I Think We Should Be Fair in Our Evaluations of 16th Century Theologians

I’ve been saying this for years (and not just about Calvin) but nobody listens to me.

Zwinglius Redivivus

Frank Viola has a post titled Shocking Beliefs of John Calvin.

I object for the following reason:  I think it remarkably inappropriate to judge someone from the 16th century by 21st century standards.  The result is anachronism.  Better to judge Calvin (or anyone) by their own era rather than how we think they ought to have behaved.

For instance, Viola’s dislike of Calvin’s willingness to see Servetus executed may resonate with moderns, but in the 16th century that was simply the way things were seen.  Heretics were a cancer that needed to be cut out of the body of Christ.  To point at that behavior and call it ‘perverse’ or whatever is unjust.

Accordingly, who finds these things Calvin believed shocking?  Calvin?  16th Century persons?  Nope.  Viola?  Yup.  So, who made 21st century believers the arbiters of what is good or bad belief for everyone throughout the history of…

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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