Monday, 7 February 2011

Was John Calvin a True Calvinist?

I have long maintained, in my discussion with various all-out (as I may call them) Calvinists, that God has placed in every human heart an awareness of Himself. Rightly or wrongly, unless I have misunderstood, those with whom I have had these discussions have disagreed with me on this point, insisting that God has revealed this awareness only to those whom He has elected for salvation. Imagine my surprise, and even delight, to see that I am in agreement in this matter, with no less than John Calvin himself. Calvin apparently agreed that God has implanted in every person what he called a, "seed of religion." Note the following references;
...all men naturally possess some seed of religion... (John Calvin; Commentary on John)

...a seed of religion is divinely sown in all...(Institutes of the Christian Religion, chapter 4)

and perhaps most explicitly;
Since the perfection of blessedness consists in the knowledge of God, he has been pleased, in order that none might be excluded from the means of obtaining felicity, not only to deposit in our minds that seed of religion of which we have already spoken, but so to manifest his perfections in the whole structure of the universe, and daily place himself in our view, that we cannot open our eyes without being compelled to behold him. (Institutes, chapter 5)

I believe this confirms a number of my own thoughts on the Calvinist position.

Only if God has indeed implanted this awareness of Himself, can men be, as Paul puts it, "without excuse." (Romans 1:20)

It makes sense out of John 3:19;
This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.
Only if men are aware of the light can they prefer darkness.

It makes sense of all the verses, and there are many in both the OT and new, where God calls on all people to seek Him, and then promises rewards to those who do, especially, for example;

But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart... (Deut 4:29)

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11: 9-13) [emphasis mine, JK]

From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. (Acts 17:26-27)

Make no mistake; I give man no credit for his own salvation. Without God's own call, or that, "seed of religion," he would be entirely incapable of seeking Him on his own. And I don't even like the phrase, popular with some, "making a decision for Christ." We do not even decide to, "accept him into our heart." In reality, God comes into our hearts, if you like that term, on His own. I prefer to say that He transfers us from the kingdom of darkness into His own (Colossians 1:13), but that without our permission, or even our awareness, until after it has been accomplished (In my opinion this is the "irresistable grace" of the Calvinist acronym, "TULIP"). Then, rather than, "accept" Christ as saviour, we can only acknowledge him as such.

All of which is to claim that in any future discussions with those Calvinists who disagree with me, I can cite Calvin himself in my support.

Take Care


Warren said...

I'm surprised that you didn't use Book 1, Chap 3 of the Institutes where Calvin speaks directly to the matter:

1. That there exists in the human minds and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, the memory of which he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man being aware that there is a God, and that he is their Maker, may be condemned by their own conscience when they neither worship him nor consecrate their lives to his service.

Actually, I think I'm missing something in terms of the exact nature of the debates you've had with Calvinists.

Not being especially learned, or willing to study the matter in detail, I have (for now anyway) accepted that there is a paradox in the Calvinist position. I can't, in my human mind, resolve the position that man is wholly responsible for his sin while being incapable of coming to Christ unless God's grace is first at work in his heart - even though Scriptures makes clear statements in this regard. I just accept it on faith.

Warren said...

A new book that appears relevant to your positions (just got the e-mail):