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” [Dave Hunt – What Love is This? p. 36].
Most Calvinists recognize Augustine as the source of most of what Calvin taught, however, most Calvinist disagree even amongst themselves over the exact structure of this doctrine. Calvin would not agree with what many of his followers teach today.
Today many of the followers of the multitudes of variations of Calvinism attempt to disassociate Calvin from Calvinism. Instead, they will call it reformed theology, Monergism, or Doctrines of Grace. It was not until fifty years after the death of Calvin that the Great Synod of Dort set in order the five points of Calvinism. Calvin is widely documented and his connection to Catholicism is a reason for suspicion. Much of what Calvin taught is today recognized by Roman Catholicism such as infant baptism, baptismal regeneration, reprobation for God’s pleasure, and enforcing doctrine with the secular sword.
In becoming a Protestant, Calvin renounced the papacy as representing the true church. Notwithstanding, while condemning the Catholic Church as false, he carried over into Protestantism much of the structure and false views, such as infant baptism, a clergy with special powers, and efficacy of sacraments performed only by clergy.
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. This new pursuance became Calvin’s love and likely laid the framework for the legalism that would later become so pervasive in the system of theology that he would later develop.
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 academics who were promoting reform of the Catholic church.
In January 1534 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 from Paris. While in hiding in Angouleme, he began his convoluted 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.
Calvinist avoid the uncomfortable fact that in all of his extensive writings, Calvin never speaks of being born again through faith in Jesus Christ. Calvin considered himself to have been a Christian from the moment of his Roman Catholic infant baptism Calvin states, “…at whatever time we are baptised, we are washed and purified once for the whole of life…we must recall…our baptism…so as to feel certain and secure of the remission of sins…it wipes and washes away all our defilements.” Calvin, Institutes, IV; xv, 3.
Christians who were saved out of the Catholic Church and baptized as believers were known as Anabaptists and persecuted by the Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists. Calvin believed the Anabaptists should not be just killed but they should be burned cruelly. Calvin subsequently banished them from Geneva in 1537. This brings to mind the question if you are a born again and baptized former Catholic how could you ever consider Calvin as one of you? It is an absolute that Calvin would not consider anyone who had been baptized as a believer that was born a Catholic as anything more than a heretic.
Calvin developed his own brand of Christianity. The primary source for the Institutes was the Latin Vulgate – the official Bible fo the Roman Catholic Church and the teachings of Augustinianism. Most Calvinists today including Evangelical leaders and not aware they have been enthralled by the musings of a devoted Roman Catholic, newly converted to Luther’s Protestantism who had broken with Rome only a year before. By any standard, this 26-year-old man was far from mature in the Christian faith when he finished the Institutes in 1534. Calvin himself said, “he was astonished that just a year after leaving the Catholic Church that all those who had some desire for pure doctrine betook themselves to me in order to learn, although I myself had done little more than begin.” (Emphasis Added) (Calvin, Commentary on Psalms, Preface)
Without question, his Institutes could not have come from a deep and fully developed understanding of Scripture. They were the result of a passionate interest of a recent law graduate and student of philosophy and religion, a young man dedicated to Augustine and a fresh cause, that being the rebellion against the Catholic Church.
We must compare scripture with scripture to see if the Institutes pass the fundamental test.
Calvin’s Basic Ingredients – Sovereignty and Predestination
The basic framework of Calvin’s religious order was an extremist view of God’s sovereignty that denied the human will and considered the church to be God’s kingdom on earth. Both these views were inspired by Augustine’s writings.
Augustine taught that foreknowledge was the same as predestination. Calvin saw God as the author of every event, including all sin.
“If God merely foresaw human events, and did not also arrange and dispose of them at his pleasure, there might be room for agitating the question, how far his foreknowledge amounts to necessity; but since he foresees the things which are to happen, simply because he has decreed that they are so to happen, it is vain to debate about prescience, while it is clear that all events take place by his sovereign appointment.” ~ Calvin, Institutes, III, xxiii, 6.
Out of this extreme view of God’s sovereignty came Calvin’s understanding of predestination. According to Calvin (also Augustine), in eternity past God decided to save only a fraction of the human race and consigned the rest to eternal torment simply because it pleased Him to do so.
“Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children.” ~ Calvin, Institutes, III, xxiii, 1.
“But if all whom the Lord predestines to death are naturally liable to sentence of death, of what injustice, pray, do they complain? Should all the sons of Adam come to dispute and contend with their Creator, because by his eternal providence they were before their birth doomed to perpetual destruction, when God comes to reckon with them, what will they be able to mutter against this defense?” ~ Calvin, Institutes, III, xxiii, 3.
Calvin emphasizes sovereignty but hardly ever mentions God’s love for sinners. Calvin (as well as Augustine and most Calvinist today) said God could foresee the future only because He had willed it. Here is the frightening doctrine of reprobation in Calvin’s own words, echoing his teacher, Augustine:
“We say, then, that Scripture clearly proves this much, that God by his eternal and immutable counsel determined once for all those whom it was his pleasure one day to admit to salvation, and those whom, on the other hand, it was his pleasure to doom to destruction. We maintain that this counsel, as regards the elect, is founded on his free mercy, without any respect to human worth, while those whom he dooms to destruction are excluded from access to life by a just and blameless, but at the same time incomprehensible judgment. In regard to the elect, we regard calling as the evidence of election, and justification as another symbol of its manifestation, until it is fully accomplished by the attainment of glory. But as the Lord seals his elect by calling and justification, so by excluding the reprobate either from the knowledge of his name or the sanctification of his Spirit, he by these marks in a manner discloses the judgment which awaits them.” ~ Calvin, Institutes, III, xxi, 7.
But God clearly states in His Word – John 3:16 (KJB) “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
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.