and are almost driven out of their senses, until faith opportunely comes to their relief.  For among such tribulations God’s goodness so shines upon them that even when they groan with weariness under the weight of the present ills, and also are troubled and tormented by the fears of greater ones, yet, relying upon his goodness, they are relieved of the difficulty of bearing them, and are solaced and hope for escape and deliverance.  It is fitting therefore that the godly man’s prayer arise…and that he groan under present ills and anxiously fear those to come, yet at the same time take refuge in God, not at all doubting he is ready to extend his helping hand.  It is amazing how much our lack of trust provokes God if we request of him a boon that we do not expect.

I would argue that Calvin did indeed see assurance as blessed, but not in the manner that most might think of it today.  Assurance comes, not when every anxiety is released, but when through those anxieties and tribulations, faith looks up to a mighty God who delivers!  It is then that the godly man can sing:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!  Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!

Heir of salvation, purchase of God, Born of His Spirit, washed in HIs blood.

This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long;

This is my story, this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long.

Admonished in Miseries

In his commentary on Genesis 3:19, John Calvin says:

So it is best that when we are admonished of the miseries of the present life, we should weep over our sins and seek relief from the grace of Christ, which not only can assuage the bitterness of grief but mingle sweetness with it.

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In my Christian life, I have experienced this to be true over and over again.  Some of my sweetest moments of fellowship with my Savior were when the miseries of this present life were most expounded to me.  As I feel humbled over my sin and misery, I am so thankful for a Savior who is there with me, admonishing me in my misery, and restoring me unto himself.

If you are a believer, I would love to hear how Jesus Christ has shown himself mighty on your behalf.

If you are an unbeliever, I would love to hear the ways in which you deal with your misery and suffering.  This is not a setup or trap.  If you are a non-believer, I would very much enjoy having a civil discussion on how you deal with the problem of suffering.