Saturday, July 14, 2012

A Legacy

   Here we are again. I have woefully left my blogging duties in the dustbin and undoubtedly caused immense sorrow amongst the masses. What’s makes my negligence of networking even more hideously heinous is that I was called out last post by one of my loyal readers to write about one of our heroes of the faith. So after putting off my procrastination and dawning some diligence, I have chosen to write on a character that is the favorite of one of my mentors, and one which I find quite a bit of inspiration in myself. So for a moment or two of your time, I would like to tell you about John Calvin.

                                                The Beginning of the Reformer
          John Calvin is seen as quite a controversial figure in modern society. Many saved and unsaved alike, view him with derision. To those critics who are unsaved, Calvin is seen as the product of the Christian faith when it is given too much influence in any society; to those critics who are born again, they see Calvin as exchanging the loving nature of God for an evil caricature of judgment and cruelty. I would suggest to you that these beliefs are born from misunderstanding of Calvin’s vaguer teachings, modern society’s focus on one controversial issue, and a loss of perspective in view of Calvin’s life. Calvin was not a devil as many paint him to be, but a saint with weaknesses (like ours) and tremendous strengths, both of which were used (or struggled with) as he strived to teach a doctrine that would grow to be the most influential of all Protestant faiths.
       The man we know as John Calvin (or in his native tongue: Jean Cauvin) was born July 10, 1509, about 60 miles north of Paris. John’s father, Gerard, a stern and rather distant man, was an important lawyer with extensive ties with the local Bishop, and these connections made it easy for him to put his twelve year-old son into private religious studies which he quickly succeeded in. Gerard envisioned an influential church position for his son. To that end, he sent John to the University of Paris to study the arts, after which a nine-year theological doctorate was planned. All these plans suddenly caved in as the obstinate Gerard had a falling out with the local church. The angry father decided that his son would instead become a lawyer as he was, and John, ever the dutiful son, accepted. The sharp mind of Calvin readily showed its masterful ability in his legal studies, although Calvin showed that he preferred the studies of the humanities to the intricacy of law. This preference took the fore after John’s father died in 1531, and Calvin went back to studying at Paris.
     It was at this time that John Calvin had his first contact with the Protestant Church that he would have so much effect on in the future. It is not known the exact time or circumstances when he became saved. Calvin himself writes: “on a sudden the full knowledge of the truth, like a bright light disclosed to me the abyss of errors in which I was weltering, the sin and shame with which I was defiled...God himself produced the change. He instantly subdued my heart to obedience.” #
     Regardless of the circumstances surrounding it, Calvin’s conversion caused him to set aside many of his secular studies and devote a large amounts of his time to studying the word of God. For two years Calvin studied and met with like-minded Protestants, and these years saw Calvin rise as the leader of his small Parisian group using both his mind and his faith to assist other believers in their walk. Unfortunately, this peaceful period could not last. France’s King, Francis I, had been reasonably tolerant up to this point, but when it became apparent that he risked raising the ire of the greatly more numerous Catholic population King Francis increased pressure on the active Christian minority. Calvin and his group were forced into hiding in the southern French city of Angouleme for nearly a year, until Calvin made the fateful decision to give up the benefices he had been given while studying in his youth, thereby severing his final tie with the Catholic Church. Wanting to finally find somewhere where he could continue his studies and worship in safety, the young scholar sojourned to Basel, Switzerland, the land where God would use him to his fullest capacity and his life work would be consummated.
    Now, before I continue with Calvin’s story, I want to give a little background to the region where he found himself. The Reformation had already touched the Swiss confederacy. In fact, it had pulled the Cantons (Confederate Swiss States) into a rare confrontation resulting in an uneasy peace which chafed both sides. Catholics sought to subjugate the heretics in the western French speaking Cantons (also known as the “Forest Cantons”), and Protestants sought to retain and (although illegal) spread what they had. Although the Forest Cantons wanted to further proliferate their beliefs, the movement for them became less of a personal call than a national one. The National Protestants cared little for doctrinal issues. They only wanted the removal of the Catholic Church from their land, removal of the financial burden, removal of the corrupt popes, and removal of domineering authority. Undoubtedly, there were true Christian reformers in the Swiss church, but the movement itself had lost the religious, personal, and holy aim in which it had started. It was in this place that the peace-seeking Calvin sought a refuge, but found instead a ministry.
From 1534-1536, One would think that Calvin had found his refuge. In Basel he was free to study endlessly, proclaim his faith, and most importantly continue his plea to the French King for his brethren in the faith under persecution. This plea took the form of his famous work Institutes of the Christian Religion. It has been said that this comprehensive manuscript explaining Protestant Doctrine was what made Protestantism intellectually acclaimed and moved it from being viewed as a primarily peasant philosophy. Although this greatly underrated the brilliant works of Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, and others, one can plainly observe why one would make such a statement by the excellence that Calvin used in creating this masterpiece that explains so logically the Protestants faith and workings. Calvin would modify, clarify, and expand his workings throughout his entire life.
         As we see that Calvin has finally obtained what he has always wanted, we may ask ourselves what more is there to say. Should not the story end like this? The man of God in worship, at peace, who worked from the background to leave a legacy for his people, Thank the Lord that was not the case. Many historians ask “what if” scenarios, and at this time I will indulge in one of my own. What if Calvin had not taken one last evangelistic journey to Italy to help an old friend? If this had been so Calvin would never have been forced to take an alternate route home (for his permanent retirement) due to Catholic troops moving in the Alpine passes. If this had been so Calvin would never have stayed a day in Geneva and found God’s calling for him there. In the end, we can only praise the Lord that it did happen, because in Geneva God wrought a special work through Calvin.

