Tag Archives: John Calvin

Fun Facts from Church History: Calvin on Bucer’s Death

bucerWhen Bucer died, Calvin wrote his friend Farel, on 15 July, 1551-

When I think how great a loss the church has suffered in this man, I am torn with grief. He would have been of much service to England; and I had hoped even better things yet from his writings. I daily see the church stripped of her true servants. Vadian’s character was in high repute among the Swiss; him also has the Lord taken from us.

Bucer had traveled to England to spread the teachings of the Reformation.  He didn’t survive England long…

Passage du Jour

Jer 19:1-6 (Calvin’s translation)

1 Who will make my head waters
And mine eye a fountain of tears!
Then would I bewail, day and night,
The slain of the daughter of my people.

jerome2 Who will set me in the desert, In the lodging of travellers! Then would I leave my people And depart from them: For all of them are adulterers, An assembly of perfidious men. 3 And they shoot lies with their tongue as with bow; But not for truth are they strong in the land; For from evil to evil they proceed; And me they know not, saith Jehovah. 4 And every one of his friend take ye heed,And in a brother trust ye not; For every brother by supplanting will supplant, And every friend walks fraudulently: 5 And a man deceives his neighbour, And the truth he speaks not; They have taught their tongues to speak falsehood; With doing evil they weary themselves.

6 Thou dwellest in the midst of deceit;
Through deceit they refuse
To know me, saith Jehovah

Fun Facts From Church History

The Reformed Church of France, Paris, France

In his ‘Ordances’, published the 3rd of February, 1547, Calvin set forth the following regulations concerning attendance at sermons:

Ordinances for the Supervision of Churches in the Country February 3, 1547

Ordinances for the Supervision of the Churches dependent on the Seigneury of Geneva, which it is advised be put in force, subject to the complete discretion of their Lordships

SERMONS

1. Everyone in each house is to come on Sundays, unless it be necessary to leave someone behind to take care of children or animals, under penalty of 3 sous.
2. If there be preaching any weekday, arranged with due notice, those that are able to go and have no legitimate excuse are to attend, at least one from each house, under penalty as above.
3. Those who have man or maid servants, are to bring them or have them conveyed when possible, so that they do not live like cattle without instruction.
4. Everyone is to be present at Sermon when the prayer is begun, under penalty as above, unless he absent himself for legitimate reason.
5. Everyone is to pay attention during Sermon, and there is to be no disorder or scandal.
6. No one is to leave or go out from the church until the prayer be made at the end of Sermon, under penalty as above, unless he have legitimate cause.

Amen, and amen.

Who Was Michael Servetus?

A new biography seeks to answer that question, and the author of the book is interviewed here.  Information about the book is here.

978-3-525-56012-92011 jährte sich der Geburtstag des spanischen Universalgelehrten Michael Servet zum 500. Mal.   Anders als kirchliche Theologen und Vorbilder hat der Humanist Servet keine Lobby, die an ihn erinnern möchte. Denn Servet wurde 1553 in Genf als Ketzer verbrannt. Die Anklage: Er hatte die Dreieinigkeit Gottes bezweifelt. Zur Ergreifung Servets hatte der Genfer Reformator Johannes Calvin wesentlich beigetragen. Aber auch andere Reformatoren unterstützten die Hinrichtung des Ketzers – sogar der besonnene Philipp Melanchthon, Mitstreiter Martin Luthers, meinte, mit der Hinrichtung Servets sei der Nachwelt „ein frommes und denkwürdiges Beispiel gegeben“.

Seine trinitätsfeindliche Einstellung hatte Servet gut begründet: Der in Spanien geborene Arzt war nicht nur vom Geist des Humanismus beseelt; die lange Geschichte des enorm produktiven – und dann durch die spanische Inquisition gewaltsam beendeten – Religionsfriedens zwischen Juden, Christen und Muslimen in Andalusien hatte ihn nach Möglichkeiten suchen lassen, den Frieden zwischen den Religionen wiederherzustellen. Seiner Meinung nach stand die biblisch nicht belegte christliche Trinitätslehre dem Religionsfrieden im Weg. 

