November 26, 2020

Adjectives and Calvinists: A Killer Combination

No one….No one….excels at rhetoric like Calvinists. I’m sorry guys, love ya, but some of you are the biggest fan clubbers I’ve ever seen. Brian Mclaren doesn’t have this kind of devotion. And N.T. Wright can only dream.

Calvin’s birthday has given the rhetorical athletes a chance to really strut their stuff. I know we all can brag, but short of Catholics going on about the saints, do you ever hear anything quite like this? (Note: Please start “William Tell Overture.”)

Towering over the centuries of church history, there stands one figure of such monumental importance that he still commands attention and arouses intrigue, even five hundred years after his appearance on the world stage. Called “one of the truly great men of all time,” he was a driving force so significant that his influence shaped the church and Western culture beyond that of any other theologian or pastor. His masterful expositions of Scripture laid down the doctrinal distinctives of the Protestant Reformation, making him arguably the leading architect of the Protestant cause. His theological thunder defined and articulated the core truths of that history-altering movement in sixteenth-century Europe.

In turn, those lofty ideas helped fashion the founding principles of Western civilization, giving rise to the republican form of government, the ideals of public education, and the philosophy of free-market capitalism. A world-class theologian, a revered exegete, a renowned teacher, an ecclesiastical statesman, an influential Reformer — he was all of these and more. His name was John Calvin.

I think I need to buy a dictionary of adjectives. I’m feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck.

Comments

  1. Considering the state of the world economy today, do they really want to saddle Calvin with the responsibility for free-market capitalism? 😉

  2. Wait…Western civilization was founded AFTER Calvin? I mean, I know we protestants are often accused of thinking that Christianity stopped with the apostles and began again with the Reformation, but this is beyond even that!

  3. I just dawned on me that the whole Calvinist/Arminian things sounds a whole lot like “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Cephas.”

    I’ll settle for being a plain old Christian.

  4. Christopher Albee says

    I think John Calvin would be mortified to read this accounting of him.

  5. Wow, Calvin sounds almost as monumental as Christ himself!!!

  6. Yeah, yeah, yeah…. Like absolutely NO ONE else had anything to do with the Reformation. Nothing like a little selective historical amnesia…bunch of drooling fanboys.

  7. If you guys really cared about the reformation, you’d print up a Calvin’s birthday t-shirt. ***ducks/runs***

  8. I agree with Christopher. I think any godly person would be uncomfortable with such an account of themselves. It seems like this person is trying to flatter a dead dude, no disrespect.

    Oh yeah, Congrats on being born about 500 years ago John.

  9. You were foreordained from before the creation of the universe to say that, Michael 🙂

  10. Ya know, I get tired of hearing everyone else arguing over what Calvin said, what he meant, and whether He was right. What better occasion, then, to finally open those dusty books and read what he said for myself.

    My pastor said Calvin’s institutes were excellent reading for when you are having trouble sleeping at night. We’ll see if he uses as many adjectives. Maybe it’s something inherent in reformed theology that calls for vividly colorful descriptions of everything 😛

  11. “(H)e was a driving force so significant that his influence shaped the church and Western culture beyond that of any other theologian or pastor.”

    I suppose, to be fair, without Calvin there would have been no Calvinists. And no Calvinists means we probably wouldn’t have heard of St. Francis de Sales. And no St. Francis de Sales would mean no patron saint for journalists – a body of professionals who, frankly, need all the saints they can get – so thanks for that, Jean!

  12. I guess I was predestined to not celebrate Calvin’s birthday.

  13. The numbers that show Catholics, Baptists, and Lutherans each outnumber the Reformed/ Calvinists.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations_by_number_of_members#Protestantism_-_540_million

  14. Add that to the pile of evidence that demonstrates Calvinists think the most important century of Christian history was the 16th… rather than the 1st.

