You are hereThe Right to Heresy

The Right to Heresy

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By Virgil - Posted on 05 April 2006

by Virgil Vaduva
He killed fifty-seven people; banished seventy-six. Confiscated property of political and theological enemies; took power by public revolt and despotism; he ruled with an iron fist. Iste Gallusthat Frenchman – was the first reference to him in official books and records of Geneva, but his name was Jehan Calvin; an incredible attorney, stellar theologian, a tyrant and a murderer.

The Context

Dieu m’a fait la grace de declarer ce qu’est bon et mauvais – God has been gracious enough to reveal unto me good and evil.” – John Calvin

Without a doubt, our detractors will accuse of us being mean-spirited and unnecessarily rough in our treatment of Calvin, but what needs to be well outlined first is the context in which this conversation takes place. While I have many very good friends who openly subscribe to the doctrine of Calvinism, it has been my personal experience that many Calvin-ists display a very disturbing sense of self-righteousness and characteristics ranging from lone defender of the Elect, truth and the very essence of the Gospel of Christ to acknowledgement of a unique and lonely existence as God’s sheep in the midst of wolves and enemies. While these are not necessarily bad characteristics, they appear to take an overly negative and proprietary tone when Calvinists take them on.

The issue becomes even more disturbing in many instances when conversations and theological disagreements stray from theology and venture into the territory of deep personal attacks, obsessive behavior, stalking and public outbursts and wishes of personal destruction for those who disagree with them. Like their Maitre, many Calvinists view themselves proudly as the one and only defenders of Truth; and as they do so, they not only bear the name of their master by proudly calling themselves Calvin-ists but follow him in action too by actively rooting for the physical and spiritual harm of those who choose to differ in doctrinal matters.

By no means is this a Calvinist-only manifestation for sin permeates all men; however this does seem to be in my opinion – and the opinions of many I have consulted – a more common characteristic of Calvinists. Indeed, it seems as if many Calvinists wish to mirror their Maitre not just in doctrine but in all other actions, just as the tyrant himself forced his doctrine on the whole of Geneva, too often under the threat of excommunication and death. Is was quite normal for Calvin to get violently sick when he encountered theological dissent, with his stomach becoming severely and nervously affected by opposition, so much so that he would not sleep and eat and would often vomit bile. Such was the way Calvin handled disagreements, often dispatching threats of eternal fire with his warning letters to detractors.

And without a doubt, this will be perceived as a personal attack by our Calvinist friends who will likely take this honest and truthful criticism of their master as criticism of Christ himself, but I am not the one carrying the name of a man such as Calvin, nor am I afraid as Calvin’s contemporaries were, because God has blessed us with life in a country where we can freely speak our minds regarding both political and theological matters, and thankfully, no Calvinistic tyrant can climb the ladder of power and like Servetus, burn me at the stake, slowly, over matters of doctrine.

May it be as it will, I pray that however this message is perceived, it is perceived as coming from my heart, and may the outcome be on the heads of those choosing to ignore history, and those who choose to hide it because they shamefully equate “doctrine” with “Gospel” and because they seemingly choose to put the name of Calvin above that of Christ, perhaps not openly, but certainly in their action.

So the purpose of this article is not to insult or cause harm to any of my brothers, but rather to evoke the power of facts and history in regards to a man they hold in high esteem, and perhaps rightly so since Calvin was an illustrious theologian, attorney and politician, having had a great effect on the Reformation and the Christian world since his own time. But if illustriousness, political power and legal skill brings a man in accord with God’s will and brings justification for evil actions, then many men, including Nero, Hitler and Lenin would have been justified before God for their evil. And indeed, evil is what Calvin has done while reigning in Geneva. Evidently, killing heretics was so insidious that it came naturally at the time of Calvin; rarely was the death penalty opposed, and it never occurred to Christians as far as we can see that suppression of thought should be viewed as immoral and un-Christian. However, justifying the many executions and killings in Geneva with a Biblical framework is inexcusable regardless of the year and social context in which they take place, especially if we are to believe the Scripture to be the timeless, unchanging and inerrant Word of God.

So since the purpose of this article is to reveal history as it was, I ask you the reader to patiently read this not-too-lengthy analysis of Calvin and his actions in Geneva. There are many things covered, many names mentioned, so your patience may be required.

That Frenchman

In the 1500s, Luther’s Reformation swept Europe quickly and brought about not just religious change, but a thirst for political freedom and independence. Many people recognized that just as the Catholic Church has little power and sway over the individual’s freedom, neither did the noblemen and un-elected princes of Europe. In Germany, the peasants revolted against the rich landowners out of sheer poverty and desperation, and they were slaughtered by the thousands. Ironically, Luther wanted no part of the political changes that came about as a result of his actions. Regarding the peasants Luther wrote: "They should be knocked to pieces, strangled and stabbed, secretly and openly, by everybody who can do it, just as one must kill a mad dog!" [1]

Tumult and excitement spread across the known world, and Geneva, a city state at the time, was no exception. After a few years of Catholic killing and bashing, the Catholic faith has been completely and utterly eliminated from public life in Geneva, thus on a spring Sunday in 1536, on May 21, all men, women and children of the burghers of Geneva gathered in the town square and raised their hands declaring that from this day forward they would all live exclusively “selon l’evangile et la parole de Dieu.” – By the gospel and the word of God.

This was the environment in which Calvin rose to power and notoriety, and because the Reformation was often brought to fruition through violence and destruction, the post-Reformation years were often confusing and seeped in despair for the commoners like the citizens of Geneva. The authority of the Catholic Church was missing, and the theological and political void was so strong that many local governments and states were desperate to prevent a total collapse of order and justice. And in this environment Calvin happened to visit Geneva at the age of twenty-seven. Having already written his famous Institutio, Calvin was a well-known theologian and was well-received by Farel the preacher, a man who was credited for driving the Catholics out of Geneva.

Farel talked Calvin into staying in Geneva, and on September 5, 1536, the city officially allowed “iste Gallus” – that Frenchman (Gaul) – to take on the responsibilities of a preacher of the gospel. So minor and normal was this action that the secretary taking minutes did not even bother to find out the name of Calvin; he was only known as that Frenchman. [2] Having been trained in the best seminaries and law schools of Europe, Calvin was one of the most educated men of his time. He was a brilliant and calculated attorney, a careful and impassionate theologian and truly put the whole of his heart into whatever work he was involved in; we are told that he would often sleep three or four hours each night, with his light burning among the Genovese homes hours before the city would wake up for its daily work.

Within three months, Calvin has created a detailed Catechism or Creed for the city of Geneva, and he submitted it to the City Council with the insistence that there could be no separation between spiritual and political matters, and that the city should immediately adopt it as law, down to the letter.[3] Calvin and Farel’s proposed creed did not only outline matters of faith, but they were in essence State laws, and the City Council, while not educated on matters of theology, initially agreed to the demands but later recognized this as an attempt to usurp the democracy of Geneva and refused to continue their support for Calvin and Farel over many complaints from the citizens.[4] Furthermore, because of continuous political pressure coming from Calvin’s faction, in 1538 the city retracted Calvin and Farel’s powers to excommunicate. As retaliation, at the Easter service, Calvin refused to distribute the Lord’s Supper to the entire city of Geneva, so the Council banned Calvin from the pulpit. The confrontation came to the two factions, sword in hand, facing each other in the middle of the St. Pierre Cathedral on Easter Sunday, where Calvin and his supporters forced their way against the wishes of the City Council. Bloodshed was barely averted, and eventually both Calvin and Farel were expelled from Geneva.

