Contend Earnestly: Calvin Denies the Cross?

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Calvin Denies the Cross?

After spending time interacting with EgoMakarios I decided to go to his blog to find out what he was about. I found a post that stated, "Calvin Denies the Cross Outright" and thought I would read it. This is the most explicit use of lying to make a point that I have seen in a long time, well, since the last time I read Dave Hunt. I am glad that he at least gave where in the Institutes he found this denial, so I decided to take a look. Calvin hits it dead on. Calvin's use of the Apostle's Creed and Jesus going to hell is one I don't ascribe to, but this is not the point of the section that Calvin is dealing with. Calvin's point is that if Christ merely died a physical death that would be empty of any worth for us sinners. I could not agree more. Christ's most excruciating time came at the wrath disposed upon him for our sins. He bore our sins, the just became the unjust, to be sin for us, this was the importance of the cross. I just couldn't believe what I was reading over on his blog so I had to mention it over here. This is why so many misrepresent Calvin without ever reading him or trying to honestly understand his teachings. Here is the entirety of the section that Calvin was concerned with:

10. But, apart from the Creed, we must seek for a surer exposition of Christ’s descent to hell: and the word of God furnishes us with one not only pious and holy, but replete with excellent consolation. Nothing had been done if Christ had only endured corporeal death. In order to interpose between us and God’s anger, and satisfy his righteous judgment, it was necessary that he should feel the weight of divine vengeance. Whence also it was necessary that he should engage, as it were, at close quarters with the powers of hell and the horrors of eternal death. We lately quoted from the Prophet, that the “chastisement of our peace was laid upon him” that he “was bruised for our iniquities” that he “bore our infirmities;” expressions which intimate, that, like a sponsor and surety for the guilty, and, as it were, subjected to condemnation, he undertook and paid all the penalties which must have been exacted from them, the only exception being, that the pains of death could not hold him. Hence there is nothing strange in its being said that he descended to hell, seeing he endured the death which is inflicted on the wicked by an angry God. It is frivolous and ridiculous to object that in this way the order is perverted, it being absurd that an event which preceded burial should be placed after it. But after explaining what Christ endured in the sight of man, the Creed appropriately adds the invisible and incomprehensible judgment which he endured before God, to teach us that not only was the body of Christ given up as the price of redemption, but that there was a greater and more excellent price—that he bore in his soul the tortures of condemned and ruined man.

Calvin, J., & Beveridge, H. (1997). Institutes of the Christian religion. Translation of: Institutio Christianae religionis.; Reprint, with new introd. Originally published: Edinburgh : Calvin Translation Society, 1845-1846. (II, xvi, 10). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.


EgoMakarios said...

If you will continue reading beyond that section and you will see that to Calvin the cross is nothing at all and that the supposed burning of Christ in hell is what he thinks saves. To him, the cross was just a necessary tangent to the burning in hell. This is certainly not the doctrine of Scripture.

Dominic Bnonn Tennant said...


Assuming you are correctly representing Calvin, perhaps he was of that opinion because it is by Christ taking our punishment that we are saved—and our punishment is not a cross, but eternal torment in hell.


Seth McBee said...


I continued to read and found exactly what I stated before. Calvin's main issue is the fact that Christ died for our sins and that without that, the cross is meaningless...which is point on...

2 Corinthians 5:21

Anonymous said...

"Assuming you are correctly representing Calvin, perhaps he was of that opinion because it is by Christ taking our punishment that we are saved—and our punishment is not a cross, but eternal torment in hell."

Where does the Bible say Jesus had to take our exact punishment? Nowhere. Calvin's theory is simply wrong. Nor does it say that he paid our debt. He says himself that we must pray for forgiveness--why? If he either took our exact punishment or paid our debt, where is the wiggle room that allows for the need of forgiveness? You don't need forgiveness when everything's paid.

Seth McBee said...

Anonymous...not sure how much you understand what you are saying...this is not me demeaning you, but I just don't know who you are or what you stand for...

What I will tell you is that there are references to Jesus paying our penalty.

For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:20

also 1 cor 7:23 and 2 Peter 2:1 speaks of this as well. The Bible also speaks of imputation which would include some sort of exchange. We also have plenty of "ransom" passages as well. These all speak of a debt payment, so Jesus definitely paid a payment of debt, it is just in what form of debt payment was this?

What you do argue well, which I am not sure you understand fully, is the fact of a penal vs pecuniary debt payment. Pecuniary is what you are arguing against as if this was the payment made, then the judgment of God could no longer be against those whom the payment was made for. And you would be right...why ask for forgiveness, why faith, why repent? If Penal, God still can demand something of the debtor even though the ransom has been paid.

So your questioning is one that is "going down the right track" but needs some tweaking and understanding of what happened at the cross.

Then, the way that we can know more fully what happened at the cross is the fact of God's elect still being under His wrath until regeneration and faith that is wrought within them.

This brings it all to a penal debt payment made by Christ for all.

Take a look at this post that deals with is very good:

Pecuniary vs Judicial (Penal) Debt


Penal Substitution

Anonymous said...

Let's say that another man's slave owes you a debt. You buy the slave from him. Is buying the slave from him equivalent to paying the slave's debt to you? Obviously not, since the payment to buy him was given to someone else. Unless you're also claiming that you are buying a slave from yourself, and then we've entered the twilight zone. 1 Jn 1:7-9 shows the need for continual cleansing and continual forgiveness. Neither the debt payment nor total penal payment ideas can fit with 1 Jn 1:7-9. I suppose if you insist on a payment metaphor then you could say that rather than paying everything right then, he stored his blood in a spiritual bank and pays as we go, as we walk in the light he withdraws and pays, since that would fit 1 Jn 1:7-9.

Seth McBee said...


There is something called justification. Because Christ paid the ransom...which is biblical wording, not my own, you are justified by that ransom payment upon faith. God declares you righteous. 1 John 1:7-9 tells us that we must continually ask for forgiveness when we literally trespass against God. It is what we find in John 13 when Christ washes the disciples feet. He says to them,specifically Peter "You need only your feet washed not your entire body, if you need your whole body washed you have no part with me"

It is the difference between positional santification and progressive sanctification.

But, it is all finished at the cross...there is no "blood bank" for us. It is application of the cross to the believer's life through faith, then a continual confession as sin happens for the sake of fellowship with God, not to get "resaved" or anything like that.

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