Disclaimer: About This Blog

THIS BLOG IS: my personal journey of how I am rethinking some of my spiritual beliefs.
THIS BLOG IS NOT: intended to point fingers at people who I think are wrong.
I do not believe the final judgement will be based on how many correct answers we get on a theology exam. I believe many people throughout history have had genuine relationships with our Lord and Saviour Jesus, despite holding questionable beliefs and practices. I make no claim to having it all figured out or being your judge. If we end up disagreeing over these topics I pray we can find a way to demonstrate grace.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

John Calvin

Some people still call themselves "Calvanist" or "new Calvanist". What do they mean by that? If it means they are in agreement with some of the teachings of John Calvin that's likely OK. But why can't they just say they are follower's of Christ? Are there some teachings of Calvin that are different than the teachings of Christ? If they are the same, why the need for another label?

We need to consider that whenever we hold to labels like "Calvinist" or "new Calvinist", we divide Christ's body. Striving for unity with all those who follow Christ must be an essential part of our faith. (See my previous post on why unity is essential.)

Here is some stuff I did not learn at Bible school about John Calvin. Maybe I was not paying attention in class... or maybe it was just omitted. However, I think it is worth knowing, since it was part of John Calvin's system of beliefs... the same system of beliefs that has been very influential in the Christian traditions I've been involved with.

John Calvin (and his church/political partners) had his opponents sentenced to death. One source states 58 death sentences.
The conduct of all citizens was examined and regulated by a consistory of 5 pastors and 12 lay elders elected by the council. The consistory had the right to visit every family annually and search its home; to summon any citizen before it; to excommunicate, which meant virtually automatic banishment from the city by the council; to force attendance at weekly sermons; to prohibit gambling, drunkenness, dancing, profane songs, and immodest dress; and to forbid all forms of the theater. The colors of clothing, hair styles, and amounts of food permissible at the table were regulated. It was forbidden to name children after saints, and it was a criminal offense to speak ill of Calvin or the rest of the clergy. The press was severely censored, with writings judged to be immoral and books devoted to Catholicism or other false teaching forbidden. Punishment for first offenses was usually a fine and for repetition of minor crimes, banishment. Fornication was punishable by exile, and adultery, blasphemy, and idolatry by death. Education, which Calvin regarded as inseparable from religion, was very carefully regulated, and new schools were established. Charity was placed under municipal administration to eliminate begging. Thus the whole life of Geneva was placed under a rigid discipline and a single Church from which no deviation was permitted.
Another man who accused Calvin of false doctrines was forced to parade around town begging God for forgiveness.

He may have had many great intellectual ideas for a better form of Christianity. But was this any better than the injustices done by the Catholic Church he was protesting in those days? From my brief readings it sounds like he helped form and lead a very authoritarian form of institutional church.

OK, Calvin probably can not take blame for all of this... it was likely partially due to how things worked in those days...

but you won't catch me saying I'm a Calvinist or "New Calvinist"!

Why can't we all simply follow Christ?
"What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized into the name of Paul?" (1 Corinthians 1:12-13 NIV)


Tiffany Jane said...

so very glad i wasnt born in those days is all i can say!

Jonathan said...

Yes, Tiffany - me too. I'd likely either be hiding out in a cave, or burning at a stake.