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Nine Things You Should Know About John Calvin

July 10th, 2013 Comments off

Today is the 504th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin (July 10, 1509). Here are nine things you should know about the French theologian and Reformer. [McCain note: This post is from my Reformed friends at the Gospel Coalition web site].

1. From an early age, Calvin was a precocious student who excelled at Latin and philosophy. He was prepared to go to study of theology in Paris, when his father decided he should become a lawyer. Calvin spend half a decade at the University of Orleans studying law, a subject he did not love.

2. Calvin wrote his magnum opus, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, at the age of 27 (though he updated the work and published new editions throughout his life). The work was intended as an elementary manual for those who wanted to know something about the evangelical faith—”the whole sum of godliness and whatever it is necessary to know about saving doctrine.”

3. Calvin initially had no interest in being a pastor. While headed to Strasbourg he made a detour in Geneva where he met the local church leader William Farel. Calvin said he was only staying one night, but Farel argued that it was God’s will he remain in the city and become a pastor. When Calvin protested that he was a scholar, not a preacher, Farel swore a great oath that God would curse all Calvin’s studies unless he stayed in Geneva. Calvin later said, “”I felt as if God from heaven had laid his mighty hand upon me to stop me in my course—and I was so terror stricken that I did not continue my journey.”

4. Calvin was a stepfather (he married a widow, Idelette, who had two children) but had no surviving children himself. His only son, Jacques, was born prematurely and survived only briefly. When his wife died he wrote to his friend, Viret: “I have been bereaved of the best friend of my life, of one who, if it has been so ordained, would willingly have shared not only my poverty but also my death. During her life she was the faithful helper of my ministry. From her I never experienced the slightest hindrance.”

5. During his ministry in Geneva, Calvin preached over two thousand sermons. He preached twice on Sunday and almost every weekday. His sermons lasted more than an hour and he did not use notes.

6. Around 1553, Calvin began an epistolary relationship with Michael Servetus, a Spanish theologian and physician. Servetus wrote several works with anti-trinitarian views so Calvin sent him a copy of his Institutes as a reply. Servetus promptly returned it, thoroughly annotated with critical observations. Calvin wrote to Servetus, “I neither hate you nor despise you; nor do I wish to persecute you; but I would be as hard as iron when I behold you insulting sound doctrine with so great audacity.” In time their correspondence grew more heated until Calvin ended it.

7. In the 1500s, denying the Trinity was a blasphemy that was considered worthy of death throughout Europe. Because he had written books denying the Trinity and denouncing paedobaptism, Servetus was condemned to death by the French Catholic Inquisition. Servetus escaped from prison in Vienne and fled to Italy, but stopped on the way in Geneva. After he attended a sermon by Calvin, Servetus was arrested by the city authorities. French Inquisitors asked that he be extradited to them for execution, but the officials in Geneva refused and brought him before their own heresy trial. Although Calvin believed Servetus deserving of death on account of what he termed as his “execrable blasphemies”, he wanted the Spaniard to be executed by decapitation as a traitor rather than by fire as a heretic. The Geneva council refused his request and burned Servetus at the stake with what was believed to be the last copy of his book chained to his leg.

8. Within Geneva, Calvin’s main concern was the creation of a collège, an institute for the education of children. Although the school was a single institution, it was divided into two parts: a grammar school called the collège and an advanced school called the académie. Within five years there were 1,200 students in the grammar school and 300 in the advanced school. The collège eventually became the Collège Calvin, one of the college preparatory schools of Geneva, while the académie became the University of Geneva.

9. Calvin worked himself nearly to death. As Christian History notes, when he could not walk the couple of hundred yards to church, he was carried in a chair to preach. When the doctor forbade him to go out in the winter air to the lecture room, he crowded the audience into his bedroom and gave lectures there. To those who would urge him to rest, he asked, “What? Would you have the Lord find me idle when he comes?”

