John Calvin: Heresy Hunter with an Axe to Grind

“Does a fountain send forth at the same place both sweet and bitter water?”

James 3:11

john calvinDid you know that John Calvin staunchly believed that executing unrepentant heretics was justified? Did you know that despite his reading of the New Testament he continued to believe that Old Testament capital offenses should be enforced today– such as rebellious children being executed? Did you know that when one individual in Geneva had the gall to call Calvin an “ambitious and haughty hypocrite” Calvin conceded to having him arrested, tortured, nailed to a stake and then beheaded for heresy? Did you know that during his influential, pastoral rule over Geneva there were dozens of recorded executions–including drowning unmarried, pregnant women? Did you know that one of John Calvin’s friends implored him to repent of his despotism and departure from Christ’s mercy, stating, “If Christ himself came to Geneva he would be crucified” (see article below).

Since Christ died for his enemies and commanded his followers to likewise love and pray for their enemies, there is no greater blasphemous heresy one can engage in than to kill one’s theological enemies in the name of Christ– no matter how heretical you think their teachings depart from your own. Sadly one’s views didn’t have to depart very far from John Calvin’s before he deemed you worthy of being banished upon pain of death– such as Anabaptists who propagated a belief in adult baptism over his view of infant baptism. [1]

michael-servetus-or-miguel-servet-1509-or-1511-1553-a-spanish-theologian-KGKK2JThe execution of the Spaniard, Michael Servetus is the most well known episode highlighting John Calvin’s abusive treatment of a theological enemy. Servetus denied the legitimacy of infant baptism and also denied orthodox, Trinitarian beliefs (by saying Jesus was the Son of the eternal God but not the eternal Son of God) and for this reason was branded a heretic by Catholics and had to flee the Catholic inquisition in France. He sought safe passage through protestant Geneva, but upon arriving in Geneva, Calvin had him promptly arrested by civil authorities.

This is rather strange given that Servetus was only passing through Geneva and was not a citizen of Geneva, and Calvin reportedly had no official civil authority. Yet the mere fact that Calvin was able to seek and acquire his arrest by civil authorities reveals the huge sway Calvin had over the judicial and civil council of Geneva. After a trial in which Calvin prohibited Servetus any defensive witnesses (a serious charge made by Calvin’s former friend and fellow reformer, Sebastian Costello) Servetus was sentenced to be burned at the stake according to state law–though Calvin and others suggested beheading to be a better option. As we will soon see Calvin became entrenched in self-righteousness and unflinchingly stubborn against later criticism over his handing of Servetus’s execution, to the point of doubling down on his “role” as exterminator.

Many stalwart defenders of Calvin’s actions, such as Tim Challies will seek to absolve Calvin of moral responsibility over Servetus execution, suggesting, “It is important to note that John Calvin had no authority in the town of Geneva… it was the civil courts that sentenced the man to death.” [2]

Likewise Calvinist Mark Talbot writes, “But in Geneva, the determination of Servetus’s fate was entirely in the hands of the civil magistrates. As [Bruce] Gordon notes, ‘Although Servetus’ quarrel was clearly with Calvin, the Frenchman’s role in the process was limited.'” [3]

Limited? Was John Calvin an impotent spectator, having no influential presence in the judicial council of Geneva? Alas such moral absolution and historical revisionism is not only inaccurate, but repugnant obfuscation, especially in light of John Calvin’s own admission of personal involvement in putting Servetus to death. Nine years after Servetus was burned at the stake Calvin both justified himself and declared the council to have acted according to his own “exortation.”

