Michael Servetus Last Words: What Do They Mean?

Though John Calvin and the other ministers appealed to Servetus to repent right up to the time of his execution, Servetus adamantly maintained his position and uttered the following as he went to the flames of execution,

Jesus, son of the eternal God, have mercy on me?”

According to W. Robert Godfrey, Servetus maintained his ant-trinitarian position to the very end.  “By those words Servetus maintained even in the flames that Jesus was not himself eternal God” (John Calvin: Pilgrim and Pastor).

Servetus saw Jesus as Savior but not as God.  But how could this Jesus save anyone, much less Michael Servetus?

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16 Responses to Michael Servetus Last Words: What Do They Mean?

  1. Craig Benno says:

    I didn’t read anything anti triniarian in his call for Jesus to save him. Our doctrine of the trinity cant save us. A ready acknowledgement that Jesus saves does.

    • TC Robinson says:

      Craig, I understand what you are saying. But let me pose this question to you, Do we need to get Jesus right?

      • Jon Hughes says:

        TC,

        Do any of us truly “get Jesus right”?

        Let’s be clear. Servetus held to Christ’s divinity (based on John 1:1). But he held that the eternal Word was begotten as “the Son” at a point in time (based on Psalm 2:7). Firstly, didn’t John MacArthur teach something similar up until the early 1990’s? Secondly, I seem to recall Robert Reymond courting controversy in his systematic theology on a related theme. Thirdly, agree or disagree with Servetus, whatever happened to the Protestant principle of the right to private interpretation? Fourthly, of course Jesus heard this wonderful prayer from the dying Servetus. Calvin, Godfrey, et al., can continue the discussion with him in glory, without the flames.

        TC, you need to know that Calvin made it personal when it came to Michael Servetus. No amount of glossing over from his biographers will change the fact. His treatment of Sebastian Castellio was equally contemptible.

      • Craig Benno says:

        What level of understanding do we require intellectually disabled people to be saved? Is it right we should require others to have a greater understanding?

    • Jon Hughes says:

      Well put, Craig.

      • TC Robinson says:

        Jon,

        You’re correct about Joh MacArthur. I have Reymond Systematic but have never consulted that section; so I need to look into what he says. If we’re talking the finer points of christology, then who are we to judge. Wouldn’t it be something to see Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Servetus, et al. and the whole lot in glory, despite where our partial knowledge has led us?

        Craig,

        Good point. Consider, throughout church history, we’re the ones who fight over these finer points of theology. In the end, they would not even matter. But for now…

  2. Jon Hughes says:

    TC,

    I can’t remember the details, but Reymond took issue with the Nicene Creed concerning the eternal generation of the Son. I guess we’re all heretics when it comes to the “finer points”. Yes, it would be something to see what you describe above. Poetic justice requires that it’ll be a fiery trial for Calvin at the judgement seat of Christ concerning his treatment of Servetus, Castellio, and others.

    • TC Robinson says:

      Jon, they have all been judged.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        Calvin remained unrepentant, even boasting of having exterminated the Spaniard in spite of the widespread condemnation that resulted from his actions. He’ll give an account. Clearly it’s not for me to judge, but I doubt whether Christ himself will excuse his actions as glibly as his apologists do. Godfrey and others are frankly heartless in their treatment of the subject.

  3. TC Robinson says:

    Jon, it’s no secret around here how much I admire John Calvin, despite his flaws and all. Yes, it’s no excuse for the way a John Calvin behaved. But like an Abraham or a David, he too was a product of his time. Calvin has already been judged.

    • Jon Hughes says:

      TC,

      If you’re saying his sins have been judged at the cross, I take your point. But 2 Corinthians 5:10 applies to Calvin as well as every other believer, does it not?

      “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.”

      That’s what I’m getting at in my points above.

      • Jon Hughes says:

        You don’t need me to tell you that Abraham and David lived before the coming of Christ; not so, Calvin!

        An interesting analogy is that Jesus suffered at the hands of the religious authorities who couldn’t stand the fact that he challenged their authority. Which particular roles do Calvin and Servetus play in the respective analogy?

  4. TC Robinson says:

    Jon, thoughtful counterpoints. While 2 Corinthians 5 applies at some level, neither you nor I or Calvin for that matter is in danger of our salvation.

    Yes, many of the reformers were like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day

    • Jon Hughes says:

      TC,

      The only ones questioning the salvation of another are Calvin apologists with regard to Michael Servetus.

      Robert Godfrey is a case in point.

      God bless, brother. Appreciate your irenic tone, and allowing me to vent 🙂

  5. TC Robinson says:

    Jon: You make me rethink a lot of things. Who we see in glory, will surprised us. Appreciate what you bring.

    Craig: The warnings are to be taken seriously, serving to sift the chaff from the wheat. I believe this is what Jesus is getting at as well.

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