One of the early church reformers was John Calvin, he was born in France in 1509. He was a deep spiritual man and he did advocate for Protestantism, it was referred to Calvinism. His advocacy was based on the role of the church and individual in their daily life and their relation to God as well. He believed that he had received a commission from God to restore the church’s purity that led him to brake from the Catholic Church in 1533. Some of his distinct features are still being discarded by the current protestant; Calvinism did shape the early protestant church beliefs (Barth, pg. 6). This essay will briefly discuss the ideas of Calvin on the subject of faith and grace. The ideas did circulate in several dominations and were influential as well.
In the past centuries faith was associated with the specific knowledge or set of beliefs, but recently the view if faith has changed. Faith is now referred to as the act of believing, but not what is believed, faith is an object. Currently the object of faith is rarely specified when it is being mentioned. It can be love, fate, hope or even the unknown or sometimes God. Faith is not seen as a bible description of knowledge or trust in the individual or in the works of Jesus, but rather faith is seen as a general religious sentiment or subjective feelings of an individual (Berman, p. 10).
According to Allen & Calvin (pg.48), Calvinism did define faith as a divine benevolence that is towards individuals; it is steady and is characterized by knowledge. This knowledge is tied upon the true promises of Christ that are revealed not only in our minds but also founded in the hearts of individuals by the Holy Spirit. To him Jesus Christ is seen as the object of faith. Calvin used concentric circles in defining faith: existence of God, God’s power and truthfulness, the will of God towards us, as it is in the scripture as well as Christ. He said that the entire circles do imply faith but only Christ is the object of faith. To him individuals that see God as a proper object of faith are souls that are mislead miserably by vain speculations without a focus on the proper mark. In Calvinism Christ is seen as a mediator of God and therefore he urges human to know God, and that Christ is not set against God. He does assert that Christ is the means and the only means that human can believe in God. To him the true knowledge of Christ is receiving him as he is offered by the Father according to the gospel.
Calvin does sees human beings being totally deprived through birth, after inheriting the effect and guilt of Adam’s original sins, to him the entire nature is a sort of sin-seed and man is corrupt before the eyes of God. As a result of the sin-seed all men do stand in the need of God’s grace. The dogma of predestination is one of the cornerstones in Calvin’s theology; it was basically on his own sovereignty, that God did pre-determine who will be saved and who will be lost before founding the world (Allen & Calvin). To him the death of Christ was efficacious to those who were to be saved. Christ is a minister an author and a prince of salvation as well; this mode of expression does not obscure divine grace and Christ’s merit is not opposed by God’s mercy but does depend on it.
Grace is seen as a foreign teaching in the scriptures, and anyone with elementary knowledge on the New Testament cannot accept Calvinism. In the book of Titus 2:11 informs us of the grace of God that has appeared to bring salvation to all men, since God loves the whole world (John 3:16), and therefore all men are to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) and that no single human is to perish (2 Peter 3:9), Christ died for our sins forgiveness for all human race and not for the elect (1 John 2:2). God’s grace is generous and it is received by all human beings even sinners.
Apart from acknowledging that John Calvin did teach some truth, we should also be in a position to recognize that he did advocated for much error, and that these errors must be overlooked (Hodge).