Anyone who thinks these so-called “spiritual disciplines” pushed by The Cult of Contemplative Guru Richard Foster are in line with the Protestant Reformation should take a little peek at what John Calvin has to say about monasticism . . . 

Here we have a classic example of what is referred to as the fallacy of a weak analogy.

Arguments by analogy rest on a comparison. Their logical structure is this:

(1) A and B are similar.
(2) A has a certain characteristic.
Therefore:
(3) B must have that characteristic too.

Here’s how the “editor” of this article at CR?N.com uses the analogy argument:

  1. Monasticism as referenced by Calvin is similiar to Richard Foster’s spiritual disciplines.
  2. Calvin was diametrically opposed to the Monasticism of his day.
  3. Therefore Calvin would be equally opposed to Richard Fost’s spiritual disciplines.

But wait a minute. One of Richard Foster’s spiritual disciplines is meditation, meditation on God’s law, God’s word, and God’s handiwork. Here is what Calvin had to say on the value of meditating on God’s handiwork:

Still there can be no doubt that the Lord would have us constantly occupied with such holy meditation, in order that, while we contemplate the immense treasures of wisdom and goodness exhibited in the creatures as in so many mirrors, we may not only run our eye over them with a hasty, and, as it were, evanescent glance, but dwell long upon them, seriously and faithfully turn them in our minds, and every now and then bring them to recollection.

Therefore, in order to be compendious, let the reader understand that he has a genuine apprehension of the character of God as the Creator of the world; first, if he attends to the general rule, never thoughtlessly or obliviously to overlook the glorious perfections which God displays in his creatures; and, secondly, if he makes a self application of what he sees, so as to fix it deeply on his heart.—Institutes of the Christian Religion Book 1, Chapter 14

Calvin also has a whole chapter on the importance of prayer (Book III, Chapter 20), another one of Richard Foster’s “so-called” spiritual disciplines that Calvin obviously thinks is pretty important calling prayer the “Chief Exercise of Faith” in the title.

Conclusion: Calvin’s angst over monasticism is far removed from his support of prayer and meditation. The other 10 spiritual disciplines in Foster’s book are equally benign and consistent with Calvin’s recommendations on how to live out the Christian life.

It looks like we’d better take more than a little peak at Calvin before some of us conclude that Calvin would have condemned Richard Foster for recommending prayer and meditation as Christian disciplines.

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44 Comments(+Add)

1   merry    
May 24th, 2008 at 11:47 pm

Seriously, who cares what Calvin has to say? Why don’t we focus more on what Jesus has to say? After all, Jesus is God. Calvin is not. It’s good to read Christian authors and theologians and consider their point of view, but when it comes right down to it, it should be God we listen to the most.

John Calvin did not write the Bible. He just has opinions about it, like everyone else.

2   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 1:05 am

Uhm…. Michael Servetus, maybe?

3   Break The Terror    http://breaktheterror.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 1:12 am

haha, you beat me to it, Chris.

i was about to say, “especially since John Calvin was kind of a repugnant power-hungry creep…”

4   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 5:16 am

The words of men can be ever so stale and lifeless sometimes, especially coming from someone so enamored with cold and algebraic dogma and doctrine. Even if you overlook Calvin’s mean, cold hearted, erudite, and murderous expressions of his life, you are generally left with theological writings that read more like some legal briefs than a flowered devotion to the Risen Christ or a lambs humble love to the wonderful Lamb of God.

Calvin’s writings will always be like burnt toast without butter to me, including much of them being untrue (heresy).

5   Tim Reed, Owosso MI    http://churchvoices.com
May 25th, 2008 at 5:58 am

Gah, Merry beat me to it. Looks like the editor is more a Calvinist than a Christian.

6   Chris    http://agendalesslove.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 7:15 am

Okay I’ll be the lone voice of support for Calvin.

Did he do terrible things? Yes.

