Friday, August 31, 2007

Calvin's Institutes: Against the charismatics....

I have been reading Calvin's Institutes (Yes, this is my first time reading it since becoming a Calvinist; before that I have been reading lots of 'secondary' material.) Anyway, here is something interesting regarding Calvin's view of those who speak of the Holy Spirit apart from the Word, whom Calvin called 'fanatics':

But I wish they [fanatics] would tell me what spirit it is whose inspiration raises them to such a sublime height that they dare despise the doctrine of Scripture as mean and childish. If they answer that it is the Spirit of Christ, their confidence is exceedingly ridiculous; since they will, I presume, admit that the apostles and other believers in the primitive Church were not illuminated by any other Spirit. [I.IX. p.84]


What an infaturation of the devil, therefore, to fancy that Scripture, which conducts the sons of God to the final goal, is of transient and temporary use? Again, I should like these people to tell me whether they have imbibed any other Spirit thant that which Christ promised to his disciples. ... But what kind of Spirit did our Savior promise to send? One who should not speak of Himself (John xvi. 13), but suggest and instil the truths which He Himself had delivered through the Word. Hence the office of the Spirit promised to us, is not to form new and unheard-of-revelations, or to coin a new form of doctrine, by which we may be led away from the received doctrine of the Gospel, but to seal on our minds the very doctrine which the Gospel recommends.


But they say that it is insulting to subject the Spirit, to whom all things are to be subjected, to the Scripture: as if it were disgraceful to the Holy Spirit to maintain a perfect resemblance throughout, and to be in all respects without variation consistent with Himself. [I.IX. p.85]

In like manner, when Paul says to the Thessalonians, "Quench not the Spirit," he who does not carry them aloft to empty speculations apart from the Word; he immediately adds, "Despise not prophesyings" (1 Thess. v. 19,20). By this, he intimates that the light of the Spirit is quenched the moment prophesyings fall into contempt. [I.IX. p. 86]

[Note: Prophesyings here refer to proclaimation of the Word of God]

[John Calvin (1559), Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translated by Henry Beveridge. Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Co, MI, USA]

According to Calvin, therefore, those Charismatics, especially those of the Third Wave movement, are basically fanatics who have in actual fact quench the Holy Spirit and are actively bringing reproach to Him by stating that 'it is disgraceful for the Holy Spirit to maintian a perfect resemblance throughout' and to be 'in all respects without variation consistent with Himself'.


ricki said...

You read this completely wrong - well, actually you read it with a false notion of Charismatics. Many Charismatics would completely agree with Calvin. I know I do. You sound like someone who believes all that MacArthur teaches and reads everything else in that light.

It is true that anyone that "dare despise the doctrine of Scripture as mean and childish" is "exceedingly ridiculous". That applies to anyone. How you imagined this was Charismatics only portrays you bias.

"New doctrines" - are you also thinking Charismatics see revelation as equal to Holy Scripture. Again, this belies your own wrong (extra-biblical) perception.

And on it goes ... everything quoted here is agreed to by many Charismatics. You can find the error Calvin warned against in many Christian groups. And your targeting of "third wave" people betrays your source of wrong thinking, i.e., MacArthur.

Try to go back and read Calvin for what he says not what you want him to say.

Daniel C said...

Hello Rick,

First of all, I am not in full agreement with MacArthur regarding his criticism of Charismatism, altough for the most part, I agree with him.

Secondly, I think that it would be good for you to know where I am coming from. I DO differentiate between Charismatism and Continualism, so if you believe in the continuation of the Sign gifts (ie speaking in tongues etc.), then I would consider you a Continualist, not necessarily a Charismatic. By Charismatic, I am referring to thse who are the spiritual descendents of the Latter-rain cult, (ie the Word-faith movement, TBN, prosperity 'gospel', Toronto Blessing etc.). As such, groups such as the Sovereign Grace Baptists are not included in my working definition of 'Charismatism'.

Thirdly, I do know of Christmatics who do believe such nonsense. One such example was yours truly, while I was then deluded by the Third Wave movement.

And just so you know, Charismatism as how I have defined it is well and truly alive in Asia, where I live. For example, almost all the churches in Hong Kong are charismatics and Third Wavers too. I'm sure you heard of the latter-rain Global Day of Prayer event, in which many churches in Asia participate? In Singapore, where I live, the Evangelical Fellowship of Singapore which represent a large percentage of Christians and churches here took part in the GDOP. Furthermore, C. Peter Wagner and David (Paul) Yonggi Cho are regarded as heros here in Asia, the way you Americans regard ... perhaps Billy Graham?

ricki said...

I guess it is about definition then and this is why I would suggest you be more precise in your critique (not that you stop defending the faith).

MacArthur and others have defined Charismatics and Third Wave as different. Vineyard, Sovereign Grace, New Frontiers, etc. are what they call Third Wavers and to roughly quote him, they are worse than Charismatics.

This group he defines as Third Wave are continuationalists and many are Calvinists - we find no discrepancy. We do take issue however with Charismatics (in the traditional sense).

So it could be a regional thing but I read your post as saying Calvin would not support any appearance of gifts of the Spirit.

Daniel C said...


Your reading my post as saying that "Calvin would not support any appearance of gifts of the Spirit" is in error, although understandable. I did not mention anything about the gifts of the Spirit in this post, and in fact they have a seperate blog category of their own on my blog. That this post of mine was not labeled under that category should mean something, I think.

With regards to MacArthur and others, I am not sure as to who they label as Third Wavers, so I would refrain from commenting on that. I would only just mention that to me Third Wavers would refer to those who are affiliated with the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) led by C. Peter Wagner and his associated 'apostles' and 'prophets', with movement being marked by terminologies like 'prayer warfare', 'prayer evangelism', 'cultural mandate', 'discipling the nations' etc.

Anyway, I myself am not a full cessationist, unlike MacArthur, so I would disagree with them over the issue too, but that's for another time.

ricki said...

Thanks for the clarification. You are correct - I misunderstood what you were saying.

That's why I prefer the specifics rather than generalizations. Our labels we use within Christianity don't often help.

Daniel C said...

You're correct. I would think about how I can make things clearer in the future.