Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Respect For John Calvin

Due to my previous post TheoPoetic Musings: Fundamentalists Never Cease To Be Laughable sparking a heated discussion, here are some insights from John H. Armstrong:
MAY 20, 2009

A Reader's Guide to Calvin's Institutes

I would guess that 9 in 10 people I meet have no real idea what the term "Calvinism" actually means. Most have never read John Calvin. Most have only met a few very conservative Calvinists who promote things like TULIP and various scholastic readings of the great reformer. (And quite a few of these are mean, separatistic and critical of almost every other expression of the Christian faith) While the TULIP does have clear historical connection with the post-Calvin developments at the Synod of Dort in Holland (and thus the conclusions of the Synod are preserved in Reformed churches down to the present time as one of the three forms of confessional unity) Dort is clearly not the whole story. When TULIP becomes the strong focus then Calvinism becomes a lot like looking at a lovely person by staring at one, not so complete and not so clear, "photo-shopped" picture. And this picture is neither accurate nor helpful.

The real Calvin is flawed. But he is also an intriguing and very important figure in church history. No one can rightly defend Calvin's actions with regard to the killing of Michael Servetus. (Yet, just last week I had someone ask me if Calvin approved the martyrdom of many that he disagreed with. This is preposterous if you know the facts at all.)

I do not defend some of Calvin's ideas about predestination, such as the idea of "double predestination." I also disagree with some of the way he expresses other biblical truths. But I remind friends and foes alike that John Calvin wrote for reasons that were not rooted primarily in the doctrine of predestination. In fact, his views on this subject should never be divorced from the whole of his purpose or you will get a distorted view of the man and of his influence upon Protestantism, especially the Reformed Church.
My thoughts exactly Calvin should be respected for his contributions to theology and he often does get a bad rap, but so does Arminius and Barth. After all, they are humans---however that being said I agree with what John Armstrong said: "No one can rightly defend Calvin's actions with regard to the killing of Michael Servetus." No matter how apologists of Reformed Fungelicalism try to spin it: Thankfully Progressive Calvinists don't try to cover up Calvin's sins by defending them since they are indefensible just as Luther's Anti-Semitism and his inciting violence towards the Jews are inexcusable as well.

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