Wow, we’ve now arrived to the top three in our Top Ten Theologians series.  Whether you consider yourself a 5-point Calvinist, 4-point Calvinist, Arminian or something else; John Calvin should be a hero in your life.  In order to appreciate Calvin we need to have a working knowledge of his world.

Calvin’s World

A Post-Reformation World

The world was forever changed on October 31st, 1517AD.  While John Calvin was only 8 years old, a 33 year old German priest posted 95 grievances he had with his church. No human being could have anticipated the actions stemming from one monk, Martin Luther, who wanted to reform his church.

All people will agree the 15th century church needed reformation.  The church of the day started to contradict itself in many areas.  A crack had been developing for quite some time.

Martin Luther was a brilliant troubled man.  He excelled scholastically but found no relief for his soul.  Much like Bunyan’s character “Christian” in Pilgrim’s Progress, Luther had a burden of sin he couldn’t unload.  Getting rid of his burden became the occupying passion of his life.

Luther tried over and over to attain righteousness.  There were many religious ways in the 15th century to supposedly attain righteousness from sin.  Luther tried them all to no avail.  He eventually discovered how to be righteous.  Only one way could remove his burden of sin.  Righteousness was not attained.  It could not be attained.  It only came as a gift through faith in Christ.  Luther was now a free man.

The institutionalized church made a drastic error one day when they sent a guy to raise money from Luther’s congregation.  They were told money given would quicken the time their dead relatives would spend in the pain of Purgatory.  Do you want your grandma in heaven?  Give me $1,000.  If you give me just $100 it will help, but if you want your grandma in heaven faster give me $1,000.  The sale of these indulgences absolutely infuriated Luther.  His congregation couldn’t afford what they gave.  Their hearts were in the right place, but they were simply led astray.  Luther knew their money made no difference.  Luther’s 95 theses on the door of the Wittenberg castle were 95 reasons why the sale of indulgences was an idiotic scheme from a church in dire need of reform.

The twenty years following October 31st, 1517 were unexpected by all.  It was as if Luther’s 95 theses was a spark which set the world on fire. 

Luther’s fear of God and of unwarranted innovation were such that he had hesitated to take the concrete steps that would follow from his doctrine.1  With Luther hidden in a castle to prevent his death by the church, Luther’s thoughts were quickly taken to an extreme by others.  In 1524, a peasant rebellion broke out in Germany under the name of Luther and the Reformation.   The peasants wanted religious reform, but they equally sought economic reform.  The motives and actions of everyone involved cannot be known.  The aftermath is known.  More than 100,000 peasants were killed in Germany.

In 1527, right after these events, troops from Spain and Germany sacked the city of Rome.  Since many of these troops were part of the reformation the sack of Rome took on a heavily religious tone.  How would the church survive?  All over Europe reforms were taking place.  Some reforms took place inside of the church, many outside of the traditional church.  The Protestant church was being born.  What would the church look like?

Luther brought great reform but still held to beliefs which other reformers thought unbiblical.  Erasmus wanted great reform but didn’t want to leave the church.  Zwingli wanted to wipe the slate clean and start over from scratch.  Zwingli and Luther met to try to bring unity.  They couldn’t agree on a unified Reformed church.  Other reformers from all over Europe were leading people into many differing directions.  Had we lost true North?  Could all the various Protestant teachings be brought into a cohesive whole?  Would the Reformation die from a lack of unity?

John Calvin arrived to provide the much needed theological stability and unity for the Reformed church.  While Luther was the trumpet call of the Reformation, Calvin provided the symphony.

Calvin’s Life

Early Years

John Calvin was born in Noyon, France on July 10, 1509.  Calvin’s mother, sadly, died a few years after his birth from a breast disease.  His father held a prosperous administrative position working at the cathedral.  His father, initially, desired for all his sons to join the priesthood.  His connections allowed much of Calvin’s schooling to be paid by the Noyon church.

