…If you are looking for politeness in the Reformers, then you are going to have to buy a microscope. Courtesy in polemic was a rare commodity, as even the woodcuts frequently demonstrate. True, there is some evidence that the French editions of Calvin’s Institutes were a little more polite than the Latin but that was less to do with Calvin having second thoughts about his style of attack and more to do with his elitism. After all, we would not want the Great Unwashed thinking that they can talk about our educated opponents in quite the ways we do…. The Reformation was remarkable for two things in this connection: It engaged in powerfully worded polemic; And it generally played that polemic out in public, eschewing elitism, as Luther did in 1525 when he rudely rebutted Erasmus’s view that the bondage of the will was too tricky and confusing a doctrine to preach from the pulpit.
Those of us who claim to be heirs of the Reformation should take heed. Style and substance are not so easily separated as we might like to think. And the people in the pew have the right—and the need—to hear about the whole counsel of God, from his being in eternity to the consummation of all things at the end of time. For the Reformers, nothing in God’s Word was to be the monopoly of a priesthood or a scholarly guild.
Carl Trueman, “Tone Def Ref”