Shuck and Jive

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Will John Calvin Go To Heaven?

Guess what, kids! Next year we celebrate John Calvin's 500th birthday! John Calvin is the superstar of Presbyterianism. So what do you think? Will Mr. Calvin make it to heaven or will he be in hell?

Here is a educational piece on Calvin's theology of predestination. I found this on an interesting blog, Why Won't God Heal Amputees?

Five hundred years. Wow. That is a long time. I wonder what medicine was like 500 years ago? Or physics? Psychology? I guess that wasn't invented yet. Geology? Biology? A lot has changed all right.

Religion? Oh, we are pretty much at the same place now as we were then.


  1. Re: that last line, Mr. Dewey says "And a lot of people wouldn't have it any other way".


  2. Calvin gets a lot of grief over predestination, but really is it any worse than the fundamentalist notion that, if you do the right things, and say the right things, and go to the right church, and vote for the right candidate, and aren't teh gay, God-as-Angry-Santa counts you on the nice list instead of the naughty list? (And the Arminian notion of conditional election isn't too far off from that either.)

    Or how about if you've had the proper form of baptism, you're OK, otherwise yer doomed, a notion which has led to such things as the Mormon practice of posthumous baptisms of Jews.

    And where would universalists be without a notion of predestination? Seems to me that if everyone goes to heaven, it was God who predestined them to do so.

    I'm tempted to paraphrase Churchill: Predestination is the worst notion regarding God's plan for salvation ... except for all the others. :)

  3. I would agree Calvin's theory is no worse than any other.

    I am not really a universalist either when it comes down to it. I am more of an Iris DeMentian--let the mystery be.

    Whatever happens after I am dead, I will deal with it then...if there is any "I" or any "it" with which to deal.

    My theological answer I think is in the Reformed camp somewhere. God is sovereign. Whatever happens, God made it, so it is OK. Now live life.

    The point that I have been blathering about for the last couple of years on this blog is that religion could be asking some different questions.

    For instance, what will Earth be like for our descendants? What does our theology help us to do now about that?

  4. Oh I agree that arguing about predestination is sooooo 1536. :)

    If one holds to a doctrine of predestination, the point should be, "OK, so you're one of the elect. Big deal; me too. Now what are you going to do about it, bub?"

    On the other hand, if one holds to some of the fundamentalist views (ie. God-as-Angry-Santa) then it makes sense that one would be far more concerned with maintaining one's place on the Nice List, instead of actually doing something to help one's fellow human beings (because let's face it, if they need help, they're probably not on the Nice List themselves.)

  5. Absolutely. That was my point about the hell-based religion post earlier which all started because of our classical friend who said my teachings are putting people in danger of eternal damnation.

    If we take Calvin's theory at face value, that God decided from the beginning who is in and who is out regardless of what we do (including doing "correct theology"), then not even Calvin could be assured he was in.

    So 1536.

  6. Actually, not to keep beating a dead horse here ... a long dead horse ... But Calvin believed that we could be sure of our election, a side of predestination that I find rather comforting, actually, because, as it turns out, much to my continued surprise, I'm not perfect. ;) That's far more comforting than always fearing that stepping on a crack may not only break your mother's back, but send you on a bullet train straight to eternal perdition with the weeping and gnashing of teeth.

    Where some (many?) go wrong in their theology is not only that they clearly don't understand classical Reformed doctrines of election, but also that they think they can be sure of others' non-election.

    And of course, they go wrong when they hold to these doctrines as if they're laws. To use a scientific analogy, at best these doctrines are hypotheses (not even theories because they do not make testable predictions ... or at least not predictions I want to test any time soon.) Like scientific hypotheses, they're to be held tentatively, not tightly because, just as scientists never know what new observation might be just around the corner, we Christians believe that we see through a glass darkly.

  7. I suspect that Mr. Calvin will be in Purgatory for a few more centuries, at least. God is merciful and all, but you don't get off beheading Michael Servetus that easily.

  8. Alan, thanks for beating that horse. That positive assurance of election has been helpful in ministry. Folks who for whatever reason think that they are not good enough for God or who have or who think they will do things to make God reject them can find comfort that God perfectly already loves them before they even know.

    At baptisms I often say something to the effect that there is nothing you can do or nothing you have done to make God love you more. There is nothing you can do or nothing you have done to make God love you less.

    Chris--lol. He is going to have hell to pay for Servetus.

  9. “The point that I have been blathering about for the last couple of years on this blog is that religion could be asking some different questions. For instance, what will Earth be like for our descendants? What does our theology help us to do now about that?”

    Let's get on with it ...

    "Do I have the privilege to remain silent and inactive in a world that needs kingdom living? One of the ways we can build bridges to other faiths is by active mutual involvement in solving problems." (Mallouhi, Christine A. Waging Peace on Islam. Illinois: InterVarsity Press; 2000; p. 165.)

    “Goals rather than creeds should unify religionists. Since true religion is a matter of personal spiritual experience, it is inevitable that each individual religionist must have his own and personal interpretation of the realization of that spiritual experience. Let the term "faith" stand for the individual's relation to God rather than for the creedal formulation of what some group of mortals have been able to agree upon as a common religious attitude. ‘Have you faith? Then have it to yourself.’”

    “The materialistic scientist and the extreme idealist are destined always to be at loggerheads. This is not true of those scientists and idealists who are in possession of a common standard of high moral values and spiritual test levels. In every age scientists and religionists must recognize that they are on trial before the bar of human need. They must eschew all warfare between themselves while they strive valiantly to justify their continued survival by enhanced devotion to the service of human progress. If the so-called science or religion of any age is false, then must it either purify its activities or pass away before the emergence of a material science or spiritual religion of a truer and more worthy order.”

  10. If I remember the history correctly, I believe Servetus was burned at the stake. Calvin wanted him beheaded, but other folks thought that was too lenient.

    Too. Lenient.

    I'm not actually sure if that was the case, but that was a running joke between me and some friends of mine while I was at Calvin. For example, if the ref made a bad call at a Calvin vs. Hope basketball game, someone would shout, "Behead him!" and we'd all say, "No, beheading's too good for him!"

  11. Ha! Thanks for the history lesson.

    Ah, the good old days. Yet in a very real sense those days are not past.

    Executions, torture,...

  12. Hey Rob!

    Welcome back! Good to hear from you again. Good, good thoughts.

  13. Arguments about the difference between fate and predestination aside, I love Bertrand Russell's comment: "Fate should be discussed long enough to determine it need not be discussed at all".

    Tra la

  14. I think we went off track at least as far back as the doctrine of original sin.

    The process of developing a doctrine is only piece wise logical at best. So you get a lot of lofty thinking and writing surrounding a small step, and then another small step and then another, but when you back away and look at the composite direction, one can only marvel at the mess. How did so many people spend so much time coming up with THAT ??!!!

    THAT is what Jesus came to save us from. But some religious nut will always find a perfectly legitimate reason to crucify him every time.

  15. Theology--endless speculation about that which is unknowable.