Herman Bavinck on the Apalling Reality of Calvinism

The difference between Augustine and Pelagius, Calvin or Castellio, Gomarus and Arminius, is not that the latter were that much more gentle, loving, and tenderhearted than the former. On the contrary, it arises from the fact that the former accepted Scripture in its entirety, also including this doctrine [of reprobation]; that they were and always wanted to be theistic and recognize the will and hand of the Lord also in these disturbing facts of life; that they were not afraid to look reality in the eye even when it was appalling. Pelagianism scatters flowers over graves, turns death into an angel, regards sin as mere weakness, lectures on the uses of adversity, and considers this the best possible world. Calvinism has no use for such drivel. It refuses to be hoodwinked. It tolerates no such delusion, takes full account of the seriousness of life, champions the rights of the Lord of lords, and humbly bows in adoration before the inexplicable sovereign will of God Almighty. As a result it proves to be fundamentally more merciful than Pelagianism. (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, II, p. 394)

Two of the names Bavinck mentioned were unfamiliar to me. Here is what I found about them:

Sebastian Castellio– Castellio worked under Calvin in Geneva for several years. Castellio opposed the execution of heretics and wrote a work endorsing the freedom of conscience, limited government, and separation of church and state. From the little I have been able to find out about him, I find Bavinck’s reference a bit curious.

Francis Gomarus– Today we speak of Calvinism and Arminianism in a way that leads some to think John Calvin and James Arminius opposed each other. Such was not the case. Calvin died when Arminius was 4 years old- so the two obviously never met. It was actually Gomarus who opposed Arminius and the teaching that man cooperated with God in his salvation. It was the controversy between Gomarus and Arminius that led to the Synod of Dort in 1618 and the classic statement of the “5 points of Calvinism”— nearly 55 years after Calvin’s death.

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