Category Archives: Church History

Epistre tres utile faicte et composée par une femme chrestienne de Tornay

So the other day I was browsing Facebook (as one does) and ran across a piece by Christian History Magazine which described a booklet written by a woman that was deemed so wicked that the authorities destroyed every copy they could find and only two have survived.

So naturally I wanted to know more.  Searching for the pamphlet proved to be a dead end until Jon Balserak got on the case.  He found it.  Here it is, for your reading pleasure.

And here’s the Christian History Magazine essay that piqued my interest.

The author of that essay also has a book on the subject, Marie Dentière: Epistle to Marguerite de Navarre and Preface to a Sermon by John Calvin.

The Battle of Marignano: 504 Years Later

It was the famed Battle of Marignano that turned Zwingli against Swiss intervention in the affairs of other nations.  And he wasn’t alone.  The story goes that after that battle the Confederation adopted its famed stance on neutrality.

But there are some who think otherwise.  NZZ has a great essay on the subject. Give it a read.

#ICYMI – Farel Has Died!

As today is the anniversary of his death I thought it proper to post this brief snippet of a bio once more.

In 1509 William Farel left his home at Gap in Dauphine to study in Paris. Under the influence of evangelical scholars Jacques Lefevre (J. Faber Stapulensis) and Cornelius Hoehn, he adopted Protestant views. In 1520 Farel joined other Lefevre pupils in reform efforts at the Meaux diocese outside Paris. Although removed from the circle of Parisian Catholic orthodoxy, increasing pressure from church authorities forced him to leave France in 1523.

In 1524 Farel began reform work in Basel with J. Hussgen (Oecolampadius). Farel’s impetuous championship of the evangelical cause provoked strong opposition. Chased from Basel in 1526, he undertook preaching tours in Switzerland. In 1528 he and Hussgen were successful in the Bern Disputation—a forum which decided that city’s religion.

Consequently, Bern sponsored Farel’s work in the Vaud, in Neuchatel (1530), and in Geneva (1523).

In 1534 Farel and French scholar Pierre Viret began holding regular Protestant worship services in Geneva. By 1535 a theological debate won the sympathetic populace to their side. In 1536 Farel added Calvin to his staff by threatening him with divine judgment should he resist. At this point Geneva was in a state of social and religious turmoil; thus, Farel fully supported Calvin’s new order and discipline. A series of confrontations with city magistrates led to ejection of the pastors in 1538. Unlike Calvin, Farel did not later return to Geneva but lived in Neuchatel. If he lacked the theological depth and consolidating powers of Calvin, Farel was nevertheless fervently dedicated to his evangelistic task.

Farel remained close friends with Calvin, officiating at the marriage of Calvin and Idelette de Bure (1540). Some tension developed when Farel at age sixty–nine married a young woman, a union Calvin strongly disapproved. The two were reconciled, however, before Calvin’s death in 1564. (G. Bromily in Who’s Who in Christian history).

A lot of people don’t care for Farel because of his fiery gruffness. But I like him. I like people who don’t abandon their principles just because it’s expedient to do so.

Fun Facts from Church History: The Day Calvin Returned To Geneva

Calvin, having arrived from Strasburg on September 13, went to the Town Hall, and was received by the syndics and Council. Some hearts had, no doubt, been beating high in anticipation of this interview; and the reformer himself did not set out to it without emotion. When he came to Geneva, in 1534, he was twenty-seven years of age, rather young for a reformer. He was now thirty-two, the age of our Saviour at the time of his ministry. He could already speak with authority; nevertheless, it might be said of him as of St. Paul—his bodily presence is weak. He was of middle stature, pale, with a dark complexion, a keen and piercing eye, betokening, says Beza, a penetrating mind. His dress was very simple, and at the same time perfectly neat. There was something noble in his whole appearance. His cultivated and elevated spirit was at once recognisable; and although his health was already feeble, he was about to devote himself to labours which a man of great strength might have shrunk from undertaking. Amiable in social intercourse, he had won all hearts in Germany; he was now to win many at Geneva.

On presenting himself before the Council, Calvin delivered to the syndics the letters from the senators and pastors of Strasburg and Basel. He then modestly apologised for the long delay which he had made. He had intended to vindicate his own conduct and that of his colleagues who were banished with him three years and a half before; but the very warm reception given him in the town, and by the magistrates, showed him that Geneva had quite got over the prejudices of that period. A vindication would have involved recalling to mind painful facts and ungracious sentiments; and this was not the business which he had to do at this moment. His Christian heart, his intelligent mind joined to counsel him otherwise, to forget. He therefore did not vindicate himself either before the Senate or before the people.*

*J. H. Merle D’aubigné D.D. and William L. R. Cates, History of the Reformation in Europe in the Time of Calvin, vol. 7 (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1876), 66–67.