  15. Brian said,

    I just dawned on me that the whole Calvinist/Arminian things sounds a whole lot like “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Cephas.”

    I’ll settle for being a plain old Christian.

    Heh. So, let me get this straight, Brian…

    Your response to “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Cephas” is… “I am of Christ”?

  16. Adam O: I am in awe of the other man on planet earth whom sola mommy believes to be apostate. Salute!

  17. Substitute the word “Luther” in that paragraph, and I would find it delightfully accurate.

    : )

  18. Just think of what people will be saying about N.T. Wright in 440 or so years.

  19. The William Tell Overture isn’t quite right for this.

    I think the Chicago Bulls introduction would work a whole lot better.

  20. Jugulum said:

    Brian said,

    I just dawned on me that the whole Calvinist/Arminian things sounds a whole lot like “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Cephas.”

    I’ll settle for being a plain old Christian.

    Heh. So, let me get this straight, Brian…

    Your response to “I am of Paul” or “I am of Apollos” or “I am of Cephas” is… “I am of Christ”?

    I’m from the Churches of Christ; we have this “Christ clique” thing down pat. 😉

  21. Monk,
    This has got to be your dumbest post. While Calvin was not all your blogger made him out to be, he was a good and great man whose memory deserves better. Maybe you can re-read your piece on Gene Scott to see how Christian leaders can be honored without being worshiped.

  22. My dumbest post ever?

    You need to spend more time in the archives.

    BTW, did you see the “laugh or else” category? I believe you’ve chosen “else.”

    I had no comments on Calvin’s significance whatsoever.

    I did have some comment on excessive efforts in rhetoric.

  23. Haha. That’s pretty much every college paper I ever turned in. On ANYTHING.

  24. As a Calvinist, I think that we should be able to laugh at some of these interesting observations. The comments, however, seem to be loaded with the same type of overkill that iMonk wrote about.

  25. Hey–if Calvin was a good enough teacher for the Apostle Paul, then he’s good enough for me!

  26. MP, no disrespect to Calvin, but anything that starts off “Towering over the centuries of church history” gives me an image of a giant Calvin ready to stomp Zurich a la Godzilla and Tokyo.

  27. Wow, somebody seems to have rattled a few cages. I love it!

  28. You should see the ones I’m not posting.

    Which btw, those of you who want to go all serious about this, for or against, aren’t going to make it past moderation.

  29. Where did you find that quote anyways, imonk?

  30. Ligonier. It’s an intro to a page on Calvin. It’s written by Steve Lawson.

    http://www.ligonier.org/publishing_teachingseries_calvin.php

  31. All kidding aside, Calvin has turned my household upside down. (And not necessarily in a good way.)

  32. “…— he was all of these and more.”

    What more is there? Yes, it does remind me of hyper-pious descriptions of saints.

  33. I think we are all well aware of the irritation calvinists can bestow upon us with their intellecual snobbery , their flowery oratory , their 10,000 word dissertations on every subject that no one has the time or energy to read and the general annoyance of being abosutely correct about everything. Yet I believe they are vital part of Christianity with what they bring to the table. Their love of the scriptures , their devotion to truth and their contribution to evangelicalism in my opinion has been a great benefit to Chistianity.

  34. I completely agree, and as I said, never meant to do anything beyond point out some fanboy verbosity.

  35. Some day I will have to read a little of Calvin’s own writings. I am told that Calvinists of today are more “Calvinist” than Calvin!

    Martha, I LOVE the way you think. We need to keep things a little lighter in this serious realm of theology and you help to do that. I think Jesus MUST have been fun to be around. Folks certainly often gravitated to him, even though sometimes Jesus said they did it for the food he provided them. Buy hey, they still might have learned something.

