Dave Hunt’s Appalling Misrepresentation of Calvinism

Dave Hunt’s book about Calvinism, titled “What Love is This? Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God” slanderously misrepresents John Calvin, Calvinism, Calvinists, and Augustine and, as the title implies, is badly biased against Calvinism.  Although he says he has spoken to many Calvinists, the information he has received from them is not necessarily representative of Calvinism; in fact, I’m astonished at some of the fanciful things Dave says he has been told by Calvinists.  Anyone who reads his book and accepts what it says will not have a right understanding of Calvinism and therefore of the gospel. 

Dave should have more accurately and more honestly entitled his book: “How Some Calvinists Misunderstand Calvinism” because he quotes heavily from other people’s words about Calvin instead of what Calvin himself wrote.  If he had done this, the size of his own book would be substantially reduced and those who sincerely want to understand Calvin and Calvinism would have a better chance of doing so.  I don’t care how many Calvinist authors and scholars Dave has referred to if he hasn’t enquired of Calvin himself.  Dave has taken anybody’s word who has anything negative to say about Calvin and shovelled them all into his own book, thus producing an anthology of sayings.

Calvin Used the Latin Vulgate???

Dave writes: “Along with the writings of Augustine, the Latin Vulgate also molded Calvin’s’ thoughts as expressed in his Institutes of the Christian Religion.  Fluent in Latin, Calvin had long used that corrupted translation of the Bible, which, since its composition by Jerome at the beginning of the fifth century, was the official Bible of Roman Catholics” (Kindle 12%).  He gives as a reference for this bizarre claim, Samuel Fisk quoting David Schaff (1985).  Calvin’s name as a reference is notably absent.

Unfortunately for Dave Hunt, Samuel Fisk, and David Schaff, Calvin utterly rejected the Vulgate, as we see from his reply to the Council of Trent’s (1546) Fourth Session in which they made the Vulgate the official version to be used by Catholics.  Calvin replied:

“First, they ordain that in doctrine we are not to stand on Scripture alone, but also on things handed down by tradition. Secondly, in forming a catalogue of Scripture, they mark all the books with the same chalk, and insist on placing the Apocrypha in the same rank with the others. Thirdly, repudiating all other versions whatsoever, they retain the Vulgate only, and order it to be authentic. Lastly, in all passages either dark or doubtful, they claim the right of interpretation without challenge…..Add to this, that they provide themselves with new supports when they give full authority to the Apocryphal books. Out of the second of the Maccabees they will prove Purgatory and the worship of saints; out of Tobit satisfactions, exorcisms, and what not. From Ecclesiasticus they will borrow not a little. For from whence could they better draw their dregs? I am not one of those, however, who would entirely disapprove the reading of those books; but in giving them an authority which they never before possessed, what end was sought but just to have the use of spurious paint in coloring their errors? But as the Hebrew or Greek original often serves to expose their ignorance in quoting Scripture, to check their presumption, and so keep down their thrasonic [bragging, boastful] boasting, they ingeniously meet this difficulty also by determining that the Vulgate translation only is to be held authentic. Farewell, then, to those who have spent much time and labor in the study of languages, that they might search for the genuine sense of Scripture at the fountainhead!”.….

….In condemning all translations except the Vulgate, as the error is more gross, so the edict is more barbarous. The sacred oracles of God were delivered by Moses and the Prophets in Hebrew, and by the Apostles in Greek. That no corner of the world might be left destitute of so great a treasure, the gift of interpretation was added. It came to pass — I know not by what means, but certainly neither by judgment nor right selection — that of the different versions, one [Jerome’s Vulgate] became the favourite of the unlearned, or those at least who, not possessing any knowledge of languages, desired some kind of help to their ignorance. Those, on the other hand, who are acquainted with the languages perceive that this version teems with innumerable errors; and this they make manifest by the clearest evidence.

