*** Notes for Today’s Show ***
It is the 27th of May 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. I’m Dan van Voorhis.
There are a few topics that can give historians palpitations if they have to discuss. Let me explain, there are certain characters or events which have such a level of devotion, fanaticism, and extreme attention to the most minute details that speaking on them will always bring out the “well, actually” crowd.
And today is the anniversary of the death of John Calvin. And once I wrote an article about Calvin and a very uptight CalvinBro sem prof must have been having a bad day when he decided to send me an email… nevertheless, I have heard that when Calvinists talk about Luther they get ready to duck the projectiles coming from angry LutherBros. I say all of this to tell you that I am not going to give you the rundown of Calvin's life- but rather on the day of his death- to tell you a few things you may not have known about the French Reformer and theological overlord of Geneva.
1. Despite a somewhat coy story of his own conversion he was already serving as a Bishops clerk at the age of 12 and received a tonsure.
2. His father encouraged this- even sending him to University in Paris (where he was a classmate of the future St. Ignatius of Loyola). However, his father changed his mind and diverted his son to the study of law. Hence we get one more story of a young genius who is just barely diverted from law school to go on to fame or infamy.
3. Predestination and Double-Predestination were not the centers of his thought. When he did teach on the eternal decrees of God is was from a pastoral perspective. He believed this doctrine (which Augustine taught, and Luther sometimes taught) gave the believer great comfort and assurance.
4. He lived for a time with the reformer Martin Bucer but eventually moved out and opened a kind of boarding house. This became such a burden he finally gave in and got married to Idellete de Bur. Despite his shockingly frank and unromantic words about marriage he grew to love her until her early death. His letters to a friend on her death are a good insight into the warmer and more personal side of Calvin.
5. Despite his desire to be an academic he was first and foremost a pastor. His crankiness has perhaps been conflated too much with his followers. “Calvinism” and the “5 Points of Calvinism” bear some resemblance to the reformer, but the man born Jean Cauvin in France 1509 was a person and not a walking-ism.
He suffered from horrendous illnesses throughout his life- any standard biography will walk you through those. if you want a single book to read about Calvin- check out “Calvin” by Bruce Gordon (coming up on its 10th anniversary!)
He finally succumbed to his ailments on the 27th of May in 1564 at the age of 54.
The last word comes from 1 Timothy chapter 2:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself a ransom for all.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 27th of May 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a non-cranky Lutheran Christopher Gillespie
The show is written and read by someone who was called “Calvinist Dan” in college
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.