Where is the love of God in Calvinism?
Calvin and Augustine
Reformed theologians credit John Calvin with creating the essential points of Calvinist theology. However, it is commonly agreed upon that the core principles of Calvinism were first taught by Augustine centuries before Calvin. Augustine was the “Father of Roman Catholic Theology,” but oddly he is claimed by Catholics and Protestants alike as the greatest of theologians. As we shall see, much of Calvin’s teaching is “warmed-over Catholicism” [Hunt, p. 36].
John Calvin: His Early Life
John Calvin was born July 10, 1509, in Noyon, France, about an hours drive from Paris, as Jean Chauvin.
Calvin’s father was a notary and employed by the local Roman Catholic Cathedral. The family was devoutly Catholic, favored by the bishop, and Jean (later John) was added to the cathedral payroll when only 12 years old. Remarkably, he continued in the employ of the Roman church for 13 years, even preserving his position for one year after converting to Protestantism.
As testimony to his love for Latin, Jean changed his name to Johannes Calvinus. Henceforth, we know him as John Calvin.
Falling into disrepute with the local bishop, Calvin’s father Gerald was removed from the Roman church. Later, his brother (a priest), was excommunicated for heresy. Stunned by this turn of events, Calvin’s father ordered him to leave his training for the priesthood and to study law, a more profitable occupation.
Earning a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1531, Calvin still a devout Catholic read some of Luther’s sermons. The sermons “stirred him with their audacity,” and Calvin soon joined a circle of humanist highbrows who were promoting reform of the Catholic church.
Though not fully converted to Protestantism, Calvin’s voicing of his new-found opinions brought persecution from the authorities in Paris, and he was forced to escape. While in hiding, he began his cumbersome theological classic, Institutes of the Christian Religion, completing the smaller version within one year. Consequently, Calvin’s Institutes were written only two years after his conversion to Protestantism in 1553. Will Durant comments:
Calvin’s Connection to Augustine
Reformed Calvinists acknowledge Augustine’s influence on John Calvin.
Richard A. Muller [Christ and the Decree (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), p. 22]—“John Calvin was part of a long line of thinkers who based their doctrine of predestination on the Augustinian interpretation of St. Paul.”
Alvin L. Baker [Berkouwer’s Doctrine of Election: Balance or Imbalance? (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1981), p. 25]—“There is hardly a doctrine of Calvin that does not bear the marks of Augustine’s influence.”
B.B. Warfield [Calvin, p. 22]—“The system of doctrine taught by Calvin is just the Augustinianism common to the whole body of the Reformers.”
Calvin himself confessed his dependence upon Augustine:
August is so wholly with me, that if I wished to write a confession of my faith, I could do so with all fullness and satisfaction to myself out of his writings.
Augustine, the Roman Catholic Theologian
B.B. Warfield confesses Augustine was “in an actual sense the founder of Roman Catholicism” [Calvin, p. 313].
Philip Schaff calls him the “principal theological creator of the Latin-Catholic system as diverse from evangelical Protestantism” [History of the Christian Church, vol. 3., p. 1018].
Augustine accepted the Apocrypha as part of the Old Testament and quoted numerous other apocryphal books as authoritative.
Augustine’s explanation of the Bible was based on the allegorical technique of Origen (c. 185-254) and the Alexandrian school. (By the way, the probable source of the extremely corrupt Alexandrian manuscript—basis of modern versions of the New Testament).
Augustine was a student of the pagan philosophy of Neoplatonism and wanted to mesh this philosophy with Christianity.
Augustine taught infant baptism, have confidence in the damnation of infants who died without baptism: “Let there then be no eternal salvation promised to infants – without Christ’s baptism” (Augustine, On the Merits and Forgiveness of Sins).
Augustine taught that Mary was sinless, and he encouraged her worship [Schaff, vol. 3, p. 1021].
He believed in the intercession of the saints, the adoration of relics, and miracles attributed to the supposed power of such relics [Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 434-435, 441, 459-460].
Augustine believed that salvation depended on one’s relationship with the Roman Catholic Church:
“The Catholic Church alone is the body of Christ, of which He is the head and Saviour of His body. Outside His body the Holy Spirit giveth life to no one – Therefore, they have not the Holy Ghost who are outside the Church.” [Augustine, On the Correction of the Donatists].
Interestingly, Calvin in his Institutes wrote:
According to Boettner, Calvinism’s chief modern apologist, Augustine, gave the doctrine of purgatory its first fixed form [Boettner, Immortality, p. 135].
Augustine dressed in black and lived a celibate, ascetic life of poverty. He was also a vegetarian. 1 Timothy 4:3 (KJB) “Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
Augustine believed in celibacy and taught that sexual intercourse was always shameful and also sinful if not for the singular purpose of procreation.
Although he earlier believed in the free will of man, Augustine later maintained predestination regarding everything, including salvation:
Check out Part III – Calvin: Politician and Persecutor coming soon on The Crucified Life Ministries.
It is easy when examined in the Light of God’s Word to see the failure of Calvinism. If you would like to know more about salvation or Calvinism please send us a message.