Uwe Birnstein schildert unterhaltsam und verständlich das Werk, das Leben und den Tod Michael Servets, geleitet von der Frage: Warum musste er sterben? Die Geschichte Servets zeigt zweierlei: Auch die Reformation hinterließ eine blutige Spur in der Kirchengeschichte. Und: Für die aktuelle globale Friedensdiskussion gibt die Theologie des Michael Servet wichtige Impulse.

For the Last Time, Concerning ‘Reformation Day’

‘Reformation Day?  No!’

‘The Reformation’ is a misnomer if ever there were one, for in fact there was no ‘one’ Reformation any more than there was just one Reformer. ‘The Reformation’, when used by students and the general public, usually refers to the Reformation of Martin Luther which commenced at the end of October in the year of our Lord, 1517.

Even then, though, Luther’s intent wasn’t as earth-shattering as later ages took it to be. For Luther, the placement of a series of theses in Latin on the Church Door at Wittenberg Castle was nothing more than an invitation to debate. In other words, Luther didn’t see his act as the commencement of a revolution; he saw it as an academic exercise.

‘The Reformation’ is, then, little more than a label derived from historical hindsight gazing mono-focularly at a series of events over a period of time across a wide geographical landscape. Each Reformer had roots sunk in fertile ground and their work was simply the coming to fruition of generations of shift in the Roman Catholic Church.

Hence, it would be more appropriate to speak of ‘Reformations’ in the same way that we now speak of ‘Judaisms’ and ‘Christianities’. The Reformation was no monolith.

Who, then were the Reformers who gave birth to the Reformations most closely associated with them? They were Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, in just that order.

In 1515 while he was Pastor of the village Church in Glarus, Huldrych Zwingli began to call into question the dependence of the Church on the teachings of the Scholastics. He also questioned the value of the Vulgate for preaching and began earnest study of the Greek New Testament. There, memorizing the letters of Paul (in Greek) he discovered the Gospel which would come to feature so prominently in his Reforming efforts: Salvation is by grace, through faith, and not through works as proclaimed by the Scholastic theologians. By 1519, when he moved to Zurich to become the Pastor of the Great Minster, Zwingli was already well on his way to Reforming the worship of the Church and the administration of the ‘Sacraments’. In short order, within a few years, the Mass was abandoned and replaced by the ‘Lord’s Supper’ and the fixation of the Church on images was denounced and those images removed in due course.

Zwingli’s Reformation was carried out with the cooperation of the City government, which is why Zwingli, along with Luther and Calvin, were to be known to history as ‘Magisterial Reformers’. Not because they were ‘Magisterial’ but because each had the support of their city’s magistrates.

North of Zurich, in Wittenberg, Luther’s Reformatory efforts were coming to full steam around the same time. In 1520 he broke with Rome irrevocably with the publication of his stunning ‘On The Babylonian Captivity of the Church’. From there, there was to be no turning back. And here we must remind ourselves that at this juncture Luther was not dependent on the work of Zwingli, nor was Zwingli dependent on the work of Luther. Both were pursuing reform along parallel tracks, separately.

Further to the West of Switzerland a decade later John Calvin, an exile from France, a lawyer by training and a theologian by training and desire, began his own efforts at Reform. Several years after Zwingli’s death and long after Luther’s demise Calvin plodded away in Geneva attempting manfully to bring that raucous city to heel under the power of the Gospel.

Each of these Reformers were ‘Fathers’ of their own Reformation. Each was, originally, independent of the other and in many ways they tried very hard to retain that independence even when their common foe, the Church of Rome, was the target as their common enemy. Each contributed to ‘The Reformation’ in their own unique way.

If, then, we wish to honor their memory and their efforts, it behooves us to set aside our preconceptions or our beliefs that ‘The Reformation’ began on October 31, 1517. It didn’t. It began in 1515 in Glarus. And it began in 1517 in Wittenberg. And it began in Geneva in 1536.

Happy Reformations Days.

