Saturday, September 12, 2009

Calvin and His “Papacy”: Which Authority Will You Choose?

Calvin and His “Papacy” What Authority Will You Choose?

I read many “Reformed” blogs on the Net. Many of them love to contrive false arguments against the papacy claiming that the papacy has posed its authority over Christ Himself. This of course is nonsense, for the papacy is in complete obedience to Christ. Yet, “Reformers” are always complaining of Rome trying to assert its power over them. What I find so amusing is that the “Reformed” apologists fail to see the very same characteristic in their hero John Calvin. Calvin was so disgusted with the papacy that he went into Geneva and created something far beyond what the papacy had ever done before him. Calvin gained control over the city government, drew up his own set of laws and turned himself into judge, jury and executioner over Geneva's citizens. Calvin turned Geneva into a living hell for the many people who opposed his tyrannical regime. Geneva was anything but free after Calvin's second arrival to Geneva. His first attempt to corrupt the city was met with resistance. Later however, when a change of power had occurred in the city, he was asked to return.

In 1541 Calvin drew up what he called the Ecclesiastical Ordinances. Calvin had claimed that he was going back to the ecclesial organization of the apostolic times. Although it may have been a noble idea, the fruits of this did not turn out as he had hoped. The arrogance and pride of Calvin ended up causing one of the most corrupt cities of the Reformation era. For those in Geneva who had previously opposed the power of the papacy, they had a rude awakening once Calvin gained control over the city government.

Calvin was able to get the city to agree to appoint a group of clergy that called themselves the Consistory to oversee everyday life and law within the city. This group set up a spy network to keep an eye on all parishes and citizens in the city. Of course there were many in the city who did not care for Calvin's organization, and many were forced to leave the city because they did not agree with it. Calvin gained further control among the city elites and was slowly controlling the lives of its citizens even penalizing people who did not go to church on Sundays! For Calvin, a guy who prided himself on being “Biblical”, went against the Biblical examples of Saint Paul. Instead Calvin fined people or drove people out of town for not following his rules. An effective spy network was formulated and people were summoned before the Consistory if someone's actions were called into question. A woman who had organized a ball for her newly wedded daughter was banished from the city for doing so. There were cases of men and women dating regularly and being summoned before the council to be reprimanded for seeing too much of each other. Many were “excommunicated” for not following the Consistory's commands. This control of course was not accepted favorably by many in the city.

Later an opposing group called the Libertines attempted to subvert Calvin's regime and brought forth a Spanish scholar, Michael Servetus, to challenge Calvin. Although Servetus was also certainly a heretic, Calvin's minions squashed his challenge and in 1553 Servetus was murdered and burned at the stake. Some reports say that Calvin used green wood on the fire to make his death more agonizing. Servetus however was not the first victim of Calvin and his minions who was judged and condemned to death. Many people focus on the Servetus affair forgetting about poor Jacques Gruet who was brutally tortured and murdered for writing a letter criticizing Calvin. Most Calvinists do their best to ignore this event of 1547. Gruet was brutally tortured for a month, after which he was beheaded! That was not enough for Calvin's vengeful tastes, so he then turned to punish Gruet's family, which he had thrown into the street where they watched their home get torched and burned to the ground. They were then sent into exile. The power hungry Calvin was far worse than the “evil” papacy he had rejected. Within five years at least 58 people were murdered by the hand of Calvin and his henchmen, and many more driven out of the city for opposing him. Once the Libertines were finally driven out of Geneva in 1555, one of Calvin's henchmen Theodore Beza said, “It is said that the devil departed with the fugitives.” Likewise others who opposed them were labeled to be “arms of the devil.”

Calvin also thought very highly of himself and his lifelong work called the “Institutes”, which he was constantly revising. It ended up being 80 chapters after he was finally finished. Calvin wrote, "I labored at the task [writing The Institutes] especially for our Frenchmen, for I saw that many were hungering and thirsting after Christ and yet that only a few had any real knowledge of him." In 1552 his Council posed his theological work as being a “holy doctrine” which no man could speak against. What I find so amusing about this guy is that he claimed Scripture was supposed to be the simple rule of faith to follow, yet he saw fit to spend a great deal of his life formulating his own theological work of over 1000 pages (depending on which edition you refer), to explain that simple rule of faith. If Calvin was so sure that anyone could read and understand the Scriptures for themselves, why not just hand them all Bibles instead of formulating his own 1000 page theological discourse? Like all Protestants, they do not practice what they preach. Calvinists spend hours reading Calvin's work rather than reading the Scriptures which they hail as being their only rule of faith.

