The Execution of Michael Servetus & My Primary Deal-Breaker with Calvinism

The Execution of Michael Servetus & My Primary Deal-Breaker with Calvinism June 15, 2015

Burning Wizards 16th

When I’ve written about Calvinism I’ve not infrequently heard “that’s just a caricature of Calvinism,” or that I don’t understand what Calvinism actually teaches (neither of which are true).  While it’s true some of my critiques may not apply to some modern American Calvinists (who in all honesty, probably shouldn’t call themselves Calvinists), when I talk about Calvinism I’m talking about the theology of John Calvin himself.

I think the irony that often occurs isn’t that I don’t understand Calvinism, but that many modern Calvinists have never actually read what John Calvin taught. Calvinist writer and pastor Tim Callies completely agrees:

Many, and no doubt most Calvinists have never read a word of John Calvin. Instead they reluctantly call themselves Calvinists because they feel John Calvin was gifted by God to understand and interpret the Scriptures and that he restored to the church doctrine that had been lost for hundreds of years.”

Perhaps one of the chief issues in modern Calvinism is that many don’t understand what their founder taught, or how he lived. I honestly don’t understand how one could be a Calvinist without first reading Calvin himself; I certainly wouldn’t want to be a Christian without reading what Christ said, or part of any other movement following the teachings of a person without actually reading the teachings of that person.

When reading Calvin there’s no shortage of problematic stuff one will find, as Zack Hunt articulately wrote about recently. From teaching that God not only picks who will go to heaven but also picks who will go to hell (before they’re even born!) and that God is the agent who ordains every act of evil in the world, there’s plenty of things to find in Calvin (aka, actual Calvinism) to be reprehensible. I concur with Hunt when he writes that a God who creates people for the purpose of torturing them (Institutes, 3.21.5), and who ordains all evil acts (1.17.5) is certainly a monster.

However, Calvin’s theology isn’t the primary deal-breaker for me. My primary point of departure from Calvinism is looking at how Calvin lived, and being able to see that he didn’t grasp (or was just completely unwilling to obey) one of the most basic things Jesus taught: enemy love. And this brings us to the execution of Michael Servetus– my primary “do not pass go” moment with Calvin.

Michael Servetus (1511-1553) was a theological enemy of Calvin and the two had mutual disdain for the other (Servetus thought Calvin was obnoxious and in return, Calvin felt Servetus was pompous). Servetus rejected orthodox Christianity (issues such as the trinity), holding what would correctly be called heretical views. In those days heretics were executed, and at one point Servetus was arrested- but released for lack of evidence. Soon after, he was re-arrested by the Catholic church and convicted of a capital offense– thanks to John Calvin, who sent some of Servetus heretical writings to the authorities. However, Servetus escaped from prison and was free to write again.

Calvin had previously vowed that if it were at all possible, he’d have Servetus killed, but his escape from prison thwarted those hopes. It wouldn’t be long however before Calvin could fulfill the vow he made against Servetus in 1546:

“Servetus wrote to me a short time ago, and sent a huge volume of his dreamings and pompous triflings with his letter. I was to find among them wonderful things, and such as I had never before seen; and if I wished, he would himself come. But I am by no means inclined to be responsible for him; and if he come, I will never allow him, supposing my influence worth anything, to depart alive.” [1]

As much as I dislike Calvin, Servetus was either an idiot or had a death wish, because instead of fleeing to safety he showed up at church one night in Geneva to hear Calvin preach (he’s certainly guilty of antagonizing Calvin). Calvin of course, didn’t miss the opportunity and had his friend Nicholas de la Fontaine arrest Servetus on 40 capital charges of heresy. During the trial, Calvin wrote that he hoped the verdict would come back as death[2], and it did. Servetus was ultimately burned at the stake– atop a pyre of his own books and green wood to draw out his death– which reportedly took 30 minutes.

 And thus, John Calvin was responsible for having his enemy killed.

Now, both sides tend to overplay their hand on the death of Servetus. Those who stand against Calvin will often call it murder, and those strongly in the Calvin camp will try to explain it away as just the “culture of the time.” (Aren’t we supposed to stand against evil in culture?) Certainly this was not murder in the sense that Calvin walked up and personally killed Servetus– but he did collaborate with the local government to have him killed on two occasions. Also, it is true that Calvin tried to get Servetus to repent of his theology and when that didn’t work, he sought to have him beheaded instead of burned alive. However, I find the Calvinist tendency to play the “he tried to have him beheaded as an act of mercy” card a bit disingenuous, as if beheading an enemy is somehow morally superior to burning one.

In addition, Calvin wasn’t simply an innocent bystander in a violent culture– he was actually one of the folks promoting it. Calvin once wrote that those who objected to killing heretics were just as guilty as the heretics themselves:

Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are…” [3]

 So, not only does he argue killing theological enemies to be good, but Calvin argued that one was not even morally free to oppose it. Furthermore, Calvin argued that the blood of no one– not even a person’s own family should be spared:

“… we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory.” [4]

 Got that? We must not spare our own families of bloodshed– in fact, we must “forget all humanity” when doing combat for God’s glory.

(And don’t even get me going on the fact that Calvin was somewhat famous for his abusive speech toward others— aka, the sin of reviling as condemned by Paul.)

Calvinism is, by definition, the teachings of John Calvin– a man whose actions show me either (a) he didn’t understand Jesus or (b) he didn’t want to obey Jesus. Why in the world would I want to build the totality of my Christian theology on a foundation erected by such a person?  If Calvin didn’t understand something so basic as torturing and killing people is something a Jesus follower probably shouldn’t do, I have zero confidence that he ever understood the more complex theological issues.

And this is my primary deal breaker: before any discussion on sovereignty, evil, or predestination, I am unable to move past the fact that Calvinism is a theological system designed by someone who had no moral or theological objections to brutally killing those who disagreed with him.

[1] Henry, Paul. The Life and Times of John Calvin, Vol II. Whittaker & Co, London. Pg. 181

[2] Calvin to William Farel, August 20, 1553, Bonnet, Jules (1820–1892) Letters of John Calvin, Carlisle, Penn: Banner of Truth Trust, 1980, pp. 158–159. ISBN 0-85151-323-9.

[3] Marshall, John (2006). John Locke, Toleration and Early Enlightenment Culture. Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 325. ISBN 0-521-65114-X.

[4] ibid.

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  • WiseMom

    Brilliant as always, Benjamin. :)

  • RevCamlin

    “Those who stand against Calvin will often call it murder, and those strongly in the Calvin camp will try to explain it away as just the ‘culture of the time.’ (Aren’t we supposed to stand against evil in culture?)”

    At the risk of sounding like I am defending Calvin’s actions qua actions (I am not), what I am about to say falls into the second camp. Your parenthetical question is an imposition of a post-modern, post-Christendom moral ethic. Yes, we are supposed to stand against evil in culture, and what Calvin did vis a vis Servetus is repugnant and morally reprehensible—to us. However, what is considered “evil” changes dramatically from age to age (thus the “culture of the time” argument). You dispense with Calvin on account of his approving of (and being complicit in) Servetus’ death. (To be fair, I am fully aware that you also have reasonable arguments against his theological writings; but, that is not the thrust of this article.) Shall we apply the same logic to God, who, according to biblical authors, commanded his covenant people “You shall not kill,” and then subsequently commanded them to commit genocide against the peoples of Canaan? Or if we refuse to question the character of God, surely it behooves us to throw out scripture, since (apparently) its authors have mischaracterized God in a way that leads us to hold all of scripture in suspicion?

    Instead, given the totality of biblical witness concerning the character of God (and keeping in mind that it was written by people trying in vain to communicate meaningfully about the deity), I feel it necessary to take the “Facts of Life” approach to theological writings, including scripture: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both, and there you have the facts of God” (or Calvin… or what have you). That is to say, not everything written is right, and neither is every action of all authors, but that doesn’t mean I’m inclined to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    To be sure, there is much about Calvin the man, and Calvinism, that I view with suspicion or skepticism at best—and this is coming from a Presbyterian minister. However, the Reformed tradition of which Calvin is the most famous—but my no means only—part rises and falls neither on the man nor on his theological treatises. We may be thankful for other Reformed voices who concentrate on the sovereignty of God (Calvin’s greatest strength) without descending into double-predestination (Calvin’s greatest folly). Many of us Reformed theologians are lumped together under the label “Calvinism” as if Calvin was the only voice of our theological tradition, much to our chagrin.

    My point is (countering what I felt your point was), if we throw out the theologies of anyone whose life choices are morally or ethically suspect—especially by the standards of a society in which they did not live—I’m afraid we’ll have no theologians to read at all.

  • CroneEver

    I think that what has always made Servetus a deal-breaker for me is that Calvin turned him in first to the Catholic authorities. Considering that the Catholics would also have burned Calvin for heresy if they could have gotten hold of him, and Calvin had no respect or use for Catholicism, the papacy, etc., this was horrendous betrayal on a number of levels.

    Re “… we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory,” sounds like an awful lot of fundamentalist extremists, of all religions, then and now. But of course a man who can seriously believe in a God who would damn a soul to eternal torture in hell before that soul is even born is not a rational man, or a loving man, in any definition of the words.

  • Melanie Collins Pennock

    I wish my Calvinist father was still alive here on earth so he could read this. I feel sure he knows the truth, now!

  • Hamrick

    Maybe you should talk to Dr. James White about this. See if your arguments hold any water.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qbBozoYGz1w

  • Wilma Salley

    As Christians, only look to Jesus, who never commanded anyone to kill anyone, only to love even our enemies or people who disagree with us! Only and always love. It’s so very simple and so very beautiful!

  • Jeremy Marshall

    @RevCamlin It seems to me that your logic is off here. If I’m reading you correctly, you’re saying that a) Yes, Christians must stand against evil in their time; b) BUT, what Calvin did would not have been considered “evil” in his time; so c) We can’t rightfully assert that Calvin what Calvin did was “evil” in his time. Um . . . that’s problematic. Pretty much ANY evil that Christians have stood against, be it emperor-worship or chattel slavery, was not considered “evil” in its time and culture. That’s exactly why it costs something to stand against it and do the other thing

  • Jack

    What would that accomplish? James White’s arguments hold no water either. Bile, piss and vinegar, perhaps, but not water.

  • RevCamlin

    That’s fair. And I agree with you. What I’m trying to reason out is that such “evils” are often only recognized as such in hindsight. And in the meantime, it seems that Mr. Corey is suggesting that any possible contributions “for good” that the perpetrators of those historic evils may offer should be rejected out of hand due to the source. Paul is the author of a large share of the New Testament, but he does not condemn slavery, even though he had the opportunity to do so while writing about it. And while it can’t be said that he owned slaves, shall we discount Paul’s contribution to Christian thought because he didn’t stand against it?

    But I don’t want to get bogged down on THAT point, because in the end it wasn’t really the point that most interested me (and my logic may very well be faulty, and for that I apologize). There is no question that atrocity is atrocity, regardless of the historical era, and that the worst atrocities (as far I as I’m concerned) are those committed in the name of the very Christ who would undoubtedly condemn those very atrocities (and there are more historical examples than I care to count). My real issue is with the idea that because a theologian was guilty of such an atrocity, nothing that he contributed to the advancement of theological thought or reflection is worth reading or considering.

