Here’s a helpful assessment of John Calvin by Professor Donald McLeod of Free Church College. With characteristic lucidity, he cuts through to the main issues in a way that ordinary punters can understand.
Last week the words, ‘Temple of Evil’ were daubed on the walls of Stornoway Free Church. It would be wrong to read too much into it. It was probably no more than a temporary aberration on the part of one individual, and the Church made light of the incident.
Yet, though they might express it differently, there can be little doubt that this is how many islanders view Presbyterianism and the culture it produced. But the feeling is not confined to islanders. Many Scots, if asked who were the three most scary people in history, would probably reply, ‘Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler and John Calvin.’ Legend portrays him as, ‘The black ghost with the icy countenance’, and Calvinism itself has been described as ‘a psychopathic projection of sublimated cruelty’.
But why? Few of those who hate Calvin have ever read a single page of the fifty-nine thick volumes of elegant Latin and even more elegant French which he bequeathed to posterity; and even those who become apoplectic at the way he governed Geneva have not a clue as to what that government actually was. Yet everyone ‘knows’ him, and the hatred is passed down by some sort of osmosis.