It was not until three years later when Calvin’s supporters gained a majority in the City Council and decided to invite Calvin back as their preacher that Calvin accepted supreme power in Geneva under some very strict conditions; he was to put forth an interpretation of the Gospel after which political, social and judicial structure would be defined. This manifested later through the creation of the Consistory, which was essentially a judicial court in which men appointed by Calvin, and Calvin himself would handle various offenses brought before them. These offenses could range from daily matters of morality such as dancing and singing, to doctrinal and theological matters which often resulted in banishment, confiscation of property and even death. It was rare that the Consistory opposed Calvin; in fact doctrinal matters were almost always deferred to Calvin and were left up to his own judgment. While Calvin was adamant to explain that Consistory decisions involved the entire group, it is now historically evident that he had a large amount of political sway over the members of the Consistory. There is in fact only one recorded instance I was able to discover in which the Consistory disagreed with Calvin over punishment, and that is in the case of a man named Troillet who refused to accept the doctrine of Predestination and refused to punish the man despite Calvin’s vociferous recommendations.[5]

Calvin’s Rule

“…bete indomptable et feroce…une ordure…- wild and ferocious beast…a refuse…” – John Calvin describing mankind in Institutio.

With Calvin back in charge, Geneva was now on its way to infamy. Willingly subjecting itself to the worst kind of theocratic ruling, the citizens of Geneva were about to learn the value of freedom the hard way. The Elders in the Consistory were becoming very busy enforcing Calvin’s draconian regulations, so much so that well-established Church holidays like Christmas were banished. Incense, statues, paintings, music, the organ and even the church bells were destroyed or banished from use. In fact, the Elders of Geneva were allowed to randomly inspect all citizens at will. Grown men were tested on the memorization of prayers and women’s dresses were felt by the fingers of the Elders – if they had dangerous slits and frills, if they were too short and too long. They measured the hairdos of women to see if it was too high or too low, counted the rings on their fingers, and the pairs of shoes in their closets. They enforced dietary regulations to prevent one from indulging with too much meat, and to ensure that jams and sweets were not hidden in the kitchen; bookshelves were searched for any books not approved by the Consistory, and servants were questioned apart from the masters to ensure that truth was being told. No one was allowed to “make music” or enjoy anything that remotely resembled pleasure, and when Calvin was preaching, house visitations were made “where some slothful wretch was lying in bed instead of seeking edification from Master Calvin’s sermon.” [6]

But to be true to history, we should cover all of the actions of Calvin’s minions should there be enough paper and space allowing us to do so. Church informers would carefully watch the service to make sure that no citizen arrived or left late. They prowled the banks of Rhone to prevent late-night caressing and ransacked visitor’s luggage in inns and hotels for anything that would corrupt Geneva. Every letter that entered or left the city was opened. But perhaps the worst of the offence against freedom was that many citizens took on the unofficial role of “spy” that if a Genovese traveled to Paris or Lyons, he was just as much subject to the Elders’ enforcement as if he was still in Geneva. Truly, this sends shivers down my spine, because it rings true the Communist years spent in Romania where five out of every ten people were Communist informers and would turn in anyone and everyone would dare speak against the government.

But why stop there? Tailors were forbidden to create garments considered too extravagant by Calvin. Girls were not allowed to wear silk until they were fifteen, and women were never allowed to wear velvet clothing. Gold, silver, lace, golden hair, visible buttons, ornaments, curled hair, lace, gloves, carriages, meals with twenty or more people, parties, sweets, candied fruits, game, pastries, present giving, entering an inn, serving a meal without a prayer, printing books, sculptures, psalm-singing, naming children with non-Biblical names, and lastly, criticism of Calvin or his writings, were all strictly prohibited and severely punishable by the Consistory.

Death in Calvin’s Geneva

Il est criminel pour mettre des hérétiques à la mort. Faire une extrémité de eux par le feu et l'épée est opposée à chaque principe de l'humanité. – It is criminal to put heretics to death. To make an end of them by fire and sword is opposed to every principle of humanity.” – John Calvin, Institutio [7]

While Calvin’s ascension to power in Geneva is both fascinating and deeply disturbing, the moral policing of Geneva is in fact not where Calvin’s enforcement power stopped. Thanks to the detailed record-keeping, we know the outcome of many of the practical aspects of Calvin’s theology and the methods of punishment, death often being not overlooked in the process. Let us take a look at just a few of the incidents listed in the minute-book:

  • A man smiled while attending a baptism: three days in prison.
  • A man slept during Calvin’s sermon: prison.
  • Some men ate pastries for breakfast: three days on bread and water.
  • Two men played skittles: prison.
  • Two men played dice for a quarter-bottle of wine: prison.
  • Man refused the name Abraham for his son: prison.
  • Blind fiddler played a dance: expulsion.
  • Man praised Castellio’s Bible translation: expulsion.
  • A girl went skating; a widow threw herself on her husband’s grave: ordered to penance.
  • Some youngsters stuck a bean into the cake: 24 hours bread and water.
  • A citizen said “Monsieur Calvin – Mister Calvin” rather than “Maitre Calvin – Master Calvin”: prison.
  • Two peasants discussing business matters coming out of church: prison.
  • Man singing “riotously” in the street: expulsion.
  • Two boatmen brawling: execution for both.
  • Two boys behaving indelicately: burning at the stake, sentence commuted.
  • Some men laughing while Calvin was preaching: three days in prison.
  • Young girl insulted her mother: bread and water.
  • Young boy called his mother a devil and threw a stone at her: public whipping and suspended by his arms to a gallows as a sign that he deserved death.
  • Sixteen year old boy threatened to hit his mother and was condemned to death. Because of his youth, his punishment was changed to banishment after public whipping.

It seemed that with every sentence handed out, the Consistory was becoming more and more violent until death became an acceptable punishment for those who personally criticized Maitre Calvin. A man named Jacques Gruet was racked and executed for simply calling Calvin a hypocrite and for atheism.[8] As adultery was punishable by imprisonment before Calvin’s arrival to Geneva, it was now punishable by death. A woman by the name of Anne Le Moine who supposedly committed adultery with Antoine Cossonez faced death together with her partner in crime. After both being severely tortured, they admitted to the charges of adultery and they were both executed; she was drowned in the Rhone and he was decapitated.[9] Two other citizens of the best families in Geneva, Heinrich Philip and Jacques le Nevue were also beheaded at the orders of the Consistory for adultery.[10]

While these punishments may seem in line with the contemporary lifestyle and the judicial systems of the day, there was no harsher punishment than of those who publicly criticized Calvin and challenged his social and theological positions. Thus a man who challenged predestination was severely flogged and expelled and a book printer who railed at Calvin had his tongue perforated with a red-hot iron and kicked out of Geneva. A woman named Copa de Ferrara was banished from Geneva within twenty four hours “or she will lose her head.” This was because she “uttered heretical expressions against Calvin and the Consistory.” In the two years of 1558 and 1559 alone, there were four hundred and fourteen such trials regarding heresies against Calvin and the Consistory.[11]

As in any dictatorial and tyrannical society, those running the affairs of the government often exclude themselves from the requirements, responsibilities and the laws to which the citizens are bound. In 1542 and 1545, the plague struck the city of Geneva. But under these dire circumstances in which the citizens were dying by the thousands, Calvin’s strict rules went straight out the window. The same Consistory that insisted that “under pain of punishment every sick person must within three days summon a divine to his bedside” was now nowhere to be found. Calvin himself and his minions strictly refused to see any of the sick and were careful to stay out of danger. Not one single volunteer except Sebastian Castellio who was the school’s rector offered to be at the bedside of the dying and Calvin instructed his servants to declare him “indispensable” saying that “it would not do to weaken the whole Church in order to help a part of it.”[12]

Ironically, many Catholic priests during these very same times gladly risked and even gave their lives in order to console the dying citizens of other cities like Marseilles and Vienna. The same preachers who have been demanding the highest sacrifice from the Genovese were now carefully staying away from those truly in need; thus due to the discontent of the people, the Consistory put on quite a spectacle: “Some destitute fellows were seized and tortured until they admitted having brought plague into the town by smearing the door-latches with an ointment prepared from devil’s dung.”[13] Calvin fully endorsed these false charges and claimed from his pulpit that the “sowers of the plague” did a very good job and that as a punishment the Devil himself dragged an atheist Genovese out of his bed and tossed him into Rhone, all in broad daylight.

