Was Paul a calvinist?

I always thought he was.  Still think so.  And I’ve always been aware of the following passage:

For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.

So I ask you.  Are calvinists obligated to believe that when Paul wrote, “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it” that he really meant, “Now those of you who are truly regenerate are the body of Christ and individually members of it, but the rest of you aren’t because being baptized provides no assurance that you belong to the body of Christ.”?

If so, what is the practical difference between such a belief and just stating outright “Calvinists are the ones who know better than to believe the Bible.”?

I have to admit I’m completely lost about all this.  Back when I became a calvinist it was because the calvinists were the only ones who took the Bible seriously.  The calvinists were not the ones writing books on submission to human tradition as a safety procedure for avoiding errors to which the Bible allegedly leaves a reader vulnerable. We were not known for constantly coming up with really lame arguments to show how a bunch of passages don’t have any real weight for doing theology.

That kind of cowardice is brand new to me.  How about you?  When did the Reformed Churches become Cities of Refuge from Offending Scriptures?  When did the calvinist mind shut down?

As for me and my house, we will always believe that Paul was an orthodox calvinist.  And we will not live in fear.

8 thoughts on “Was Paul a calvinist?

  1. Christopher Kou

    Eh . . . ya got me. I concede. And in case you were wondering, my original comment was facetious. It is the standard objection that will be leveled against regarding references to baptism as “actually doing something.”

  2. Bryan Cross


    Where Calvinism has moved, is not an accident, but is the necessary resolution of the incompatibility of “justification by faith alone” and “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” Something’s got to give. The sacramental has been supplanted by the subjective. The problem was at the foundations, not just an accident of history.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  3. mark Post author

    The Council of Trent disagrees with you, Bryan:

    Session 7, Canon 10. “If anyone says that by the sole remembrance and the faith of the baptism received, all sins committed after baptism are either remitted or made venial, let him be anathema.”

    Thus Francis Turrettin:

    Does baptism… take away past and present sins only and leave future sins to repentances? Or does it extend itself to sins committed not only before but also after baptism? The former we deny; the latter we affirm against the Romanists.…II… [T]he Romansists teach… “The virtue of baptism does not reach to future sins, but the sacrament of penitence is necessary for their expiation.” Thus, the Council of Trent expresses it: “If anyone shall say that all the sins which are committed after baptism are either dismissed or made venial by the recollection of faith of the received baptism alone, let him be anathema (session 7, Canon 10, Schroeder, p. 54)….

    XII. …However, we maintain that by baptism is sealed to us the remission not only of past and present, but also of future sins; still so that penitence (not a sacramental work and what they invent, but that which is commanded in the gospel) and especially saving faith is not excluded, but is coordinated with baptism as a divinely constituted means of our salvation (Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 3).

    Justification by faith alone for Protestestants consistently meant that baptism was sufficient and required no alleged other “sacraments” such as penance or confirmation to add to it.

    Calvin on the false sacrament of confirmation is a typical example:

    But let us make a still closer inspection, and see how many monsters this greasy oil fosters and nourishes. Those anointers say that the Holy Spirit is given in baptism for righteousness, and in confirmation, for increase of grace, that in baptism we are regenerated for life, and in confirmation, equipped for contest. And, accordingly, they are not ashamed to deny that baptism can be duly completed without confirmation. How nefarious!

    Are we not, then, buried with Christ by baptism, and made partakers of his death, that we may also be partners of his resurrection? This fellowship with the life and death of Christ, Paul interprets to mean the mortification of our flesh, and the quickening of the Spirit, our old man being crucified in order that we may walk in newness of life (Rom 6:6). What is it to be equipped for contest, if this is not?

    But if they deemed it as nothing to trample on the word of God, why did they not at least reverence the Church, to which they would be thought to be in everything so obedient? What heavier charge can be brought against their doctrine than the decree of the Council of Melita? “Let him who says that baptism is given for the remission of sins only, and not in aid of future grace, be anathema.”

    When Luke, in the passage which we have quoted, says, that the Samaritans were only “baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 8:16), but had not received the Holy Spirit, he does not say absolutely that those who believed in Christ with the heart, and confessed him with the mouth, were not endued with any gift of the Spirit. He means that receiving of the Spirit by which miraculous power and visible graces were received. Thus the apostles are said to have received the Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4), whereas Christ had long before said to them, “It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you” (Mt. 10:20).