By age 12, Calvin was studying Latin about 70 miles north of his home town from one of its great teachers at the University of Paris.2 Upon completing his studies in Latin he became a philosophy student.

Around 1526, at the age of 17, his dad pulled him away from a path of theological studies to study law.  This was possibly due to a conflict between the priests at Noyon and Calvin’s father.3  His father believed his academically gifted son would make more money through a career in law.4

Calvin entered the University of Bourges.  Bourges is a French town 200 miles north of Noyon.  Here he would learn from humanists who stressed classical studies.  He would also become familiar with the thoughts of pre-reformers Wycliffe, Huss and also Luther.5  Of this time he later declared, “I was stubbornly tied to the superstitions of the papacy.”6  Calvin would learn Greek at Bourges, equipping him to study the New Testament.7

In 1533, at the age of 24, Calvin experienced a religious conversion.  He writes about it in his Commentary on the Book of Psalms:

God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life. Having thus received some taste and knowledge of true godliness, I was immediately inflamed with so intense a desire to make progress therein, that although I did not altogether leave off other studies, yet I pursued them with less ardour.8

Calvin’s conversion experience corresponded with a distinct break from the Roman Catholic Church.  On May 4th, 1534 he resigned from the clerical benefits that had been provided for him during his childhood, which officially broke off relations with the unreformed church and clergy.9  From this time forward, he would never cease from tireless work in support of the Reformed Church.10

On the Run

The atmosphere of France had changed by 1535.  The country was not safe for leaders of the new Reformed movement.  At the age of 26, Calvin decided to leave his country behind.  He traveled 360 miles southeast to Basel, Switzerland looking for a safe retreat where he could devote his time to study.  Gonzalez explains, “What he sought was not to become one of the leaders of the Reformation, but rather to settle in a calm environment where he could study Scripture and write about his faith.”11

Institutes of the Christian Religion

While in Basel, Calvin heard of horrific events transpiring back home in France.  Reports reached him of the “many burnings” taking place in France and the perverse explanations given for these.  What was being burned? People were being burned alive; people who led the Reformation.  These people’s views were being terribly misrepresented.  Calvin sensed more horror would come if he didn’t do something.  McNeill explains:

Calvin decided that silence on his part would entail a just charge of cowardice and treachery.  He could not be silent while those who had suffered death for their faith, and whom he regarded as faithful and “holy martyrs” were so grossly misrepresented, and while many still living were similarly imperiled.  Some of the sufferers were his personal friends, notably the Paris merchant, Etienne de la Forge…who was burned alive February 15, 1535.  He felt bound, as he says, to “vindicate from undeserved insult my brethren whose death was precious in the sight of the Lord.”12

John Calvin, as his friends literally burned at the stake in his home country, sat down and wrote certainly with a lump in his throat and a heart on fire to redeem those paying the ultimate price.  To show everyone these people were living out the true Christian faith.  The reformation was not a newly invented heresy; it was orthodox biblical Christianity rooted in the Ancient church.  Although he certainly had already been working on his book, he labored intensely from January until August of 1535.  The work was published in Basel in March of 1536. Calvin was only 26 years old. 

The 16th century did not care about short pithy titles.  The Latin title of his first edition can be translated:

The Institute of the Christian Religion, Containing almost the Whole Sum of Piety and Whatever It is Necessary to Know in the Doctrine of Salvation.  A Work Very Well Worth Reading by All Persons Zealous for Piety, and Lately Published.  A Preface to the Most Christian King of France, in Which this Book is Presented to Him as a Confession of Faith.  Author, John Calvin, of Noyon. Basel, MDXXXVI13

His work was presented to the King of France to convince him to stop the burning of his reformed friends.  Hopefully the Institutes would provide the badly needed systematic defense of the reformed faith.

