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by Joe Morecraft, III

John Calvin, Evangelism,


and World Missions
the criticism of
calvin regarding
evangelism and world
missions
L
iberal theologian, A.M. Hunter,
in his book, THE TEACHING OF
CALVIN, wrote that: Certainly he [Cal-
vin] displayed no trace of missionary
enthusiasm. He made that statement
either out of prejudice or ignorance.
Others have said that Calvins horrible
doctrine of predestination makes non-
sense of all missionary and evangelistic
activity. However, the truth is that one
of the consequences of Calvins doc-
trine of predestination is an intensied
zeal for evangelism and world missions.
Some people have used Calvin to justify
their unconcern for evangelism; but a
careful study of Calvins life, actions,
doctrines, and inuence on successive
generations will prove him to be a man
truly committed to both evangelism
and world missions.
Calvins most thorough exposition
of predestination is his book, CON-
CERNING THE ETERNAL PREDES-
TINATION OF GOD. In that book he
wrote: Since we do not know who be-
longs to the number of the predestined
and who does not, it bets us so to feel
as to wish that all be saved. So it will
come about that, whoever we come
across, we shall study to make him a
sharer of peaceeven severe rebuke he
administered like medicine, lest they
should perish or cause others to per-
ish. But it will be for God to make it
eective in those whom He foreknew
and predestined.
John
Calvin
1509-1564
John
Calvin
1509-1564
5 Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 2 2010
John Calvin, Evangelism, and World Missions
In other words, Calvins doctrine
of predestination did not make evange-
lism and world missions unnecessary;
rather it made them necessary, because
it is by the presentation of the gospel
that God has planned to save his elect.
Calvins comment on Ezekiel 18:23
1

is that,
God certainly desires nothing
more than for those who are
perishing and rushing toward
death to return to the way of
safety. Tis is why the gospel is
today proclaimed throughout
the world, for God wished to
testify to all the ages that he is
greatly inclined to pity.
the explanation by
calvin of the great
commission
And Jesus came up and spoke to
them, saying, All authority has been
given to Me in heaven and on earth.
Go therefore and make disciples of
all the nations, baptizing them in the
name of the Father and the Son and
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to ob-
serve all that I commanded you; and
lo, I am with you always, even to the
end of the age.- Matthew 28:18-20
In Matthews version of the Great Com-
mission, he gives us the claim of the
exalted Christall authority in heaven
and earth; the mandate of the exalted
Christmake the worlds nations My
disciples; the mission strategy of the
1. Ezekiel 18:23Do I have any pleasure in the
death of the wicked, declares the Lord
GOD, rather than that he should turn
from his ways and live?
exalted Christbaptize and teach; and
the promise of the exalted ChristHis
continual presence with the faithful
church to the end of the age.
Calvin tells us that Christ rst
spoke of his authority for a good reason:
For no ordinary authority would here
have been enough, but sovereign and
truly divine government ought to be
possessed by him who commands them
to promise eternal life in his name, to
reduce the whole world under his sway,
and to publish a doctrine which sub-
dues all pride, and lays prostrate the
whole of the human race.- CALVINS
COMMENTARIES, Vol. XVII, p. 381
Christ expressly calls himself the
Lord and King of heaven and earth,
because, by constraining men to obey
him in the preaching of the gospel, he
establishes his throne on the earth; and,
by regenerating his people to a new life,
and inviting them to the hope of sal-
vation, he opens heaven to admit to a
blessed immortality with angels those
who formerly had not only crawled on
the world, but had been plunged in the
abyss of death.- CALVINS COMMEN-
TARIES, Vol. XVII, p. 382
Terefore, the meaning of Christs
mandate amounts to this, that by pro-
claiming the gospel everywhere, they
should bring all nations to the obedi-
ence of the faith, and next, that they
should seal and ratify their doctrine
by the sign of the gospel.- COMMEN-
TARIES, Vol. XVII, p. 383
Te Great Commission is con-
cluded with Christs promise to teach
us that though the ministers of the
gospel be weak and suer the [lack] of
all things, he will be their guardian, so
that they will rise victorious over all the
opposition of the world. In like manner,
experience clearly shows in the pres-
Calvin Calvin
Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 2 2010
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John Calvin, Evangelism, and World Missions
ent day, that the operations of Christ
are carried on wonderfully in a secret
manner, so that the gospel surmounts
innumerable obstacles.- COMMEN-
TARIES, Vol. XVII, p. 391
Christ claimed all authority for
himself and promised his continual
presence thus declaring that he would
defend his doctrine, so that his minis-
ters may condently expect to be vic-
torious over the whole world.- COM-
MENTARIES, Vol. XVII, p. 391
When Mark speaks of going into all
the world and preach[ing] the gospel to
every creature, Mark 16:15, Calvin un-
derstands by that that no certain limits
are prescribed, but the whole world is
assigned to them [the apostles], to be
reduced to the obedience of Christ: that
by disseminating the gospel wherever
they could, they might erect his king-
dom in all nations. Terefore Paul, when
he wished to prove his apostleship, de-
clares, not merely that he had gained
some one city for Christ, but that he had
propagated the gospel far and wide, and
that he had not built upon the founda-
tion of others, but had planted churches
where the name of the Lord had never
been heard before. Te apostles,
2
there-
fore, were missionaries, who were to re-
duce the world from their revolt to true
obedience to God, and to establish his
kingdom universally by the preaching
of the gospel (INSTITUTES OF THE
CHRISTIAN RELIGION, IV, iii, 4).