The decrees of the Council of Trent and Calvin’s responses to them can be found on the link below.  It is clear that Calvin not only repudiated the Vulgate but the apocrypha as well.

https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/calvin_trentantidote.html

Dave continues his attack by claiming that the Vulgate influenced the popular bible versions in the age of the Reformation, especially Luther’s German bible.  He wants us to believe that from Luther the influence of the Vulgate passed on to the Authorised King James Version and the Geneva Bible.  He says that “As the Vulgate was filled with Augustinianisms, the Geneva Bible was filled with Calvinism, in the text as well as in voluminous notes….this should be sufficient to trace the influence from that ultimate Roman Catholic, Augustine, through the Latin Vulgate and his writings, upon Calvin – and through Calvin, into the Geneva Bible and on into the King James Bible”.  So, according to Dave Hunt, the KJV is tainted by Catholic doctrines (Kindle 12%).

Again, despite all his references to other authors, Dave’s claim is false.  Augustine had nothing to do with the production of the Vulgate – it was all Jerome’s work.  In fact, Augustine pleaded with Jerome not to proceed with translating the bible into Latin.

“….I beseech you not to devote your labour to the work of translating into Latin the sacred canonical books, unless you follow the method in which you have translated Job, viz. with the addition of notes, to let it be seen plainly what differences there are between this version of yours and that of the Septuagint [Greek translation of the Hebrew], whose authority is worthy of highest esteem”.

http://www.bible-researcher.com/vulgate2.html

Calvin and Augustine

A large part of Dave Hunt’s book is spent condemning Augustine’s theology and then imposing guilt by association onto Calvin.

In chapter 4 of his book, under the heading “Calvinism’s Surprising Catholic Connection”, he writes: “As for Calvin’s theology, there is no question that rather than deriving it from a diligent study of the Bible, he imposed upon the Bible certain preconceived ideas from his Roman Catholic background which locked him into an erroneous interpretation.  Many leading Calvinists agree that the writings of Augustine were the actual source of most of what is known as Calvinism today” (Hunt, D. 2006, Kindle page  

Calvin derived his theology from Augustine???

Hunt accuses Calvin of getting his theology from Augustine and lists or quotes several authors to prove it.  The claim that Calvin referenced Augustine in his Institutes is true, and neither Calvin nor anybody else tries to hide that fact.  So what’s the big deal?  He did that with multitudes of other of the Church Fathers, along with various pagan Greeks and Romans.  The reason Calvin liked Augustine so much was because Augustine explained and defended so much biblical truth so clearly – what Christian doesn’t love somebody like that?  But Calvin didn’t derive ALL his theology from Augustine; he saw Augustine’s theology in scripture, and that was his authority.  He liked Augustine because Augustine explained scripture so well.

And neither did Calvin adopt ALL of Augustine’s theology.  A Catholic enemy of Calvin and Protestantism, Canon William Barry of Leamington USA, wrote of Calvin in an article for a multi-volume “Catholic Encyclopedia” in 1908: “To the modern world, however, Calvin stands peculiarly for the Reformation; his doctrine is supposed to contain the essence of the gospel; and multitudes who reject Christianity mean merely the creed of Geneva.  Why does this happen?  Because, we answer, Calvin gave himself out as following closely in the steps of St. Paul and St Augustine….His ‘pure doctrine’ is gained by appealing, not to tradition, the ‘deposit’ of faith, but to argument in abstract terms exercised upon Scripture….Calvin annihilates the entire space, with all its developments, which lie between the death of St John and the sixteenth century.  He does indeed quote Augustine, but he leaves out all that Catholic foundation on which the Doctor of Grace built (Wileman, W, 1909, Kindle edition 2020) – emphases mine.  This Catholic enemy of Calvin complains that Calvin only quoted Augustine’s “non-Catholic” writing.

While on the subject of Calvin’s Catholic enemies, there was a vengeful converted monk (he later returned to the Catholic Church) who vilified Calvin in print.  “But Calvin’s theological certitude withstood many challenges and conflicts, including the trial of Jerome Bolsec, a former Catholic monk who had become a Protestant physician.  Bolsec vigorously countered Calvin’s doctrine of predestination – the very underpinning of his clerical and civil authority.  (Bolsec was banished and later wrote a slanderous and historically destructive biography of Calvin). In 1553, as public support for Calvin again ebbed lower, his supporters were once again galvanised by the arrest, trial, and execution of Miguel Servetus, the infamous author of a book that discounted the more universally accepted and fundamental doctrine of the Trinity.  Servetus had been arrested when he travelled to Geneva, and was later burned at the stake, though Calvin appealed for a more humane execution” (Preface to “The Institutes of the Christian Religion” p. xiv). 