Until the publication of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion most Protestant literature had dealt exclusively with specific points of discussion.  Most literature said little regarding the Trinity, the Incarnation, and many other important doctrines.  Calvin sought to fill this vacuum with his short manual.14  The first edition consisted of only six chapters totaling 516 pages.  Gonzalez explains the book’s reception:

The book enjoyed immediate and surprising success. The first edition, which was in Latin and therefore could be read in different countries, was sold out in nine months.15

Calvin would continue updating his Institutes for the rest of his life.  The 6 chapters would grow to 80.  The entire work shows a profound knowledge, not only of Scripture, but also of Christian literature – particularly the works of Augustine – and of the theological controversies of the sixteenth century.16

While Calvin respected the leaders of the Reformation, he was convinced his gifts were not that of the pastor or the leader, but rather those of the scholar and author.17  Calvin made a decision in 1536, shortly after the publication of the Institutes, which would drastically change his plans.  He decided a move to Strasbourg, Switzerland would help his study and writing.  In order to get to Strasbourg, Calvin would pass through the city of Geneva.


Calvin arrived at Geneva in 1536 planning simply to stop there for no more than a day, and then continuing on his journey.  A 47 year old man named William Farel happened to hear the author of the Institutes was in town.  Here’s what happened:

Farel, who “burned with a marvelous zeal for the advancement of the gospel,” presented Calvin with several reasons why his presence was needed in Geneva.  Calvin listened respectfully to the other man, some fifteen years older.  But he refused to heed Farel’s plea, telling him that he had planned certain studies, and that these would not be possible in the confused situation Farel was describing.  When Farel had exhausted his arguments, and failed to convince the young theologian, he appealed to their common Lord, and challenged Calvin with a dire threat: “May God condemn your repose, and the calm you seek for study, if before such a great need you withdraw and refuse to help.”  Calvin responds: “these words shocked and broke me, and I desisted from the journey I had begun.”18 

It’s not every day someone threatens God’s condemnation on your soul if you don’t do what they want.  Farel probably wanted Calvin to become minister in the church of Geneva right way, but Calvin was unwilling to do that even though he had agreed to stay.19  Calvin’s biblical knowledge, theological insight, legal training and his zeal for reform quickly made him the leader of the Reformation in Geneva.  Farel gladly became the number two guy.

The City Council ran into an issue with Calvin.  Calvin wanted the church to be able to discipline its members, if necessary.  The city council, however, wanted to retain the ultimate right to excommunicate someone from the church.   Calvin did not suggest the church is in control of the state.  He was simply asking that the church be in charge of the church and not under the state when relating to the church’s own particular responsibilities.20  Calvin’s issue with the City Council did not go how Farel and Calvin anticipated.  After just twenty-one months Calvin was fired as pastor.  He was twenty-eight years old and apparently a pastoral failure.21  Calvin went back to his initial plans, and moved to Strasbourg.


While in Strasbourg, Calvin preached or taught every day with two sermons on Sunday.  He published his second edition of the Institutes in 1539 and published his Commentary on Romans in 1540.  Around this time Calvin’s friends pressured him to get married. Calvin reluctantly agreed to marry a young noble lady on the one condition that she learned French.  The wedding was planned for March.  He later wrote that he would never think of marrying her, “unless the Lord had entirely bereft me of my wits.”22  Instead, in August, he married Idelette de Bure, a widow with two children from her first marriage.23

Return to Geneva

In September of 1540, one month after getting married, the Geneva city council voted to invite Calvin back to pastor.  Calvin’s first reaction, “Rather would I submit to death a hundred times than to that cross on which I had to perish daily a thousand times over.24  Farel came once again to the rescue of Geneva. Farel convinced Calvin to return.  Calvin did not hurry.  It took him a year to arrange his affairs, but in August 1541 he arrived back in Geneva.25  Godfrey writes, “In 1541 Calvin was a more mature and patient man than he had been in 1538.  Although he was still only thirty-two, he had learned the value of waiting and determined to try to work with those who had opposed him.”26

Calvin would spend the rest of his life with his family in Geneva.  He would reform Geneva to be what he considered an ideal city of the Reformation.  He would preach sermons every day with three on Sunday.

