Category Archives: Calvin

Fun Facts From Church History

  1. Zwingli suffered from ulcers, and died of a halberd in the face.
  2. Luther suffered from gall stones, and died of liver disease.
  3. Calvin suffered from a plethora of illnesses, and died after a very long illness.

What’s this mean?  That being a Reformer ruins your body. Don’t be a Reformer.


Chance Plays No Part in Our Lives, Providence Does

Innumerable are the ills which beset human life, and present death in as many different forms. Not to go beyond ourselves, since the body is a receptacle, nay the nurse, of a thousand diseases, a man cannot move without carrying along with him many forms of destruction. His life is in a manner interwoven with death. For what else can be said where heat and cold bring equal danger? Then, in what direction soever you turn, all surrounding objects not only may do harm, but almost openly threaten and seem to present immediate death.

Go on board a ship, you are but a plank’s breadth from death. Mount a horse, the stumbling of a foot endangers your life. Walk along the streets, every tile upon the roofs is a source of danger. If a sharp instrument is in your own hand, or that of a friend, the possible harm is manifest. All the savage beasts you see are so many beings armed for your destruction. Even within a high walled garden, where everything ministers to delight, a serpent will sometimes lurk. Your house, constantly exposed to fire, threatens you with poverty by day, with destruction by night. Your fields, subject to hail, mildew, drought, and other injuries, denounce barrenness, and thereby famine.

I say nothing of poison, treachery, robbery, some of which beset us at home, others follow us abroad. Amid these perils, must not man be very miserable, as one who, more dead than alive, with difficulty draws an anxious and feeble breath, just as if a drawn sword were constantly suspended over his neck? It may be said that these things happen seldom, at least not always, or to all, certainly never all at once. I admit it; but since we are reminded by the example of others, that they may also happen to us, and that our life is not an exception any more than theirs, it is impossible not to fear and dread as if they were to befall us.

What can you imagine more grievous than such trepidation? Add that there is something like an insult to God when it is said, that man, the noblest of the creatures, stands exposed to every blind and random stroke of fortune. Here, however, we were only referring to the misery which man should feel, were he placed under the dominion of chance.

But when once the light of Divine Providence has illumined the believer’s soul, he is relieved and set free, not only from the extreme fear and anxiety which formerly oppressed him, but from all care. For as he justly shudders at the idea of chance, so he can confidently commit himself to God. – John Calvin

Zwingli Didn’t Actually Like, or Eat Sausage

Though he didn’t mind others who did…

Cartoon of Reformersvia

Calvin Has A Reminder For You As You Begin Your Weekend…

calvin4It ought to be observed, however, that every one who hears the voice of the Gospel, if he do not embrace the forgiveness of sins which is there promised to him, is liable to eternal damnation.  — John Calvin

You’re welcome.  Happy weekend.

Fun Facts From Church History… Schoolboys in Calvin’s Geneva…

According to Karin Maag-

Schoolboys were to practice the fundamentals of Reformed worship by reciting in turn Calvin’s prayer to be said before starting lessons, by engaging in an hour of psalm singing a day, and by taking turns saying the Lord’s Prayer, the Ten Commandments, and the Apostles’ Creed at the close of each day’s classes.

Those were the good old days for sure!

Why? Because It Pleased Him to Do It

You may quibble with Calvin’s conclusions but you can’t accuse him of inconsistency or lack of logic when he writes, in connection with the damnation of the reprobate:

calvin29Foolish men raise many grounds of quarrel with God, as if they held him subject to their accusations. First, they ask why God is offended with his creatures who have not provoked him by any previous offense; for to devote to destruction whomsoever he pleases, more resembles the caprice of a tyrant than the legal sentence of a judge; and, therefore, there is reason to expostulate with God, if at his mere pleasure men are, without any desert of their own, predestinated to eternal death. If at any time thoughts of this kind come into the minds of the pious, they will be sufficiently armed to repress them, by considering how sinful it is to insist on knowing the causes of the divine will, since it is itself, and justly ought to be, the cause of all that exists. For if his will has any cause, there must be something antecedent to it, and to which it is annexed; this it were impious to imagine. The will of God is the supreme rule of righteousness, so that everything which he wills must be held to be righteous by the mere fact of his willing it. Therefore, when it is asked why the Lord did so, we must answer, Because he pleased.  –  Inst III,23,2.

