Calvin The European World
Recap: • Luther & Zwingli split on the issues of: • The ‘presence’ of Christ in the Eucharist. • The legality (or not) of images. • Protestantism diverged into ‘Lutheran’ & ‘Reformed’ traditions. • A ‘Swiss’ rather than a ‘German’ event? • 1525 – Zwingli could have been the man we remember.
Captain Grumpy to the rescue: Many suggest that Calvin ‘saved’ Protestantism after Luther died/ remaining Lutherans split between Melanchthon and others/ Zwingli’s Zurich blocked from expanding by surrounding cantons.
The Majesty of God: ‘Our wisdom…..consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves….. man never attains true self-knowledge until he has contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself’.
‘The miserable ruin into which the revolt of the first man [Adam & Eve] has plunged us, compels us to turn our eyes upwards[where]….being aroused by fear may learn humility. For as there exists in man something like a world of misery, and ever since we were stript of the divine attire our naked shame discloses an immense series of disgraceful properties every man, being stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness, in this way necessarily obtains at least some knowledge of God. Thus, our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, total depravity and corruption, reminds us that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness’.
‘Hence that dread and amazement with which holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm and secure so quaking with terror, that the fear of death takes hold of them, nay, they are, in a manner, swallowed up and annihilated, the inference to be drawn is that men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God’
Three pre-requisites to understanding Calvin: • 1) Humanity is fundamentally unworthy of God: • Augustine – ‘lump of perdition’ • That God is prepared to save ANY person is a remarkable testament to his mercy. • 2) God is all knowing and all powerful: • Humans are not capable of understanding HIM • Attempts to do so partial, limit His majesty and therefore insult HIM. • Images =idolatry. • 3) Salvation is predestined – human will is constrained and powerless to help: • Idea that human action have any merit with God offensive to Him. • Catholic rituals, mediating Grace, not just unscriptural but anti-Christian • To suggest that people can work towards salvation through their own merits insults Christ • Implies that his death on the Cross was not enough.
Why is Calvinism important? • 1) Catholicism was resurgent: • ‘Counter Reformation’ well under way. • 2) Luther dead in 1546: • Lutheran movement splits. • 3) More transportable than Lutheranism – more akin to a ‘bottom up’ Reformation. • Exist independently of the state. • Practical and coherent statement of belief/ Church structure to help Protestantism flourish into fully-fledged ‘Churches’.
Lecture Structure: • John Calvin • The Genevan Reformation • International Calvinsim • ‘Calvinism’ or ‘The Reformed’? • Calvin & Beyond
Initial difficulties: • Hostility within Geneva, riddled with factions. • 1536 – invited to join French preacher Guillaume Farel • Expelled in 1538. • Strasbourg with Martin Bucer. • Invited back by the city council during 1541 • Hostility to foreign pastors remained: • But huge numbers of French refugees arrive in the 1540s – doubling Geneva’s population - assured Calvin’s ascendency by the mid-1550s. John Calvin: What marked Calvin out from Luther was his education in theology ANDlaw. Rhetorical and analytical skills which later put to good use in sermons/ and formation of Church structure. Statements on theology and structure precise and systematic. Helped with the dissemination to other areas & becoming most successful form of Protestantism.
Differences from Luther: Double Predestination • Salvation for elect; • Damnation for reprobate. • No way of knowing. • Problem: was this not dangerously close to making God the author of evil in the world? • If predestined to salvation and reprobation, was not God a tyrant and an author of sin? • Other Protestants – like Philip Melanchthon – concerned that double predestination was very close to pagan heresies like Stoicism and Manichaeism
Double Predestination • For Calvin, predestination tied to the all-embracing providence of God in every aspect of human life and experience. • Why, after two decades, had the Reformation not swept all before it? • God had surely planned it that way? • God had given a model for how he chose His people in the Old Testament – relationship with Israel.
Calvin looked at Israel and drew a different conclusion: • Israel = OT equivalent of the True Church. • Had been covenanted (joined with God). • Everyone in Israel Elect – ‘general Election’. • But not all of them followed God’s commandments. • Some had clearly been rejected by God. • Because OT Church of God mixed, so would NT. Double Predestination: Israel helped Calvin to develop his view of the Church. Radicals - a state sponsoredChurch could not possibly be a True Church because gathered Elect and Reprobate.
