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Friday, July 10, 2009

Portrait Of A Man: John Calvin


John Calvin was born 500 years ago today, at a time when France still produced real men. He was originally a Catholic, having been sent to the finest universities to study with an intent on joining the priesthood. While completing his education, he was converted to Christianity through the work of his cousin, Olivetan, and his exposure to the teachings of Martin Luther. Like all church fathers, he was heavily influenced by those who had gone before him. Calvin's writings are filled with doctrines taught by Luther and especially Augustine.
In 1536, he sought to travel to Strasburg, France, but was forced to make a detour to avoid the armies of the Imperial and French forces which were maneuvering near there.
In God's providence, he ended up at Geneva, Switzerland. Calvin intended only to stay the night, but a friend of his, William Farel, implored Calvin in very forcible terms, to remain in Geneva.
He was eventually given the pulpit, and the great work of reforming the town began.
Unfortunately, the corrupt town leaders had Calvin and Farel thrown out after they refused to serve the Lord's table to unrepentant individuals.
Martin Bucer, another important reformer, asked Calvin to come preach in Strasbourg and after some argument, Calvin agreed.
Meanwhile, Geneva was in trouble.
A Catholic cardinal named Sadoleto had sent them an letter inviting them back to the Roman Catholic church. Sadoleto's letter was so eloquent that none of the leadership could refute him. So they called on Calvin to defend them. In return for his defense, they would allow him to establish the church unhindered.
After a series of letters, Sadoleto relented.
The work now began in earnest. Many reformed scholars from all over the world came to study under Calvin. John Knox later said that Geneva was the closest thing to the New Testament church that he had ever seen.
Throughout his life, John Calvin was a busy man, from writing books, his most well known Institutes of the Christian Religion was edited at least four times, to organizing missionary trips to Brazil. He has come under extreme ridicule regarding his actions in the execution of Michael Servetus. Servetus was a Roman Catholic who denied the doctrine of the Trinity and was promptly declared a heritic by both the Catholics and the Reformers. When Servetus suddenly dropped in on Geneva, he was instantly arrested. After a thourough trial, he was condemned to be burned at the stake. Contrary to popular belief, John Calvin not only refused to lead the trial, but he strongly dissaproved of burning Servetus at the stake.
After a lengthy illness, he died in Geneva on May 27th, 1564, after serving the Lord faithfully for many years.
He is one of the most influential men in the history of the world.

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5 Comments:

Blogger Johnson said...

Thanks, Stephen for the brief history! Good job.

July 11, 2009 at 8:11 AM  
Blogger Green Gardening Girl said...

Hey that's my dad's birthday!

July 13, 2009 at 7:15 PM  
Blogger Son3 said...

"...John Calvin not only refused to lead the trial, but he strongly dissaproved of burning Servetus at the stake."

I had heard this story as well, but I didn't know it wasn't true.

What did Calvin want to do with him instead? I haven't found a reliable source on that, and thought you might have the answer.

July 28, 2009 at 9:50 AM  
Blogger Stephen Boyd said...

Thanks, everyone!

Son3:
Calvin did believe that Servetus should be executed. He specifically recommended beheading, which was obviously more humane than burning at the stake. Pastor Joe Morecraft talks about this in his excellent free audio series on the History of the Reformation, available on sermonaudio.com.

July 28, 2009 at 10:54 AM  
Blogger Son3 said...

Thanks for your help, Stephen!

I've been doing research on this and other things, but I wasn't sure which accounts of the event were true.

Thanks again!

July 28, 2009 at 11:08 AM  

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