21 October 2005

A specimen from the week's e-mail

Fighting FundiesWhen the recent pacifism thread got interrupted by my brief hiatus, I received a smattering of e-mail from angry pacifists. Their usually non-agressive tranquility was greatly disturbed by my suggestion that some forms of killing may actually be authorized by God—and therefore are righteous acts.

I could not possibly answer all who wrote or commented, but I did try to answer as many as possible, starting with the people who seemed most serious.

Here's one of my favorites. This guy is a radical Arminian pacifist and political left-winger in the Anabaptist tradition. Noticing that a few of my commenters were appalled at the idea of chub-clubbing the world's most infamous terrorist in the aisle of a Costco store when you could just as easily invite him to a Saturday men's Bible study, our liberal Anabaptist friend sensed blood in the water, and seized the opportunity to berate me about Calvin and Spurgeon.

Here's my reply:

From: "Phillip Johnson"
To: A____ B_____
Subject: Violence, Calvin, Spurgeon

> I'm appalled at your attacks on
> pacifism. I'm a Christian and a
> total pacifist. In fact, I've
> become a vegetarian partly in
> protest of wanton violence
> against animals.
> Your kind of thinking is exactly
> the kind of sick human reasoning
> that turned Calvin into a killer.
> In Calvin's Geneva, if you did not
> believe exactly what he taught then
> you were an unsaved person. A heretic.
> and he killed heretics, right?


Calvin did not believe people should be executed (or even ostracized) simply for disagreeing with him. Many people—including the whole Geneva city council—disagreed openly, passionately, and outspokenly with Calvin on various issues. He was actually quite a reasonable man when it came to simple matters of disagreement.

There were only a handful of executions in Geneva over cases of conscience during Calvin's era. Of these, the best known and most frequently cited against Calvin was Servetus, who was not executed merely for disagreeing with Calvin. Servetus's crime—and it was a crime in those days—was deliberately propagating serious heresy in a way designed to undermine the established order of European society.

Servetus's heresy involved a fanatical hatred of the Trinity and a determination to breed his error by any means across central Europe. He was not merely duped by some insignificant theological error; he was a brazen anarchist, determined to overturn both civil and religious athority. He refused to cease and desist, though he knew he would ultimately die for his actions. Calvin and Geneva were not even his primary targets, initially. He fled to Geneva in a desperate attempt to avoid a death sentence already passed against him by the Catholic Church.

Incidentally, I don't approve of Servetus's execution. But it's simplistic and grossly unfair to Calvin to portray the Reformer as someone who was prone to employ violence or even excommunication in order to quell all dissent from people who disagreed with his personal opinions. (As a matter of fact, Servetus's conduct was deemed criminal first by civil authorities; Calvin did not initiate the call for Servetus's execution.) Civil autorities in Geneva tried heretics only in the most extreme cases. In the context of his age, Calvin was actually quite a tolerant man.

> By the way, Charles Spurgeon smoked cigars.
> Since smoking cigars is unregenerate behavior,
> how can you hold this man up as an example
> of what a Christian should be?

Well, at least he never killed any deer or Anabaptists.

Phil's signature


Chris Meirose said...

I still think you should club Osama with a big tube of frozen pork. Maybe borrow one of Campi's guns to finish him off. Will they still let you have guns in Calinfornia? ;-)

Big Chris
Because I said so blog

pilgrim said...

And I'm sure the deer and Anabaptists thank Charles Spurgeon for sparing their lives!

Nutriaboy said...

Smoking cigars is unregenerate? Perhaps then, I need to club Davidoff to death with a supersized roll of packing tape on aisle four.

Betty!!!? Price check!

Kay said...

Hey! That's fantastic! My dad doesn't smoke cigars - he's closer to the kingdom than I thought.

course, he doesn't trust Christ in the least for his salvation, but if that wasn't sufficient for Spurgeon, why should it be so for my Dad?..


Jeremy Weaver said...

I'm glad you're out there on the Left Coast protecting us back east from the bulk of these wackos.
We do have some wackos, but California has got to be wacko central. Just keep them out there. Don't let them escape.

Jared said...

This is all the motivation I needed to break out the Limited Edition Cohiba I've been saving in my humidor for a special occasion.

Thanks, Radical Arminian Vegetarian! I'm gonna toke it up in your honor!

Phillip M. Way said...

I pulled out my concordance and even went back to the original languages for a search and for the life of me I cannot find that verse that lists cigar smoking as an unregenerate behavior.

I did however find the verse where God told Peter to RISE, KILL, and EAT an animal of his choice. Acts 10:9-16.

On the record, I'm all for PETA - People Eating Tasty Animals! Or was it Preachers Evangelizing Thickheaded Arminians?

Which all just proves that anybody can win a debate if they are allowed to define the terms.

Welcome back to the insanity Phil!