Do someone people trot him out as the pinnacle voice Christianity? Yep

But he also wrote some great spiritual stuff. Unfortunately most people who read or quote Calvin only do it to defend their already entrenched position. Perhaps a Calvin quote sums this up more succinctly.

John Calvin

“The sum is, that the worship of God must be spiritual, in order that it may correspond with His nature. For although Moses only speaks of idolatry, yet there is no doubt but that by synecdoche, as in all the rest of the law, he condemns all fictitious services which men in their ingenuity have invented.”

7   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 7:19 am

Rick Frueh said:

Even if you overlook Calvin’s mean, cold hearted, erudite, and murderous expressions of his life, you are generally left with theological writings that read more like some legal briefs than a flowered devotion to the Risen Christ or a lambs humble love to the wonderful Lamb of God.

John Calvin said:

“The sum is, that the worship of God must be spiritual, in order that it may correspond with His nature. For although Moses only speaks of idolatry, yet there is no doubt but that by synecdoche, as in all the rest of the law, he condemns all fictitious services which men in their ingenuity have invented.”

I rest my case.

8   Chris    http://agendalesslove.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 7:22 am

I rest my case.

LOL!

Rick Frueh said:

Even if you overlook Calvin’s mean, cold hearted, erudite, and murderous expressions of his life, you are generally left with theological writings that read more like some legal briefs than a flowered devotion to the Risen Christ or a lambs humble love to the wonderful Lamb of God.

Rich Freuh has a tendency to sound more like Calvin than even Calvin did.

I rest my case!

9   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 7:24 am

Chris – I present the totality of my writings as evidence of my innocence of the crime for which I am accused! :)

10   JohnD    
May 25th, 2008 at 11:27 am

Chris L,

Your point about Servetus? Are you suggesting that taking a look at what folks like Calvin and Luther had to say about our faith is a waste of time?

Just looking for some clarification. Thanks

11   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 11:33 am

Your point about Servetus? Are you suggesting that taking a look at what folks like Calvin and Luther had to say about our faith is a waste of time?

Sorry, John, I wasn’t suggesting that.

I think it is valuable that we see what multiple people have stated about Christianity and living a Christian life. I do think, though, that sometimes we make idols of certain folks (with Calvin being one of the most prominent). My injection of Servetus was a reminder of holding any man in such high regard as some seem to place Calvin.

I always appreciate when, as you have done, folks use quotes from an individual to dispel romantic projections from other quotes from that individual.

Sorry for any confusion there…

12   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 11:42 am

John -

Also, I realized another reason you might have been confused. I meant to include the question from merry in the prior comment:

Seriously, who cares what Calvin has to say?

Thus my answer:

Uhm…. Michael Servetus, maybe?

Trying to kill two birds with one stone – a lot of people care what Calvin has to say, and a lot of people have probably been hurt by it, just as well.

13   JohnD    
May 25th, 2008 at 12:31 pm

Thanks for the clarification. I agree, we should avoid making idols out of anyone. Calvin is a great example. His followers turned his writings into Calvinism. And now I get the humor in your response. Don’t you hate it when you have to explain a joke?

Two more modern examples of some who are idolized inappropriately might be MacArthur and Warren. (Hope I didn’t offend the whole world with that observation. . .)

14   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 1:06 pm

“Two more modern examples of some who are idolized inappropriately might be MacArthur and Warren.”

There are many other examples from many different camps. Each camp accuses the other and excuses themselves. You know, the accusing and accusing principle.

15   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 1:41 pm

“we may not only run our eye over them with a hasty, and, as it were, evanescent glance, but dwell long upon them”

I did not realize Calvin listened to Evanescence. Cool…

16   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 2:08 pm

Don’t you hate it when you have to explain a joke?

Yes – and that’s now twice in as many days…

17   Ken Silva    http://www.apprising.org
May 25th, 2008 at 2:34 pm

“modern examples of some who are idolized inappropriately”

Rob Bell?