No better description of Calvin’s reign in Geneva can be used than that of Audin’s who writes: “There is but one word heard or read: Death. Death to every one guilty of high treason against God; death to every one guilty of high treason against the State; death to the son that strikes or curses his father; death to the adulterer; death to heretics. During the space of twenty years, commencing from the date of Calvin’s recall, the history of Geneva is a bloody drama, in which pity, dread, terror, indignation, and tears, by turns, appear to seize upon the soul. At each step we encounter chains, thongs, a stake, pincers, melted pitch, fire, and sulphur. And throughout the whole there is blood. One imagines himself in Dante’s Hell, where sighs, groans, and lamentations continually resound.” [14]

But while we may all marvel at the severity of punishment in relation to the crime, nothing comes close to the killing of Michael Servetus, a Spanish doctor, a refugee from the Spanish and French inquisitions and the hunting and persecution to the death of Sebastian Castellio, a friend and pupil of Calvin.

Sebastian Castellio and the Freedom of Conscience

If Christ himself came to Geneva, he would be crucified. For Geneva is not a place of Christian liberty. It is ruled by a new pope, but one who burns men alive, while the pope at Rome at least strangles them first.” – Sebastian Castellio in his response to Calvin’s Defense of the Christian Faith

About two hundred years after Calvin, when discussing the life and events surrounding Castellio and Calvin, Voltaire wrote: “We can measure the virulence of this tyranny by the persecution to which Castellio was exposed at Calvin’s instance – although Castellio was a far greater scholar than Calvin, whose jealousy drove him out of Geneva.”[15] Indeed, Voltaire seems to have understood the matters at hand very well, and if there ever was a spiritual hero to hold up, especially for us Preterists, Sebastian Castellio is certainly someone to behold and admire.

Born in 1515, Castellio was educated at the University of Lyons in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. Having been educated also in German and Italian, he quickly became one of the most learned men of his time, speaking a large number of languages, and having vast knowledge of theology and astronomy. Having experienced the Catholic Inquisition in Lyons and being forever changed after seeing heretics being burned alive, he adopted the ideas of the Reformation and found himself soon attracted to Strasbourg where Calvin was exiled at the time. Castellio made a very strong impression on Calvin after only one meeting; therefore after Calvin’s return to Geneva, he was offered the position of rector at the newly created school in Geneva and the position of preacher in Vandoeuvres.

All was well for Castellio and Calvin in Geneva until Castellio decided to do a full translation of the Bible into his native language, French. While an extremely noble goal, Castellio in his innocence failed to anticipate the opposition he would receive from Calvin in this simple task. Because Calvin required all books printed in Geneva to be approved by him, Castellio had to meet with Calvin in order to secure permission to print his Bible and seek his endorsement. Sadly, Calvin already endorsed a French translation done by a relative so Castellio’s Bible was inconveniently interfering with his publishing enterprise, and Calvin was quite irritated with his pupil’s endeavor. In a letter to Viret, Calvin wrote: “Just listen to Sebastian’s preposterous scheme, which makes me smile, and at the same time angers me. Three days ago he called on me, to ask permission for the publication of his translation of the New Testament.” [16]

Calvin issued a blanket denial to Castellio’s request; he would only grant permission with the provision that Calvin would be the first to read the translation and have veto power to make any changes he considered necessary. This was in line with Calvin’s view of himself as inerrant and perhaps even divinely inspired. In a dramatic contrast to Calvin’s attitude, later on Castellio would humbly admit in the preface to his Bible translation that he did not fully understand the Bible, that he viewed it as a hard-to-understand book and that he could only offer his own interpretation of the text, not a certainty and inerrant commentary on it.



Sebastian Castellio

Castellio attempted to compromise and offered Calvin the most he could offer without offending him: he offered to read the manuscript aloud at any time that was best for Calvin and take all the advice from Calvin regarding the translation, but again, his offer was rejected without any explanation. It was after this disappointing meeting that Sebastian was appointed by the City Council unanimously on December 15, 1543 to the office of preacher. But since the appointment was done without Calvin’s approval, it was soon reversed at Calvin’s opposition. In a letter to Farel, Calvin wrote: “There are important reasons against this appointment. To the Council I merely hinted at these reasons, without expressing them openly. At the same time, to avert erroneous suspicion, I was careful to make no attack on his reputation, being desirous to protect him.”[17]

Ambiguous words coming from Calvin, ambiguous enough that nobody on the Council could make any sense of, so much so that Castellio challenged Calvin to appear before the Council and explain what the “important reasons” again his appointment as preacher were. It turns out that these important reasons consisted of two disagreements over vague theology. Castellio declared that the Song of Solomon was insulting through the presentation of breasts who are “like two fawns that are twins of a roe” thus was not a sacred, but a profane poem; secondly he explained the descent of Jesus into hell slightly different than Calvin. Those two points of disagreement were quoted by Calvin as disqualifying Sebastian from the office of minister of the Gospel. Yet again, this confirms the absolute tyranny Calvin perpetrated upon the citizens of Geneva, considering his own interpretation of the Scripture as ultimate and inerrant truth, therefore demonizing anyone even slightly disagreeing with him.

Calvin and Castellio’s disagreements widened even more when during a public meeting, Castellio rose to his feet and proclaimed that clergy should no longer hide behind the Scripture and be held to the same standards they demand of others: “Paul was patient, but we are extremely impatient. Paul suffered injustice at the hands of others, but we persecute the innocent.” [18] How often have we Preterists heard this very same argument being made in our own defense, and how often have we also been attacked under the pretenses of “Paul condemned Hymenaeus therefore we also condemn you?” Castellio himself recognized the difference between Paul and Calvin and did not hesitate to point out that Calvin was not Paul, was not inerrant, and lacked the authority to make decisions and judgment calls as Paul did.

Calvin was finally fed up with him and charged Castellio with the crime of “undermining the prestige of the clergy.” Castellio’s profession was over. He asked the Council to relieve him of his duties and asked for the following dismissal letter: “That no one may form a false idea of the reasons for the departure of Sebastian Castellio, we all declare that he has voluntarily resigned his position as rector at the College, and up till now performed his duties in such a way that we regarded him worthy to become one of our preachers. If, in the end, the affair was not thus arranged, this is not because ay fault has been found in Castellio’s conduct, but merely for the reasons previously indicated.” [19]

After Castellio left Geneva, he lived in abject poverty, barely being able to provide even the most basic needs for himself and his family. He found himself often tutoring and proofreading for little money, and often did physical labor by digging ditches for food. Indeed, being one of the most learned and intelligent men of his time, an equal to Calvin, he was unable to find a job to match his qualifications, mostly because no one would hire someone that was on Calvin’s bad side and in order to avoid upsetting Geneva. But soon enough, Castellio would settle in Basle with a job at the local university. He would be quiet for a few years, until something atrocious upset him to no end. And nothing upset Castellio more than the heartless execution and outright murder of Michael Servetus.

The Murder of Michael Servetus

"He declares himself ready to come hither if I wish him to; but I will not pledge my faith to him; for if he did come here, I would see to it, in so far as I have authority in this city, that he should not leave it alive." – John Calvin in a letter to Farel, seven years before the execution of Servetus.

There are very few inequities in the world that equal that of the early Reformed church spilling the blood of tens of thousands of heretics and sinners, and if one of these individuals should be identified above the others – should we be forced to choose – Miguel Servetus is perhaps the most striking of them all. Servetus was a Spanish man having one important thing in common with Calvin: he was also on the run from the Inquisition. While his education certainly did not match that of Calvin and Castellio, Servetus was also a very educated man in the historical context of the Reformation. In what Stefan Zweig describes a “Don Quixotic” style, Servetus was a man to challenge all things established; Luther, Zwingli and Calvin were certainly not revolutionary enough for him. So Don Quixotic was Servetus in his approach to theology that at the ripe age of twenty, he proudly declared that the Council of Nicea made the wrong decision regarding the doctrine of Trinity; and so zealous was Servetus about his ideas that he traveled to Strasbourg and Basle to meet with several of the leaders of the Reformation, like Martin Bucer, Capito and Johannes Oecolampadius to convince them that the Reformation needs to get its doctrine on Trinity “right.”



