Attempts to justify murder or to just blow it off as if it doesn’t really matter.
Is murder ever justifiable?
Here is what people are using to try to justify John Calvin’s role in the murder of Michael Servetus.
They are claiming that Calvin did not act alone. As if sin committed by the mob is somehow justified in God’s eyes. Well it isn’t.
They are claiming that it was the law of the land in that trinity deniers (...if that was what he really was...) were executed by the state during that time. As if man’s laws somehow supersedes God’s law. Well they don’t.
They are claiming that places other than Geneva were doing this during Calvin’s time. As if the same sin committed by other societies somehow justifies the sin. Will it never does.
They claim that he was going to die anyway because Rome also was seeking the man’s death. As If Rome ever dictated what was right or wrong. In God’s eyes, Rome never did and still does not.
They claim that Calvin did not act alone as he was joined by Geneva’s Small Council. Please refer to the first point made. The mob still does not dictate what is right over God’s law, never has and never will.
They claim that Calvin would have preferred that Michael would repent of his heretical beliefs and he even tried really hard to convince him to prior to the murder. Calvin accepted the fact that Michael would be murdered if his “good intentions” along the way fell short. He approved of the end results from the very beginning. Good intentions along the way to a bad sin never justifies the end result if the end result is sin, period. God does not give grace to sin unless that sin is repented of. Calvin never did repent of the murder.
They claim that Calvin attempted to change the method of murder from burning to beheading as the later method would be less painful for the one being murdered. Wow, the fact that someone actually uses this excuse is amazing in that the logic falls well short of what the Bible dictates as acceptable. Sin, no matter how little pain is exacted during the murder of a victim, is still sin. The punishment (or wages. See Romans 6:23) of sin in the case of a murderer, or any sinner for that matter, is death. But are we ever the ones who are supposed to carry out that punishment?
Keep in mind the fact that in Romans chapter 1 verse 32 Paul said that certain folks “who did not like to retain God in their knowledge” (Romans 1:28) were worthy of death. Paul never called for anyone’s death because he knew he did not have the right to do so especially in a society who did not hold God as their supreme ruler. The societies during Calvin’s time and Calvin as well should have known better. Paul sure did. Calvin never had the authority to kill anyone even if he thought the person was a heretic. The only call to arms that Calvin had from God was to try to save the poor soul, not kill it. We have that same calling today as well. Nothing has changed.
Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them. Romans 1:32
Once again for emphasis: Being worthy of death does not provide a license to kill anyone. This is simply a factual statement of what the sinner is “worthy” of for their disobedience to God. It is what they deserve.
Our job is save and not to kill. This goes for the heretic whether they be a trinity denier, a non-Christian Jew, an evangelized non-believer (lukewarm Christian, carnal Christian, hypocritical Christian, etc.), a Muslim, a Mormon, a Jehovah Witness, a Hindu, an agnostic, an atheist, ad nauseam… (Note, this list contains much more…)
For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. And this I do for the gospel's sake, that I might be partaker thereof with you. 1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Jude 1:21-23
And the one that really caught my attention was the claim that other “Reformers” such as Bucer and Melanchthon fully approved of the execution. This again refers back to the mob mentality when it comes to sin. Just because Calvin was not alone in the act of murder does not diminish his guilt before the one and only all powerful and sovereign God.
Some if not many adherents to Reformed Theology today try to simply brush off Calvin’s role in the murder of Servetus by saying that “guilt by association” should not apply to the full body of beliefs as handed down by the Reformers. I fully disagree and so does God’s word. If any theological stream of thought will give room for murder or try to dismiss it as if it were an excusable afterthought then all theological traditions and teachings stemming from such heretics should be examined for similar failures in light of scriptures. Try starting with once saved, always saved (Preservation of the Saints) and then go on down the list...