Differences with Luther – Sacraments & Ecclesiology: Sacraments: Ecclesiology: Ecclesiology: More concerned with structures than Luther Emphasis on sanctification of the Elect. Process of becoming a ‘saint’. Regular access to and consideration of God’s word Almost daily sermons Demanding for laity – but could be seen as rewarding. Part of the covenant with God – although actions/good works not actually ‘earn’ salvation, duty bound to perform them. Unlike Luther, prepared to countenance limited right of resistance. • Sacraments: only two – Baptism and Eucharist. • ‘Receptionist’ view of the Eucharist. • Christ present in the Elect. • Not dependent upon the power of the Priest to change matter.
Calvin & the Genevan Reformation: • Small city state reformed by Calvin and Guillaume Farel 1536. • Calvin wrestled for control of the Church with the city authorities. • Ecclesiastical Ordinances (1541) written in response to state encroachment: • Created decision-making and disciplinary bodies for the GenevanChurch • Ahierarchy of authorities alongside those of the city. • Practical application of Luther’s ‘Two Kingdoms’: • Protect Church freedom from misguided rulers. • Not appropriate for the Church to exercise worldly government • Or for secular princes to rule the Church.
New Testament indicated four functions of ministry: • Pastors • General ministry. • Doctors • Teaching – from pastoral to university level. • Elders • Disciplinary work of the Church. • i.e. policing moral behaviour. • Deacons • Communal charity. • Christ’s love in action. Church Structure: Essentially borrowed from Martin Bucer in Strassbourg: Bucerhad been prevented from implementing the model by the city council there. Cerebral religion? Also a faith in which ‘everyday’ activities were intimately connected with acts of Christian worship. Elders, pastors, doctors meet in a city-wide committee – ‘the Consistory’. Not a court like a secular court. Rather, advise and guide people in broken relationships, whether neighbourly or in marriage.
Why was Calvin successful? Context is all: • Changing dynamic of Geneva. • Upsurge of immigration: • 1540-1594 – not a single Genevan minister actually from Geneva. • Sense of God’s chosen. • Sturdy self-confidence in Calvin’s form of Church structure. • Calvin’s Church hierarchy stood in parallel to the civic hierarchy: • Council of 24 (major officers): • Genevans only. • Councils of 60 and 100: • Open to non-Genevans. • Less powerful officers – open to ‘bourgeois’, who could be non-natives • Role within the Church afforded immigrant ‘habitants’ – who had no civil rights – a place in the city. • ‘Two kingdoms’ in practice: • Civil government headed by a small elite of native-born Genevans. • Church was headed by a small exiled group of Frenchmen: • Supported by ‘godly’ refugees. • KEY POINT: this was oddly Catholic – a ministry separate from the state, ministering to all of the population, and taking the moral authority to criticise both.
Michael Servetus trial – 1553: • Denied the Trinity – perpetually on the run. • Arrested by the Inquisition in Lyon. • Proof of his guilt was in Calvin’s filing cabinet! • Although he denied it, this ‘proof’ sound found its way to Lyon • Servetus escaped – ran to Geneva, stumbles into the Church where Calvin was preaching. • Calvin wanted a merciful death for Severtus: • Eventually succumbed to burning after sounding out leading Protestant figures. • Strassbourg Protestants unimpressed, • Accused Geneva of proclaiming ‘its good news with flames’. • Basel authorities used Servetus as a model for why tolerance should rule over persecution. Opposition: Long struggle with internal opposition: Excommunication Consistory; or civil authorities? Protestants, not Catholics - Reform should not have turned out this way Before Calvin, Geneva had resented being lorded over by a tyrannous Bishop: Calvin was looking remarkably similar to some. Even control naming of children – biblical names only!
The ‘Voice’ of Protestantism: By taking charge of case against Servetus – Calvin showed himself not to be one reformer among many, but the voice of Reformed Protestantism.
International Calvinism: • Spread of Calvinism: • Most ‘exportable’ form of Protestantism. • Why? Because it did not require the good-will of the political authorities. • Often built on a pre-existing Lutheran base. • Reversed the chronology of the early Reformation: • Lutheran Reformation: • 1520s-1530s – communities decide to embrace the Reformation message. • Details of liturgy, confessions and church structure worked out afterwards. • Calvinism, IKEA Protestantism: • Ideal-type model of reformed Christianity was available to be ‘flat-packed’ into any region.
