Wednesday, June 18, 2008
John Calvin an Evangelical?
For sundry and various reasons, I was rummaging through Theopedia and read an article on John Calvin. It seemed alright until I read this part: "Calvin converted from Roman Catholicism to evangelicalism, and subsequently became an informal leader to other Paris evangelicals."
Theologians debate what evangelicalism is. Sociologists debate who is an evangelical. Church Historians debate when evangelicalism formally began. I know some scholars see evangelicalism as an upshot of the union of revivalism and pietism in the aftermath of the Great Awakening in the USA. Although I must point out that a recent volume has argued that nearly all of the evangelical distinctives go back to the Reformation (i.e. the elements of Bebbington's quadrilateral). That said, I cannot bring myself to call Calvin an "evangelical" since it sounds so blatantly anachronistic. I think Calvin's style of worship would be very "high church" and I doubt that Calvin held to a Warfieldian definition of inerrancy (from memory, Richard Muller argues quite cogently that Calvin's doctrine of Scripture is straight out of medieval catholicism, differing in many places of course, but mainly over the role of the magisterium and tradition). To talk about evangelicals in Paris in the 1530s is kinda like talking about the emergent church in New York the 1830s. Surely it is better to say that Calvin joined the Protestant cause or became a religious Reformer at this moment.