Categories: Calvinism

John Calvin’s True Beliefs About The Lord’s Supper: The Importance of the Consensus Tigurinus

December 2nd, 2010 12 comments

The Consenus Tigurinus is relatively unknown but very important for conclusively demonstrating how far apart Lutheranism is from Calvinism when it comes to the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper. This confession of faith was written by John Calvin himself, who leaves no doubt that he comes down quite decidedly on the side of the spiritualizing interpretation of the Lord’s Supper, as held by Zwingli and his later followers, and thus effectively denies the actual presence of the body and blood of Christ under the bread and wine, referring to this belief in this document as a “perverse and impious superstition.” This is a very important document for understanding the context in which Lutheran had to do battle against the false doctrine of the Reformed Church, as led by Calvin. The Formula of Concord, prepared in 1577, was a decisive response that unified Lutherans in their opposition to Calvinism, and to those who were secretly or openly attempting to move the Lutheran Church away from Luther’s teachings of the Supper and toward the Reformed/Calvinist view.

The Consensus Tigurinus is clearly in view when the Saxon Visitation Articles were prepared in the early 1590s. The position on the Lord’s Supper articulated in this statement by Calvin remains the formal position of the Reformed Church. Calvinist speaks very carefully about the “presence of Christ” but is equally careful to make clear the presence is spiritual only and is a matter of the human soul’s ascent to the Ascended Lord, where there is a spiritual eating and drinking, by faith. This is directly contradictory of the Biblical, hence Lutheran, confession of the Lord’s Supper.

The following comments are drawn from a Calvinist source, thus demonstrating that our interpretation and understanding of the Consensus Tigurinus are by no means simply a Lutheran bias or distortion of the facts.

“The Consensus Tigurinus was composed by Calvin himself, in 1549, and was adopted by the Zurich theologians. It comprises twenty-six articles, which treat only of the sacrament of the Supper. It grew out of a desire upon the part of Calvin, to effect a union among the Reformed upon the doctrine of the Eucharist. The attitude of Calvin respecting the Sacramentarian question was regarded by the Lutherans, as favourable rather than otherwise to their peculiar views. His close and cordial agreement with Luther upon the fundamental points in theology, together with the strength of his phraseology when speaking of the nature of the Eucharist, led the Swiss Zuinglians to deem him as on the whole further from them than from their opponents. In this Consensus Tigurinus, he defines his statements more distinctly, and left no doubt in the minds of the Zurichers that he adopted heartily the spiritual and symbolical theory of the Lord’s Supper. The course of events afterwards showed that Calvin’s theory really harmonized with Zuingle’s.” [Source: A History of Christian Doctrine By William Greenough Thayer Shedd, 1863.].

You can read the entire Consensus Tigurinus at bookofconcord.org

Categories: Calvinism

Despite Media Hype, There is No “Calvinist Resurgance”

November 19th, 2010 15 comments
Thats what Barna says.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–The Barna Group released findings Nov. 15 that said despite what “observers and journalists have described as … a significant trend” in terms of a Calvinism movement, numbers of Calvinists among Protestant pastors are not greater today (31 percent) than a decade ago (32 percent).

McCain Comment: Yes, I know there is no Lutheran resurgance either. Don’t bother making that comment.

The research includes four studies conducted from 2000 through 2010, each involving a minimum of 600 phone interviews with random, representative samples of clergy.

Barna’s results about the broader Christian community seemingly stand in stark contrast to reports released by Southern Baptist Convention entities showing a surge in identity with five-point Calvinism in Southern Baptist life.

In 2007, the North American Mission Board’s Center for Missional Research released findings that nearly 30 percent of recent seminary graduates (1998-2004) serving as church pastors identified themselves as Calvinists. Details about the sample methodology and size were not released and this study is not available for public review.

This compared to 10 percent of all pastors in the SBC who affirm the five points of Calvinism, according to a 2006 LifeWay Research study of a cross-section of 413 randomly selected SBC pastors.

At the release of the research, Ed Stetzer who directs LifeWay Research, said the findings show “a growing influence” of Calvinism in SBC life and “certainly a growing influence in the graduates of our seminaries.”

Also, Christianity Today has described what it termed as a “comeback in Calvinism” in articles pointing to the SBC as “ground zero” for this resurgence (“Young, Restless, Reformed,” 2006) and as having a “bulwark of reformed theology” (“The Reformer,” 2010).

