Skip to comments.9 Things You Should Know about John Calvin
Posted on 07/10/2013 9:14:33 PM PDT by ReformationFan
Today is the 504th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin (July 10, 1509). Here are nine things you should know about the French theologian and Reformer.
(Excerpt) Read more at thegospelcoalition.org ...
“In the 1500s, denying the Trinity was a blasphemy that was considered worthy of death throughout Europe. Because he had written books denying the Trinity and denouncing paedobaptism, Servetus was condemned to death by the French Catholic Inquisition. Servetus escaped from prison in Vienne and fled to Italy, but stopped on the way in Geneva. After he attended a sermon by Calvin, Servetus was arrested by the city authorities. French Inquisitors asked that he be extradited to them for execution, but the officials in Geneva refused and brought him before their own heresy trial. Although Calvin believed Servetus deserving of death on account of what he termed as his “execrable blasphemies”, he wanted the Spaniard to be executed by decapitation as a traitor rather than by fire as a heretic. The Geneva council refused his request and burned Servetus at the stake with what was believed to be the last copy of his book chained to his leg.”
Looks like everybody wanted a piece of him, though Calvin wanted the least painful way of death, at least.
Calvin updated The Institutes during his lifetime. Unlike others, like Augustine, he did not feel a need to change his doctrines as he aged. He did, however, reorganize the Institutes. His explanation of the doctrine of election was moved later in the book to be placed well after his explanation of soteriolgy, the doctrine of salvation. Many would see this as a recognition by Calvin that election is for the assurance of those who are already believers in Jesus Christ.
He was not the author of the “five points of Calvinism”; aka; TULIP. Instead, they were established by his supporters, after his death, at the Synod of Dort. The five points are associated with him, but they are really five distinctive points where Calvin’s doctrinal positions varied most with the Arminians. His teachings were far broader and not so narrowly focused.
Those who know of him from TULIP may be surprised that one of the emphases in the Institutes was piety in Christ.
I don't buy it. There is ample evidence that Calvin was pulling the strings throughout the trial. For example, one of the few copies of Servetus' work remaining appears to be that of Calvin himself except there are pages missing, coincidentally the same pages that were sent to Servetus' supporters in a ruse to get them to implicate Servetus. It is also known that Servetus pleaded directly to Calvin to assist in the deplorable conditions he was subjected to while imprisoned and Calvin did not act. He ran Geneva at the time, I find it hard to believe that in a highly unusual case of protestants executing another protestant for heresy the civil authorities would overrule the guidance to Calvin, the religious head of the entire city, indeed their entire movement.
Does your post even address the point that Calvin wanted him beheaded instead of burnt alive?
I don’t see any refutation of that. All I see is a bunch of extraneous stuff based on “ample evidence” and “I find it hard to believe”, which is not objective evidence.
That wasn't unusual.
Anabaptists/Mennonites fought lutherans/Calvinists during the Peasant wars and Calvinists fought Lutherans in the Prussian Union
If one takes it impartially, they could all accuse each other of heresy by their own authority.
True. Calvin was the head, the big boss (as, in fairness was the Pope or Luther or the King of England etc.) -- but to the main theme of this article, did Calvin know or not, remember that we should not judge a 16th century man by our terms
thought y’all might enjoy the memories - shall we convene the neeners?
Exactly. The idea of separation of church and state(as our founding fathers understood it, not the psycho-lib ACLU understanding of it that permeates today’s society) was a foreign concept at that time.
“remember that we should not judge a 16th century man by our terms”
From what our 21st century, Obama-worshiping society behaves and believes, we should be glad 16th century men don’t judge us.
The execution of anti-Trinitarian agitator Michael Servetus by Genevan officials is often cited as proof of the religious intolerance of John Calvin. This analysis does not hold water. Servetus had a death sentence on his head in multiple European cities. Along with Geneva's magistrates, dozens of important civil leaders outside this Swiss city called for the execution of Servetus. Calvin was not one of them. Calvin neither sat on the council which passed judgment on Servetus, nor was he even a citizen of Geneva at the time.
"He who will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows but little of the origin of American liberty."
-- from the thread John Calvin, Founding Father
"...If one contends that Calvin was in error in agreeing with the execution of heretics then why is there not equal indignation against all the other leaders who supported and carried out and supported these measures elsewhere. None less than the honored Thomas Aquinas explicitly supported the burning of heretics saying, "If the heretic still remains pertinacious the church, despairing of his conversion, provides for the salvation of others by separating him from the church by the sentence of excommunication and then leaves him to the secular judge to be exterminated from the world by death." (Summa Theologiae, IIaIIae q. 11 a. 3)
Shortly after the publication of the "Restitution," the fact was made known to the Roman Catholic authorities at Lyons through Guillaume Trie, a native of Lyons and a convert from Romanism, residing at that time in Geneva. He corresponded with a cousin at Lyons, by the name of Arneys, a zealous Romanist, who tried to reconvert him to his religion, and reproached the Church of Geneva with the want of discipline. On the 26th of February, 1553, he wrote to Arneys that in Geneva vice and blasphemy were punished, while in France a dangerous heretic was tolerated, who deserved to be burned by Roman Catholics as well as Protestants, who blasphemed the holy Trinity, called Jesus Christ an idol, and the baptism of infants a diabolic invention. He gave his name as Michael Servetus, who called himself at present Villeneuve, a practising physician at Vienne. In confirmation he sent the first leaf of the "Restitution," and named the printer Balthasar Arnoullet at Vienne....
