Who was Calvin, John | Biography

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Calvin, John (1509-1564).

Theologian and French Protestant reformer, born 10 July 1509 in Noyon (Picardy) and died in Geneva on May 27, 1564, which is considered the largest of the Protestant theologians, and the second most important reformer after Lutero. Its institutions have remained, as he wrote them, as norm of Orthodox Protestantism of all the so-called "Reformed" Churches (see Calvinism).


Member of a family of French middle class, Calvin - name derived from its original French Cauvin, Latinized Calvinus- was the son of a lawyer, who had bought the license in the town of Noyon, where was the practice of civil and Canon law. Unlike Luther, Calvin or was ordered priest in the Catholic Church, nor issued religious vows. In the middle of a Catholic environment, his mother strove to introduce the child to Catholic devotions. In his private life was strong and quiet, simple habits, unconcerned of the riches and delivered to work tirelessly character. He received his first training in schools of la Marche and Montaigne, dependent of the University of Paris. In this city he graduated in arts in 1528. At the insistence of his father, followed the career of law in the universities of Orléans and Bourges, in 1532. His father died, he returned to Paris to devote itself fully to the humanities, result of which was his commentary on De clementia, of Seneca. Already by then he had learned Greek and Hebrew, attracted as it was by the study of the Bible. In Paris he came into contact with of Erasmus of Rotterdam and supporters of reform, such as Le Fevre d´Etaples (Estapulenses), famous for his translation of the Bible into French; Lacorderius, guardian, man of austere life and excellent command of latin; Jorge Cop, doctor of King Francis I, but also a friend of the current religious issues. Beside these teachers became a humanist and a reformer.

After a religious experience, which believed to have received a mission from God to restore the Church to its pristine purity, broke with the Catholic Church (1533) and channeled his life in the work of reform, for which he came in contact with the reformers of Germany and Switzerland. Calvin adopted the broad themes of Lutheran theology - the Bible as the only rule in matters of faith and morals; radical corruption of man after original sin; Salvation result solely and exclusively provided by grace-faith, but developed them independently.

In 1534, Francisco I, triggered a persecution against the reformers, irritated by the emergence of irreverent leaflets against the mass. Feeling threatened, Calvin fled to Switzerland, settling in Basel. During his peaceful stay in this city, he soaked in the study of the Bible and the writings of Luther and Zwingli. Also took time to write his most important work: Christianae Religionis Institutio ('institution of Religion Christian'), short compendium of doctrine Evangelical, as he understood it, published in 1536. This first edition was preceded by a dedication to King Francisco I, in defense of the French Protestants. The text of the Institutio was expanding it in successive editions, and he himself translated it into French in 1541. The definitive edition was made by the author between 1559 and 1560, when already had become a vast treatise of dogmatic, distributed in four volumes and 80 chapters. It exposes its doctrine organic and systematically, in such a way that it forms the basis of the thought and the Calvinist praxis. The text appeared, moreover, at a time in which the expansion of the reformist ideas and Lutheranism were losing dynamism, and in danger of dividing. Calvin with his work, believers, confused and bewildered by a reformed but too intellectualized and disorderly, religion offered a clear, logical, simple and accessible to all doctrine. It said: "is more God's work than mine".

In 1536, Calvin began a journey to Strasbourg, but invited by Guillaume Farel, agreed to stay in Geneva, to help you bring order to that Church had adopted the reformation of Luther. Appointed preacher and pastor of the community of Geneva, contributed to the drafting of the "Articles concernant l'Organisation de l' église", presented to the City Council in 1537. In them, he insisted on the need for an ordering of the community and a church discipline for the worthy celebration of the supper. Then, published a catechism in French, which exposed the foundations of Christian doctrine, and to which was added a "confession of faith", that "they must follow and maintain all citizens and inhabitants of Geneva, and that all nationals of the territory must be bound under oath". Who refused to swear, would lose their citizenship rights, and should leave the city. They were not well received instructions through much of the city, by which, in 1538, when the people chose to lay rectors of the city to the opponents of Calvin, they imposed new uses Catholic, rejecting the rules established by the reformer. Calvin was forced to leave the city, taking advantage of to end his trip to Strasbourg, started years ago. In this city, where he remained until 1541, he married Idelette de Bure, a converted theirs, which had a son, who died in 1542, shortly after birth. There he wrote his commentary on the letter to the Romans , and matured his theological system and your organization, Church, much more strict and rigid than the Organization of Luther. From Strasbourg he got in touch with reformation of Germany, especially with Melanchthon (1497-1560), whom he knew personally, did not with Luther, with whom he was linked only by correspondence.

Organization of the Church of Geneva

In 1541, the invaluable begged him to come back to his hometown, invitation only Calvin accepted once the city pledged to accept the "ecclesiastical ordinances of the Church of Geneva". It remained there the rest of his life, only leaving for trips of promotion of reform by different countries of Europe. In 1542, published the Geneva catechism, in the form of questions and answers, stating the following order: faith, law, prayer and sacraments. With confidence given to it by the invaluable, dedicated to organizing the cult and to structure the new Church, encompassing all aspects of social life. The new community comprised four occupations: shepherds (or preachers), doctors, priests, and deacons. The shepherds had the mission to preach and administer the sacraments; the doctors gave Scripture lessons and prepared the new parish priests; the priests and elders were monitoring the conduct of members of the community; Finally, the deacons dealt with social assistance to poor and sick. Over the ministries was Calvin, who possessed the personal charisma of the Prophet and reformer. To regulate the life of the invaluable and ensure discipline to the interior of the Church, was established a consistory (something like the Catholic Inquisition), integrated by a group of pastors and delegates of the Government. The characteristic note of the ecclesial organization of Calvin was the rigor and fundamentalism. Is censored and banned secular readings and watched the sacred; be controlled life and the study of young people, who were not allowed to fun, or dance, or other holidays and songs which were not religious. Everything was monopolized by catechesis, religious services and by the word of God.