“And what crime was it of mine if our Council, at my exhortation, indeed, but in conformity with the opinion of several Churches, took vengeance on his execrable blasphemies? Let Baudouin abuse me as long as he will, provided that, by the judgment of Melanchthon, posterity owes me a debt of gratitude for having purged the Church of so pernicious a monster.” [4]

Calvin’s defiant attitude in defending his role in Servetus death is most readily seen in Refutatio [Defensio] (1554) where he writes, “Many people have accused me of such ferocious cruelty that I would like to kill again the man I have destroyed. Not only am I indifferent to their comments, but I rejoice in the fact that they spit in my face.” [5]

There exists also exists a *controversial letter stemming from 1561 that Calvin reportedly wrote to Monseigneur du Poet, the grand chamberlain of Navarre. In the letter Calvin not only takes credit for Servetus execution, but encourages Monseigneur du Poet to likewise rid the country of similar “scoundrels” and “monsters”, saying,

“One day, glory, and riches shall be the reward of your pains; but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those scoundrels, who stir up the people to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard.” [6]

(*The above letter is controversial because there is disagreement as to whether the letter is a forgery. Ironically even if it were to be a forgery, defenders of Calvin would still be unable to gain a greater moral basis to defend Calvin, given that the contents of the controversial remarks say little that Calvin has not already said in previous reflections on his role in Servetus death–which are historically proven. For example saying the Geneva Council acted “at my exhortation” and that history “owes me a debt of gratitude for having purged the Church of so pernicious a monster.” Similar remarks are found below in Viola’s research, such as Calvin saying that if Servetus came to Geneva, “I shall not permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail.” Thus for Calvinists to suggest that Calvin had no influential authority on what happened to Servetus is contrary to what Calvin considered to be the reach of his influence upon the Geneva council/courts).

To be sure we all have our sins and failures, and it is only fair that we view Calvin in light of the moral standards of his age, but we must never forget that for all Christians–no matter the age they live in– the New Testament is the standard by which all other standards must be measured. For we must remember Christ’s day was rife with Roman oppression far more violent that Calvin’s day, yet it is within that context Christ tells us to love and pray for our enemies. Insofar as the timeless, unqualified teachings of Christ are concerned, to kill a heretic for being a heretic always makes you the bigger heretic. Or we might put it another way: to kill a perceived enemy of the gospel for being an enemy of the gospel always makes you the bigger enemy of the gospel. I am not suggesting Calvin was an unsaved heretic, but I am suggesting that such hypocrisy is beyond question and beyond justification.

With this said, here are two excerpts of a well researched article by Frank Viola:

Calvin believed that executing unrepentant heretics was justified.

The best known example of this is when Calvin consented to the execution of Michael Servetus, a man who denied the Trinity and infant baptism. Servetus burned for one hour simply because of his theological views. Calvin supporters are quick to point out that the great Reformer didn’t directly execute the man. He even tried to persuade Servetus not to come to Geneva. Calvin also tried to get Servetus to repent and sought for him to be granted a more humane execution (which was beheading instead of burning).

Even so, Calvin made this remark regarding Servetus, showing that he believed death for heresy was justifiable. “But I am unwilling to pledge my word for his safety, for if he shall come [to Geneva], I shall never permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail.” [1]

During Servertus’ trial, Calvin remarked: “I hope that the verdict will call for the death penalty.” [2] Nine years after the execution, Calvin made this comment in answering his critics: “Servetus suffered the penalty due his heresies, but was it by my will. Certainly his arrogance destroyed him not less than his impiety.” [3]

Calvin is also quoted as saying, “Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt. This is not laid down on human authority; it is God who speaks and prescribes a perpetual rule for his Church.” [3a]

Whether you agree with Calvin’s view or defend his actions because he was “a man of his times,” many Christians find the idea of executing heretics to be shocking. This brings up another point for another post, but consider for a moment if murder was legal in our time. If it were, I think we’d have a lot of dead Christians who lost their lives to other Christians over doctrinal trespasses. If you think I’m wrong, just watch the vitriol and hatred in many “Christian” online forums as they verbally bludgeon one another over theological interpretations.