Calvin may have had many faults and he may not have even been right- but he wasn’t a coward and he wasn’t half-hearted and he wasn’t given to equivocation.  May his tribe increase.

Calvin Planned the Wedding Before He Had a Bride

Calvin wanted a wife. He asked several of his friends to help him find one- but he especially depended on Farel to do it. So he wrote him

“Would that it were permitted me to pour out my feelings on your friendly bosom, and again to hear your advice, that we might be better prepared! You have the best opportunity for coming hither, if our hopes respecting the marriage be accomplished, for we expect the maiden immediately after Easter. But if you will really promise me to come, the ceremony shall be put off till your arrival, there being still time enough to let you know the day. First then, I ask it of you, as the greatest kindness, to come; next, that you write word definitively that you will come, for it is necessary, at all events, that some one come to bless the marriage. I would fain however have no one but you. Consider therefore whether I seem worth enough to you to undertake this journey.”

It almost sounds like he is engaged, doesn’t it? Except he isn’t. There isn’t even a prospective wife at this point.

In another letter to Farel, dated June 21, 1540 (MSS. Gen.), there is a strange piece of news respecting the approaching marriage. The time was fixed, Farel invited, but still no bride was there. “The bride is not yet found, and I doubt whether I shall continue to seek one. Claudius and my brother formed a contract for me with a young lady; but three days after they returned, something was told me which induced me to send my brother back, in order to loose me from the engagement.”*

Of course he did eventually marry. But, and this is fair to say, he was a strange dude.

*Paul Henry and Henry Stebbing, The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer, vol. 1 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 260–261.

Fun Facts From Church History

On 25 February, 1559 Calvin wrote a little letter in which he

… again spoke of the anxiety and distress which he suffered. The ministers were quarrelling with each other. He exhorted them not to read either the German Theology (La Théologie Germanique), or a little work, entitled ‘Der Neue Mensch”.*

Calvin was a person subject to depression, as had been Zwingli and as had been Luther (to a lesser extent). Depression is the affliction of genius. The price paid for extraordinary intellect.  The depression experienced by the Reformers is just more evidence, in case we needed it, of their utter frail humanity.
*P. Henry, The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer (Vol. 2).

Being a Nominal Christian is The Worst Thing You Can Be

“The name of Christian flies from mouth to mouth, but when men are called upon to humble themselves under the Gospel, which is the sceptre with which Christ exercises his dominion over us, they almost all turn away. Yea, it is only too common for people to adorn themselves hypocritically with the name of Christian, and then to desecrate it.

It is therefore no little virtue to prove ourselves by action true disciples of the Son of God. You must accordingly so much the more intensely feel his mercy, which has led you so far; for it is not our work when we come to Him, but He draws us to Himself; and that his goodness may shine the more brightly, and be the better understood, He separates us from the rest, the poor blind sinners, whom we see wandering about us; and shows us, as in a glass, the wretched condition in which we should be without Him, and this, that we may glorify Him the more for having delivered us from the horrible darkness of death.

Therefore consider, Sir, the whole worth of the treasure which God bestows upon you, and make good use of it. When we see the iniquity which everywhere prevails, and the violence of Satan against those who take the right way, we must feel the necessity of turning our eyes to heaven, and praying for strength and perseverance to resist. If we wish to be made partakers of the glory of our Redeemer, we must be ready to bear the shame of his cross. I therefore pray you, as the necessity increases, to stir up and animate yourself, to contend resolutely against Satan and the world, and to die more and more unto yourself, that you may be renewed in God. And since, in order to love, we must have knowledge, I beseech you to read diligently those exhortations which lead thereto.