Final Years

Calvin’s health began to fail after 1559.  Farel paid his friend a last visit.  Calvin died on May 27, 1564.

Calvin’s Thoughts

A great asset to all Christians coming after Calvin is the depth, breadth, passion and clarity of his writing.

The Word of God is central to the vast thoughts of Calvin. The medieval church treasured the Bible as the very Word of God.  It believed the Bible was true and invested much time and manpower in copying the Bible by hand.  But the medieval church had no confidence that the Bible could be understood by those who read it. Calvin rejected the medieval church’s approach to the Bible where it was honored, kissed, and carried in procession but was seldom opened or read by the people.27

Calvin clearly sees the Word of God as the lifeblood for every believer.  He writes:

For, if we consider the mutability of the human mind, how easy its fall into forgetfulness of God; how great its propensity to errors of every kind; how violent its rage for the perpetual fashioning of new and false religions, it will be easy to perceive the necessity of heavenly doctrine being committed to writing, that it might not be lost in oblivion, or evaporate in error, or be corrupted by the presumption of men.”28

Furthermore, he artfully states, “A soul, therefore, when deprived of the Word of God, is given up unarmed to the devil for destruction.”29

David Mathis explains the unique thoughts of Calvin:

Led by Scriptures, he rethought as much of reality as he was able, consciously appropriating God’s revelation of himself in the Bible and in the person of his Son. In a day when many saw human reason and divine revelation as equals, the Reformation principle of sola Scriptura – not Scripture as the only authority, but Scripture as the only ultimate authority – changed everything for Calvin. It captured him as a reality so massive that it would take more than a few weeks and a quiet place of study to work out its implications.(Mathis, With Calvin in the Theater of God, p21-22)

Calvin lived and wrote as a man constantly aware of a big sovereign God.30  He made sure the person interacting with his thoughts on God would only continue reading if the thoughts were leading to appropriate worship and obedience.  The secret of his mental energy lies in his piety; its product is his theology, which is his piety described at length.31  The piety and mental energy of Calvin has had incredible influence.

Calvin’s Influence

Karl Barth dramatically explains the influence of John Calvin by saying:

Calvin is a cataract, a primeval forest, a demonic power, something directly down from the Himalayas, absolutely Chinese, strange, mythological; I lack completely the means, the suction cups, even to assimilate this phenomenon, not to speak of presenting it adequately…I could gladly and profitably set myself down and spend all the rest of my life just with Calvin. 32

Biographer Steven J. Lawson writes:

Towering over the centuries of church history, there stands one figure of such monumental importance that he still commands attention and arouses intrigue, even five hundred years after his appearance on the world stage.  Called “one of the truly great men of all time,” he was a driving force so significant that his influence shaped the church and Western culture beyond that of any other theologian or pastor.  His masterful expositions of Scripture laid down the doctrinal distinctive of the Protestant Reformation, making him arguably the leading architect of the Protestant cause33.  

He moved millions not through the power of his personality but through the power of his biblical ideas and words.34

Calvin’s Foibles

Michael Servetus

The greatest foible consistently brought up in the life of John Calvin is his involvement in the death of Michael Servetus.  Servetus was a notable Spanish doctor.  He was also interested in theology and wrote a number of works.  He argued, among other provocative things, that the Council of Nicea had offended God.

Servetus had recently escaped from the prisons of the Catholic Inquisition in France, where he was being tried for heresy, and was passing through Geneva when he was recognized.35  Calvin wrote up a list of 38 accusations against him. The city government asked the advice of leaders throughout Switzerland, all agreed that Servetus was a heretic, not only by Catholic standards, but also by Protestant ones.  The laws at the time were for heretics to be burned at the stake.  Calvin argued for a less cruel death, but without having any formal governmental power Calvin was overruled and Michael Servetus was burned to death in Geneva.

It is important to note Calvin was operating in a lenient way compared with the atmosphere of his day.  All of 16th century Europe would have burned Servetus at the stake.