Michael Servetus

Of course, Servetus in his innocence greatly miscalculated. The Reformed preachers were furious with him. Bucer denounced Servetus from his pulpit as “a child of the devil.” Zwingli wrote about the “criminal Spaniard, whose false and evil doctrine would, if it could, sweep away our whole Christian religion” and Oecolampadius kicked him out calling him a “blasphemer and a man possessed.” [20] But while this would discourage and rightly warn any person from further pursuing this line of action, Servetus became even more motivated to spread his ideas.

When he was twenty two years old, he published his first book De Trinitatis erroribus libri septera declaring both Protestants and Catholics mistaken in their doctrine; as a result, calls for his death on both sides became louder and louder. Bucer wrote that he deserved “to have the guts torn out of his living body” and the Catholic Inquisition actively started to hunt him down. Eventually, Servetus ended up assuming aliases under which he taught medicine (in Paris) and eventually became the personal doctor of the Archbishop of Vienne, taking on the name Michel de Villeneuve.

Having a hard time keeping himself from espousing “heresies,” Servetus found a way to contact Calvin in Geneva. The two of them started to exchange a large number of letters, Servetus being always on the offensive, trying to convince Calvin of the error of Trinity. While at first Calvin patiently pointed out the theological errors, he grew more and more annoyed and angry with Servetus’ insistence and correspondence. The last straw was then Servetus sent Calvin a copy of Institutio with corrections written in the margins. In a letter to Farel, Calvin describes his contempt for Servetus: “Servetus seizes my books and defiles them with abusive remarks much as a dog bites a stone and gnaws it… I care as little for this fellow's words as I care for the hee-haw of a donkey.” [21]

Rather than realizing the deadly danger he was in, Servetus continued to send Calvin letters, culminating with a copy of his not-yet-printed manuscript Christianismi Restitutio (Restoration of Christianity or The Payback of Christianity) a play on words off Calvin’s book Institutio. Finally, this seems to have been the time when Calvin decided that Servetus will die, and this is when he wrote to Farel that if Servetus even comes to Geneva, he will not walk out alive.[22]

The next several years were marked by silence from both Calvin and Servetus, until Geneva’s spies in Vienne discovered the true identity of the Archbishop’s doctor. As I learned of Calvin’s next course of action, I was blown away by the outright attempt to assassinate Servetus. Since Servetus was out of Calvin’s reach, Calvin decided to throw his opponent to the jaws of the Inquisition. At his request, one of Calvin’s subjects in Geneva wrote a letter to his fanatic Catholic cousin in Lyons. On February 26, 1553 the letter dispatched to Antoine Arneys reveals the true name of the Archbishop of Vienna’s doctor, even including fragments from his newly published books. This was a calculated move, and rightly so, Calvin counted on Antoine to immediately take the letter to the Catholic authorities, which is what happened exactly. But perhaps to Calvin’s disappointment, Servetus had friends in high places; by the time the inquisitors made it to Vienna, his printing press, copies of his books and any incriminating documents were all gone, and the Archbishop vowed for his own doctor, that he was a man to be trusted.

This enraged Calvin even more. He directed his Genovese friend to write yet another letter to his Catholic cousin, this time showing surprise at the fact that the first was turned over to the authorities, but also including incriminating letters from Servetus to Calvin, written in his own handwriting. Ironically, Calvin even lied later when denying that he had anything to do with the letters sent out to the Inquisitors. But as Zweig rightly asks, how did a citizen of Geneva get his hands on Calvin’s personal letters, and at last, why did this man, named Trie write: “I was so importunate as to declare that if Monsieur Calvin would not help me, the reproach of bringing an unwarrantable charge would attach to me, unless he handed over to me the confirmatory material I enclose.” [23]

Trie’s own letter proves Calvin to be not just a liar, but a man bent on the physical destruction of his theological detractors. How I tremble thinking of the cold-blooded, calculated steps taken by Calvin to ensure the death of Servetus; but disappointment was again to come soon to Geneva. After Servetus was arrested based on his letters to Calvin, good fortune smiled on him again – he soon escaped from prison and for whatever reason he found necessary, in August 1553 he entered Geneva and got a room at “The Rose.” And if coming to Geneva was not bad enough, he immediately went to St. Pierre’s Sunday morning service where Calvin immediately recognized him and had him arrested after the service.

Proudly and wishfully writing to a friend before the trial and before any evidence was brought to light Calvin said “I hope that the verdict will call for the death penalty.” [24] But if the spectacle involving Servetus could even be called a trial, Calvin refused Servetus even the most basic human requirements. Servetus was chained into a dark room at the mercy of devouring fleas and was left to sleep in his own filth without any change of clothing. Treated worse than a petty criminal, he petitioned the City Council for better conditions: “Fleas are devouring me; my shoes are torn to pieces; I have nothing clean to wear…I beg of you, for the love of Christ, not to refuse me what you would give to a Turk or a criminal. Nothing has been done for to fulfill your orders that I should be kept clean. I am in more pitiful condition than ever. It is abominably cruel I should be given no chance of attending to my bodily needs.[25]

It is apparent that even when the City Council tried to intervene and better the condition in which Servetus was imprisoned, someone intervened and ensured that the orders of the Council were ignored. What possible cruel conscience would allow for such horrible punishment and imprisonment of a man over matters of theology?

Furthermore, the conditions in which Servetus was imprisoned also affected his temperament, so much so that during the trial, he would let his temper get the best of him rather than deal with the questions at hand, although many of the questions were related to his private affairs, such as his sexual life and had little to do with the charges of heresy.

Eventually, on October 27, 1553, at eleven in the morning, Servetus was brought out of his prison cell and was taken to Champel, “there to be burned alive, together with the manuscript of his book.” Falling of his knees, Servetus begged the City Council to execute him instead by the sword, admitting that under the agony of the fire he “may repudiate the convictions of a lifetime.” This last request was refused, and purposefully, the pieces of wood setup for burning were chosen to be half-green rather than dry, so they would burn slower and cause more agony. The manuscript of his book which he mailed to Calvin seven years earlier was tied around his neck, and a crown of leaves soaked in sulfur was placed on his head.

After the executioner lit the fire, Servetus screamed “Jesus, Son of everlasting God, have pity on me!” Farel, who accompanied him every step, mockingly noted that should Servetus have called on “Jesus, the Eternal Son” he would have been saved, but the wording of his last cry proved his theological error and eternal damnation.

It is without a doubt that the execution of Servetus was one of the darkest moments in the history of Christianity. I have read every excuse on Calvin’s behalf, from blaming the City Council alone, to blaming Servetus himself for his own death; not once did Calvin take responsibility for arresting and killing a man who committed no crime in Geneva, and history itself shows that most likely, the killing of Servetus was a premeditated and cold-blooded affair.

And this is where Sebastian Castellio becomes enraged at Calvin’s outrageous and murderous actions. Responding to Calvin’s vain attempts to defend his actions and shift blame to the City Council, Castellio started writing under the name Martinus Bellius. In his Manifesto on Behalf of Toleration, Castellio appealed to a host of Church Fathers, and contemporary theologians. Rather than using masterful words to convince the audience, Castellio used opinions of theologians regarding tolerance. From St. Augustine, St. Jerome and St. Chrysostom to Luther, Franck and Erasmus all opinions quoted were against death and torture of heretics. Calvin’s own words from Institutio were quoted: “It is unchristian to use arms against those who have been expelled from the Church, and to deny them rights common to all mankind.” [26]

Castellio masterfully demonstrated how the word “heretic” is subjective to each group of people; to the Catholics, a Protestant was a heretic, and to Protestants, a Catholic was a heretic. He plainly concludes: “When I reflect on what a heretic really is, I can find no other criterion than that we are all heretics in the eyes of those who do not share our views.” If there is a man to admire for his cunning logic and theological common sense in the 1500s, Castellio meets and surpasses my expectations. Demonstrating that peaceful living can only take place when we control our intolerance of other opinions, Castellio put forth the very first thesis for a world in which various theological, political and social opinions can peacefully coexist.