On ‘Reformation Day’- Again, On this ‘Reformation Sunday’

‘Reformation Day?  No!’*

The Reformation’ is a misnomer if ever there were one, for in fact there was no ‘one’ Reformation any more than there was just one Reformer. ‘The Reformation’, when used by students and the general public, usually refers to the Reformation of Martin Luther which commenced at the end of October in the year of our Lord, 1517.

Even then, though, Luther’s intent wasn’t as earth-shattering as later ages took it to be. For Luther, the placement of a series of theses in Latin on the Church Door at Wittenberg Castle was nothing more than an invitation to debate. In other words, Luther didn’t see his act as the commencement of a revolution; he saw it as an academic exercise.

‘The Reformation’ is, then, little more than a label derived from historical hindsight gazing mono-focularly at a series of events over a period of time across a wide geographical landscape. Each Reformer had roots sunk in fertile ground and their work was simply the coming to fruition of generations of shift in the Roman Catholic Church.

Hence, it would be more appropriate to speak of ‘Reformations’ in the same way that we now speak of ‘Judaisms’ and ‘Christianities’. The Reformation was no monolith.

Who, then were the Reformers who gave birth to the Reformations most closely associated with them? They were Huldrych Zwingli, Martin Luther, and John Calvin, in just that order.

In 1515 while he was Pastor of the village Church in Glarus, Huldrych Zwingli began to call into question the dependence of the Church on the teachings of the Scholastics. He also questioned the value of the Vulgate for preaching and began earnest study of the Greek New Testament. There, memorizing the letters of Paul (in Greek) he discovered the Gospel which would come to feature so prominently in his Reforming efforts: Salvation is by grace, through faith, and not through works as proclaimed by the Scholastic theologians. By 1519, when he moved to Zurich to become the Pastor of the Great Minster, Zwingli was already well on his way to Reforming the worship of the Church and the administration of the ‘Sacraments’. In short order, within a few years, the Mass was abandoned and replaced by the ‘Lord’s Supper’ and the fixation of the Church on images was denounced and those images removed in due course.

Zwingli’s Reformation was carried out with the cooperation of the City government, which is why Zwingli, along with Luther and Calvin, were to be known to history as ‘Magisterial Reformers’. Not because they were ‘Magisterial’ but because each had the support of their city’s magistrates.

North of Zurich, in Wittenberg, Luther’s Reformatory efforts were coming to full steam around the same time. In 1520 he broke with Rome irrevocably with the publication of his stunning ‘On The Babylonian Captivity of the Church’. From there, there was to be no turning back. And here we must remind ourselves that at this juncture Luther was not dependent on the work of Zwingli, nor was Zwingli dependent on the work of Luther. Both were pursuing reform along parallel tracks, separately.

Further to the West of Switzerland a decade later John Calvin, an exile from France, a lawyer by training and a theologian by training and desire, began his own efforts at Reform. Several years after Zwingli’s death and long after Luther’s demise Calvin plodded away in Geneva attempting manfully to bring that raucous city to heel under the power of the Gospel.

Each of these Reformers were ‘Fathers’ of their own Reformation. Each was, originally, independent of the other and in many ways they tried very hard to retain that independence even when their common foe, the Church of Rome, was the target as their common enemy. Each contributed to ‘The Reformation’ in their own unique way.

If, then, we wish to honor their memory and their efforts, it behooves us to set aside our preconceptions or our beliefs that ‘The Reformation’ began on October 31, 1517. It didn’t. It began in 1515 in Glarus. And it began in 1517 in Wittenberg. And it began in Geneva in 1536.

Happy Reformations Days.

____________________

*Posted previously but reposted here once again.