In addition to Servetus, Jerome Bolsec was arrested and imprisoned for challenging Calvin during a lecture, then banished from the city. Calvin wrote privately about the matter saying that he wished Bolsec were “rotting in a ditch.” [4]

Jacques Gruet was also a man who disagreed with Calvin. He called Calvin an ambitious and haughty hypocrite. The administrations of Geneva tortured Gruet twice daily until he confessed, and with Calvin’s concurrence, Gruet was tied to a stake, his feet were nailed to it, and his head was cut off for blasphemy and rebellion.

Pierre Ameaux was charged with slandering Calvin at a private gathering. He was to pay a fine, but Calvin wasn’t satisfied with the penalty, so Ameaux spent two months in prison, lost his job, and was paraded through town kneeling to confess his libel, also paying for the trial expense. [5]

Calvin believed that the Old Testament capital offenses should be enforced today.

The city of Geneva was ruled by the clergy, which was composed of five pastors and twelve lay elders chosen by Geneva’s Council. But Calvin’s voice was the most influential in the city. Here are some laws and facts about Geneva under Calvin’s authority:

* Each household had to attend Sunday morning services. If there was preaching on weekdays, all had to attend also. (There were only a few exceptions, and Calvin preached three to four times a week.)

* If a person came to the service after the sermon had begun, he was warned. If he continued, he would have to pay a fine.

* Heresy was regarded as an insult to God and treason to the state and was punished by death.

* Witchcraft was a capital crime. In one year, 14 alleged witches were sent to the stake on the charge that they persuaded satan to afflict Geneva with the plague.

* Clergy were to abstain from hunting, gambling, feasting, commerce, secular amusements, and had to accept annual visitations and moral scrutiny by church superiors.

* Gambling, card-playing, frequenting taverns, dancing, indecent or irreligious songs, immodesty in dress were all prohibited.

* The allowable color and quantity of clothing and the number of dishes permissible at a meal were specified by law.

* A woman was jailed for arranging her hair to an “immoral height.”

* Children were to be named after Old Testament characters. A rebellious father served four days in prison for insisting on naming his son Claude instead of Abraham.

* To speak disrespectfully of Calvin or the clergy was a crime. A first violation was punished by a reprimand. Further violations with fines. Persistent violations were met with imprisonment or banishment.

* Fornication was punished by exile or drowning.

* Adultery, blasphemy, and idolatry was punished with death.

* In the year 1558-1559, there were 414 prosecutions for moral offenses.

* As everywhere in the 16th century, torture was often used to obtain confessions or evidence.

* Between 1542-1564, there were 76 banishments. The total population of Geneva then was 20,000.

* Calvin’s own step-daughter and son-in-law were among those condemned for adultery and executed.

* In Geneva, there was little distinction between religion and morality. The existing records of the Council for this period reveal a high percentage of illegitimate children, abandoned infants, forced marriages, and sentences of death. [9]

* In one case, a child was beheaded for striking his parents. [10] (Following Old Testament Mosaic law, Calvin believed it was scriptural to execute rebellious children and those who commit adultery.) [10a]

* During a period of 17 years when Calvin was leading Geneva, there were 139 recorded executions in the city. [11]

Sabastian Castellio, a friend of Calvin’s who urged him to repent of his intolerance, made the shocking remark, “If Christ himself came to Geneva, he would be crucified. For Geneva is not a place of Christian liberty. It is ruled by a new pope [John Calvin], but one who burns men alive while the pope at Rome strangles them first.” [12]

Castellio also made this remark: “Can we imagine Christ ordering a man to be burned alive for advocating adult baptism? The Mosaic laws calling for the death of a heretic were superceded by the law of Christ, which is one of mercy not of despotism and terror.” [12a]

Click HERE to read the entire article (with source citation), including more shocking beliefs of John Calvin, such as his view that Jews were “profane dogs” and should “die in their misery without pity of anyone.” 