The Barna study appears to show that despite what has been reported as a spike in the numbers of Calvinism adherents among recent SBC seminary graduates, there hasn’t been a groundswell in the broader Christian community over the last decade. The numbers of those identifying themselves with Calvinism or Reformed Theology have held fairly steady around 31 percent.

However, the longitudinal study showed a much greater variation year-to-year in the number of pastors who identified themselves as either “Wesleyan” or “Arminian,” with a drop from 37 percent to 32 percent when comparing 2000 with 2010.

Theological Identity 2000 2002 2003 2010

Wesleyan, Arminian 37 pct. 26 pct. 35 pct. 32 pct.

Calvinist, Reformed 32 pct. 31 pct. 29 pct. 31 pct.

Sample Size 610 601 601 600

The Barna Group study did not define the theological identities, but left that interpretation to each participating pastor.

Other findings released by Barna include:
– On average, weekly adult attendance in Reformed or Calvinist churches grew from a median of 80 in 2000, to a median of 90 in 2010, an increase of about 13 percent. During that same period, weekly adult attendance in Wesleyan or Arminian churches increased 18 percent, growing from a median of 85 in 2000, to a median of 100 in 2010.

– Among pastors 27 to 45 years old, 29 percent described themselves as Reformed compared to 34 percent who self-identified with the Wesleyan tradition. Those between 46 and 64 years old were evenly split theologically, with 34 percent claiming Reformed roots and 33 percent citing a Wesleyan perspective. Pastors 65 years-old-and-up were least likely to place themselves in either camp, with only 26 percent naming a Reformed background and an almost equal number, 27 percent, pointing to a Wesleyan foundation.

– Reformed churches were most common in the Northeast and least common in the Midwest. Wesleyan congregations were equally likely to be in each of the four regions of the U.S.

– 47 percent of pastors of mainline churches (American Baptist Churches, Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America, the Episcopal Church, the United Methodist Church, Presbyterian Church USA, and United Church of Christ) named their congregations as Wesleyan or Arminian compared to 29 percent of mainline pastors who chose a Reformed or Calvinist label.

– Among pastors of non-mainline churches, 35 percent said they were Reformed or Calvinists, and 30 percent said they were Wesleyans or Arminians.

– Among charismatic and Pentecostal denominations generally viewed as coming from Wesleyan or Holiness traditions (Assembly of God, Vineyard, Foursquare, Church of God – Cleveland), 31 percent called themselves Reformed/Calvinists compared to 27 percent who called themselves Wesleyan/Arminian.

– A greater number of Reformed/Calvinist pastors identified themselves as theologically liberal (17 percent) than did Wesleyan/Arminian pastors (13 percent).

– Of the pastors who took part in the Barna study, 65 percent of Wesleyans/Arminians reported having completed seminary, and a statistically equivalent 62 percent of Reformed/Calvinists said they had, too.
–30–
Will Hall is executive editor of Baptist Press.

HT: Pastor Alms at Incarnatus Est
Categories: Calvinism

Where Calvinism Goes So Deadly Wrong with the Law of God

November 1st, 2010 45 comments

“Calvinists differ from Lutherans in their understanding of the relationship between Law and Gospel. They do believe that justification is a gift of God by which the sinful person is received into God’s favor and forgiven because the righteousness of Christ is credited to them. This acceptance is not earned by obeying the Law.

“Calvinists view the Law as necessary in securing justification. To secure is to establish, to make sure one’s status. The Law-keeping of sanctification is the basis on which the justified person receives benefits from the relationship he or she has with God. Calvinists say that “holiness, or conformity to the divine law, is the indispensable condition for securing favor, attaining peace of conscience, and enjoying fellowship with God” (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1941, p. 472). This, they say, is the meaning of Heb. 12:14: “Without holiness no one will see the Lord.”

“Calvinist writers call the Law a means of grace—for securing one’s justification, strengthening one’s personal assurance of being justified, and for coming into possession of the blessings of the covenant that one enjoys with God. Calvinism teaches three uses of the Law. Unlike Lutheran theology, which sees the Law as a mirror, curb, and rule, their Third Use of the Law spurs or stimulates one to attain moral righteousness. Thus, the indispensable condition for securing God’s favor can be fulfilled. The Law becomes a means of sanctification by exciting and directing spiritual activity. By calling forth obedience the Law brings about sanctification and leads people in the way of life and salvation.

