John Calvin and Universal Atonement

B.G. Armstrong writes concerning John Calvin (1509-1564):

“French Protestant reformer; generally regarded as second in importance only to Martin Luther as a key figure in the Protestant Reformation.

Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, regarded by historian Will Durant as among the world’s ten most influential works, gave birth to a distinctive ‘Reformed’ theology, sometimes named after Calvin himself.

Calvin has also been called ‘the organizer of Protestantism’ because in his pastoral work of organizing evangelical churches in Strassburg and Geneva, he developed an adaptable model of church government. The cultural impact of that ‘Presbyterian’ model has extended beyond church political theory. In the sixteenth century new social institutions emerged to replace the deteriorating ones that had once held medieval civilizations together; many of the new institutions were influenced by Calvin’s model.”

Dr. Curt Daniel writes:

“Calvin usually preached in French and wrote in Latin. His literary career lasted only 33 years, but he remains one of the three most prolific Christian writers of all time (with Luther and Spurgeon). On average, he wrote about 1,000 pages a year. This is astounding when one considers that he did not write simple religious pablum but only solid and scholarly theology” (Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism,  p. 27).

What Calvin wrote was certainly scholarly. But solid? Here are John Calvin’s far-from-solid comments on Romans 5:18:

“He makes this favor common to all, because it is propounded to all, and not because it is in reality extended to all; for though Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, and is offered through God’s benignity indiscriminately to all, yet all do not receive him.”

John Calvin is here saying that although Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, yet all do not receive Him. If he had just said, “Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world,” we could have considered the possibility that he could have meant “the whole world of the Jews and Gentiles” or “the whole world of the elect” and not everyone without exception. But he goes on to say that “all do not receive him,” which means that he believed that Christ suffered for the sins of the whole world, INCLUDING all who do not receive him. Thus Calvin denied the very heart of the gospel, which is the efficacious atonement of Jesus Christ.

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