In November 1552, the Council declared Calvin institutions provided "doctrine to which nobody should contradict". In addition, did not fit doubt, nor nor critical disobedience which put in danger the dogmatic solidity or discipline. In this way the religious intolerance of Calvin, was installed as standard to those who do not profess their ideas. The State promulgating dogmatic decrees, with freedom to prosecute, banish and execute those who dared contradict them. Typical cases of this persecution were banishment from Castiello, the punishments inflicted on Bolsec - moderate who dissented from the points of view radical in discipline and doctrine, and the execution of the Spanish doctor Miguel Servet, condemned to the stake for heresy, October 27, 1553. In five years there were in Geneva 58 death sentences and exile, as well as numerous imprisonments 77 to relevant people. In the same way, in 1555 was suffocated the rebellion attempt led by the Perrin family - which always expressed its opposition to the leadership of Calvin in the city - thus reaffirming is this power. Repression and punishment helped consolidate the comprehensive power of Calvin, power that remained until his death, becoming a ciudad-iglesia, in the new Rome, the ideal of the new Jerusalem to Geneva.

Although it received House and salary of the Government, had no official position and not became a citizen of Geneva until 1559. This year he founded the Academy of Geneva, (which later became the University of Geneva) for theological training of pastors, which played a role in the cosmopolitan aspect of the city. The Academy was the main focus of study and propaganda of its doctrine.

During the time that was in front of the Church in Geneva, Calvin worked for the improvement of the lives of the inhabitants of the city in many ways: it supported the creation of hospitals, promoted the sewer, the protection of the upper floors railings, special attention to the poor and sick, and the introduction of new industries. In addition, it encouraged the use of French in the churches, thus confirming the important personal contribution in the formation of the French as a modern language.

Affected by a precarious health, suffered in the last years of his life from asthma chronic and colds. In 1558 he was affected by a violent attack's quartan fever. Died on May 27, 1564, he was buried in Geneva, in an anonymous grave. Then their ideas were already seated in Geneva, and had already spread its doctrine by Germany (Gaspar Olevianus), the Netherlands (Philip Marnix of St. Aldegonde), Scotland (John Knox), the same as in Poland, Hungary and Transylvania. Calvin himself had contributed in the formation of communities in these countries through its extensive epistolary communication.

His writings

The most lasting contribution of Calvin to the Church has been, without doubt, his literary production, which was very extensive, comprising letters, sermons, theological treatises and opinions despite the precision that characterizes the author. His letters, some 4.270, are collected in two large volumes; among them is his carta-respuesta Cardinal Sadolecero, one of the most brilliant works written on the reform. . Its treated theological treated fundamentally the Eucharist, relics and predestination (1552). Of their Sermones, taquigraficamente taken from 1549, barely one-fourth is preserved. Reviews many of the books of the Bible make Calvin in one of the greatest commentators of the biblical text. Unlike Luther, for whom the return to the sources was fundamentally return to the Gospel, and of Zwingli - which advocated the return to the original revelation granted to pagans and Christians, for Calvin the return to the origins was the return to the old testament, so that will be the concepts of this which will prevail in his work.

What really explains the influence and success of the teachings of Calvin was the consistency of its doctrine and order and clarity with which exposes her in his writings. If it provided Luther great popularity the power of his eloquence, his sense of humor, and even the vulgarity of his style, Calvin differentiated culture that displayed at all times, even when he addressed the crowds. He wrote in French with the same correction that Lutero did in German. Little sense of humor, he ever wore a classic style; instead of fustigar with a rod, he fustigaba with his overwhelming logic, and persuaded with the authority of the master, and not with the insults of a demagogue. What Luther had Mystic, Calvin had it from scholastic. With that clarity of mind he imposed order on the principles that Lutero threw in a stormy way in his vehement tirades. Elegance and austerity, the French disciples Calvinist movement called "religion", name that characterizes him outside the scope of the Catholic Church.

The philosophical thinking

The examination of important doctrinal Calvin production allows the constant presence of a budget of philosophical nature that determines and explains all his thought: the concept of absolute sovereignty of God, the reformer magnifying a omniabsorbente and irredeemable reality, and that summed up in its slogan "Omnia ad Dei gloriam "".

This perspective is explained the nature of this knowledge, conditioned by the a priori ideas that Dios has instilled in all men; understand also apply to God as the source of all truth, which the man, after the original sin, not have been more than some debris. Also, this principle follows the doctrine of the "servo arbitrio", whereby the actual beginning of human actions is located in the Divine Providence, which relies on man as an instrument, being this coerced internally by the will to divine; a metaphysics that is unfavorable to the man, in contradiction with that enthusiasm is humanist that Calvin had demonstrated during the period of their training. The recognition of the sovereignty of God is also projected in the field of social life: political life will be the field of Christian sanctification; the work becomes a religious vocation which materialize in the world the designs of God; the State is understood as an external environment of salvation, in the sense that should guarantee peaceful coexistence, combat the idolatry and advocating the recognition of the true religion. Why Christians should participate in social life and to obey the authorities, unless they do not abide by the word of God, in which case it is licit, even armed resistance.

Translated for educational purposes.

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