[1] Online PDF by Donald D Smeeton: “Calvin also had numerous contacts with various groups of anabaptists during this first stay in Geneva. Two anabaptists from the low countries gained a hearing in Geneva and after a time were allowed a debate, but when they held firmly to their position, they were banished from the city on pain of death.” (p. 48). See also J.L. Adams account of a visiting Anabaptist by the name of Belot, who was arrested for passing out anabaptist literature in Geneva. His books and tracts were confiscated and burned and Belot was banished from the city. He was warned that if he returned he would summarily be arrested and hanged. (J.L. Adams, The Radical Reformation, Westminster Press, 1967, p. 597-598)

[2] See Tim Challies article here.

[3] See Mark Talbot’s article here. 

[4] Quoted in History of the Christian Church Volume VIII. p. 137 See online here. 

[5] Rufutatio [Defensio], Calvini Opera, vol. 8, 516. Some quotations circulating online insert “they allege” in parenthesis to soften the remarks. But apparently these words are not found in the original writing recorded in the citation given.

[6] Letters of John Calvin Vol. IV, p. 439-440. (The letter is controversial for the remarks I mentioned above. There are various English translations available. For instance in regards to Calvin taking credit for Servetus’s execution, some translations say, “…as I have exterminated Michael Servetus” and others say, “as I have smothered Michael Servetus.” Various copies of the letter also have different spellings for Monseigneur du Poet, such as “Marquis du Paet.”)



About StriderMTB

Hi, I'm Matt. "Strider" from Lord of the Rings is my favorite literary character of all time and for various reasons I write under the pseudonym "StriderMTB. As my blog suggests I seek to live out both the excitement and tension of a Christian walk with Christ in the 3rd world context of Asia. I started my blog as an unmarried man who was blessed to oversee an orphanage of amazing children in South-East Asia. As of 2022, I am a happily married man to an amazing missionary wife serving together on the mission field. I hate lima beans and love to pour milk over my ice-cream. I try to stay active in both reading and writing and this blog is a smattering of my many thoughts. I see the Kingdom of God as Jesus preached it and lived to be the only hope for a broken world and an apathetic church.
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35 Responses to John Calvin: Heresy Hunter with an Axe to Grind

  1. Cheryl says:

    After reading this article on John Calvin, I wonder if the man really knew the true Christ of the Bible – Our Lord who laid down his life for his enemies to redeem them and prayed to the Father to forgive his executioners while he hung on the cross. 1 John 4:7-8 says it well, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that loves not does not know God; for God is love”

    • johnshelley says:

      After reading your reply I began to wonder… Did Moses know God, much less King David… golly, they must be horribly wretched people.

      • Dean says:

        I’m wondering if that was supposed to be a defense of Calvin!? 😉

      • StriderMTB says:

        No John Shelley– not horribly wretched people. Just people who lived prior to the New Covenant, the Sermon on the Mount, Christ’s commands to love and pray for one’s enemies, and Christ’s reversal of the O.T. lex talionis. We cannot say the same for John Calvin. He was not only privy to know the teachings of the Kingdom and Christ’s revolutionary commands, but obligated to obey them. No doubt Calvin had his moments of kindness, generosity, love and sound wisdom–but many of his actions and beliefs were indeed wretched and inexcusable. It should serve as a warning to us all. We can articulate fine points of doctrine with great zeal and precision, but if we do not have love we are a “clanging bell.” We must continually examine our hearts. Our Lord put it this way: “If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them!” (Lk. 6:32) Shalom.

      • johnshelley says:

        I agree the New Covenant requires a pervasive submission to its teachings and additional authoritative approach to loving others, the house-hold codes, and so forth. However, Paul is clear the New Covenant does not replace the Old, in the sense that the Ten Commandments are still binding in so far as to break them, one commits sin. David and Moses sinned by committed the sin of murder, thus breaking the Old Covenant, (ten commandments) and the New Covenant as well. John Calvin, did not murder anyone, in fact it was not he that even put the death penalty in place for Serventes (The Catholics “tried” and issues the death penalty for him) which is why it was dangerous for Calvin to go to Paris to be with him, even though he didn’t show up.