                            Calvin’s First Stay in Geneva: Foundation Laying
        Geneva, the center of the Protestant movement in Switzerland, was in a phrase: “one of the most licentious and permissive city in Germany”. It was the perfect example of what was happening to the National Protestants. Having lost their moral and holy mission, they were forced to rely on their political one, and it even caused some to stray back to the Roman Catholic fold. Even with all this going on in the city, it was not completely lost. William Farel, known as a fiery fanatical evangelist, had decried this state of affairs and formed a small church of believers around him. Although an exceedingly skilled orator and missionary, Farel lacked the organizational ability and calling to properly teach this church. His mission gifts were evangelical non pastoral. “He was a Paul that planted, but he prayed for an Apollo to water.”# His prayers were answered when he heard that the young Scholar theologian that had penned the Institutes (by now circulated throughout Europe) was passing through the town. Calvin always considered himself unfit for public service, and pleaded that he was tired, naturally timid, inexperienced, and in need of further study, not worthy of any such post. Farel continued to insist that Calvin would stay and teach the flock in Geneva. Finally, on the eve of Calvin’s departure, Farel made an oath that “God would surely curse your peace if ye held back from giving help at a time of such great need.” The God-fearing heart of Calvin was terrified of this prospect, and due to this he decided (or rather was forced) to accept the daunting proposition of organizing and teaching Geneva’s protestant church. Calvin said this, “I felt as if God from Heaven had laid his mighty hand upon me to stop me in my course...And I was so terror stricken that I did not continue my journey.” I would like to point out at this time that these events debunk the theory that Calvin was seeking to create some sort of religious fiefdom for himself. Calvin did not want to be any sort of leader. His aim was to be scholar working in peace, but, as we will see throughout his life, when God required this sanctuary seeking theologian to do something Calvin did it. Calvin did it with complete zeal and conviction.
       A complete conviction that his God would see his efforts come to fruition is perhaps the hallmark of Calvin’s first stay in Geneva. The new minister sent through a radical reformation of the Genevan protestant church. Four levels of Church Hierarchy were created, although one should NOT confuse Geneva’s church organization with Roman Catholicism’ clerical orders. Calvin created a system where one who wished to be a minister be first taught in the Lord’s word, and then examined for faults that could damage his flock, and finally his congregation was to vote on his appointment to their pulpit. This differs in the extreme from the dictatorial tendencies of the Popes. But to return to the point, the four levels of Calvinistic hierarchy are Elders, (whose job it is to shepherd the different sections of the city and in extreme cases to deal with doctrinal issues and heresy) Pastors, (who had the responsibility of ministering the word God to the congregation , giving the sacraments, and teaching the catechisms to Children) Doctors, (Who were charged with the education of adults and children on the deeper meanings of the Word) and Deacons ( These were the organized charity services of the Church, devoted to helping the widows and orphans, and maintaining the alms houses. This was a particularly special work to John Calvin, and it was a true boast that there were no beggars in Geneva due to the work of this branch.). None of these ministers were considered to be higher in God’s view of man, but were simply those chosen for a certain job to use their God-given gifts. The most controversial reform was Calvin’s enforcement of a pure church. The idea that the sacraments should only be administered to the elect and that it should be denied to those who are out of their walk with the Lord.
