The Claim That John Calvin Was a Murderer Addressed

The first article, which was published by Grace Christian Assembly, is a good place to begin studying this controversy. Thank you for finding both articles, Sherry!

The X Mass H8rs Blog

Was John Calvin a Murderer?

Q – Was John Calvin a Murder?

Jim – This is a question that shows up in my email from time to time. It’s a claim that is leveled by those who seek to besmirch Reformed Theology. Usually, the claim that Calvin was a murderer is an attempt to make all Calvinistic doctrine wrong through “guilt by association.”

However, historically speaking, the so-called “Doctrines of Grace” – which go by the nickname of Calvinism – did not originate with Calvin. They are the result of a Synod held in Dort, Holland in 1618/19, after Calvin was long dead. Those of us who hold to Reformed Theology do so not because we are attempting to replicate the theology or ecclesiology of John Calvin, but because we are convinced that the Biblical arguments and conclusions stemming from that Synod are valid and our own exegesis confirms the…

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17 thoughts on “The Claim That John Calvin Was a Murderer Addressed

  1. The accusation that Calvin was a murderer usually revolves around the issue of Michael Cervetus, who was condemned as a heretic by both Protestants and Catholics. There’s a good article by Tim Challies at:
    Through the last few yars, I have noticed that those who have issues with sovereign will seem to be bowing down at the altar of ‘autonomous’ free will. Rather than actually study the passages that clearly teach monergistic salvation, they just blame John Calvin and let their presupposed, yet highly questionable ‘free will’ doctrine. I shan’t name names. And BTW, I used to ‘live’ at the altar of ‘free will’. To make a long story short, when God briught this prodigal home, he let me think that it was my free will decision to surrender for about theee months. Then he hit me upside my head (very lovingly) with John 6:44. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Oh my! It took me quite some time to believe in the doctrine of election! I had many patient Christians help me through it. I had been a free will-er for over 10 years and it was hard to comprehend-I thought it made God a meanie for not choosing some for salvation! But when it was understood and I knew myself to be one of the elect I was never so humbled…

      BTW, its only been in the last few years that I knew this doctrine was even called Calvinism! I used think Calvinism was high doctrine for more learned Christians than me (it still is) so I just would pass over it. A debate about him piqued my interest.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Maria, I’ve also been criticized for listing Reformed ministries on my Links page and been told about John Calvin being a murderer. It’s unfortunate that the early Reformers like Luther, Calvin, and Zwingli retained some Catholic beliefs and practices like the union of church and state, but in light of their brave and blessed efforts to return the church to the Gospel of grace, I can forgive their shortcomings from our privileged vantage point. I wonder if the same folks who throw stones at Calvin read the Psalms, which were mostly written by a flagrant adulterer and murderer? Or the letters of Paul? I’m not happy that Luther was an anti-Semite, but I also understand that he and the culture that surrounded him were shaped by 1000 years of Catholic error and that was not all corrected in a single snap of the fingers. Yes, Calvin unfortunately persecuted heretics as did all Protestant theocrats including the New England Puritans and Virginian Anglicans. Anyone who condemns Calvin for murder has a shallow, two-dimensional understanding of church history and presumes to judge 16th, 17th, and 18th century Christians from our “more enlightened” vantage point. It was 300 years after the early Reformers when the church finally began to unravel itself from the state, thanks to men like Roger Williams and John Clarke. For anyone to judge those Christians according to today’s standard of separation of church and state needs to read a LOT of church history.
    Blessings to you my sister,
    Your Arminian-Calvinist brother