But even the online Catholic Encyclopedia says of Bolsec’s biographies of Calvin and Beza, “These works are violent in tone, and find little favour with protestant writers. Their historical statements cannot always be relied on”CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Jerome-Hermes Bolsec (newadvent.org)

So beware when reading the various horror stories about Calvin circulating on the net today.

Whether Dave Hunt likes it or not, the modern churches have inherited the theology of the Church Fathers – especially of Augustine – and of the Reformers.  All the cardinal doctrines of Christianity were worked out, loudly and sometimes very violently, in theological debates against heretical views and confirmed in Councils in which the whole of Eastern and Western Christianity were represented; doctrines such as the Trinity, the various aspects of the Person and Work of Christ, the Virgin Birth, the two natures and the two wills of Christ, and so on.  But for them, we wouldn’t even be Christian today, but more likely Gnostic; today’s churches would regard Jesus as not having come in the flesh but only appearing as a human (Docetism); he would not be the divine Son of the Father but a manifestation of the Father (Sabellian); he would not be part of the Trinity (Arianism); he would not have died for sinners – indeed, he would not even have died (Egyptian Gnosticism).  These and most other essential doctrines of Christianity were forged in the fires of debate and persecution and handed down to the churches for all time – and Dave Hunt was a benefactor of their toil, study, teaching, and persecution.

Premillennialism

So it is ironic, or rather, hypocritical, that Dave and his friends denounce Augustine and the Fathers who, they claim, were all Catholic; but when it comes to their precious doctrine of Dispensational Premillennialism, they loudly and proudly trumpet that it was the theology of the early Church and is therefore correct.  But even in this claim, Dave Hunt has got it wrong.  The Premillennialism of the early Church is known as Chiliasm, which Calvin rejected; whereas Dave Hunt’s and the Plymouth Brethren’s Dispensational Pre-tribulational Premillennialism with its restored national Israel and a return to the Old Covenant, the so-called Millennial Temple, Levitical priesthood, animal sacrifices, and rituals, is blasphemous (Gal 1:6-9).  Chiliasm, like Dave’s Dispensational Premillennialism, has Christ reigning on earth for a thousand years, but differs from it by not having the Rapture, and with Israel reigning with Christ along with saved Gentiles, and all together in the one body, the Church (Eph 2:11-22; 3:10, 21; Rom ch 11; 1 Pet 2:2-10 etc.). 

It is also ironic that Dave condemns Calvin for basing his theology on Augustine’s teaching when his pet doctrine of Dispensational Premillennialism is the expression of the Futurist school of prophecy, a doctrine invented by a Catholic priest named Francisco Ribera during the Counter Reformation.  It seems it was designed to take the heat off the Church which was being hammered by Luther, Calvin, and the other Reformers, and their teaching that the Pope is the antichrist of New Testament prophecy.  It has the antichrist as an all-powerful dictator near the end of time who would continue in power for 3½ years.  The Seven Year Tribulation and the Rapture were added later by other Catholics. And, ironically, Ribera was an Augustinian monk.  

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francisco_Ribera

Christian Equals Catholic

It is also important to note that Christians in the first centuries of the Church were universally called Catholics; and the churches were the Catholic Church.  There were no churches known as Orthodox churches, or Protestant churches, or Baptist churches, or Pentecostal churches, even though there were early forms of some of them.  This is evidenced by the line in the Apostles Creed which says: “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church”; and the Nicene Creed, which says: “In one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church”.  When Augustine (354-430) said “I should not believe the gospel unless I were moved to do so by the authority of the Catholic Church”, he was referring to the Catholic Church as it was in his time; and all the other Fathers believed the same.  But just switch “Christian” in his statement for “Catholic”, as he meant it, and there is no problem.