The coldness which we see in so many, comes from the negligence which allows them to imagine that enough has been done if they have snatched, in a passing way, some few words of holy Scripture. We ought on the contrary, as St. Paul says, to become more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ, by beholding him in the mirror of his Gospel, and so to advance from glory to glory. He hereby shows, that the better we know Christ, the more nobly will his grace and power operate in our souls.

Strive therefore to learn more and more, and especially from the consideration that you have your children to think of, whom God has entrusted to you, that you may consecrate them to Him, and that he may be their Father, even as He is yours. Be careful therefore to bring them up in his fear, and to preserve them from the filth and pollution in which we have been sunk. I know that the obstacles which Satan places in our path are difficult to overcome. Hence I admonish you to educate them rather as looking forwards to an inheritance in heaven, than as anxious for the perishable riches and honors of the present world.”  John Calvin

John Calvin on John 3:16a

Calvin writes

… our minds cannot find calm repose, until we arrive at the unmerited love of God. As the whole matter of our salvation must not be sought any where else than in Christ, so we must see whence Christ came to us, and why he was offered to be our Saviour. Both points are distinctly stated to us: namely, that faith in Christ brings life to all, and that Christ brought life, because the Heavenly Father loves the human race, and wishes that they should not perish. And this order ought to be carefully observed; for such is the wicked ambition which belongs to our nature, that when the question relates to the origin of our salvation, we quickly form diabolical imaginations about our own merits. Accordingly, we imagine that God is reconciled to us, because he has reckoned us worthy that he should look upon us. But Scripture everywhere extols his pure and unmingled mercy, which sets aside all merits.


Calvin on The Problem Of Unbelief

calvin99[Peter] not only calls the unbelieving foolish, but also points out the reason why they slandered, even because they were ignorant of God. But inasmuch as he makes the unbelieving to be without understanding and reason, we hence conclude, that a right understanding cannot exist without the knowledge of God. How much soever, then, the unbelieving may boast of their own acuteness, and may seem to themselves to be wise and prudent, yet the Spirit of God charges them with folly, in order that we may know that, apart from God, we cannot be really wise, as without him there is nothing perfect.*

*J. Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles (p. 83).

Calvin Wasn’t a Fan of Menno Simons…

calvino-1Here’s what he said about him (Opera Omnia X,176)- Hoc sane video, nihil hoc asino posse fingi superbius, nihil petulantius hoc cane  (with thanks to Lloyd Petersen for the heads up).

Now that’s how you insult someone.  Take note, Luther.

Calvin… He Was in a Mood That Day…

calvin3Calvin- of his colleagues in Geneva- “Our other colleagues are rather a hindrance than a help to us: they are rude and self conceited, have no zeal, and less learning.”

Next faculty meeting use that line.  Go ahead.

Praying With Calvin

Grant, Almighty God, that as nothing is omitted by thee to help us onward in the course of our faith, and as our sloth is such that we hardly advance one step though stimulated by thee,—O grant, that we may strive to profit more by the various helps which thou hast provided for us, so that the Law, the Prophets, the voice of John the Baptist, and especially the doctrine of thine only-begotten Son, may more fully awaken us, that we may not only hasten to him, but also proceed constantly in our course, and persevere in it until we shall at length obtain the victory and the crown of our calling, as thou hast promised an eternal inheritance in heaven to all who faint not but wait for the coming of the great Redeemer.—Amen. Τῳ Θεῳ δοξα.

Calvin: on Providence and the Thief and Murderer

I deny that they [i.e., robbery and murder and that sort of evil] serve the will of God. For we cannot say that he who is carried away by a wicked mind performs service on the order of God, when he is only following his own malignant desires. He obeys God, who, being instructed in his will, hastens in the direction in which God calls him. But how are we so instructed unless by his word? The will declared by his word is, therefore, that which we must keep in view in acting, God requires of us nothing but what he enjoins.

