Happy 502nd Birthday, John

As Karl Marx waited for the cold hand of death, he noted that whatever people would call him, don’t let them call him a Marxist.

I have to wonder, if Calvin would say the same thing – I mean about being known as a ‘Calvinist.’

I have found, much to the chagrin of others, wisdom in his writings and indeed, a pastoral spirit which is not often present in his followers.

So, Happy Birthday, John.

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7 Replies to “Happy 502nd Birthday, John”

  1. Nope, I agree with Jim West on this one: if Calvin was a moral failure over Servetus then so was almost every other human being of his times. In which case singling out Calvin for approbation is meaningless. Judging him by contemporary standards is simply committing the anachronist fallacy.

  2. Then everyone in Calvin’s day was a murderer, or would have been a murderer were they in Calvin’s position. Which makes accusations against Calvin as an individual meaningless.

    By the way, there was a civil trial in which someone was found guilty (and no-one disputes that he was guilty), so a) it wasn’t murder, just harsh justice * according to contemporary standards*; and b) Calvin wasn’t in charge of that civil trial and could not have stopped it even if he’d magically become a 2011 Christian and wanted to.

    Individuals can only be fairly judged by the standards of their era, anything else is anachronistic fallacy.

    1. Just Sayin’, not everyone at that time believed it was right to put heretics to death. Consider this, written a few years earlier:

      It is criminal to put heretics to death. To make an end of them by fire and sword is opposed to every principle of humanity.

      Who wrote that? A certain John Calvin, in the first edition of his Institutes (but edited out of later editions). So I judge Calvin by his own standards.

      OK, he was not the judge in the Servetus case. But he had vast influence in Geneva. If he had spoken out to save Servetus, the sentence would surely have been commuted. But apparently all he did was call for Servetus to be beheaded rather than burned.

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