A New Volume To Look For: Matthias Freudenberg- Reformierter Protestantismus in der Herausforderung

Matthias Freudenberg’s new volume through LIT Verlag looks to be a worthwhile read.  Freudenberg is a tremendous writer so this will be something to acquire:

Die in diesem Buch zusammengestellten Texte wollen exemplarisch Wege und Wandlungen einer Konfession beschreiben, die maßgeblich durch Johannes Calvin und Ulrich Zwingli sowie im 20. Jahrhundert durch Karl Barth geprägt wurde. Über die genannten theologischen Köpfe hinaus verdanken sich solche konfessionellen Prägungen aber auch der Vitalität der Gemeinden und Kirchen, wie umgekehrt theologische Konzepte das kirchliche Leben zu orientieren, bisweilen zu korrigieren und zu erneuern vermögen. Dass die versammelte Gemeinde ein unverzichtbarer Kontext, Bewährungsraum und Korrektiv theologischer Gedanken ist, bringt auf ihre Weise die auf dem Umschlag abgedruckte Abendmahlsdarstellung des Glasfensters im Chorraum der Ev.-ref. Kirche zu Wuppertal-Schöller zum Ausdruck: Kirche ist die durch ihren Herrn zusammengerufene Gemeinde, die das Privileg hat, die Freundlichkeit des dreieinigen Gottes zu schmecken und zu sehen (Ps 34,9) sowie ihm mit zuverlässiger Erkenntnis und herzlichem Vertrauen (Heidelberger Katechismus, Frage 21) zu begegnen. Zur zuverlässigen Erkenntnis leitet die Theologie an und leistet der Kirche dadurch einen notwendigen Dienst. Nicht allein durch gelebte Frömmigkeit und Spiritualität, sondern auch durch theologische Reflexion wird die Kirche zu ihrem Ursprung zurückgeführt. Die (nach Gottes Wort) reformierte Theologie hat dazu bedenkenswerte Beiträge geliefert und verfügt über das Potenzial, auch in Zukunft an der Erneuerung der ganzen Kirche mitzuwirken.

Opinions and Viewpoints

Following you’ll find a list of people whose opinions matter to me and whose viewpoints I value (though not in such a way that I’m willing to slavishly follow them).  I offer said listing in response to a question I was sent on Facebook (itself responding to a posting from earlier today) .  To be precise the question was

If you don’t care about McGrath’s opinion, whose do you care about?

An excellent question.  I answer- the opinions of these:

God, my wife and daughter, my father-in-law and mother in-law, Bob Cargill, Chris Tilling, Israel Finkelstein, Antonio Lombatti, Giovanni Garbini, Niels Peter Lemche, Thomas Thompson, James Crossley, Maurice Casey, Steph Fisher, Philip Davies, and Keith Whitelam.  And that’s pretty much it.

The persons whose viewpoints I value (aside from the above who are all alive whilst these are dead) :

Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard von Rad, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Johannes Oecolampadius, and Huldrych Zwingli.

To be sure, I value the opinions and viewpoints of others, but when it comes right down to it and everything is boiled to the essentials, these are the core group.  If you didn’t make the list don’t feel too bad.  First, you probably don’t care about my opinion anyway (so you can’t really be too hurt).  And second, you’re in the majority if your opinion isn’t all that important to me.  So there’s that.

Opinions and viewpoints.  If we’re all honest (a virtue virtually abandoned these days) we would all admit that some people mean more to us than others.

Quote of the Day

This then is true; not all scholars can preach, and not all preachers can become scholars. There are varying degrees of both, but the best preachers have generally been men of the best training in the schools. This is all that can be said and it is enough. For each man wants to do the most that is in him for the glory of God. The leading examples of preaching will confirm this statement. Paul was an educated man, and so was John Chrysostom, the Golden Mouthed preacher of later days. Luther was a theological professor. Calvin preached every day for a long time while professor of theology at Geneva. John Knox learned Greek and Hebrew between the ages of forty and fifty. Whitefield and Wesley, the great popular preachers, were Oxford men. — A.T. Robertson

Following Up on the Doctrine of Prayer

The previous post on the Archbishop’s call for children to be taught the Lord’s Prayer seemed to strike a chord- so, as a little followup, let me direct folk to the fullest treatment of the ‘theology’ of prayer in the Reformed tradition:  John Calvin’s Institutes, III.20.  In particular (though the entire section is stunning in its brilliance) do note III.20.4-

Engraved from the original oil painting in the...