If we design anything contrary to his precept, it is not obedience, but contumacy and transgression. But if he did not will it, we could not do it. I admit this. But do we act wickedly for the purpose of yielding obedience to him? This, assuredly, he does not command. Nay, rather we rush on, not thinking of what he wishes, but so inflamed by our own passionate lust, that, with destined purpose, we strive against him. And in this way, while acting wickedly, we serve his righteous ordination, since in his boundless wisdom he well knows how to use bad instruments for good purposes.  — John Calvin

Not really a solution to the problem, is it?  Good effort though.  And, no, I don’t have a solution to the problem of providence and theodicy either.  I call it an unfathomable mystery:

  • God is in control.
  • Evil happens by his permission.

Where there is No Church Discipline, There is No Church

In 1538 Calvin was beset all around by difficulties.  Indeed…

Calvin was fettered not only in his preaching but still more in the discharge of his pastoral duties. ‘In general,’ he wrote to Bullinger, February 21, ‘we are looked on here as preachers rather than pastors. We cannot have a Church that will stand unless the discipline of the apostles be restored.’ However, he had not lost hope. ‘There is much alteration which we earnestly desire,’ he further wrote to his friend at Zurich, ‘but which can be effected only by our applying ourselves to it with faith, diligence, and perseverance. Oh, that a pure and sincere agreement might at length be established among us! Would there be any obstacle in the way of the meeting of a synod, at which everyone might propose what he believed to be useful to the Churches?’*

The interesting thing here is the highlighted sentence. Pondering that fact reveals incredible truths.  Any Church that lacks theological standards enforced by the necessary discipline will not, cannot, and should not survive.  Why?  Because when churches abandon core beliefs and practices; or rather when Church members do, they cease to be Church members and those churches that allow it cease to be churches.

*J. H. Merle D’aubigné D.D. and William L. R. Cates, History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin (vol. 6; London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1975), 435.

Annoy Calvin, Go To Prison

calvin_chairAn interesting tidbit from Calvin’s life is related by his lovestruck biographer Stebbing, who wrote

Calvin sometimes used very strong language towards those before him [in proceedings before the consistory], calling them hypocrites, and that they returned the abuse, a conduct which he did not leave unpunished. On such occasions he would rise indignantly from his seat, command attention, and require the consistory to give the matter over to the council, that the offence might be punished as it deserved.  As soon as the consistory entertained a suspicion against any one, it referred to the council, who ordered the accused to prison.*

In case you missed it in Stebbing’s flowery prose- When folk disagreed with Calvin and spoke abusively, he would report them to the city government which would then summarily send the offender off to prison. How awesome is that.  Those were the good old days.

*The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer (Vol. 1, p. 447).

Fun Facts From Church History: Calvin Has Some Demands

Before he will return to Geneva, Calvin expects certain conditions to be met.

On February 19, 1541, he says to them, ‘I beg you to bethink yourselves of all the means of wisely constituting your church, that it may be ruled according to the command of our Lord.’† Calvin was therefore anxious to make the rulers at Geneva understand that one condition of his return was that the church should be well governed and morals well regulated. He did not wish to take anyone by surprise. If he is to be pastor at Geneva, he will reprove the disobedient, as the word of God commands.*

I wonder how many Presbyterian pastors tell churches they will come and smite the wicked…

*D’aubigné, J. H. M., History of the reformation in Europe in the time of Calvin (Vol. 7, p. 13).

Calvin has a Valentine for You: His Heart…

Which he isn’t giving to you, he’s giving it to God.  Because you’re scum.

I stole this from Balserak and I don’t care.

There’s No Cause for Believers to Be Unduly Fearful of Death

angel of deathThe faithful ought not to torment themselves above measure with unhappy cares and anxieties; and … they should not be so distracted with fear as to cease from performing their duty, nor decline and faint in such a manner as to grasp at vain hopes and deceitful helps, nor give way to fears and alarms; and, in fine, that they should not be afraid of death, which, though it destroys the body, cannot extinguish the soul. — John Calvin