THE GROWTH OF THE REFORMATION
The Protestant Reformation was an immense - but not a unified - religious, social and political movement. The spectrum of Protestant theology admitted of countless variants and intensities, from the most moderate and cautious to the most extreme and reckless.
The Magisterial Reforms - that is, the Lutheran and the Calvinist - rejected certain practices and doctrines of the Catholic Church but still affirmed all the classic dogmas and practices of the early Church: the Trinity, the two natures of Christ, infant baptism and so on. Both, moreover, were profoundly Augustinian in their theologies. But other reform movements were not so bound to tradition.
Reformation in Germany
When Luther arrived in Worms in April 1521 to appear before the Imperial Diet, not only was he greeted by crowds of supporters, his entourage included a large number of German knights. If, though, Emperor CharlesV (1500—58) was impressed by this display of popular support, he did not show it; instead he simply instructed Luther to recant. Luther, in the presence of the Diet, refused, saying that, unless it could be proved to him from scripture that he had erred, he was bound by conscience to hold firm. Debate could not move him, and the Diet (no doubt noting that many of Luther's companions were 'men of action') allowed him to depart; in his absence, however, the Diet declared him an outlaw — a decision that forced him to go into hiding for almost a year. He continued to write during this time, however, and began his German translation of the Bible. The Reformation — or 'Evangelical Movement' - in the German principalities was now an inexorable force. From 1526 onwards, with some predictable vacillations, the emperor was increasingly obliged to concede the princes of Germany the right to govern the churches in their domains as their consciences dictated. In 1531, moreover, the Protestant princes formed the Schmalkaldic League, a defensive alliance, and in 1532, anxious over a possible Turkish invasion, the emperor agreed to an official truce with the Reformers (which lasted until 1544).
Under the pen of Luther, the principles of the movement became ever clearer: the 'priesthood of all believers', the complete dependency of the soul on God's grace, unmerited election to salvation, the 'bondage of the will' of fallen humanity (either to the devil or to God), the 'freedom of the Christian', salvation by faith and not by works, and the uselessness of such Catholic forms of 'works righteousness' as penance, the 'sacrifice of the mass' and clerical celibacy. One distinctive feature of Luther's theology — and so of the Evangelical Church — was his insistence on the real presence of Christ in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, a position he defended on the Christological grounds that, in the incarnation, Christ's humanity came to share perfectly in all the attributes of his divinity (including omnipresence). He preferred to speak of this presence, though, as occurring 'with' the substances of the bread and wine (a position known as 'consubstantiation') rather than as displacing those substances with the substances of Christ's body and blood ('transubstantiation').
With the help of intellectual allies such as Philipp Melanchthon (1497—1560), the brilliant humanist scholar who reformed the German educational system, Luther was able to create a genuinely Evangelical culture for the Protestant German states and Scandinavia. He remained a controversialist to the end, attacking enemies with the same zeal with which he preached the free gift of divine grace. His denunciations of the papacy - an institution 'founded by the devil' - of radical reformers and of Jews became, if anything, more intemperate as he aged. But at his death he left behind him a distinct, independent and doctrinally cogent Protestant Church.
(HE WAS OVERALL OFF THE WALL, FROM PLANET PLUTO, WITH SOME OF HIS TEACHINGS AND ATTITUDES [VERY STRONG AT TIMES] TOWARDS OTHERS. HE CALLED THE BOOK OF JAMES "AN EPISTLE OF STRAW." Keith Hunt)
[In hiding at the Elector of Saxony's castle at Wartburg in 1521, Luther worked on his translation of the Bible into German. We have today a copy of a Luther Bible with margin notes and corrections made in Luther's own hand]
The other major stream of the 'Magisterial Reformation' is that which flowed from Switzerland, now principally associated with John Calvin (1509—64). A more important figure, though, for the rise of the Reformed tradition in Switzerland was Huldrych Zwingli (1484-1531), the priest and humanist scholar who, as early as 1516, began preaching against clerical abuses, and whose sermons 'from true, divine scripture', starting in 1520, inaugurated a popular movement in Switzerland against such practices as priestly celibacy and the keeping of fasts. In Zurich, from 1523, he succeeded in bringing about liturgical reforms, the stripping of the churches of images and of organs, the institution of Bible study and the taking of wives by many of the clergy (including Zwingli himself). He taught that doctrinal authority lies in the Bible alone, that the Church has no head but Christ, that prayers for the dead are of no avail, that the doctrine of Purgatory is unscriptural and that the Eucharist is in no sense a 'sacrifice'. His understanding of original sin was rather like that of the Greek fathers, in that he denied that it involved any inheritance of aboriginal guilt. Like Luther, he taught that justification is a free gift of God's grace alone. Unlike Luther, he denied the real presence of Christ's body and blood in the elements of the Eucharist, and argued that the
[John Calvin, the French lawyer, humanist scholar and theologian whose work "The Institutes of the Christian Religion" - the first edition of which appeared in 1536, when Calvin was not yet 27 — still constitutes the most systematic and lucid expression of the principles of 'Reformed' (as distinct from 'Lutheran' or 'Evangelical') Protestantism]
human and divine natures in Christ remain eternally distinct in their attributes ud operations. And Zwingli's teachings had spread to other cantons within Switzerland, and had helped to give form to a distinctively Swiss Reformed Church well before his death in battle, as a military chaplain, in 1564.
