C.J. Mahaney – Criticized Because He’s Just Like Calvin?

February 24, 2011 in Sovereign Grace Ministries

Kris says:  On “his” blog, C.J. Mahaney has been talking lately about pastors who face criticism.  Since C.J.’s “View From The Cheap Seats” doesn’t provide a venue for reader feedback, I thought it might be instructive to have a discussion here about his most recent post.  Here it is (and please note, the rest of this post contains C.J.’s own words and NOT mine):

The Pastor & Personal Criticism

A blog series by C.J. Mahaney

The great reformer and pastor John Calvin was no stranger to criticism. One of his biographers reports that he “was not unfamiliar with the sound of mobs outside his house [in Geneva] threatening to throw him in the river and firing their muskets”[1]. In fact, near the end of his life Calvin said this to a gathering of pastors: “I have lived here amid continual bickerings. I have been from derision saluted of an evening before my door with forty or fifty shots of an arquebus”[2], an arquebus being a large muzzle-loaded rifle that emitted a boom and a large cloud of smoke with each firing. Fifty rounds! And you thought you had critics!

I have been criticized, but to date I have never been threatened like this.

Yet Calvin faithfully ministered in the midst of this severe opposition because he was prepared for it. He understood that the faithful pastor will be criticized.

This wisdom is evident in the following quote from his commentary on 1 Timothy 5:19:

None are more exposed to slanders and insults than godly teachers. This comes not only from the difficulty of their duties, which are so great that sometimes they sink under them, or stagger or halt or take a false step, so that wicked men find many occasions of finding fault with them; but added to that, even when they do all their duties correctly and commit not even the smallest error, they never avoid a thousand criticisms.

It is indeed a trick of Satan to estrange men from their ministers so as gradually to bring their teaching into contempt. In this way not only is wrong done to innocent people whose reputation is undeservedly injured, but the authority of God’s holy teaching is diminished….

The more sincerely any pastor strives to further Christ’s kingdom, the more he is loaded with spite, the more fierce do the attacks upon him become. And not only so, but as soon as any charge is made against ministers of the Word, it is believed as surely and firmly as if it had been already proved. This happens not only because a higher standard of integrity is required from them, but because Satan makes most people, in fact nearly everyone, over credulous so that without investigation, they eagerly condemn their pastors whose good name they ought to be defending.[3]

The same man who wrote these words faced “continual bickerings,” gunfire, and the threat of drowning. If this was the criticism Calvin faced, then no pastor should be surprised when criticism arrives. Even the most faithful pastors will be criticized.

Knowing this will protect me from a number of temptations. It will certainly protect me from self-pity. I shouldn’t feel sorry for myself just because people say unkind and inaccurate things about me. This would be yet another evidence of pride in my life.

The opposition I have experienced is…well, I am embarrassed to even reference it in light of Calvin’s experience.

But amidst the criticism and opposition, Calvin pressed on.

So should you.


[1] Parker, Portrait of Calvin (Oxford, 1989), 29.
[2] John Dillenberger, John Calvin: Selections from His Writings (Anchor Books, 1975), 42.
[3] Calvin, The Second Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians and the Epistles to Timothy, Titus and Philemon (Eerdmans, 1996), 263