  2. StriderMTB says:

    Yes Cheryl that verse is a sobering reminder to us all. There is great danger in conceiving of oneself as the chief promoter and defender of alleged “doctrines of grace” and yet have such a small capacity to demonstrate actual grace to others. I don’t think Calvin ever even tried to grasp the counter-intuitive truth that God is love– towards friend and foe– for to do so would have undermined too much personal animosity he felt for those he perceived as foes.

  3. Dean says:

    I was just going to say that reading this reminded me if ISIS, for what that’s worth, and that would not make me the first person to compare Calvin’s doctrine with Muhammad’s.

    • StriderMTB says:

      Indeed… very sobering Dean. Both Catholics and Protestants had their “ISIS” moments of bloodshed, beheading and burning. Some of it was related to politics like the Thirty Years War in which thousands were killed. But many other events were grounded in doctrinal disagreement. It is the greatest blasphemy the church has ever had a part in. Today Europe is a graveyard for Christianity because of her past actions in failing abysmally to demonstrate the Kingdom of God the way Christ preached it and lived it.

      We know a lot about Foxe’s famous book of martyrs that recounts Catholic persecution in detail. However Foxe was a contemporary and close friend with John Calvin and he decided not to include in his book the many accounts of Lutherans, Zwinglians and Calvinists persecuting, drowning, beheading and outright murdering their own enemies with great zeal and hatred– such as Anabaptists. The Lord does not recognize his bride when she acts in this way. Truth be told many of those killed were the true followers of Christ’s Kingdom ethic. For example most Anabaptists adopted a non-violent, pacifist lifestyle as an act of obedience to Christ’s Kingdom ethic…and went willingly to their deaths at the hands of both Catholics and Protestant Lutherans and Calvinists.

  4. johnshelley says:

    I agree the New Covenant requires a pervasive submission to its teachings and additional authoritative approach to loving others, the house-hold codes, and so forth. However, Paul is clear the New Covenant does not replace the Old, in the sense that the Ten Commandments are still binding in so far as to break them, one commits sin. David and Moses sinned by committed the sin of murder, thus breaking the Old Covenant, (ten commandments) and the New Covenant as well.

    John Calvin, did not put the death penalty in place for Michael Servetus (The Catholics “tried” and issued the death penalty for him). Keep in mind that Calvin also had a death penalty on his own head from the Catholics as well, which is why it was dangerous for Calvin to go to Paris to be meet with Servetus, even though Servetus didn’t show up. It was Servetus who asked Calvin to meet Him in Paris, and Calvin went in hopes of persuading Serventus to change his mind, even though Calvin knew he too could be caught and thrown in prison. When Servetus showed up in Calvin’s church, Calvin had him arrested but continued to try to convince him to change his mind. Servetus angrily refused and Calvin angrily disagreed. We know these details from Calvin’s letters. Calvin eventually relented and allowed his execution to take place (under his authority). Was he guilty of murder? Murder, by definition is that which is against the law. Calvin may not have broken civil law for the time period but one could argue he is guilty of murder under the divine law (Old Covenant and New Covenant) by conceding to and delivering the death penalty under his authority.

    Roger Olson’s church history is notoriously biased against anything having to do with Calvin and conveniently leaves out details concerning Calvin’s letters.

    • StriderMTB says:

      John Shelley– it is inexcusable for any person who has read the words of Christ to kill others in the name of Christ in order to defend the truth of Christ. That’s the point. It matters not how articulate one is in being able to formulate a theology of God, if in the end we cannot obey Christ’s most basic truths about love then we do not know God (1 John 4:7-8). It is not a surprise to me at all that a theology that dictates God unconditionally predetermined the sin of every person, intentionally left people outside the orbit of his redemptive love, and unconditionally determined people to be damned to hell before they were born found its greatest theologian and spokesman in the confused mind of John Calvin.