Fun Facts From Church History: Luther Wasn’t a Fan of the Fathers

At Luther’s table

luther… there was talk about the writings of the church fathers on the Bible and how these left the reader in uncertainty. He [Martin Luther] responded, “I’m not allowed to make judgments about them because they’re writers of recognized authority and I’m compelled to be an apostate.

But let him who wishes read them, and Chrysostom in particular. He was the supreme orator, but how he digressed from the thing at hand to other matters! While I was lecturing on the letter to the Hebrews and consulted Chrysostom, [I found that] he wrote nothing about the contents of the letter.

I believe that as the greatest orator Chrysostom had plenty of hearers but that he taught without fruit. For it ought to be the primary and principal function of a preacher to reflect upon the substance, contents, and sum total of the matter and instruct his hearer accordingly. Once this is done the preacher can use rhetoric and exhort.”

In other words, stick to the text when you’re preaching it! And that, regrettably, the Father’s didn’t do.  The Father’s are useful only for the windows they open on the history of the Church.  Their exegesis is, frankly, rubbish.  And their theology is, for the most part, frankly, ridiculous.

An Exhibition at Pitts

Come for the Apocalypse, Stay for the Radicals!

I Like This Painting: I think my Great Grandpa is in It!

It shows Luther bowing to Charles V at the Diet of Augsburg and Melanchthon waiting at the foot of the steps.  But it also shows 3 very angry Catholic prelates.  The middle one is my favorite.  He won’t even look at Luther.

The middle prelate has exactly the same facial expression as I do when I read a dilettante’s tweet or post or essay.  It’s exactly the same!  Maybe he’s my great grandpa!!!!

An Interview With Paolo Astorri

Refo500 writes

Paolo Astorri wrote his dissertation on Lutheran Theology and Contract Law in Early Modern Germany (ca. 1520-1720). We interviewed him about his book.

What has Christian spirituality to do with law?

The Church has always been connected with law. Christ himself did not abolish the law. He invited Christians to an inner conversion. But the Christian could always be seduced by ‘the world’ and therefore Christ taught a procedure for fraternal correction. Christ also faced concrete legal problems (e.g. the issue of working during the sabbath). The first Christian communities had to deal with similar problems. During the Middle age and early modern era the sacrament of penance resembled legal proceedings and theologians were involved with the moral aspects of legal obligations.


Quakers, Christian Slavery, and White Supremacy

This is a FASCINATING essay.  You simply must read it.

If You’re in Hong Kong

Book Launch

We would like to invite you to our book launch on September, 18, 2018 (Wednesday) at the Bishop’s House (1 Lower Albert Road, Central, Hong Kong)  from 17:30-19:00 to celebrate the publication of Thy Kingdom Come: A Photographic History of Anglicanism in Hong Kong, Macau and Mainland China (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2019).  Please see the attached poster for details.

Archbishop Paul will deliver brief opening remarks followed by the authors, who will be available for book signing.  The book itself will be on sale at a special discounted price.  We look forward to seeing you.

Philip L. Wickeri (The Rev’d. Professor)
Provincial Archivist

Hong Kong Sheng Kung Hui Archives

Nicodemism and the English Calvin, 1544–1584

In Nicodemism and the English Calvin Kenneth J. Woo reassesses John Calvin’s decades-long attack against Nicodemism, which Calvin described as evangelicals playing Catholic to avoid hardship or persecution. Frequently portrayed as a static argument varying little over time, the reformer’s anti-Nicodemite polemic actually was adapted to shifting contexts and diverse audiences. Calvin’s strategic approach to Nicodemism was not lost on readers, influencing its reception in England.

Brill have provided a copy for review, and when I’ve read through it, I’ll post my views,

Reformation of the Commonwealth: Thomas Becon and the Politics of Evangelical Change in Tudor England

So, all you souls who tell us you love Bacon, now’s your chance to prove it!

Fun Facts from Church History: The Condemnation of Anabaptism

limmatOn September 9, 1527, Zurich, Bern, and St. Gall published an edict, in which for the first time the alleged errors and crimes of the Anabaptist party are set forth; viz.:

  • They seduce men from the congregations of the orthodox teachers and assail the public preachers with abuse; they babble in corners, woods, and fields;
  • contract spiritual marriages, thereby giving occasion for adulteries;
  • even command crime in the name of the Lord, e. g., the parricide at St. Gall;
  • glory in divine revelations and miracles;
  • teach that the Devil will be saved, and that in their church one could indulge lust without crime;
  • had other signs of the covenant aside from catabaptism;
  • would not carry swords;
  • pronounced usury and the lot wicked;
  • would have all external goods common and deposited in the midst of them, so that no one could use them as his own peculiar right;
  • forbade Christians to accept the magistracy or to say an oath was proper.