Calvin’s Effect on Us

Those who spend time with Calvin walk away with a big God.  We are told to make sure we live a holy life while meditating on our holy God.  We are kept from seeking our salvation in any form of works.  We have our hearts stirred to receive the entirety of God’s revelation.

As heirs to the Reformation, do our churches today have the same confidence in the truthfulness and authority of God’s Word?36  We have the Word of God on our shelves, computers, our phones, our iPads, but do we have it in our hearts and in our churches?  Calvin scholar Robert Godfrey laments:

The worship of the church has become a feel-good experience, rather than a meeting with the holy God of the universe.  Exciting music has become the new sacrament mediating the presence of God and his grace.  Sermons have become pop psychology, moralistic exercises in self-help.37

Mathis writes:

Calvin’s big, biblical vision of God changes everyday life. If you really want to be practical, don’t reach for gimmicks, checklists, and self-helps, but come with Calvin to the Bible and get to know the most important realities in the universe: God, creation, sin, heaven, hell, Jesus, his cross and resurrection, the Holy Spirit. The biblical vision of the glory of God in Christ is the most practical reality in the universe. (Mathis, With Calvin in the Theater of God, p21-22)

The 21st century church is in great need of depth; a stirring of the head and heart.  The sheep have been fed a steady diet of junk food for too long.  John Calvin must be allowed to play an important role mentoring new shepherds in leading the church back to greener pastures for the glory of God.   

What do you think of John Calvin?  Please comment below on our #3 Top Ten Theologian.  Up next,the second most influential theologian of Church History…


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Additonal Internet ResourceCalvin & Calvinism (to learn more about John Calvin’s theology and other theologians on Calvin’s trajectory)

1 Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: Volume 2, p39.
2 Cottret. Calvin: A Biography. p17.
3 Ibid. p20.
4 Parker. John Calvin. P15.
5 Gonzalez. p62.
6 Preface to the Commentary on the Book of Psalms
7 Cottret. p24.
8 Introduction to his Commentary on the Book of Psalms. ppxl-xli
9 Introduction to Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by McNeill pxxx.
10 Ibid.
11 Gonzalez. p63.
12 Introduction to Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by McNeill pxxxii.
13 Introduction to Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by McNeill pxxxiii.
14 Gonzalez. p63.
15 Ibid.
16 Ibid. p64.
17 Ibid.
18 Gonzalez. p65.
19 Godfrey. John Calvin. p37
20 Ibid. p41.
21 Ibid. p42.
22 Parker. p87.
23 Cottrett. p142.
24 Parker. p105.
25 Godfrey. p58.
26 Ibid.
27 Ibid. p169-170.
28 Calvin. Institutes. I,6,3
29 Calvin. Reply to Sodelto.
30 McNeill. Introduction to the Institutes. pli.
31 Ibid.
32 Karl Barth to Eduard Thurneysen. June 8, 1922.  Quoted in front page of Piper, With Calvin in the Theater of God.
33 Lawson. The Expository Genius of John Calvin. p1-2.
34 Godfrey. p9.
35 Gonzalez. p67.
36 Piper. p37.
37 Ibid.

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    25 replies to "Top Ten Theologians: #3 – John Calvin"

    • david carlson

      #3? Only #3? Your losing your street cred

    • Jason

      Well, here’s where we get down to the nitty gritty I suppose. For me, John Calvin shouldn’t be higher up than St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Irenaeus, or St. Athanasius, but that’s my own personal bias coming to the fore.
      I think for Protestantism, he is the most influential of its theologians – probably one of the most controversial too. Many evangelical movements today, when they hear of traditional Protestantism’s stance on certain points such as double predestination, are quite shocked.
      For me, Calvin was highly intelligent, brilliantly systematic, and a fantastic scholar. But I still consider him to have made some grievous errors in his overt stressing of the sovereignty of God seemingly to the exclusion of all else. Plus, some of his political actions and life I find to be quite suspect, and the practical implications of his theology in practice to be almost a little too extreme. But that’s just me, everyone’s got their opinion, especially on this fellow. 🙂

      Loving this series, I look forward to every new entry. It would interesting if you did a series on the top ten worst theologians in your opinion.