In his commentary on Isaiah 2:4
3
,
Calvin explains that when the prophet
2. I do not deny, that, even since that period,
God has sometimes raised up apostles and
evangelists in their stead, as he has done in
our own time.- quoted by R. Pierce Beaver
in THE HERITAGE OF JOHN CALVIN, p. 57
3. Isaiah 2:4And He will judge between the
nations, and He will render decisions for
says that He shall judge among the
nations, he means that the doctrine
of Christ will be like a kings scepter,
that God may rule among all nations
And again he conrms the calling
of the Gentiles, because Christ is not
sent to the Jews only, that he may reign
over them, but that he may hold his
sway over the whole world (CALVINS
COMMENTARIES, Vol. VII, p. 98-99).
the defense of calvins
reputation
As foundational as John Calvins inu-
ence on the West has been, no one has
been more viciously and unjustly criti-
cized. Erich From said that Calvin and
Luther belonged to the ranks of the
greatest haters in history.- Hughes, p. 41.
F.L. Cross describes Calvin as the unop-
posed dictator of Geneva.- Hughes, p.
41 Roland H. Bainton said of him: if
Calvin ever wrote anything in favor of
many peoples; and they will hammer their
swords into plowshares, and their spears
into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up
sword against nation, and never again will
they learn war.
John Calvin
7 Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 2 2010
John Calvin, Evangelism, and World Missions
religious liberty, it was a typographical
error.- Hughes, 41. I have in my library
a several hundred page book entitled
THE HISTORY OF EVANGELISM, and
it contains no references to John Calvin.
Te implication is that John Calvin did
not believe in or practice evangelism or
world missions, because of his doctrine
of predestination.
However, in the face of these slan-
derous remarks are three indisputable
facts:
(1). If Calvin was a cruel man
how did he attract so many,
so varied, and so warmly at-
tached friends and associates
who speak of his sensitiveness
and his charm?- Basil Hall
quoted by Hughes, p. 43.
(2). If Calvin had dictatorial
control over Genevan aairs,
how is it that the records of Ge-
neva show him plainly to have
been the servant of its council
which on many occasions reject-
ed out of hand Calvins wishes
for the religious life of Gene-
va..?- Hall in Hughes, p. 43.
(3). How can such things be said
about Calvin in the light of the
remarkable phenomenon of
the great numbers of persons
who ed to Geneva for refuge
from the erce persecutions
that raged against adherents
of the Reformed faith elsewhere
in Europe (and especially in
France)?- Hughes, p. 43.
the commitment of
calvin to evangelism
seen in four facts
To appreciate Calvins commitment
to evangelism and world missions we
should understand four facts:
(1.) Te practice of Calvin in
evangelism and world evan-
gelism
First, Calvin himself practiced world
evangelization. He personally preached
the gospel, sometimes at the risk of his
life, in France, Germany, Italy and Swit-
zerland. Furthermore, by his published
writings and letters he spread the gos-
pel all over Europe.
(2.) Te writings of Calvin on
the necessity and promise of
world evangelization
Second, he wrote on the necessity and
promise of world evangelization
there is no people and no
rank in the world that is ex-
cluded from salvation; because
God wishes that the gospel
should be proclaimed to all
without exception. Now the
preaching of the gospel gives
life; and henceGod invites
all equally to partake of salva-
tion.- Calvin, COMMENTARY
on I Timothy 2:4
4
Te Kingdom of Christ was only
begun in the world, when God
commanded the gospel to be
4. I Timothy 2:3-4Tis is good and acceptable
in the sight of God our Savior, who desires
all men to be saved and to come to the
knowledge of the truth.
Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 2 2010
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John Calvin, Evangelism, and World Missions
everywhere proclaimed, and
at this day its course is not
yet complete.- Calvin, COM-
MENTARY on Micah 4:3
5
Te apostles, therefore, were
missionaries, who were to re-
duce the world from their re-
volt to true obedience to God,
and to establish His Kingdom
universally by the proclaiming
of the gospel.- Calvin, INSTI-
TUTES, IV, iii, 4.
(3.) Te establishment by Cal-
vin of the academy in Geneva
Tird, Calvin established an academy in
Geneva to train men to be missionaries.
Geneva, as one has said, was the hub
of a vast missionary enterprise. It cre-
ated an explosion of missionary activity
detonated in large part by the Genevan
Consistory and other Swiss Protestants.
Te Genevan archives hold hundreds
of letters containing Calvins pastorate
and practical advice on establishing un-
derground churches. He did not just send
missionaries; he invested himself in long
5. Micah 4:3And He will judge between many
peoples and render decisions for mighty,
distant nations. Tey will hammer their
swords into plowshares; and their spears
into pruning hooks
term relationships with them.- Frank
James III, http://theresurgence.com
Historians have estimated that
in 1555 there were five underground
churches in France; in 1559 there
were one hundred; and by 1562 there
were 2,150 churches with three mil-
lion attendees!
Geneva was not only a haven for
hundreds of exiles persecuted for the
sake of the gospel, especially from Eng-
land during the reign of Bloody Mary.
It was also a school. John Knox, who
himself was a Marian exile there, wrote
that it was the most perfect school of
Christ which has been seen on earth
since the days of the apostles.- quoted
by Hughes, p. 44.
But, Calvins Geneva was even
more than a haven and a school, it
trained men for world evangelization; it
organized mission strategy, it sent men
out into world missions, and it super-
intended these missions. As Philip E.
Hughes writes:
Human vessels were equipped
and retted in this haven, not
to be status symbols like paint-
ed yachts safely moored at a
fashionable marina, but that
they might launch out into the
surround ocean of the worlds
need, bravely facing every
storm and peril that awaited
them in order to bring the light
of Christs gospel to those who
were in the ignorance and dark-
ness from which they them-
selves had originally come.
Tey were taught in this school
in order that they in turn might
teach others the truth that had
set them free.
Calvin Before the counsel
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John Calvin, Evangelism, and World Missions
Tus John Knox returned
with the evangelical doctrine
to his nature Scotland; English-
men went back to lead the cause
in England; Italians to Italy;
and Frenchmento France. In-
spired by Calvins truly ecumen-
ical vision, which penetrated far
beyond the horizon of his own
environment, Geneva became
a dynamic center or nucleus
from which the vital missionary
energy it generated radiated out
into the world beyond.- Hughes,
p. 44-45
Te missionary activity that radiated
from Geneva is truly astonishing in its
extent and its cost, in terms of human
courage and suering. Hundreds of
men were sent out during Calvins stay
in Geneva; and they were sent all over
Europe and as far away as Brazil! More
on this world missions enterprise later.
Many of these early missionaries suf-
fered martyrdom.
Fourth, being shortly after Calvins
death began the great world mission
enterprise that has been advancing to
this very day. Calvins theology and
worldview inspired centuries of eec-
tive evangelism and church planting all
over the globe. In the late 17
th
Century
we see an outburst of zeal for world
missions in such places as the Nether-
lands, under the Calvinistic inuence of
men like Voetius.
In the 18
th
Century we see a revival
of world missions among English Pu-
ritans. We even see it in the early 17
th

Century in the migration to the New
World, particularly at Jamestown, Vir-
ginia, Plymouth, Massachusetts, Salem,
Massachusetts, and New Haven, Con-
necticut. In 18
th
Century New England,
for example, John Eliot was known as
the apostle to the Indians. We also
read of George Whitelds transatlantic
missionary journeys, William Carey,
David Brainerd. It is impossible to
mention the names of all the mission-
ary leaders whose spiritual and theolog-
ical life was rmly rooted in Calvinistic
soil- Hoogstra, p. 175
In the 19
th
Century, interest in world
missions spread all over the West. Scot-
land became a home of missionary ef-
fort, with such examples as Alexander
Du, not only a missionary to India, but
also the rst person to hold the chair of
Evangelistic Teology of New College,
Edinburgh. We also read of increased
world mission activity from the United
States through the northern and south-
ern Presbyterian churches. And in the
20
th
century Calvinistic churches all
over the world became deeply engaged
in world missions. As Professor O.G.
