False Views on John Calvin






Many evangelical churches see John Calvin as a great theologian yet; he is represented as a mean person. Many believe John Calvin is the founder of a new religion called ‘Calvinism’.  Calvin never started a new religion called Calvinism, he simply taught the Bible.  Then who started Calvinism? C. H. Spurgeon gives the answer below.


"We only use the term "Calvinism" for shortness. That doctrine which is called  "Calvinism" did not spring from Calvin; we believe that it sprang from the great founder of all truth. Perhaps Calvin himself derived it mainly from the writings of Augustine. Augustine obtained his views, without doubt, through the Holy Spirit of God, from diligent study of the writings of Paul, and Paul received them from the Holy Ghost and from Jesus Christ, the great founder of the Christian Church. We use the term then, not because we impute an extraordinary importance to Calvin's having taught these doctrines. We would be just as willing to call them by any other name, if we could find one which would be better understood, and which on the whole would be as consistent with the fact." (C.H Spurgeon)


Some believe, Calvin wrote the ‘five points of Calvinism.’ This is also false. Calvin never wrote the 5 points of Calvinism. It was written 54 years after the death.  Then the Arminians made their five points first. In November 13, 1618, 39 pastors, 18 ruling elders, 5 professors and 19 delegates were invited to settle this issue at Synod of Dort. It lasted for seven months. What was the result? Arminianism was unanimously rejected and condemned. The five theological points of Calvinism were formulated to answer the five points of Arminianism.

Also some say, John Calvin was against evangelism and Calvinism is a threat for evangelism. This is not true as we are going to see the real John Calvin. The majority of the modern evangelical church is representing John Calvin as a mean, unloving, uncaring dangerous man. But let us see the truth and nothing but the truth of John Calvin, then you will be amazed to see all the bad things what you have heard and what you may hear of John Calvin is not true. This is truly a character assassination of a godly man.


Birth of John Calvin and his conversion


John Calvin was born in 1509 to a Roman Catholic family in France.  At the age of 14, Calvin was studying in a college in Paris. Calvin’s father wanted him to be a priest however Calvin studied law. When Calvin was 24 years old, he had an unexpected but a sudden conversion. In his commentary on the Psalms, Calvin said concerning his conversion: "By a sudden conversion, God subdued and reduced to docility my soul, which was more hardened against such things than one would expect of my youthful years."  "Like a flash of light, I realized in what an abyss of errors, in what chaos I was." Calvin broke with the Roman Church and was thrown in prison several times (for short stays) because of his evangelical activities. He became the head of the evangelical party in France less than a year after his conversion. Calvin could have lost his life when he saw a fellow evangelical's tongue cut out and the man burned at the stake. Calvin made a move towards the scaffold, but several other evangelicals dragged him away.

  Calvin wrote the Institutes of the Christian Religion and published when he was 27 years of age. This was the Christian manual for the infant protestant church.

The Call of God


Calvin’s call to the ministry in Geneva, Switzerland. Calvin just finished his book when he was about 27 years old of the book, ‘The Institutes of the Christian Religion.’ This book became famous among serous Bible study students. Calvin’s intention was to spend the rest of his life in a quiet place writing theology. He thought the ideal place to do this was the city of Strasbourg, in France but near Germany.    He was on his way to the city of Strasbourg, but on the way, there was a war between France and the Roman Emperor. Due to the war, he had to take a detour and he had to go through the city of Geneva in Switzerland. He planned to stay in Geneva for one single night, and then move on to Strasbourg. However, God had other plans for young Calvin. When he was in his room, just about to sleep, there was a knock on the door. There was a Frenchmen by the name of William Farrell, Farrell a few months before persuaded the city council in Geneva to embrace Protestantism.  Now when William Farrell heard that John Calvin was passing by Geneva he did not waste any time but had the intension of recruiting John Calvin to help in Protestantism in Geneva. William Farrell burned with an extraordinary zeal to advance the gospel in Geneva and Calvin’s intension was to go to Strasbourg and spend his time in private studied but Farrell burned with zeal to stop Calvin going to Strasbourg and said God would curse him if he would refuse to help the Protestantism in Geneva as the demand was great. Calvin said, “He was terror struck and gave up his journey.”  This is how God called John Calvin to the ministry.


Trials of his Ministry


During this time, Calvin was 27 years of age, shy and a reserved person, but became the pastor in Geneva. The first years of his ministry were very hard. He went through many trials; people would set their dogs after John Calvin when he was walking down the streets of Geneva. Once when he walked to the pulpit there was a death treat note waiting for him. While in Geneva the first time, he was forced to sell household utensils and books from his library to help make ends meet. It was only after eight months of lecturing that he began to receive a small salary a week, an amount which was insufficient for comfortable living There he remained unmarried until the age of twenty nine, living in a house without central heat, seeking to serve God who had claimed him, and having to wonder from whence the next meal might come. Yet rather than hearing him complain, we see his praises to sovereign God.  When he was 31 years of old he married a godly woman, had a one child, then after two years his child died, then after nine years his wife died. Calvin went through real trials, yet his consuming love and zeal for the Lord remained same.


