John Calvin: Reformer, Ruler, Pastor, and Theologian.

I am a retired pastor of the Church of God (Tennessee).
My name is Isaac Livingston. I am from Neyyoor India

Email: Pastor True Gospel


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1. Proclamation of the Theologian John Calvin.

John Calvin was known as a prominent theologian. The seal that he made to present his motto says, "my heart I offer to you Lord, promptly and sincerely", following with the picture of a heart in a hand. That is, he wants people to think that he has sincerely given his heart to God. But what he has done in his real life will tell us whether he has done what he has promised God to do as in his motto. Let us study about the theologian John Calvin.

2. Foundation of beginning years of John Calvin.

John Calvin was born in France in July 1509. His father was a successful lawyer, with a practice which brought him into the society of noble status and cathedral clergy. John Calvin was educated privately with the sons of aristocrats and was given chaplaincies in the cathedral. Calvin became an excellent scholar, a good Latinist, proficient in philosophy, and was qualified to take up the intensive study of theology. Then his father sent John to achieve greatness in law and not in church, since there was rebellion and chaos in Churches. So, Calvin studied law for the next five years, attaining some distinction in law. These were years which brought him into the knowledge of theology and law as well. He knew Latin, and he learned Greek and Hebrew also. He became a good writer, even in the classics, added Plato, to the Aristotle he already knew. He published a book even when he was 22 years old. At that time Martin Luther was well known and he was very famous. Most importantly for Calvin, there were Lutherans in Paris and in Orleans, where he was. As an enthusiastic young man, Calvin got excited with the movements of Martin Luther, and became a part of them. Calvin called this as his conversion. But if we look at his statement, he was in confusion rather than in conversion. He wrote that he was caught in the superstitions of the Papacy before conversion, and now he has tasted the true godliness that set him on fire with desire, yet he did not give up his old beliefs altogether; so, it was not a full conversion. Then he admits that those who longed for a purer doctrine kept on coming to him to learn, and he says that he was still a beginner and a raw recruit. So, people were coming to him to learn, since he was a scholar but not because he was truly converted to godliness. Calvin himself said that his conversion made him to follow Luther, rather than pure doctrine; and so, he became marked out as a "Lutheran," but not as a righteous godly man. When persecution arose in Paris where he had returned to teach in one of the colleges, he was forced into hiding in France. At last, he had to leave the country altogether. He sought refuge in Basel in Switzerland. From there he begins to publish books with the name "Calvin's Institutes." He meant by Institutes as Calvin was instituting, which means this was his "Principles of Christian Faith" or "Instructions in Christian Faith." The book was intended as an elementary manual for general readers, who wanted to know something about the evangelical faith, which Calvin called it as "saving doctrine", which is a misleading name.

3. Life of Calvin and his confused Conversion.

Calvin was a scholar in theology, law, writing, and in such things, but not in scriptures. So, his books reflected his ideas, but not the truth of the bible. He claimed that he had knowledge of God, but that was just a cliché; he did not have knowledge in scriptures, but he was a scholar in the world. He wrote saying: "I labored at the task especially for our own Frenchmen, for I saw that many were hungering and thirsting after Christ and yet a very few had any real knowledge of him." The problem is that even though he was a talented writer, neither he knew God, nor his word. His books have the topics Christian liberty, the authority of the Church, and political government, but they are not from scripture. He talked about the defects in Roman Catholics, Reformers, and Anabaptists. But Calvin's own confession of faith of evangelicals showed their orthodoxy to the great creeds, their loyalty to established political order, and moral demands of religious church, but it was not obedience to God's law. So, it was totally absurd, but he had a great following because of the rebellious excitement.

4. Historic life of the Theologian John Calvin.

Let us see the highlights in the life of Calvin, his works, trials, and such things. Calvin undergone a "sudden conversion," that was in 1533. He joined Lutherans; persecution came; and then Calvin and Nicolas Cop had to flee Paris. Anabaptist uprising happened at Munster on 1535, it was put down and many were executed. In 1536 March, Calvin published the first edition of the "Institutes of the Christian Religion." In 1536 August, Calvin was persuaded by Pastor William Farel to remain in Geneva, with an assumed threat from God that Calvin must stay in Geneva to continue his work. Calvin said that he was so terror stricken that he cancelled his journey to Strasbourg and continued in Geneva. But, in 1538 Calvin and Farel were banished from Geneva. Then, Calvin goes to Strasbourg as pastor to the French-speaking congregation. Strasbourg was a city in France, that has a major role in business, commerce, and it is a cultural center. 1539 Cardinal Sadeleto wrote a letter to Calvin asking to respond on behalf of Geneva. Calvin responded, and in 1540 Calvin was welcomed back to Geneva from exile, and he did return to Geneva. His commission was to reorganize the Church in Geneva. For him, the Church in any place must faithfully mirror the principles laid down in the Holy Scripture. So, he prepared a draft document, named "Ecclesiastical Ordinances," which was discussed in the committee, somewhat modified, and passed for approval by the City Councils. He established the Academy, and the final edition of the Institutes was published. Ministry of the Word and Sacraments was committed to the pastors. They conducted the services, preached, administered the Sacraments, and generally cared for the spiritual welfare of the parishioners. Every order of worship services, teachings, and all things about the churches were strictly administered by Calvin, as the dictator of the church, and he made them to be strictly followed. Calvin was made a citizen of Geneva in1559. He establishment an academy in the same year, placed education in Geneva on a stable footing. In every district of the city, there were one or two elders, who would keep an eye on spiritual affairs. Everything was under their control. Finally, the social welfare work was in charge of the deacons. They were the hospital management board, and the social security executives, all under the control of the church of Geneva, in which he was almost like a dictator. He had strict control over all affairs of the church, as catholic priests had control over their territories. He convinced them that his great authority was as God’s ambassador, with the authority and power of God behind him. He drowned the city constitution down to drains and he became the constitution of the city. So, his word was as the word of God, and he was able to hold the position, and managed to captivate the people. He was very eloquent and worked very hard with iron fist, despite his health problems, and he was getting weaker. Calvin had a short life, he lived only 55 years, and he died on 1564.

