I'll agree that if this alleged "Calvin sanctioning the burning of Servetus" occurred BEFORE Calvin wrote his doctrine and then Calvin repented his actions and received his doctrine from the Holy Spirit, your point would then be valid. That is not the sequence of events with Calvin, but certainly was the case with the apostle Paul.

(Fred) Again, 1saved, you are displaying a lot of general ignorance about the events surrounding Calvin.

First, how do you know he didn't "repent" of his actions with Servetus. That is speculative.

Secondly, you tend to remove his consent from the historical context where the events took place. In Calvin's time, it was upholding the law to execute heretics, Sevetus being the Kingpin heretic of his day.

Third, Calvin did not develop the doctrine (I take it that you mean the 5 points) that bears his name. That happened 4 to 5 decades past his death.

Fourth, the Bible teaches those doctrines as they are systematized into 5 points. I do not believe them because I follow Calvin (I have only read scant portions of his institues).

Fifth, Paul sanctioned slavery in his epistles. Is he a false teacher because he told slaves to submit to their masters? Manstealing is just a much a condemned sin as murder, is it not?

My boss, Phil Johnson, a few years ago wrote an excellent response on another message board to similar accusations concerning Calvin and Servetus. It would be good to post his reponse here:

There are only two actual historical cases of any significance where anti-Calvinist dissidents were put to death for their beliefs in Geneva during the time of John Calvin's ministry there.

These represent the sum total of all existing "proof" that Calvin was a ruthless tyrant who put people to death merely for disagreeing with him. Here's the truth of the matter: when the facts about these two cases are examined, it becomes clear that Calvin's opponents have distorted the facts for propagnda purposes.


Modern Catholics and Arminians love to try to tag Calvin
personally with the responsibility of killing Michael Servetus. But Calvin's position in Geneva was only as the city's spiritual leader. He had no dictatorial powers, and he certainly was not the sort of thundering, murderous tyrant many Catholics, Arminians, and Anabaptists would like to portray. In fact, he had regular run-ins with the city's civil leaders. He was by no means the one calling the shots when Servetus was executed. Alister McGrath's
biography _A life of John Calvin_ (Oxford: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1990), p. 116, says this: "Servetus was the _only_ individual put to death for his religious opinions in Geneva during Calvin's lifetime, at a time when executions of this nature were commonplace elsewhere." McGrath includes a lengthy section on the Servetus episode that is instructive.

Why Calvin so often is painted as a demon for this episode is mystifying. It was the Genevan Council (the civil magistrates), not Calvin, who "ordered that Servetus be burned alive. Calvin asked for a milder form of death for the heretic, but did not gain his point" [S. M. Houghton, _Sketches from Church History_(Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1980), 109.] Calvin's only role in the fiasco was that he approved of execution as a fit punishment for heresy (as did virtually everyone else in that era). He specifically gave approval for Servetus's execution, but he pleaded for a merciful form of execution. Other than that, he did
not participate in the event.

A point of historical interest: Servetus was already under penalty of death from the Roman Catholic Church before Geneva executed him. Roland Bainton noted, "Servetus would have expiated [his heresies] at the stake in Catholic France had he not escaped and paid the same penalty in Protestant Geneva" [_The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century_ (Boston: Beacon, 1952), p. 136]. Servetus
had previously been informed by Genevan authorities that the city would offer no refuge to a heretic such as he. He chose to come anyway, preferring to take his chances with the Calvinists rather than face the Papal inquisitors.

Of course, all those facts do not excuse Calvin. Approving of Servetus's death was one of the biggest mistakes he ever made in his life, and his enemies have used it against him right down to the current day. But his friends have also been quick to acknowledge that "Calvin was certainly at fault, not of course in opposing the heresy of Servetus--he exposed it thoroughly--but in accepting the widely-held belief of the age that heretics should be put to death" [Houghton, p. 109].

Remember, though, this _was_ the belief commonly held by virtually all sides in that age, and not something unique to Calvinism. Those who try to haul out the ashes of Servetus as an argument against Calvinism will find those ashes quickly blow away when held out in the open.


"Ah, sitting - the great leveler of men. From the mightest of pharaohs to the lowest of peasants, who doesn't enjoy a good sit?" M. Burns