Tag Archive - Calvin

Baptists and Calvin: Does Calvinism Lead to ‘Antimission’ Sentiments?

The accusation that Calvinism leads to antimission sentiments has sometimes been leveled, but as Michael Horton shows in his recent book For Calvin, nothing could be further from the truth. Horton observes, in the section titled “Calvinism and Christian Missions” (p. 151), that, in fact, Calvinism has been and remains one of the most important sources of Christian missionaries, with no less than Thomas Mayhew, David Brainerd, David Livingstone, Robert Morrison, and Jonathan Goforth stemming from Reformed churches and practicing Reformed theology. Quoting Horton—

With growing interest in Calvinism in Southern Baptist circles, some leaders have expressed alarm that it will dampen the denomination’s enthusiasm for evangelism and missions . . . . [But] the Southern Baptist Convention sponsors “about 5000 home missionaries” and “more than 5000 foreign missionaries.” For a denomination of sixteen million, this comes to approximately “0.000625 missionaries per capita.”

By contrast, the 310,000 member Presbyterian Church in America has “about 600 foreign missionaries.” That is 0.001935 foreign missionaries per capita, commissioned and supported by the PCA. Thus, the PCA supports three times as many foreign missionaries per capita as the SBC supports foreign and domestic missions combined (p. 162).

And the PCA gives twice as much per dollar to international missions as the SBC does (p. 162).

So much, then, for the absurd assertion that Calvinism leads to antimissionary sentiments.

But, some may protest, Calvin himself laid the foundation for less interest in missions with his understanding of the doctrine of predestination. So what does Calvin say himself about missionary activity? In his commentary on the Gospels, at Matthew 28:19, he writes

Here Christ, by removing the distinction, makes the Gentiles equal to the Jews, and admits both indiscriminately to a participation in the covenant. Such is also the import of the term go out; for the prophets under the law had limits assigned to them, but now, the wall of partition having been broken down, (Eph. 2:14,) the Lord commands the ministers of the gospel to go to a distance, in order to spread the doctrine of salvation in every part of the world. For though, as we have lately suggested, the right of the first-born, at the very commencement of the gospel, remained among the Jews, still the inheritance of life was common to the Gentiles. Thus was fulfilled that prediction of Isaiah, (49:6,) and others of a similar nature, that Christ was given for a light of the Gentiles, that he might be the salvation of God to the end of the earth. Mark means the same thing by every creature; for when peace has been proclaimed to those that are within the Church, the same message reaches those who are at a distance, and were strangers, (Eph. 2:17, 19.) How necessary it was that the apostles should be distinctly informed of the calling of the Gentiles, is evident from this consideration, that even after having received the command, they felt the greatest horror at approaching them, as if by doing so they polluted themselves and their doctrine.

I’ve emphasized the most relevant materials. Calvin was himself convinced of the necessity of the preaching of the Gospel to the ‘ends of the earth.’ Calvinism, then, does not in any respect lead to ‘antimissionary’ sentiments. Quite the contrary.

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Jim West

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John Calvin the Match Maker

I was reading Calvin in His Letters the other day. This truly fascinating book serves as a guide to the Letters of John Calvin. It was interesting to see such personal correspondences, like this one where Calvin is assisting a friend in the hunt for a wife for a friend. Calvin writes:

Think of what you are going to do, and then write to me again what resolution you have come to. The more we inquire, the more numerous and the better are the testimonies with which the young lady is honoured. Accordingly, I am now seeking to discover the mind of her father. As soon as we have reached any certainty I will let you know. Meanwhile, do you make yourself ready. This match does not please Perrin, because he wishes to force upon you the daughter of Rameau. That makes me the more solicitous about pre-occupying the ground in good time, lest we be obstructed by having to make excuses. To-day, as far as I gather, he will enter upon the subject with me, for we are both invited by Corna to supper. I will gain time by a civil excuse. It would tend to promote the matter if I, with your permission, should ask her. I have seen her twice: she is very modest, with an exceedingly becoming countenance and person. Of her manners, all speak so highly that John Parvi lately told me he had been captivated by her. Adieu; may the Lord govern you by His counsel, and bless us in an undertaking of such moment

Henry Henderson, Calvin in His Letters (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 93-94.

Just a simple (and interesting) reminder that Calvin wasn’t stuck at his desk studying and writing all the time. He even tried his hand at being a match maker from time to time.

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Glasses for the Soul

In my last post I commented on what I feel like is one of the most commonly quoted pieces of John Calvin. The irony, of course, is that the quote comes from the first line of his first book in Institutes of the Christian Religion. It got me thinking to some of my favorite quotes of Calvin. Ironically, I fall into my own joke when I find one of my favorite quotes from the early chapters of Institutes.

In chapter VI of Book I, Calvin is helping readers understand the importance of Scripture in knowing God. I have always kept the image he painted in my mind when I explain the importance of God’s Word to people. I love it and, if you’ve never read it, I hope you enjoy it just as much.

For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any book, however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written, are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly.

John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010).

As always, Calvin communicates in such a clear and compelling manner. I can’t help but read and shake my head yes. I really love this quote. How about you? What’s your favorite Calvin quote?

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What Did Catholics Really Think About Calvin

The following excerpt was taken from an 1877 issue of the The Tablet, a British Catholic weekly journal that has been published continually since 1840. This article was printed just over 300 years after Calvin’s death and shows the credit given to Calvin for his role in the “rebellion.”

It cannot be denied that Calvin was the greatest man of the Protestant rebellion. But for him Luther’s movements would probably have died out with him and his associates. Calvin organised it, gave it form and consistency, and his spirit has sustained it to this day. If Luther preceded him, it is still by his name, rather than Luther’s, that the rebellion should be called; and the only form of Protestantism that still shows any sign of life is unquestionably Calvinism. It is Calvinism that sustains Methodism, that gives what little it has to Lutheranism, and that prevents a very general return of Anglicans to the bosom of the church. It is hardly too much to say that no greater heresiarch than John Calvin has ever appeared, or a more daring, subtle, adroit, or successful enemy of the church of God. … Considering the end of man and the purposes of civil society, murder and robbery are light crimes, and the spread of epidemic disease of no consequence, in comparison with the crime which Luther and Calvin perpetrated when they revolted from the church.

Quoted in William Wileman, John Calvin: His Life, His Teaching, and His Influence (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2009), 11.

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