      These overdo reforms began truly mending the church together and spread Christian influence across Geneva, but they created enemies for Farel and Calvin. The Catholics despite these reforms and continually heckled the Protestants at any chance. These changes also alienated some of the old families in the city who had, in the absence of Church leadership, accrued inordinate influence in both Catholic and Protestant circles. The loss of this influence had the old elites furious with Calvin, and they expressed this displeasure by creating enormous divides in the church with their immoral living and hypocrisy. When Calvin’s enemies heard about his move keep the immoral and unworthy from the Lord’s Supper, they attacked with all their power. This attack allowed them to secure the city council, and demand Calvin’s compliance in regards to the Sacraments. John Calvin, showing his steely dedication to God’s word that became the ethos of his life ,refused this blatant assault on the work being done in the church, and because of his refusal the Council exiled John Calvin and attempted to strip the city of his work.
                   Interlude: Preparation For Higher Work 1538-1541
      A now exiled Farel and Calvin sojourned across Switzerland. Farel continued east to Neuchatel, but Calvin was invited to his former abode by the resident minister of Strasbourg, Butzer. Once again at Strasbourg one might think that Calvin would settle into his wanted time of scholarly pursuits, but this was not to be. Butzer requested that Calvin would help organize the French refugees that were fleeing the King’s renewed persecution. Calvin once again protested, but this time he recognized his gift and an oath was not required.
It is a fact that Calvin’s dismissal was the fault of a jealous city council and a Catholic minority, but we see, during this time as a refugee pastor, Calvin working on the faults he suffered trouble with in Geneva. He refined his doctrine to be more closely aligned with the Word of God and established a form of congregational worship that is followed by countless churches today. Calvin also recognized his sometime stubborn nature could get in the way of his preaching, and he worked extremely hard to overcome it. Also, Calvin, while in Strasbourg, was married to a widow with two children. Although the Idelette Calvin never bore her husband anymore children and died only 9 years after being wed to John Calvin, she was loved extremely deeply by John. He never married again, and raised her children as his own.
       While this phase of Calvin’s life was going on, events were conspiring in Geneva to a climactic moment. With Calvin gone the Protestant lost their majority position as more and more of their members converted to Catholicism. The Council that threw out Calvin now had a more vibrant Catholic faction, a Protestant movement with no powerful leader, and a new faction that supported a signing away of religious independence to their neighbor Berne. This faction was known simply as articlists. In this state of disunity that reigned, the Catholic Church, beginning its movement known as the ‘counter-reformation’, sent its premier Cardinal and theologian, the brilliant Cardinal Sadoleto to sway the city of Geneva back to the Pope’s fold. Understandably so, the Protestants of the region were terrified of the Cardinal swaying to many people to Catholicism, and thereby gaining a majority vote in the Genevian city council. Due to this, Berne, a neighboring city, invited Calvin to send a rebuttal against the Cardinal’s printed manifesto which was having so much popularity. The reply by Calvin reiterated his view of grace, of and all-powerful, merciful, loving God, and on Church and state. This article written by Calvin was extremely successful, and gave breath back to the Christians in Geneva. It also made the people of Geneva realize what a mistake they had made in aiding the banishment of Calvin. The craved peace from the factionalism that was rife in the City-State’s government and Calvin was the best representation of social peace and religious peace they had. The Old Council that got rid of Calvin was taken out, and a new council was elected on the spot. Their first act was to invite their former minister back on his terms. Bearing promises of support and help the envoys were disappointed at Calvin’s absolute “NO”. For the third-time Calvin refused to do this thing he was being led too, but after having many of his friends advise him to accept this position and many hours of prayer he was once again set for the City of Geneva.
                                       The Protestant Jerusalem
