Thursday, March 02, 2006

Historical Insight on Calvin's Predestination

CalvinToday Ive been reading some stuff on the European reformation for Uni, which again Im not at because of the snow. Ive been reading on John Calvin's time in Geneva [for the sake of reference Ive been reading The European Reformations" (Carter Lindberg)]. If you want an in depth explanation of Calvin's double predestination is then check out the wiki definition here Firstly predestination in Calvins first few editions of his famous "institutes" work was in no way the foremost doctrine but sat with the rest in a document intended to be an evangelical training document for training pastors etc. Calvins theology of pre-destination first came into public question during his time in geneva by a reformed friar called Jerome Bolsec who would travel into Geneva and argue theology with the pastors in the Genevan academy. In October 1551 he publicly attacked Calvin's understanding of predestination. It had been questioned before, but what gave this attack more weight was that Bolsec argued the doctrine from scripture which for Calvin and the reformed tradition of the time was the highest authority. Bolsec argued against Calvin's predestination with he Verse 1 Timothy 2:4 which states God desires all to be saved, though he was then imprisoned, tried, publicly condemned and then banished for life this attack aroused more interest in this doctrine than any other theological debate of the time.Calvin This then made Calvin give it a much more prominent position within his later editions of the Institutes of Christian religion, he hammered out an extreme position on it due to the consideration that the reformation in geneva was based on popular support, if that support was eroded by Bolsec's counter argument then he feared his life's work and advancement of the kingdom through him would all fade away. This extreme position then has become the position taken by his later followers known as Calvinists. Though Calvin makes many theological claims, in modern theology and christian culture, the name Calvin and calvinist is almost always used in relation to the doctrine of predestination. Predestination is not a central doctrine that all other doctrines in Calvin, and the reformation periods flow from, but the central doctrine for the reformation is "Salvation by Grace Alone". This is taken from Paul's letters and particularly Johns Gospel 15:16 when Christ states to his disciples "You did not choose me but I chose you". The Doctrine of Predestination basically means that salvation is rescue and not achievement. On a personal level it is the proclamation that salvation is God's gift and choice of the person in spite of his or her doubts, unbelief, and external circumstances. To step this up into a corporate or ecclesiastical level it is the proclamation that despite all circumstances, God's Church will prevail. This doctrine for the reformed or early protestant church was crucially important as they were sufferning persecution for their reformed theology. calvin addressed his doctrine of predestination specifically to these, in order to comfort them. This is the point that Bolsec and many calvinists to this day overlook; that Calvinist predestination in doctrinal terms unconditional election is another way of saying unconditional Grace! If God's elect cannot be lost then those in persecution (especially in France for Calvin) could be assured of their salvation. God then, for Calvin, is a loving parent who Calvin describes in images of a mother who cannot forget her nursing child. Predestination for Calvin supposed would be the final guarantee of humility towards God and security for God's people in their salvation. The Later History of Calvinism unfortunately says that it guaranteed neither. In Conclusion, Calvin hoped that his extreme position on the doctrine of Predestination would ensure a humility and an assuredness towards salvation, instead it was turned into a doctrine against Grace. Listening to: "Reasonable Doubt" (Jay-Z)

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