Often Calvin is credited by some Calvinists with the very invention of democracy and freedom. Far be it from me to believe such a claim. If anything, we have seen that Calvin was a tyrant and a dictator. Rather Castellio and even Servetus should be the ones credited with the ideas of religious tolerance and freedom; and if anything, we can observe from the behavior and outright hatred coming from Calvin’s followers that Calvin-ism encourages anything but love and tolerance of those who believe and think differently.

Dedicated and with endless energy, Castellio continued his quest to demonstrate Calvin’s guilt in regards to Servetus. He set forth to write Contra libellum Calvini. Being well acquainted with Calvin, he took a line of reasoning from which Calvin could not escape. Using Geneva’s own minutes as evidence, he showed that the only charge of which Servetus was guilty was that “the Spaniard interpreted the Bible independently and arbitrarily, leading him to other conclusions than those of Calvin’s ecclesiastical doctrine.”

Castellio writes: “Calvin, however, taking for granted his own infallibility, regards his views as right and the views of anyone who may differ from his as wrong…who appointed Calvin judge concerning what is true and what is untrue? Of course, Calvin tells us that every writer who does not say aye to his aye, and no to his no, is an evilly disposed person. He therefore demands that those who differ from him shall be prevented, not only from writing, but also from speaking, the implications being that he alone is entitled to expound what he regards as right.” [27]

Sadly, because of Calvin’s power and Geneva’s influence, Castellio’s magnificent book was never published for another fifty years; there seems to be no English translation of the work. I will see to it that through my effort, or that of a translator, Castellio’s Contra libellum Calvini will soon become available in English, so that others may benefit from the work of this obscure but most excellent theologian. Being one of the first to espouse freedom of the conscience, toleration, mercy and understanding among believers, Castellio is often ignored in Christian circles dominated by Calvin’s theology; perhaps this is due to the fact that generally speaking, with a few exceptions, Calvin’s way of handling discord appeals well to certain individuals who mostly label themselves as Calvinists. This is true especially within Preterism, where Calvinist Preterists seem to be utterly unable to tolerate anything different or at odds with their own theological notions; furthermore they go above and beyond simple disagreement, actively rooting for the physical and spiritual destruction of their opponents.

Just as Calvin allowed only one opinion in Geneva, his opinion, such are those carrying his name still today. They hate, scorn, mock, destroy, kick, scream and attack anyone and everyone who chooses to think independently from them, be it on small theological matters, or drastic differences such as Trinity, Universalism and Predestination. Should we all be back in the 1500s Geneva, without a doubt they would be standing at Calvin’s side, warming their hands by our burning bodies; ironically, they do all this while actively professing Preterism, something Calvin would consider an outrageous heresy worthy of the most abominable torturous death in his Geneva. While it is not surprising, it is ironic and sad that of all critics, Preterists would take the unilateral attitude of Calvin and be so ready to condemn others over their differences. It is in accordance to history and the freedom of conscience first professed by Castellio and Servetus that I also profess my right to heresy.

I dedicate my work and research for this article to Miguel Servetus, Sebastian Castellio, Socrates, Galileo, Jesus and all the other “heretics” who lost their lives in their quests to reveal and unfold Truth before the world.

Footnotes:

[1] Martin Luther, Against the Thievish and Murderous Hordes of Peasants, 1524

[2] The Geneva Council kept detailed minutes of all their meetings. They can all be found in the city archives and on various Internet websites.

[3] Calvin and Farel’s Creed was to be read at St. Pierre’s Cathedral every Sunday “until the people understood it.” As Calvin wrote, “We easily succeeded in obtaining that the citizens should be summoned by tens, and swear to adopt the confession, which was done with much satisfaction.” Those who refused to adopt the confession lost their citizenship rights.

[4] Complaints from the citizens of Geneva intensified when Farel refused to use unleavened bread for the Lord’s Supper, and refused to observe Christmas, New Year, Annunciation and Ascension. The city of Berne was consulted on this matter and ruled against Farel.

[5] The Troillet case in 1552 came about after strong public reaction to the banishment of Jerome Bolsec, who also spoke against predestination. The negative public reaction motivated the Consistory to refuse punishment when predestination was publicly criticized – William Gilbert, Renaissance and Reformation, Lawrence, KS: Carrie, 1998, Ch. 14.

[6] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 57.

[7] This phrase appeared only in the first edition of Institutio and was later erased by Calvin in subsequent editions.

[8] Phillip Schaaf, History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII, Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation.

[9] Robert N. Kingdon, Adultery and Divorce in Calvin’s Geneva, Cambridge MA, Harvard University Press, 1995, pp. 123.

[10] Paul Henry, D.D., The Life and Times of John Calvin, The Great Reformer, Vol. I, pp. 360.

[11] Ibid. pp. 448.

[12] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 70.

[13] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 71.

[14] Vincent Audin, Life of Calvin, ch. XXXVI. 354, Am. ed.

[15] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 89.

[16] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 79.

[17] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 82.

[18] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 86.

[19] When Castellio asked to be dismissed as a preacher in Vandoeuvres over his differences with Calvin, he asked for a letter from the City Council to prevent Calvin from manufacturing charges later on. The letter can be found today in the Basle Library.

[20] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 104.

[21] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 102.

[22] The entire paragraph in question from Calvin’s letter to Farel is: “Servetus wrote to me lately, and besides his letter sent me a great volume full of his ravings, maintaining with incredible presumption in the letter that I shall there find things stupendous and unheard of till now. He declares himself ready to come hither if I wish him to; but I will not pledge my faith to him; for if he did come here, I would see to it, in so far as I have authority in this city, that he should not leave it alive.”

[23] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 112.

[24] Walter Nigg, The Heretics, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1962, pp. 328.

[25] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 124.

[26] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 152.

[27] Stefan Zweig, The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin, Boston, The Beacon Press, 1951, pp. 175.

Other Related Articles:

  • Preterism and Calvinism: The Philosophical Argument, Part 1
  • Preterism and Calvinism: The Historical Argument, Part 2
  • Preterism and Calvinism: The Scriptural Argument, Part 3
  • vento's picture

    Thank you, Kyle.

    Yes, I believe I've read fairly carefully through this. That's why I said what I said. Parker said he "wasn't worried about the FEELINGS (sorry, not yelling, just don't know how to operate this thing!) of others, not that he doesn't care about them. Additionally, why would the following statement leave a bad taste, unless you are reading into it, theocracy, which is not there?

    "If Christians do not create laws to protect our religion, atheists and others will strip us of that right freely worship."

    I think if we went through this whole exchange, we would see that Parker stayed on his points, while being accused of all sorts of opinions he never put forth.

    Thanks,

    Scott

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    But the feelings in question related to those people (athiests...etc) who are worried about a Theocratic form of government (at least that is what I meant when I brought it up)

    So when a Christian says that we shouldn't care what they think, it's admitting that we should push our agenda onto others who may oppose it. In other words, a theocracy.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    I apologize...its wikipedia.org:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theocracy

    Note how they mention Calvinism and suggest: "See Also, Calvinism".

    Barry's picture

    As long as you are on the agreeing side Scott then everything looks great!
    Change your mind and then you find yourself a victim of what Christianity has done since the 3rd century.
    How we can be proud of church history boggles my mind!
    We see the church as the caretaker the preserver of God's word.
    When the ark of the covenant was stolen by those who would steal it and use it for there own ego trip God preserved it and kept it safe. And young men died and there was much suffering (tumors of the groin) from city to city until it was returned. Something like the dark ages through the power of the church control over the government.
    JMO
    Blessings Barry

    we are all in this together

    Paige's picture

    "If we do not protect Christianity in law, atheists, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists will see to it that our free exercise of our religion is eradicated."

    That's your story, but you really need to better examine that. We've had this circular conversation before...Better laws don't make better people.

    "In "Parker's Amerika", friend, you and your kids will be free to worship Christ."

    No, we most certainly will not. We will only be allowed to worship in a prescribed manner, and we better go along with all the "lawfully allowed" tenets that have been pre-approved by the legislature, or else. That, Parker, is not freedom. Freedom protects speech period. It protects untruthful speech about Christ every bit as much as it protects the truthful. Our founding fathers were wise enough to recognize that, and we have enough people in America today that know this as well. That is why you are never going to get the theocracy that you are so craving.

