April 15, 2007

Yet More From Calvin on Redeemed Souls Perishing

"For the faithless have no profit at all by the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, but rather are so much the more damnable, because they reject the mean that God had ordained: and their unthankfulness shall be so much the more grievously punished, because they have trodden under foot the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was the ransom for their souls." Calvin, Sermons on Galatians, Sermon 2, 1:3-5, p., 39/27

When we show mercy to those who have erred, we must never indulge them by outright flattery, nor ignore their wrongdoings so that it grows even worse. We should show pity when we see that our neighbours are still subject to many weaknesses, and we should be patient with them, not in order to imitate them but to rebuke them with kindness. We should never gloat as many do who laugh and smirk over someone else's misfortune. Instead, we should mourn and say, 'How sad, that poor man has given offence to God.' It should distress us to see someone perishing who has been so dearly redeemed by Christ's precious blood; it should distress us to see God's righteousness and his glory diminished. Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, Sermon 3, Matt. 5:5-7 and Luke 6:20-21a, p., 46.

Imagine someone who takes care not to stir up trouble or annoy anybody, and who instead tries to please everyone: whether he is given a hard time or not; he will gently put up with many wrongs rather than make a fuss. Even so, we are bound to follow our Lord's precept here, and strive for peace in every place. So it is not enough to refrain from violence, ill-will or injury to others: when someone is in the wrong, we must resist; when innocent people suffer affliction, we should support them as much as we can, bring them help and relief. When we see two people at odds with each other, we should feel pity for two souls redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, but who are in danger of perdition. We should grieve when victory goes to the devil, who is the prince of discord, and when God, who is the author of peace, is shut out. That thought should make us want to put an end to quarreling. That is also why, God curses all who stir up dissension and conflict among men. They are like firebrands, who by their gossip incite former friends to hate each other; and when mutual suspicion is aroused, they sneak in and fan the flames. It is as if there were an open wound, and someone were to come and, instead of applying good ointment, rubbed in poison or venom, making it flare up even worse. Calvin, Sermons on the Beatitudes, Sermon 4, Matt. 5:8-10 and Luke 6:22-23, p., 54-55.

“The only Lord God,” or, God who alone is Lord. Some old copies have, "Christ, who alone is God and Lord." And, indeed, in the Second Epistle of Peter, Christ alone is mentioned, and there he is called Lord. But He means that Christ is denied, when they who had been redeemed by his blood, become again the vassals of the Devil, and thus render void as far as they can that incomparable price." Calvin on Jude 4.

For more like the above, see the following posts:

After seeing all of this primary source information, I never fail to be astonished at all the fudging on Calvin, as if there's no discontinuity between his view of Christ's death and John Owen's view. Nothing can be more plain than the discontinuity between these two men. If I held to a strictly limited atonement view, I would just say Calvin was wrong, rather than try to say that he held to my perspective. Agreeing with Calvin does not necessarily make one biblically correct, but we should be honest with the historical data when it's presented to us. We should not only strive to be biblically honest, but we should also strive to be historically honest. Some, like Dr. R. Scott Clark (a professor of historical theology, of all things) on the Puritan Board, are so bold(?) as to declare the historical debate between "Calvin and the Calvinists" to be "dead", as if there's continuity between Calvin and Owen on the point. Rather than dealing with the quotes listed above, we seem to only hear the condescending retort, "just read Trueman," "just read Muller," "just read Nicole," or, more popularly, "just read Helm". I have read Helm and Nicole and, frankly, they are not persuasive. What would I say? Just read Calvin himself :-) He's plain enough. If you disagree with him, just say so. That's the honest thing to do.


Robert said...

Dear Ynot,

I didn't explain much on the PB because the literature is so extensive. What your post ignores is that Calvin lived and died a long time and in a different world than Owen. The biggest problem with the sorts of claims you make is that they ignore the problem of context and intention. Calvin wasn't addressing the same problems and issues as Owen. Thus quotations such as those you compile tend to be misleading. It's a little like asking Aquinas said about electricity!

Second, your analysis of the the quotations you compile here fails to acknowledge a fundamental distinction which Calvin himself made repeatedly and which I detail in a couple of articles, most fully in the Confessional Presbyterian vol 2, i.e., the distinction between the two ways of existing in the visible administration of the covenant of grace. Calvin taught that it's possible for two sorts of folk to exist in the same covenant of grace at the same time in different ways. He understood Paul to be speaking in the same way with the same assumption. Thus, when the administration of the visible covenant of grace is in view, he used language that, when the decree is in view, he did not.

Covenant theologians have routinely spoken the way Calvin did.

I understand that it's difficult for those outside the tradition of Reformed covenant theology to understand this distinction because they don't share the same assumptions and they don't tend to live in the same world ecclesiastically.

If the distinction is ignored, however, it tends to misunderstand Calvin's intention rather significantly.



R. Scott Clark
Associate Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology

YnottonY said...

Stay tuned for a reply. I've been busy with other things and haven't made time to get back to this yet.