Myklebust has written in his book THE
STUDY OF MISSIONS IN THEOLOGI-
CAL EDUCATION:
Alexander Duff
Counsel of Chalcedon Issue 2 2010
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John Calvin, Evangelism, and World Missions
It is perhaps no exaggeration to
say that no single group within
the Protestant branch of the
Church Universal has fostered
so many great teachers of, and
writers on, missions as has the
Presbyterian tradition Te
prominent part played by Pres-
byterianism in the promotion
of missionary instruction and
research has been no accident.
A warm enthusiasm for the ex-
tension of the Kingdom of God
at home and abroad has always
been one of the authentic marks
of this denomination. Tis fact
is accounted for, in part at least,
by the emphasis, so characteris-
tic of Reformed Churches, upon
the doctrine of the Kingship of
Christ.- Vol. II, p. 320-322
Tus we conclude with these words
from Philip E. Hughes:
We need to learn afresh today
and this is a lesson that the Ge-
neva of John Calvin can teach
usthat the church of Christ is
not merely a haven of comfort
and security nor a religious club
where Christians may take their
ease (although too many regard
it as such), but a dynamic fel-
lowship of the reborn, empow-
ered by the Holy Spirit, and
commissioned to penetrate into
all the world with the liberating
message of Gods free grace in
Christ Jesus.- p. 54
The Genevan Mission
to Brazil
Te missionary venture from Geneva
in the 16
th
Century that most stirs the
imagination and heart was the sending
of two men across the Atlantic to Bra-
zil. On Tuesday, August 25, 1556, Pierre
Richier and Gulliaume Charretier were
chosen and set out to minister on is-
lands o the coast of Brazil recently
conquered by France. Trough the in-
uence of the Huguenot leader, Admi-
ral Coligny, arrangements were made
for a group of Protestant emigrants to
join the expedition that was being sent
out, with the expectation that they
would be able to establish a colony in
South America and, free from perse-
cution, develop their own culture and
at the same time instruct the heathen
natives in the gospel of Christ. Richier
and Charretier accompanied them in
the dual capacity of chaplains to the
French Protestants and missionaries to
the South American Indians. Regret-
tably, however, the project was ill-fated.
Villegagnon, the governor of the expe-
dition, betrayed Colignys trust in him.
He turned against the Calvinists in his
party, throwing four of them to a watery
grave in the sea because of the faith they
confessed, and causing the rest to seek
safety by returning to their homeland,
which, ironically, they had left in order
to enjoy freedom to express and prac-
tice their faith without being hated and
hunted like animals. Abortive though
this project was, it testied strikingly to
the far-reaching vision Calvin and his
colleagues in Geneva had to their mis-
sionary task.- Hughes, p. 48
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John Calvin, Evangelism, and World Missions
Bibliography
1. Hughes, Philip E., John Calvin: Director
of Missions, THE HERITAGE OF JOHN
CALVIN, ed. John H. Bratt, (Grand Rapids,
Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing
Company, 1973).
2. Beaver, R. Pierce, Te Genevan Mission
to Brazil, THE HERITAGE OF JOHN
CALVIN, ed. John H. Bratt, (Grand Rapids,
Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Pulishing
Company, 1973).
3. Berg, J. Vanden, Calvin and Missions,
JOHN CALVIN: CONTEMPORARY
PROPHET, ed. Jacob T. Hoogstra, (Grand
Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1959).
4. Morris, S.L., Te Relation of Calvin and
Calvinism to Missions, CALVIN MEMO-
RIAL ADDRESSES, (Birmingham, Ala-
bama: Solid Ground Christian Books, 2007
reprint).
5. Neste, Ray Van, John Calvin on Evange-
lism and Missions, ht t p: //www. found-
ers. org
6. James, Frank III, Calvin and Missions,
CHURCH HISTORY, 5, no. 4 (Fall 1986).
7. Galyon, James, Calvin and Evangelism,
ht t p: //drj amesgal yon.wordpress. com
8. Coleman, Keith, Calvin and Missions,
WRS JOURNAL 16:1 (February 2009)
Come with desire and you shall go away
with comfort. You shall have the virtues of
Christs blood, the infuences of His Spirit,
the communications of His love.
A
fter several years of meditation, study,
and prayer, Judy has completed writ-
ing and composing songs for each of the
Beatitudes.
Judy says, This may be the most signif-
cant body of songs I have written.
Joe Morecraft, III