The Evangelical Universalist Forum

Calvin and Servetus

:laughing: Yep - I assumed, and ya’ know what they say :wink:
Out here in the country we burn piles of brush and stuff quite a bit, I’ve been singed a few times and I’ve got that dang empathy ‘gift’ going… :cry:

I understand that it was a different culture so it wasn’t (in one way) quite as monstrous as it seems to us today. Yet, it does show a horrible callousness toward fellow creatures. That’s why I just generally say “They had no clue”.

You mean the Lucifer thread? That would be great Jason (as if I hadn’t been beat up enough over there :open_mouth: :mrgreen: ).

Actually I do think it is an important conversation and I have learned a lot and will learn even more after you dive in. :slight_smile:

please to not excuse Calvin

He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the LORD.
Proverbs 17:15 … calvin.htm

I’m a fair man, Sven. We all stand condemned, and we all have contextual circumstances. If I’m not willing to fairly acknowledge whatever excuses there may be, neither will I be in any position to fairly judge against what he did.

(Or, put another way, if I am not willing to be merciful to Calvin, neither will God be merciful to me. Not until I’m willing to be merciful to Calvin anyway. Not that Calvin would have agreed with that principle in all circumstances; but still…)

Something to fairly consider, pro or con, is the question of improvement. Let us suppose a Calvinist agrees that we ought not to do as Calvin did. What would be the rationale for why not? Merely because circumstances are different at the moment? Or is there a rationale for improvement on Calvinistic principles (per se) compared to what Calvin actually did? (i.e., can he be judged as having not lived up sufficiently to his own standard? If so, then that would be a mitigating factor in favor of the system of belief anyway.)

Hyper Calvinism is the greatest (conceptual) evil I have ever encountered in my 52 years. The idea that God created humans for the express purpose of showing His righteousness by damning the non-elect as well as (of course) saving the elect few.

I had a man tell me that even if his wife and children were non-elect that he would laugh and rejoice (with God) at their fate and it would not bother him in the least to observe their eternal burning, in fact - it would be an occasion for celebration. :open_mouth: :open_mouth: :open_mouth:

In our more civil modern culture very few Christians make this claim, in fact most say God will be eternally grieved over those in eternal ‘hell’ but my response is that IF it is good and right and just etc etc, why NOT be happy about it? :bulb:

You can be merciful to Calvin and yet condemn his actions, no?

I had a woman who (with her husband) had recently ‘converted’ to Calvinism, tell me that she dealt with the idea of the non-elect by considering them ‘cigarette people’ of no value whatsoever.

She was such a good woman that she kept trying to reassure me that of course she didn’t really think that. Not for a minute. It was just her way of feeling better about the doctrine. Her husband (who had brought her to this) stood off in a corner silently looking down at the ground in kind-of-amused embarrassment for 30 or 45 minutes. (I have no doubt that converting to Calvinism helped the husband deal with some personal issues he had been having. There are some excellent points to Calvinism that are well worth emphasizing. But still. It was painful to watch his wife, whom I have no doubt was totally sincere about not believing such people were really utterly worthless, trying to come to terms with what she was smart enough to realize were the real implications of the doctrine she was trying to accept and believe. A classic case of ‘cognitive dissonance’.)

This was at about the time my church lost its main Arminian authority figure (who helped keep things balanced) and made an initial push (thank God not continued with much afterward) at yanking the small groups into line by having us study Grudem’s (Calvinistic) Systematic Theology. I lapsed my formal membership shortly afterward.

(I still attend the church most Sundays; I even greet people at the back door, where most of the parking happens to be and so where most people come in. I try to make sure I’m there to welcome them in after the service starts, too. Seems appropriate. :smiley: )

That’s the positive-action way of putting my quoted statement, yes.

Very much relatedly: God can be merciful to me while yet condemning my actions and (even more importantly) my attitudes.