    Liked by 3 people

    • Dear Arminian-Calvinist, there is a lot to consider in your comment. Thanks for your insight, for focusing on the fact that the Reformers weren’t men of this century. And it’s so true that we should know Church history, and also remember, for example, David’s – the Psalmist’s – failures.
      Blessings to you, my brother!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Those that produce the “Calvin was a murderer” argument nearly always do so in an effort to silence those who actually believe the Word of God. They do this out of ignorance of history (thanks to all for a honest look at the facts) and more importantly, an ignorance of the mercy of God through Christ. They cling to their supposed ‘free-will’ like any other idol worshipper; make no mistake about it one’s imaginary free will is an idol. Calvin has become their favorite ‘whipping boy’ for who can believe a murderer? It is not just David and Paul that dismantle this argument, but each of us, for which of us has not harbored hatred in his heart at one time or another? The bottom line of this nonsense is to silence those who would preach the real Sovereignty of God in who is saved and who is not. They say that they have a problem with predestination and election, their claim being that God would not usurp a man’s free will in any way (they have yet to prove that man has a ‘free-will’ as pertaining to salvation). If one has a problem with God’s predestination and election then that person has a problem with the Lord Jesus Christ. “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief cornerstone, elect, precious…” 1 Peter 2:6. The Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world—Rev. 13:8 and “He indeed was foreordained from the foundation of the world…” 1 Peter 1:20. Isa. 42:1 says “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights.” The agenda of all Arminians is to de-throne the Father, the Lord Jesus, and the Spirit of God by declaring that their idea of “free will” trumps the Sovereignty of God beginning with the salvation of man and continuing on to all aspects of Creation, especially the future of God’s eternal reign. Who said ‘I will ascend into heaven…I will be like the Most High?’ (Isa. 14:12-15). In doing so they accuse the Righteous Judge of partiality by condemning the unbelievers to eternal damnation “when they were not afforded the opportunity to choose for themselves.” This they proudly proclaim while dismissing Rom. 3:11 “…There is none who seeks after God.” This “want to” is a gift of the Holy Spirit just like all the other spiritual blessings we enjoy in Christ. Eph. 1:3-6.

    When we finally recognize that we had absolutely NOTHING to do with the saving of our soul, that we did not choose Him (John 15:16) and that it was God that worked in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13) then and only then will the flood gates of gratitude and humility be opened without reservation. If there is one thing the wicked one cannot stand it’s a believer who is thankful to God, humble before God, and constantly praising his Savior. That’s why the Arminian pulls out all the stops to shut the believer’s mouth. This is the real liberty in Christ. When the heart is settled here nothing can move it.


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    • Darrel, this passage is essential here:

      Romans 9

      14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! 15 For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” 16 So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” 18 Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.

      19 You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” 20 But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?

      22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

      We must bow before the Lord Who is “Holy! Holy! Holy!”.


    • @ Darrel

      Hi Darrel, a pleasure to meet you. I am not looking for a debate on election, as they are generally pointless. I did want to point out one thing, and really it makes Maria’s points here. She was attacked quite harshly by some folks over her stance in this, pretty roughly in fact. Those folks were wrong in the say they want about it.

      You said…”silence those who actually believe the Word of God”

      Even though I don’t necessarily agree completely with how some present election(although I probably agree far more than I disagree), I don’t know that those words help discussion much. I may not agree with everybody, but nobody could ever say about me that I don’t believe the Word of God. I happen to believe every word of it, and that it is complete, innerant, and infallible. I just happen to have come to slightly different interpretations of what I have read. That certainly doesn’t mean I have not read it, studied it, and believe every jot and tittle of it.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Wally,
        It is impossible to hold to the notion that a man’s will brought him to salvation, even in Christ, because that very notion is an outright denial of the words of the Lord Jesus Himself and the Word of God as a whole. One cannot “believe on Christ” and deny Him in any manner; if one does it’s not belief but unbelief.


  4. Wally,
    There is a difference between unbelief and being an ‘unbeliever’.
    The Holy Spirit will NEVER teach anyone anything contrary to the Word of God. With over 200 verses that speak directly to the fact that believers are predestined, foreordained, elected unto salvation it is unthinkable to ascribe the Arminian doctrine of “free-will” to the Holy Spirit’s teaching. Not just ‘unthinkable’ but dangerous, too.

    The term “debate” carries with it the idea that both parties have some legitimacy to their arguments. Since there is zero legitimacy to any argument produced by the free-will Arminian crowd, “debate” in any sense is pointless. Did Jesus say ‘Go into all the world and debate the Gospel?’ I have yet to meet anyone who once held to the Arminian point of view who, when they ‘came to their senses’ by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, were not immensely grateful for having their eyes opened and their idol destroyed. It takes time, more for some than others. I do not say these things to purposely make you angry or hurt your feelings. Actually, if your feelings are hurt that’s a good indication that the Holy Spirit is at least beginning His work of correction in you. Laying aside sin is seldom easy that’s why Christ likened it to taking up our own cross and denying ourselves.

    A few questions for your consideration:
    If indeed a man is saved by his own choosing of God which he initiated and not God, who gets the bragging rights? That man, or God? Does God share His glory with men? How much humility is required to claim that salvation was attained by one’s own initiative and strength? What need is there of grace for the man that garnered salvation without grace? There is no real, godly, and lasting peace of assurance for those who think that their will brought them to God, for if it did, that same will can decide to leave Him as well; so why cling to a hopeless idol?

    May the Lord bless you, Wally, (and all of us) by opening your eyes to Him, His Word, and the Truth therein.


    Liked by 1 person

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