      And I’m placing my bets on St. Augustine being number 1. If he isn’t, he probably should be!

    • Ron Q


      I truly appreciate these posts and the effort you have put into them.

      Just one point on Calvin — I was surprised that you did not bring out his great contribution in understanding the works of the Holy Spirit. Wasn’t he the first to really look into this Trinity attribute?


    • […] (13) Tim Kimberely profiles John Calvin. […]

    • Helez

      The Ashes of Sevetus cry out against Calvin:

    • Ed Babinski

      John Calvin loved seeing his name in print all for the glory of God. Made him feel loved “by God” to write so much about “God.” He and his followers turned Geneva into one of the publishing capitals of Europe. It started out with his works, whose sales made the city wealthy as Calvinism spread, but 200 years later Geneva’s presses were turning out works by Voltaire and even the Marquis de Sade, and Calvin’s college was being run by deistic-minded folks who didn’t even believe in the devil. By the way the Catholics threw the Jews out of Geneva, then later, after the city went Protestant the Protestants threw the Catholic priests out or forced them to convert and abandon Catholic prayers and rituals. Then Calvin argued with some Anabaptists, after which they were exiled. In the end it was illegal even for a fellow Protestant in Geneva to dispute Calvin’s theology of predestination, and it was illegal to name your dog Calvin, or to name your children anything but biblical names. One man was tortured and killed for posting a note on Calvin’s pulpit. People were fined a day’s wages for missing church without a terrific excue. And church was three times a week. Male and female adulterers were thrown into the Rhone to drown. A child was executed for striking its parents, and others were hung by their armpits from the gallows showing that they deserved execution. Women were chained outside churches to be mocked for whatever sins they had allegedly committed. And Calvin’s hated for Servetus led to Calvin using his own servant to accuse Servetus of crimes, after which Calvin, working diligently for the prosecution, let into Servetus with his full fury during Servetus’ trial, leveling every possible charge against him, including such things as grievously insulting the Holy Spirit because Servetus had said that the holy land was relatively arid rather than a land flowing with milk and honey. Servetus had merely copied the “aridity” statement from Ptolemy’s geography. At any rate Calvin’s influence grew after Servetus’ execution, and after the expulsion of the native rulers, after the town council became filled with refugees who moved to Geneva from France. And the refugees were partly caused by Calvin sending missionaries to preach at night in Catholic France, under cover of darkness, with books published in Geneva. The Consistory was into everyone’s business, levelling out reprimands and even remanding people to the Town Council who could exile, imprison or torture, that some folks committed suicide rather than face Calvin’s lengthy reprimands and holy threats. Calvin attended nearly all Consistory meetings and most was the one to level admonishments galore at folks. In the end Calvinism reigned in Geneva, preachers of any other Protestant theology that challenged Calvins were exiled/banned.

    • Ed Babinski

      Did I mention that Calvin heartily defended the necessity of rulers to execute heretics? And Calvin even chased down one of his former Geneva friends, Castellio, who had worked with Calvin, but left for a job elsewhere, a friend who wrote a book advocating that rulers should NOT exectue heretics? Calvin hated his friend after that, and also wrote letters to try and hunt down any unitarians like like Servetus in Poland.

    • Ed Kratz

      Dont think Ed read the post.

    • Kyle Lane

      I’m surprised you didn’t mention Calvin’s interpretation of predestination. I was hoping to get a little more insight on that.

      Otherwise, yet another great installment in this elongated series. Can’t wait for the next…seriously…I can’t wait…post immediately, haha.

    • Kyle Lane


      Do you have any sources for your post(s), please? Just curious. I’ve never heard these allegations before.


