Roman Catholic Scholar Converts to Evangelical Faith

Re-posted from c. 2007

Dateline Paris, 1534.
© Paris News Service
By Guy LaFontaine

Jean Calvin, 25, of Noyon, a leading scholar of the classics and law student in the University of Paris, has reportedly converted to the evangelical cause. A classicist with a bright future before him, Calvin published a promising work on Seneca’s On Clemency just two years ago.

That future has become considerably cloudier of late. Sources tell us that it was likely young Calvin who wrote the provocative sermon given by Nicholas Cop, rector of the University. Since the so-called Affair of the Placards (during which one of the Protestant radicals actually posted a placard on the chamber door of his Majesty!) the authorities are cracking down on the movement and the evangelicals have scattered. Calvin may be living under an assumed name. There are some unconfirmed reports that he has left Paris and may be heading to Basle, a known haven for the Protestant rebels. When contacted, some of the other so-called “humanistas,” led by the Dutch scholar Erasmus and Jacques LeFevre d’Etaples, are reported to have rejected the new movement as too radical. Erasmus expressed the strongest measure of disappointment saying, “It seems that another son of the church has been persuaded by Luther’s On the Bound Will. I had hoped to moderate that movement but I guess it isn’t happening.” LeFevre was less critical saying only, “Calvin is a bright young man. I have high hopes for him.”

Calvin has apparently joined the so-called Protestant movement begun about 13 years ago at Worms by the German monk Luther. Most of the theology faculty in the University reckon that this movement will be short-lived. Said one of the theologians, “We’ll crush these people just as we did the Cathars. Why do you think we have an inquisition?” The press office of the Holy See said that they were aware of a disturbance in Paris but had little information about Calvin.

Students in the University, however, are said to be excited by the news. Said one of them, “He could be a pain. We call him ‘The Accusative Case’ because he always has his nose in a book. He’s always so serious, but If you need help with a translation, he’s definitely the ‘go-to’ guy. He was really wound up about the new theology. I saw him talking to several groups of students about Luther. I hate to see him go. He’s a little uptight, but he’s a good guy.”

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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8 comments

    • No, it was the promising first work of a brilliant classicist. It was well received at the time. We shouldn’t make too much of it but “flop” would make too little of it.

  1. Oh ok. I hadn’t meant to impugn his skill as a classicist, just to say it didn’t sell very well. I hadn’t meant to quote him, but Selderhuis (or at least his translator) uses the very word “flop” on page 24 of his biography of Calvin. But it’s a rather subjective term anyway and I’m certainly no authority myself. Thanks for all the work you’re doing, I for one really appreciate it.

  2. Darn, I almost thought from the title that this was a present day scholar. It’s discouraging when I only hear of Protestants, and even graduates of Westminster Seminary, converting to Romanism.

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