Calvin And Servetus

How many times have Calvin’s detractors accused him of the murder of the heretic Michael Servetus? Typically I find when people assert such historical revisionism it is because they do not fairly and accurately seek the truth. They have an agenda to defend and that is the abhorrence of Calvin’s theology. It seems to me that the aim is to assail the man in hopes others will reject his theology.

Steve Griffin, over at his blog here, does a good job of stating what actually happened as well as dealing with some other objections. Here is a snippet:

One of the most common and unfair charges leveled against John Calvin is, “Calvin burned Michael Servetus at the stake!” This, of course, is patently untrue. Servetus was indeed burned at the stake, in Geneva, for heresy. But Calvin is not to be impugned. This was a civil trial carried out by the State, not the Church. Calvin was not the judge. He was not a juror. He was not the executioner. What he was, was the prosecution’s star witness. And why wouldn’t he be? Who would be a better witness in a trial regarding theology than John Calvin?
Calvin, via private letter, warned Servetus [who was wanted in several European States] to not come to Geneva. This letter was to no avail. Servetus brought his particular brand of heresy [he denied the Trinity] to Geneva and was subsequently arrested by the magistrate, tried for heresy, and condemned to death by burning. Calvin pleaded with the authorities for a more humane execution. This also, was to no avail.

You can find the full articles here and here. I highly recommend the blog. Read and enjoy.

Soli Deo Gloria!

For His Glory,


About lalvin1517

I'm married with two children and pastor McCall Baptist Church in McCall, Idaho.
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3 Responses to Calvin And Servetus

  1. Anonymous says:

    Yikes! That someone could be burned at the stake for their theology!!! That Calvin could testify for the state to accomplish this end!!! That Calvin was responsible for so much of the state's torture and murder of fellow believers!! Yikes!!!

  2. lalvin1517 says:

    As to your fist point- all the exclamation points don't prove your case. It only demonstrates you are arguing from your emotions. Yikes!!! Calvin didn't start the practice of burning heretics, it was long before his time. Yikes!!!

    Calvin wasn't testifying in order to have him burned but to prove that Servetus's denial of the Trinity among other heresies was indeed heresy. Yikes!!! That a godly man would want to defend the triune God!!! Yikes!!!!

    As to your last point- that is simple emotional unsubstantiated nonsense!!! Yikes!!! Can you provide any documentation that any of it is true? That is the Christian thing to do. If you cannot provide any (no not a quote from Dave Hunt or Lawrence Vance e.t.c.) then you have just slandered the brethren. Yikes!!! Why should anyone wish to listen to you rant?

    How about King David? He not only committed adultery but had Bathsheba's husband murdered to cover it up. Here the case is different. Uriah was completely innocent but Servetus was not (although his death by burning I wish did not happen). Was David such an evil man? Or was he still a man after God's own heart? Why the double standard with Calvin. Is God's grace only sufficient for people you like? Or do you just detest Calvin's theology so you are going to react in ignorance and slander the man?

    Emotional and unsubstantiated drivel will not get your comments posted. If you disagree with Calvin fine but accusations need to be proven.

  3. rfb says:


    My read regarding those who object to Brother Calvin is similar to those who rejected the prophet. God says they were not rejecting the prophet, they were rejecting God.

    Almighty God is just that, and those who are exercised by His omnipotence are inwardly rebellious. They do not forgive Him for being a Sovereign God Who calls that which is from that which is not.

    Does He make what pleases Him? Yes.

    Does He then hold me accountable? Yes.

    Are His acts altogether good? Yes.

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