  • Al Cruise

    “Calvinism is a theological system designed by someone who had no moral or theological objections to brutally killing those who disagreed with him.”

    I feel that reading Calvin it goes beyond this. He felt it was theological permissible to kill those who disagreed with him. It wasn’t just a personal character flaw.

  • Jonathan Roberts

    This post makes it seem like Calvin made it a daily routine to execute his enemies. Perhaps two or three before he ate their children for breakfast.

    Unfortunately the author needs to do more work here.

    First, all of the spooky stuff about predestination and such that the author is afraid of can be found in Augustine and Aquinas.

    Second, Calvin had no civil authority in Geneva. He only had civil authority insofar as he could persuade the magistrates (and he was often not able to persuade them). For instance, he desired the Eucharist to be celebrated weekly. That never happened.

    Third, Calvin was a member of the prosecution and his job was primarily to show that Servetus was a heretic.

    Fourth, he actually disagreed with the sentence and believed burning was too severe.

    Fifth, for a fuller treatment: https://calvinistinternational.com/2013/02/14/the-servetus-thing/

  • Al Cruise

    … we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory.” [4] Same as Isis today.

  • Jeanne Fox

    I was thinking the same thing!

  • rajjmuhammed

    You are a real dolt. And your information is completely incorrect about Calvin….frankly slanderous lies. In any event, it was hundreds of years ago. This is 2015. You might want to check out a calendar, for the sins of Christians a half a millennia ago does not impugn their theology. You clearly have an anti-Calvinism agenda. Did your first love, a Calvinist girl, break your heart?

  • rajjmuhammed

    Unfortunately, it’s lies, not truth.

  • what’s your deal raj? love you buddy!

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

    Welcome to the wonderful world of commenting on blogs. Since you’re new, I was going to give you some pointers, but I see you’ve caught on perfectly: personally attack people, don’t bother with a composed response to what was written, and assume you’re smarter than everyone else.

    Good work! Welcome, and many blessings.

  • Sheila Warner

    Can you identify and cite your sources, which led you to say that Benjamin is completely incorrect about Calvin? And, yes, what a person did thousands of years ago doesn’t matter? It matters to us, because the person we follow as our founder is Jesus. Welcome! I’d love to hear more about how you think Calvin’s actions reflect the love of God in Jesus.

  • Sheila Warner

    I suppose that a person who believes God predestines a person to an eternal hell of torment in flames, that person would conclude that murdering another person is just fulfilling God’s will–which brings God glory. Very much the ISIS way.

  • Sheila Warner

    It matters not that Augustine and Aquinas believed in Calvin-style predestination. They were wrong. And, look where those words took the Church–straight into the Inquisition.

  • Reincarnation

    Stimulating and thought provoking. I do not read condemnation with the intent to dismiss Calvin’s credibility. I found the article factual in pointing out the disturbing trends of those who claimed to speak for Jesus during the Protestant reformation.

  • Sheila Warner

    Oh, and I read the article to which you linked, and did not find it at all persuasive. Tangling the government with the teachings of Jesus led to corruption and violence on all sides. How did heresy become a capital offense in the first place? The same Church that teaches the right of conscience cooperated with rulers–some ecclesiastical–to deny people that right. “Believe in orthodoxy or you will be killed.” Very far removed from the words of Jesus.

  • Sheila Warner

    From which words of Jesus did Calvin develop that theology?

  • Sheila Warner

    Trust me, as a former Catholic, my Church had its share of terrorists, too.

  • Jeremy Marshall

    I can see your concern there, especially re: John Howard Yoder.

  • Jonathan Roberts

    Well, I’m glad that you can dismiss Calvin, Augustine, and Aquinas providing a more than plausible reading of Christ and St. Paul.

    Perhaps you can mix your dismissals with a healthy dose of gratitude as the Reformers developed a legal tradition that allows for freedom of conscience.

    I think a red would go well with you gratitude: https://calvinistinternational.com/2014/12/12/praetorius-voice-torture/

  • At one point the Catholics arrested him and did gain a conviction because of letters Calvin supplied to the inquisition, even though Calvin had no love for the Catholic church. Servetus escaped, but was re-arrested not long after.

  • I’ll clarify: I’m not saying that Calvin has made no contributions or is wrong about everything he said. What I am saying is that you cannot divorce theology from Christian ethics, and that for good reason I am skeptical of Calvin or any other Christian leader who has no moral problem with killing their enemies.

  • That’s actually a good modern example that impacts my camp. Yes, Yoder had theological contributions, but he was a predator too. Many Anabaptists have completely stopped drawing from his theology on this count, and they (we) have good reason to look to other theologians first.

  • Sheila Warner

    Sure they did. That’s why the Anabaptists were so well treated. rolling my eyes But you missed my point. Plausible readings of Christ include both what he said, and how he lived and died. He truly NEVER fought back against his enemies. Instead, he died for them. And forgave them from the cross.

  • I have a somewhat different take on Calvin. His theology is totally rational given the premisses upon which it is based. It is often the case that humans do terrible things because they make an idol of their beliefs. This can and has led to an number of atrocities being carried out for the greater good.

  • Jonathan Roberts

    I should have clarified–the first part of my comment was referring to predestination.

    As to the rest, the Anabaptist NEVER used violence or fought back? You don’t seriously believe that.

  • This is somewhat tangential, but I’m struck by this: so many opponents of enemy-love today use protecting their family as a primary argument in favor of using lethal force. And here we have Calvin, saying to throw your family into the flames if they fit the (rather broad) qualifications for “enemy.”

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    Calvin thought that it was not only theologically permissible but even theologically mandatory to kill those who disagreed with him.

    He was such an authoritarian that he did not consider it appropriate for an individual to kill on his own (without being ordered to do so by The State), but held that there was an absolute moral duty for anyone with any influence on government to use that influence as much as possible to make that government operate as a theocracy where any dissent from Calvinist Orthodoxy is met with lethal force.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    He would know now if Calvin were right about naturally immortal souls going straight to heaven or hell immediately upon death, but that is just another thing he got completely wrong. As scripture says, there is work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol. Your father’s enlightenment will have to wait for the bodily resurrection in the last days.

  • For those who didn’t follow the link to Tim Challies’ article, here is his statement in context, making the exact opposite point that Ben makes when he quotes those two sentences:

    “Perhaps it is also helpful to note that while Calvinists are called after John Calvin, they identify more with his theology than with the man himself. Many, and no doubt most Calvinists have never read a word of John Calvin. Instead they reluctantly call themselves Calvinists because they feel John Calvin was gifted by God to understand and interpret the Scriptures and that he restored to the church doctrine that had been lost for hundreds of years. His gift to the church was not himself, but the doctrines of grace illumined to him by the Holy Spirit. The death of Servetus, and the role played by John Calvin, stand as proof that he was in no way
    perfect and was as much in need of grace as any of us.”

    In fact, I’d suggest reading the whole thing.

  • Michael Moore

    I am Presbyterian and while I do like a lot of what we “stand for”, I am very uncomfortable with both John’s (Calvin & Knox)… They are products of their times… But rather than being stuck on Presbyterian, I consider myself first and foremost a Christ-follower… Anybody who worships Calvin or Zwingly or Luther or Wesley, etc… Misses the point… Worship Christ, not these “fallible men”…

  • Al Cruise

    “any dissent from Calvinist Orthodoxy is met with lethal force.”

    This is true, and totally contradictory to who Jesus was and that makes it a theology that is not from God.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    The execution of Servetus is just one of the many evil fruits by which the nature of the Calvinist tree may be known.

    There ought to be less focus on this particular act and more on the abhorrently authoritarian spirit that pervades Calvin’s Institutes.

    Calvin plainly worshiped power, the sort that the rulers of the Gentiles lord over them. It must not be so with Christians.

    Calvin took a few references to mortal rulers as “gods” (the Hebrew actually just means “mighty ones”) to mean that the powerful are actually worthy of our worship, rather than recognizing that adoring power as he does is a pernicious form of idolatry.

    All of his theology reads like an attempt to exalt and deify the sort of tyrannical power which Jesus eschewed. The resulting celestial despot is an idol who does not deserve any love or worship.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    It is based on horrible premises though, which should not have been hard to disprove had Calvin been willing to question them seriously.

    There are enough contradictions in Calvin’s thought that a rational thinker would have to suspect some of the premises were wrong.

  • Frankly Frank

    Calvin trained over 2000 ministers to take the gospel as missionaries to other countries, many of them knowing that when they would be sent out, they would probably be murdered for proclaiming Christ in their home (or other) country. So yes, it was a different time and the Calvinists of that day paid for the proclamation of the gospel in a violent era with their lives. I guess they were hateful, cold, stern, non-compassionate disciples of Calvin. Calvin was a man with a heart for missions and the Triune God. Without trying to justify the actions of Calvin in the Servetus case, we certainly do not understand that era. Calvin was driven by the love of Christ and the Institutes include devotional literature (The Golden Book of the True Christian Life) that would bless any believer. I’m afraid that Mr. Corey loves the art of misrepresentation of the truth without presenting all of the facts, violating the very logic he used to say that people were terrible to misjudge Bruce/Caitlin Jenner. He is judging Calvin with limited knowledge of the situation or the man (Calvin disclosed very little of his personal life or feelings – it wasn’t about him). Mr. Corey, remember this post: “Judge not that you will not be judged”? You can’t have it both ways. You can’t write a post telling people not to judge Bruce but then write an article judging John Calvin and his followers. At least that is my judgment….

  • Al Cruise

    “You can’t write a post telling people not to judge Bruce but then write an article judging John Calvin and his followers.” At least you are honest when you say you are following “John Calvin.” Bruce Jenner is not a theologian making claims about the afterlife and who goes there.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    I think the difference is that Yoder’s actions and theology aligned very well, but Calvin’s did. No one who consistently applies Yoder’s worldview would find an excuse to copy his deeds.

    I have not actually read any of his works yet so I could be completely wrong about this, but I would be very surprised to find Yoder arguing that anyone who finds himself with a similar opportunity to become a sexual predator has a moral obligation to do so. I think we would have heard about it if Yoder had repeatedly defended his sins as perfectly just and consistently argued that all of his victims and everyone like them deserved what came to them.

    Yoder was a hypocrite, like the Pharisees whom Jesus (in Matthew 23:3) told his followers to obey but not to imitate.

    John Calvin was not a hypocrite, but simply a monster. His actions were unquestionably evil, but fit perfectly with what he taught as good. Consistently applying Calvin’s worldview would obligate modern Calvinists to approve of theocracies which do not permit any heretics to live within their borders.

    Personally I would not put so much emphasis on how Calvin actually treated Servetus, because the arguments by which he defended such actions should be abhorrent enough even if read as purely hypothetical.

  • Trev

    Because it had its share of people. I do not think you can judge a religion on its followers, but you certainly can judge its teachings (of which in this context Calvin is pretty terrible)

  • bobbygrow

    This post, and most of the comments here in support of this post are so uninformed it is pretty hard to read.

    I once wrote a short little post on the Servetus issue here: https://growrag.wordpress.com/2010/06/09/the-calvin-and-servetus-drama-the-ecclesiopolitical-tale/

  • jcvarner

    I find it interesting that you make no mention of Cavlin’s pleas for him not to come to Geneva nor Calvin risking his own life to visit him and try to convince him to repent of his heresy. While those by no means excuse his participation they do show his heart in the matter. Those are significant aspects of the story to leave out. And it is curious as to why you would not convey the whole situation.