Thomas Manteufel and Arnold E. Schmidt, Churches in America, electronic ed., 40 (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2000).

Categories: Calvinism

Trying to Plant Calvinism in Germany by Dishonest Means: Effort to Do So Exposed

August 29th, 2010 2 comments

The video I posted about yesterday is an effort by a small group of American Presbyterians to plant Calvinism into Germany. I see already they are going about it in a deceptive manner, in that they are trying to co-op the good name and history of Martin Luther to make themselves appear to be authentic heirs of Martin’s Luther’s theology. This was confirmed by a comment the post on the video received by one of the man involved in the effort, Sebastian Heck, who slanders the Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany. Here is what he sent to me, which confirms my assessment of their effort.

Pastor McCain, when you say I should “bother to check my facts” concerning a true Lutheran presence, that is quite an insinuation and I do think it is you who are being misled. You might be part of something like a “confessional Lutheran stronghold” in the U.S., but the SELK (Idependent Lutheran Church) of Germany certainly is not – and hasn’t been in many decades. Saying that it is “a small, but thriving, Lutheran church independent of the state” reveals one of two things: either your own ignorance about the true state of the SELK in Germany, or (which would be worse) your own ignorance about the Gospel. The SELK is struggling with liberalism on many fronts (theology, ministry, ecclesiology). And while it might be a “confessional Lutheran church” on paper, in reality it is deconstructed Lutheranism and not a whole lot of “true Lutheran Gospel”. I find it funny that I am a German, live there, work there and know the lay of the land, but you lecture me on checking the facts. I truly hope the Lutheran church you belong to does not REALLY compare to the SELK, for your own sake and for the sake of the Gospel. If you believe there is a true Reformation church in Germany, the burden of proof is on you…sadly!

The Reformed are Aiming at Planting Calvinism Back in Germany

August 28th, 2010 45 comments

Watch this video. American Presbyterians are aiming at planting Reformed congregations back in Germany. Watch this video and notice how lacking an articulation of the Gospel actually is. Notice particularly the first several minutes where not once is the name of Christ mentioned, and only God is referred to and his glory. The word “Gospel” is mentioned but not articulated. Typical of Calvinism, unfortunately.

I resent how Calvinists continue to try to coop Martin Luther for their cause. We all know how vigorously Luther rejected the Reformed view of the Lord’s Supper, among many other views. I understand why the Calvinists must play Lutheran hymns, since their own tradition produced no music of any value in Germany during the Reformation era, but simply using “A Mighty Fortress” as a soundtrack for a video does not in any way give them any right to imply that they are somehow the legitimate heirs of Luther’s Reformation.

In the video they make the claim that there is no denomination in Germany that can claim to be a legitimate heir of the Reformation. This is quite an offensive statement, that they made, no doubt out of simple ignorance, but nonetheless truly unfortunate. The Independent Evangelical Lutheran Church in Germany is this very church body!

Let’s be clear about something. Calvinism is not a faithful proclamation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is not an authentic, genuine and true presentation of the Reformation, but an unfortunate deformation of it.

Categories: Calvinism

Refuting Calvinist Claims that Luther Taught Double-Predestination

December 16th, 2009 15 comments

predestination_tshirt-p235676991342392817u7by_400Whenever the question of why are some saved, and not others, comes up it is common for Calvinists who advocate for the view that God has predestined some to hell, and others to heaven, to try to drag Martin Luther into their argument and claim that they are actually being faithful to what Martin Luther taught. Let this much be clear: Martin Luther did not teach double-predestination. I’ve heard from a number of Calvinists who tell me that they don’t even think John Calvin taught it either, but, that’s for them to hash out. My interest here is in refuting the claim of the “Truly Reformed” or “classic Calvinists” or “T.U.L.I.P. Calvinists.” Here then are two critical points for Calvinists to keep in mind, which, unfortunately, they often do not.

(1) The doctrine of the Lutheran Church is not determined or normed by every writing of Luther. The proper understanding and interpretation of Martin Luther is reflected in the Book of Concord, which is the Lutheran Church’s normative standard of doctrine and practices that flow from this doctrine. This is hard for Calvinists to understand, since they are unable to point to one, unique, formal book of their confessions. They are somewhat scattered about, over time and place.