    Good day.

    Parker's picture

    Paige:
    Better laws don't make better people.

    Parker:
    Laws against Christianity make for jailed Christians. Laws protecting Christianity make for free Christians. Take your pick, Paige.

    Paige:
    That, Parker, is not freedom. Freedom protects speech period. It protects untruthful speech about Christ every bit as much as it protects the truthful. Our founding fathers were wise enough to recognize that, and we have enough people in America today that know this as well. That is why you are never going to get the theocracy that you are so craving.

    Parker:
    The religious freedom that you take for granted was codified into law by our Christian founding fathers. If you will not have the courage to follow in their footsteps and protect your right to freely be a Christian by law, you will lose that right. Your optimism that you will always have freedom to speak the name of Jesus in America is entirely unjustified.

    Paige's picture

    "Better laws don't make better people."

    That should read "more" laws rather than "better".

    Virgil's picture

    I gotta give it to you Parker, you amaze me more with every new message you post on here...you are the very reason for which a U.S. Constitution exists. Not only would I happily go to bat to defend the rights of a Buddhist to believe and preach that Jesus was just a man, but I would happily even die for that constitutional freedom, just as many other Americans have died in the past.

    Christianity will not win the war with bullets and killings - it will win the war in the arena of ideas, by showing love to the Buddhist so they are motivated to be changed and see Christ for who he is starting in their hearts, not by force at the hands of tyrants wacko fundamentalists.

    If your Christianity can't stand the test of time and love, and if it can only gain ground by killing or forcing people to believe the way you do, then you shouldn't call yourself a Christian dude.

    Parker's picture

    Hi everyone. You all know my thoughts.

    Over and out.

    Parker

    Parker's picture

    Virgil:
    Not only would I happily go to bat to defend the rights of a Buddhist to believe and preach that Jesus was just a man, but I would happily even die for that constitutional freedom

    Parker:
    If you happily die for such causes, see what happens when Islamists, atheists, Jews, or Buddhists have power. I assure you they won't defend your rights to believe and preach that Muhammad was uninspired. They will kill you for even drawing a cartoon of their prophet. Likewise I assure you that if atheists continue to have their way, the free expression of Christianity will be made illegal. As I have said, the EU and Canada are already seeking to force the Catholic Church to marry gays and to imprison all clergy that refuse. If you assume religious freedom will remain in America just because it currently exists, you're mistaken.

    As to your point that "Christianity will win the war in the arena of ideas," you are forgetting that there was no legal "arena of ideas" in Communist Russia. There is no legal "arena of ideas" in the Middle East. There is no "arena of ideas" in China. See, you are merely assuming that you'll continue to enjoy religious freedom here in America. That assumption is misguided.

    I have never advocated the spread of Christianity by force. Never. But Christianity needs to be kept legal, and it will only be kept legal if Christians make such laws and enforce them. If you think atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, and Jews are going to guarantee such freedoms for you and your children, you've lost your mind. I seriously hope you'll rethink this issue.

    Barry's picture

    "Therefore, if some Buddhist-owned media company begins to introduce the idea on American television that Jesus was merely man, that company has broken the law and is subject to fines, imprisonment, exile, and in worst extremes death. For that company to be tried and a court for this violation and sentenced is not in any way unjust. Agree?"

    You have got to be kidding!
    Barry

    we are all in this together

    Parker's picture

    Barry,

    If a majority of Americans create laws that say Christianity has protections, then it has actionable protections. Therefore, enemies of Christianity that seek to subvert it and overthrow it would be subject to fines, imprisonment, or worse. That's the way laws work. Nearly all other countries of the world have legal protections of aspects of their cultural heritage and faiths. Even America has a protection of religous expression on the books that thus far has kept it legal to worship freely. So don't act so surprised that I say America could also have stronger protections of Christianity. It most certainly could, if the people make such laws.

    I assure you that if Christians don't make laws to protect our right to worship, atheists like Marx and Lenin will make laws to prevent our right to worship freely. The ACLU is hard at work for this every day in America, and they are doing quite well.

    Barry's picture

    There is always a good argument for trying to gain political control on a religious level. There is always a good argument for a move to theocracy.
    In the end it is truth that will win in freedom.
    The truth wins eventually in an even playing ground. Our job is not to stack the deck.
    Once stacked it gets restacked by someone else before long.
    Your principles are IMHO hundreds of years behind the times.
    Next thing we will go back to slaves because some Christian organization wants to protect their Christian God given right to own someone.
    And who in government can speak for what is Christian? Will it be Catholic Church to sets up the definitions?
    And if I come the theological conclusion the Jesus was just a man, are you going to pull the switch on the electric chair?
    All this fairs well with the turn the other check teaching of representing Christ. Not!
    Whatever man!
    Barry

    we are all in this together

    Parker's picture

    Barry:
    There is always a good argument for trying to gain political control on a religious level. There is always a good argument for a move to theocracy.
    In the end it is truth that will win in freedom.
    The truth wins eventually in an even playing ground.

    Parker:
    There will be no "even playing ground" if Christians don't work to keep Christianity legal! I agree Christianity wins in freedom, but when conversion to Christianity in the Middle East comes with the death penalty, there is no freedom. Same with China. No freedom to speak the name of Jesus. Notice how few Christians there are in those regions and how many there are in America!

    Barry, you are wrong to assume that your freedom to worship Christ will always be here. It will not. In fact, such freedom exists in very few places around the world. It only exists in America because our Christian forefathers codified the protection of religion into law. If you think atheists, Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists will protect your right to speak the name of Jesus, you are sadly mistaken.

    Barry's picture

    Parker,
    "the protection of religion into law" is not at all what you have purposed in your above statement. You purposed that one may not "speak" against Christianity or publicly promote another idea which contradicts what a certain establishment believes Christianity means.
    You are inherently relying on some group of Christians to influence laws which will be influenced by how they themselves define Christianity.

    Most of Europe was ruled by Christianity for over a 1000 years and they get the heck out of there to try and have some freedom.
    It was the philosophies of Lock that were more than any other person responsible for how the "founding fathers" set things up. Not the other way around.
    Clearly your philosophies are not those of Lock.
    Barry

    we are all in this together

    Parker's picture

    Barry:
    You are inherently relying on some group of Christians to influence laws which will be influenced by how they themselves define Christianity.

    Parker:
    At some point, someone has to step up and define the terms "religion" and "Christianity" for purposes of basic communication between human beings. If no one has the right to define such things (Barry's insinuation), then both "religion" and "Christianity" cease to be actual nouns with actual definitions. Such things then cease to be substantive or defensible by any law. Things of little or no definable substance eventually cease to exist.

    Barry's picture

    Great, we will let the majority of what at any particular time calls itself true Christianity define by law what Christianity means and then make everyone else follow those laws that the majority have pushed to implement, until there is a new majority with a different thinking so we can then push for new laws and changed laws until....

    Or we can let some renown or historic group define what Christianity is for the majority who are not a part of that particular definition and push for laws that everyone has to follow..

    Or we can say, "freedom of speech", "freedom of expression", "freedom of worship" and struggle through the ethics of it all as we are supposed to do to try and keep as level a playing field as possible with the intent of preserving the rights of all with as much integrity as possible.
    Barry

    we are all in this together

    Parker's picture

    Barry:
    Great, we will let the majority of what at any particular time calls itself true Christianity define by law what Christianity means and then make everyone else follow those laws that the majority have pushed to implement, until there is a new majority with a different thinking so we can then push for new laws and changed laws until....

    Parker:
    Well, you could let Islam move in and define Christianity as "the view that Jesus is divine, which when when professed by a citizen will result in death." Or, you could let Jews have control of the country and define Christianity as "the view that Jesus is divine, which when professed by a citizen will result in exile." Or you could let atheists move in and define Christianity as "the myth that some god exists and become a man, which when professed by a citizen will result in imprisonment and/or execution."

    Which one of these would you prefer, Barry? I look forward to your answer.