The Church at Rome was willingly acknowledged by all, even in the East, to be the “first among equals” in their Episcopalian system of church government because Rome was the centre of Empire and civilisation; and the church at Rome was founded by the apostles Peter and Paul; and therefore the Roman bishop had the primacy.  It was Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great – 590-604 AD), who is credited as being the Pope who set the Catholic Church up to become the supreme authority in the Church.  And his namesake, Gregory VII (1073-1085), through a series of significant reforms, made it into what it has become today.  And it wasn’t until the division of the Eastern and Western churches in 1054 AD, known as The Great Schism, that the Roman Catholic Church took the name “Catholic” exclusively unto itself; the Eastern churches took the name “Orthodox” as the name for their Communion – these two names describe the two different expressions of Christianity at that time.

So, as part of the early Catholic Church, Augustine made a huge contribution to Western Christianity and culture.  If Augustine’s theology was biblical, then what choice did Calvin have but to accept it?  How could he develop a different theology if Augustine’s theology was right?  Where he thought Augustine expressed a doctrine in a way he thought was correctly stated, Calvin said he felt no need to state it himself – he was honest and didn’t plagiarise Augustine, or steal his ideas and claim them as his own.  And he wasn’t an heresiarch trying to formulate a new theology or found a new church; he was not trying to be original.  Calvin valued scripture above all else; he stood on his own feet – feet which stood firmly on the bible alone. 

Augustine’s Biblical Theology

It’s true that Augustine advocated some wrong understanding of scripture, such as an early form of purgatory (which Calvin rejected); and that he is regarded as the architect of the medieval Church due to his book “The City of God”.   But what about the truth that Augustine proposed, taught, and defended; truth which even Dave Hunt would agree with – or should.  For example:

  • The vital importance of a living faith in Jesus for personal salvation, and not merely church rituals; of a daily walk with Jesus and trust in him who died for every Christian (or Catholic, as he would say).
  • Augustine believed in the necessity of the new birth because of sin; of the necessity of a work of the Holy Spirit in the heart.  The human heart is so corrupt it cannot be repaired but must be renewed.
  • He was the first to state the necessity of remaining part of the visible church, accepting that it could never be perfect because both the wheat and the tares are present in it and will be until the end of time.
  • He taught that humanity is lost in sin and that there is nothing we can do to gain salvation.  Only Christ can save the sinner and the sinner can only be saved through absolute faith and trust in Jesus. 
  • Only Christians can do good works because they are a demonstration of faith in Christ and of the salvation he has given them.  Good works, no matter how beneficial or kind or well-intentioned are nothing better than “splendid sins” (J. C. Ryle’s term), because they are done without faith.  Works do not gain salvation; they come as a result of faith.
  • Augustine taught that the Word of God is to be found in the bible alone, not in Tradition or any human teaching, thus contradicting Catholic teaching.  He saw the bible as a single message from God and his method was designed to prevent verses being taken out of context and saying something that was never intended.
  • He was able to bring the idea of God being love together with the doctrine of the Trinity in a way not seen before.  He taught that love is not a “thing”, so it cannot exist on its own.  Therefore, for God to be love he had to have something or someone to love.  But the object of his love had to be something in himself, otherwise he would not be perfect.  God didn’t need the creation in order to have something to love; if that were true, he wouldn’t be perfect.  The Father is the one who loves; the Son the one who is loved, and the Holy Spirit is the love that flows between them and binds them together.  And the Spirit binds believers to God, making us partakers by adoption of the intrinsic love of the Trinity.
  • Augustine taught that God created the world for a purpose.  Placing his own Triune image in Adam – memory, intellect and will – he designed him as the crowning glory of his creation.  God’s purpose in making the world – why he gave man freedom to disobey and yet not be annihilated as a result; why Satan rebelled and was cast out of heaven instead of being eliminated; why Satan is still the prince of this world and man is subject to him; all these and more, we cannot understand.  God could have done things differently – but he didn’t.  Why?  Despite that we don’t understand, we still have confidence that God has a plan and a purpose which will one day be revealed to us.
  • “Augustine also taught us that the Christian’s life is a journey that we walk by faith.  Within the context of his theology, this is an important complement to the doctrine of predestination which, if it is not personalized, can easily look like a kind of fatalism.  Augustine did not believe that a Christian should just sit back and let events take their course.  To be in a relationship with God means to live with him, to share his thoughts, to have the mind of Christ, and to do his will in the power of the Holy Spirit on a day to day basis.  From birth to death, every waking moment belongs to God, even if we are not believers”
  • Augustine saw Christian life as a mission.  He was very gifted intellectually and highly educated, yet after conversion, he was eventually called to be bishop of a church – an office he never wanted; and at Hippo, a port city of medium commercial importance, and a literary and academic backwater – the kind of place he never wanted to be in and spend his life.  His congregations would have rather gone to the theatre than listen to him, but he remained with and patiently endured them for thirty years.  It was during this time that he wrote against the errors of Donatism and Pelagianism.

