NYT on Calvin

There’s a piece today on Calvin in the NYT. If you get to Geneva, be sure to visit the Museum of the Reformation, not far from St Pierre. It’s a fair piece and gives a sense of the ambivalence of the on the part of the citizens of Geneva. They happily celebrated Rousseau’s 300th but they’re a little more reluctant to celebrate Calvin’s 500th. This summer there was a large public display in Le Parc des Bastions but apparently the city council didn’t want to spend money on Calvin. That’s fitting. The City Council is still busting Calvin’s chops 500 years later.

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  1. I guess Calvin was a harsh philosopher who taught about how bad humans are and how harsh God is. If this is all people are getting out of Calvin, than they are missing so much of the theological and biblical richness and witness that Calvin brings to the table. We cannot just write Calvin off because people don’t like his doctrine of predestination. I also love how they try and turn the tables and focus on Calvin as a loving person who promoted education.

  2. Some things never change. I wonder who has had more of a positive impact on Europe, Rousseau or Calvin? Hmmmm

  3. So sad to read of the harsh judgments people have formed about Calvin without ever having read him.

    • That’s right… lit the fire himself with a papist baby he’d “confiscated,” soaked in oil, and used as a fuse to light up “a fellow theologian.”

  4. My father gave a lecture on “Calvin and the Huguenots,” and part of his research was to look at all the current French magazines (and he was at St. Pierre’s during the Calvin@500 festivities).
    Many devoted their front pages to Calvin’s 500 year anniversary. However, as you have said, they are not big fans.

    He also spoke of the interaction with the city counsel.

    If anyone is interested in the talk, you can find the video here: http://www

    • Well, Calvin and Calvin alone is responsible for his image. After taking on the Geneva City Council in 1555 for dancing, drinking and making merry, there was little he could do to market himself as a fun-loving guy could he? I like the sketch, it shows a slightly more humble, sorry, Calvin. He was a bit of a sour puss, though, you have to admit.

      • Actually Luc you’re quite wrong. Calvin alone is not responsible for his image. Most of the most slanderous things published about Calvin since Calvin’s death were fabricated by a Jerome Bolsec who wrote a hostile and often false biography of Calvin in 1577.

        No sensible historian would try to make Calvin into a “fun guy.” That would be silly. That said, one would have to condemn every Puritan, of which Calvin was one, to condemn his concern about ‘dancing.” As you may know, public dancing was considered lewdness and sexually provocative by virtually all the Reformed in the Reformation and post- Reformation periods. Into the mid-20th century the Dutch Reformed churches continued to warn against the “silver screen, cards, and dancing.” Until recently Wheaton Colege students were only allowed to square dance.

        There are several historically responsible and balanced accounts of Calvin’s life available. The old standard is is T H L Parker’s biography. More recently W. Robert Godfrey, Herman Selderhuis, and Bruce Gordon have all published thoughtful accounts of Calvin’s life (and teaching). The latter is the most academic of the group.

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