Let the first rule of right prayer then be, to have our heart and mind framed as becomes those who are entering into converse with God. This we shall accomplish in regard to the mind, if, laying aside carnal thoughts and cares which might interfere with the direct and pure contemplation of God, it not only be wholly intent on prayer, but also, as far as possible, be borne and raised above itself. I do not here insist on a mind so disengaged as to feel none of the gnawings of anxiety; on the contrary, it is by much anxiety that the fervor of prayer is inflamed. Thus we see that the holy servants of God betray great anguish, not to say solicitude, when they cause the voice of complaint to ascend to the Lord from the deep abyss and the jaws of death. What I say is, that all foreign and extraneous cares must be dispelled by which the mind might be driven to and fro in vague suspense, be drawn down from heaven, and kept groveling on the earth. When I say it must be raised above itself, I mean that it must not bring into the presence of God any of those things which our blind and stupid reason is wont to devise, nor keep itself confined within the little measure of its own vanity, but rise to a purity worthy of God.

What’s he on about?  He wants readers to know that prayer must first and foremost be a purposeful engaging with the Divine.  Purposefulness, it has to be admitted, lies outside the grasp of those devoid of faith.  Faith is the first factor of prayer and without faith there is no prayer.  None.

Calvin on the Inspiration of Scripture: Contra Sophists Ancient and Modern

In his commentary on 2 Tim 3:16 Calvin writes

First, he commends the Scripture on account of its authority; and secondly, on account of the utility which springs from it. In order to uphold the authority of the Scripture, he declares that it is divinely inspired; for, if it be so, it is beyond all controversy that men ought to receive it with reverence. This is a principle which distinguishes our religion from all others, that we know that God hath spoken to us, and are fully convinced that the prophets did not speak at their own suggestion, but that, being organs of the Holy Spirit, they only uttered what they had been commissioned from heaven to declare. Whoever then wishes to profit in the Scriptures, let him first of all, lay down this as a settled point, that the Law and the Prophets are not a doctrine delivered according to the will and pleasure of men, but dictated by the Holy Spirit.

And then –

If it be objected, “How can this be known?” I answer, both to disciples and to teachers, God is made known to be the author of it by the revelation of the same Spirit. Moses and the prophets did not utter at random what we have received from their hand, but, speaking at the suggestion of God, they boldly and fearlessly testified, what was actually true, that it was the mouth of the Lord that spake. The same Spirit, therefore, who made Moses and the prophets certain of their calling, now also testifies to our hearts, that he has employed them as his servants to instruct us. Accordingly, we need not wonder if there are many who doubt as to the Author of the Scripture; for, although the majesty of God is displayed in it, yet none but those who have been enlightened by the Holy Spirit have eyes to perceive what ought, indeed, to have been visible to all, and yet is visible to the elect alone. This is the first clause, that we owe to the Scripture the same reverence which we owe to God; because it has proceeded from him alone, and has nothing belonging to man mixed with it.

But most importantly for present purposes

And is profitable – Now follows the second part of the commendation, that the Scripture contains a perfect rule of a good and happy life. When he says this, he means that it is corrupted by sinful abuse, when this usefulness is not sought. And thus he indirectly censures those unprincipled men who fed the people with vain speculations, as with wind. For this reason we may in the present day, condemn all who, disregarding edification, agitate questions which, though they are ingenious, are also useless. Whenever ingenious trifles of that kind are brought forward, they must be warded off by this shield, that “Scripture is profitable.” Hence it follows, that it is unlawful to treat it in an unprofitable manner; for the Lord, when he gave us the Scriptures, did not intend either to gratify our curiosity, or to encourage ostentation, or to give occasion for chatting and talking, but to do us good; and, therefore, the right use of Scripture must always tend to what is profitable.

The third paragraph could as easily be leveled at the Sophists of today as it was at the Sophists of Calvin’s day- whose interest in Scripture isn’t determined by any desire to be profited by it but to treat it as a curiosity, an antiquity that needs to be excavated but whose meaning is meaningless for daily life.