Self-inflicted or not, there’s a stigma surrounding John Calvin and all his proponents that stinks of stoicism. Regardless of historical merit, Calvin is viewed as having no emotion in his preaching or showing no humanity in his writing. One comments that Calvin lacked “sympathy and charm,” and that his preaching suffered a “deficiency of imagination.”1 Another wrote, “The great trouble with John Calvin was that he had no heart.”2 Whether you view these assertions as true or not, it’s certainly legitimate to say that there’s a palpable emotional difference that makes Luther more widely appealing than Calvin. At least at the outset. It’s a misconception to believe that Calvin had no heart. And such is what Obbie Tyler Todd and I tackle today.
In this edition of Ministry Minded, Obbie and I attempt to dismember the common misconceptions regarding the life and ministry of John Calvin. Our aim is to speak to these stigmas in an effort to restore to conventional understanding Calvin’s forgotten pastoral heart. Where some see him as all academic, Calvin was all Bible. His formative principle remained sola Scriptura. This was the basis for all ensuing conclusions.
I pray this episode is useful, enlightening, and encouraging, as we strive to pay homage to the most revered of the Reformers and his life of Scripture and self-denial.
Institutes of the Christian Religion, 1536 Edition, John Calvin
Calvin, F. Bruce Gordon
John Calvin (History Maker), Williston Walker
Defense of Calvinism, Charles Spurgeon
The Bondage of the Will, Martin Luther
Letter to Cardinal Sadoleto (1539), John Calvin
This episode is brought to you by the Christian Standard Bible. Find out more by going to CSBible.com.
Obbie is the pastor of The Church at Haynes Creek, in Oxford, Georgia, where he lives with his wife Kelly, and their two children, Roman and Ruby. Obbie is an accomplished writer and an incredible thinker. He’s currently working on a doctorate from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. His writing has been featured in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Jonathan Edwards Journal, the Founders Journal, and Themelios. You can find the majority of his writing online via his blog, Vernacular. You can also follow him on Twitter, @obbietyler.
Henry Ward Beecher, Plymouth Pulpit: Sermons Preached in Plymouth Church, Brooklyn, Vol. 1 (Boston: Pilgrim Press, 1875), 125.
Philip Vollmer, Isaac Good, and William Henry Roberts, John Calvin, Theologian, Preacher, Educator, Statesman (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Heidelberg Press, 1909), 363–64.