NoCo Radio Is Reading Beza

Theodore Beza (1519–1605) was a remarkably long-lived and significant theologian in the Reformed tradition. He is best known as a theologian but he was an advisor to Calvin and the Reformed churches across Europe and the British Isles. He was more than a theologian, however. He was also a political theorist, and an educator.

He was well born, in Vezelay (in Burgundy; Southwest of Paris) and well educated as a humanist. While at university he was exposed to the Reformation. After graduation he practiced law briefly in Paris but his real interest was in the classics. Indeed his career may be divided into two parts: humanism (classics) and theology. During his time in Paris he had access to the humanist circle and gained a reputation as a serious scholar.

In the 1540s he became rather ill and underwent a conversion to the evangelical (in the old sense of Reformation or Protestant) cause. In the late 40s he traveled to Geneva. He received an appointment to teach Greek in Lausanne, where he taught until 1559. During this period his interests turned increasingly to theology. While in Lausanne, however, he became an advisor to and surrogate for Calvin. He traveled on Calvin’s behalf and represented him to the French Reformed churches and in colloquies (discussions). It was in this period that he wrote his Confession of Faith, t0 which we will return. He also defended Calvin against Bolsec and against Servetus. In 1558 or 1559 he was called to Geneva to help Calvin found the Academy.

After Calvin’s death in 1564 Beza succeeded him as the president of the Company of Pastors. He was a popular lecturer and wrote extensively. Sadly, though the situation has improved in recent years we still have little of Beza’s work in English. He wrote extensively on the Lord’s Supper, defended the Reformation doctrine of justification, and responded to the French Wars of Religion by advancing the Protestant theory of resistance to tyrants (De iure magistratuum, a part of which is in English translation.

His Confession was written as a popular, accessible explanation of the Reformed theology, piety, and practice. Judging by the secondary literature before Muller (i.e., pre-1978) one would have to conclude that few of those who wrote on Beza ever read this marvelous little confession. It is as warmly evangelical as it is clear and brief. He wanted to persuade his Romanist readers (including his own family) that the Reformed were neither Anabaptist sectarians nor Romanists. We are evangelical and catholic in the truest and best sense of those words. We heartily receive the ancient catholic, ecumenical faith of the early fathers as represented in the ecumenical creeds (e.g., the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, and the Athanasian Creed). We are gospel people, i.e., one of the primary animating principles of the Reformed Reformation is the good news that Christ is God the Son incarnate who came to be the obedient substitute for all his people, who was crucified for us, who was raised for our justification, who ascended and intercedes for us as our Mediator, is coming again as our glorious King and Savior.

Beza received and taught the basics of the Protestant Reformation: divine sovereignty and unconditional divine favor (sola gratia), the unique, final authority of Scripture (sola scriptura), the distinction between law and gospel, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness, justification through faith alone (sola fide), in Christ alone, to God’s glory alone (soli Deo gloria). These are all clearly evident in Beza’s confession. Most of the confession, however, focuses on the sovereign grace of the Holy Spirit in applying redemption (ordo salutis) in the context of the visible church. Beza was passionately interested in the visible church and in the holy sacraments as the signs and seals of the covenant of grace. He wanted to persuade Romanist friends and family that to become Reformed was not to become a radical sectarian nor to abandon the church.

So it is encouraging to hear my friend Mike Abendroth walking No Compromise Radio listeners through Beza’s Confession. You can find NoCo Radio online.

Here are the episodes on Beza so far:

  1. The Beza Briefing: The First Adam
  2. The Beza Briefing: The Mediator Jesus Christ
  3. The Beza Briefing: Truly God and Truly man

For archival purposes here are the episodes:

  1. The Beza Briefing: The First Adam
  2. The Beza Briefing: The Mediator Jesus Christ
  3. The Beza Briefing: Truly God and Truly man


    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.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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