  • True, that bit at the end about Jenner was off the mark. We’re not to judge outside of the house of God, but we are to judge within it. But delete those three sentences or so, and he’s spot on.

    While I am deeply unsettled by Calvin’s belief that execution was a suitable answer to heresy, I at least recognize that it wasn’t a particularly Calvinist error, but one of Christendom as a whole in that period. And as black and white as we’d sometimes like things to be, they just seldom are.

  • Justin Stratis

    Yoder had a pretty worked out theological rationale for abusing women (or: ministering to them, in his view). It flowed, for him, in the same stream as the communitarian ethic for which is regularly applauded. See the article ‘Defanging the Beast’ in the January issue of the Mennonite Quarterly Review.

  • Father Thyme

    Calvin wasn’t much different from a very Bad Jesus. The “Imperialist Jesus” taught that “we’re all God’s slaves,” and cannot human property be disposed like common trash?

    Avolos, H. (2015) The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics. Sheffield Phoenix Press Ltd.
    sheffieldphoenix.com/showbook.asp?bkid=294

  • Calvin was a fanatic utterly obsessed with spreading his own views. He was one of only two lawyers in town, and when he was asked to return after being tossed out the first time he helped write the church rules, organized the Consistory, wrote the catechism and prayers that everyone had to memorize, and had the Consistory quiz people on them. Calvin asked that fines be imposed for not attending church (to listen to lengthy sermons several days a week), the fine was an average day’s wages. He delivered endless reprimands to people if you ever read the Consistory journals. You should see all the things Calvin didn’t like and for which he was certain people in Geneva ought to be punished. Dancing, wearing striped breeches, hair too high, naming their children non-biblical names, doing or saying anything Catholic (Catholics had all been exiled if they refused to convert). Calvin also pushed for the death penalty for adultery, and for children who struck their parents. One child was beheaded, while others were hung by their armpits from gallows to show that they at least deserved the death penalty. He sent out missionaries to France, instructing them how to go about converting Catholics to his view. He debated an Anabaptist then told the council to exile all Anabaptists from Geneva, which they did. Calvin’s view of predestination was challenged, and the fellow was exiled–not long after that it was made a law that only Calvin’s view of predestination was the town’s official view, and all others who contested it would likewise be exiled. When some people took to naming their dogs Calvin, Calvin got a law made that one could not do that. One fellow left a threatening note on Calvin’s pulpit and that fellow as found out, his house searched, where they found other things he had written denouncing Calvin or Christian belief and he was tortured and executed. Women who acted in inappropriate ways had to wear a metal cage round their heads, kept chained up outside the church so others could mock them while going in for one of the thrice weekly lectures that lasted a few hours sometimes. One of Calvin’s former friends who taught children in Geneva, Castellio, questioned whether the Song of Songs was strictly about Jesus’ love of the church. Calvin and he started to disagree on that issue and a few others of a minor quality but which Calvin thought major, and he was forced to move out of town, with a letter of recommendation from Calvin which was nice, until after Servetus was executed, and Castillo produced a book advocating that the death penalty should never be used, but Christians should tolerate other points of view. This infuriated Calvin. So Calvin wrote a defense of his view that magistrates in Christian lands must persecute heretics. Must. But Calvin didn’t stop there. He wrote letters to the magistrates where Castillo lived, and demanded they arrest him and put him in prison. When they didn’t do that, then Calvin claimed Castillo must be put in prison for taking logs out of the river (apparently this was a crime and such logs belonged to the rulers of that town). But Castillo was poor and needed the logs to fuel his fire to keep himself and his family warm. Calvin at this time also wrote letters to rulers in Poland, one of the more tolerant nations when it came to heretics, warning them that had better start executing Socians like Servetus. Calvin wrote a similar letter to Reformed leaders in Britain. Calvin would have liked to see all heretics and witches dead. He said so concerning the witches of Penney. Geneva itself was “successful” because it exiled everyone who disagreed in the end with Calvin. First the Catholics who were in Geneva had exiled all the Jews. Then Geneva became Protestant and they exiled all the Catholics. Then Calvin made sure all the Anabaptists were exiled, and even anyone who disagreed with his view of predestination. Castillo was a more tolerant and interesting fellow than Calvin and deserves much more praise for writing his book advocating tolerance of different religious points of view.

    Toward the end of Calvin’s life so many Calvinist converts fled France and sought refuge in Geneva that eventually the city council was made up of a majority of them rather than native Swiss speaking Genevans. In fact most of the native Genevans who had formerly made up the city council and were related to the founders of the city were exiled because they resented the power Calvin and the Consistory aspired to after Servetus’ execution. In the end Calvin had only one native Swiss Genevan from a founding family who remained his friend, the majority of his friends now being French like him, Calvinists like him, and ruling Geneva.

    Oddly enough, two hundred years after Calvin died, the printing presses of Geneva were still churning out books galore, printing being a huge industry in Geneva. But Calvin’s writings were not as popular as they once were, so they began publishing Voltaire’s works, even the Marquis de Sade’s. Voltaire had a house near Lake Geneva, and would probably have been executed had he lived there even a hundred years earlier. The headmaster at the college Calvin founded (which was nicknamed The College of Bleeding Bottoms), two hundred years after Calvin’s death, was fond of deism, and didn’t believe in “the devil.” That college still exists in Geneva, though I doubt it espouses only the views Calvin would have approved of. In fact, in Geneva today there are not one but several statues honoring Servetus, the man whom Calvin prosecuted unto death. There’s even a soccer team named after Servetus.

  • Like I already pointed out above, Calvin was a fanatic utterly obsessed with spreading his own views. He was one of only two lawyers in town, and when he was asked to return after being tossed out the first time he helped write the church rules, organized the Consistory, wrote the catechism and prayers that everyone had to memorize, and had the Consistory quiz people on them. Calvin asked that fines be imposed for not attending church (to listen to lengthy sermons several days a week), the fine was an average day’s wages. He delivered endless reprimands to people if you ever read the Consistory journals. You should see all the things Calvin didn’t like and for which he was certain people in Geneva ought to be punished. Dancing, wearing striped breeches, hair too high, naming their children non-biblical names, doing or saying anything Catholic (Catholics had all been exiled if they refused to convert). Calvin also pushed for the death penalty for adultery, and for children who struck their parents. One child was beheaded, while others were hung by their armpits from gallows to show that they at least deserved the death penalty. He sent out missionaries to France, instructing them how to go about converting Catholics to his view. He debated an Anabaptist then told the council to exile all Anabaptists from Geneva, which they did. Calvin’s view of predestination was challenged, and the fellow was exiled–not long after that it was made a law that only Calvin’s view of predestination was the town’s official view, and all others who contested it would likewise be exiled. When some people took to naming their dogs Calvin, Calvin got a law made that one could not do that. One fellow left a threatening note on Calvin’s pulpit and that fellow as found out, his house searched, where they found other things he had written denouncing Calvin or Christian belief and he was tortured and executed. Women who acted in inappropriate ways had to wear a metal cage round their heads, kept chained up outside the church so others could mock them while going in for one of the thrice weekly lectures that lasted a few hours sometimes. One of Calvin’s former friends who taught children in Geneva, Castellio, questioned whether the Song of Songs was strictly about Jesus’ love of the church. Calvin and he started to disagree on that issue and a few others of a minor quality but which Calvin thought major, and he was forced to move out of town, with a letter of recommendation from Calvin which was nice, until after Servetus was executed, and Castillo produced a book advocating that the death penalty should never be used, but Christians should tolerate other points of view. This infuriated Calvin. So Calvin wrote a defense of his view that magistrates in Christian lands must persecute heretics. Must. But Calvin didn’t stop there. He wrote letters to the magistrates where Castillo lived, and demanded they arrest him and put him in prison. When they didn’t do that, then Calvin claimed Castillo must be put in prison for taking logs out of the river (apparently this was a crime and such logs belonged to the rulers of that town). But Castillo was poor and needed the logs to fuel his fire to keep himself and his family warm. Calvin at this time also wrote letters to rulers in Poland, one of the more tolerant nations when it came to heretics, warning them that had better start executing Socians like Servetus. Calvin wrote a similar letter to Reformed leaders in Britain. Calvin would have liked to see all heretics and witches dead. He said so concerning the witches of Penney. Geneva itself was “successful” because it exiled everyone who disagreed in the end with Calvin. First the Catholics who were in Geneva had exiled all the Jews. Then Geneva became Protestant and they exiled all the Catholics. Then Calvin made sure all the Anabaptists were exiled, and even anyone who disagreed with his view of predestination. Castillo was a more tolerant and interesting fellow than Calvin and deserves much more praise for writing his book advocating tolerance of different religious points of view.

    Toward the end of Calvin’s life so many Calvinist converts fled France and sought refuge in Geneva that eventually the city council was made up of a majority of them rather than native Swiss speaking Genevans. In fact most of the native Genevans who had formerly made up the city council and were related to the founders of the city were exiled because they resented the power Calvin and the Consistory aspired to after Servetus’ execution. In the end Calvin had only one native Swiss Genevan from a founding family who remained his friend, the majority of his friends now being French like him, Calvinists like him, and ruling Geneva.

    Oddly enough, two hundred years after Calvin died, the printing presses of Geneva were still churning out books galore, printing being a huge industry in Geneva. But Calvin’s writings were not as popular as they once were, so they began publishing Voltaire’s works, even the Marquis de Sade’s. Voltaire had a house near Lake Geneva, and would probably have been executed had he lived there even a hundred years earlier. The headmaster at the college Calvin founded (which was nicknamed The College of Bleeding Bottoms), two hundred years after Calvin’s death, was fond of deism, and didn’t believe in “the devil.” That college still exists in Geneva, though I doubt it espouses only the views Calvin would have approved of. In fact, in Geneva today there are not one but several statues honoring Servetus, the man whom Calvin prosecuted unto death. There’s even a soccer team named after Servetus.

