all Calvin all the time

Calvin’s birthday week is here!  Calvin was born on June 10, 1509, and to mark this occasion, like every other Calvinist blogger, I will post on our favorite theologian all week (probably a series of trivia questions, so stop by each day to see how much you really know about Calvin).  Here is today’s question, with the answer in the comment section.

Contrary to popular opinion, Calvin did not burn the heretic Michael Servetus at the stake.  Who did?

a. Calvin’s opponents, the Libertines.  When they heard that Calvin requested a more humane beheading for Servetus, the Libertines decided to burn him instead.

b. the Roman Catholics.  They were furious that Servetus had escaped from their prison in Vienna, and they wanted him back so that they could kill him themselves.

c. Jerome Bolsec.  An opponent of Calvin because he disagreed with Calvin’s view on predestination, Bolsec killed Servetus to prove to his fellow Genevans that he did stand for something. 

d. the Italian mob.  Servetus owed them money from his anesthesia-free dentistry practice that failed.






13 responses to “all Calvin all the time”

  1. mikewittmer

    Answer: (a), though (b) is also true, except that the Viennese Catholics did not get a second crack at Servetus.

  2. I thought Calvin was born on July 10. That’s when I was planning my homage to the Institutes

  3. Calvin’s idea that we are the keepers of the holiness of God? Is this perhaps why we are so unwilling (as protestants) to really listen to other ideas?

    The common view of the age, that heretics like Servetus should be subject to punishment, was explained by Calvin as follows:

    “Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are. There is no question here of man’s authority; it is God who speaks, and clear it is what law he will have kept in the church, even to the end of the world. Wherefore does he demand of us a so extreme severity, if not to show us that due honor is not paid him, so long as we set not his service above every human consideration, so that we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory

    Ironically in America, we adore free speech unless it’s rubs against our mental beliefs — in which case we call others heretics in much the same manner as Calvin did to Servetus. As followers of Jesus Christ in the Year of Our Lord 2009, I hope we’ve learned something from history.

  4. Justin

    I with Nick believed the day to be in July. Both THL Parker (p. 18) and Bernard Cottret (p. 3) seem to concur…

    I too am excited…I have planned to take the day off and just enjoy the Institutes to pay tribute…but are we jumping the gun just a bit?

  5. ” …it is God who speaks, and clear it is what law he will have kept in the church,…”

    So the state is to inforce the discipline of the church. I have no doubt of Calvin’s place in histroy and I appreciate his contribution to theological development, but he was still in some ways a child of his time… as were the New England Puritans that persecuted Quakers and Baptists….

    … and 150 years from now, if this world is still around, Christian bloggers will look back at us and say, “How could they have been so whacked out that they………….” (fill in the blank)..

  6. Yeah, John Calvin was born on July 10, 1509 and died on May 27, 1564. This is perfect because, while the original Calvin died on May 27, my son Calvin was born the next day, May 28 (2008, not 1564).

  7. BTW, Randy, please get your facts straight before posting comments. You really make yourself look foolish with this kind of thing. Calvin didn’t “do” anything to Servetus…except try to use his influence to get the sentence changed from burning at the stake to the more humane beheading.

  8. I, too, thought it was July 10.

  9. Hey Rev.

    I don’t really care if I look foolish. Being thoughtful, honest, and a discerning follower of Jesus is of more importance to me. AND, Calvin would still have murdered Servetus if others wouldn’t have done so. There was nothing honorable about Calvin’s decision to support beheading. It still goes down as killing another human being.

    Killing another by any method is still killing. Thanks for your history lesson.

  10. mikewittmer


    Context is everything. It is true that Calvin thought Servetus should die, but so did everyone in the 16th century. So while Calvin was definitely wrong, it is unfair to single him out. So if you want to use the term “murder,” then be fair and declare that everyone in Calvin’s time–his followers, his opponents (including those we today would call Arminians), Roman Catholics–everybody was a murderer. The point is that you can’t single out Calvin for Servetus’ murder, when it was actually his Libertine opponents who did the deed and Calvin’s position was not unique. As Bill N. rightly said, Calvin was a child of his times.

  11. Dr. Wittmer, you’re wasting your breath. Randy doesn’t care about silly “facts.” He cares about how he feeeeels.

  12. Z, I think you’re being a bit hard on Randy. After all, he does serve a useful function in my life. Whenever my wife thinks I am being arrogant, condescending, or dismissive, I just have her read any of Randy’s posts. Compared to his belligerent ignorance, I look pretty darn good. I, for one, am thankful that Randy continues to find new and creative ways to demonstrate his utter and complete asininity. His hypocritical, self-refuting babble just makes the rest of us look better and better.

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