      Once Calvin was convinced he could not change someone’s mind to accord with his own thinking, he considered them an enemy of the gospel whose life was forfeit. In the case of Servetus, Calvin took it very personal when Servetus refused his attempts to re-orient his theology such that Servetus accepted infant baptism and a trinitarian theology. Note the following comments of Calvin in regards to Servetus:

      “If he shall come [to Geneva], I shall never permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail.”

      “I hope that the verdict will call for the death penalty.”

      “Many people have accused me of such ferocious cruelty that I would like to kill again the man I have destroyed.”

      “Whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt.”

      The ironic thing is that Calvin, according to his own theology, had to concede that the very beliefs and choices of Micheal Servetus were themselves the direct product of God’s predestined will.

      “Hence we maintain that, by his providence, not heaven and earth and inanimate creatures only, but also the counsels and wills of men are so governed as to move exactly in the course which he has destined.” (John Calvin, Inst. I.xvi.8.)

      “Men do nothing save at the secret instigation of God, and do not discuss and deliberate on anything but what he has previously decreed with himself, and brings to pass by his secret direction.” (John Calvin, Inst. I.xviii.l.)

      • johnshelley says:

        Strider, I would agree with you with regards to murder. I certainly do not think Calvin to be blameless. However, I think your understand of Calvin’s Reformed Theology is lacking. Calvin was not a determinist, as many of his opponents seem to think, which is generally the result of a false understanding of the “will” and God’s providence. Determinism is fatalism, and no Calvin scholar would ever say that Calvin was deterministic in his Theology. Determinism being defined as all things being controlled by God, including say, my action of typing this into your blog. However, Calvin would agree that Servetus was not a Christian and therefore bound to his sinful nature and therefore decreed by God to live unto his sinful nature. Romans 1-2. Being dead to sin and alive in Christ is very different than saying God controls every aspect of one’s life.

      • StriderMTB says:

        Hi John, thanks again for your follow-up. However I strongly disagree with your statement that John Calvin and his many, unequivocal, obvious statements of causal, divine determinism could somehow not be defined as determinism. You say, “no Calvinist scholar would ever say that Calvin was deterministic.” That is not true at all and I am quite perplexed as to why you would even assert something so historically inaccurate. Historical Calvinists from Beza, Edwards, Pink, Palmer, Boettner, Frame to Piper all ground their own ideas in divine, universal determinism in deterministic interpretations of Scripture like those seen in the writings of John Calvin– which is that the causal, antecedent conditions to all we do is anchored in God’s prior, sovereign, UNCONDITIONAL will of decree.

        Indeed causal, divine determinism is fatalism, as you concede, since our choices and actions are the fixed product of what God previously determined and decreed we must do. That’s called control. But for some odd reason you just don’t want to concede that determinism is the logical outworking of Calvinistic theology consistently applied. If you reject divine determinism over all affairs of life then welcome to the NON-Calvinist perspective my friend!

        Here is a little test for you: Do you think you have made any choice or committed any action that God did not sovereignly and unconditionally decree you will commit before you were born?

        If you want to be logically consistent to the essential tenants of Calvinism and their interpretive analysis of what “divine sovereignty means” you must admit “no”– every one of your choices and actions were sovereignly decreed by God. To the degree you believe “yes” (you have made choices and actions God did not sovereignly determine/decree) is to the degree you are an inconsistent thinking Calvinist. Of course inconsistency and incoherence has long plagued Calvinism’s greatest defenders– so that is nothing new. But if you really think Calvin was not a determinist–in the sense that our decisions have NOT been predetermined by God’s divine will– then you will have to do some very fancy interpretive gymnastics to unravel the gordian knot he presents for you in many of his statements. I gave you two quotes already above which I see you did not desire to address. But click here for more:
        Shalom to you John! 🙂

      • Dean says:

        “…one could argue he is guilty of murder under the divine law… ”

        There is simply no argument here, John Calvin by any definition is guilty of the murder of Michael Servetus, people need to proclaim that LOUDLY and no amount of revisionist history or “splainin'” is ever going to change the fact that Calvin had the power to spare Servetus’ life, did not choose to exercise that power, and in fact, very much wanted Servetus to be executed and finally, never regretted doing so to his dying day. There is no way to get around those basic facts.