In order that this growth, dangerous to Christianity, wicked, harmful, turbulent, seditious, may be eradicated, we have thus decreed: if any one is suspected of catabaptism he is to be warned by the magistracy to leave off, under penalty of the designated punishment. Individuals as the civil contract obliges should inform upon those favourable to catabaptism. Whoever shall not fit his conduct to this dissuasion is liable to punishment according to the sentence of the magistracy and as special business; teachers, baptising preachers, itinerants and leaders of conventicles, or those previously released from prison and who have sworn to desist from such things, are to be drowned.

Foreigners, their faith being pledged, are to be driven out, if they return are to be drowned. No one is allowed to secede from the Church and absent himself from the Holy Supper. Men led into the error by fraud may receive a mitigation of their punishment in proportion to their property and standing. Whoever flees from one jurisdiction to another shall be banished or given up on demand.”*

Never was the power of execution ceded from the magistracy to the clergy.  Or, to put it another way, not one single heretic was executed by any member of the clergy (and that includes Calvin and Zwingli and Luther).  Ever.  Heretics were executed by the secular authorities and never did it happen otherwise.

*Samuel Macauley Jackson, Huldreich Zwingli: The Reformer of German Switzerland (1484–1531) (Heroes of the Reformation; New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons; Knickerbocker Press, 1901), 259–261.

Luther as Heretic: Ten Catholic Responses to Martin Luther, 1518-1541

The publication of Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Thesesin 1517 immediately elicited responses from dozens of Roman Catholics in Germany and beyond. While Luther’s works and those of his leading supporters have been available in English translation for many years, those of most of his Catholic opponents have not. In order to address this imbalance, win a fairer hearing for the Catholic opposition, and make it possible for students to understand both sides of the sixteenth-century religious debates, translators have drawn on the rich resources of the Kessler Reformation Collection at the Pitts Theology Library to present here introductions to and translations of ten Catholic pamphlets. The volume begins with an essay sketching the larger background for these publications. The editors’ hope is that this book will prove useful for teaching and research and will foster a deeper understanding of the sixteenth-century theological discussions by allowing today’s readers to hear voices that have been mostly silent in the English-speaking world for centuries.

With thanks to the Pitts Theology Library for the copy!

God’s Spies

This looks right interesting.

Theodore (or Teddy to his Friends) Beza and Tyranny

THIS is fascinating. Give it a listen.

Paul Althaus, Karl Barth, Emil Brunner: Briefwechsel 1922–1966

This new work has arrived for review.  More anon.

The Journey from Zurich to Marburg

The [first stage of the trip to Marburg for the Colloquy with Luther was the] journey to Basel [which] was made on horseback, the distance from Zurich being about sixty miles, and Zwingli and his friend arrived there safely, September 5. Thence, in company with Œcolampadius and others, he proceeded by boat to Strasburg, where he arrived the next day, September 6.  Here he tarried eleven days to confer with his friends and lay plans for the coming conference and also to await the arrival of Ulrich Funk, Zurich’s official delegate. Leaving Strasburg September 18, the company, consisting of Zwingli, Collin, and Funk, of Zurich; Œcolampadius, of Basel; Butzer and Hedio, of Strasburg; and delegates of the last named cities, was conducted overland by a strong escort of Hessian cavalry, through dense forests and dangerous mountain passes, to Marburg, where they arrived September 27. Luther, in company with his Wittenberg friends, Philip Melanchthon, Caspar Cruciger, and Justus Jonas, entered the city the day following.*


*Samuel Simpson, Life of Ulrich Zwingli: The Swiss Patriot and Reformer (New York: Baker & Taylor Co., 1902), 187–188.

A new Volume for the Luther-ans

Martin Luthers Gebrauch der Heiligen Schrift, by Alexander Kupsch

Untersuchungen zur Schriftautorität in Gottesdienst und gesellschaftlicher Öffentlichkeit

Protestant theology is traditionally founded on the authority of scripture. Alexander Kupsch analyzes how Martin Luther used it as the church’s liturgical authority and in public moral discourse. Luther’s use of scripture is then compared to modern concepts of scriptural authority. A final chapter outlines how scripture can be viewed and used as authority in religious life.