Calvin and other religions

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Peer-Reviewed Research
  • SDG 16
  • Abstract:

    English: Widely differing views on ways leading to true knowledge of God is at present characteristic of discussions in the sphere of religion. Although Calvin worked in a completely different scene, he has laid down certain principles based on his interpretation of Holy Scripture that may contribute to current theological thought on this issue. In this article his views on true and false religion, non-Christian faiths, the uniqueness of Christ as Mediator and Redeemer, and universalism is discussed from the perspective not only of his Institutes, but also of his Commentaries, Tracts and Treatises and Letters. His conviction is that careful observation of God’s Word leads to the principle of Christ as the only way to God. Any kind of self-invented religion, even though it is the result of an appeal by God’s general revelation on the sensus divinitatis in mankind, leads to idolatry. The view that all faiths are so many different ways to come to knowledge of the Divine Being, is not only widespread, but is obviously becoming more popular among people in many different walks of life. Religious freedom is seen by many not only as part and parcel of human rights, but also as contrary to the ideas of those who proclaim the uniqueness of their particular faith for a true relationship with God and for salvation to eternal life. Many people — among them well-known theologians — will certainly find the distinction between true and false religions abhorrent. For those, proselytism and even mission work among people of traditional religions has become improper, offensive and unacceptable. Du Preez lists a number of reasons why attention should currently be paid to developing a sound theology of religions. He mentions inter alia the better knowledge and respect for non-Christian faiths in the Western World; the realisation that religious pluralism is a fait accompli; the misgivings about Christianity among some Third World people; the relative decline of Christianity in Europe; a new interest in oriental mysticism among many young people; and the question of whether the Church should indeed continue its mission work among people of other faiths. Factors like these necessitate a theologia religionum (Du Preez 1983:129). In this regard John Calvin’s view of other religions may be of significant value.