       Now we begin to peer at the culmination of Calvin’s life, one might call it his crowning achievement. The return of Calvin to Geneva was an extremely different from his first visit. Before, Calvin came as young, inexperienced, scholar who was simply going home to find a place of rest where he could work in peace. Now, Calvin came as a mature (spiritually and physically), renowned theologian that was coming, with the consent of the city council, for the express mission of turning Geneva towards the Lord, and we have already seen the complete devotion John Calvin attributed to something when it became his sole focus.
At once upon his arrival in Geneva in September, 1541, Calvin set about to revise the rot that had spread in the religious organization of the community in such a way that the result would be a model Christian city. These efforts culminated into the Ordanonances Ecclesiatiques Which first back in place those things that the previous council had ruined, and added certain facets such as: The Venerable Compagnie des Pastuers, who were a rotating board of the pastors who would be in charge of discipline in most cases, and the banning of members of the church entering certain establishments such as Houses-of-ill-repute and other morally questionable business’. These rules were first sent to the City Council, who approved them, and then to the churches and congregations themselves, who approved them. Thus, the work began.
    The work had begun, but it was still an uphill battle for the Calvin and his followers (by now tagged ‘Calvinists’). Non-protestants set dogs upon Calvin as he walked to church, guns were fired under his bedroom window at night, and even threats to his and his family’s health were not uncommon, but this did not stop Calvin he held himself to whatever standard he asked of others. He continued in his role of organizing the churches and trying to promote new ones, he played a full part in the day-to-day running of the assemblies. Calvin also preached twice every Sunday and every other day in alternating succession. He took his place as one of the elders every Thursday meeting, and could be found in the Deacons offices helping organize the aiding of the poor. I would also point out that all these responsibilities were done despite his health which was in a word miserable. Digestive failure, severe migraines, acute gout, lung hemorrhages, and painful bladder stones all were catalogued in his list of ailments, none of which ever stopped him from fulfilling his duties to Men or God. When Calvin could not walk to Church he had his bed carried. When he could not give lectures because of the cold air he invited the attendees to his house. When he was asked to stop going so diligently and rest Calvin replied, “Would you have me to be found sleeping when my Lord and Savior comes?” None can fault Calvin in his diligence and dedication to the absolute sovereign of earth and Heaven.
       Unfortunately, the fault that the public too often latches on to is Calvin’s over-zealotry. This subject is unfortunately one where Calvin fails. The Michael Servetus affair is one of these sins that occurred. The point I want to make here is that Servetus was a Heretic, and Calvin’s specific job was to find Heretics in the church and hand them over to the city if they continued to threaten the church. Do I believe that it was sin to kill him? Yes, I do not minimize the sinfulness of the act. But I would point out that it was the City Council’s decision that killed him, not Calvin. I do not want to condone what was done in the slightest, but Calvin’s life should not be measured against this act. It was not as if he was did not display the love of Jesus in his life, but that in regards to the purity of the church he faltered in his fanaticism to protect the church against outside threats. Calvin was still constantly harassed by the Catholics and Humanists, yet he only took issue with them when they attacked the church. Those who would point out that these acts condemn the entire Genevan Protestants as morally less than the Catholic movement should take into consideration that when Calvin and his followers were banished during Calvin’s first stay, they left. When the Catholics simply started losing power, they allied themselves with the humanists and old families of Geneva to rebel against the government and the church. Another thing many people overlook is that the City Council, a government elected by the majority of the people, allowed minorities in the city as long as they did not threaten the unity of the church or the city (Which they did as shown in the fore stated Catholic rebellion), but the same cannot be said of Catholic cities that engaged in active persecution.