        Strider, it amazes me the back flips that Calvinists will do to defend their hero John Calvin. If it were any other man, the actions you laid out above and the even those that Calvinists themselves admit that John Calvin was guilty of, would taint anything the man said or did. But it’s this almost slavish devotion to this aberrant theology that blinds these people and compels them to make outrageous defenses like the ones that John Shelley is attempting (and I’ve heard and read way worse, although they all flow along the same lines), it’s shameless. The ironic thing (or maybe not) is that the New Calvinists are the quickest folks these days to jump on anyone for their “incorrect” theology or their “sin”, you can find video after video of these guys on youtube criticizing everyone and their mom, but when it comes to John Calvin, you get awkward, post hoc, half-hearted concessions, defenses of things that are simply indefensible, followed by the catch-all, you-can’t-judge-a-theology-by-it’s-founder defense. Well why can’t you? Jesus said you will know his true followers by their fruit, and we know the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5. Do any of Calvin’s actions above comport with the fruits of the spirit? Yes or no? I think that’s case closed! Calvinists love citing Bible verses except when it’s not convenient for them.

        Lest John Shelley or any other Calvinist try to defend any of the barbaric actions of John Calvin using the OT or whatever other terrible defense, it was Jesus Christ who said that if you hate your brother you’re already guilty of murder. I’m just tired of the hypocrisy that comes with some of these folks and how strange it is that these inconsistencies never register with them, just glassy-eyed (usually angry) stares right back at you. I would suggest that you not deviate from this otherwise very worthwhile discussion into the whole determinism thing again as that is just a series or endless rabbit holes. I think it is great that you bring up these historical facts about John Calvin (which are indisputable) and lay them bare for a generation of American Evangelicals (most of whom have no knowledge of history at all) to see and judge for themselves. Sorry for the rant, this stuff just really gets to me because no one ever talks about it and the excuses made by Calvinists have become so hackneyed to be completely predictable!

      • Joe says:

        Well said, Dean and Strider! I absolutely LOVE how eloquent and passionate you two are! I only wish I could avoid getting caught up in the arguments with such as Shelley! I have a hard time allowing asinine theology to go unchecked. However, God is working on me showing me how I need to RELAX in Him – here is the tension – I need to choose to allow Him to have His way. It is ALWAYS – with few anomalic exceptions – a two-way street with our Father. “If you draw near to me, I will draw near to you.” This thread runs all through the OT and NT. So I am TRYING to learn to allow Him to live through me by reckoning that my old life/nature have been “crucified with Christ.” Thanks so much you two for giving me more clarity – may our Lord bless you with His peace and joy abundantly!

      • StriderMTB says:

        Yes very true. Because our relationship with God is just that– a relationship– it requires a submitted will not a coerced will. God’s grace is not irresistible before or after we are saved. We are invited into receiving all of God’s gifts freely. The two way street you mentioned is a signature mark of the Cristian life. “Abide in me and I will abide in you.” God bless!

  5. cjsorelle says:

    It’s remarkable and terribly sad that Calvinists believe that God intently damns anyone to eternal conscience torment when scripture clearly states that Christ tasted death for every man and that God is not willing that any should perish. To believe that God wills the damnation of anyone is utter blasphemy against a God of love. A God that doesn’t just love but is the opitomy of love. A God who sent His Son as the second Adam to reconcile the world to Himself. Even logic fights against Calvinist. For instance, we are called to love our enemies and bless those who persecute us, but God is unwilling to do the same? So, God commands us to exhibite a greater love than He is willing to exhibite Himself? Does that make any sense whatesoever? Where is the “good news” in that?