Information in these points has been exclusively but selectively taken from the insight and writing of Gerald Bray on: 8 Things We Can Learn from Augustine | Crossway Articles

These are all teachings of Augustine which not only Calvin taught, but Luther also, and the other Reformers.  And it has also been reiterated in the theology of nearly every non-Calvinist and fundamentalist teacher and preacher, such as Wesley, Moody, Torrey, and so on nearly endlessly.  But, more importantly, they are all found in scripture, and when preached by men such as Whitefield, Wesley, Edwards, and Moody, to name a few, wrought salvation in the hearts of multitudes in the great revivals of the past; and by Calvinist missionaries such as William Carey, John Eliot, David Brainerd, Robert Moffatt, Adoniram Judson, John G. Paton, and a host of other Calvinist missionaries who took the gospel to the ends of the earth. 

As can be seen above, much of Augustine’s theology is the blueprint for Protestantism.  Other parts of his theology were the blueprint for the Mediaeval Church, some of them being against scripture; and these Calvin rejected.  So what is Dave Hunt on about?

Calvinism is Biblical Doctrine Formulated

And it is true that Calvin also had some wrong ideas; but show me a Christian who is perfect.  Dave Hunt’s theology of free will in salvation i.e. the sinner being able to choose to become a Christian, is unbiblical, so he is in no position to cast aspersions on others; and his Plymouth Brethren’s (lack of) biblical ecclesiology is likewise unbiblical, as is his Dispensational Premillennialism.  But I don’t reject him for these.  Neither do I reject Calvin or Augustine for their wrong views – I reject their wrong views but I also accept the right things they taught, and am profoundly grateful for having been a Calvinist for my 50+ years of being a Christian, having been introduced to it in the first few months of my Christian life.  But I believe and hold to the doctrines of Calvinism because I see them permeating the whole bible; they are the warp and the woof of scripture.  Calvinism is the only theology that gives the whole glory of salvation to God, and that’s what attracted me to it and convinced me of the truth of it.  It is the only theology which makes sense of the whole bible, and even of life. 

“Calvin did not derive his theology from the bible”

“As for Calvin’s theology, there is no question that rather than deriving it from a diligent study of the Bible, he imposed upon the Bible certain preconceived ideas from his Roman Catholic background which locked him into an erroneous interpretation”.  It’s hard to believe that anybody could write such absolute rubbish – it not only displays Dave’s ignorance of his subject, it is slanderous.

I wonder if Dave developed his own theology without reference to anybody else?  Did he not have a Christian background which would have influenced him unconsciously as he developed and grew?  And did he not imbibe the teaching of his parents as he grew from childhood to adulthood?  Or did his parents keep totally silent about Christianity, keep him from any kind of church attendance or activity, and then leave it totally up to him to find God in his own time and his own way, without any external influences?  Did he never read a book or hear a sermon which didn’t contribute to or influence his theological understanding and help him develop it?  Were his theology and ecclesiology and eschatology not determined and shaped by the Plymouth Brethren, of whom he was a member?  Did he just start reading the bible one day and work out a full-blown theology without reference to anybody else?  Of course not!  Nobody does.  As Protestant Christians we have inherited a detailed religion which has been shaped and developed by many godly men and women throughout history, by Councils, by creeds and denominational Statements of Faith, by Christian scholars and academics, bible commentaries, and a host of other means that God gave to the churches for their instruction, development, and edification.