Over the course of Calvin's reign, many citizens of Geneva who had been there long before Calvin were sent into exile. Many were fined for not following Calvin's strict worship schedule. Gian Pozzy wrote in an article, “In 1541, Calvin inflicted a fine of three sous for whomever should miss divine service, arrive late or leave before the end.” (Gian Pozzy, "How Calvin invented punctuality, 500 years ago") Many others received other types of punishments ranging from mere fines to death sentences. Calvin had put himself and his regime in place of Christ on earth. He thought he could create a utopia based on his own idea of what Sacred Scripture taught, but instead instituted a living hell for the citizens of Geneva. Calvin's corrupt regime arguably spread more heresy across Europe than any group before it. Saint Francis DeSales rightly said of Calvin's Geneva, “There is not a city in Europe which offers more facilities for the encouragement of heresy,...What shall I say of its magnificent printing establishments, by means of which the city floods the world with its wicked books…?” Although Calvin had his admirers, the best day for many citizens of Geneva and those who were exiled from the city was May 31, 1564, when Calvin died and was put in the ground. In the end Calvin had substituted his own evil regime for the papacy. The only problem for Calvin is that his authority was not given to him by Christ. It was not divinely appointed. In the end man will either substitute himself for Christ's authority, or he will follow the only authority given to man by Christ, His only Church. Calvin's ideas would not stop there. We saw the same mentality in the Puritans when they came over to America.

Unfortunately for Calvin, Christ did not say he would build His Church on Calvin and his regime. No, Christ said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:17-19) Those who call themselves Christians will freely choose to put their faith in one of two places; they will either choose to put their faith in themselves and their own interpretation of Scripture, or they will put their faith in Christ and the Church to which He gave the keys of His authority.


Alex said...

Reminds me of the Taliban.

Constantino della Brazos said...

Very good Post! I've posted some of this material before, but it must never be forgotten. I'm glad that I'm not the only person who's out there to remind people.

Have a look at Chapter XXXI of the Westminster Confession, a product of the Calvinist Paradigm, and what it does to the legitimacy of Church Councils. Doesn't it remind you of the Nietzschean Superman who makes his own laws? DOes thois not make Calvin a Nietzsche before Nietzsche's time?

Paul said...


I suppose your readers might think Calvin a pretty bad guy, until you compare him to the popes of Rome during the Reformation.

For 100 years before Calvin, your popes had a lovely little pre-Lenten tradition where they would have the Jews of Rome forcibly stripped naked and run through the streets. All the while, encouraging the good Catholics to pelt them with whatever could be thrown. And the pope was content to sit on his ornate balcony and howl at the festivities. It wasn’t until 100 years after Calvin that the practice was deemed “unseemly”.

And where, you might ask, did all those Jews come from?

They came from the ghettos where they were forced to live by your popes - for 400 years! These ghettos were spread throughout the Papal States and were vigorously enforced. The one at the steps of the Vatican was home to as many a 7,000 Jews and covered only 40 acres. Sometimes 7 families had to live in three rooms, the only light they had came in through the front door and there was little, if any, sanitation. The lovely magisterium would orchestrate midnight raids into the ghettos and forcibly separate children from their parents.

In fact, no one was safe in the Papal States as anyone could be arrested and held without charges at the whim of the ecclesial authorities. Lovely, don’t you think? In fact, one Catholic scholar notes that the Papal States were “notorious everywhere for their monsignorial mismanagement and social backwardness.” In later years, it would earn the distinction of being the most poorly managed state in Europe; which is why the Italians had to throw them out.

So given the fact that Calvin only lived for 55 years and that the Catholic Church perpetrated such human rights abuses for more than 800 years, the question really is how could anyone with a conscience pledge their allegiance to Rome? It is simply unthinkable.

Compared to the medieval and Renaissance popes, Calvin was a boy scout.

Peace to you, Matthew.

James Bellisario said...

That is the best you have? "My guy is not as bad as your guy?" Your hero Calvin was a tyrant. Did you even get the main point of the article?

Anonymous said...

I detest Calvinistic teaching, which I consider as evil as any other cultic theology. That being said, this quote, seemingly lost and insignificant among your many words, reveals the failure of your own heart.

"Like all Protestants, they do not practice what they preach."

Yes, unlike all Protestants, certainly "all Catholics" are completely devoid of hypocrisy, even for an instant!

Does your lack of judgment and humility betray a lack of personal relationship? Do you claim to accept the scriptures, then make them void through your traditions? (Mark 7:13)

Come down from your false beliefs and join the rest of us sinners (and yes, at times, hypocrites) here on the ground, thankful for the gift of Jesus, one name, one intercessor, one advocate, one mediator.

Grace and peace!

Unknown said...

Why would I follow a man (Calvin or the Pope) when I have God's Word right in front of me. Catholics all too often criticize Protestants like Matthew has, but completely miss the point that Protestants (at least nowadays) elevate God's Word above people. People are sinners and are prone to make mistakes and give out false information. What any protestant worth listening to would be to point you to the Scriptures to see for yourself if what he is saying is true. People will always let you down - even Calvin, even the Pope. What you need to do is to hear what He has to say "straight from the horse's mouth" to use a common expression.

James Bellisario said...

When you decide for yourself what God's Word is and interpret on your own accord, you are making yourself a "pope." Ask yourself the simple question as to why you and all Protestants like yourself all disagree as to what God's word actually means. You elevate yourself above God's Word, which is exactly what your forefathers like Luther and Calvin did. Also I find it odd that your user name is Marty Luther. It seems you are elevating him by identifying yourself with him!