(HE HAD MORE TRUTH THAN OTHERS, BUT WAS STILL A LONG WAY FROM MANY TRUTHS OF THE BIBLE - Keith Hunt)
The most important figure in the next generation of Reformers was, of course, John Calvin. As a young man in Paris, Calvin was active in the movement for reform within the Catholic Church, as a result of which he found it prudent to leave France in 1533. He went to Basel in Switzerland, where he came to adopt a more purely Protestant view of things. From 1536 to 1538 he lived in Geneva, where he worked on behalf of the city's nascent reformation until the (Protestant, but tepidly so) city council expelled him. He sojourned in Strasbourg, Germany until 1541, when Geneva invited him to return to help overcome the city's resistance - or indifference - to the Reformed cause.
In Geneva, Calvin was able - despite occasional conflict and failure - to create a Church organization and social order consonant with his theological vision. Churches were run by elders, duly constituted pastors preached and taught, and deacons looked after the needs of the community. Moreover, the Genevans' morals were now matters not only of social concern but of criminal law: licentiousness, dancing, gambling, profane speech, improprieties of dress or comportment, irreverence or blasphemy, absence from church and all other forms of moral laxity were to be reported by community invigilators and punished by magistrates, often in a vividly public way. And false doctrine was not to be tolerated. These measures point to certain profound differences between the Lutheran and Calvinist understandings of grace. Luther might well have regarded many of Calvin's vice laws as signs of an excessive anxiety regarding personal righteousness, and even as a form of justification by works. Calvin, though, believed that the gift of justification really makes men and women righteous, and that any society made up of the elect should reflect the sanctity instilled in human hearts by grace, as evidence of God's workings.
In most respects, the elements of Calvin's theology were typically Protestant: the unique authority of scripture, the absolute gratuity of justification, the impotence of the human will to merit salvation, the uselessness of fasts and penances, and predestination. In this last case, though, Calvin's emphasis differed from that of Luther. No other theologian ever put so great a stress upon the sheer sovereignty of God, as an explanation of the mystery of God's actions in creation and redemption. He went so far as to assert that God eternally foreordained even the original fall of humanity from grace, that he might by the working of his will display the glory of his sovereignty in the gratuitous salvation of the elect and in the fitting damnation of the derelict. This theology of absolute divine sovereignty became one of the most characteristic features of the high Reformed tradition.
(GOD FOREKNEW THE FALL OF MAN, FOR IT IS WRITTEN JESUS WAS TO BE THE SALVATION, THE LAMB OF GOD, BEFORE THE FOUNDATION OF THE WORLD - Keith Hunt)
THE DEATH OF SERVETUS
[Portrait of Michael Servetus, from a biography published in 1121. A renowned scholar in many fields of science, his life was cut short by his trial and eventual execution for heresy]
Whatever the Magisterial Reformation was, it certainly was not a movement for greater freedom of conscience - much less freedom of religion.The aim of reform was a stricter adherence to the rule of scripture (as interpreted by reforming theologians) and a renewal of piety and moral purpose among the faithful. But Protestant regimes were no more tolerant of aberrant theological opinions than were their Catholic counterparts.
Prime evidence of this would be the case of Michael Servetus (c. 1510-53), the Spanish physician, scholar of science, astrologer, discoverer of blood circulation and amateur theologian who - though a Catholic and attracted to the cause of reform - offended against Protestant and Catholic orthodoxy alike by publishing two books (the first in 1531, the second in 1532) attacking the doctrine of the Trinity, and proposing in its place a kind of complex Unitarianism.
In 1534, a proposed debate in Paris between Servetus and John Calvin failed to materialize, but Servetus clearly came in the years that followed to regard Calvin as his natural theological interlocutor. In 1546, he sent the manuscript of his treatise The Restitution of Christianity (which attacked Nicene theology as extra-biblical) to Calvin in Geneva, and attempted to initiate a dialogue by post. After a few exchanges, however, Calvin terminated the correspondence and even refused to return the manuscript; he also vowed to his fellow Genevan reformer Guillaume Farel (1489-1565) that, if Servetus ever came to Geneva, he would not be allowed to leave alive.
(SO WE STILL SEE THE MADNESS OF ATTITUDE OF SOME OF THESE "REFORMERS" - EVEN THE ATTITUDE OF KILLING - Keith Hunt)
Calvin was as good as his word. In 1553, Servetus - fleeing the inquisitor in Lyon - entered Geneva, where he was recognized, arrested and put on trial for heresy. Calvin argued forcefully in favour of execution, and - enraged by Servetus' defence of his positions before the court - peevishly remarked that he would have liked to see the Spaniard's eyes scratched out by chickens.
(AGAIN THE MADNESS OF SOME WELL KNOWN "REFORMERS"
- Keith Hunt)
Servetus was convicted and sentenced to be burned at the stake. To his credit, perhaps, Calvin expressed a preference for quick and merciful decapitation. This did not prevent him later, however, from mocking Servetus' cries of torment amid the flames.
(DO WE NEED MORE PROOF THAT THESE REFORMERS, MANY OF THEM WERE DEMONIC - Keith Hunt)
['For I do not disguise it that I considered it my duty to put a check, so far as I could, upon this most obstinate and ungovernable man, that his contagion might not spread further.']
John Calvin, "Letter regarding Servetus," September 1553
SO MUCH FOR THE TWO OF THE MOST FAMOUS SO-CALLED "REFORMERS" - LUTHER AND CALVIN; BASICALLY FRUIT-NUT BASKET CASES OF DEMONIC INFLUENCE - Keith Hunt
TO BE CONTINUED