(2) Luther’s Bondage of the Will is not, and was not, his last and final word on the subject of the hidden will of God. When Calvinists appeal to this document in support of their doctrine of predestination, they do so most often taking this document in isolation from the rest of his writings and teachings. It is a common tactic among Calvinists, and sadly, a common belief that John Calvin and his heirs were actually the more faithful followers of Martin Luther than the Lutheran Church which followed Luther.

Here then is what Luther wanted people to know and understand about his position on the issue of predestination. This is from Luther’s last and final lecture series he gave during his life, his great Genesis lectures. Here is what he said while commenting on Genesis 29:9:

It pleases me to take from this passage the opportunity to discuss doubt, God, and the will of God; for I hear that here and there among the nobles and persons of importance vicious statements are being spread abroad concerning predestination or God’s foreknowledge. For this is what they say: “If I am predestined, I shall be saved, whether I do good or evil. If I am not predestined, I shall be condemned regardless of my works.” I would be glad to debate in detail against these wicked statements if the uncertain state of my health made it possible for me to do so. For if the statements are true, as they, of course, think, then the incarnation of the Son of God, His suffering and resurrection, and all that He did for the salvation of the world are done away with completely. What will the prophets and all Holy Scripture help? What will the sacraments help? Therefore let us reject all this and tread it underfoot.

These are devilish and poisoned darts and original sin itself, with which the devil led our first parents astray when he said (Gen. 3:5): “You will be like God.” They were not satisfied with the divinity that had been revealed and in the knowledge of which they were blessed, but they wanted to penetrate to the depth of the divinity. For they inferred that there was some secret reason why God had forbidden them to eat of the fruit of the tree which was in the middle of Paradise, and they wanted to know what this reason was, just as these people of our time say: “What God has determined beforehand must happen. Consequently, every concern about religion and about the salvation of souls is uncertain and useless.” Yet it has not been given to you to render a verdict that is inscrutable. Why do you doubt or thrust aside the faith that God has enjoined on you? For what end did it serve to send His Son to suffer and to be crucified for us? Of what use was it to institute the sacraments if they are uncertain or completely useless for our salvation? For otherwise, if someone had been predestined, he would have been saved without the Son and without the sacraments or Holy Scripture. Consequently, God, according to the blasphemy of these people, was horribly foolish when He sent His Son, promulgated the Law and the Gospel, and sent the apostles if the only thing He wanted was that we should be uncertain and in doubt whether we are to be saved or really to be damned.

But these are delusions of the devil with which he tries to cause us to doubt and disbelieve, although Christ came into this world to make us completely certain. For eventually either despair must follow or contempt for God, for the Holy Bible, for Baptism, and for all the blessings of God through which He wanted us to be strengthened over against uncertainty and doubt. For they will say with the Epicureans: “Let us live, eat, and drink; tomorrow we shall die” (cf. 1 Cor. 15:32). After the manner of the Turks they will rush rashly into the sword and fire, since the hour in which you either die or escape has been predetermined.

Read more…

I’m no Lutheran, but this book “almost maketh me” one!

December 10th, 2009 1 comment

531154Check out this interesting blog post over at “Reformed Reader” blog site. Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions continues to be a popular book and a strong seller for Concordia Publishing House. We are fast approaching 100,000 copies sold, which considering the nature of this book, is truly nothing short of remarkable. I have long ago lost track of the number of laypeople who have picked it up and started looking through it and can not put it down until they are finished reading all the notes, introductions, photo captions, time-lines, helps, annotations, charts and the like. It opens to them a whole world of authentic, confessing Lutheranism that they never even knew existed. We often hear people huffing and puffing about “the Lutheran Confessions”and how “of course, we are “faithful to the Lutheran Confessions” but to be honest about it, I do hope we do more than talk about the Book of Concord. Let’s resolve actually to read it, and use it.