Varieties of Reform: • Not inevitably a Reformation ‘from below’/ or a revolution. • Scotland: • 1560: nobles-led revolt against ecclesiastical authorities and French queen-regent. • Resulting national Church strengthened rather than weakened the realm’s integrity • France the polar-opposite: • Protestant revolt against the Valois monarchy • Intermittent religious civil war 1562-1598. • 1555 -> Genevan missionaries active in Alpine Valleys: • Initial dissent from Catholic Church soon turned into public worship. • Duke of Savoy unable to over-power: peace in 1561. • System of individual congregations, provincial and national synods. • ‘Opt-in’ principle of ‘gathered church’. • Destabilised authority • Rent communities in two. • Netherlands: • Reformation meshed with noble complaints about Habsburg rule – aspire to be free of dominion status. • Revolt under the house of Orange-Nassau in 1566 – decades of bloody warfare. • Here – although a minority – Protestants became a voice of a nascent Netherlandish ‘national’ sentiment. • Reluctance to give up ‘gathered’ status even after victory in war of independence from Spain. • Eastern Europe: • Poland, Hungary, Romania • Calvinism thrives in religious patchwork (appeal to anti-German nobles). • Germany: • Calvinist ‘second reformation’, • Heidelberg after conversion of Elector Frederick III 1563.
‘Calvinsim’ or ‘The Reformed’? • Geneva: a Protestant Rome? • Refugees: from 1550s: • England, France, Netherlands, Italy. • Melting pot: share ideas, gather resources, consolation: • Intellectual/logistical centre by proxy. • Inspiring – Calvin has a degree of moral ascendency that other Reformers struggled to achieve. • Moral discipline • Excommunication
John Knox: ‘The most perfect school of Christ that ever was since the days of the Apostles’.
‘Calvinism’ or ‘The Reformed’? • Geneva crucial for French Reformation: • Production of books: • Intense examination of God’s word. • Genevan Bible • Robert Estienne –former official printer of King of France – fled in 1551. • 189 sermons on Book of Acts between 1549-1554. • 174 on Ezekiel between 1552-1554 • 200 on Deuteronomy between 1555-6. • Reception of refugees: • Missionary pastors: • A base for missionaries • From 1559, Academy – school and a seminar. • Condemnation of ‘Nicodemism’: • 1540s – French Calvinists hesitate on the side-lines of the Reformation • Lived as token Catholics and waiting for things to improve. • Calvin – dishonest and offensive to Christ. • Supping with the devil in the hope of safety. • Alternatives: EXILE, or to set up reformed worship (even in a hostile state) and face the consequences. • Distinct from Luther in this regard: • Luther had discouraged initiatives by private individuals to found private Churches (respect for authority/law)
Calvin little direct control • Flexibility/adaptability key to Calvinism’s success: • Finds itself in very different environments. • England: • Calvinist theology and Catholic ecclesiology – Church of England • Tensions with Puritans who cried ‘popery’. Varieties of Reformation: ‘Movement’ a problematic term: Churches had national or local characteristics. Decentralised and unofficial connections Not run from Geneva. Unified by core doctrinal tenets and ideology: Their Reformation was complete Lutheran one was incomplete. Internationalist Lutheran provincial interests Calvinsim a ‘cause’. ‘Mark’ of a True Church – vigorous ecclesiastical discipline
Social Discipline: • If actions of no benefit to salvation – why bother? • Covenant theology: • God’s wrath. • Providence. • Types of behaviour – dancing, drinking, work on Sundays, swearing, fornication: • Policed in the consistory. • Was this against the will of the people?
Shame & Sanctification: Repentance stool, St. Andrews Holy Trinity Church. Edinburgh, Grey Friars.
Calvin & Beyond: • Hard to overstate importance of Calvin to the Reformed movement. • But not static/fixed: • Evolved after his death (1564). • Theodore Beza evolved pastoral elements. • Zurich under Bullinger remained crucial. • Legacy stretched into the next century • Exported to North America.
Concluding points: • Key points: • Survival of Protestantism after Lutheran Church stalled. • Spread across Europe because no need for state help. • Coherence/ form to Church.