Nothing but Misconceptions Between You and Your Calvin

This comes to us from our very own resident Mockingcalvinist, Michael Cooper. We thought that […]

JDK / 5.26.10

This comes to us from our very own resident Mockingcalvinist, Michael Cooper. We thought that we would take this day to remember one of our other favorite Reformers, John Calvin. . . not that we had a choice, mind you:) Enjoy!

On May 26 the Church of England commemorates John Calvin as a saint of the church. Not much reason to celebrate, some might say. Let’s have a parade for the Karl Rove of the Reformation, the more sardonic might suggest. B.G Armstrong pretty much sums up the picture John Calvin evokes in the minds of many:

Except among his followers, he has been portrayed as a cold, unfeeling, and calculating man, who imposed his stern will on helpless or cowed people. He is seen as the proponent of an austere and joyless religion of fear and constraint, and of a vengeful and arbitrary omnipotent God who treats human beings as puppets, demanding of them servile obedience, yet severely punishing the slightest deviation from his strict moral code. “

Calvin is seen in stark contrast to the “kinder and gentler” Luther who, except for his rants against the papists, is viewed as a jolly beer drinking German peasant good ol’ boy friend of sinners, while Calvin assumes the role of a pinched up parsing FRENCH LAWYER (enough said) ready to pound the poor Christian with a good whack of the law to keep him in line. Armstrong correctly points out that “Such a legalistic and negativistic religion, popularly attributed to Calvin, is a ridiculous caricature that recent scholarship has only begun to correct. “

So, this being Calvin’s “day” so to speak, I thought that I would give you a little “Calvin sampler” , and let you be the judge of whether Jean Calvin had an understanding of Jesus as the friend of sinners, even Christian sinners:

“Surely, with good reason the Heavenly Father affirms that the only stronghold of safety is in calling upon his name. By so doing we invoke the presence both of his providence, through which he watches over and guards our affairs, and of his power, through which he sustains us, weak as we are and well-nigh overcome, and of his goodness, through which he receives us, miserably burdened with sins, unto grace; and, in short, it is by prayer that we call him to reveal himself as wholly present to us. Hence comes an extraordinary peace and repose to our consciences. For having disclosed to the Lord the necessity that was pressing upon us, we even rest fully in the thought that none of our ills are hid from him who, we are convinced, has both the will and the power to take the best care of us.”


“But ‘assurance’ I do not understand to mean that which soothes our mind with sweet and perfect repose, releasing it from every anxiety. For to repose so peacefully is the part of those who, when all affairs are flowing to their liking, are touched by no care, burn with no desire, toss with no fear. But for the saints the occasion that best stimulates them to call upon God is when, distressed by their own need, they are troubled by the greatest unrest, and are almost driven out of their senses, until faith opportunely comes to their relief. For among such tribulations God’s goodness so shines upon them that even when they groan with weariness under the weight of present ills, and also are troubled and tormented by the fear of greater ones, yet, relying upon his goodness , they are relieved of the difficulty of bearing them, and are solaced and hope for escape and deliverance.”

This is not to argue that Calvin had no flaws, or that he had it all figured out, or that he was not a severely “cracked vessel” just like the rest of us. But with all that said, I for one still have to say, on this May 26th: Thanks be to God for our dear brother, John Calvin.