    Barry:
    Or we can say, "freedom of speech", "freedom of expression", "freedom of worship" and struggle through the ethics of it all as we are supposed to do to try and keep as level a playing field as possible with the intent of preserving the rights of all with as much integrity as possible.

    Parker;
    You will not get such "freedoms" from any group other than the Christians. Atheists will not guarantee such freedoms to you. Muslims will not guarantee such freedoms to you. Jews will not guarantee such freedoms to you.

    Barry's picture

    There are just as many controlling Christians percentage wise as any body else. There are freedom loving Atheists and freedom loving people of other religions who are "good Americans" that love America.
    While much freedom has stemmed from Christianity it is because freedom can be more readily seen from that perspective. This freedom is not however the tradition of Christian church history and not the tradition of Christian church involvement in positioning itself in ruling power and religious control through the government and through laws.

    Allowing any one religion to influence the freedom of all is detrimental. And Atheism is a religion. It is a faith that there is no God when no God cannot be proven by the standards that Atheism itself professes.
    Atheism is often reactionary to the very things the Christianity and other "faiths" have themselves forced upon others. I have never met an atheist or die hard agnostic that was not legitametly angry and outraged at church history. That which in part, you defend.

    You constantly overstate you case framed in "fear" of a take over when Christians don't take over themselves. I am not fear driven by such things. It is often this that turn people to being agnostic. The manipulating fear of religion upon the population.
    Barry

    we are all in this together

    Virgil's picture

    He is not kidding, and that is the terrifying reality behind the arguments Parker is raising here.

    Parker's picture

    Virgil,

    If Americans do not get laws on the books that ensure the right of Christians to worship, non-Christians will get laws on the books to ensure that we are not permitted to worship and have free religious expression. They are already working hard to make this a reality.

    If we do nothing, we'll all be meeting in dank basements and being thrown in prison. Look around the world. Christianity is illegal in many major countries. The EU and Canada are seeking to force the Catholic Church to marry gays by law, so that clergy that oppose will be jailed. Wake up man.

    Virgil's picture

    ...a book written by a Jewish pacifist who basically used the story of Calvin and Castellio as a shot at Hitler and Germany?

    There you go again, shooting the messenger for bringing the bad news. And Zweig, a Jew used his book as a shot against Hitler? Says who? Zweig, an Austrian, defended Castellio, a Savoyard against Calvin a French refugee...therefore we gotta burn his books. That sounds a lot like another Jew I know...Albert Einstein, who was denigrated by the Nazis for teaching "Jewish Physics." Those wacky Jews... :)

    Do you have something against Jews writing books? Did Calvin kill 57 people? Did he execute Servetus? You brought the art of diversion to a whole new level Jason...and you are telling me to take classes in logic? Maybe you can explain what Stefan Zweig has to do with the atrocities Calvin committed in the 1500s? In fact, you should be commending Zweig for putting years of research and spending weeks upon weeks in Basle and Geneva documenting Calvin's doing. Unless you want to keep history hidden from the rest of us...you don't want that, do you?

    So to document this for the audience, the responses in defense of Calvin so far go like this:

    a. "Calvin did it because Moses and Elijah did it" (doesn't work, Calvin was not inspired).

    b. Moved on to "Calvin's theology is great and awesome and brilliant, so you are a big meanie (or a sissy) for criticizing him." (I lauded Calvin's theology myself - the article is a historical analysis of Calvin's Geneva, not his theology).

    c. "Calvin was just enforcing the laws of Geneva, so he was right in killing people" (actually Servetus was not a citizen of Geneva, thus Calvin BROKE international laws and committed a crime by killing Servetus; Servetus never committed a crime on Geneva's territory).

    d. Finally moved on to "Half of Virgil's quotes are from a Jew who wrote against Hitler - go take logic classes."

    Now, if you guys are willing to provide evidence that Calvin did not commit the things I wrote about, then feel free to do so. Battle me in the arena of ideas, do your research, show me why I am wrong, or that I "made up" things about Calvin - is that not what you are suggesting Jason? :)

    I have seen every aspect and facet of desperate defense of Calvin's indefensible actions - none of the stuff you guys are presenting is new. Is it really that hard for you fess up and say "Calvin was a totally depraved sinner, a refuse of humanity, and he killed innocent people?"

    Parker's picture

    Virgil, I do question why you think a Jewish pacifist attacking Calvin is a good support for your views. Obviously, his political agenda--and not unbiased reporting of history--produced his book.

    Responses to Virgil's responses:

    a. Calvin wasn't inspired...Well, it doesn't matter that neither Calvin nor you are inspired. One does not have to be inspired to follow scripture's examples. If Calvin's application of scripture is wrong because he was not inspired, then so is yours.

    b. not my concern in this matter.

    c. Calvin was wrong to enforce the laws of Geneva...I have not defended individual cases, but enforcing the laws of Geneva was Calvin's duty as an official of the region. Such governmental duties involve the right to war and carry out law enforcement.

    d. not my concern in this matter.

    Calvin had a right to act in a government capacity, Virgil, despite your claims to the contrary. That does not mean every case was just, but it does mean he was attempting to faithfully execute lawful, legitimate duties. To paint Calvin as a vicious murderer is obscene. Do you also paint George Bush as a vicious murderer? Will you paint the jury of the Zacarias Moussaoui trial as murderers if that person gets put to death? You would need to answer "yes" on both counts if wish to be consistent. I look forward to your answers.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    Hey, its okay to kill people as long as you are doing God's work.
    But don't you dare trademark a word! You theological sissy, you.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    It’s akin to the baloney in the movie “V for Vendetta” where the ‘conservative christians’ are portrayed as the new hitlers and terrorists.

    You must be blind to reality Neb. I talk to people every day who shutter at the thought of conservative christians taking over the US government. They most certainly view much of Christianity as either fascist or nazi.

    History speaks volumes and the only Theocracy that has ever worked is the spiritual reign of Christ. It's become quite clear that some of those here advocate Theonomy in today's day and age. They would rather force God's kingdom on others through the iron grip of law & force, rather than out of compassion, love & tolerance.

    Swords into plowshares, anyone?

    Parker's picture

    Kyle,

    Portraying conservative christians in such a negative light is a propagandistic effort by leftist marxist-atheists who themselves seek rulership in government to the exclusion of Christians. Really, no one should fall for that "christians are terrorists" silliness.

    Since God has given the state a sword (Rom 13; Acts 25:11), the state has a right to the use of force for war and law enforcement and we have no ability to take it away.

    Virgil's picture

    Really, no one should fall for that "christians are terrorists" silliness.

    Maybe when we stop threatening people with nukes every other day they will start thinking of us American Christians in a different light.

    I am a proud Libertarian Parker - you will get a Theocracy going in this country over my dead body. I would much rather have an atheist in power who does what's right and protects my right to be a heretic, than a Christian who will happily send me to visit Old Sparky for being a Preterist or a non-Calvinist.

    Parker's picture

    Virgil:
    Maybe when we stop threatening people with nukes every other day they will start thinking of us American Christians in a different light.

    Parker:
    When Iran gets nukes, you, Jamie, and your children are dead. Plain and simple. Do not expect a wild agressor like Iran to have and not use nukes agressively. Proud libertarians are of no value when they are nuked to vapor.

    Now, you may wish to have a government devoid of Christian princples ("theocracy," as you put it), but I do not. A government devoid of Christian influence is what China has. It is what Communist Russia had. It's what the Middle East has. Remember, Marx and Stalin were model atheists by profession and practice. They saw to it that Christianity was prohibited under their rule. That's what you'll get in America if we follow your "no Christians need apply" perspective on government.

    Virgil's picture

    When did I say that "no Christians need apply" to government jobs?

    That's all we need Parker, Pat Roberson and Tim LaHaye with their fingers on the nuke trigger.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    no Christians need apply

    See, he is doing it again...subtly accusing us of being against Christians holding government office. Great smokescreen, Parker.

    Parker's picture

    Calvin was a "christian holding government office." I'm glad you're not against that.