Lewis once wrote (and I much agree) that God doesn’t judge according to external appearances but according to the heart. When someone conditionally shaped in a merciless environment by merciless ideas manages to show a modicum of mercy to an enemy, simply because he accepts enough of the Spirit in his heart to know (perhaps without even knowing why he knows) it’s the right thing to do, that man may be showing more courage and compassion than another man would for being tortured to death for a friend. I don’t know for sure how much of Calvin’s behavior was due to difficulties in his environment, and how much was due to him succumbing to uncharity for his own personal pleasure. But I do know (because the data is there on the page) that Calvin was one of the few people who tried to have Servetus executed in a less horrible manner–including the guy he was writing to at the time, who was entirely of the ‘burn the bleeper!’ party. (And wanted to be the one to lead Serv to the stake. And got his wish, barely on time, if I recall correctly.)

To us, that miniscule amount of mercy may seem worthless. But God may cherish it like a diamond buried in mountains of rotting coal.

And I had better be ready and willing to appreciate and rejoice over that. Or guess who is the one in line for some brisk eonian zorching? :wink: :laughing:

“And I had better be ready and willing to appreciate and rejoice over that. Or guess who is the one in line for some brisk eonian zorching? :wink: :laughing:

This matter of seeing hell as not final is tricky. It seems to me that in the NT hell is presented in a very dark tone with a rather hopeless feel. Universalists seem to evade that tone and replace it with the “ultimate hope response”. It is a severe matter in the NT. Some universalists seem to by pass the “unceasing anguish” and go right to the joy.

Heh. Believe me when I say, I wish with all my heart I could… :slight_smile: I am so tired of the unceasing anguish part.

Purgation starts early for some of us; and rightly so. Then also, the only use of the word {adialeipton} to describe pain in the NT, comes from St. Paul–in regard to himself and his great sorrow for the Israel he loves. The joy of the promise of Israel’s salvation, at the end of chapter 11, is his answer to the “unintermittent pain” he currently experiences for Israel’s sake back at the beginning of chp 9. I can totally sympathize with that, too. :neutral_face: :frowning: :slight_smile:

(The other few uses of the term in the NT are also by St. Paul, and uniformly involve prayer of some sort, whether remembrance of other people and their problems, or gratitude to God.)

That being said, punishment is always taken seriously and severely in the NT–even when the punishment is agreed by all interpreters to be hopeful (such as in Heb 12). If I am humorous about it in a remark, it’s as an ironic counterpoint to expectation: in this case, if I am not merciful to Calvin, then (ironic reversal!) I am the one who will receive chastisement.

Besides, people in uninterrupted pain can either transcend it or be crushed. I am very grateful to be able to transcend it for a while.

Jason, one thing I’ve been confused about regarding this afterlife punishments thing is the lack thereof in the OT. Granted, punishment in the OT by God was often severe, but it was always in this life. I’m a bit confused by the apparent switching of gears in the NT.

Much of this can be explained by the fitful development (over centuries if not millennia) of a belief in an afterlife at all–much of which development seems to come from considering the promises of God to Israel. Sometimes characters in the story get glimpses of the notion of a resurrection and restoration (of Israel at least) in the day of the YHWH to come. Other times, everyone goes to sheol, the end (though God continues on).

By the time of the Judaism represented in the NT, several hundred more years had passed, and many religious experts firmly believed in the resurrection to come (or possibly survival as bodiless spirits, although there’s more evidence of the former.) A major belief in survival and (even more importantly) restoration after death is clearly indicated both by Jesus (in Gospel report) and by the NT authors.

This brings up the problem of what happens to the wicked, of course–not least because (and the NT keeps this idea, sort of) the wicked and the righteous share principly the same fate: going down into the pit/sheol/hades. One of the really interesting things (and mainstream Judaism had its adherents of this belief as well) is that this parallel fate (not in the classical Greek sense of ‘fate’ of course, but the popular sense we’d speak of nowadays) continues at least through the resurrection: the good and evil are resurrected to judgment, with the good being resurrected to life eonian and the wicked being resurrected to eonian crisis (or brisk-cleaning or chastisement or alloy-testing or several other words of this effect. Of equal interest is that the terms themselves are not intrinsically hopeless.)