    Ye who are of God see the malignant and pestiferous wile of Satan. What was truly given in baptism, is falsely said to be given in the confirmation of it, that he may stealthily lead away the unwary from baptism. Who can now doubt that this doctrine, which dissevers the proper promises of baptism from baptism, and transfers them elsewhere, is a doctrine of Satan? We have discovered on what foundation this famous unction rests. The word of God says, that as many as have been baptised into Christ, have put on Christ with his gifts (Gal. 3:27). The word of the anointers says that they received no promise in baptism to equip them for contest (De Consecr. Dist. 5, cap. Spir. Sanct). The former is the word of truth, the latter must be the word of falsehood. I can define this baptism more truly than they themselves have hitherto defined it— viz. that it is a noted insult to baptism, the use of which it obscures—nay, abolishes: that it is a false suggestion of the devil, which draws us away from the truth of God; or, if you prefer it, that it is oil polluted with a lie of the devil, deceiving the minds of the simple by shrouding them, as it were, in darkness.

    The American Evangelical madness was never the intent of the Protestant Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone, and should not be blamed on it. John Williamson Nevin noticed the American aberration in his own day:

    This is the great constitutional defect of the theology we are sitting in judgment upon; a defect which any jury of plain Christian men can understand; and it is easy to see, to what consequences, in the end, it must necessarily lead. Where the Gospel is not apprehended as the historical, enduring, objective Manifestation of God in the flesh, there can be no steady apprehension of that which constitutes the proper mystery of it in this view, namely, the union there is in it of the supernatural with the natural in an abiding, historical (not magical) form. This precisely is the true object of all evangelical faith, in the New Testament sense ; the objective power of salvation, through the apprehension of which only, faith becomes justifying and saving faith. Instead of this, we shall have the supernatural resolved into a spiritualistic presence, seated in the Holy Ghost, and made to reach into the minds of men directly from heaven, in no organic conjunction whatever with the Incarnation; this being considered as, at best, the outward occasion only, and in no sense the inward medium, of the communication. In which case again, what is called justifying faith is no longer tied to the objective Gospel (without which, however, it cannot be faith at all), but hugs simply the Gospel of this subjective assurance a man may have of God’s mercy in his own mind, becoming thus, in fact, justification by fancy or feeling. But with the real supernatural of the Gospel metamorphosed in this way into the general notion of the supernatural in a metaphysical view, the whole conception of Christianity, in fact, sinks into the order of nature. The sense of what it is as a continuous constitution of grace, the historical presence of new heavenly powers, through the Spirit in the world, is gone. As with the Gnostics of old, the spiritual has lost all concrete, objective union with the natural. The bond between them has thinned itself into airy speculation. The system has become, in one word, essentially rationalistic. The virus of unbelief is in its veins; and it has no longer power to understand or appreciate fully, at a single point, the Mystery of Godliness, as it was seen of angels, preached to the nations, and believed on in the world, at the beginning.

    Baptism says one is justified and faith believes what baptism says. There is no conflict. Turettin was right: “saving faith is not excluded, but is coordinated with baptism as a divinely constituted means of our salvation.”

  4. Bryan Cross


    If you thought something I said was incompatible with Trent 7 Can. 10, then you misunderstood me. Claiming that “justification by faith alone” means that baptism is sufficient, is either to claim that faith and baptism are synonyms (which they are not), or to violate the laws of logic. Because baptism is not identical to faith (but is rather the sacrament by which we receive faith), therefore, one cannot hold both that justification is by faith alone, and that baptism is sufficient, without contradicting oneself. Likewise, claiming that “Baptism says one is justified and faith believes what baptism says” creates the following dilemma: either baptism justifies us or it does not. If baptism justifies us, then we are not justified by faith alone. But if baptism does not justify us, then if “baptism says one is justified”, baptism lies. And in that case, if “faith believes what baptism says”, then the faith alone by which we are justified, if faith based on a lie.

    Something’s got to give. And if one makes sola fide the doctrine by which the Church stands or falls, then what has to go, is “one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” And that’s what has happened in Protestantism.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  5. mark Post author

    The only thing that needs to give is your assignment of reality to the roles of A and not-A in order to arrive at your desired conclusion. Gordon Clark as a Roman Catholic is no more rational than Gordon Clark as a Protestant. Francis Turettin knows more of reason:

    The question is not whether faith alone justifies to the exclusion either of the grace of God or the righteousness of Christ or the word and sacraments (by which the blessing of justification is presented and sealed to us on the part of God), which we maintain are necessarily required here; but only to the exclusion of every other virtue and habit on our part. Hence the Romanists have no reason for accusing us of confusion (akatastasias) in this argument as if we ascribed justification at one time to the grace of God, at another to the blood of Christ and then again to faith. For all these as they are mutually subordinated in a different class of cause, consist with each other in the highest degree.


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