    As you know, CLIV is dead set against a Christian holding government offices and exercising government duties. Cliv believes government was created evil or is inherently evil. He does not get this view from scripture, so I'm not sure where he gets his ideas.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    But let's not forget that Calvin and those within the council were Christian elected officials that subjugated their ideas upon the people they represented. For Christians to enact the kinds of punishments they did was a far cry from the Christlike behavior expected from all of God's servants.

    Parker's picture

    Kyle:
    But let's not forget that Calvin and those within the council were Christian elected officials that subjugated their ideas upon the people they represented. For Christians to enact the kinds of punishments they did was a far cry from the Christlike behavior expected from all of God's servants.

    Parker:
    Even in democracies, some sizable population will be "subjugated." (The minority will be subjugated to the majority.) So, that will always be the case.

    Any minority that decides to rebel against the majority's law that Christianity be unrestrained will be subject to fines, imprisonment, exile, and perhaps even execution in extreme cases. That's just the way government works.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    Parker, the question is:

    Should Christians ethically be supportive of the government taking such measures?

    That is - should Christians back governments who imprison and execute people for their beliefs?

    My answer is a resounding NO. Calvin appeared to support such a government - so do you. That scares me, and it scares many of the non-christians I run into from day-to-day.

    Parker's picture

    Kyle:
    Should Christians ethically be supportive of the government taking such measures? That is - should Christians back governments who imprison and execute people for their beliefs?

    Parker:
    We already have a law on the books that says no one is supposed to impede religious freedom in America. That's a governmental protection of a religious matter that is enforceable by punishments. Now you may think that we'll always have that protection, but we will not. The ACLU is working hard to make religious expression illegal, and Marx and Lenin made all religion illegal in the former Soviet Union. In the Middle East, conversion to Christianity is punishable by death. If Christians do not create laws to protect our religion, atheists and others will strip us of that right freely worship. There is no neutral position. At that point we will be imprisoned, exiled, and executed. If you don't believe this is coming, I hope you will wake up before your children and grandchildren end up in jail or worse for professing Jesus.

    I don't care about the fears non-Christians have. Most non-Christians that are involved in government and politics are actively working to end the legality of religious expression in America. They are political enemies that must be defeated at the ballot box and prayed for that they might cease opposing Christ. To worry about their feelings is crazy. Worry about whether your kids will be able to profess Jesus without being put in prison or worse and work to ensure their well being.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but the United States currently has laws protecting our right to practice (all) religion. I think it's somewhere in the First Amendment.

    Parker's picture

    Kyle:
    I'm not sure if you are aware of this, but the United States currently has laws protecting our right to practice (all) religion. I think it's somewhere in the First Amendment.

    Parker:
    We're blessed to have that law-based protection, Kyle. But for certain, if that religious protection wasn't codified into law by our founders, communists and other atheists would have seen to it by now that every church be a nightclub and every Christian land in prision. In fact, the many atheists and communists that currently live in our country are seeking to overthrow both the right to practice religion and the right to free enterprise. To say we Christians should be willing to die to protect the right of our subversive enemies to overthrow us is to advocate collective suicide.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    So we should act the same as the communists, athiests and muslims and worry only about ourselves?

    I'm glad the founding fathers (many of whom were Christian) had the wisdom to protect all persons rights - otherwise I doubt we would be having this discussion.

    Don't get me wrong, if a group of radical ________ (whoevers) comes knocking on my door to drag me out into the street and stone me I'm not going willingly. However, by the same token, I will never join a mob that drags people out of their homes for their religious beliefs. Didn't the Germans do that to the Jews (or maybe that was more ethnic than religion?)

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    To worry about their (non-christian) feelings is crazy. Worry about whether your kids will be able to profess Jesus without being put in prison or worse and work to ensure their well being.

    What if my children (when the grow up) are non-christians?

    Parker's picture

    Parker:
    Worry about whether your kids will be able to profess Jesus without being put in prison or worse and work to ensure their well being.

    Kyle:
    What if my children (when the grow up) are non-christians?

    Parker:
    Worry that they will not even have the legal opportunity to hear Christ's name presented to them.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    Parker: Worry about whether your kids will be able to profess Jesus without being put in prison or worse and work to ensure their well being.

    Kyle: What if my children (when the grow up) are non-christians?

    Parker: Worry that they will not even have the legal opportunity to hear Christ's name presented to them.

    And in the meantime the Christian majority will persecute them for their beliefs and "not care" about their rights?

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    As I said, history speaks volumes. History seems to indicate that everytime Christians control a government there is a lot of killing going on. Whether you like it or not, athiests, marxists, daoists and even some Christians are worried that it will happen again. They see a close comparison to the religion-run governments of the middle east.

    Perhaps God has given the state a sword, but does that mean Christians should wield that sword?

    Parker's picture

    Kyle,

    Actually, Christian influence in government has made it much more civilized down the ages. The Asian countries still don't have a judicial system that works, for example.

    Also, when you ask whether Christians should wield the sword in government offices, it sounds like you are arguing that God prohibits Christians to participate in government but desires pagans to rule over us. Is that your understanding?

    Why would it be wrong for a Christian to be a governor of a State and use the legitimate power God has granted to the state?

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    Don't sidestep the real issue by accusing me of being against Christians serving in the government.

    Christians are just as welcome in office as anyone else....and just as guilty when it comes to attempts to push their faith on those they represent.

    I'm not against one's personal morality driving their decisions - but only to the point it continues to represent the best interest of those under their jurisdiction.

    Actually, Christian influence in government has made it much more civilized down the ages.

    Please provide proof of this claim.

    Parker's picture

    The entire judicial system of the West was produced by Christians. Asian and Middle Eastern countries have no equivalent system of fair justice and equality under the law.

    Kyle:
    I'm not against one's personal morality driving their decisions - but only to the point it continues to represent the best interest of those under their jurisdiction.

    Paker:
    If a majority of "those under their jurisdiction" seek to make laws protecting Christian marriage, outlawing abortion, or protecting the free exercise of Christianity without impediment, they can do so. Once they do so, violators of those laws will be subject to punishments. This fact does not then make monsters out of Christians.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    I agree with your statement, but for the Christian elected officials, or even the Christian majority to make the punishments for violating those laws such as stoning, starvation, whipping or execution is just plain wrong - on a universal scale.

    That is where my conflict with what occurred in Geneva resides.

    Parker's picture

    Kyle:
    I agree with your statement, but for the Christian elected officials, or even the Christian majority to make the punishments for violating those laws such as stoning, starvation, whipping or execution is just plain wrong - on a universal scale.

    Parker:
    If a Christian majority enacts a law saying that abortion is a moral evil on par with murder, then does that state have the right to punish abortionists with imprisonment or even with the death penalty? I look forward to your answer.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    saying that abortion is a moral evil on par with murder

    The United States already has federal and state laws addressing the consequences of murder (I believe murder to be a universal issue). If abortion is equated to murder, then I support whatever punishment is determined by the court system for anyone who chooses to abort their child.

    Your turn. Is it ethical for a Christian majority to pass a law imprisoning or even executing those who simply sympathize with pro-choice views?

    Parker's picture

    Kyle,

    Most non-Christians reject that abortion is murder--they say that equating abortion with murder is a religious conviction only. Therefore, if a majority of Christian Americans succeed at making abortion murder (in our laws) and then prosecute abortionists, we are just as bad as Calvin (from your perspective). Why? Because we are forcing others to abide by our religious beliefs.

    Now, on to your question. You asked, "Is it ethical for a Christian majority to pass a law imprisoning or even executing those who simply sympathize with pro-choice views?"

    The answer is of course not. However, once their sympathies move into actions to abort babies privately in people's homes or to even help others abort babies in people's homes, then they are breaking the law and are subject to fines, imprisonment, exile, or even possibly the death penalty in the most extreme cases. That's just the way government works, and it's not against Christ that it is so.

    Kyle Peterson's picture

    Kyle: Is it ethical for a Christian majority (and/or Christian elected official) to pass a law imprisoning or even executing those who simply sympathize with pro-choice views?

    Parker: The answer is of course not.

    Then how was Calvin and Ferel justified in burning Severetus at the stake for his views on the Trinity?

    How was the Catholic Church justified in warranting his arrest?

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