Anyway, it isn’t unusual that as the notion of life after death becomes more clear, the notion of what happens to the unrighteous after death becomes more important–and rather choppy. (The fate of the righteous was a big DUHHH!!! But the unrighteous obviously share the same fate in some key ways at least up to a point, so there isn’t some total ditch separating them. Even in the GosLuke parable featuring a big ditch in hades. :wink: )

There are however numerous bits of testimony in the OT to the effect that God intends to save and restore the pagan nations around Israel, too. But the main focus is on Israel. And not only on believing righteous Israel, but on the restoration of traitorous unrighteous Israel. So we find things like chp 31 of Jeremiah, where it is not only a righteous remnant who will be restored by God–although that too–but the children whom “Rachel” is weeping over “for they are not” (a euphamism for death, as the author of GosMatt also uses it). And not only the righteous dead shall be restored; but at least half (maybe more) of this particular prophecy is directed toward “Ephraim”, the rebellious son–also considered as a daughter in the poetic language of the prophecy, but the reference as a son is especially important because it points back to King David’s slain rebel son over whom he grieved when Absalom was slain in his rebellion in the forests of Ephraim. (The prophecy ends with a riddle: “How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter?! For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth: a woman shall encompass a man.” In some way, a woman encompassing a man in a “new way” is to help Israel the faithless child, Ephraim slain by God, return to God.)

There are things of this sort all over the OT, once one knows what to look for. It isn’t spelled out in any systematic way, and it’s hard to derive a systematic theology from it, too. A reader of Jeremiah 31, for example, could very reasonably say that God (or the prophet) is only being poetic about the reference to Ephraim. Poetic implications, by their nature, can often have wide possible interpretations. (This is a main reason not to push the theological lessons of parables too far, too.)

In any case, NT authors (and Jesus) are quite clear (if not always clear in intention) about there being afterlife punishments of various sorts. OT authors sometimes see Israel being restored, every once in a while see her rebel sisters being restored, talk about the utter destruction of the wicked a lot (but include in this the people who are going to be restored by God someday, chiefly rebel Israel, whatever this ‘restoration’ is supposed to mean, but also ‘Sodom’ and ‘Leviathan’ for example, even the latter of whom is slated to be tamed by God and recovenanted, just like Israel!)–but rarely if ever talk about punishment after or concurrent with restoration. (Jer 32, btw, could be said to hint about this: after restoration, a person will no longer have to suffer punishment for unrighteous deeds done by ancestors or peers, but only the one who eats sour grapes will have his teeth set on edge.) This is why some commentators (both Jewish and Christian) claim there is no doctrine of ‘hell’ in the OT, in the sense of hopelessly ongoing conscious torment. Christian commentors (and some Jewish ones, especially from the days collected in the Talmud) may say that this revelation is hinted at here and there but is only fully given later. (In the NT for Christians; in rabbinic commentary for Jews.) Other Judeo/Christian commentors may conclude the OT teaches annihilation; and so therefore the NT must also (per these Christians.) Even if God resurrects the wicked first before annihilation.

(“I like to play with things a while!–before annihilation…” – Max Von Sydow as Ming the Merciless, finishing the voice-over prelude to the 1980s version of Flash Gordon. “HA HA HA HA HA HA HA Ha ha ha ha ha…” :mrgreen: Sorry, I grew up listening to Queen’s soundtrack from that movie, so every time I hear or write ‘before annihilation’ that line from the movie kicks in. Yes, I know the annihilationist concept of God is very different from that, in theory. Why God would bother resurrecting the wicked and then annihilating them, though, is fortunately not my problem. :slight_smile: )

“(The prophecy ends with a riddle: “How long will you go here and there, O faithless daughter?! For the Lord has created a new thing in the earth: a woman shall encompass a man.” In some way, a woman encompassing a man in a “new way” is to help Israel the faithless child, Ephraim slain by God, return to God.)”

I had a thought about this as I was reading your post. IIRC, the ekklesia is often referred to as a woman, so perhaps the “woman encompassing a man” is man becoming part of the ekklesia, which will eventually help faithless Israel return to God. We know that part of all of Israel being saved has to do with waiting until after the fullness of the Gentiles comes in…

Hi Byron, I agree that it’s always been unfathomable to me that some people teach that many humans have been created for no other purpose than total depravity and eternal damnation.

