Donatists, Cathars, And Anabaptists

Over-Realized Eschatology

13. Our indulgence ought to extend much farther in tolerating imperfection of conduct. Here there is great danger of falling, and Satan employs all his machinations to ensnare us. For there always have been persons who, imbued with a false persuasion of absolute holiness, as if they had already become a kind of aerial spirits, spurn the society of all in whom they see that something human still remains. Such of old were the Cathari and the Donatists, who were similarly infatuated Such in the present day are some of the Anabaptists, who would be thought to have made superior progress. Others, again, sin in this respect, not so much from that insane pride as from inconsiderate zeal. Seeing that among those to whom the gospel is preached, the fruit produced is not in accordance with the doctrine, they forthwith conclude that there no church exists.

Calvin, Institutes 4.1.13


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4 comments

    • Hi Jess,

      Calvin was criticizing the Anabaptists for their over-realized eschatology—they want too much heaven, in the church, too soon. He was criticizing them for their perfectionism, which he linked to the Cathars (flourished in the 12th-13th centuries) and before them to the Donatists (4th and 5th centuries).

      He was criticizing them for setting up an arbitrary and rationalist standard for sanctification, i.e., a standard that exists in their mind but not in God’s Word) by which to judge the Reformed churches, by which they justified their rejection of the Reformed churches as imperfect.

  1. “not so much from that insane pride as from inconsiderate zeal. Seeing that among those to whom the gospel is preached, the fruit produced is not in accordance with the doctrine”

    Thanks, good stuff. The fruit we want to see is not necessarily the fruit God is cultivating, and our zeal doesn’t make us right- good to remember.

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