    • StriderMTB says:

      You are right– it does not make sense at all cjsorelle. Sadly so many have been convinced they have to believe in Calvinism because Calvinists have done such a deceptively great job in mischaracterizing and misrepresenting the alternatives to Calvinism, such that many are ignorantly convinced any theology that does not accord with Calvinism’s “doctrines of grace” must be (by default) man-centered, salvation theologies wherein our human freedom makes God fall off his sovereign throne.

      The form of divine “sovereignty” Calvinists try to defend is a very insecure sovereignty. The key to divine sovereignty is NOT being the causal, determining reason behind all things–including sin and evil– but rather the ability to achieve one’s overarching purposes IN SPITE OF human abuses and misuses of freedom. Moreover it is the ability to enter into evil to bring good out of it– not be the ultimate cause of all evil in the first place in virtue of unconditionally decreeing it before the world began. I really love the quote of A.W. Tozer (not a Calvinist!) who basically said, “God’s sovereignty did not decree which choice man should make, but that he should be free to make a choice…Only a God who was sovereign would create man free. Anyone less than sovereign would be too afraid to do so.”

      • cjsorelle says:

        I love A.W. Tozer and have many of his books. I sense the Spirit of God when I read Tozer. He was a man who truly sought God and wasn’t content with pat creeds and dogma. Tozer once remarked on “the error of textualism.” You can Google his excerpt. In summary, he says there is an error in thinking that because you possess the “right” creed, belief or whatever that you have the thing itself, namely Jesus Christ. He makes an excellent point. His point is exactly what Jesus said to the Pharisees about searching the scriptures to gain eternal life, but failing to come to the One who gives life. It is Christ and Christ alone who gives life, not John Calvin.

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  7. truthseeker00 says:

    One could start by questioning the validity of the very term ‘heretic’. What makes an individual a heretic – having a less than perfect understanding of God? Does that not make each and every mortal man a heretic – including John Calvin? Yet Mr. Calvin believed himself incapable of such error. He, like the arrogant, self-righteous hypocrites of Jesus’ day, believed himself to be the sole purveyors of truth, so much so that they could literally murder truth incarnate. Thus, a ‘heretic’ was anyone who disagreed with them. This is what arrogance, pride and self-righteousness always produce: murderous hearts intent on defending their own ideas as unchallengeable truth. John Calvin is rightly the figurehead of an arrogant, cruel, self-righteous gang of hypocrites who care less for the lost than for their own rightness. After trying on such a crowd for well over a decade, I can assert that there is very little grace amongst those who most strongly defend the so-called Doctrines of Grace. Genuine grace flows from genuine love, is humble, self-sacrificing and giving. The Doctrines of Grace are a blasphemous bunch of hooey, setting forth a monstrous, scripturally unrecognizable despot in the place of the most gracious, loving, patient and well-intentioned being that ever was and demanding the complete suspension of logic and reason in order to defend their groundless, irrational theories. It does not require knowing the true history and heritage of John Calvin and his despotic reign of terror in Geneva to see through the errors and inconsistencies of his teachings, but it should definitely be a requirement that one know a little bit of the true life and history of one’s idols before setting them so firmly on unshakable pedestals.

    • StriderMTB says:

      Quite true. I liked this part, “He, like the arrogant, self-righteous hypocrites of Jesus’ day, believed himself to be the sole purveyors of truth, so much so that they could literally murder truth incarnate.”

  8. Pingback: The Historical Path of Freedom – Weaves Through the Reformation Period (1500s) – Swamp Fox Research Hub

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  13. Rob Callow says:

    Thank you very much for this

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  15. Pingback: Reformed doctrine on condemnation, man’s soul and “hell” (and what Scripture actually says)

  16. Pingback: Reformed doctrine on condemnation, man’s soul and “hell” (and what Scripture actually says) – Site Title

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  18. Pingback: João Calvino: Caçador de Heresias com um Machado para Triturar – Paleo-Ortodoxo

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