  • Saying Calvin was not perfect is the understatement of the year. He was a perfectionist at being a fanatic utterly obsessed with spreading his own views. He was one of only two lawyers in town, and when he was asked to return after being tossed out the first time he helped write the church rules, organized the Consistory, wrote the catechism and prayers that everyone had to memorize, and had the Consistory quiz people on them. Calvin asked that fines be imposed for not attending church (to listen to lengthy sermons several days a week), the fine was an average day’s wages. He delivered endless reprimands to people if you ever read the Consistory journals. You should see all the things Calvin didn’t like and for which he was certain people in Geneva ought to be punished. Dancing, wearing striped breeches, hair too high, naming their children non-biblical names, doing or saying anything Catholic (Catholics had all been exiled if they refused to convert). Calvin also pushed for the death penalty for adultery, and for children who struck their parents. One child was beheaded, while others were hung by their armpits from gallows to show that they at least deserved the death penalty. He sent out missionaries to France, instructing them how to go about converting Catholics to his view. He debated an Anabaptist then told the council to exile all Anabaptists from Geneva, which they did. Calvin’s view of predestination was challenged, and the fellow was exiled–not long after that it was made a law that only Calvin’s view of predestination was the town’s official view, and all others who contested it would likewise be exiled. When some people took to naming their dogs Calvin, Calvin got a law made that one could not do that. One fellow left a threatening note on Calvin’s pulpit and that fellow as found out, his house searched, where they found other things he had written denouncing Calvin or Christian belief and he was tortured and executed. Women who acted in inappropriate ways had to wear a metal cage round their heads, kept chained up outside the church so others could mock them while going in for one of the thrice weekly lectures that lasted a few hours sometimes. One of Calvin’s former friends who taught children in Geneva, Castellio, questioned whether the Song of Songs was strictly about Jesus’ love of the church. Calvin and he started to disagree on that issue and a few others of a minor quality but which Calvin thought major, and he was forced to move out of town, with a letter of recommendation from Calvin which was nice, until after Servetus was executed, and Castillo produced a book advocating that the death penalty should never be used, but Christians should tolerate other points of view. This infuriated Calvin. So Calvin wrote a defense of his view that magistrates in Christian lands must persecute heretics. Must. But Calvin didn’t stop there. He wrote letters to the magistrates where Castillo lived, and demanded they arrest him and put him in prison. When they didn’t do that, then Calvin claimed Castillo must be put in prison for taking logs out of the river (apparently this was a crime and such logs belonged to the rulers of that town). But Castillo was poor and needed the logs to fuel his fire to keep himself and his family warm. Calvin at this time also wrote letters to rulers in Poland, one of the more tolerant nations when it came to heretics, warning them that had better start executing Socians like Servetus. Calvin wrote a similar letter to Reformed leaders in Britain. Calvin would have liked to see all heretics and witches dead. He said so concerning the witches of Penney. Geneva itself was “successful” because it exiled everyone who disagreed in the end with Calvin. First the Catholics who were in Geneva had exiled all the Jews. Then Geneva became Protestant and they exiled all the Catholics. Then Calvin made sure all the Anabaptists were exiled, and even anyone who disagreed with his view of predestination. Castillo was a more tolerant and interesting fellow than Calvin and deserves much more praise for writing his book advocating tolerance of different religious points of view.

    Toward the end of Calvin’s life so many Calvinist converts fled France and sought refuge in Geneva that eventually the city council was made up of a majority of them rather than native Swiss speaking Genevans. In fact most of the native Genevans who had formerly made up the city council and were related to the founders of the city were exiled because they resented the power Calvin and the Consistory aspired to after Servetus’ execution. In the end Calvin had only one native Swiss Genevan from a founding family who remained his friend, the majority of his friends now being French like him, Calvinists like him, and ruling Geneva.

    Oddly enough, two hundred years after Calvin died, the printing presses of Geneva were still churning out books galore, printing being a huge industry in Geneva. But Calvin’s writings were not as popular as they once were, so they began publishing Voltaire’s works, even the Marquis de Sade’s. Voltaire had a house near Lake Geneva, and would probably have been executed had he lived there even a hundred years earlier. The headmaster at the college Calvin founded (which was nicknamed The College of Bleeding Bottoms), two hundred years after Calvin’s death, was fond of deism, and didn’t believe in “the devil.” That college still exists in Geneva, though I doubt it espouses only the views Calvin would have approved of. In fact, in Geneva today there are not one but several statues honoring Servetus, the man whom Calvin prosecuted unto death. There’s even a soccer team named after Servetus.

  • Ahem, it was Calvin’s own servant who accused Servetus and asked to have him arrested. This was partly so Calvin himself could prosecute, due to some law back then concerning accusers not also being allowed as prosecutors. Calvin also swore Servetus would not leave Geneva alive if he ever arrived there. As for you pitiful defense that Calvin only wanted the man hung, wow, what mercy. Servetus was stuck in a prison with insects eating him alive and pleaded for basic necessities like clean sheets and clothes which Calvin refused him. He pleaded for his life when the death penalty was read, and Calvin mocked him for receiving his sentence like a bellowing beast, a dumb animal. Calvin also tried every trick in the book to get Servetus convicted, including citing Servetus work on the geography of Palestine which was merely a translation of someone else’s work. It grieved the Holy Spirit, Calvin said, that Servetus would write that the land given to the Hebrews, a land of promise, of milk and honey, was a relatively parched and arid land.

    Calvin was a fanatic utterly obsessed with spreading his own views. He was one of only two lawyers in town, and when he was asked to return after being tossed out the first time he helped write the church rules, organized the Consistory, wrote the catechism and prayers that everyone had to memorize, and had the Consistory quiz people on them. Calvin asked that fines be imposed for not attending church (to listen to lengthy sermons several days a week), the fine was an average day’s wages. He delivered endless reprimands to people if you ever read the Consistory journals. You should see all the things Calvin didn’t like and for which he was certain people in Geneva ought to be punished. Dancing, wearing striped breeches, hair too high, naming their children non-biblical names, doing or saying anything Catholic (Catholics had all been exiled if they refused to convert). Calvin also pushed for the death penalty for adultery, and for children who struck their parents. One child was beheaded, while others were hung by their armpits from gallows to show that they at least deserved the death penalty. He sent out missionaries to France, instructing them how to go about converting Catholics to his view. He debated an Anabaptist then told the council to exile all Anabaptists from Geneva, which they did. Calvin’s view of predestination was challenged, and the fellow was exiled–not long after that it was made a law that only Calvin’s view of predestination was the town’s official view, and all others who contested it would likewise be exiled. When some people took to naming their dogs Calvin, Calvin got a law made that one could not do that. One fellow left a threatening note on Calvin’s pulpit and that fellow as found out, his house searched, where they found other things he had written denouncing Calvin or Christian belief and he was tortured and executed. Women who acted in inappropriate ways had to wear a metal cage round their heads, kept chained up outside the church so others could mock them while going in for one of the thrice weekly lectures that lasted a few hours sometimes. One of Calvin’s former friends who taught children in Geneva, Castellio, questioned whether the Song of Songs was strictly about Jesus’ love of the church. Calvin and he started to disagree on that issue and a few others of a minor quality but which Calvin thought major, and he was forced to move out of town, with a letter of recommendation from Calvin which was nice, until after Servetus was executed, and Castillo produced a book advocating that the death penalty should never be used, but Christians should tolerate other points of view. This infuriated Calvin. So Calvin wrote a defense of his view that magistrates in Christian lands must persecute heretics. Must. But Calvin didn’t stop there. He wrote letters to the magistrates where Castillo lived, and demanded they arrest him and put him in prison. When they didn’t do that, then Calvin claimed Castillo must be put in prison for taking logs out of the river (apparently this was a crime and such logs belonged to the rulers of that town). But Castillo was poor and needed the logs to fuel his fire to keep himself and his family warm. Calvin at this time also wrote letters to rulers in Poland, one of the more tolerant nations when it came to heretics, warning them that had better start executing Socians like Servetus. Calvin wrote a similar letter to Reformed leaders in Britain. Calvin would have liked to see all heretics and witches dead. He said so concerning the witches of Penney. Geneva itself was “successful” because it exiled everyone who disagreed in the end with Calvin. First the Catholics who were in Geneva had exiled all the Jews. Then Geneva became Protestant and they exiled all the Catholics. Then Calvin made sure all the Anabaptists were exiled, and even anyone who disagreed with his view of predestination. Castillo was a more tolerant and interesting fellow than Calvin and deserves much more praise for writing his book advocating tolerance of different religious points of view.

    Toward the end of Calvin’s life so many Calvinist converts fled France and sought refuge in Geneva that eventually the city council was made up of a majority of them rather than native Swiss speaking Genevans. In fact most of the native Genevans who had formerly made up the city council and were related to the founders of the city were exiled because they resented the power Calvin and the Consistory aspired to after Servetus’ execution. In the end Calvin had only one native Swiss Genevan from a founding family who remained his friend, the majority of his friends now being French like him, Calvinists like him, and ruling Geneva.

    Oddly enough, two hundred years after Calvin died, the printing presses of Geneva were still churning out books galore, printing being a huge industry in Geneva. But Calvin’s writings were not as popular as they once were, so they began publishing Voltaire’s works, even the Marquis de Sade’s. Voltaire had a house near Lake Geneva, and would probably have been executed had he lived there even a hundred years earlier. The headmaster at the college Calvin founded (which was nicknamed The College of Bleeding Bottoms), two hundred years after Calvin’s death, was fond of deism, and didn’t believe in “the devil.” That college still exists in Geneva, though I doubt it espouses only the views Calvin would have approved of. In fact, in Geneva today there are not one but several statues honoring Servetus, the man whom Calvin prosecuted unto death. There’s even a soccer team named after Servetus.

  • There was no freedom of conscience in Calvin’s day. By the time Calvin was in his last years the Genevans had already exiled Jews, Catholics, Anabaptists, even fellow Protestants unless they accepted Calvin’s view of predestination.

    As for tolerance, Calvin argued strongly that magistrates must persecute heretics. And he railed against one of the earliest writings on tolerance by Castillo. Also, neither Lutherans nor Catholics recognized Calvinism as a valid form of Christianity until after the Thirty Years War. That war began when some Protestants in Prague threw some Catholic emissaries out of a window onto a dung heap. Then countries lined up, Catholic League versus Protestant League, and even the King of Sweden, a Calvinist, marched his army to Germany to join. (A wiley French Catholic cardinal decided at one point in the war to join a Catholic army with a Protestant army, which was awkward to say the least, but left France with the only significant gain in land by war’s end.) The peace treaty after that horrendous war was the result of Catholics and Protestants realizing neither religion could take over or take back the other’s by force. So force was tried first. It was the stalemate after that war that also allowed Calvinism to be recognized by both Lutherans and Catholics as a valid form of Christianity.

  • There was no singular creed of Anabaptism, aside from baptizing adults rather than children. They were a diverse bunch. Most of them also didn’t like the idea of a ruler or emperor demanding that all his subjects agree in espousing the same Christian beliefs as the king. Anabaptists were hunted down and murdered, sometimes en masse by Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists. One sect of Anabaptists also conquered some cities in Germany, led by a fanatic who was apparently sex crazed and believed he was receiving message from God. Those were all killed, and that sect’s evil doings were thereafter imputed to all individualistic believers, so the bigger denominations condemned all the smaller ones, the ones that didn’t get, and did not want a king’s royal support. The ideas of literate educated Anabaptists however, were more freedom loving and featured more praise of tolerance of religious beliefs than most in their day. The Amish and Mennonites and even some modern day Baptists trace some of their ancestry to the Anabaptists of the Reformation.

  • Would love to if Dr. White had the time. I haven’t been in a good argument with him via mail since the 1980s. Does he deny the following?

    It was Calvin’s own servant who accused Servetus and asked to have him arrested. This was partly so Calvin himself could prosecute, due to some law back then concerning accusers not also being allowed as prosecutors. Calvin also swore Servetus would not leave Geneva alive if he ever arrived there. As for you pitiful defense that Calvin only wanted the man hung, wow, what mercy. Servetus was stuck in a prison with insects eating him alive and pleaded for basic necessities like clean sheets and clothes which Calvin refused him. He pleaded for his life when the death penalty was read, and Calvin mocked him for receiving his sentence like a bellowing beast, a dumb animal. Calvin also tried every trick in the book to get Servetus convicted, including citing Servetus work on the geography of Palestine which was merely a translation of someone else’s work. It grieved the Holy Spirit, Calvin said, that Servetus would write that the land given to the Hebrews, a land of promise, of milk and honey, was a relatively parched and arid land.

