John Calvin would have been a great blogger; he almost certainly would have received 500 hits a day on his posts.
If you have ever read his sermons and writings, you would notice that he had a penchant for stirring up controversy. And as they say, "Controversy sells -- it is the well of all good stories and high ratings."
John knew how to find fault with everyone and everything; and he didn't mind saying so.
The writer William Bouwsma in his book on "Calvin", said that the critical nature of Calvin was formed from a 'nervous moralism', I think that is a perfect description of the anxious soul: "Calvin could hear God saying, 'It is necessary that I be obeyed, in everything and by everyone, or I shall renounce you.'" Could you imagine hearing those exact words from God? Absolutely terrifying and dreadful. I wonder if that same dread still drives the people who believe it to be their responsibility to change the world?
As a result of Calvin's belief, he did all he could to teach and persuade others: "If everyone would try to repress vices and inequities and if, when there is evil, everyone tried to avoid it, God would certainly bless that response and we would have a desirable order among ourselves." He warned his followers that "every sin threatened both the individual and community." And what is the practical result? Bouwsma writes,
"The search for and denunciation of wickedness is a universal obligation."
He took this mandate quite seriously, so no one was safe under his watching eye. No sinful behavior, no evil thought, and no person could hide. If you think I am harsh and divisive on my blog posts, just listen to a quick list of the things that he would often rail against and try to legislate against in his town of Geneva. I will only provide a short list of 13 vices because it is the traditional naughty number (And you will quickly see why no one really liked hanging out with him):
1) SELF-LOVE: this problem drives all wickedness, it is "when we aspire to tower above the rest and haughtily and savagely abuse everyone else." Makes sense, I can agree with that. "Good start Calvin."
2) WEALTH: "Wealth leads to pride, pomp, scorn of God, cruelty, frauds, and everything of the kind; and then it brings bodily delights and pleasures, so that man is wholly brutalized." Occupy Wall-Street are pikers compared to him! "Go get em' Calvin, spread the wealth!"
3) SEX: "Only relations controlled by marriage are permissible to human beings." I am pretty sure (99.4% certain) Calvin considered marriage a union between only a man and a woman...but I could be wrong? "Get lost Calvin, keep your pure hands out of my business!"
4) MALE YOUTHFUL FOOLISHNESS: "Drunkenness was a shameful abuse of God's gift and their youthful desires make young men especially ebullient...easily angered...and rush at things more boldly and rashly!" The NFL would be wise if they listened to John on this point. "Go get em' Calvin, stop the barbaric men, the power hungry scourge of the earth!"
5) FEMALE LASCIVIOUSNESS: "Too often silly women tempt men with their own lawless desires...there are too many examples of how men, otherwise inclined to behave virtuously, have been debauched and turned from the right way by women" Uh oh....John, you better be careful on this point. I got lambasted last week for bringing this up. "Get lost Calvin, don't blame the victim!"
6) FEMININE WEAKNESSES: "Even though women are chargeable with many vices...above all they are enflamed with a mad eagerness for fine clothes." John, you are digging a deep hole here. (Snicker, snicker) "Get lost Calvin, you have to stay up with the recent trends!"
7) GOSSIP & LOQUACITY (talkativeness): I won't tell you who John thinks does most of this. But he says, "Talkativeness is a disease that makes it impossible to keep secrets, a vice that 'old age' makes worse." John, you are picking on my grandma now! "Get lost Calvin, you are getting too nosy and too nitpickety!"
8) KINGS & PRINCES: "Blinded by pride and presumption, inebriated by good fortune, rejecting all restraint, they all are in a precise sense 'tyrants!'" This one John, will get good press every time, bring down the man. "Go get em' Calvin, fight for the little guy!"
9) MAGISTRATES & CIVIL SERVANTS: These overlords are 'panderers, buffoons, and flatterers.' "They are so inflated with pride they think it disgraceful to mingle with the common people...they must always be climbing to great titles and great honors." Now this one is iffy John; because the validity of your viewpoint all depends on what party you support. "So, Calvin, we are split, we need you to commit to our agenda before we can agree on this one. I like my guy in office, sure he makes a lot of money, but he lobbies for me."
10) THE RICH: "The rich lack compassion. Men who had enough to feed a hundred allowed their neighbors to die of hunger; they would snatch the sun from the sky for their own enjoyment, if they could, leaving the poor in the dark." John, now here is a statement all of us can agree upon. "Go get em' Calvin, atta boy!"
11) THE LOWER ORDERS (aka. Poor): Bouwsma writes, "Calvin was not sentimental about the poor because he believed that true Christians are a small minority in every social group." Calvin writes, "The fierce passions of the common people, as a result of which the most frightful disorder inevitably follows if everyone is allowed to do as he pleases. (Do I hear Ferguson anyone?) Poverty lends to the temptation to murmur against God." But John, how can you blame them, especially when its the rich man who made them this way? "Get lost Calvin, you don't understand!"
12) WAR for ACQUISITION: "The lust for domination has ruled mankind in every age. War opens up the gates to robbery, pillage, arson, slaughter, rape, and every violence." How can you argue against that? "Good one Calvin, here, here!"
13) HYPOCRISY IN THE CHURCH: "The church had become a den of thieves, it exhibited all the evils of the secular world, it subordinated its aims to politics, and it aggravated wickedness elsewhere." He especially went after the Pope and monks "who are completely unlearned asses, they spread out their feathers like a peacock and are worshiped by his fellows." Ouch, John, ouch! "Well John, in this day and age, calling people unlearned asses won't fly! Bad move!"
Whew that is just a small taste of Calvin's fire; trying to control the world can be a tiring business! Calvin offers something for everyone here, but I am pretty sure not everyone likes the everything he offers.
That is always the way it is, people will keep their pet sins while attacking the behaviors that they abhor. At least Calvin consistently attacks all vices with equal measure. The bigger question is this:, "Are we our brother's keeper on every sin? And is that really the meaning behind the idea of our brother's keeper?" Am I responsible for your sin? Or am I only responsible for warning, teaching, guiding and praying?
This is the issue at stake in our society. Who is in charge? Be very careful how you answer that because the list above will be enforced the way those in charge see fit; often choosing winners and losers without any rhyme or reason.
My suggestion for a better world is naively simple? Please God. Honestly, before the watching eyes of a pure, almighty God, live righteously. Micah 6:8 is exactly right:
"He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."
These are the types of men and women God wants us to be, to elect, and to teach our children to be. Like a pebble in a still pond, change starts slow -- first from your soul and then slowly reaching out to others. We need to start taking responsibility for ourselves: be pure, share your time and money with the needy, stop living to fulfill sexual urges, avoid addictions, and display the joy of Christ.
Can't we start there?