18   merry    
May 25th, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Hey, it’s okay to read John Calvin. I even agree with things he had to say. But I know some people, who, I seriously believe they prayed to recieve John Calvin into their hearts as their personal savior!

I have had to sit through sermons on the proper way to serve communion (absolute silence and NO music, for your information). Was scripture quoted? No. Was Calvin quoted? Oh, yes. There might as well be a church and religion of Calvin.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord! :)

19   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 2:51 pm

Rob Bell?

I am sure, as well.

No man is safe from examination. The problem becomes when straw-men, misrepresentation, half-quotes and out-of-context statements are used to defame someone – of whom Bell seems to be one of your favorite targets of such ill-reputed methods – that the legitimate complaints are buried in an avalanche of illegitimate, specious and slanderous ones…

20   Ken Silva    http://www.apprising.org
May 25th, 2008 at 4:22 pm

*scratching my head*

Um, Mr. Lyons…I’m not sure, but it seems I’m sensing that you might possibly disagree with me concerning my perception of Rob Bell. It’s so hard to tell.

21   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 4:30 pm

Um, Mr. Lyons…I’m not sure, but it seems I’m sensing that you might possibly disagree with me concerning my perception of Rob Bell.

Ken, there’s a difference between reality and your perception of Rob Bell.

That’s the problem.

22   Ken Silva    http://www.apprising.org
May 25th, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Well, we’re just going to have to disagree about that.

23   Chris L    http://www.fishingtheabyss.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 4:49 pm

How very postmodern of you, Ken…

24   Break The Terror    http://breaktheterror.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 4:59 pm

There might as well be a church and religion of Calvin.

There is.

It’s call the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA).

All Calvin. VERY little Christ.

25   merry    
May 25th, 2008 at 5:23 pm

^ Well, if we’re going with denominations, the Conservative Baptist Association is 5-point Calvinist now, too.

26   Break The Terror    http://breaktheterror.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 5:28 pm

Orthodox Pres and Evangelical Pres too.

27   Chris    http://agendalesslove.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 5:49 pm

uh…I believe that the Reformed Church in America is the true church of John Calvin. All others are generic brand Calvinists.
We were founded a mere 64 years after Calvins death. Which practically makes us an heir.

It is the oldest non-Anglican Protestant church with a continuous ministry and also the oldest corporation in North America. The early Dutch settlers in New Netherland held informal meetings for worship until Jonas Michaelius organized a congregation in New Amsterdam in 1628, called the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church.

The Reformed Church was the established church of New Netherland. Although the British captured the colony in 1664, all RCA ministers were still trained in the Netherlands under the auspices of the denominational classis of Amsterdam, and services in the Reformed Church remained in the Dutch language until 1764.

28   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 5:54 pm

“the true church of John Calvin.”

That statement is a revelation in itself. Wow.

29   Ken Silva    http://www.apprising.org
May 25th, 2008 at 5:58 pm

I wonder where the Methodist Church came from. Seems to me it wasn’t from John Calvin.

30   merry    
May 25th, 2008 at 6:43 pm

No wonder I hated going to church so much when I was younger. I realize now that I wasn’t learning about Christianity, but the religion of hyper-Calvinism.

I still remember walking into youth group at the age of twelve and being asked by another teen if I was a Calvinist or an Arminianist. My response was “what the what??”

I still remember my pastor stating that the “world” as stated in John 3:16 (For God so loved the “world”) actually meant the world of the elect, and that God really hates all non-believers. I found out later he didn’t (and still doesn’t) actually believe this, but felt pressured by the calvinist teachers in the church to teach this to the youth sunday school class.

I still go to the same church, believe it or not. It’s done a complete 180 since I started going there and God has been really working in our lives. All the calvinists left in a huff (over the 40-days of purpose campaign, ironically. We can’t teach out of that book ’cause it isn’t Scripture! Wait! Neither are John Calvin’s books!) and started their own church.