The Legacy of John Calvin

August 12th, 2009 14 comments

ncd01583This year Christians who are heirs of John Calvin’s theological work are celebrating his 500th birthday. Calvinists like to refer to Calvin’s work as the “second wave” of the Reformation and often we hear Calvinists asserting that it was left to Calvin to complete the Reformation that Luther began. This has been the standard “party line” from Reformed theologians, and Crypto-Calvinists, both before and ever since Luther’s death in 1546. It is very important that Lutheran Christians remain aware of the very serious, foundational differences in doctrine between historic, classic Lutheranism and historic, classic Calvinism. Where both confessional Lutherans and confessional Calvinists do agree is often on the moral issues of our day and in a common stand against the liberal mainline protestant theology that has taken over many historically Lutheran and Calvinist Churches. But agreement on these issues is not such that we can simply neglect the reality of our historic differences on key and essential doctrines, including, but not limited to: the person and work of Christ, Christ’s atonement, the Lord’s Supper, Baptism, the means of grace, predestination, the uses of the Law, etc.

I consider it a great tragedy that John Calvin did so much to corrupt the genuine evangelical Reformation of the Western Church. The errors that flow from Calvin’s theology of a limited atonement, an irresistible grace and a predestination of some to hell, are a corruption of the Scriptures and the Gospel of Christ. Calvin and those that followed him, taught that the atonement of Christ is limited only to those who are saved, thus robbing everyone of the comfort of the Gospel promise that Christ died for all, not simply for some. Calvin’s errors on the atonement and predestination come from Calvinism’s erroneous use of reason, and its penchant to try to construct an ex post facto explanation of why some are saved and not others. Calvin also corrupted the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper and in spite of lofty claims about the Eucharist, Calvin does not confess that Christ actually gives His body to communicants, but rather communicants in receiving bread, ascend to heaven with their souls and there feed on Christ by faith. It is an empty shell of a supper that Calvin would have us receive in Holy Communion.

While we certainly do not deny that the Gospel is heard and believed by Reformed Christians, who clearly do love our common Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we can not consider Calvinism, and the Reformed Church tradition that follows it, to be an authentic expression of Luther’s Reformation. I am not in favor of Lutherans allying themselves with Reformed theologians, no matter how conservative they might be on certain issues. Calvin’s work in Geneva was, in large part, one of iconoclastic destruction, not a conservative reformation. Calvinism put into place a theological system that deemphasizes God’s chief and most essential quality: love and replaces it with a focus on God’s “sovereignty.”

The fundamental problem with Calvinism is well summarized by Francis Pieper in his magisterial work Christian Dogmatics (Volume 1, pg. 25ff):

The Reformed denominations likewise acknowledge in principle the divine authority of the divinely inspired Scriptures. The inspiration of Scripture has found valiant champions among the Reformed theologians not only in the past, but also today. But in practice Reformed theology forsakes the Scripture principle. It has become the fashion to say that the difference between the Reformed and the Lutheran Church consists in this, that the Reformed Church “more exclusively” makes Scripture the source of the Christian doctrine, while the Lutheran Church, being more deeply “rooted in the past” and of a more “conservative” nature, accepts not only Scripture, but also tradition as authoritative. But this is not in accord with the facts. The history of dogma tells this story: In those doctrines in which it differs from the Lutheran Church and for the sake of which it has established itself as a separate body within visible Christendom, the Reformed Church, as far as it follows in the footsteps of Zwingli and Calvin, sets aside the Scripture principle and operates instead with rationalistic axioms. The Reformed theologians frankly state that reason must have a voice in determining Christian doctrine.

Read the extended entry for a further summary and presentation of the fundamental problems with Calvinis theology. It is for these reasons that Calvin’s work is not to be celebrated, but lamented.

Read more…

Categories: Calvinism

God Hates You and Your Little Dog Too: Thoughts on Calvinism

January 12th, 2009 20 comments

Guillotine-cigar-cutter-1
In light of my recent posts with pictures of my little dog, I found the title of a recent post by Anthony Sacramone particularly upsetting, until I read the article. This is a very well done critique of classic Calvinism, acerbic, to be sure, but Tony lays the issues out very clearly. Click through the link to his blog site, and add it to your blog reader, if you have not already. Here is the text of his post:

God Hates You and Your Little Dog Too
by Anthony Sacramone

All right, maybe not you

The NY Times has this profile of Mark Driscoll,
pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. Driscoll has a large
congregation in a very secular city. He talks dirty  and preaches a limited gospel, by which I mean the doctrine of limited atonement.
Sometimes referred to as “particular” atonement, it refers to the idea
that God has brought into being the overwhelming majority of humankind
for the sheer purpose of sending them to hell. This, to his glory.

