You Are The Man!
2 Sam. 12:
5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, “As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity.”
7 Then Nathan said to David, “You are the man! This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘… 9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword…”
From Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, book 1, chapter 11:
Man’s mind, full as it is of pride and boldness, dares to imagine a god according to its own capacity… it conceives an unreality and an empty appearance as God. To these evils a new wickedness joins itself, that man tries to express in his work the sort of God he has inwardly conceived. Therefore the mind begets an idol; the hand gives it birth.
What sort of God did Calvin conceive in his mind, that would lead him to vow the death of his adversaries, not for defying God but for questioning a mere man? I’ve written before about Calvin’s death wish on Servetus, and the fact that he never felt remorse over such a gruesome and cold-blooded execution, but maintained to his own death the rightness of his actions against Servetus.
As you can see in the quote from his Institutes, Calvin condemned himself with his own words. He had invented a God who is without mercy, without justice, without love or compassion, as evidenced by his words and actions. As Voltaire is credited with saying, ”God created man in his own image, and man returned the favor.“ People act upon whatever worldview they have, or whatever God they worship. If Calvin faithfully followed God as he saw Him, then he must have seen God as a cruel tyrant, a heartless avenger whose standards of justice are far below those of his creatures. His actions and words both attest to this. He knew that people tend to make God in their own image, yet was blind to that very flaw in himself.
The lesson for all of us in this is to be open to criticism. As it says in Prov. 27:6, ”Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.“ Calvin refused to be corrected or questioned. Many religious leaders today have the same problem, thinking themselves little gods to be worshiped or kings to be obeyed. And we can see the sort of God they worship by the way they live, the words they say, and the things they do.
In exempting themselves from the rules they make for others, they preach a God that mocks justice and holiness. In lambasting their critics, they preach a God that never said ”Come, let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18). Where in their teachings or examples is the love of God who died for the ungodly (Rom. 5:6), who instead of coldly cursing his rebellious creatures first wept over them (Luke 13:34) and then laid down His life for them (John 15:13, 1 John 2:2)? Where is the God of freedom in their words (Gal. 2:4, 5:1, Heb. 9:15)? Where is compassion for the lost, mercy for the backslidden, or lifting up the lowly as Jesus did (Phil. 2:5-11)?
As pointed out in one of the articles at A Wilderness Voice, it is not wrong to refuse to knuckle under a tyrant, but it is wrong for any believer to raise themselves up above their spiritual siblings. We do not sin in exposing sin, but obey the command to hold leaders to a higher standard (1 Tim. 5:19-20, James 3:1). We must not follow any believer claiming preeminence, or a special calling reserved only for their class or gender or race, or lording over the people. We must know the Shepherd’s voice and follow only Him.
Yet neither is this a call for becoming doormats. There is constructive criticism, and then there is mean-spirited bashing. There is exposing sin, and then there is making up one’s own list of sins and demanding others live by it. There is disagreeing, and then there is attempting to censor all voices of dissent. We must know what God we worship, how we are to treat each other, and what it means to be humble. We show the kind of God we follow by our lives. Is God reasonable, compassionate, liberating, caring, waiting till the last moment to close a door, and leading by example? Or is He a cold dictator who uses His power to smash people without mercy, without giving them a chance to be persuaded, throwing babies into the flames of hell like some ancient heathen god? Those questions will be answered every day in how we live.