Old Doxoblogy

Monday, February 20, 2006

Was Calvin A Calvinist?

It may or may not surprise my readers to find out that I worked for about one year in a 'Christian Store'. (Notice I said 'Christian Store' and not 'Christian Bookstore'. 'Book' was dropped out of the name before I arrived, but I didn't notice it till after I was working there.)
But this is not about the 'book' store. This is about Calvin, right?
The reason I bring up the store is this. There was a few Calvinist gentlemen who worked there alongside with me. One of these men was a 'greeter'. Whenever this certain man would want to describe a 'hyper' Calvinist, he would say, "That man is more Calvin than Calvin."

The question I want to pose to all of my readers is this:
"Just how Calvin was Calvin?" Was Calvin 'Amyrauldian', or a five pointer?

The reason I ask is, as we all know, the five points came along years after Calvin had died. As we read Calvin's writings and sermons we can ascertain whether or not he agreed exactly with the Canons of Dort.
Another reason I ask is that people are always stating matter-of-factly that Calvin did not believe in Limited Atonement. This happened recently at the Founders Ministry Blog with Emir Caner. Emir Caner said;
Dox. asked which of the 5 points of Calvinism would Calvin himself reject. Dr. Kevin Kennedy (SWBTS), as well as Cumberland Presbyterians, argue that Calvin would reject limited atonement. I have perused his dissertation and find his assessment quite coherent.
I responded;
You said that Calvin would embrace all of the five points set forth by Dort except for Limited Atonement?
Do you realize how ridiculously inconsistent saying that is? Even for Dr. Kevin Kennedy!
Just for clarification Emir, you're saying;
1. Calvin believed that men were totally depraved and that they could not come to Christ unless they had been regenerated first.
2. Calvin believed that God chose beforehand those that He would save not based on any foreseen faith or good in themselves.
3. Calvin believed that everyone that God effectually calls come to faith.
4. Calvin believed that all of those who were chosen and called also would continue in faith until death.
5. Calvin believed that Christ died for everyone.

Don't you see the inconsistency there? The inconsistency of saying that God selected a certain number of people for salvation and then sent His Son to die in the same way for all of the rest too? Was Calvin capable of this kind of inconsistency? Either he believed all five points or none.

I have found in my reading of the Institutes that Calvin never once says that Christ's death was for everyone. He uses the following pronouns in describing the efficacy of Christ's death: 'we', 'us', and 'our'. In this way he limits the atonement to believers only, and if he is consistent (considering that these sections follow prior sections that discuss election), then he limits it to the elect.

Since you guys aren't Calvin fans anyway, I think you should turn him back over to the Calvinists.

So what do you think? Was Calvin a Calvinist? Or was he less than a full-fledged member of the Calvinist family of theologians?


Jonathan Moorhead said...

Jeremy, in "The Potter's Freedom" James White has decent discussion on this in his rebuttal Geisler's "moderate Calvinism." Calvin does make some comments that can be interpreted as universal, but his discussion of limited trumps the former. That is my take at least.

pilgrim said...

I agree.
The 5 points came later--but were in his teaching, and more important--they are in the Bible.
I believed the 5 points before I knew there were 5 points.
When I first had someobody explain them I answered that I agreed as I saw them in the Bible.

We are also sometimes shortchanged
by treating the 5 points as the be-all and end-all of Calvinism.
There is more to Calvin & Calvinism than the 5 points. ANd overall--in context the 5 points are supported.

Scott Hill said...

Dox, that would make Calvin an Amyraldian, but even that view is inconsistent in my view. You would have to admit, however, that Dr. Caner's claim to be Amyraldian just proves that he has know idea what he believes. I am sure his soteriology is about as systematic as a kid playing with legos.

J. Wendell said...

Hi Jeremy,

You have built a good case for your view. Wouldn’t you agree, however, that there are things in God’s keep that are beyond discovery, which are past finding out?

BTW My son built a chess set out of legos when he was 9, and with a keen perception of strategy, he knows how to use it.

Delighting with you in God’s grace,
brother John