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