    Calvin was a fanatic utterly obsessed with spreading his own views. He was one of only two lawyers in town, and when he was asked to return after being tossed out the first time he helped write the church rules, organized the Consistory, wrote the catechism and prayers that everyone had to memorize, and had the Consistory quiz people on them. Calvin asked that fines be imposed for not attending church (to listen to lengthy sermons several days a week), the fine was an average day’s wages. He delivered endless reprimands to people if you ever read the Consistory journals. You should see all the things Calvin didn’t like and for which he was certain people in Geneva ought to be punished. Dancing, wearing striped breeches, hair too high, naming their children non-biblical names, doing or saying anything Catholic (Catholics had all been exiled if they refused to convert). Calvin also didn’t think organ music was biblical (Bach would not be amused), so he had the organ in the central church in Geneva melted down to make communion cups, and instructed people to sing hymns using only their voices and warned against adding too many harmonies.

    Calvin also implored the city council to execute adulterers and children who struck their parents. One child was beheaded, while others were hung by their armpits from gallows to show that they at least deserved the death penalty. He sent out missionaries to France, instructing them how to go about converting Catholics to his view. He debated an Anabaptist then told the council to exile all Anabaptists from Geneva, which they did. Calvin’s view of predestination was challenged, and the fellow was exiled–not long after that it was made a law that only Calvin’s view of predestination was the town’s official view, and all others who contested it would likewise be exiled. When some people took to naming their dogs Calvin, Calvin got a law made that one could not do that. One fellow left a threatening note on Calvin’s pulpit and that fellow as found out, his house searched, where they found other things he had written denouncing Calvin or Christian belief and he was tortured and executed. Women who acted in inappropriate ways had to wear a metal cage round their heads, kept chained up outside the church so others could mock them while going in for one of the thrice weekly lectures that lasted a few hours sometimes. One of Calvin’s former friends who taught children in Geneva, Castellio, questioned whether the Song of Songs was strictly about Jesus’ love of the church. Calvin and he started to disagree on that issue and a few others of a minor quality but which Calvin thought major, and he was forced to move out of town, with a letter of recommendation from Calvin which was nice, until after Servetus was executed, and Castillo produced a book advocating that the death penalty should never be used, but Christians should tolerate other points of view. This infuriated Calvin. So Calvin wrote a defense of his view that magistrates in Christian lands must persecute heretics. Must. But Calvin didn’t stop there. He wrote letters to the magistrates where Castillo lived, and demanded they arrest him and put him in prison. When they didn’t do that, then Calvin claimed Castillo must be put in prison for taking logs out of the river (apparently this was a crime and such logs belonged to the rulers of that town). But Castillo was poor and needed the logs to fuel his fire to keep himself and his family warm. Calvin at this time also wrote letters to rulers in Poland, one of the more tolerant nations when it came to heretics, warning them that had better start executing Socians like Servetus. Calvin wrote a similar letter to Reformed leaders in Britain. Calvin would have liked to see all heretics and witches dead. He said so concerning the witches of Penney. Geneva itself was “successful” because it exiled everyone who disagreed in the end with Calvin. First the Catholics who were in Geneva had exiled all the Jews. Then Geneva became Protestant and they exiled all the Catholics. Then Calvin made sure all the Anabaptists were exiled, and even anyone who disagreed with his view of predestination. Castillo was a more tolerant and interesting fellow than Calvin and deserves much more praise for writing his book advocating tolerance of different religious points of view.

    Toward the end of Calvin’s life so many Calvinist converts fled France and sought refuge in Geneva that eventually the city council was made up of a majority of them rather than native Swiss speaking Genevans. In fact most of the native Genevans who had formerly made up the city council and were related to the founders of the city were exiled because they resented the power Calvin and the Consistory aspired to after Servetus’ execution. In the end Calvin had only one native Swiss Genevan from a founding family who remained his friend, the majority of his friends now being French like him, Calvinists like him, and ruling Geneva.

    Oddly enough, two hundred years after Calvin died, the printing presses of Geneva were still churning out books galore, printing being a huge industry in Geneva. But Calvin’s writings were not as popular as they once were, so they began publishing Voltaire’s works, even the Marquis de Sade’s. Voltaire had a house near Lake Geneva, and would probably have been executed had he lived there even a hundred years earlier. The headmaster at the college Calvin founded (which was nicknamed The College of Bleeding Bottoms), two hundred years after Calvin’s death, was fond of deism, and didn’t believe in “the devil.” That college still exists in Geneva, though I doubt it espouses only the views Calvin would have approved of. In fact, in Geneva today there are not one but several statues honoring Servetus, the man whom Calvin prosecuted unto death. There’s even a soccer team named after Servetus.

  • If Calvin was a “man of his time” in seeking the execution of heretics then doesn’t that imply that even a lifetime of prayer and advanced Bible study and the promise that the Holy Spirit would lead believers into truth, all of that still can’t overcome “cultural norms?” Even when those cultural norms are the most obscene and bloody, involving exile, torture and execution?

  • Calvin told his friends that if Servetus ever came there he would personally make sure Servetus did not leave alive. And when Servetus did show up in Geneva it was Calvin’s servant who accused him and asked for Servetus to be arrested. That had something to do with Calvin not being able to do it himself and still be available as prosecutor which Calvin very much wanted to do. Calvin also did not show Servetus any mercy in prison where insects were eating him alive so that he couldn’t even prepare a good defense, though he pleaded with Calvin for clean clothes, and also for access to books he needed for his defense. Calvin also remarked that at Servetus’ sentencing that Servetus bellowed and cried like a dumb animal, which Calvin thought was appropriate for a heretic like Servetus.

  • otrotierra

    Passages like this help me better understand why U.S. fundamentalists have more in common with ISIS than with Jesus.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    Matthew 23:15 “‘Woe to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye go round the
    sea and the dry land to make one proselyte, and whenever it may happen
    — ye make him a son of gehenna twofold more than yourselves”

    Having read all of the Institutes, I could not find anything that would bless any believer which was not completely contradicted by the arguments which followed it.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    Calvin’s view of family is horrible. He insists that wife be submissive to the degree that if her husband orders her to commit a serious sin, it would be more sinful for her to refuse him. He insists that children’s ideas should not be listened to, but that they must be taught only to repeat the approved dogmas. Anything less than this would be total anarchy.

  • Father Thyme

    > execution was a suitable answer to heresy

    Why so unsettled? Quite Biblical, actually.

  • Sheila Warner

    Dirk Willems. Read his story. I believe that the majority of Anabaptists followed his example. Since I am not an Anabaptist myself, I cannot answer your question. Benjamin is in a better position to answer.

  • Sheila Warner

    Caitlyn Jenner has not participated in the deliberate murder of anyone, as far as i know. There is the matter of the car accident, but it was just that–an accident.

  • Sheila Warner

    Cite your sources which demonstrate how uninformed the folks are here.

  • Frankly Frank

    The great Baptist preacher C.H. Spurgeon once said “To deny Calvinism is to deny the gospel of Jesus Christ.” I’m with Spurgeon and… Sproul, Boice, Packer, the Puritans (Owen, Foxe, Sibbes, etc), Piper, Mohler, the classic Princeton theologians (Warfield, Hodge, Machen, Archibald Alexander), JC Ryle, Whitefield, Schaeffer, Bunyan, Newton, Edwards, William Carey (the father of modern missions – imagine that), D. James Kennedy, St. Augustine, Wilberforce, Lloyd-Jones and the list of hateful, non-discerning men goes on. The “attack spirit” on this site reminds me of the attitudes of the local fundamentalists with whom I grew up. Strange that Mr. Corey’s posts spawn the very spirit that he seemingly eschews. Why might that be? May it be that reactionaries are still the same people they’ve always been and that they just choose new topics with which to make others volatile.

  • otrotierra

    No thanks, I’ll stick with the gospel of Jesus.

  • Stacey (the kids’ Aunt Tasty)

    The gospel of Mohler and Piper really sucks.

  • Jeffrey

    I always find this amusing…St. Augustine???
    Would that be the same St. Augustine who believed that unbaptized infants went to hell, that the Eucharist was the actual body and flesh of Jesus and those who said otherwise were heretics, that Mary was indeed ‘the Mother of God’ and worthy of the Christian’s prayer (as were departed saints), and that all those who died outside of the One, True, Visible, Official Catholic Church had no hope of salvation?
    I know ever since R.C. Sproul came up with the idiotic notion of the ‘proto-Protestant’, evangelicals (who have no history, and indeed, no existence at all before Luther) have tried to claim him as one of their own, but it just won’t work.
    The numerous distinctions between Augustine’s doctrine of election and the Lutheran model (let alone Calvin’s, which is steeped in the Genevan’s fairly explicit Nestorianism) is drastic. There are traditional, Augustinian Catholic sites that list the vast disparity if you’re interested.

    Plus, I also can’t help but find it odd that you depend on a long list of fallible men to bolster your self-delusion of relying on ‘scripture alone’.

  • Hamrick

    Weighty accusations. Citations please?

  • Frankly Frank

    The Reformed faith is fully based on Scripture. Want some passages? How about Genesis to Revelation? Every man’s theology is flawed but what do you propose as your solution to understanding the Word of God?

  • Frankly Frank

    “Social justice was a priority for Calvin, and he labored to see Geneva reflect the gospel in its community life. He encouraged the development of sewer systems, establishing clothing factories, socializing medicine, setting fair interest rates and regulating wages. He observed, “When, thus, a man has someone in his service, he ought to ask himself: ‘If I were in his place, how would I want to be treated? I would want to be supported!’ When it is a question of our profit or loss, we are very able judges, but, when it is a question of others, we are blind’.”
    Dr. Don Forston, “History of Presbyterianism,” p. 107

  • Al Cruise

    Isis is doing the same thing to the people in the cities they have captured, starting social programs, running schools, health care and food for the poor and so on. However they can do what Calvinists can no longer do because of our secular laws, which is kill those who don’t agree with their theology.

  • Melanie Collins Pennock

    Thank you for your opinion. It is one that I do not share. “May the Lord Bless You and Keep You and Make His Face to Shine Upon You and Grant You His Peace ” ~

  • Jeffrey

    Are you serious? (Don’t answer that)
    EVERY denomination says the same thing about themselves. “If you want to know what the Bible really means, just follow what we teach.” It’s sophistry. It means nothing.
    And if every man’s theology is flawed, then you obviously can’t say that your particular little cult is the one that’s most faithfully based in Scripture, especially since there have been far, far more theologians throughout Christian history who weren’t ‘Reformed’ than who were.
    Why would such a sovereign God make the Truth so rare even inside His Church?

  • bobbygrow

    Richard Muller, Charles Partee, Julie Canlis, David Steinmetz, McNeil, J. Todd Billings, Bruce Gordon, and many more! And let’s not forget Calvin himself, Sheila.

    I’ve done my homework; Benjamin hasn’t; not on Calvin! He has only given you caricatures.

  • John Mury

    I like much of this piece but cannot agree with the conclusion, the “deal breaker” — that we should reject Calvinism because Calvin was a bad person. It’s a textbook case of the genetic fallacy (rejecting something because of it’s origins) and ad hominem (“attack against the man”). Either way, not the way to fight fair or fight well.

    I also don’t give as much weight to the point that Calvin’s conclusions might not sit well with my own moral sensibilities (which are often wrong). Instead, I reject Calvinism because he asserts a symmetry between salvation and damnation when the Scriptures are clear that God always prefers mercy (cf. “I take no delight in the perishing of the wicked,” “not wanting any to perish,” etc..)