Imagine a God who seeks His glory in such a fashion.

Wait — it gets worse. Not only are the majority of people doomed to
an eternity of torment, but sometimes God will “awaken” a defective
faith, “an inferior working of the Spirit,” in unsuspecting
individuals, for the sheer purpose of faking them out into thinking God
loves them and that Jesus died for them when, in fact, His Holy Wrath
abides on them.

Read more…

Categories: Calvinism

Calvinism: A Dreary Business Indeed

September 24th, 2008 5 comments

Calvinists are constantly having to explain to people why when God's Word says, "God so loved the world" it doesn't really mean "the world" and why when God's Word says, "Christ died for all" it doesn't really mean "all."

What a dreary business it is defending a system that so starkly contradicts God's Word. That's why I continue to appreciate the razor-sharp proclamation of the love of God, in Christ, that is the very heart and center of Scripture, and hence, the beating heart of Lutheranism.

A dreary business indeed, Calvinism is.

Categories: Calvinism

John Calvin was Not a Very Good Calvinist — Thank Goodness!

December 28th, 2007 8 comments

Calvin
I bumped into this very well done brief summary of John Calvin’s view on what has become one of the five-pillars of Calvinist "wisdom" or, to put it more accurately, one of the things that is so wrong about Calvinism namely, the teaching that Christ’s atonement was limited, not for all. It is a such a glaring contradiction of the teaching of the New Testament, but Calvinism finally is about logically arranging all things in a nice, tidy system. Well, seems John Calvin himself was not much of a Calvinist. Here are quotes from his Bible commentaries that refute belief in a limited atonement:

How Calvinistic was John Calvin? What did he teach concerning the extent of the atonement? Let us ponder his own words:

On
Isaiah 53:12–"I approve of the ordinary reading, that He alone bore
the punishment of many, because on Him was laid the guilt of the whole
world. It is evident from other passages, and especially from the fifth
chapter of the Epistle to the Romans, that many sometimes denotes all."

On
Mark 14:24 – "The word many does not mean a part of the world only, but
the whole human race." In other words, Christ’s blood was shed for the
whole human race.

On Matthew 20:28–"‘Many’ is used, not for a
definite number, but for a large number, in that He sets Himself over
against all others. And this is its meaning also in Rom. 5:15, where
Paul is not talking of a part of mankind but of the whole human race."

On
John 1:29 – "And when he says the sin OF THE WORLD, He extends this
favour indiscriminately to the whole human race….all men without
exception are guilty of unrighteousness before God and need to be
reconciled to Him….Now our duty is, to embrace the benefit which is
offered to all, that each of us may be convinced that there is nothing
to hinder him from obtaining reconciliation in Christ, provided that he
comes to him by…faith."

On John 3:16 – "He has employed the
universal term whosoever, both to invite all indiscriminately to
partake of life, and to cut off every excuse from unbelievers….He
shows Himself to be reconciled to the whole world, when He invites all
men without exception to the faith of Christ."

On Romans 5:18 –
"He makes this favor common to all, because it is propoundable to all,
and not because it is in reality extended to all (i.e. in the
experience); for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole
world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all,
yet all do not receive Him."

On 2 Corinthians 5:19 – God "shows
Himself to be reconciled to the whole world" and Calvin goes on to say
that the "whole world" means "all men without exception."

On
Galatians 5:12 – "It is the will of God that we should seek the
salvation of all men without exception, as Christ suffered for the sins
of the whole world."

On Colossians 1:15–"This redemption was
procured by the blood of Christ, for by the sacrifice of His death all
the sins of the world have been expiated."

On Hebrews 5:9–"He
(the writer of Hebrews) has inserted the universal term ‘to all’ to
show that no one is excluded from this salvation who proves to be
attentive and obedient to the Gospel of Christ."

Calvin even
taught that the lost were purchased by Christ’s blood: "It is no small
matter to have the souls perish who were bought by the blood of Christ"
(MG, 83).

