The Earliest Involvements of Calvin in Reform

It is the year 1523. Young Calvin had just arrived from Noyon. De Berquin had translated something of Luther into the French. Thoroughly ill at ease the Sorbonne had accused him before the Parlement. His books and papers39) had been seized, examined, condemned. He was locked up in the Square Tour of the Palace. At the moment when the sentence of death is expected, the Court intervenes. He is freed August 8, 1523.

The University students, elated over this, and more zealous than prudent, celebrate the occasion. They do so by staging “La Farce des théologastres.” The story of the play is evidence of the fact that by 1523 the name of Luther was generally known in Paris, and that it was associated with the progressive group over against the Nachtschule of the Sorbonne. Now since the Thirteenth Century the so-called morality plays had been presented on the stage. Out of twenty-one collected by M. Picot only one was found to have been written by an out and out loyal Catholic. The “Farce des théologastres” was one in line with the tradition of l’ancien théâtre français therefore. It was written by a friend of de Berquin. The title speaks for itself. The play itself heckles the reactionary spirit of the Sorbonne and the Collège de Montaigu. There are six characters: Théologastres, Fratrez, Foy, Raison, Le Texte de Saincte Escripture, Le Mercure d’Allemagne. Louis de Berquin is identified with the last, the messenger from Germany.*

These are the very kinds of things which worried the establishment about Reform. Was it a legitimate desire to reform Church life or was it an attempt to undermine authority? At this stage, no government could really tell.
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*John Calvin: a study in French humanism (p. 28).

Author: Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.