  • Al Cruise

    “that we should reject Calvinism because Calvin was a bad person. ” You are completely false with that assumption. Calvinism should be rejected because of this “… we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory.” [4] This is the cornerstone of Calvin theology , the theology was built upon that statement so it could be absolute and not be challenged.

  • Gordonnn

    I don’t care about Calvin’s “heart,” I care about what he actually DID (or failed to do) — he personally participated in a lynching that was more horrible even than the one administered to Jesus …

  • Gordonnn

    Your post includes the following statement: “There is no doubt that Calvin ultimately approved of Servetus’ death — albeit he desired a more humane way of handling that …” Unbelievable that you’re implying that the MANNER of execution somehow mitigates Calvin’s guilt — no minister of the holy Gospel can expect to remain credible after committing torture and murder … CASE CLOSED.

  • Gordonnn

    You’re not helping your argument — and in fact have rendered it ludicrous — by equating a transgendered person who has committed no crime with a confessed MURDERER …

  • Gordonnn

    Your “forgetting” that Calvin himself was a chief architect of the demonic “Christendom” that cursed Europe for two centuries …

  • Gordonnn

    But are ALL fundamentalists Calvinists?

  • Gordonnn

    Calvin was just doing his job in lynching heretics?!? AND he deserves some kind of pass for suggesting beheading instead of immolation!?! AND you presumably claim to follow Jesus???

  • Gordonnn

    YES, apparently Calvin had not read much of Paul about what happens to us after death … see N.T. Wright on this:
    http://content.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,1710844,00.html

  • John, I see what you are saying here. The problem for me is that I don’t think theology and personal conduct can be so neatly divided in the case of Calvin. Of course, all of us mess up and we do wrong, but a specific posture that being wrong is right? An untroubled and smug attitude (masquerading as self-denying humility) that he is called by God runs throughout Calvin’s works. I don’t say no one should read Calvin. And I don’t discount all Reformed theology here. I just say that Calvin needs a giant asterisk next to his name because not only did he not repent of his conduct and views towards heretics, but (as Ben indicated) actually said those opposing such views were wicked themselves. That means all of us who oppose punishing/killing heretics are acting wickedly according to this “Great Light.” The problem is in neo-Reformed circles the Institutes are promoted just below the Bible as something akin to the Islamic hadith’s relationship to the Quran. People will say that’s an exaggeration and I anticipate the response that it isn’t formulated in those precise terms. . . but in *practice,* in how many quote Calvin and his successors as authorities of Scripture and interpretation (or rather that their views on Scripture are the only true view of Scripture), it is very similar.

  • Gordonnn

    It seems your way of engaging with other people hasn’t progressed much beyond school yard taunts?

  • Gordonnn

    Again, Calvin was not only a ‘man of his times’ he was an ARCHITECT of them …

  • As someone has famously said, the Reformers came out of the Roman Catholic Church but not nearly far enough out of it. The RCC was formed by the merger of the church with the Roman state, resulting in a church that took on the character of an empire: venerating leaders, waging war, rewarding friends, punishing enemies, defining boundaries, etc (all in spite of the fact that Jesus said that His kingdom was not of this world, and that believers were not to lord over one another). This is probably why the church ultimately came to think of itself a replacement for Israel. Theocracy (as represented by the doctrine and hierarchy of the church) was seen as the only right form of government, as it would execute the laws of God among men, just as had been true in Israel under the Law of Moses. Hence the death penalty for heresy and similar matters.

    The Reformers did not carry things to the extent that the Roman Catholic Church did, but I think this is only because they lacked the power to do so. In many other ways, it seems like they agreed with the idea that proper doctrine should be backed up by force of law. Calvin is not the only example. The famous Scottish reformer, John Knox, approved of the execution of Servetus and wrote harshly against those who opposed it.

    No, Calvin did not commit murder in the sense of personally taking the life of Servetus, but in light of the Sermon on the Mount, I would argue that he did murder the man in his heart through hatred and wishing him dead. 1 John is clear that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him, and I must seriously question whether anyone who could so harden his heart as to wish a man dead over a theological dispute, and then the take the physical steps necessary to actually bring about that man’s death, could be much led by the Holy Spirit – who is the primary source of our enlightenment in understanding the Word of God. For that reason, Calvin’s theology should be viewed skeptically, as potentially being the product of his “worldly” wisdom and influenced by the culture of his day.

    Indeed, there is imperialistic “absolutism” to Calvinism, at least in as far as I understand it, particularly where ‘limited atonement’ and the concept of God as absolute enabler of every event is concerned. This smacks heavily of Medieval, imperialistic control-freakishness. “Thou shalt not question the king!” Needless to say, no, I am not a Calvinist.

    Yet, I do not agree that the incident with Servetus should be a “deal-breaker” as far consideration of Calvinism itself is concerned. Truth considerations are either valid or invalid apart from an individual’s actions. The apostle Peter taught the true gospel, but I’m sure that many gentiles who saw the way he separated himself from gentile believers when Jewish believers were present (prior to Paul’s rebuke) might have thought of that behavior as a “deal-breaker” where Peter’s teachings were concerned. They would have been wrong to do so, however. Whether he was being a jerk or not was irrelevant where the validity of the gospel message was concerned.

    So, overall, I think the incident with Servetus is a strong reason to not emulate the life and character of John Calvin, as well as a powerful reason to question how Spirit-led he was in the development of this theology, but it is not a valid reason to refuse to consider Calvinism at all.

  • Gordonnn

    From Robert Hawes’s post of a few minutes ago …

    “So, overall, I think the incident with Servetus is a strong reason to not emulate the life and character of John Calvin, as well as a powerful reason to question how Spirit-led he was in the development of this theology, but it is not a valid reason to refuse to consider Calvinism at all.”

  • bobbygrow

    Kent,

    You are mischaracterizing my post, and engaging in special pleading. You ignored the historical context which the post most notably covers. In fact I suggested that Calvin was utlimately wrong, but that he also lived in a different time under different circumstances. I basically suggest that under the ecclesiopolitical context that Calvin lived in heresy was considered a capital crime worthy of the death penalty because in that day crimes that had eternal consequences were deemed of the upmost import. I.e. If someone was considered to be teaching doctrine that would lead unwary souls to eternal hell, then this was considered a highly serious crime against humanity.

    You forgot to mention this part of my post.

    You are engaging in caricature and special pleading; both of which are fallacies. QED.

  • Gordonnn

    Pastor Camlin … my progressive Chrisitian tradition has serious problems with all five of the petals on the Calvinist TULIP — which ones would you say are biblically valid?

  • bobbygrow

    Yeah, no kidding dicentra. I’m actually an editor etc I understand how to cite sources for serious research. But that’s to the point isn’t it? This blog post is not representative of serious research nor are most of the comments in support of it on this BLOG. And that’s really to the point, this is a blog, not serious research … so give me a break, really!

  • Yes, it’s hard to understand why these uninformed people don’t appreciate the kindness of urging a beheading rather than a burning. So little nuance and sophistication – they don’t consider this was a different time at all. And Calvin urged Servetus to repent – what compassion to the last! Even towards one guilty of the grievous sin of disagreeing with his theology. I know I’ll try to model my own conduct after Calvin’s whenever this issue arises. Calvin loved heretics and we should love them the same way. And even though heretics really ought to be punished, so many uninformed people privilege our modern views on the subject and think that such punishment must be inhumane. Ignorance!

    Or. . . maybe the “uninformed” folks have a point and some people ought to stop defending the indefensible to save face for their theology.

  • Gordonnn

    No, I read your whole argument and chose to expose the part of it that made your ‘he was just a man of his times’ case seem quasi-rational by comparison? And how do you respond to Calvin being not a ‘victim’ of his times, but one of its architects?

  • Gordonnn

    PS … you know its OK to be flat wrong from time to time, brother — I do it all the time! ;)

  • bobbygrow

    Indeed, you are wrong now.

  • bobbygrow

    Because I’ve read the history, Kent. I’ve read so much on Calvin at this point (both historically and theologically) that your question doesn’t even really make much sense in context (in the context of studying Calvin and the history).

    But you are the one making Calvin super (uber) man not me; how ironic.

  • bobbygrow

    I’m not trying to save face for “my” theology … your comment is dripping with presumption!

    All my post was simply attempting to illustrate was that historical context matters. It was not an attempt to ultimately excuse what Calvin did or didn’t do; it was simply an attempt to place him in context.

  • RevCamlin

    As a progressive Christian myself, I’m not inclined to defend five-point Calvinism, either. And none of my comments have been in defense of Calvinism, so why would I start now?

  • bobbygrow

    I also wanted to note, just for the fun of it, that to reject Calvinist theology because you think Calvin is its founder (which is absolutely erroneous historically) is simply a non-starter. Calvin was part of a ground swell of Reformation that started in the Roman Catholic church itself (of which of course Martin Luther gave that its most famous Protest-ant impetus). The Protestant Reformation (and the development of subsequent Reformed theology) was made up of many intellectual threads, and in particular given a lot of energy by Christian Humanism and the ad fontes movement (which Valla and others were important for). Calvin was one player among many. Bucer, Bullinger, Viret, Zwingli, and many others during the early years were all important players in the development of Reformed (Calvinist) theology. As Bruce Gordon notes in his book on Calvin the label “Calvinist” was a pejorative one placed on the followers of Calvin by the Lutherans of the day. As things developed and Reformed theology took shape with various different trajectories, the “Calvinist” label became short-hand for identifying Reformed theology in general. In other words, Calvin was not the founder of Calvinism … that claim is about as naive as it gets!

    Here’s a post I once wrote noting the multi-valence and broadness available in Reformed or Calvinist theology (of which what we are calling Evangelical Calvinism is just one shining example i.e. we reject the 5 points etc). This post also appeals to Richard Muller, one of the foremost Calvin scholars and Reformation history scholars of our day. He has successfully argued (at an academic peer-reviewed level) that Calvin was indeed not the founder of Calvinism and that Calvin was part of a bigger movement of Reformers, of which Calvin became a prominent and popular purveyor but not the only one.

    https://growrag.wordpress.com/2010/08/28/richard-mullers-thesis-of-continuity/

  • It would appear that we’re working off of two different definitions of “Christendom.” From where I’m sitting, Christendom preceded Calvin by a few hundred years. Certainly the execution of heretics preceded him by at least as much.

  • And placing Calvin in historical context fails to help his image. Others at the time, such as Erasmus, were not of Calvin’s opinion regarding the punishment of heretics. This cannot be chocked up the zeitgeist alone – the particulars of Calvin’s ideology and the ideology of other religious extremisms in vogue at the time are at least in part to blame. The name of the blog you linked is called “The Evangelical Calvinist.” My apologies for being presumptious in thinking you might in some way be affiliated with Calvinism.

  • bobbygrow

    Justin,

    Oh, I am associated with Calvinism, but apparently you have reduced what you think Calvinism is to a procrustean bed; which makes you uninformed, naive, or maybe just arrogant.

    No, placing Calvin in context makes him a person of his time, just as much as you are.

    Anyway, the most naive thing about Ben’s article is that he believes, as you seem to, that Calvin was Calvinism’s founder. This is just absurd stuff here!