In fairness, it should be stated that some of Calvin’s
comments seem to indicate that he held to a limited atonement (see his
comments on 1 Timothy 2:4-6, for example, where he says that the "all"
refers to all classes or ranks of men, and see his comments on 1 John
2:2 where he says that the word all or whole does not include the
reprobate). However, in his comments on 1 John 2:2 he mentions a phrase
commonly used in the schools: "Christ suffered sufficiently for the
whole world, but efficiently only for the elect." He then states that
he is in basic agreement with this statement and that it is true.
Calvin basically taught that the cross-work of Christ was unlimited in
its extent, but limited in its application. Only those who believe
benefit from it.

For a full discussion of Calvin’s views on
the extent of the atonement, see Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism by C.
Gordon Olson, Appendix E, pages 458-463.

In conclusion, Calvin
made some statements which seem to indicate he held to a limited
atonement, but he also made many more statements which seem to better
harmonize with an unlimited atonement. The best indication of where he
stood on this issue, as Norman Duty suggests, should come from his
final statement on the matter. Calvin made a statement in his will,
drawn up when he was 54, shortly before his death. The year was 1564
and may be regarded as his final judgment concerning the extent of the
atonement: "I testify also and profess that I humbly seek from God,
that He may so will me to be washed and purified by the great
Redeemer’s blood, shed for the sins of the human race, that it may be
permitted me to stand before His tribunal under the covert of the
Redeemer Himself." [See Douty, The Death of Christ, pages 175-176. For
an excellent discussion of Calvin’s position on the extent of the
atonement, see Morison, The Extent of the Atonement, pages 126-128.]
See also Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology, Volume 3, pages 382-387.

Categories: Calvinism

On Crucifixes and Graven Images

April 4th, 2006 2 comments

Fellow Lutheran blogger, Pastor Walter Snyder has a good "Q and A" on the crucifix.

Westminister Incoherence?

January 19th, 2006 5 comments

Westminsterabbey
A fellow Lutheran, Eric Phillips, draws our attention to what he believes to be incoherence in the Westminster Confession. What say you?

Chapter 8 of the Westminster Confession of Faith has two sections that
bear on this question. The first, section 2, is entirely orthodox:

"The
Son of God, the second Person in the Trinity, being very and eternal
God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the
fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the
essential properties and common infirmities thereof; yet without sin:
being conceived by he power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the
Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct
natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together
in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which
person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator
between God and man."

That’s the level of definition, though.
When it comes to applying this principle in a practical way, the WCF is
considerably less successful. Section 7 is a complete train wreck:

"Christ,
in the work of mediation, acteth according to both natures; by each
nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity
of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes, in
Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature."

Up
to the semicolon, it makes sense and is orthodox. It even carefully
attributes the action to the Person "BY each nature" rather than to the
natures themselves. After the semicolon, though, it’s incoherent.
First, how can the unity of the person be introduced by the word "yet,"
as if it were a new consideration being introduced, when it is in fact
the basis of the statement just made? Second, how many persons do we
have here? The clause "attributed to the person denominated by the
other nature" sure makes it sound as if we have a person for each
nature. Third, if we assume that they couldn’t mean that (because it
would completely contradict what they’ve just said), we could make a
helpful edit and change that perplexing clause to "attributed to the
Person, as denominated by the other nature." But then the question
arises again, what the heck is "yet" doing introducing this sentence?
They would end up saying, "Even though the one Person acts by means of
both natures, Scripture sometimes attributes human qualities to that
Person while at the same time calling Him God." And that would be
complete nonsense, since the habit of Scripture they describe _depends
on_ the fact that the Person acts by means of both natures. In fact, if
the Person really is composed of two natures, there is no need to
explain it as a scriptural figure of speech when that one person is
called both man and God. So it doesn’t seem as if the WCF could mean
THAT either, but the only other option I see is to read it as teaching
two persons in Christ.

Completely incoherent.

Categories: Calvinism

Watersblogged Weighs In

January 19th, 2006 1 comment

Kudos to Pastor Bob Waters for his further observations on the whole "key" thing and Calvinism.

Categories: Calvinism