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Aristocracy and Election
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Author's Note: Doubtless, a conflict of opinions will arise from this essay. If you feel you must comment on my theology, then do so, but my purpose in posting this is to recieve criticism on my writing style and ability, not content.
John Calvin once wrote that “the seed of the word of God takes root and brings forth fruit only in those whom the Lord, by his eternal election, has predestined to be children and heirs of the heavenly kingdom(1).”
What is Calvin saying here? Simply this: Salvation comes to those who have been elected to be children and heirs of the heavenly kingdom. “Elected to be children and heirs,” is an interesting phrase. It implies a kind of spiritual heredity, springing not from earthly parents, but from our spiritual Father. What are the elect heirs of? What will they inherit? Calvin says that they will inherit a heavenly kingdom.
How curious is this choice of words; elect, children, heirs and kingdom. It is almost as if Calvin is suggesting a spiritual aristocracy or nobility. The next question that needs to be answered is this: Where would he get such a concept.
The Calvinist say wholeheartedly that Calvin’s idea came from the infallible word of God, and therefore, God Himself. Is this the truth? Could there not be some other influence? Let us look back through the centuries and focus on John Calvin’s time, and on Calvin in particular.
John Calvin was born on July 10, 1509 in Noyon which is about sixty miles from Paris. His father was a well respected lawyer, secretary of the bishopric, attorney of the cathedral chapter, fiscal agent of the county and registrar of the Noyon government. John Calvin’s mother was also well respected for her piety and motherly affection. It is unfortunate that she died at a young age and left John with his father, a man with little time for children(2).
As a result of his wife’s death and his own misgivings, the senior Calvin sent his son to live with a noble family, part of the aristocracy. From there he began to attend college in Paris, where he learned gentlemanly ways such as proper manners, how to conduct oneself in polite society. This aristocratic learning distinguished him from Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli.
According to the Webster’s Dictionary, the aristocracy is the minority of people who may be regarded as superior to the rest of the community in rank, wealth or intellect. Doubleday Dictionary adds that it is a hereditary honor, designated before birth. This definition is not far from Calvin’s definition of the Elect, who are chosen by God before birth to receive a special honor: inheritance in God’s kingdom.
It seems to be, and perhaps is, quite a coincidence that Calvin, who lived with the aristocracy should come up with a concept that so closely resembles a type of spiritual aristocracy.
1. Calvin, John; “Instruction in Faith”
2. Qualben, Lars P.; “A History of the Christian Church”
Jeremy McNabb (
) is an amateur novelist and essayist. This is one of several essays on FaithWriters.com. Currently, he is working on a novel entitled "Cold;" a techno-thriller.
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Frederick Kwesi Great Agboletey
31 Mar 2005
The composition flows meaningfully for its brevity. The Calvin notion of aristocratic heavenly inheritance no doubt is a subjective interpretation of a universalistic theme, therefore subject to individual taints of individual orientational influence. A good piece by all considerations, given it evokes interesting debate.
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