  • I know plenty about Calvinism. There’s a reason it has a reputation. I’m always careful to say that not all Calvinists act the same way, and shouldn’t be judged by the worst adherents. It is also far more diverse than the recent neo-Calvinist insurgence would lead one to imagine. I also realize Calvinism has a view of itself as a recovery of ancient truths. However. . . that Calvin as an individual is rather important is supported by the fact Calvinists come so zealously out of the woodwork to “contextualize” whenever this man’s deeply disturbing actions are pointed out in the historical record. Would you similarly “contextualize” the Catholic persecution of French Huguenots, I wonder?

  • bobbygrow

    Context is always important, it is where meaning comes from.

  • I’m definitely not saying that his personal immorality negates contributing anything true or worthwhile, just that for me- an Anabaptist- the fact he had no moral or theological objection to killing people is a primary point of departure for me as far as viewing him as trustworthy and to be esteemed.

  • bobbygrow

    And Justin,

    It is possible to read Calvin constructively and resourcefully; this is what I advocate. I am a critic, along with Karl Barth, of Calvin’s double predestination (and I adopt a Barthian approach here or an Evangelical Calvinist one as we call it in our book), but a total fan of his duplex gratia (double grace) view of salvation along with his union with Christ and unio mystica theology. There are riches here. Unfortunately if people take Ben’s post to heart at the kind of superficial level he has left things people won’t be motivated to ever weed through things in order to find the rich stuff. That’s too bad!

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    Calvin did have a lot more to do with ISIS than with Jesus.

  • Jon-Michael Ivey

    Calvinism is based more on Aristotle than on the teaching of Christ.

  • Al Cruise

    Calvin was not the founder of Calvinism … That is just spin to save face, because the truth is to obvious to deal with.

  • bobbygrow

    Al,

    No seriously, he wasn’t. If you spend any time in the literature (like the academic rigorous kind and get beyond blogs etc), you’ll quickly see that my claim is exceedingly true. Richard Muller is the guy you’ll want to read if you are interested in getting beyond the superficiality of all of this (and just so you know I’m not a fan of Richard Muller, but his thesis on this particular point is hands down undisputed in this particular area of scholarship).

    I’m not trying to simply throw out a zinger with my claim; it is the case.

    You’ll want to read this, Al: https://growrag.wordpress.com/2011/09/01/after-calvin-a-wee-history/

  • Frankly Frank

    So you follow the religion of Corey as your authority?

  • otrotierra

    Mohler and Piper have more in common with ancient Roman deities than with Jesus, who is The Word.

  • otrotierra

    Thankfully, the majority of the Christian population across the planet throughout history were not Calvinists. And thankfully, the majority of global Christendom today is not composed of Calvinists.

  • Al Cruise

    Read it, doesn’t change my view of Calvinism, the world would be a much better place without the theology. The theology predestines people away from God, that’s the real irony of it.

  • bobbygrow

    Al, not all forms of Calvinism or Reformed theology do this; we don’t. I am a co-author/editor of a book entitled: Evangelical Calvinism: Essays Resourcing the Continuing Reformation of the Church. We promote a Barthian understanding of election/reprobation wherein Christ is both elect/reprobate in himself for all of humanity. So we believe that he died and lives for all of humanity.

  • cinlau

    but thats basically arminian’s corporate election. thats not calvinism at all.

  • Gordonnn

    Fair enough — btw, I wasn’t setting you up, I was genuinely curious!

  • bobbygrow

    cinlau,

    Not even close! Actually Arminianism is much closer to the classical Calvinist view than is what I described. You apparently haven’t read Karl Barth or Thomas Torrance. It is important to appreciate real nuance in various schemas, and not plow through to an artificial observation or conclusion.

    I don’t have the time to explain it to you now.

  • bobbygrow

    Here’s something you can read in the mean time, cinlau (a blog post of mine on the topic): https://growrag.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/comparing-calvin-barth-on-election-bloesch/

  • Shall we apply the same logic to God, who, according to biblical authors, commanded his covenant people “You shall not kill,” and then subsequently commanded them to commit genocide against the peoples of Canaan?

    Yes. Of course we should. Why wouldn’t we? Why should we decide, “Genocide isn’t really wrong, it’s just wrong in this instance.”

    Examples like that of God’s evil are one reason I’m an atheist. Arguments like yours are why I have trouble understanding liberal Christians.

  • gimpi1

    I have a outside view of this, with a question:
    Virtually all Christians rightly condemn the ISIL hideous murder of a captured Syrian pilot by burning alive. How are the actions of Calvin, the local government and two denominations of Christianity (the Catholic church and Calvin’s Geneva sect) any different?

    Both groups feel they are at war with a culture that is corrupt and venal. Both groups believe they are acting for the greater glory of God. Both groups took or take pride in their unwavering commitment to their dogma.

    For me, Calvin, the Christian church’s attacks on ‘heretics,’ ISIL and other Islamist groups are all symptoms of the same thing; putting dogma before outcomes, ideology before people. When you believe your rules – not rules about actions or outcomes but rules about what people believe or how they choose to live – are more important than the happiness or welfare of people, I think you’re in danger of falling into this trap. At least, that’s the view from the outside.

  • gimpi1

    Caitlin Jenner has never conspired to have someone burned alive. John Calvin did. I’m fine with judging that as awful, because it resulted in the horrific killing of a human being. To me, it’s about outcomes.

    Jenner has harmed no one. Calvin did a great deal of harm. I see a profound difference. Do you?

  • gimpi1

    So, were American southern slave-holders who justified their enslavement of people from Africa: 1) “People of their time” who believed since their slaves were given the chance to hear the Gospel, (along with Old-Testament justifications for slavery) that their actions were good and moral or; 2) Were they engaging in rank, hypocritical justifications for brutal acts that enriched them?

    (Hint, I vote for option 2.)

  • gimpi1

    Piper? Mr. “stay with your battering husband for a season and then only report him to the church” Piper? The fellow who regards domestic violence as something to be endured for the greater glory of God, rather than a crime to be dealt with by the law? The fellow who appears to think women have neither brains or basic rights? That Piper?

    I guess you can tell people by the company they keep…

  • RonnyTX

    What I can’t understand is how any Christian,Calvin or whoever, could think it was a good thing and of God/Jesus Christ,to be involved in the killing/murder of anyone?

  • RonnyTX

    Gimpi1,you’re right. Murder is murder,no matter who has done it and or is planning to do such.

  • gimpi1

    Well, that’s how it looks to me. Glad to know I have company in that:-)

  • bobbygrow

    Do I think Sheila will go read my sources? Probably not! I have also posted enough comments on this blog at this point to let you know why I think the comments are uninformed, and they are! Calvin never founded Calvinism; that’s just a fact. And this whole Servetus thing being used to discredit the material theological points of Calvinism is very disingenuous and lazy and tired!

    And no, I won’t spend my time providing a bibliography for anyone here. Again my comments and posts that I’ve linked to are sufficient.

  • bobbygrow

    And dicentra I don’t need to be coached on how to write a paper or make an argument. I’m not really doing that here, I am only making strong counter-assertions to Ben’s assertions; that’s all that is really required in this context.

  • Gordonnn

    I didn’t mean to say that the persecution of heretics in Christian Europe (the ‘Christendom’ of his day) commenced under Calvin, only that he and the theocracy of Geneva gave it a huge additional impetus …

  • Russ

    Excellent
    post Benjamin. You wrote:

    “So, overall, I think the incident with Servetus is a strong reason to not emulate
    the life and character of John Calvin, as well as a powerful reason to question
    how Spirit-led he was in the development of this theology, but it is not a
    valid reason to refuse to consider Calvinism at all.”

    I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of months on and off. I look to the way he lived his life and questions begin pop up. What Calvin did was a step worse than Pontius Pilot with some tradeoffs.

    Pontius Pilate & Jesus:

    Had the power to let Jesus go based on his authority and his own view that Jesus was indeed innocent.

    Instead he chose to wash his hands and thus is guilty of non-action.

    Calvin &Servetus:

    Had the ability to possibly persuade or at least plead for mercy according to scripture (which nowhere states to kill off heretics), but instead did the opposite. Calvin is guilty of murder perhaps somewhere between 2nd and 3rd degree but of a clear heretic (guilty party).

    There of course other ways and accounts of Calvin continued like behavior with people whom he disagreed with.

    There’s a strong element of Act 9:4 going on but the difference being Servetus was a heretic.

    Acts 9:4

    and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

    Where does scripture tell us to murder heretics??

    Finally compare Calvin’s life with that of Arminius. Ironically Dort declared Arminius a heretic. That’s crazy.

    Russ

  • Al Cruise

    Keep in mind Servetus was only a heretic to Calvin’s made up and false theology. He was not a heretic to Jesus. So double guilty on Calvins part.

  • Russ

    I forgot to mention that Paul before his conversion in Acts 9:4, thought according to his doctrine that he was in the right in giving a thumbs up to the Stevens stoning as well as all the other persecution done at his hands. But after he was converted you read quite the opposite especially in the summary list of what Paul had to endure for Christ at the hands of his persecutors in 2 Corin 11 but notice Paul is the passive after conversion. Now lets look at Calvin, hmmmmmm

    Russ

  • Al Cruise

    Yes, your point about Paul is excellent. It should be discussed that how some theologies, Calvinism and many other fundamentalist theologies, have actually led people into adopting violence as a virtue and all in the name of Jesus.

  • RonnyTX

    Al,one thing any Christian can be sure of,is that violence did in the name of Jesus Christ,is never of Jesus Christ. Instead, that violence comes from human preachers and those who follow them. It’s not of God;but of man. The sad part to me,is when it’s done in the name of God/Jesus Christ.

  • RonnyTX

    Bobby,I like that blog post and will quote a bit of it here.

    Post:
    The crucial difference between the two men is that Calvin adheres to particular election and redemption while Barth affirms the universality and all-inclusiveness of the electing and reconciling work of God. The doctrine of “limited atonement,” a hallmark of Calvinist orthodoxy, is definitely contradicted by Barth, and here can be seen his affinity to Luther and Wesley. In Calvin all is of grace, but grace is not for all. In Luther and Wesley all is of grace and grace is for all, but not all are for grace. In Barth grace is the source of all creaturely being and goes out to all, but every man is set against grace. Yet every man is caught up in the movement of grace even in the case where there is continued opposition to Christ. At the same time those who defy grace are claimed by grace and remain objects of grace despite their contumacy and folly. The act of turning away from grace is for Barth impossible and it would seem an impermanent condition, since no man can escape from or overturn the all-embracing love and grace of a sovereign God. (Donald Bloesch, “Jesus Is Victor!: Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Salvation,” 70-71)

    Ronny to Bobby:
    I certainly agree with Barth here. And that because it says that Jesus is the Victor and that no person can escape from the love,mercy and grace of God. :-) And I’ve read very little of Bath;but what I have read seems to me that he believed every person would be born of God. So in effect,he was Christian universalist in belief. Yet sometimes,he seemed to back away from that. Now where he didn’t back away from that,I agree with him completely. And I simply say,before all is said and done and wrapped up,every person will be brought back into a right relationship with God the Father and that by way of Jesus Christ and the cross. :-)

  • RonnyTX

    Justin,some of what you speak about here,is the exact same thing that Paul wrote about,to the Christians at Corinth. That is,how they said they were of this or that preacher and followed such. I used to do the same and was taught to do that,in the Calvinistic church I grew up in. Then later in life,God simply showed/taught me better. Showed me that what I’d been taught in church,was idol worship of some men and that,that was a sin. And I just thank God,that God did teach/show me better about this.

