Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Putting Wesley on a pedestal

In the opinion of Roger Olson: "However, I do not admire or respect John Calvin. I have been told that he should not be held responsible for the burning of the heretic Servetus because, after all, he warned the Spanish doctor and theologian not to come to Geneva and he urged the city council to behead him rather than burn him. And, after all, Calvin was a child of his times and everyone was doing the same. Nevertheless, I still struggle with placing a man complicit in murder on a pedestal."

In my experience, Wesleyans put Wesley on a pedestal. Now, I’ve read that Wesley married a widow (Mary Vazeille) with four kids. Yet I’ve also read that Wesley was basically an absentee father and husband. But doesn’t Scripture warn us that “If anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever (1 Tim 5:8)”?

If Calvin’s role in the Servetus affair discredits Calvinism, then why doesn’t Wesley’s role as a negligent spouse and deadbeat dad discredit Arminianism?

After all, what Calvin did he did to a complete stranger; what Wesley did he did to his own family. From a Biblical standpoint, which is worse?


  1. Wesley is worst,Calvin is the man

  2. "complicit in murder" seems to be overstating things a bit. Calvin had no civil authority, and the fact that Calvin pleaded with them to use a more merciful form of execution just proves the point that the historical context was quite different than today. When someone with modern sensibilities wants to claim that they would have acted differently in that historical context, one has to wonder whether that person has too high an opinion of his own moral character.

  3. would have to say, who really cares? People bring up Servedus, as if it would have any bearing on whether a theological position is true or false. Anyone can think what they will about Calvin. But unless they can regurgitate all of the facts involved, I assume they've never read any of the relevant historical literature and probably just hear the story from Dave Hunt or something.

  4. Oh brother, how silly of a comment can one make? First, I don't think anyone is asking that Calvin be put on a pedestal. But I wonder what Dr Olson thinks of Moses, David, and Abraham for their actions? I would think the good Dr would think less of them then say ... himself ... because he never committed any such horrible acts? These guys are so assimilated into the modern cultures they don't make sense.

  5. I second Ronnie's question.

    The Torah calls for the stoning of false prophets and a similar penalty for witches.

    Does Olson think that Moses or God is what he thinks Calvin is?

    Of course, after seeing what he thinks of the Calvinist version of Divine Providence (which is clearly taught in Scripture: Job 42:11, Rev 17:17, etc.), it wouldn't surprise me that he'd also condemn the Torah.

  6. Jugulum,

    Many arminians, not just Dr. Olson, use the Servetus story to discredit Calvin and Calvinism.

  7. Wesley is worse. Absentee father and made/makes some believers into bastards if they can't reach the levels of Pharisaical perfection he taught.

  8. Jugulum,

    Wasn't Steve responding to a direct quote of Olson?

  9. Even if you say that Olson isn't arguing against Calvinism, he most certainly is referencing Calvinists in that quote he mentioned. Who, after all, is Olson saying puts Calvin on a pedestal? Would it not be Calvinists? I mean, Arminians sure aren't going to be doing that.

    And further, what is the purpose of impugning Calvinists as a whole if not to impugn the system they believe in. It's like the "that's a stupid thing to say and you're a stupid person for saying it" Colbert quote, although it's implied here. But it's a natural implication that most reasonable people will make.

  10. I'm puzzled by why this is even debatable. Why is it relevant for Olson to make a big deal about Calvin unless that has invidious implications for Calvinism? To say this was occasioned by the 500 anniversary of Calvin's birthday is beside the point. Unless the personal character of Calvin has some bearing on the truth or falsity of Calvinism, it's a red herring to raise the issue. Why is that so difficult to grasp? Seems pretty obvious to me.

  11. Unless the character of Calvin is pertinent to the evaluation of Calvinism, then it's demagoguery to introduce Calvin's conduct into the discussion. The fact that Olsen was asked to comment on Calvin hardly forces his hand. After all, didn't Olsen have the freedom to decline if he deemed it irrelevant? He subscribes to libertarian freewill, does he not?

  12. Olson's discussion, obviously.

    One can say various things about Calvin. On the plus side, he was a pastor who also had to deal with real world situations involving statecraft in Geneva. Had to make some tough calls.

    One can also criticize things about Calvin.

    But that's not the point. Olson is obviously trying to attack Calvinism via Calvin. That's a standard tactic. Let's not be naive.

    You're a bright guy, but in this case you're drilling a dry hole. Time for you to move your oil rig to a more promising issue.