the weblog of Alan Knox

Someone is questioning Calvin?

Posted by on Oct 18, 2008 in blog links, church history | 9 comments

It appears that Lionel from “A Better Covenant” is questioning the great apostle Calvin in his last (no, really, this time it is the last) blog post called “Did Calvin’s Ecclesiology Produce a Faux Flower?” Before you burn Lionel in effigy (since you can’t burn him at the stake any longer), consider his questions carefully:

Did Calvin’s and the Reformers Ecclesiology force them to produce a faux flower? Given the fact that the Church and the State were in a ungodly marriage under the tyranny of the Reformers how could they both force people into Christendom and justify that these individuals, coerced by the sword as they were, were really part of the true Church? How about the invisible/visible church distinction?

So again if everyone in a given locale are in the “Church” (this was the doctrine of these gentleman ungodly as it was)who was genuinely saved? We understand that coercion of faith forced them to justify the erroneous doctrine of baptizing infants. So the questions are quite simple though maybe a bit more complex to answer.

We understand that Calvin’s false ecclesiology forced them to baptize infants so is the “TULIP” also a product of a false ecclesiology driven by the refusal to separate the State from the Kingdom? Also why do we feel that if Calvin was off on so much (and he was) why was he right on this?

John Calvin is a very important figure in Christianity. But, I think its good to examine his works critically, much like we would examine the works of any human. He is not perfect.

Unfortunately, listening to some people talk – especially around the seminary – it appears that we may have as many Calvinians (or the modern version – Piperinians) as Christians.

What do you think? How does Calvin’s ecclesiology affect other parts of his theology?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 10-19-2008

    Great question Alan. This opens a real can of worms. Do many reformers consider Calvin’s writings to be equal to those of the apostles?

  2. 10-19-2008


    It is usually around 5.30 a.m. when I read your blog’s. That’s why, if I sense that I ought make a comment,sometimes I seem to be first off the rank.

    It is so good seeing our brother Lionel questioning traditional thinking, not because what he questions is traditional or institutional, but because he is doing what every genuine Christian MUST do, take a Berean attitude towards ALL teaching. The sad fact is that many are shunned, regarded as heretics, apostates and the like for doing so.

    I am utterly flabbergasted, bamboozled, etc., by people who believe teachings because Calvin, Wesley, Piper, the “pastor”, or anyone else spoke or wrote it.

    If I had sat in Calvin’s congregation, with what I understand today, I’d have been out of there (and maybe into prison). In this country many who call themselves Calvinistic are brainwashing, guilt tripping, dictators.

    I am aware of several dear brethren, some to whom I now seek to minister, whose walk has been so damaged by these attitudes, that their healing will take a long time.

    It’s time that the Lord Jesus Christ was recognised as head of His people, not Calvin,not Spurgeon, not Wesley, all of whom God used mightily, but I suspect, having read them extensively, would abhor the adulation given them, and the quibbles about what they wrote and said.

    I am ashamed to say I have stood in the shoes of the “experts”,with whom I was ignorantly in full agreement, and who stand in such “authority”, many of whom I believe share the personality traits of Diotrophes; and have done the very things I am now critical off. My prayer is that our Sovereign God will mercifully help any whose spiritual life I’ve damaged to heal, and rest in Him by whose own gracious finished work they have been saved.

  3. 10-19-2008


    I don’t think anyone would actually say that. But, I’ve heard from many who would quote Calvin or Piper before they would quote Scripture.

    Aussie John,

    I’ve enjoyed your interaction with Lionel on his post. I appreciate your continued admonition to seek the truth for ourselves.


  4. 10-19-2008

    That’s a sad commentary that is, unfortunately, not limited to the reformed movement.

    Aussie John-
    I agree that questioning traditional thinking is a good thing…in fact, it’s critical for anyone who is a follower of Christ. It’s only those who have yet to reach this point in their faith that seem to shun those of us who are questioning.

    Lew posted a definition of heretic on his blog and I found it interesting. I’ve copy and pasted the following-
    Heretic-a professed believer who maintains religious opinions contrary to those accepted by his or her church or rejects doctrines prescribed by that church.

    I guess that’s not necessarily a bad thing to be called…depending on who’s calling you a heretic.

  5. 10-19-2008

    How about this one Alan,

    “While there is one only Church of Jesus Christ, we always acknowledge that necessity requires companies of the faithful to be distributed in different places. Of these assemblies each one is called Church. But inasmuch as all companies do not assemble in the name of our Lord, but rather to blaspheme and pollute Him by their sacrilegious deeds, we believe that the proper mark by which rightly to discern the Church of Jesus Christ is that His holy gospel be purely and faithfully preached, proclaimed, heard and kept; that his sacraments be properly administered, even if there be some imperfections and faults as there always will be among men”

    I searched my bible and haven’t found that definition just yet, but it was just quoted by a good friend of mine.

  6. 10-20-2008

    I thought the mark of the true Church was that we would love one another…

    John 13:35
    “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

  7. 10-20-2008


    We can profit by reading this exchange between Simeon (calvinist) and Wesley (arminian):

    Simeon: “Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?

    Wesley: Yes, I do indeed.

    S :And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?

    W :Yes, solely through Christ.

    S :But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?

    W :No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.

    S :Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?

    W :No.

    S :What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?

    W :Yes, altogether.

    S :And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?

    W :Yes, I have no hope but in Him.

    S :Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.”

  8. 10-20-2008

    Aussie John,

    Awesome exchange! Thank you. I think everyone should read that exchange before they begin to debate anything with another brother or sister in Christ.


  9. 10-23-2008

    Slow to the post…

    Wesley used to say that there was a hair’s breadth between him and Calvin. The difference was Wesley believed in free grace for all, Calvin in apportioned grace. Both acknowledged that it had to be entirely grace, and grace alone.

    I think it is hilarious that the word verification right no is “tisms” How appropriate!