....The cardinal of Lyons and the archbishop of Vienne, after consultation with Inquisitor Ory and other ecclesiastics, now gave orders on the 4th of April for the arrest of Villeneuve [Servetus] and Arnoullet. They were confined in separate rooms in the Palais Delphinal. Villeneuve was allowed to keep a servant, and to see his friends. Ory was sent forth, hastened to Vienne, and arrived there the next morning....
....Servetus now resolved to escape, perhaps with the aid of some friends, after he had secured through his servant a debt of three hundred crowns from the Grand Prior of the monastery of St. Pierre. On the 7th of April, at four oclock in the morning, he dressed himself, threw a night-gown over his clothes, and put a velvet cap upon his head, and, pretending a call of nature, he secured from the unsuspecting jailer the key to the garden. He leaped from the roof of the outhouse and made his escape through the court and over the bridge across the Rhone. He carried with him his golden chain around his neck, valued at twenty crowns, six gold rings on his fingers, and plenty of money in his pockets.
Two hours elapsed before his escape became known. An alarm was given, the gates were closed, and the neighboring houses searched; but all in vain.
Nevertheless the prosecution went on. Sufficient evidence was found that the "Restitution" had been printed in Vienne; extracts were made from it to prove the heresies contained therein. The civil court, without waiting for the judgment of the spiritual tribunal (which was not given until six months afterwards), sentenced Servetus on the 17th of June, for heretical doctrines, for violation of the royal ordinances, and for escape from the royal prison, to pay a fine of one thousand livres tournois to the Dauphin, to be carried in a cart, together with his books, on a market-day through the principal streets to the place of execution, and to be burnt alive by a slow fire.
On the same day he was burnt in effigy, together with the five bales of his book, which had been consigned to Merrin at Lyons and brought back to Vienne.
from Phillip Schaff's History of the Christian Church,
CHAPTER XVI: SERVETUS: HIS LIFE. OPINIONS, TRIAL, AND EXECUTION,
section 148: The Trial and Condemnation of Servetus at Vienne.
In Geneva, Calvin accused Servetus and by Genevan law of the time, a man and his accuser were both imprisoned until the trial concluded. Calvin did not offer himself for imprisonment, however, his personal secretary did. Thus officially the secretary was the accuser and prosecutor in the case, not Calvin. But does anyone think Calvin was not pulling the strings of his own secretary in this matter? It was Calvin who had maintained a hostile correspondence with Servetus for several years, who had said if he had any influence should Servetus come under his power he would not be allowed to leave alive. It was Calvin who conspired to have him captured and condemned by the Roman Catholic Church and it was Calvin who had him arrested and imprisoned. It is not credible to say he now chose to stand by mutely.
When the trial was concluded there was some debate about whether the death sentence could be imposed for heresy. Since Servetus was a non-citizen the law said the worst they could do was banish him. Calvin argued that the true charge should be treason, which he justified using Justinian law as being punishable by death. It also would have been properly imposed as death by sword, not burning. Burning was for heresy in those days. So if Calvin asked for death by sword it wasn't for mercy but rather to ensure that death was the sentence, not banishment. The civil authorities said in the end that the crime was heresy and the sentence was burning. This is the only instance of execution for heresy in Geneva of this era, it was unusual. People could be executed for a lot, and were. Dancing, prostitution, etc. But burning for heresy, that was a catholic thing.
I am not trying to condemn Calvin. In his time, death sentences for heresy were not uncommon though with his protestant community they were. He had a long and unfriendly relationship with Servetus and he apparently disliked him. Servetus treated Calvin with disdain and mocked him in their correspondence. For his part Calvin thought Servetus a heretic and a dangerous man. That he worked so hard to bring him down (both in the original trial in Vienne and then in the subsequent trial in Geneva) is still remarkable and unusual. Perhaps it shows that Calvin found Servetus' particularly dangerous and felt he needed to act to save the faith. Or perhaps it shows that Calvin himself was subject to the human conditions of pride and anger and those drove him to pursue Servetus with a particular fervor. Who knows? What Calvin himself said about it is this: "Many people have accused me of such ferocious cruelty that I would like to kill again the man I have destroyed. Not only am I indifferent to their comments, but I rejoice in the fact that they spit in my face."
He certainly didn't regret the death of Servetus at all.
That "lingering stench" is Servetus' continued and repeated pronouncements of heresy, done in the face of near-uniform ecclesial and civil opposition (Protestant and Catholic). Or could it be that you agree with Servetus' anti-Trinitarianism?
"The Servetus Card: because debate is hard."
I don’t agree with Servetus. I also don’t agree with the Spanish Inquisition burning people alive. Do you? If not, why would it be okay for Calvin to do it?
Did they remember “heretic?”
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