Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Nelson Price's attack on John Calvin. IV

So we continue our refutation of Dr. Price's wretched attack on John Calvin with this statement:
In 1540 a new group of city rulers invited him back and soon he was the dominate [sic.] force in the area.

This statement is also frankly untrue. When a man pens and makes public an attack upon the character of another, dead or alive, he owes it to honesty and decency to fully check his facts. Of course, he may find the possibility of libel action a more pressing reason to check his facts when writing of a living man, but a Christian should be moved by higher motives that encompass the dead as well as the living.
First let us return to one of Price's earlier statements, that Calvin was called to Geneva as a lawyer. The source of that statement is here. It says" Calvin, by now a successful lawyer, was invited to Geneva to build the new Reformed church." We do not know the source of this statement, but it is simply incorrect. He was not a successful lawyer, he was a student of the Bible and a preacher of the Gospel.

It is true that he was invited back to Geneva in 1541, but he returned to many years of bitter strife with men in the civil government who were opposed to any sort of Church discipline. Of course a state Church makes discipline difficult, for it makes ecclesiastical offences crimes against the state. This conflict raged until 1556 - fifteen years. Since Calvin died in 1564, the conflict lasted for the larger part of the rest of his life! Calvin was only granted Genevan citizenship in 1559, and as only citizens were allowed to vote in the council elections there were times when Calvin had less real power than a Genevan tradesman.
John Calvin never held any post in the government of Geneva (indeed until 1559 he was legally debarred from doing so as a non-citizen). He was never more than a minister, a member of a consistory court that was headed by a magistrate appointed by the Council. Any power Calvin had in Geneva was as a pastor, as nothing else. It was purely the power of the Word that ruled in Geneva. Calvin himself lived a very frugal life, refusing to accept gifts over and above his salary.
Of course, as a preacher, Calvin applied the Word of God to every part of life. But what preacher dares to do less? Must not the Christian live all his life as a Christian? We suspect that Dr. Price would, like us, have little respect for those in government who profess Christianity but seem to leave their religion at the door of the council chamber. Would he rather have his rulers governed by the will of God or the whim of man?

We referred to Calvin's struggles to 1556. They were struggles for the independence of the Church. We freely admit that men in the 16th century generally failed to recognise this principle, but Calvin went further than most, insisting that the Church ought to be self-governing. For this principle he was hated and opposed by those who had invited the Reformed preachers to Geneva in the first place but who found that Calvin's preaching hit a little too close for comfort. Immoral men do not like to hear their vices condemned from the pulpit, and when those men hold power they will do what they can to silence the preacher. Biblically we see Herod's arrest of John the Baptist, whilst in the present day we see a creeping attempt to silence ministers who dare to say that homosexual behaviour is sinful.

We close with the words of Basil Hall, who had examined Geneva's civil records:
"If Calvin had dictatorial control over Genevan affairs, how is it that the records of Geneva show him plainly to have been the servant of its council which on many occasions rejected out of hand Calvin's wishes for the religious life of Geneva and was always master in Genevan affairs?"

God willing, next time we shall refer to Calvin's Magnum Opus and have some choice words to say to Dr. Price.


Fred said...

God has filled my mind with zeal to spread his Kingdom
and to further the public good. I am also duly clear in my own conscience, and have God and the angels to witness, that since I undertook the office of teacher in the church, I have had no other purpose than to benefit the church by maintaining the pure doctrine of godliness. Yet I think that there is no one who is assailed, bitten, and wounded by more false accusations than I. -John Calvin

For "learned" men to still assail him falsely is unconscionable.

Highland Host said...

Yet Dr. Price is utterly unwilling to discuss, much less debate, the subject!