Polemics & Exchanges

Institutes of Ignorance

I am not sure who is more ignorant of John Calvin: Robert H. Nelson, who wrote The New Holy Wars, or Tobias Lanz, who reviewed it (“Calvinism Without God,” August).  Since I haven’t read Mr. Nelson’s book, I will address Mr. Lanz’s review.

I was more than a little taken aback to read that “Calvin had a negative view of people—most are so sinful, they are beyond redemption.”  Clearly, whoever wrote such a patently false description of Calvin has neither read much that he wrote, nor knows much of his personal life and warm love for those far and near whom he continually aided.

Next, I was wholly astonished to read, “He also believed there should be no intermediaries between God and man except for Scripture.”  That’s odd, since Calvin agreed with Saints Augustine and Cyprian that, if you would have God for your Father, you must have the Church for your mother.  The same Calvin insisted so strongly on the authority of the Church that he was driven out of Geneva for objecting to the government’s interference in her rule.

But Mr. Lanz rises to the surreal when he says, “What fewer people know is that Calvin also believed that nature—God’s creation—was another reliable intermediary.”  In fact, Calvin would have...

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