  • RonnyTX

    RR,Spurgeon was wrong. For I certainly don’t deny the gospel of Jesus Christ and I’m no longer a Calvinist in belief. Though I was,until I was 55 years old. But I only believed that way,because I was brought up in a church,that taught that way. And yes,Calvinists are right on somethings. They are,just as Arminian/free willers are right on somethings. So the deal is,we simply need to hold to what both sides are right about and throw out what both sides are wrong about. And we need God to show us,which parts are true and which aren’t.

  • bobbygrow

    Hi Ronny,

    Thanks. No, Barth wasn’t a Christian universalist. Some of his followers today are, but he was not.Glad you liked the post. Blessings.

  • Jarrod

    Ben,

    Wouldn’t your argument apply to Anabaptist theology as well? Given what we know about John Leiden and Münster Rebellion or Yodor’s treatment of women?

    Derek spells out a thoughtful response to you here:
    http://derekzrishmawy.com/2013/01/29/responses-to-calvin-killed-servetus-by-denomination-or-dealing-with-theological-moral-hubris/

  • Wait a minute, bobbygrow! Calvinists can’t claim that Calvin can be excused because “he also lived in a different time under different circumstances.”

    Calvin claimed to be speaking the truth of God and Jesus when he tortured, persecuted, authorized killings, etc. and when he declared that before creation, God “foreordained” some humans to eternal damnation.

    I’ve read Calvinists from John Owen to R.L. Dabney to R.C. Sproul and many of the ones you have listed (though you are definitely better read than me).

    I’ve also read articles on your website last year. And I’ve dialogged with friendly (and unfriendly) Calvinists ever since I was 17 years old and a Calvinist youth leader told me that God would sometimes call me and other Christians to do immoral actions:-(! And later when a famous Calvinist leader told us in Bible study that God “plans every rape and every murder.”

    ETC for 52 years. In the last book I read, a famous Calvinist at present claims that in “essence, every baby is evil.” And gives the usual Calvinist claims.

    After 52 years studying Calvinism, as well as other church history, it is my observation that Corey and the others here haven’t mischaracterized Calvinism at all. If anything, they have been overly polite.

    Also, I studied under a very articulate professor who earned his PhD in Calvinism. And as an American literature teacher I taught Calvinism to students for 26 years–Jonathan Edwards, Michael Wigglesworth, Cotton Mather, etc.

    Please look at the result of Calvinism in history as well. It ain’t pretty. One shouldn’t excuse evil actions done by anyone in the past just because they lived back then. But one especially shouldn’t excuse the horrific actions of Christian leaders such as Calvin, Knox, Luther, etc. They claimed to be in the truth.

  • Not at all. My theology doesn’t come from Yoder or anyone who participated in the Münster Rebellion.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    So, you’re a Barthian instead of a Calvinist. OK

  • Al Cruise

    “violence comes from human preachers ” You are so true. “Jesus is a pride-fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed.” This was said by Calvinist Mark Driscoll.

  • Richard Worden Wilson

    Not biblical for followers of Jesus under the New Covenant–big difference.

  • liberalinlove

    I’m with Jesus!

  • What about Luther? And his role in the peasant wars? Or his antisemitism, his words against witches, turks and disabled people? Or Zwingli and the Anabaptists?

    Is there anyone without sin? Yes, Calvin had his role in the burning of Servetus, and it is important not to forget this. Calvin was not God. But Paul didn’t challenge slavery and had some very nowadays unpopular thoughts about women and their place in society. But Paul had also some very bright ideas, just as Luther, just as Zwingli, just as Calvin. Take what they knew about God and leave the rest. And speaking of actually reading what they write: When I read Calvin, I was really surprised how he did not at all focus on those who go to hell. What he wanted to make clear is that salvation is so secure that no pope and no deeds could endanger. All the rest appeared to me as being the outcome of reasoning he himself didn’t like so much, but which he wrote because he considered it the reasonable consequence…

  • bobbygrow

    No, I’m an evangelical Calvinist. I’m Reformed. Barth was Reformed as was Thomas Torrance. To say Calvinist=Reformed. That’s how it is used semantically and in the history.

  • Melanie Collins Pennock

    Isn’t it delightful that we can all have different views? As an Episcopalian, my belief is that my father is already with his Lord, as are my other family members who have passed on to glory.

  • Erwin

    However, Re “theology” & ” this life ” also:

  • nabil89

    bobbygrow I admire you for your patience. Guys, lay off the guy, he is an academic and knows what he is saying. Peace brother :)

  • Of course, Martin Luther thought all Jews should be killed, and also advocated killing Anabaptists, simply because they didn’t agree with infant baptism. It seems to me that if we’re going to reject doctrine because of the person who taught it, there’s not much doctrine we can believe. That said, I find the actual TULIP doctrines of Calvinism to be untenable, as I also find Martin Luther’s doctrine on “the bondage of the will.” I’m more a Wesleyan, because I agree with most of his major doctrines (though Wesley himself seems to be a better person than either Calvin or Luther).

  • I find it hard to reject the bondage of the will, if I do not want justification by works sneaking in through the back door. I had to look up the TULIP doctrines, because I haven’t heard of them here in Germany (I am not sure that our Reformed/Calvinist Christians care too much for the Synod of Dordrecht).

    Looking at the Wikipedia article the thing I find most debatable i the limited atonement. I am also not sure if Calvin himself would have agreed, because when I read the Institution, I got the feeling that he focused on the saved and not the damned, I guess he would have embraced every sound theology that would have pointed out a chance for all to be saved, so I don’t think he would have agreed with a doctrine that would slam the door in the face of people of whom he didn’t see how to have them saved.
    Maybe I need to look more into Wesleyanism, because he is hardly known here in Germany…

  • Even if our military has done similiarly murderous things in our name, on our watch (which they certainly have done) – there is still a distinction between what Calvin did in publically advocating for killing a heretic and a generalized guilt of apathetic citizens for national crimes. We are guilty if we say nothing about injustice, true. We are also more directly guilty if we specifically advocate injustice – which is what Calvin did. Am I guilty of standing by and doing nothing when injustice is done in my name? Yes. But so far, I’m not guilty of going out of my way to advocate murder for a person who is otherwise innocent but has a theological/philosophical difference from me. That’s a distinction worth making.

    What Calvin did can’t be whitewashed by saying we are all just as bad. If you want to say we are all sinful, that’s true. But that doesn’t change the severity of what went wrong in Calvin’s case. That so many theologically inclined people seem determined to say his sins were no worse than ours tells me that Calvin’s brand is still important to many.

  • Father Thyme

    People still get summarily executed in the New Testament, at least when it’s an important issue like money. (Acts 5:1-5)

  • Eric Bolden

    Servetus’ position wasn’t even as bad as it was made out to be. It was actually nearly identical with the pre-Nicene ORTHODOX position, (held by fathers such as Irenaeus, Hyppolytus and Tertullian) known as “economic” trinitarianism. It held the pre-incarnate Son as being known as the Word, and “sonship” generated at His birth rather than being a second distinct “being” sitting beside the Father for eternity. It thus could be mistaken for subordinationism if not denial of His deity, if misunderstood, as both Calvin and the Catholic Church did with Servetus (assuming the Nicene formula was what was passed down from the Apostles).
    His other “heresies” were opposing infant baptism, and the state church (like the similarly persecuted Anabaptists, and many “low church” Protestants today).

    So on top of killing him, it was over doctrines that were truer than the conventional theology Calvin took for granted (in agreement with the Catholics he himself was “going out” from [i.e. heresy/apostasy])!

  • W Kumar

    You didn’t answer his question.

  • Gregory DeGough

    I am with you, Benjamin, in my distrust and rejection of Calvinism, but Calvin was not alone in his belief that resorting to violence against his enemies was a solution to heresy. “It has been jokingly said that the only thing Catholics and Protestants could agree on in the sixteenth century was that it was a good thing to kill the Anabaptists.” [(2012-05-17). A Faith Not Worth Fighting For: Addressing Commonly Asked Questions about Christian Nonviolence (The Peaceable Kingdom Series) (pp. 1-2). Cascade Books, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.]

    I struggle to not resort to ad hominem arguments with Calvin and Calvinism. For honesty’s sake, every statement by anyone should be evaluated on its particular merits/faults and compared to God’s truth. I hope that people who read what I write will not make an offhand judgment of me, and then dismiss everything about me. Calvin was wrong in some points, and right in others. So am I. (But, of course, I think my mistakes are less fundamental than his.)

    May God be merciful to all of us. Thanks for an excellent article!

    -greg

  • Jonathan Roberts

    Please read more carefully. Especially if you are attempting charge someone with faithfulness to Christ. We should really avoid trying to look like fools in the public square.

    No one here has said anything about Calvin lynching heretics or about it being his job.

    If you don’t believe that some modes of execution are more humane than others, you are delusional. I don’t believe you are delusional. You believe some modes of execution are more humane than others. Whether you agree capital punishment is right or not is a different, though important question.

  • Claude

    Yes indeed, the letter kills.
    With the Holy Spirit Himself as Teacher (Jn 14 – 17) and as an anointing that abides and teaches us concerning all things (1Jn 2) who would want to get near any writings and theology of such an Inquisitor who might have known about God intellectually but certainly doesn’t seem to have encountered Him, which is eternal life (Jn 17:3).
    Simplistic enough, childish enough? For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven…

  • Bones

    I always find it interesting the way Luther, Calvin and those types are defended as simply sinners or men of their time.

    If they were modern gay Christians – well that’s a different story – we’ll bring out our worse condemnation on them.

    Much better to be killing people than having gay sex.

    I have nothing to do with Luther’s antisemitism or Calvin’s caliphate.

    “Paul didn’t challenge slavery…”

    Yet he is used to bag gay Christians and throw in the Lake of Fire. Seems to have had time for that did old Pauly.

    But it never occurred to him (or Jesus or His Mate) that maybe slavery was a horrible thing, maybe even worse than gay sex.

    What we can conclude is that everyone is influenced by the culture we live in and I for one am glad I’m living in this one.

  • Ye shall know them by their fruits!

    In my opinion “the trinity” smacks of polytheism. (It also makes little sense to baptize an infant) I believe there is only one true God who always was and always will be.

    This unique characteristic of having no beginning belongs only to the Father.

    “Let us make man in ‘our’ image” happened when there were nothing but Sons of God and various angels. Why did Jesus always talk around those questioning him being the Messiah, diverting the discussion to the “Son of man” and the “Kingdom of God”?

    God created all things, good and evil, and everything has a starting point, including His begotten Son. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ got his start as flesh and blood just like you and I, and has gone to prepare a place for us.

  • I have citations for everything I wrote. I have been reading works on Calvin’s life for two decades, including some of the most recent works since I work in an academic library and the latest books tend to catch my eye. Let me know which “accusations” you take umbrage with the most, and I will supply references.

    Here are two pieces with references to start with

    http://etb-history-theology.blogspot.com/2012/03/execution-of-child-and-adulterers-in.html

    http://edward-t-babinski.blogspot.com/2015/03/christian-apologist-alister-mcgaff-i.html