April 21, 2004

John Calvin

John Calvin 1509 – 1564

Calvin’s overwhelming theme was the absolute sovereign will of God. His theology has been separated into 5 parts; the Total depravity of man, the Unconditional election of man by the grace of God, Limited atonement of the sacrifice of Christ, The Irresistible calling of the Holy Spirit, and the eternal and everlasting Perseverance of saints. This French theologian was, after Martin Luther, the guiding spirit of the Protestant Reformation. If Luther sounded the trumpet for reform, Calvin orchestrated the score by which the Reformation became a part of Western civilization. Calvin studied in Paris, probably from 1521 to 1526, where he was introduced to humanistic scholarship and to appeals for reform of the church. He then studied law at his father's bidding from about 1525 to 1530. When his father died in 1531, Calvin turned immediately to his first love - study of the classics and theology. Between 1526 and 1531, he experienced a distinctly Protestant conversion. "God," he wrote much later, "at last turned my course in another direction by the secret rein of his providence." Calvin's first published work was a commentary on Seneca's De Clementia (1532). This was followed by a profusion of influential commentaries on books of the Bible followed.

Calvinism (distinguished by the 5 points or T.U.L.I.P) produced the church-dominated societies of Geneva and Puritan New England. Calvinism, stressing the absolute sovereignty of God's will, held that only those whom God specifically elects are saved, that this election is irresistible, and that individuals can do nothing to effect this salvation. This strict Calvinism was challenged by Jacobus Arminius, whose more fleshly views were adopted by most Methodists and the Baptists. Calvinism challenged most churches throughout Europe, spread to Scotland, influenced the Puritans of England, and received its expression in the United States in the modified New England theology of the elder Jonathan Edwards.

“We must, in my opinion, diligently observe the three following points: First, whatever our mind conceives of God, whatever our tongue utters, should savor of his excellence, match the loftiness of his sacred name, and lastly, serve to glorify his greatness. Secondly, we should not rashly or perversely abuse his Holy Word and worshipful mysteries either for the sake of our own ambition, or greed, or amusement; but, as they bear the dignity of his name imprinted upon them, they should ever be honored and prized among us. Finally, we should not defame or detract from his works, as miserable men are wont abusively to cry out against him; but whatever we recognize as done by him we should speak of with praise of his wisdom, righteousness, and goodness.” – John Calvin

Archived articles available on this site
Shall I not in that day, saith the Lord
Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord
Justification by Faith

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