Calvinist Pope


I was in another forum and a discussion started about proving the existance of God. Someone posted a response by her preacher quoting Alvin Plantinga. In the reponse, the preacher put out that in an article by Plantinga he is quoted six times as saying “as far as I know there has never been a Calvinist Pope.”

My first response was “what’s that supposed to mean?” While you would think that would be obvious, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t meant to be a compliment.

So what does Plantinga mean?

Here is the article where he says


I have no idea. Plantinga is a black sheep of a Calvinist, I find. He purports to be a Calvinist, but his philosophy is more than agreeable - its quite reasonable. I quite like him, though I hate Calvinism (and wouldn’t mind poking calvinists in the eyes).

If Augustine were bishop of Rome, perhaps he’d be considered a “Calvinist Pope”, as he was considered by the first determinist-Christians as one who preached Calvin’s determinist theology before Calvin.

I’ll read the article when I come back from mass. This interests me.


I did a little googling. Alvin Plantinga sounds like a super-genius. How’s your philosophy? Mine is pretty lame, about where Homer Simpson is mentally!

Here is a quote from a blog about Plantinga:

“What else should we expect from someone that, while teaching at the Catholic University Notre Dame, once joked about possibly being the first Calvinist Pope, but then reasoned that he’d get more respect at the institution by being the head football coach?”

I’m not sure who the author is, but here is the link to the whole blog, but you have to scroll down a little to find the above quote:

This blog looked very very “heavy” to me, in the upper eschelons of theological thought. But if you’re into philosophy, logic, reason, heavy thinking, etc. you’ll be thrilled.

I don’t know if that quote is what the poster was referring to. Couldn’t find it on Google. If I were you, I would ask for the whole article and read the comment in context.


You didn’t provide any context for the “preacher”'s use of Plantinga. The “article” you mentioned and linked was not an article but a lecture where Plantinga read his paper on an evolutionary argument against naturalism.

In the lecture, and I have heard him say it elsewhere, Plantinga is making a joke prior to giving his lecture (on this one he repeated himself as there seemed to be a problem with the sound system). Without any context for your comments it is impossible to know what the preacher thought (or if he even recognized the joke as a joke).

Cat’s reference was correct. The joke is about how Notre Dame puts football above religion. It is about how he, as a Calvinist going to teach at Notre Dame, thought that at a Catholic school being Pope was top of the heap and how he found out that wasn’t the case.

By the way, in Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief he speaks of the Aquinas/Calvin model–and Aquinas comes off looking good.



I don’t know a lot about Plantinga, but from the little that I read, it sounds like he is Catholic-friendly. But I am no expert. Perhaps someone else can comment.


The converstation started out from a guy wanting proof of the afterlife.

Here is a paraphrase of the original post of the thread:

Yesterday, I was watching an interesting show about ghosts. It caught my attention for a moment, and I decided to google “proof of afterlife”. I found a rather interesting site with several articles about near death experiences and other scientific experiments regarding the survival of human consciousness beyond death. While I am still perched firmly upon this fence, the site did make a strong case for the existence of such an afterlife. I was particularly impressed with their secular approach to the subject - treating it more as a branch of physics than an article of faith.

After I was done reading, I looked up “scientific proof of God”, but was quite disappointed when all I found were sites attempting to use the Bible as proof of the accuracy of the Bible. Well, that doesn’t work. I did find a few sites that attempted to prove God’s existence by referencing things other than Biblical quotes, but they were mere speculation and philosophy. I found a few athiestic sites claiming that no proof of God exists, therefore God is imaginary. This is a painfully obvious logical fallacy, as the lack of proof of something does not negate the possibility that it exists.
I have no issue with people who have strong religious faith relying upon that faith in an attempt to prove that God does in fact exist. After all, belief in God is intrinsic with faith. However, this approach is hardly “scientific proof”, which is what many of these sites claim to be. In fact, faith is not proof at all, as one essentially negates the other.
I think the most profound idea I found while searching for proof of God was atrributed to an agnostic. He said, "God cannot be proven, as it would be impossible to force an omnipotent being to unwillingly submit to examination and proof of it’s own existence. God cannot be disproven, as God himself would only be powerful enough to disprove his own existence."

This is the preacher’s response:

Your friend is very thoughtful and sounds more fair minded than many folks I have spoken to. The last quote that he recounts is especially apt to any quest to find scientific proof for God. The existence of God is what some philosophers (such as Alvin Plantinga) call a basic belief, part of an epistemological (knowledge) foundation upon which all our other beliefs are constructed.
There are people who interpret all of reality without the presupposition that God does exist (and is whom He describes Himself to be through Scripture); and there are those who do hold this foundational belief.
Foundational beliefs as such cannot be proven, but belief in God is only one example, there are many others such as those necessary for scientific endeavors. These include beliefs such as: that the structure of the world is rational and logical, that empirical observations can be trusted, that scientific methods in some way cohere to reality “as it truly is”.
Perhaps the best “scientific” argument for the existence of God is to ponder the question whether we have sufficient reason to believe (without proof) in the validity of our sense perception and rationality in a universe where there is no explanation for why there would be any order at all. Implausible tenets of the atheistic belief system include the idea that life came from non-life, order came from chaos, intelligence from an utter absence of thought, simply put, what we experience actually came from nothing (or alternatively, from an eternal lump of matter).
However, to posit that God does in fact exist, and remains the designer and sustainer of all that He made seems to me to provide the only possible answer to the problems raised above. If God did not exist, we would not live in a world like this, in a world where the basic methods of the sciences have a rational order and explaination- but we do in fact have a rational God.
A great article along these lines by the philosopher Alvin Plantinga called, An Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism. You can hear a great audio summary of this (where he says, “as far as I know there has never been a Calvinist Pope” about six times:
A very long revamping of the original article is available here:

The reason I was assuming it was an anti-catholic posting was because of who was posting it. The woman who posted her preachers response is anti-catholic and we’ve had some pretty spirited debates. I remember when John Paul II passed she basically thought that he was doomed to hell.


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