Meeter on the Calvinist



“The Calvinist has the reputation of being a strong logical reasoner; nevertheless, because he makes the Bible his ultimate foundation, he does not hesitate to include in his system ideas difficult for reason to harmonize, ideas which seem to be logical opposites, as long as the Bible gives him reason for doing so.

This fact is of great importance. It keeps the Calvinist from becoming a one-sided extremist. A few examples may serve as illustrations. Take the seemingly logical opposites of predestination and human responsibility. John Calvin and Calvinists believe wholeheartedly in absolute predestination. But nowhere do you find human responsibility stressed more emphatically than in Calvin’s writings and among Calvinists. If you should ask the Calvinist, “But how do you harmonize these two?” he would reply, “That is unnecessary! God reconciles them, and that is enough for me.” While he can illuminate this harmony to a certain extent, basically it is a mystery and he is content to let it be so.

Or take these two opposites: the doctrine of election, which stresses God’s activity, and the covenant of grace as a responsibility, which stresses man’s activity. Although the study presents problems, there is no group that maintains both as ardently as does the Calvinist.

Again, reflect upon these facts which to some appear as opposites, namely, sin and grace as they affect man. There is no system that puts man the sinner down so low as does the Calvinist with his doctrine of total depravity. But there is none that places the Christian on a higher pedestal or demands more of him than does the Calvinist.

You might adduce the eternal conflict about the relation between spirit and matter. The materialist is always trying to reduce spirit to matter. The idealist pantheist maintains that matter arose from spirit. The Calvinist does not hesitate to accept the dualism of matter and spirit. He maintains that these are distinct substances, created by the same God, but as distinct from one another as they are from God the Creator.

Another apparent conflict is the one between separation from the world and culture. Whereas the secular man feels nothing for separation from the world, some Christians lay all stress on separation from the world but do not realize their calling to share in the cultural development of the world and their duty to be leaven in human society. The Calvinist keeps his equilibrium by stressing both as the Bible demands.

A last example we call attention to the contrast between intellectualism and mysticism. Men are inclined to be either one-sidedly intellectual or emotional in their religious life. One of the very best attributes paid to Calvin and the Calvinistic movement in this respect is that they have been called by some intellectualists, by others mystics, and by still others voluntarists who stress the will in religion. Certainly Calvinists must be balanced Christians if they can be charged with stressing all three. It is needless to say that Calvinists have not always fulfilled the demands of Calvinism. They have at times been one-sided, stressing either the intellect or the will or the emotions. But in so doing they have not practiced a full-orbed Calvinism, which provides for a proper emphasis on all three.”

H. Henry Meeter, The Basic Ideas of Calvinism, Pgs. 41-42

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3 Responses to Meeter on the Calvinist

  1. Rick says:

    So, I leave this place for 6 weeks and come back to find that we’ve stopped using “more” tabs.


    -RjB Jr.

  2. Joe Brancaleone says:

    “God reconciles them, and that is enough for me”

    This sounds more like Lutherans than Calvinists. There ought to be no apparent conflict for the Calvinist. Divine sovereignty establishes human responsibility.

    It is the libertarian notion of freedom that destroys any coherent idea of human responsibility, and cannot be reconciled with the divine attributes.

  3. Zrim says:


    I just lost a bet with myself that if anyone piped up over anything it would be over that “leaven of society” jazz (which I thought was so minor and negligible so as to be cheerfully swallowed up by the rest).

    I don’t think Meeter (nor the Calvinist tradition) means at all that God’s sovereignty doesn’t establish human duty. I think the point is that these two realities which seem to conflict also co-exist, thus the Calvinist is nothing if not able to comport himself to mystery. I think the quest to diminish apparent conflict and resolve tension is highly modern in its disdain for mystery. Remember, mystery is good. And much as I am no defender of libertarianism, what destroys coherent notions of human duty has more to do with sin than any particular ideology.

    (I think that is Calvinist. If I had a dollar for every time something Calvinist was cast as Lutheran I’d be able to give my wife a proper honeymoon in the Caribbean instead of western Pennsylvania. And it wouldn’t hurt to stop making bets with myself.)

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