CSB said...

fighting fundies? that sounds like my kind of comic book.

Away From The Brink said...

"Which all just proves that anybody can win a debate if they are allowed to define the terms."

I could not agree more. Consider this old story:

"I don't know what you mean by ‘glory’," Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!'"

"But glory doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.

"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many things."

"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "who is to be master -- that's all."

-- Lewis Carroll, "Through the Looking Glass"

Stephen Morse said...

I love the smell of burning leaves in the fall. There is something about them that just takes me back...
I don't roll them up and smell them. I pile up huge piles of them and light them all at once so that the smoke covers our property. Then I just sit there and enjoy it.
um... do I need to repent?

John R. said...

I kill deer.
I shoot them with guns.
I blast holes in them.
I eat them.

Would be glad to donate a frozen pack of venison to you for the dispatching of Osama bin Laden.

Is he in California?


David said...

So, I can't kill animals, I can't smoke cigars, and I can't defend myself. I'm going to Hell for sure.

Ray said...

The problem with the letter that you posted is that, once again, someone has confused the Christian walk with moralism.

Because some out there consider smoking cigars to be a 'nasty' habit, they automatically consign it the 'sin' column and therefore a trait to be removed. This somehow makes one regenerate? Or PROVES regeneration? Maybe they forget that Hitler was a vegetarian and did not smoke?

Same with eating meat; since this has fallen in and out of fashion over time, some believe that comsuming animals is somehow unregenerate. This can lead, as we all know, to perfectionism, which is absolutely bondage.

BTW, welcome back Phil... These folks were starting to get scary as they had Pyro withdrawal!

BAG said...

What a bunch of comedians!

FX Turk said...

If I had an extra 20 hours a weekm I would start a blog that documents all the times in internet discourse when an open history book and a rudimentary sense of humor would have set aside a conflict.

How, exactly, does a hypothetical clubbing of Osama bin Laden -- who would unquestionably kill any of these nitwits if he had the opportunity and it would make Big Press -- rate this kind of effort to refute?

And what in the name of wikipedia does either Calvin or Spurgeon have to do with it? I mean, even in a Kevin Bacon world of associations, what kind of used-charmine-tissue methodology does one have to implement to get from here to there?

Complete wack.

ZF said...

Thanks for great link to Spurgeon and cigars. I am new Reformed Christian coming from Catholicism and...I love a good pipe of tobacco or a cigar. Glory to God!!!

Johnny said...


On a different subject in reference to Calvin... Did Calvin believe what R.C. Sproul has edited in the ESV Study Bible concerning infant baptism? In the commentary on John 3, Sproul seems to indicate that infant baptism regenerates. What say you?

"Infants can be born again, although the faith that they exercise cannot be
as visible as that of adults."

chamblee54 said...

you write:
Pacifists therefore usually take one of two approaches to interpreting the Old Testament: either they attack the authority and reliability of the Hebrew Scriptures, or they devise a theology that accommodates some sort of massive shift from the ethical and moral standards of the Old Testament to a supposedly new and higher standard in the New Testament.

The former approach is patently liberal and quickly degenerates into some variety of deism or Socinianism. The latter approach is really no less problematic. It undermines one's approach to both hermeneutics and systematic theology at a foundational level. It opens the door for creeping liberalism, too.
Someone should take your thesaurus away.

brigand said...


You said: "Infants can be born again, although the faith that they exercise cannot be as visible as that of adults."

One is saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Infant or adult. 1. What's to stop God from showing grace to an infant? 2. How does the statement you quoted inconsistent from salvation by grace alone? Though I'm not Presbyterian, Sproul most certainly does not believe in baptismal regeneration. It sounds like perhaps you think that infants are a special case for whom salvation works differently?

Phil Johnson said...

Paedobaptism is really beyond the scope of the subject for this post. One of these days I'll do a post on the subject. At the moment, however, I have enough other threads to try to keep straight in my head.

Quick answer to your question, though: While I don't agree with either Sproul or Calvin on baptism, I don't believe either of them can be fairly charged with teaching baptismal regeneration.

BlackCalvinist aka G.R.A.C.E. Preecha said...

Johnny - Calvin did beleive in 'presumptive regeneration' - that is, believe your children (children of believers) are regenerate until they show themselves otherwise.