    • Eliot

      Thanks Tim! Loving this series. It seems like there’s so much more to study about Calvin than can be provided in this post. I bet you could easily make a series on Calvin’s teachings alone ::hint hint wink wink::

    • Jason

      Tim, we’re all waiting man! Who’s number 2??????? 🙂

      • Ed Kratz

        It’s on the way, I promise. I wrote for several hours yesterday. Thanks for spurring me along!

    • Drake

      Any solid historical evidence of anything Ed said?


      Moving on.

    • Drake

      Loving this series, by the way.

    • arlan aquino

      Thanks for doing the top 10. May I print your articles and share them with my fellow church workers?

    • Ed Babinski

      Michael and Drake, I will gladly reveal my sources in a debate with Michael over everything I wrote about Calvin above. It’s amazing how little Calvinists know about Calvin, and what kinds of mean anti-freedom of conscience ideas a person can have after studying the Bible their whole lives, even after having studied it intellectually, fervently and prayerfully their whole lives. Calvin is a prime example.

    • Jason

      See what I mean when I said Calvin is a controversial figure? 😀
      Ah well.
      To me, it seems (and correct me if I’m wrong) that Calvin represents more “old” Protestantism, whereas the more evangelical/Arminian thinkers represent sort of a neo-Protestantism…I could be really wrong, but that’s my observation anyways.

    • Jason

      *becoming a skeleton waiting for new blog post*
      Alright, well, since we’re all waiting to see which theologian is next on the list, why not place some wagers? I bet #2 is going to be Martin Luther, and #1 will be St. Augustine.

    • Ed Babinski

      I have too much info on Calvin to place in 1000 character sound bites on this page, though I can probably work up a bibliography. The problem is deeper however than Calvin’s demand for exile or persecution of those who disagreed with his beliefs. The problem is that “theology” proves nothing. Neither was Calvin able to study the historical development of OT and NT ideas. No one had the raw data, knowledge of ANE languages, and a host of other resources and tools for such studies back then.

    • simon

      There is no doubt Calvin was not perfect in his character. And in 100 years time, I’m sure they could write a long list of my sins, and also of Ed’s – sins that we’re blind to because of the current culture of our day.

      The good of this is that it prevents people from worshiping us and instead looking to the saviour that we (and Calvin) also need.

      There is no doubt how God used Calvin to bring the Word to bear on so many topics, and transform his and other’s thinking as much could be hoped for at the time.

    • Jonathan

      great read.
      sadly with my reformed colleagues hereabouts they will not hear a critical word spoken about Calvin.
      my issue is that the scriptures speak of forgiveness and holiness (piety) and each is on offer – not demanded.
      Calvin appears to teach piety first as a way of bening pleasing to God.

      secondly, this whole issue of the ‘limited atonement’ is also vexing.
      Christ died for the sins of the entire human race – not just the ‘elect’
      it is His ‘desire’ that all men be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth as 1Tim2.4 tells us – but is not His will.
      if it were His ‘will’ then all would for sure be saved as the will of Almighty God must be fulfilled.

      it all comes down to choice.
      Calvinism talks of predestination regarding salvation, yet the creature can choose to either accept or reject God’s offer of salvation in Jesus Christ
      the sovereign will of God and the freewill of man meet at the point of choice.

      there is also such a thing as the free will of God – but that’s a whole other discussion.

    • Martin Pierce

      Is it even worth mentioning that Calvin wanted to let Servetus be beheaded instead of burned at the stake? I don’t think so. Calvin had done everything in his power to get Servetus KILLED, and he succeeded in that goal.

      Also, each of us does bear the blame for being products of our culture when cultural standards contradict the Word of God.

      Even murderers in the OT could find mercy in cities of sanctuary. To this day, however, we see Calvinist teachers who not only support the death penalty, but want to greatly expand its use.

    • Taylor


      For every Calvinist you can name that supports the death penalty, I could name just as many, if not more, Arminians.

      I shouldn’t have to remind anyone that the Appstle Paul was a murderer (of true Christians, mind you, not heretics).

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