So why can’t Dave allow John Calvin to have come from a Catholic background to new birth in Christ through faith alone and scripture alone?  Why can’t he accept a man with such a brilliant mind and godly spirit as John Calvin, an effective opponent of the Catholic Church, and allow that the Holy Spirit worked in him through the scriptures and the theology of the church fathers, especially Augustine, and who experienced the work of regeneration and new birth through the Holy Spirit’s grace in his heart?  Does he really believe that Calvin never searched the scriptures for himself, as did the Bereans (Acts 17:10-12)?  Where then, did he get his immense knowledge and understanding of scripture? Didn’t Calvin have his own mind which enabled him to discern whether what the Fathers, including Augustine, taught was biblical or not?  His writings show that he did – has Dave read anything that Calvin wrote?  Does he really think that Calvin was incapable of changing his mind and his theology from Catholicism to the gospel when convicted by the truth of the bible and gracious power of the Holy Spirit? 

How did Calvin manage to write several editions of his Institutes if he wasn’t saved, and preach through almost every book of the bible; how did he manage to train pastors and send missionaries and establish Christian churches throughout Europe, and even as far as Brazil?  And why have so many churches and denominations been built on a Calvinist view of the bible?  Why were most of the well-known missionaries Calvinist?  Why were most of the major leaders and influencers of the great revivals upon whom fell the Spirit Calvinists, if Calvin’s theology was “imposed upon the Bible [by] certain preconceived ideas from his Roman Catholic background which locked him into an erroneous interpretation”?  What rubbish is this, to misquote the subtitle of Dave’s fallacious book?  If Calvin was Catholic, why did he reject Augustine’s Catholic theology but not his biblical theology?  If he was still Catholic in his thinking, why did he reject the Mass and transubstantiation, baptismal regeneration, the apocrypha, auricular confession, priestly absolution, perpetual virginity of Mary, primacy of the Pope, purgatory, and every other Catholic dogma?  Indeed, he wrote against the Catholic Church and its unbiblical teaching and practice in his Institutes and other writings, condemning the Catholic Church and everything to do with it as being of antichrist.  Why did the churches that he established and built have nothing Catholic in them?  Why did he send missionaries to Catholic-dominated Europe if he was Catholic?  Why didn’t he submit himself and his actions to the Pope?  Hunt’s accusation that Calvin was Catholic is totally ridiculous and it demeans and detracts from the good things that Dave taught, and makes him look a fool. 

Calvin and Servetus

In a biography of Calvin by William Wileman, after describing the details of Michael Servetus’ heresy and his escape from the fires of the Inquisition in Lyons because of his gross heresies, he tells us that Servetus came to Geneva indirectly where he was arrested by the Council which was at this time opposed to Calvin.  Calvin did not want Servetus’ death, only the retraction of his heresies.  Subsequently he drew up thirty eight articles of examination.  After examinations of Servetus, the articles, with Servetus’ replies, “were sent to the churches of Zurich, Berne, Basle, and Schaffhausen, with a request for their opinion…..All these circumstances prove that his trial was lengthy, deliberate, and careful; and quite in harmony with the requirements of the age.  All the Reformers who were consulted approved of the sentence that was pronounced” (Kindle page 72).  Both the Geneva Councils were in favour of capital punishment, and he was sentenced to death by burning the following day.  Calvin’s biographer tells us that Calvin pleaded with the judges for a more humane judgment, but in vain.  Then Farel came to Geneva so that both he and Calvin could pray with Servetus, “and expressed themselves tenderly towards him.  Both of them pleaded with the Council for the substitution of a milder mode of death; but the syndics were inflexible” (Kindle page 72). 