In addressing the Council of Trent's canons from the sixth session (the one that dealt with justification) Calvin wrote:

But they have been pleased to exclude infants from the kingdom of God, who have been snatched away before they could be offered for baptism. As if nothing were meant when it is said that the children of believers are born holy. ( 1 Corinthians 7:14.) Nay, on what ground do we admit them to baptism unless that they are the heirs of promise? For did not the promise of life apply to them it would be a profanation of baptism to give it to them. But if God has adopted them into his kingdom, how great injustice is done to his promise, as if it were not of itself sufficient for their salvation! A contrary opinion, I admit, has prevailed, but it is unjust to bury the truth of God under any human error, however ancient. The salvation of infants is included in the promise in which God declares to believers that he will be a God to them and to their seed. In this way he declared, that those deriving descent from Abraham were born to him. ( Genesis 17:7) In virtue of this promise they are admitted to baptism, because they are considered members of the Church. Their salvation, therefore, has not its commencement in baptism, but being already founded on the word, is sealed by baptism.

http://public.csusm.edu/public/guests/rsclark/Antidote.htm - Antidote to the Sixth Session of the Council of Trent on the Doctrine of Justification by John Calvin (1547)

On a complete other note, Osama Bin Laden is alive and well, driving a cab near some airport in California. I found his drivers' license on a public information website.


Sharad Yadav said...

Sounds like there are a lot of people who have overly-sensitive consciences about issues of war, violence and cruelty to animals. We should parade our knowledge in front of them, possibly lifting our skirts in a Braveheart moon.

Mike Perrigoue said...

And its these kind of folks that Jesus had in mind when he told us to love our neighbor...now that was a great challenge by Christ!

steve said...

Wouldn't it be simpler just to feed all of the vegetarian pacifists to the sharks, lions, boas, and crocodiles? It would save money at the local zoo and also give the vegetarian pacifists a chance to stand up for their principles.

MacArthurFan said...

Phil, the person who e-mailed you said: " In fact, I've become a vegetarian partly in protest of wanton violence against animals."

I wonder if he has ever read Leviticus 1:5, which says:

'He shall kill the bull before the LORD; and the priests, Aaron's sons, shall bring the blood and sprinkle the blood all around on the altar that is by the door of the tabernacle of meeting."

I guess not.

Kay said...

Have PETA targeted the Lord Almighty with an Ad campaign yet, seeing as He was the one who started this whole wearing fur thing?

Frank Martens said...

maybe I missed it, but how is Smoking cigars unregenerate?

Clue me in, I think I missed that passage in the Bible.

Jeff said...

Unfortunately, many of these hardline Arminians shoot first and ask questions...well, never really.

If it looks like a Calvinist, smells like a Calvinist, or ever had fellowship with a Calvinist... they're liable to discharge their weapons into the crowd and then retreat back to camp to grumble amongst themselves.

It grieves my soul.

--A Recovering Fundamentalist

Matt Gumm said...

OK, now I know I've been reading too much Frank Turk (ha, as if there was such a thing). I read his last comment as:
"If I had an extra 20 hours a weekm I would start a blog that documents all the times in internet discourse when an open comic book and a rudimentary sense of humor would have set aside a conflict."

Bhedr said...


We went from Calvins excecutions to smoking cigars?!? Unbelievable.

I remember when Jack Hyles did what he did. I was there in the midst of all those fundies who made excuses for him. Jack even yelled at my buddy who personally questioned him about it in Dr Rodney Bell's office. "Get this kid out of here! I can't believe your in here asking me this son!"

I wonder if Calvin and Zwingle had stickers to pass out to the people that said, "I'm 100% for Calvin!"

There are however godly men that came from both Hyles and Bell's ministry(who recently had to step down from his ministry) so I won't push this anymore as I respect that men like Knox came from Calvin's and Spurgeon himself respected him but I will by no means attempt to pardon guilt or seek to strain out a gnat to redeem a camel.

Bhedr said...

I guess it was you that made the point about Spurgeon. never mind then. That was a strange conversation anyway. Both of you seemed to be arguing for each others point without knowing it.

Mike said...

Paedobaptism is not on topic but not any of the Reformed Paedo-Baptists believe in Baptismal regeneration. In fact, most wrote against it at some time. In any case, there will be Numerous brilliant theologians who will be wrong about this issue. Piper versus Sproul. Spurgeon versus Edwards. Packard versus MacArthur. Etc. Half of these men will be wrong.

I always find a special delight in informing people that Luther drank Beer, Calvin drank Wine, and Spurgeon somed Cigars. I don't take part in any of these. However, to consider that any are "unregenerate behavior" is to create commandments that our Lord has not.

In any case, thanks for the email. Often times, the comments FROM Arminians or Paccifists do the BEST job of disproving their own position.

Bhedr said...

Hey why don't you add a zippo to the pyro!

Matthew Carroll said...

Have your history book handy? Who said this; what political personality when criticized for smoking Cuban cigars replied, "At a time of war, it is customary to burn your enemy's crops."?
I would hazard a guess, but I'd probably be wrong.

Joe said...

The Biblical admonition agains the smoking of cigars is directly and clearly outlined in II Hezekiah 4:12.

Any behavior that is not in the center of God's will is unregenerate behavior in the sense that it would be adequate to keep us from the kingdom.

All of our righteousness is like filthy rags in His sight.

