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European Reformation: John Calvin And Predestination

John Calvin.

Mention his name, and the word “predestination” comes immediately to mind. In the portrait above, he is pictured as being stern, perhaps even vengeful—a man who relished preaching the judgement of God.

But that is far from the truth.

When Rebecca and I visited his church in Geneva, Switzerland recently, I was reminded that this man was actually a caring pastor who believed that predestination should be a comfort to God’s children and an encouragement to preach the Gospel.

Calvin did not invent the word “predestination;” after all, it occurs several times in the Bible. He simply understood it in its plain sense—namely that God pre-determines events, including matters related to personal salvation (Romans 8: 29 Ephesians 1:3-6). This doctrine of the sovereignty of God in salvation also guarantees the eternal security of those who are truly converted. In other words, we can know with confidence that God’s purposes will come to pass.

Obviously, this raises all kinds of questions that we cannot take time to answer in a short paragraph. My only point is, let’s not blame Calvin for the doctrine of predestination. He was very careful to pay close attention to the Scripture and it was his intention to teach only what God has revealed about these mysteries.

Now 500 years later, we must again be reminded that we should not ignore the difficult doctrines of Scripture. And because God’s ways are not our ways, we must humbly bow to His Word.

By the way, if you are wondering whether God has predestined you to eternal life, I think Calvin would say, “Repent of your sin and trust Christ as your Savior. In this way, you will prove that you have been pre-determined by God to be His forever.”

Calvin: love him or hate him, but don’t ignore him. He grappled with God’s Word, and we must do the same. If we disagree with Him, we should know why.

In my next blog I will answer: How could one preacher, living 500 years ago, still impact many today through his sermons? And, if Calvin were preaching today, would we go hear him?

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