Thursday, February 21, 2008

Nelson Price's attack on John Calvin. V

So we come to Dr. Price's frankly silly treatment of Calvin's Institutes. The fact that he gives the title incorrectly suggests to us that he has never actually read the book. Now, as Dr. Price claims to have studied Calvinism for over fifty years, this does not bode well for the actual nature of this study!
In Strasbourg in 1538 Calvin wrote his “Institutes of the Christian Church.” [Sic.] Calvin’s writings were declared to be an exposition of Scripture. Instead they became a defense of his personal theology. They were used as a defense of his theology, social and political philosophy.


Price's error in giving the title of Calvin's famous book instantly alerts us to the derivative nature of this piece. We would charitably assume that '1538' in Price is a misprint for 1536, the real date in which the first edition of the Institutes of the Christian Religion was published, were it not for certain other pieces of information in Price's piece. Calvin was not in Strasbourg in 1536, he was in 1538. And the placing of the writing of the Institutes after his time in Geneva does place it during his time in Strasbourg. Now this error is somewhat understandable, for Calvin was always revising his Magnum Opus throughout his life, and he did indeed publish a gratly expanded second edition of the Institutes at Strasbourg, though in 1539, not 1538. However Price and his ilk are, we suspect, keen to date its first publication to after his Geneva experience for their own ends. The suggestion is that it was intended as a defence of what he had done in Geneva. In fact it was a defence of the persecuted French Protestants, from whom we claim descent. Calvin wrote it to defend them from the accusations that they had denied the Faith.
Hugh Reyburn, writing in 1914, called the Institutes "one of the greatest books on theology ever written", a verdict that has been echoed by many who, like Reyburn, do not agree with Calvin theologically.
Nelson Price has extensively relied on a highly inaccurate account of Calvin's life. Even his mistakes are not his own! Despite the comments of Richard Hooker on the website of Washington State University (from whom Price copied much of this article), Calvin did not merely defend his own theology in his commentaries, but sought to expound the Bible. It is notable that they are the only commentaries of the Reformation era still widely used today. We use them often and find Calvin to be always moderate and Scriptural. Indeed, Calvin is so concerned not to twist the text that at times he actually holds back from using texts to teach a doctrine when he is unsure that the text will hold the weight of the teaching. This is not only true of his excellent commentaries, which Arminius praised highly, but of all Calvin's writings. In the Institutes he always seeks to give Biblical support for his teachings, using the Bible in context rather than as a volume of proof-texts (which was the Roman Catholic method). We may disagree with him in places, but we see in Calvin a man honestly trying to construct a Biblical theology. Calvin's method is always to seek to draw out of the text what is there, never to insert his own fancies or to support preconceived views.
Would that many modern preachers would do the same!!!

God willing, next time we shall continue with this task. It is not one we relish, but it is needful. Dr. Price says that he is unwilling to debate the subject. We would point out that it is Dr. Price who brought the subject up in the first place. If he does not want to debate, he ought not to have used 'fighting words'.

4 comments:

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Gordan Runyan said...

Highland Host,

Please, please continue to persevere and continue in well-doing. I am so thankful that God has moved you to undertake this task in this day. (With regard to Nelson Price's deceit and slander.)

Praying for you (and him.)

Highland Host said...

Off-topic comments WILL be deleted.

Fred said...

HH,there is a group in the States here claiming to be main stream Baptists. Here's their take on Baptist History and Theology

English General Baptists

The earliest Baptists -- John Smyth, Thomas Helwys and the members of their congregations -- believed that Christ died for all persons. Theologians call this belief the "general atonement" understanding of Christ's work. The Baptists who held this view came to be known as "General Baptists." They understood God's grace in terms of love. God loves all persons. Christ died for all persons. Those persons who receive God's grace and respond to his love enter into an eternal relationship of love and fellowship with God. Those persons who reject God's grace and refuse his love condemn themselves to perpetually exist apart from the loving relation for which they were created.

Thomas Helwys planted the first Baptist church in England in 1612. By 1650 there were forty-seven Baptist churches England. In 1654 they formed a national assembly of General Baptists.

English Particular Baptists

Baptists who understood God's grace more in terms of power than in terms of love were called "Particular Baptists. They followed John Calvin's doctrine of "limited atonement" and believed that Christ died only for the particular persons who were predestined by God to be redeemed.

General Baptists understood God's grace in terms of love and Particular Baptist understood it as power. Houston, we have a problem. I then clicked on Particular Baptists and the last paragraph sums it all up:

Though Calvinists pledge allegiance to the authority of scripture, their doctrine of the atonement clearly subordinates the Bible's logic of sacrificial love to the worlds logic of absolute power. General Baptists usually quoted John 3:16, 2 Cor. 5:14-15 and other scriptures to refute the flawed human logic of Calvinism."

Nelson Price along with many other conservative brethren might be shocked to learn (at least I hope they would be) that they hold a lot in common with liberalism. What's more appalling is that the conservative group which screams innerrancy neglects or ignores the consistent Scriptural support for the doctrines of Grace as liberals do on multitude of other subjects.