Glad I have Christ, so I don't have to depend on my own behavior. Good or bad, it will fail me.

Udarnik said...

I find it amazing how hard some people are on the reformers... I don't concentrate on their foibles, but instead marvel at the grace God showed these folks in the midst of a world in which (from our informed perspective of history), black was white, up was down and your doctrine would not simply raise the ire of someone on a blog, but could get you, your family and your entire village smoked.

I've read Calvin on baptism and the best I could come up with was that he seemed confused or really inconsistent. But, you know what? I would rather focus on how much he and others got right at the time and place they arrived on the scene. I can't even imagine living as a Christian in their world. Praise God.

Which brings me to the fighting fundies... I've been there. They are the ones that have plenty of 'splainin' to do, because they have tons of resources at their fingertips and can still come up with such weak analysis of church history, the development of doctrine and understanding of the Word.

It's like the Watchtower Society... once you cut yourself off or stand aloof from the wider Body of Christ, you turn into the religious version of Howard Hughes... a caricature, who adds nothing to the building up of the Body, while you provide plenty of cheap labor in Its demolition. Meanwhile the unbelieving world laughs in derision.

Phew... I feel better now.

Anonymous said...

Bo... Thank you!!! I get so sick of people criticizing Calvin without recognizing the times he lived in. Granted, he did some bad things (as if we don't?). Yet, God changed the mindset of the whole world through his other reformers' actions. Praise God indeed!

Anonymous said...

Typo correction: "...his and other reformers' actions".

Bhedr said...

>Yet, God changed the mindset of the whole world through his other reformers' actions.<
A curious quote from a Calvin supporter in light of his beliefs. Do you truly believe this and have you thought this out?

Udarnik said...

bhedr... I have a thought... before Adam Cummings answers your question, perhaps you could give us some examples of Calvin's positive contributions to the faith from your perspective... How about other historical figures. Do you think Erasmus or Aquinas or Molina added anything to our understanding of the Word? How about Arminius or Wesley? Did they make any positive contributions in changing the world in a positive way?

Sharad Yadav said...


I think an interesting topic for Phil to broach would be the issue of doctrinal development and the impact of tradition on doctrinal formulations. What responsibility do current Christian communities have to develop doctrine, and how do we determine the parameters of this development? The motif of "recovery" in Protestant Church seems to overlook a lot of the hard-earned labor of those who developed and formulated doctrinal stances from Scripture that we take for granted. Paul obviously didn't articulate the Trinity like Tertullian did, yet the articulation which came from latter church history is a thoroughly biblical and historically important doctrinal development that has spawned other theological reflection that isn't found in the Bible (i.e. Van Til's notion of God as a community, the idea of covenants within the Godhead, etc.).

What do you say, Philys? What do we make of development throughout Church History? How should we decide which doctrines are adequately articulated and which ones need reform and recasting? How does/should this ancient development inform modern doctrinal debate? Can/should the Church still engage in doctrinal development and re-articulation? How should it be done? What are the boundaries?

Bhedr said...

There is a powerful scene in the movie To End All Wars. The Japanese are having a Banzai celebration and taking pictures of their great accomplishment of building a railroad. The Scottish argiles along with other POWS built it with their forced sweat and deathly labor. One of the prisoners commented, "you would have thought they made it!"

A man named Loren wrote a parable this weekend on POLD.Blogspot.com aout the duty of a sheepdog. I wonder if this truth is understood or if this parable can be. Solomon shared some thoughts on this. Ecclesiastes 9:13-18 I wonder if this passage can be?

Denise said...

Ex. 11: 4 So Moses said, “This is what the LORD says: ‘About midnight I will go throughout Egypt. 5 Every firstborn son in Egypt will die, from the firstborn son of Pharaoh, who sits on the throne, to the firstborn son of the slave girl, who is at her hand mill, and all the firstborn of the cattle as well. 6 There will be loud wailing throughout Egypt—worse than there has ever been or ever will be again. 7 But among the Israelites not a dog will bark at any man or animal.’ Then you will know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel."

Is the Pacifist/vegitarian (or is that vegan?) going to argue with this passage of Scripture where God takes credit for the killing of the firstborn of families and animals?

How about this:

Ps. 135: 7 He makes clouds rise from the ends of the earth; he sends lightning with the rain and brings out the wind from his storehouses. 8 He struck down the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of men and animals. 9 He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, O Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants. 10 He struck down many nations and killed mighty kings— ...

Denise said...

LOL Joe, that took me a few minutes to get (2 Hezekiah 4:12)!

Could we say that if smoking cigars is unregenerate behavior, is over-eating also? Drinking alcohol? Playing cards? Ballroom dancing? Listening to Handel's (sp?)Messiah? Where's this list in Scripture?

I do know that Scripture does make a list of the deeds of the flesh in Galatians 5, but I don't see these things listed there. Are they elsewhere?