Certain nodes on the interwebs are awash with celebration of the 500 year anniversary of Jean Calvin's entering into this mortal coil. Even folks from my Arminian end of the theologimical pool are saying some nice things (though with rumors of other thoughts to come). Ben Witherington III says,
…he is to be respected for understanding that Biblical theology can only be done on the basis of a detailed and comprehensive exegesis of all the relevant Biblical material.
With impetus from John Armstrong, I ordered Calvin's Institutes a while back and need to spend serious time digesting them. The two volume set is on my list of books to read. Along with a book that has just arrived from Kevin DeYoung and his partner in crime, Ted Kluck. DeYoung did make me chuckle when he commented on Calvin's temperment in his mildly hagiographic Jean-rave this morning,
We do the memory of Calvin no disservice to admit that he had weaknesses. He was physically frail and could be emotionally volatile. No one lamented his own weaknesses–physical and spiritual–more than himself. And no one understand general human weakness better than Calvin.
What?! No mention of Calvin arranging that Michael Servetus be put to death for his "heretical blasphemies" – Servetus held a unitarian view of the Godhead and was against infant baptism. Perhaps Kevin feels that "emotionally volatile" covers Calvin's pronouncement of the death penalty for Servetus' "errors". (Please, one of my Calvinist friends, take me on using the argument that I "need to understand the context." I can't wait.)
Now, in fairness to Calvin, he only wanted Servetus to be beheaded as he was later successful in achieving for Giovanni Valenti Gentile's "heresies" – Jean was against Servetus' eventual burning at the stake which Giovanni fortunately escaped – without his head, of course.
Many hold Calvin up as one of the greatest Scriptural exegetes who ever lived. So, I ask, in all humility (yah, right) did Calvin simply skim over the Gospels? Did he miss Paul's statement that one of the fruits of the Spirit was long-suffering?(Apparently Servetus was rather obnoxious in the way in interacted with Calvin.) Or is their a Secret Message of Jesus that the rest of us can't find that allows theologians to put heretics to death.
Let me put Calvin's action in context. Bishop TD Jakes is viewed as a oneness Pentecostal. (Often referred to as Jesus-only – they don't subscribe to an orthodox understanding of the Trinity.) He's known to speak in New York on regular occasions. What if Dr. Tim Keller were to agitate for Jakes arrest and further to have him put to death for his "error?" And what if Dr. Tim succeeded. Would that change your opinion of Dr. Keller? Would Dr. Tim still be "one of the finest expositors of the Word of God?" (Forgive me, Tim for using you as an example – it is simply to show the ludicrous nature of the situation.)
I'm just asking?