       It cannot be thought that Calvin was in any way a ruler or dictator of Geneva, as some of his critics would say. He was appointed by the city council and paid by them. He could at any time have been dismissed by them. He was a foreigner in Geneva, not even a naturalized citizen, until the very end of his life, and therefore not even able to claim the protection of the law which allowed his enemies to attack him without fear of legal repercussions. Any authority he had was moral authority, stemming from the numberless people he inspired with his selfless sacrifice for his Almighty Father.
                          Conclusion: An Enduring Legacy
      It is surprising that so few know about the influences that John Calvin had on history. His most immediate legacy was his work in Geneva, turning a center of immorality and licentiousness into a haven for Protestant refugees and missionary work. Due to their rebellion and loss influence among the people, the opposition to Calvin and Protestantism was greatly declined, and this led to a flowering of the Protestant faith. Geneva soon became known for its teachers and missionary work, both of whom were diligent in their duties. Young ministers came to drink from the fountain of knowledge that Calvin and others had created, and in turn these people eventually went back to their own churches spreading what they learned. Sinful businesses were isolated and punished. The poor were cared for in true Christian fashion. The church became a model for numberless others. All these things can be attributed to the tireless workings of John Calvin.
     But Calvin’s greatest influences came on a larger scale. Calvinism, as his teachings became called, completed what Lutheranism was unable to. Lutheranism had become perceived as a subversive influence in, many areas, a German movement, unformed, and too militant thanks to the Peasant Rebellion. Such a movement could not sprout in many areas. Calvinism solved these problems. Calvinism was not limited to one region, but spread through hundreds of missionaries work and unofficially by the teaching of visiting pupils. Through these ways Calvin’s teachings were spread to France, the Netherlands, Scotland, Poland, Italy, England (Where it heavily affected the creation of Anglicism), and even North America (New England Puritans were almost pure Calvinists and some of the first settlers of America). An additional strength of Calvinism was the solid doctrine recorded by Calvin in the Christian Institutes which eventually became widely considered as the epitome of intellectual commentary on the Bible. Intellectually, emotionally, and morally Calvinism was a boon to the Reformation, and Christianity, as a whole.
     John Calvin, A man used by God for a specific job Vilified by many, now and in his time, he didn’t want to have the responsibility he shouldered, but bear it he did. He was human as we are, and fallible as we are. The one thing that we cannot deny is that he loved our Lord, and slaved his whole body and actions to doing his will. From Geneva to New England, 1540 to 2012, John Calvin’s gifts to church everywhere are constantly shown even if they are neither acknowledged nor appreciated.

P.S: Wanted to post this for the rush of actually posting something ,. I promise to reveal a grammatically correct version later.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Announcing a new line! Quarks!

Quarks are like a review but smaller, bite size. 
So if you want a Quark on something just ask and we will be glad to do are best to cram it in to one.

PS. anyone is free to make quarks on the things posted here the object of a quark is to get the filing of the thing and stuff it in to a few sentences.

Quark: MacDonald french fries. delicious bundles  made form only the cheapest potatoes sauteed in furniture polish  calumniating in a wonderful comfort food that should come with a coupon for your first heat transplant but probably never will.

Quark: Spider man the untold story...... AND THEN the unspeakably hideous slimmonster said "NO... I AM YOUR FATHER" and spider man said "NOOOOOO!!!!!" .......and that's purity much it.

Quark: Battleship (the movie) Its transformers. Only we get to shoot back.