  36. With all the vexing verbosity being vociferously vaulted, I couldn’t help but be reminded of one of the best scenes ever:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-OB6EsUP4tU

  37. After reading this I may choose to become a Calvinist.

  38. Monk,

    Okay, okay! Maybe it’s not your dumbest post. Still, the excesses of the Calvin, Puritan, Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, MacArthur, Piper, et al devotees can be posted every day. Why put Calvin in a ridiculous light on his birthday? I’m not humor challenged. Really, I’m not. Some of my best friends are comedians.

  39. You try to get a chuckle… sheesh.

    Thanks for the laugh, Michael. From a guy currently studying and enjoying the Institutes.

  40. Wish Calvin’s fanboys could show half that zeal for Jesus…

    But seriously: The esteem they hold the guy in really does make it impossible to for any of them to reasonably accept any fair critiques of his tendency to bend scripture in order for it to fit his theology. I’m not saying he’s the only one who did it; I’ve caught Augustine, Luther, Arminius, Wesley, and Spurgeon doing it. Most Christians do. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say they were doing it unwittingly. Even so, you gotta recognize these guys were human and made mistakes… unless you’ve decided that during the Protestant Reformation, God sovereignly transferred papal infallibility to Calvin.

  41. K.W.

    I think that you are right about transfering papal infallibility to Calvin, except without restrictions.

    But, what really happened is that one of them hacked into the computer system holding the Marian fanatics words, changed gender and printed it out. GRIN

  42. Abner Doubleday? Psssst. It was John Calvin.

  43. Michael, since we seem to have trodden on some Calvinists’ corns, I hereby give you full permission to dig out the floweriest, fluffiest, sugariest, most pink’n’sparkly fluffy bunnies and kitties excesses of 19th century hagiography for the next RC saint’s day and mock the living daylights out of it 😉

    Thursday is Ascension Thursday, so probably not a good day to pick, what with it commemorating Our Lord and all 🙂

    Today is St. Bernadine of Sienna, who promoted devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus (the IHS monogram which the Jack Chick pamphlets maintain stands for “Isis Horus and Set”, the *real* gods of the Roman Church, so that may be fruitful ground for you). Friday is St. Rita of Cascia and that’s probably the best chance – the poor woman suffered much in life, and if she had any literary taste at all I’d say in her afterlife not the least of her sufferings would be some of the more glutinous literature commemorating her – if you can’t find anything appropriate there, you won’t find it anywhere. 🙂

  44. Steve:

    Doubleday was actually a myth. It may have been Calvin.

  45. If they’re Christians, they’d better be celebrating his *real* birthday, on May 27, and not the day he came out of his mother’s womb, on July 10.

  46. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Towering over the centuries of church history, there stands one figure of such monumental importance… he was all of these and more. His name was John Calvin.

    Are we talking John Calvin or Barack Obama?

    You were foreordained from before the creation of the universe to say that, Michael — Martha

    Just as God was foreordained in everything He does before there was God. (No BS — my writing partner had recent run-ins with young hyper-Calvinists and THAT is EXACTLY what they claim — even God bends the knee to Utter Predestination.)

  47. Memphis Aggie says

    This reads like a parody, especially the “towering over the centuries …” line. Is there a religious version of the Onion? If not there should be.

  48. Scott G. says

    Although I would be labeled a Calvinist because of my beliefs (though I detest the label), I find it appalling that any man would be lauded in such manner. A lifelong Southern Baptist myself, these words of praise for Calvin are eerily similar to the thoughts and expressions of many of my fellow SBCers regarding our own golden boy, the Reverend Billy Graham.

  49. “Just as God was foreordained in everything He does before there was God.”

    Okay – that’s not really saying that God had a beginning, right?

    Right?

    Though I am heartened to see, from the comments on here, that there is indeed a Reformed version of “More Catholic than the Pope”.

    Ah, there’s one in every family, eh? 🙂

  50. “The esteem they hold the guy in really does make it impossible to for any of them to reasonably accept any fair critiques of his tendency to bend scripture in order for it to fit his theology.”

    Yes… That’s why Calvinists are all paedobaptists!