Wileman then summarises his discussion of the events surrounding Calvin and Servetus: “The main facts therefore may now be summarized thus: 1. That Servetus was guilty of blasphemy, of a kind and degree which is still punishable here in England by imprisonment.  2. That his sentence was in accordance with the spirit of the age.  3. That he had been sentenced to the same punishment by the Inquisition at Vienne.  4. That the sentence was pronounced by the Councils of Geneva, Calvin having no power either to condemn or to save him.  5. That Calvin and others visited the unhappy man in his last hours, treated him with much kindness, and did all they could to have the sentence mitigated” (Kindle page 73).

Dave, however, uses different sources to mine which show Calvin to have been more cruel in his dealing with Servetus and in which he takes full responsibility for his active role of Servetus’ execution.

I don’t excuse Calvin, Augustine, or any Christian for executing people for heretical views.  The apostle Paul and New Testament means of punishment for them was “To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Cor 6:5).  And I agree with Dave Hunt that being “a child of their times” is no excuse because they had the bible to correct them of this wrong view.

It’s sad to say, but if we rejected every Christian and every Christian church or organisation because of their behaviour, we would reject most of them.  We should rather reject their bad behaviour but accept their doctrine when it is in accordance with scripture.  Jesus himself gave this instruction: “Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever that they bid you, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say and do not” (Matt 23:1-3).

John Calvin’s Conversion

Wileman describes the discussion between Calvin and his cousin, Robert Olivetan, which led to Calvin’s salvation and new birth.  He says, in part: There are only two religions in the world’.  This appears to have been the sword-thrust from the lips of Olivetan which silenced his cousin.  He persisted in showing that one religion was invented by man, and consisted in the supposed merit of good works; and that the religion that came from God was wrought in the heart by God himself as its Author and Finisher.

In plain terms, he pleaded that salvation is entirely of grace, through faith, not of works, but the gift of God…..The arrow of conviction having thus been fixed in the heart and conscience of the young student, none but the same hand could draw it out.  Calvin could not comfort himself, nor would he accept comfort from his cousin.  But Olivetan did all he could to persuade Calvin to study the Scriptures…..God continued to show him more clearly every day that there was no salvation by the works of the law or by human merit; that the law could only curse him, and that his own works were defiled and dead.  Herein was the whole of the Reformation being enacted first in the soul of the Reformer.  It is ever so.

None but a saved sinner can preach salvation by grace; none but a crucified man can preach a crucified Christ.  ‘Every time I went down into myself’ he tells us of this conflict, ‘or raised my heart to God, so extreme a horror fell upon me that no purifications, no satisfactions, could cure me of it.  And the more closely I considered myself, the sharper were the goads that pressed my conscience, so that there remained no other comfort than to forget myself’….

…..In this trouble of soul, Calvin went to the Bible.  He opened, he read, he discovered.  As he continued to open the Word, it was opened to his renewed understanding.  As he read, it was read to him by its Author.  As he discovered its holy doctrines, they were applied to him by the hand that wrote them.  In them he learned this essential truth: ‘Neither is there salvation in any other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’.

At length the day dawned, and the darkness fled away.  As he read and looked away from self, he came to this: ‘But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed’ (Isaiah 53:5).

By the application of this word he received the atonement, joyfully believing in Jesus.  ‘O Father’, he responded, ‘His sacrifice has appeased Thy wrath; His blood has washed away my impurities; His cross has borne my curse; His death has atoned for me!’

On that day salvation came to that heart (Luke 19:9), and the Reformation in France was begun.  The entrance of God’s words gave light to Calvin, and lighted a candle that is burning to this day” (Kindle pages 14 – 17; emphases added).

References

Hunt, D. 2006, “What Love is This?  Calvinism’s Misrepresentation of God”, 3rd edition, Pub. The Berean Call USA (Kindle edition)

“John Calvin: His Life, His Teaching, And His Influence”, by William Wileman, pub E4 Group, 2020.  Original publication details: William Wileman’s (1848-1944) John Calvin: His Life, His Teaching and His Influence (London: Robert Banks & Son, ca. 1909)