Needless to say, I want NOTHING to do with 5-point Calvinists, hyper-calvinists, or anything Calvin ever again. I found that they are manipulative and unfair.

31   Chris    http://agendalesslove.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 6:59 pm

That statement is a revelation in itself. Wow.

For the record I was being satirical.

32   Chris    http://agendalesslove.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 7:01 pm

or anything Calvin ever again.

What about Hobbes?

33   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 7:03 pm

“I found that they are manipulative and unfair.”

Not all of them. I am friends with several sincere and humble Calvinists who do not try and evangelize you on every conversation. However, when you run into a Calvinist hornet’s nest you will get stung many times.

There are Arminian hornet’s nests as well.

34   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 7:05 pm

Sorry Chris. I have seen that tone sans satire! :)

35   Break The Terror    http://breaktheterror.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 7:06 pm

Well, Merry, and honestly it’s a theology that encourages laziness and elitism. Communicants of a Calvinistic outlook tend to be the loudest champions for the “inerrancy” of scripture, yet they spend more time deconstructing and creatively interpreting the most well known verse in the entire Bible to justify their limited worldview.

The entire theology reduces God to a character we would likely confine in a mental ward were he human. Snipers and suicide bombers often choose their victims that way, too.

36   merry    
May 25th, 2008 at 7:18 pm

“What about Hobbes?”

Aww, I love Calvin and Hobbes! (The cartoons, I mean.) ? ? ? Lol.

Rick said:
“I am friends with several sincere and humble Calvinists who do not try and evangelize you on every conversation.”

I thought Calvinists don’t evangelize! You know, the whole pre-destination-already-elected-they’ll-become-a-Christian-if-God-elected-them-even-if-noone-evangelizes-to-them thing. I’m sure there’s nice Calvinists in this world. I, personally, have just never met any. :(

37   merry    
May 25th, 2008 at 7:19 pm

^The computer didn’t like my hearts! Why are they question marks? The 3 question marks used to be hearts. Grrr. :O

38   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 7:22 pm

If I’m not mistaken, the Way of the Master are Calvinists and they witness a lot.

39   Break The Terror    http://breaktheterror.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 7:33 pm

Well, because there are some Calvinists who preach that you have to evangelize because otherwise how are you going to scare out the elect.

It’s kind of like hunting pheasant.

40   Rick Frueh    http://judahslion.blogspot.com/
May 25th, 2008 at 7:37 pm

“It’s kind of like hunting pheasant.”

OK, funny alert!

41   Chris    http://agendalesslove.wordpress.com
May 25th, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Richard Mouw is a Calvinist…a nice one even.

Except hypers don’t view him as a real Calvinist because he’s President of Fuller and did the whole Mormon Temple thing with Ravi.

42   robbymac    http://www.robbymac.org
May 26th, 2008 at 11:03 am

I know some nice calvinists. and some of them are charismatic calvinists, to boot. :)

43   Zan    
May 26th, 2008 at 11:56 am

Mark Driscoll…and I actually love his sermons…unless they’re on calvinism!

44   Matt P    
May 28th, 2008 at 7:55 am

Though I know and respect several Calvinists I do find it an utterly baffling scriptural view to embrace. Mind you, I think there’s plenty of “proof texts” for it (misinterpreted in my view), but it justs seems to run contrary to how God interacts with Abraham, Moses et al all the way up to me. If it’s true than the passage where Abraham petitions God to spare Sodom and Gommorah and they converse back and forth spring to mind. What’s God doing there? Puppeteering? Is that dialog a hollow one?

Even beyond the whole “Pre-ordained Elect Individuals” thing which I imagine most people find distasteful to swallow, I don’t really understand why God would create us to experience time linerally, interact with us consistently throughout history in that way, and then say “Psyche! Free will is a cosmic magic trick! I did it all with mirrors!”.

Also, I’ve yet to see a really good explanation of the “Well what’s the point of doing anything then? If you are Elect you are Elect” problem from Calvinists.