Calvin the Pastor


Although Calvin was a shy and a reserved person he was very different when he was behind the pulpit. His heart was inflamed for the word of God and became a great preacher, Calvin believed he was never at the pulpit by himself; he speaks of the hidden energy. The power of the Holy Spirit was there with him and the Spirits energy energized him in preaching and in the ministry. He preached 5 different sermons a week in Geneva, Switzerland, during his entire course of his ministry. He preached steadily through book after book of the Bible. On Sunday mornings, the text was from the New Testament, whereas on Sunday afternoons it was often from the Psalms. During the week, the text was always from the Old Testament. He expounded books of the Bible, a passage at a time, day after day. Also, he taught Bible studies on a regular weekly basis. John Calvin did pastoral counseling. He ministered people during the times of trials. He presided over meetings in the church. He conducted weddings and baptisms. John Calvin was a great pastor, many are unaware of this as many think he was only a theologian away from the public, not having any concern for the people but writing theology in a corner. This is wrong, this is not John Calvin. But the true John Calvin got his hands dirty in the lives of people. John Calvin was a great theologian and theology got deep rooted in his heart and it affected his life to become a great pastor and he loved the people.


Outside the pulpit, John Calvin was a loving, kindhearted man. In his correspondence letters, he speaks of his pastoral activities. He had a great pastors’ heart. He wrote a letter to a friend whose wife was dying. But Calvin went to her deathbed every single day and read Psalms to her. Calvin gave encouraging loving words from the Bible. Calvin wrote as pastors we aught to weep those who weep. He had such compassion and sorrow for his neighbors and shared their tears. There was another time where he wrote a letter to a man who went to share the gospel in France (Roman Catholic territory) But this man was arrested by the Roman Catholic church and was sentenced to death. John Calvin knew this man and he wrote to this man of a very encouraging letter, he wished to partaker of his troubles and if worst would happen he would like to be united with him in heaven, he embraced his dear friend. Calvin as a pastor was able to emotionally connect with their pain, he was able to understand their pain, then he was able to point to the true source of consolation who is our Sovereign Lord. This is great pastoral counseling.


John Calvin and Michael Servetus


Michael Servetus was a notorious heretic as he denied the deity of Christ and the Trinity. Servetus was arrested in France but he was able to escape France and made his way to Geneva. One day when Calvin was preaching walks in the notorious heretic Michael Servetus. The authorities immediately arrested him. Many uninformed Christians believe that Calvin put Servetus to death. This is untrue. On the other hand, John Calvin tried to win Servetus to Christ. While Servetus in prison, John Calvin went to his prison cell many times and tried to win him to Christ. But Servetus still denied the deity of Christ and the Trinity. He was condemned to death not by John Calvin but by a Judge, John Calvin was only a witness of his false heresies but not a prosecutor. The day he was put to death Calvin again went to Servetus and shared the gospel but it was in vain.


Evangelism and Missions


John Calvin was one of the greatest missionaries who ever lived.  During the 16th century, there was a lot of persecution in Europe as the Roman Catholics persecuted the Protestants. Many people left their homeland to Geneva, Geneva was a refugee center as thousands upon thousands fled to Geneva to escape prosecution. Here people had to find jobs and to find a new life in Geneva as so many people flocked to Geneva.  There were English speaking, German speaking, French speaking and Italian speaking Christians forgetting their culture but uniting in Christ in Geneva.  However, Geneva was French speaking as it was close to France. Once they arrived in Geneva, they sat under Calvin’s preaching. These refugees’ hearts were stirred for Christ and for their homeland. After Calvin’s teachings, many of them were convinced that they should return to their homeland and preach the gospel. But Calvin said, a good missionary is a good theologian, he did not send them right away to their homelands but trained them in theology. Calvin trained them in theology, helped them in their preaching, and examined their moral character.  Once they were qualified, Calvin encouraged them to go.


Calvin also maintained an on going relationship with the missionaries who went back to their homeland. There were on going advice between these who went and John Calvin depending on situations. Calvin’s students were not only missionaries on a refrigerator but they were brothers who had an on going relationship with him. There was a vibrant relationship with the missionaries. They were all trained and sent by John Calvin.  In 1555, Calvin in Geneva planted 5 Protestant Churches in France. In 1559, John Calvin was able to plant 100 churches in France.  1562 Geneva and her sister cities were able to plant 2000 churches in France. Brothers and sisters this is how God used John Calvin to spread the gospel; this is the theologian, Pastor and Missionary, John Calvin.  But today we are hearing John Calvin did not care about missions. People say Calvinism is a threat to missions; do not listen to the lies, which are said ignorantly not really knowing the true John Calvin. Which denomination had planted 2000 churches in a 7-year period? None.  John Calvin was one of the leading church planters during the reformation. Scholars believe by 1565 there were about 3 million protestants in France, directly influence by John Calvin’s teaching, preaching, counseling and church planting.  France became so close to becoming a protestant country.


Luther came and completed solid new structure resting on the Word of God. The completion of the building, however, was left to John Calvin, a master theologian, the pastor, missionary and the church planter whom God used in a mighty way during the reformation. He did not compromise the Word of God, what scripture taught Calvin believed. Students came from all over the world to listen to his lectures.


Later years


In his later years Calvin was afflicted with fever, asthma and gout. About two or three years before he died Calvin became very sick. His friends advised him to rest in his labors. However, Calvin replied to them, “Do you want the Lord to find me idle?” Sometimes he had to be carried on a stretcher to the pulpit. On February 6th, 1564 when he was about 55 years old, John Calvin preached his last sermon. Several times during the sermon he had difficulty in breathing, yet he preached, as Calvin wanted to run the race to the very finish. On April 25th 1564 he spent much time in prayer and died in the arms of his faithful friend Theodore Beza.