John Calvin

Discussion in '2003 Archive' started by Aaron, Mar 17, 2003.

  1. Aaron

    Aaron
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    Did John Calvin really rule Geneva with an iron fist?

    Did he order the burning of Michael Servetus?

    I've decided to research these allegations and see what truth, if any, is really in them. I've started this thread to keep you abreast of my research as it progresses.

    Of course, with my Pilgrim's Progress project still going on, this will not be answered overnight.

    I'm starting with the burning of Michael Servetus since that appears to be the most notorious event in Reformation history. Thus far I am finding evidence that Calvin did NOT so order, and that his was the sole voice lifted in Servetus' defense.

    More to come. I'll post some citations later. Time to go to choir practice.
     
  2. rlvaughn

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    I'm no great fan of Calvin the person, but I think history will show that his participation in atrocities has been greatly exaggerated. Neither do I think you will find him innocent in the Servetus affair.
     
  3. A.J.Armitage

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    Did John Calvin really rule Geneva with an iron fist?

    IIRC, he didn't even hold office. He was just really, really influential.

    Did he order the burning of Michael Servetus?

    No, the court did, and Calvin was the prosecuter, although he had argued for a lighter sentence (although still death, as I recall).

    I suspect Servetus would have done the same to Calvin, if he'd had the power.
     
  4. Aaron

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    Here is an account on the web. It has been called biased, but bias does not concern me. My question is "What is the truth?"

    http://www.whatloveisthis.com/stickelberger.html

    I will certainly look at other resources not found on the web. I have a Catholic book on my shelves which has a chapter on the Reformation dealing both Luther and Calvin.

    This account brings things to our eyes that anti-Calvin proponents neglect:

    </font>
    • The debauchery of Servetus and his true reasons for going to Geneva</font>
    • Calvin's pleas for mitigation in the sentence</font>
    • The strong opposition, abuse, and assassination of character Calvin faced on every hand (much like that of our Lord.)</font>
     
  5. qwerty

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    From this web page:
    http://www.geocities.com/calvinismheresy/defenders.html

    ([An answer to a question:])
    If [your] criticism has any merit, then one might well ask why weren't any others executed for heresy in Calvin's Geneva, especially during the time when Calvin actually had some control over the city Council? (which he did not during the trial and execution of Servetus. In fact, Calvin was not even a citizen of Geneva and had no
    voting power).


    Answer: I would gladly agree with you. But Calvin himself says that he wanted to kill Servetus, and that he has killed him! Check it, for yourself,

    "Seven years previously [before the execution of Servetus], Calvin wrote to Farel a letter in which he stated:
    "Servetus lately wrote to me, and coupled with his letter a long volume of his delirious fancies, with the Thrasonic boast, that I should see something astonishing and unheard of. He takes it upon him to come hither, if it be agrreable to me. But I am unwilling to pledge my word for his safety, for if he shall come, I shall never permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail." (288). [....]


    It was not only before the trial and during the trial that Calvin expressed his hope for the death of Servetus, but after the trial as well. Within six months of the condemnation of Servetus, Calvin wrote a book defending his actions. In his Defense of the Orthodox Trinity Against the Errors of Michael Servetus, Calvin defended the use of the civil sword to execute religious "heretics" and maintaned that "whoever shall now contend that it is unjust to put heretics and blasphemers to death will knowingly and willingly incur their very guilt." (306) [....]

    In a 1561 letter from Calvin to the marquis de Poet, high chamberlain to the King of Navarre, he says intolerantly:
    "Honour, glory, and riches shall be the reward of your pains: but above all, do not fail to rid the country of those zealous scoundrels who stir up the people to revolt against us. Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard." (309)."


    (Laurence M. Vance, The Other Side of Calvinism, Revised Edition,Vance Publications, Pensacola, FL, 1999, pp. 92, 94, 95.)
     
  6. qwerty

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  7. Pete Richert

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    It was my understanding that he wasn't the prosecutor but that he testified against him (and Calvin was quite the orator; I hope I spelled that correctly). If Calvin did have as much influence as many claim, then indeed it was a sinfil act. It is not as if we believe in all of Calvin's theology anyway. Even though, having read some of his works, and whitnessing his extreme love for God and the Christian church, I believe he was a mind mightily used of God. I say used of God since the only way anyone does anything valuable for the Christian chruch is when God lifts him up and not the other way around. Another way to say it, God used Calvin in a mighty way despite Calvin's weakness, sin, and shortcomings.

    I find it interesting that we can be so judgemental of a man who would sentence someone to death whose heretical teachings leads other to eternal torment and hell fire yet support dropping bombs on a city that will surely kill children, even babies who have yet to even know what is being fought over.
     
  8. russell55

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    I think it is important to remember that absolutely everyone at that time (except the Mennonites--and this was a relatively recent change in their stance as well) felt it was right and proper to execute heretics. Almost every city state at that time executed heretics.

    Do I think this was right? Absolutely not. But this act also ought to be judged within the context of the times and not by looking back at it through the lense of the present.

    I think you are correct in this. And I also think that Calvin was "on the outs" with the city officials at the time, something that Michael Servatus thought would work to his advantage, but it was a miscalculation on his part.

    It IS clear that Calvin supported the death penalty for Michael Servatus, but did not like the particular method chosen by the court. He would have prefered the quicker method of the sword to a lingering death by burning at the stake.
     
  9. D.R.

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    I think before one considers the so-called "atrosities" of Calvin, they might better check the Old Testament for an atrosity committed by a certain King David, who killed a man himself, but without any cause. It might also be important to note that persecution had not taken place in a few hundred years (in wide scale) and many of the reformers held to a position of post-millenialism wherein they would usher in the kingdom of God and execute all those who stood in their way (much like God told the Israelites to do when they entered Canaan). All Christian groups make mistakes in their era. Look at Baptists and slavery, or even Baptists and the civil rights movement. And I fear soon it will be Baptists and abortion.