I sort-of wonder whether the fullness of Israel being saved upon the fullness of the Gentiles coming into the ecclesia, has ot do with (1) the spreading of Hebrew blood through all the world; and (2) (and more likely) the concept that (as in Rom 11) we Gentiles are being saved into the promises of Israel and thus into Israel itself. (The vine grafting analogy being a key thing there; also very much related to that ‘kolasis’ idea which got brought up for debate again recently. Mental note to get back to the kolasis discussion sometime before winter… :laughing: )

So in regard to (2), ‘all Israel’ cannot be saved until all Gentiles are brought into the vine of Israel; because God potentially (and ‘actually’ from His eternal standpoint) sees us as Israel, too.

(As JohnBapt remonstrated the Pharisees and Sadducees who had come down to be baptized for repentance: “And don’t be saying to yourselves, ‘Well, we have Abraham for our father!’ For God can raise up sons of Abraham from these very stones!” Aside from being literally true, whether immediately or through a billion-year process, there is almost certainly a Hebrew pun going on in the background, where ‘stone’ means ‘son’; and an Aramaic colloquialism where ‘stones’ refer to the pagan nations; thus was interpreted the OT saying that the stones would cry out praise to God. Put those ideas together, and we get a powerful image of the scope of God’s intentions.)

James: I try to remember that the Calvs would say many people have been created for no other purpose than eternal damnation and total depravity for the greater glory of God.

Which doesn’t really make it any better. :laughing: But to be fair that’s how Calvinists consider it. (And Arminians, too, in their own way.)

Jason’s done a fine job of summing up the historical data concerning Calvin’s involvement in Servetus’ execution. Another person who does a fine job is Cathlic Apologist Dave Armstrong. He has composed some well researched posts on Luther and Calvin’s self-centered religious doctrines, hypocrisies and moral failures.

John Calvin’s Mocking of Michael Servetus’s Initial Reaction to His Death Sentence (Burning at the Stake) … chael.html

Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism (Index Page for Dave Armstrong) … -page.html

John Calvin’s Sanction of Torture (of the Libertines) and Belief that the Extra Torment Caused by an Inept Executioner Was the “Special Will of God” … re-of.html

I’d like to add that after Servetus’ death both Calvin and Beza wrote on why public administrators ought to punish heretics. And after Servetus’ death Calvin sent letters to cities both near and far (Poland!) advocating public administrators arrest Socians (kind of like Unitarians) and punish them.

Calvin also helped draft the town’s Christian laws. Anybody missing church without a damned good reason was fined a day’s wages. Laughing in church was forbidden. Catholic practices were outlawed. After Servetus’ execution even questioning predestination was outlawed as was naming your dog “Calvin.” Calvin set up the Consistory that was able to look into every matter of a person’s life. Wearing split-breeches was outlawed along with dancing. People were executed for witchcraft and also adultery. A few people even went so far as to commit suicide rather than face the Consistory.
Calvin spotted Servetus in the church that day, but had his servant (Calvin’s servant) be the one to make the formal accusation against Servetus as a heretic. That way Calvin could also be a chief prosecutor in the case that followed. Calvin also strove to accuse Servetus of every possible infringement against God, including citing Servetus’ translation of Ptolemy’s geography that said Palestine was a relatively barren land. Calvin said, “What a lie! He denies the Holy Spirit’s message that it was a land flowing with milk and honey!”

Calvin’s laws also led to one young child being beheaded for striking their parents. Other young children were strung up by their armpits in gallows to show that they deserved the death penalty. A few years after Calvin died some children were spotted playing outside during church and threatened with death. Women accused of various improprieties, not necessarily adultery, but even less improper activities had their heads put in cages and links of chain kept them stationed just outside the church so passersby could revile them.

One man who said a word against Calvin had to carry some heavy object round the whole city repenting on his knees, or maybe he was dragged, or maybe I’m recalling two different people and punishments. Another person was found to have composed some early atheistic form of blasphemy that spoke against the Bible, Jesus, etc. His home was searched (without a warrant of course back then) and his writings were found and he was subjected to some horrible tortures and death.

