Calvin On Heretics

We admit that those who have fallen into idolatry and lead others astray ought to be killed.”

“We easily grant that heretics who have been ordered to leave the territory of the prince, but refuse to comply, can suffer capital punishment.”

We know that there are three levels of errors, and 1. we grant that some should be pardoned, 2. while for others a moderate censure is sufficient, and 3. that only notorious impiety should suffer capital punishment. 

“But in the event that religion is being torn away from its foundations, that abominable blasphemies are being brought forth against God, that souls are being carried off to destruction by unrighteous and destructive dogma, and finally when open rebellion against the only God and against true doctrine is being attempted, it is necessary to descend to that very last of remedies [kill ’em], lest the deadly poison creep farther.”

–All quotes from Calvin’s charming book entitled, Refutation of the Errors of Servetus. Servetus is one of the guys Calvin had burned at the stake for desagreeing with Calvin’s doctrine.

11 thoughts on “Calvin On Heretics”

  1. Yes Calvin did some very bad things and I don’t think anyone of us would disagree that he was wrong in doing them. But he also was used by God during that time to bring light to God’s Word.We must be careful that we don’t go after people in the past that we don’t agree with personally. Just like politics of today, people that don’t agree with a politician start attacking his personal life and the issues get left in the dust.
    For example, just one of many in the Bible, David was a murderer, adulterer, liar, and a thief but he was a man after the Lords own heart. He was used by God. We are not to follow the things that David did but just as David we are to repent from theses sins in our lives and focus on God’s Word.
    I don’t consider myself a follower of Calvin but I do agree with a lot of his teachings of God’s Word.There is only one that we should look to when it comes to the way we should model our life around and that is Christ. Everyone else are wretched sinners.

  2. Actually, Calvin was not really that much different in his views on this matter than current Christians. Most modern Christians believe that God will burn the souls of the lost for ever and ever. If God can do these things, then He can ask His followers to do the same on His behalf.

    This is indeed the view that many hold of the Old Testament, where God commanded the Israelites to do many severe acts of punishment on His behalf. If this is so, then it only follows that given the same circumstances, the same acts of punishment can be carried out again by His church.

    And that it will happen again, and for the same supposed reasons, is made clear in the prophecies of the last half of the book of Revelation. And that it will be just as wrong as it was for Calvin to do it, is also made clear in the same book.

    Nevertheless, Calvin came a long way out of papal darkness and left many things behind to follow Christ. Have we done the same in our day? If not, then we are more to blame than him. Maybe we ought to ask the question, “If I were in Calvin’s place, in his day, with persecutions, heresies, and wars looming on all sides and apparently threatening the work of God, what would I have done?”

  3. Jeff, it is not that you quoted Calvin but what you quoted from Calvin. There are many positive quotes from Calvin that could have be posted to but were not. That makes it an attack on the person. Just as if I went through all your post and picked out the stuff I thought could do damage to your credibility or a better example is people that go through the Bible and pick out a verse to accomplish their agenda. By the way, I would never do that to you, I enjoy your post! :-)

  4. I know, I was being snarky! My underlying point is that seemingly all we hear from Calvin is positive quotes, to the extent that people worship the guy. I’m merely pointing out the point you were making in your first comment–we’re all sinners. Sometimes I think we forget. Paul told the Corinthians not to worship one guy and make much of him. Too much is made of Calvin, in my opinion.

  5. God Never commended David for his adultery and murder. He did accept his prayer of repentance. David still suffered many consequences of his sin but he was forgiven.

    I’m not a scholar on Calvin but I have never read that he was the least bit repentant over the things he said or did. He went to the grave thinking he did God service in his killing of those he considered heretics.

  6. Davy, no one said God commended David on his sin but his actions did lead him into repentance. On the other part of your post, only God knows if Calvin was convicted of his sin when it comes to that subject.
    Man can have hatred in his heart for others but never put it in writing, does that make him right? Does a man have to put something in writing to be cleared of it?
    As I said before , only God knows, I don’t, but I do know that God used Calvin to further His kingdom and bring a reformation to the land. I take everything he taught and put it up to scripture just as I do every sinful man.

  7. I don’t find Calvin’s remarks that offensive. Particularly this part:

    “We easily grant that heretics who have been ordered to leave the territory of the prince, but refuse to comply, can suffer capital punishment.”

    They have been warned, so they have free choice to leave. He didn’t gather together soldiers to hunt them down and quarter them. There is a certain amount of leniency in it, especially when compared to monstrosities like the inquisition.

    The religious liberty that we take for granted took many centuries to establish…in the beginning it was thought to be very dangerous. Read the life of Roger Williams in early America if you get the chance. When he set up a state that would have full religious liberty, most of the other states thought that it would end in disaster, and derided Rhode Island as the “cesspool of New England”.

    I also remember that when Protestantism challenged the old order of church and state combined, some people (out of their rebellious hearts and at the instigation of Satan) were ready to go too far and throw out all law and order. Luther had to meet some of these fanatical groups also, and Satan tried to use them to cast discredit on the Reformation (as if to say, “…see what it leads to!…”).

    It was a difficult era, and the amount of good that was done by the school at Geneva was immense compared to the few bad actions done with Calvin’s approval, and which he did not have the light to see clearly in his time.

  8. Casey, I understand your point. I am sure I would be on Calvin’s heretic list so I guess that makes me a little more sensitive to his threats. Lol

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