    What men like Dave Hunt (What Love is This: The Misrepresentation of the God in Calvinism) try to do is to use this as a means of putting down their theology (which is called an ad hominem fallacy). Calvin obviously was not right in all he did, neither was Luther or even Zwingli. But hey neither is Jerry Falwell or Al Mohler. There are also many stories about Adrian Rogers and W.A. Criswell that should make us angry, but the truth is that God loves us despite our stupid mistakes and even uses us despite them as well. In Calvinist theology, God ordains that we stumble so that He might overcome those mistakes with His undying love and discipline so that we might glorify Him more. Calvin exemplified this. I believe it is time to put away our swords, learn from the past, and critique the man's theology, not the man Himself. If we did this across the board, none would be righteous, no not one, and we would most definately have to throw out many of the Psalms.
    dr
     
  10. Monergist

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    Here's an historical account from long before the bias of Hunt & Company. From Fox's Book of Martyr's http://www.ccel.org/f/foxe_j/martyrs/fox113.htm

     
  11. qwerty

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    Calvin, in his own words:

    (Before the trial – premeditated)

    “But I am unwilling to pledge my word for his (Servetus) safety, for if he shall come, I shall never permit him to depart alive, provided my authority be of any avail."

    (After the trial – gloating)

    “Such monsters should be exterminated, as I have exterminated Michael Servetus the Spaniard."
     
  12. Aaron

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    I just finished the chapter in the Catholic book I have. I'll post a summary later. I found it amusing this Catholic priest could upbraid Calvin for burning a heretic, and a true heretic at that!
     
  13. Harald

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    "I find it interesting that we can be so judgemental of a man who would sentence someone to death whose heretical teachings leads other to eternal torment and hell fire.." (Pete Richert)

    This statement shows ignorance. No one has ever gone to perdition because of believing someone else's heretical teachings. The New Testament will not back up such a fallacious notion. Heresy ought to be condemned, but nowhere in the NT did the apostles or other followers of Christ act like Calvin, nor even reason like him, nor like the above man who I quoted. They were no persecutors nor slayers of heretics. Their mode of dealing with them was rebuke and separation.

    The verse so esteemed by professing believers, John 3:16, shows a man's own sins, the sum total of them, is the cause of going to perdition.
    The verb for "perish" is in the Greek in the middle voice - "...not should bring perdition to himself...", "not should destroy himself" being possible literal renderings. Mr. Richert is free to give proof from the NT that his view is Biblical, but I doubt he can. If I go to perdition one day I can never ever blame it on someone else's heretical false gospel or theology I may have believed. Believing a false gospel is a very sad and deplorable thing, and it deludes people into a false hope, which they often cherish even unto death, thinking they are "born again Christians" because of something they have done on earth. When such come before Christ the Judge the books will be opened and they will be sentenced to eternal perdition based on the sum total of their sins, including Adam's sin imputed, which is the ground of their condemnation. Condemnation, the curse of the law, not having been lifted off a person in time will damn them, and condemnation is due to sin. By one man's disobedience, Adam's, sentence was passed upon all men to condemnation. If God does not remove this condemnation a man will perish eternally. To them who it is removed by the grace of Christ there is no perdition.

    Calvin was himself a heretic, but I have never heard of any contemporary non-papist wishing or trying to slay him on account of it. I find it interesting that Calvin was allegedly so brilliant a man and allegedly a Spirit-filled man, yet never arrived to a God-wrought conviction of the rightness of being baptized by immersion at the hands of such who had authority to administer it to him. Nor with his intelligence did he come to a God-wrought conviction of infant baptism being heretical so as to separate from that crowd of heretics. To me this speaks volumes of his having been a bastard and not a son. God the Son promised to His own that He shall lead them into all truth. If Calvin was of Christ why did Christ fail so manifestly miserably to teach him the doctrine of godliness in its entirety and fullness? A solemn thing to ponder for those who go about praising and canonizing the mortal man John Calvin.

    Harald
     
  14. Pastor Larry

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    Are you aware of anyone who does this?
     
  15. Aaron

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    My Catholic author, Rev. Konrad Algermissen, said this:
    We already know from the Stickleberger account that the only truth in this statement is that Michael Servetus was burned (and is still burning, BTW). Servetus went to Geneva to oust Calvin; he was not "passing through." He thought because of the strength of the Libertine party and the trouble they were giving Calvin was all he needed to win. His whereabouts in Geneva were well-known and he was given ample time to be gone. The city magistrates seized him and sentenced him to death by burning. Calvin argued for mitigation, but was scorned by the council.

    As Stickleberger noted, heretics were known to be killed by the sword in other Reformed and Lutheran states, but it is this account that gets the press.

    If putting Servetus to death was erroneous, it was an error of the time, not of Calvin.

    Geneva was the Las Vegas of Sweden before Calvin came in—no, was begged to intervene. Before it was over Calvin was exiled and then was sent another plea to return. Despite his contempt for Calvin, and the Reformation in general, Algermissen was forced to admit that when Calvin's reforms finally won out, the city prospered.
    Hardly the "fiasco" characterized in another thread.

    Algermissen is also forced to admire one aspect of Calvin's theology.
     
  16. Mark R

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    reformedreader.com has some excellent books online. Look at John Quincy Adams "Baptists Thorough Reformers" if youever get the time. The church-states were all guilty of persecution. I always get the feeling that I would like Luther and Calvin more than they would have liked me. Baptists took a beating from the mainline Protestants.
     

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