Calvin and English Calvinism to 1649 (Studies in Christian History and Thought) Paperback – 1 Jun 1997
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Dr. Kendall, long time preaching pastor of Westminister Chapel in London, England, wrote this for his doctrinal disertation in which he sought to show that it was not Calvin's teachings that led to modern Calvinism but it was instead the teachings of Beza. Kendall pulled from the various post-Institutes teachings, writings, and sermons of John Calvin to portray a picture of Calvin that seems to teach a universal atonement (or unlimited atonement). Indeed, Calvin many times departed from his Institutes when he later wrote his commentaries on the Bible. Kendall saw this as Calvin maturing and moving away from his earlier dogmatic doctrines. Kendall insists that it was Beza who took the Institutes of Calvin and made them the framework for future Calvinism.
While it is true that many Calvinist scholars have since come forth to deny Kendall's teachings, this work is still important in many ways. First, it shows that both Calvin and Calvinism doesn't have the congruency that many would like to believe it has. It shows that logically Calvinism may not always agree with the Scriptures. While Calvinist like to believe that Calvin always taught the "doctrines of grace", he seems to have been as most humans are and that is that he changed his mind from time to time on different issues. Secondly, it shows that Calvinism (unlike what Charles Spurgeon would love for us to believe) is not the gospel but a system of interpretation of the Scriptures. Thankfully, Calvin and Beza could disagree as would the Arminians later on dissagree with the Calvinist. We still need grace for one another despite our differences.
Overall, I would encourage people to read this book. Arminians naturally will love to see that Calvin often seemed to disagree with many of his earlier statements in his Institutes and seemed to teach an unlimited atonement. Calvinist will be glad to know that much of what Kendall writes here has been debated and written about by Calvinist theologians and it is safe to say that modern Calvinist do teach a limited atonement and can still find its basis in the works of Calvin.
This theory has been entirely discredited by the exhaustive work of Richard Muller ("Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics, in 4 volumes"), Paul Helm "Calvin and the Calvinsts", and the work of a number of scholars specializing in Theodore Beza (Jill Raitt et al.). Some of Kendall's errors are partially understandable, since this monograph was written well before the full works of the post-Calvin reformed theologians were commonly available as they became in the past 15 years, yet it is just poor scholarship to claim that Calvin himself was in favor of Universal Atonement. That shows a basic, and likely intentional disregard for clear facts and statements made repreatedly by Calvin.
Still, if you ignore the discredited polemic, there are some intersting things in this book. I's suggest reading the four books above, plus two or three on Beza first, then you won't be mislead by the wishful thinking of Kendall.
- Calvin's Doctrine of Faith
- Beza and the Heidelberg Theologians
- Perkin's Doctrine of Temporary Faith
- The Nature of Saving Faith
- Thomas Hooker
- Cotton and the Antinomian Controversy
- And more - over 200 pages.
Roger Nicole observes: "Kendall's essay on `The Puritan Modification of Calvin's Theology' in "John Calvin: His Influence in the Western World", a work otherwise in line with traditional Calvinism. Kendall's position was very vigorously disputed in devastating reviews by A. N. S. Lane, W. Stanford Reid, and especially Paul Helm. On the face of it Kendall's view appears well-nigh incredible, for it implies that practically all the Calvinist successors of Calvin from Beza to Warfield and beyond, passing through the Synod of Dort delegates and the members of the Westininster Assembly, were basically wrong concerning the major direction of their theology. To call the Westminster Assembly doctrine of faith `crypto-Arminian' is preposterous. Kendall's position impugns also practically all the Arminian theologians for failing to recognize that Calvin was their ally in the matter of the extent of the atonement, and the Calvinists with respect to the nature of faith! Frankly, it is easier to believe that Kendall is wrong rather than this whole galaxy of theologians!"
He adds: "The close connection posited by Kendall between universal atonement and the assurance of faith must also be challenged, for universal atonement is neither necessary nor sufficient for assurance. It is not necessary since my understanding of how the work of Christ affects others is not essential for a perception of how it affects me. It is not sufficient since on Kendall's showing, all covered by the atonement will not be saved; assurance, if it is to be reliable, needs to be grounded in something that actually makes a difference between the saved and the lost. Kendall devotes two pages to discussing Calvin's view of the extent of the atonement. Here he quotes largely the same passages of Calvin we have encountered earlier, one of which is so wrested from its context as to appear to have a meaning opposite to that which Calvin explicitly delineated. An argument is also drawn from the fact that Calvin did not object to the articles of the Council of Trent where Christ's death for all men is affirmed. But these articles simply affirmed that no other remedy to original sin and no other access to justification can be found in the whole world than through the passion of Jesus Christ. In the midst of so many questionable tenets of Trent it is understandable that Calvin would not interpose an objection at this point. On the other hand in response to Trent's 15th Canon on justification in which personal assurance of predestination is disallowed, Calvin asserts the possibility of it although not its necessity, even though predestination, justification, and adoption are particular, not universal blessings. In terms of this logic it is difficult to see why Calvin should have insisted on universal atonement as indispensable for the assurance of faith!"
Additionally professor Nicole opines: "Kendall avers that Calvin distinguished sharply between expiation, which is universal, and intercession, which is particular, as well as election. Yet Calvin says, "Whenever the death and passion of our Lord Jesus Christ is preached to us, we must at the same time add the prayer that He made." The same close connection can be observed in the Institutes 2.15.6 and in many other places. Altogether we find Kendall flatly asserting that Calvin held to universal atonement on the basis of a handful of statements which are not compelling, to say the least, and of a logical nexus between assurance and universal atonement, which remains wholly unconvincing. On the other hand he chose to disregard "certain statements by Calvin himself which, some thought, support a different view" on the grounds that he is `satisfied that what [he has] shown about Calvin's position will stand.' Others are doubtful about that."
Calvin stated: "I should like to know how the wicked can eat the flesh of Christ which was not crucified for them, and how they can drink the blood which was not shed to expiate their sins."
The chapter on "Perkins' Doctrine of Faith" is interesting as is much of this volume to one who is already grounded in the Reformed Faith. I would recommend Helm's book or Nicole's review before one reads Kendell.
Nicole adds: "This appears to be a categorical denial of universal atonement. Bell and Daniel have tackled this statement and attempted to explain it as reflecting the viewpoint of unbelievers who were not acknowledging the relevance to them of Christ's work rather than Calvin's own position. But then the argument against Heshusius would be very weak, since it was precisely his contention that the unbelievers desecrated the Lord's Supper by failing to discern the reality of Christ in, with, and under the natural species as well as the universal relevance of his atoning work. They manifested the latter form of unbelief by failing to appropriate this work in repentance and faith."
see the new apologetic book:
Truth, Knowledge and the Reason for God: The Defense of the Rational Assurance of Christianity
Buy the book. Read chapter one. Check out the footnotes for yourself. And you will be convinced that Calvin believed that Jesus paid the penalty for every person's sins.
I highly recommend this book.