5. Calvin was a Ruler for God than a Theologian.

From the time of his conversion, Calvin’s thinking was that God possessed the ultimate authority over man, because God is sovereign over all creation. This theme of the sovereignty of God appears repeatedly in Calvin’s whole system of thought. According to Calvin, the church has a role to play regarding the state and is responsible to set forth the biblical principles in the state and its functions. Yet, Calvin thought, the church is not to rule the state. Calvin believed in a kind of theocracy. Both the rulers of the church and the civil magistrates are directly responsible to God for their actions. The church may admonish the magistrates as to what God’s law says but cannot determine how that law is to be applied in matters of civil jurisdictions. The magistrate may advise the church concerning matters relating to civil affairs but cannot force the church to conform to civil rules in its teachings, worship, or government. In this, Calvin laid down very clearly, the principle of the separation of the functions of church and state. They are related and mutually supportive, but also independent of each other. Yet, it is a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God. If Calvin is classified as great Statesman of God and head of state, it would have been more appropriate than the tittle he has as a theologian. But unfortunately, we all refer him as a theologian.

6. What are the doctrines of Calvin the Theologian?

Geneva was the second-most populous city and the French-speaking part of Switzerland. John Calvin ruled the Church as well as the city of Geneva, with iron fisted hand from 1541 to 1564. During these 23 years, Calvin became "the Reformer of Geneva" and Geneva became "the city of Calvin". He managed to do it all by preaching, organizing, admonishing, and writing; and he fulfilled his ministry as a pastor. He was an excellent speaker and brilliant administrator. His theology very well coincided with the ruling of the city also. However, he did not originate any theology by himself, but he has very successfully and effectively formulated a theology for himself from his predecessors. He adopted the predestination doctrine from Saint Augustine of Catholic Church. He borrowed the "Alone Doctrines" as "Scriptures alone", "grace alone" and "faith alone" from the great Martin Luther. Calvin loved to point out how God commands us to do, which we cannot do, and it was also the emphasis of Martin Luther. Calvin explains it as, God made it such, so that God will be the one who decides who will be saved and who will not be. It was the predestination doctrine of Saint Augustine. Calvin ascribed "free will" to all people in the sense that their acts are "voluntary and not by compulsion." It contradicts predestination; and he did not care much for the truth. However, these are doctrines he has adopted from his predecessors.

7. Who are Calvinists, what is Calvinism Theology?

Calvin was famous, powerful in the Protestant churches as Priests were powerful in Catholic churches on those days. So, there were many people who like to inherit his status, and they followed him after his death. They were Calvinists, but in truth they hijacked his name and status for themselves. They add any things in the doctrine as they like. Some Calvinists forthrightly deny that God loves everyone. They affirm that the love of God is in that Christ died only for the elect, who God has unconditionally loved and chosen them to be saved. This did not come from John Calvin, but it was added. The basic beliefs of Calvinism were the five principles, and they were formulated by the Synod of Dort on 1618&1619. It was formulated after fifty years of his death and Calvin has nothing to do with it. Yet it is the foundation of Calvinism. They have it as "tulip," which is the acronym for total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistibility of grace, and final perseverance of the saints, which are filthy lies and perversions that came from the pit of hell, that is from Satan himself. Even though Calvinism is not a denomination, it is a doctrine or like an ideology that is accepted by many protestant denominations, and by a lot of self-raised pastors and evangelists. Primitive Baptist or Reformed Baptists, Presbyterian Churches, Brother Mission Churches, Reformed Churches, United Church of Christ, Protestant Reformed Churches in America, and many other denominations, even pastors from Pentecostal churches preach this theology. In short, John Calvin borrowed the doctrines of Saint Augustine and Martin Luther from his past. He was powerful as a ruler in the city Geneva, rather than as a theologian; but under the guise of the title "Pastor." After his death, Calvinists hijacked his name, and their doctrine is Calvinism. The author of Calvinism is Satan, and John Calvin became a hijacked victim.

So, God does not give us theologians. "Ephesians 4:11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:" If we want to become saints, God will perfect us by his ministry in the body of Christ, that is in the Spirit Church. But if we like to play church, we can have all fun, prosperity, and pleasure. But the Spirit church grows as in "13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 1 John 3:2 says, that when he (Christ) shall appear (for rapture), we shall be like him;..." So, come into the body of Christ. We do not need theologians.

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