Geneva itself is interesting. Before it became Protestant it was Catholic, and the Catholics threw the Jews out. Then the Protestants threw the Catholics out. Calvin also forbade organ music, allowing only human voices to sing, not even in chorus fashion. He had the organ pipes melted down for communion cups. Geneva under Calvin’s later years threw out not only Catholics but any other Protestant sectarians who dared to dispute Calvin’s views including predestination. So only Calvinists were left.

Calvin turned the town into one of Europe’s greatest center of publishing books, especially his own books first and foremost. And they sold, they sold well, gaining the town wealth and prestige. He set up a university in Geneva too before he died. But 200 years later Geneva had undergone changes. It became a haven for some Enlightenment thinkers like Voltaire, who had a home on Lake Geneva. Voltaire’s deism had even invaded Calvin’s college, the president admitting doubt concerning even the existence of Satan! I’ve read that Geneva even became a leading publisher of the works of the Marquis de Sade! Well, a publishing house must stay in business and publish was sells, even if it is Voltaire and de Sade and other non-Calvinists.

Today Geneva is nearly 50% Catholic, and over the centuries they erected not one but THREE statues to Servetus, along with engraved messages asking for forgiveness for his execution in their fair town. They even went so far as to name a soccer team after Servetus.

Geneva also became home to the Red Cross, which is today known as the Red Cross and Red Crescent since Islamic charity is also involved. The Red Cross was founded by Andre Dunant, a gay man whose love letters to his male partner were burned by his family after Dunant died. Interestingly, the American branch of the Red Cross was founded by a Universalist Christian, Clara Barton.

Thanks for the info.

Hyper-calvinism is the logical conclusion of calvinism. Calvin was inconsistent. If you read how he handles Ezek 18 it becomes clear that he cannot bring election and the sincere offer together but refuses to abondon either. The Arminian abandon’s predestination for the sincere offer and the hyper-calvinist relinquishes the sincere offer for predestination.Calvin, like Van Til held to both but could not reconcile them. Calvin, Van Til and Packer are of the school that says these things cannot be reconciled by the human mind. They are antinomies , mysteries or apparent contradictions.

The truth is that they can be reconciled. All you need to do is jetison the error of eternal damnation and it all fits together. Talbot’s discussion of Calvinism and Arminians shows that both are holding to one truth but rejecting the other equally scriptural truth. Why? Because if ET is true the other two cannot be.

The Arminaian’s starting point is not really free will, it is the love of God. Free will is their way of coping with how God could torment people forever. Calvinism does not deny man the ability to make free choices if by free we mean apart from external coercion. What Calvinist’s deny is that man will ever choose to convert unless God does something to a man’s nature first. Man’s will is in bondage to his nature which scripture says is evil. Like the leopard we cannot change our spots. But God can change them for us. How? Not by changing our wills but by changing our natures. Once the nature is regnerate the will chooses the good. In defending a “free will” which is disconnected with man’s fallen nature, which the bible does not teach anywhere, the Arminian must deny the binding power of man’s fallen nature on our free choices which the bible clearly sets forth everywhere. Rom 8, Jer 23, etc.

They mean well but arminianism is misguided. Incidentally I find it incredible that anyone could believe that God, whose knowledge is infinite could not convince us to do what he wants when even a good car salesman can do this. We’re talking about God here not man. How silly to say he could not convince a man to do what he wants. That makes no sense at all.


wmb2003 I laughed out loud when I read that line - excellent! God hasn’t got the persuasory skills of a car salesman (and it’s not like he’s peddling a dodgy product either is it :wink: )

Funnily enough with all the talk around here about the Jubilee your other comments concerning Calvinism and Arminianism regarding free will struck a chord. One is free to reject a kinsman redeemer with one’s free will (wide path to destruction) only until the great Jubilee when one is set free. The earlier one switches master (narrow path to life) the sooner the benefits are gained.

I agree, wmb. It seems like the crux of the argument from the other side is not that He can’t convince, but He won’t. (The, “God is too much of a gentleman” argument.)

Yep - he’s not going to force anyone to not to suffer forever, if that’s what they really really want. Way to kind for those sort of strong-arming tactics. :unamused:

It’s amazing too how God had changed since the last century when He gleefully tossed the wicked into the eternal fire! Now He’s evolved into a perfect gentleman who steps aside and simply lets people fall in there. :smiley: