Church History II - Lesson 7
Church and State
This course covers the influence of the church and their separation from secular activities; the attempt to run the cities involving church power and political power. Calvin’s influence in Geneva is covered and his attempt to influence France.
Church and State
Church and State
• Calvin has influence in city of Geneva
• The church: the most important institution
o The church’s structure
o The recognition of the church
• Secular rulers and the church’s approval
• The reformation: supported by secular powers
• Thomas Erastus’s view on the church and state(1524-1583)
• Zwingli’s view on the church and state
• Anabaptists’ view on the church and state
• Calvin’s view on the church and state
o The problems with Calvin’s proposal
• Calvin and his attempt to influence France
• Calvin’s key to success
• The role of education and the ministry
o Calvin’s 3 pillars of an educated minister
In this course a view of the Mediterranean church to the expansion of the Roman Empire will be studied. Also, the evangelistic attempts of the Roman Empire, its challenges and what it meant for the reformation will be covered.
The crusades, and John Wycliffe's challenge of the church’s authority happened before the Reformation.
This lesson covers the Renaissance period and the life and beliefs of Martin Luther.
The Reformation and Luther's emphasis on salvation by faith.
The Reformers' theological understanding of the importance of baptism and other sacraments.
John Calvin and the spreading of the Reformation to France.
This course covers the influence of the church and their separation from secular activities. Calvin’s influence in Geneva is included.
The English reformation will be studied in terms of its background, structure and the beginning of the expansion of the kingdom by Henry VII.
The life and influence on the Reformation of King Henry the VIII and William Tyndale.
Henry the VIII and his influence on the English Reformation.
The life and thought of the Christian church from the Reformation to modern times. Designed as an orientation to the shape of the whole tradition with special focus on the history of Christian doctrine and spirituality.
If you would like to help the ministry of BiblicalTraining, we would appreciate a short title and description of each lecture so that our table of contents could be more informative. If you would be willing to provide class outlines, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay. Let's pray together, shall we? And we can begin. Father, thank you for all the many things that you give us and all. Bless us today as we work together. Help us in all that we do to become more like our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but whose precious namesake we ask it. Right. Well, last time I left you with Calvin, having just got to Geneva and basically taking over the city without officially taking it over, as it were, you know, sort of as getting himself well-placed to control events, but not actually occupying any official position in the city structure of of Geneva. What I want to do today is tie a few things together and then move on, particularly dealing with the whole question of church and state, because we can't really look at what Calvin did in Geneva until we understand a little bit of the background to this when the Reformation broke out in the early 16th century. The whole of Western Europe basically had a similar system of government. That is to say that the most important institution by far was the church. Most ordinary people did not think of themselves as having what we would today call a nationality. They were Christians. And they might be Christians of different languages and different places and so on. But because they were Christians, they were free to move around the world, known as Christendom, the basically Western Europe at that time. At the head of the church, of course, was the pope. And the pope assisted and represented by a whole lot of archbishops, bishops and so on who were scattered throughout the whole of Western Europe.
The church enjoyed the power and prestige that it did because it was everywhere. It was one organization. It was something that you could rely on and be sure to find wherever you went. Like McDonald's today, you know, And you would know. You see that, You see the sign. And, you know, that was what was on offer. And in a society where transportation was difficult, where there was very little mass communication of any kind, this provided a very essential link. Without it, there would not have been a common culture in Western Europe during the Middle Ages. Now, what we think of as the state for most of the time was really just the lay of the church. In other words, secular rulers were regarded as church members. And therefore, of course, they were expected to do the bidding of the church when when that was required. In some places like Geneva, there were no secular rulers at all. Geneva was a good example of somewhere which was actually ruled by its local bishop. I mean, he was the secular prince or the equivalent. Saying that there wasn't such a thing. But in most places there were secular rulers alongside the church authorities, but ultimately dependent on them. And this dependency went back to late Roman and early medieval times, particularly in the during the time after the collapse of the Roman Empire in the West, when in order for a local ruler to gain legitimacy, to be accepted as the ruler of a particular place, he basically had to have the church's approval. And as different kingdoms and principalities and what have you became Christian and sort of entered this system, the church devised a means of ensuring that at least symbolically, its control would continue to be manifested.
And this symbolism was displayed in the rite of coronation. The Roman emperors, before they became Christian, were not crowned. There was no crown as such. They were reclaimed by the Army or by the Senate or whoever. But I mean, there was no coronation ceremony. A coronation is not strictly necessary. You don't become King by being crowned. You say you become king by inheriting from your predecessor. And whether you are crowned or not is well, it doesn't affect your your position as king. But the coronation is a church ceremony devised by the church for the purposes of the church, because what it is, is an anointing of the secular ruler. You see, if you follow the ritual of coronation, you will find that the king is anointed with holy oil much in the same way as if he were a prophet, priest or king in the Old Testament. You say it is a sacred religious ceremony. And if you look, for example, I mean, even today, if you look at a coin, a British coin, or if you get a Canadian penny and you'll change or something, you'll see the same thing. You turn it over and there's a picture of the queen and it says Elizabeth the second. And then it has two mysterious little letters. DG Followed by Regina, you see. Regina Meaning queen. DG stands for De Grazia, which translated into English, means by the grace of God. And this little phrase, although it sounds just like pious, you know, jargon today is actually of great importance constitutionally, because it really means by the sanction of the church. You say by the grace of God means that this person has been has received the church's approval manifested in and through the coronation ceremony.
And the ultimate sanction against a ruler was to refuse coronation. Now, obviously, that didn't happen very often in the Middle Ages, but it could happen and there was always an awareness that it could happen. This was the church's ultimate control. And of course, even in modern times, I mean, in Britain, you may recall back in 1936 when King Edward the Eighth, wanted to marry Mrs. Simpson, and he wasn't allowed to. I mean, ultimately, the church said, we will not crown you. And that provoked the crisis. And he had to abdicate because he could not be crowned. And therefore, although it didn't affect the position legally, you know, there was no question of saying, well, that's your private sex life or anything like that. You know, he couldn't be crowned and that was it. So, you know, he had to he had to abdicate. And that was the ultimate moral sanction of the church over the ruler. Now, this is something which was common, much more common in the Middle Ages than it is today, of course. But, you know, you have to understand this, the power of the church ultimately to say who will and who will not rule in the state. Now, you might say, why didn't why did the church tolerate the state? Why didn't the church just get rid of it and see it as a sort of nuisance and run everything directly as it did in Geneva? Well, there are several reasons for this. One of them is that it would have meant ordaining all kinds of people who are otherwise unsuitable, you know, And in the days before they invented football, they had to find something for unsuitable people to do. And so becoming a becoming a knight in shining armor, you see, was the equivalent, really.
So there was this kind of aggressive tendency which had to be catered for, which wouldn't have done too well in the church. But the other side to that was that there was a lingering feeling going back to the New Testament that the church should not wield the sword of secular power. The apostle Peter had two swords and Jesus said, Leave one behind, just take one. And this in the Garden of Gethsemane. You remember that? And this was interpreted as meaning that, Peter. In other words, the Pope should have the spiritual sword and the secular sword, The temporal sword should be wielded by other people. In other words, the kings and local rulers. So, however tempted the church may have been at different times simply to abolish what we call the state. It never did this. Nevertheless, at the end, during the high Middle Ages, we see the Crusades as the classic instance of where the Pope was able to mobilize the armies of Western Europe to go off and fight in the Middle East, which is more than the United Nations can manage today. You see, I mean, so it's not, you know, to be sneezed at. This was quite a major power that he had. And this shows the power of the church as an institution over against whatever might be called the state, because this was a rather dubious and vague kind of turn. But by the 16th century, secular rulers had grown more powerful on the whole for various reasons. One of them being an increase in education, diversification of society and so on. And they were finding church control difficult. You know, they were fighting for their own sort of place in the sun. And of course, this was one of the reasons why the 16th century reformers got as much support as they did from various secular rulers, because the secular rule saw that this was also to their advantage.
But as I pointed out already several weeks ago, Luther would not have succeeded had he not been able to marshal secular support behind him to protect him. Not so much against the pope as an individual, but against the emperor who was expected to do the pope's bidding. In other words, you see the pope would say, here is a heretic in the middle of Germany. You are the emperor, you carry the sword, you go out and get rid of him. We have condemned him. Now it's up to you to execute him. You say that would be the the way of thinking. And unless Luther could counter with secular support of his own against this, you know, so that you either have a kind of war going on, or at least the emperor is frightened off because, you know, there's somebody prepared to fight him for Luther's soul or for Luther's hide, really, rather than his soul. You know, Luther would be done for. And Luther was lucky enough, as I say, to have this kind of support. But this inevitably led to a new understanding of how the church and these secular powers should be related. Because once you get rid of the pope, you take away the the summit, you know, the link, the linchpin between the two systems. And you have to say to yourself, well, who is now in control? And Luther came up with what the idea that he called the Two kingdoms. Again, based on the two swords, you see, Luther had a sort of residual allegorical streak in him. And so he picked up this idea of the two swords in the Garden of Gethsemane, transferred to the two idea of two kingdoms, saying there is a spiritual realm and there is a secular realm and each one is sovereign in its own sphere.
Luther was trying by this to give the church some kind of independence in determining its own theology and worship and so on. But the trouble was that Luther was dependent on the German princes for survival, and therefore, whatever the theory might be in actual practice, if the princes decided they wanted something that Luther more or less had to agree. So when one of them decided he wanted to marry again, even though he was already married and committed bigamy, I mean, Luther sort of did some mental somersaults to justify bigamy, you know, because he didn't have a lot of choice in this. I mean, otherwise, he. Who's the prince of support. And that could lead to trouble and for the Reformation and so on. So it was a very unhappy situation that Luther found himself in. However, this situation found its theologian, a man by the name of Thomas Erastus, who died and he died in 1583. I think I don't know when he was born, but anyway, he was a Swiss, but he was in Germany for a lot of a lot of the time. And Erastus basically devised a theory, a political theory for the newly born Lutheranism. What Erastus said was that each state, each sort of political organism had like a human body, a physical and a spiritual dimension. And the church represents the spiritual dimension of the body. This means that you cannot think of the church, although the church is obviously the higher part. I mean, the spirit being higher than the body than matter. You can't just separate them. You know, you can't sort of wander around as a body as if your spirit wasn't wasn't in it. And one affects the other quite clearly. And so Erastus says, well, because of this organic link between the spiritual and the material.
Everybody ought to have a say in what goes on in both. In other words, you know, ordained clergy in the church ought to be regarded as citizens like everybody else, you know, and have a right to vote and decide secular matters. And the secular people, laypeople should have the right to determine what goes on in the church. You say that there shouldn't be this this kind of separation. Now, a rest in ism as this idea came to be called, was all right. If you were talking about a small Swiss city or Canton where everybody could come together and vote in the public square and, you know, decide what was going on at that level, this kind of thing might work. Of course, the minute you got to any larger size of country, the problem became who represents the laypeople? You obviously can't have everybody coming together and voting. I mean, that's not going to work. So you've got to have somebody doing it on their behalf. Now, today, of course, we have evolved a system of representative democracy, which means that you and I don't actually decision make decisions about everyday things. We vote for other people and expect them to take the decisions. And then if we don't like what they do every four years or so, you have the right of throwing them out, at least in theory. You know, that's the that's the idea behind it is representative democracy. But this kind of thing, of course, didn't exist in the 16th century. So the question became, well, who is going to going to be the representative of the laity? I mean, who is going to represent, you know, the the people as a whole? And the only possible answer that you could have given in that in that context is the aristocracy, the king, you know, the high, the the upper class of the society.
Now, as I say, in some places in cities, states like Geneva, Geneva is a very good example where there was no aristocracy because it was too small, you know, just a small city. It would be the leading merchants. You see the the most important businessmen in the town would basically run it, you know. I mean, this is not unknown even today, you know, even not very far away from here. Of course, as you know, I mean, you know, elections can sometimes be rather fictitious in character, but nevertheless, you see that this was formalized in in a place like Geneva. There was a town council, and the people who sat on the town council were not elected to sit on the town council necessarily. They were there because they had they paid a certain amount in tax, you know, they were the wealthier citizens and therefore they had the right to determine what the rest would do because they paid for it, basically, you know. So that was the way things tended to work in places like that. All right. So they're interested in system, you see, would have a slightly different character because the town council would expect to have a say in what went on in the church and see how the church operated. And this became the basic system in those countries which accepted Luther's reformation and see that this is Luther. Seemingly, it was a slightly different case because Zwingli himself took over the running of the state. This is not true of Luther. Luther never, never got involved in this. That Singley, of course, obviously realized that that if he wanted to get what his way, the best way was not to have to be kowtow to anybody else. So, I mean, he basically took over and fuzed church and state more or less totally.
You know, he became the bishop in his own words. I mean, he actually called himself the bishop of Zurich, you know, because he was head of the church and therefore the civil governor as well. Now, this, as we know, caused problems because there were plenty of people in Zurich who disagreed with Spengler for one reason or another. And this was the beginning of the drama of the Anabaptists, the Anabaptists, who had a radically different approach to the question of church and state than somebody like me. Now, today, of course, you read about Anabaptists and it will say, Well, that about. Just believed in the separation of church and state. This is true in a historic sense, but it is not a very that doesn't give you a very good impression of what was going on in Zurich in the 1520s. For the simple reason that I've already pointed out, the concept of state was weak to nonexistent, you say. Most people didn't really know what the state was apart from. As I say, laypeople who belong to the church. And so what singly was doing basically was seizing control of the temporal power, the power of the sword, and using it to push his theological position. And of course, that meant persecuting those who didn't agree and obviously those who didn't agree, didn't think he should be doing this. That's, you know, that kind of normal and that's what you would expect. But the question and this was the problem that the Anabaptists had to face the question as well, What's the alternative? You know, it's all very well to say that they shouldn't be doing this, promoting his ideas in that way. And that's fair enough. But what do you do instead? I mean, you know, how are we going to arrange this situation? And here it has to be said, the early Anabaptist didn't really know the answer.
Probably if they had had their way, they would have done what the popes in the Middle Ages sometimes wanted to do, but never actually could do, and that was abolish the state altogether. You see, probably they would not have wanted any kind of state. They would have wanted simply the church to be church members and to solve the problems within the church and so on, you know, and determine who is going to be a church member by confession of faith and just live in that particular way. And as I say, if they had their way and if they'd been able to to get their way, that's probably what they would have done. And of course, there's evidence that among the early anabaptists, there were people who had what we would today call apocalyptic ideas, who believed that that this would happen. You see, that the state would disappear and that, you know, that believers would rule the world and that that would be that. You see, I mean, the church would be seen to be totally supreme in everything. Now, the only way you could make a vision of that kind come true was by withdrawing from the official society, by the from the existing society, and setting up your own. Because what else could you do? I mean, you couldn't, you know, just withdraw. You had to have some alternative. And this is what happened, of course, in the first generations of Evanna baptism that there was a persistent tendency to do this. Now, sometimes, of course, it fell into the wrong hands. I mean, there was the famous case of Thomas MENSAH in Minster who kind of hijacked the whole thing and turned it into a spiritual dictatorship. And the whole place just sort of it became a complete disaster and eventually had to be suppressed by the armies of neighboring cities and states and so on.
And this gave the whole Anabaptist movement a very bad name, as you can imagine, because of this rather strange episode. But although that was an aberration and it shouldn't be used to judge the rest. Nevertheless, the underlying idea is there. You know, you can see that to realize, you know, in reality, the principles which they stood for, logically, you would more or less have to leave the world and set up your own commune society. And this is what you find today in people like the Amish who are, you know, direct descendants of this kind of tradition. And they basically live in their own little sub society that they have carved out. And thus, you know, you don't go into them and they don't come out to you. And there's a kind of, you know, live and let live. But basically they live. They live in a separate way. Now, there's an irony about this because, of course, that the root of and a baptism is the idea that you are not born into a Christian society. You have to be converted into a Christian society. And therefore, presumably this Christian society will always be renewing itself from outside as new people get converted and shedding children because you know who is to guarantee that your children are going to follow in your footsteps? Because after all, if it's a personal decision of faith, you know, you have to make it. And presumably the law of averages suggests, you know, that half at least are not going to make that decision that the parents have made. I mean, you would imagine this is going to happen. But the irony, of course, is that there's probably no group of Protestants more clannish and more sort of father to son kind of oriented than people like that, you know, people like the Amish and so on.
I mean, nobody joins them as far as I've ever known. Well, it's true, isn't it? I mean, maybe one or two people, but hardly anyone would ever join them. And quite a number of people leave over the years, but not enough to destroy the community. You know, there is a a fairly good sort of success rate in passing on to the next generation, especially when you consider all the pressures on these people not to do that. So it's ironic in a way, you know, that a group which denies passing things on from father to son should be almost painted into a corner and forced to live in that kind of way. It's a it's a strange sort of sort of thing, but it shows you, of course, just how complex this issue is. There isn't an easy answer. And just to run around saying, well, now we're going to do this doesn't necessarily mean that things are going to work out in precisely the way that you might imagine. So And a baptism in the 16th century, of course, was a countermovement to elastin ism. Definitely. I mean, it's the. A sad end of the spectrum to that. But it wasn't necessarily any more successful in resolving the church state question on a long term basis. Now, it is here that Calvin and the Genevan experiment always, of course, to be regarded as a child abuse and the Strasburg settlement because Calvin was basically reproducing Busa in Geneva to a large extent in similar circumstances, or enters the scene with a new theory of his own. And this theory is one that church and state should be independent of each other in terms of their their organization and internal government. That is to say church officials should not be serving in the government, nor should state officials be running the church or telling the church what to do.
But they were not to be. Totally separated in terms. I mean, organizationally. Yes, Administratively, yes. But not socially. That is to say that anybody who served on the town council had to be a member of the church. In other words, you would not be eligible to serve on the town council unless you were a church member. Now, this, although it sounds odd to us, in fact, Purdue could have produced a radically different basis on which the town council members were chosen because it was no longer money. Well, power and influence, but it was church membership. And of course, in Geneva, church membership was a serious business. You didn't just get in because you were good at playing basketball or some vitally important thing like that, because you were you had ballet shoes or whatever, You know, to join the church meant knowing your theology very, very well. Most of us probably wouldn't get in to the church at Geneva because there be something we didn't know that we were expected to know. You see what I mean? I mean, it was it was a tough thing. And of course, if the church decides who the candidates for the town council can be. That is not actually controlling what the town council does because that Calvin would never, you know, turn up at the council meeting and read out a list of things to do. No, it was never like that. Nevertheless, you do have a quite a lot of say because you are selecting the candidates. And of course, if you fall out with the church and this is the big this is the big stick, if the church withdraws its support of you, kicks you out of membership, then you have to resign from the town council because you are no longer a member in good standing of the church.
And so this is quite a powerful sanction. You see to make sure that whoever is on the town council does what the church wants, because otherwise, of course, you know, there's not that you're going to find yourself out in the street. Now, the other side of this particular coin is that the leadership in the church is ultimately chosen by the laypeople in the church. So it is the laypeople in the church who appoint the pastor and so on. So there's a kind of mutuality. It's not, you know, one against the other. There's a kind of interaction one way or the other. But you see, there's nevertheless a specific role for the church in the life of the society as a whole. And Calvin believed that this system would prevent the worst abuses of the others that he saw around him. He really thought that it would solve the problem of Lutheranism because the secular rulers would not be able to control the church totally. He thought it would solve the problem of and a baptism because you would still have a secular government which was functioning, you know, in a in its normal way, and yet it would not be able to function without church censures. The church would have the right to sort of tell it what to do in a sense, you know, to do to control who is going to going to belong to it. And he thought this was the best way forward. And of course, in a society like that of Geneva, perhaps it was in the sense that Geneva was small enough and Strasbourg was small enough for this kind of thing to work. The other thing which worked in their favor was that really nobody at the time believed in what we would call democracy.
The difference between Calvin and his predecessors was that Calvin believed that the aristocracy should be a spiritual aristocracy and not a financial one. And that was a difference. But there was no suggestion that everybody should have a vote. For instance, only only church members would have a vote. And if you weren't a church member, you were allowed to live in the society. But, you know, you had no say in the way that it was run. In fact, Calvin thought he'd solved the Catholic problem as well in this way. Because you see, in Catholic societies, if you didn't belong to the church, you really couldn't live in the society unless you went into some kind of ghetto. You see, like the Jews, the Calvin said, no. Well, you know, we don't have to force everybody to be a church member. We don't want everybody to be a church member, because that would just fill up the church with hypocrites and say, We don't want that. We said, we want people who are sincere believers and so on. But in order to keep the church pure, you've got to allow a whole lot of unbelievers, or at least non church members, to to live in the same place. So both in Strasbourg and in Geneva. There was a remarkable degree of tolerance for people who were not members of the church. This is one of the reasons why, for example, Strasbourg was such a hotbed of and a baptism in the early years because these anabaptists, although they were not church members in Strasbourg, obviously, and therefore had no say in the running of the city, were more or less allowed to live there as long as they didn't cause too much trouble, you know, and so on without being molested, particularly because they were, you know, they sort of came in in the penumbra of non church members and they wouldn't be called unbelievers, of course, but they were, you know, who for one reason people who for one reason or another didn't measure up to belonging to the church officially.
But you weren't going to throw them out because who knows? You know, one of these days they might sort of come to that point or something. So although it sounds very odd, this system, which we call Calvinism, although as I say, it's really by seriousness and no one ever says that it was tolerant without being democratic in the modern sense. And later on, this is going to be extremely important because in countries where Calvinism became the the official creed, notably in Holland, this tolerance went with it. I mean, the fact that, for example, Holland was one of the main centers of and a baptism at the end of the 16th century is not an accident. It's because the Anabaptist, the well, the Calvinist rulers of Holland were more accommodating to people who disagreed with them than people were generally elsewhere. And so Holland attracted a large number of what we would call religious dissidents of one kind or another. Not just Anabaptists, but you've got Unitarians, you've got Jews in very large numbers settled there because they were relatively free. You got a whole lot of people whose religion was hard to place. You know, people like Rembrandt, for example, who I think was officially a Catholic, not that you would ever know, you know, and this sort of thing. You see, it was a quite a tolerant sort of atmosphere in the context of the time. This always has to be remembered. Situation services. Yeah, I'll come. Let me come to that. Right. I just sort of give you a picture, you see, of the way in which this was meant to work. Now, obviously, every system has its problems, and the system that Calvin instituted at Geneva had its problems as well. One of them was that it was very rigid from the point of view of what we would call democracy.
It couldn't really let people in if they didn't agree with the principles of the organization. And as time went on, that became increasingly difficult, a principle to maintain in some places. As, for example, in New England, when the Puritans went there in the 17th century, they tried it and it failed. You know, if you read the early history of Massachusetts and so on, you read that the Puritans went there and of course they were by definition elect members of the church. They wouldn't have been on the Mayflower otherwise. But in the next generation, there was a problem because they started having children and these children would grow up. And not all of them, you know, were believers. And so what do you do with your unbelieving children? And this became a big problem in Massachusetts, you know, and they devised various methods of dealing with them. But the most important was the so-called halfway covenant, you know, that you were sort of allowed to sort of register as a kind of adherent of the church, but not an actual member. You know, this kind of thing. And therefore, you didn't have the privilege of voting and all the rest of it. Well, in a frontier society, of course, this kind of thing wouldn't last, because what happened in New England was that people who found themselves pushed out for one reason or another could very easily just get on their horse and go over the next hill and found another colony, you know, where it was sort of have have gone in a sack full of weird ideas and off we go and we start our own. And I mean, and that's what they did, you know, that other colonies like Rhode Island and so on started more or less in that sort of way because people got fed up and so they moved off to the, you know, over the next hill and and started their own little show over there.
And America was the kind of place where you could do this. And some people are still doing it. You know, these freemen of Montana and so on. I mean, that's basically why they're a distorted version. But they're, you know, probably the most famous example in relatively modern times would be the Mormons and, you know, Brigham Young and so on. I mean, they were persecuted in the places where they originated. And so what did they do? Well, they hitched up the covered wagon and went off to the middle of nowhere, you know, and set up in Utah. And basically other people weren't welcome. And it's still like that. As far as I know, you know, I don't think you get very far in Utah if you're not a church member. Do you has anyone ever heard of anyone being elected to any office in Utah who was not a mormon and write an article critical of the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City? Well, you see, that's it. And I'm sure that's not in the Constitution, but it doesn't have to be, does it? You see what I mean? The way this kind of thing can work, if you've got people with a mind to it, it doesn't have to be written down. It's just the way it is. You know, so maybe some of you can make that a project, you know, see if you can find a non-Mormon who ever got elected to something in Utah. Is he what? What's he is the best. But he wasn't elected to that, was he? Hey, if ever you were elected to be. But they wouldn't understand. You're just joking now. Well, I don't know. You see, you want to check this one out? You know, check out the way it works, because that's what I think is probably the best modern example of this kind of thing at work, of how a church, by controlling its membership, can control the state.
You see what I mean? Although it's not actually official and nobody sort of writes it down. That's what happens. And no doubt one of these days, enough non-Mormons will move into Utah, you know, and there will be a problem because. This system will be will come under very severe pressure. But so far, it hasn't shown any attraction to anybody to the goal. And this is really happening because all the actors are nude. But none of that would be the right wing or the more conservative Mormons or the people who actually still practice polygamy. Yeah, but they haven't been prosecuted, I guess. Right. Right. It's not clear what they actually have produced so that you can find them to want to form another state or subdivide. Mm hmm. Go back and get back to the pure Mormon roots here, because interestingly, non-Mormon history in especially Salt Lake County, Utah, proper. Right. So Salt Lake City will become a state of its own and the rest will just be. Yeah. Yeah. Or at least part of it. S.R. became the Messiah in 2022. So there's been somebody, and it was surprising how many people were for it. I mean, it wasn't. No, no, no. I'm sorry. I'm sorry. Well, of course. I mean, I've been told that in Alabama there are people who want to get rid of Birmingham and Shelby County. You know, it's sort of just sort of fence them off and, you know, let the rest sort of, you know, become a Southern Baptist paradise. Something, something similar. I've been I've had people tell me this. But anyhow, you know, Shelby County seems to be the blacks like the black hole. You know, you don't go there. But anyway. Yeah, but there's an example, you see that's the that's the this principle sort of working itself out after several generations.
Now, the snag, of course, the other snag is a system like this has problems with religious freedom. It's beyond the conscience of the individual. You know, some of you will not know this, but even the Soviet Union, which we all mourn dearly because it was such a marvelous example of everything that a society shouldn't be. But in the Soviet Constitution, there was this little clause which said that the freedom of conscience shall be protected. Now, you might not believe that and you might think, well, you know, people were put in jail and psychiatric hospitals and so on for being religious, you know. Well, they could do that around here. I'd love to put half the religious people I know in psychiatric hospitals. But still, you know, they the Russians were not so that dumb. Really. You have to give them some credit, but. This, he might think, well, that there's got to be a contradiction here. But the Soviet authorities would tell you, oh, no, there's no contradiction. The Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience. That is not the same thing as freedom of speech. Doesn't say anything about that. In other words, as long as you keep your ideas to yourself, you can think what you like. Well, that's not really much of a concession, because, of course, that's true anywhere, isn't it? I mean, like, I have no idea what you think. Neither do I particularly care. And as long as you don't tell me, I don't mind, you know? I mean, what you don't know won't hurt you. And so let it carry on. Now, this is the kind of thing you see that someone like Calvin, of course, would believe in. You see freedom of conscience. You can do that about freedom of speech, at least of freedom of speech means freedom to propagandize, to proselytize, to try to win other people over.
To your point of view, if your point of view is different from what the church says is right. This is not to be tolerated. And this is where the openness of a Calvinist society broke down. And of course, there is the very famous case of Civitas. And Michael Savage is the Unitarian who turned up in Geneva running away from persecution from the Catholics and apparently hoping to find some kind of refuge in Geneva because other people were finding refuge there. But at this was not possible because Civitas views officially stated views were heretical. Now, Calvin himself, of course, did not persecute Civitas because Calvin was a preacher in the church. He was not a magistrate in the city government, and therefore he had no business persecuting Civitas and he did not particularly want Civitas to be put to death in any kind of nasty and horrible way, you know, as he was, I mean, burned at the stake and so on. And he intervened, you know, for lighter treatment, a more humane kind of treatment and all that. But it was inevitable, given the system of the time that somebody like Seve just could not be allowed to propagate his heretical views in a society where. Well, where that wasn't tolerated. As simple as that. You know, it wasn't the case necessarily of church authorities, but state authorities, all of whom were card carrying members of the church and therefore saw it as their duty equally to protect the purity of the church. And so although the state, the church did not wield the sword directly, the state took upon itself the responsibility for disciplining those who did not agree with the teachings of the church. And that it was another difficulty which stood in the way of eventual freedom.
Freedom of religion. And of course, it was an unstable arrangement because in the end you have to decide where you where you are going to draw the line. I mean, if somebody denies the Trinity, well, that's a fairly clear cut thing. I mean, that's wrong, you know, and that's going to be punished. But what about if they Well, if they denied baptism, for example, that was not a heresy in the same way. You know, it wasn't as a different doctrine, really, or saying something that was untrue about Christ or whatever. I mean, it was a different category. How far should that be tolerated? And the trouble is, whenever you have a repressive regime of whatever kind it may be, safety is always on the side of repression. If you are not sure, put someone to death because then you don't have to worry, you know, I mean, that's the way these things work. And and this is this is ingrained in the in the nature of this kind of society. Be on the safe side. And of course, rightly from their point of view, because if you tolerate people who basically don't agree with you, then the chances are that sooner or later, somehow or other they are going to start propagating their views, even if they promise they won't. You know, somehow or other it's impossible not to. And therefore, they will undermine the society in which they live. Whether they really want to do that or not. I mean, that's you know, that's what's going to happen in the longer term. Now, another problem with Calvinism, and this is something very important for French history and those of you who are going to do the Reformation in France need to know about this.
Is that what could be made to work in Geneva on a small scale? It would be very much more difficult to put into operation on a large scale. I mean, Geneva, everybody knew everybody else. But this was not true in France. France was much too big, much too unwieldy and so on. That's too, too diversified to be easily controllable in this kind of way. And Calvin, although he spent his entire life trying to convert France. I mean, that was his main interest. Calvin wasn't really that bothered about Geneva. You know, it was a place where he went because he had nowhere else to go. But it wasn't his main aim in life to run Geneva for the rest of his life. I mean, he wanted to convert France. And you can tell if you read the letters, the dedicatory epistles at the front of his commentaries, you know, most of them are addressed to the French king, you know, asking them to to look with favor on the on the Reformation. I think even his institute so addressed to the king of France, you know, in the hope that the king will will read these and be converted. That from the king of France. His point of view, Calvinism, was an unworkable system. Because. Who was going to represent who. You say how how would it have functioned? It's all very well. As I say, at the level of a city where people can get together, but at the level of a whole country. Where are you going to get these people from? How are you going to set up the organization? How is it going to work? And the French kings could never see I could never understand how they could how they could have such a thing.
You see, on that scale and this was one of the things which count not the only thing, but one of the things which counted against Calvinism as a political system. It seemed to be all right on a small scale, but not so good on the large scale. And of course, the king must have been well aware there was really no place for a king in Calvin's system. Because Calvin system was really a kind of mutual agreement between the church council and the town council. Presided over to some degree by the by Calvin as preacher. But this was not didn't make him president of the council. It just made him the conscience of the council because he would stand up in the pulpit on Sunday morning and thunder his opinions, and then the council would go away and figure out how to apply them. Is there much evidence that the King and other upper nobility were even aware of what Calvin was doing in teaching? Oh, they knew. Oh, yes, they were aware because the King sister was a Calvinist housecat. I mean. Oh, yeah. I mean, they were they were well aware of what was going on, too. Well aware of, perhaps, you might say, you know. But the thing is, to them, it wasn't practical politics. They just kind of look at it as this is a very odd little aberration within the world occurring. Well, I don't know about all the aberration, you might say. They look to the anabaptists that way. They were not aberration from the point of view of somebody like the King of France. No, I don't know that you could say that. I think they just figured, well, you know, it's it's all right on a small scale.
You know, it's like I suppose if you run Microsoft or General Motors or something like that and you come around here and you see how this bookshop operates and you think, well, that's fine, you know, they're doing a very good job, and they were turning over a good profit and everything's perfectly all right, and that's great, but you can't sort of take that and apply it to General Motors, it seems to me. I think they would just not see any viable connection between the two and and to try to turn France into a Calvinist society from the point of view of the people who ran France at the time would probably have meant breaking it up into a whole lot of small principalities. And it's just because I've always thought of France in the way they dealt with the Huguenots. You know, reformers, it seems like that their I don't know, picture of Geneva would have been more hate filled. Oh, no, I don't think so. And I mean, later on, of course, it's different, you see. But at this time in the 16th century, during Calvin's lifetime. No, I mean that the hatred came later with the Counter-Reformation and you see the revival of Catholicism and so on. That was that was later stage. But at this point, you haven't got there yet. You know, there's there's still there's disagreement, but it hasn't sort of got up to that level. And, of course, lots of people are still going back and forth from one side to the other lines. Hadn't been very firmly drawn at this stage. Well, I want to finish off the time today by looking at the other aspects of Calvin's behavior and teaching in Geneva, which were going to have great impact for later Protestantism.
Calvin was systematic in a way that none of the reformers up until his time had been. Luther was a genius in many, many ways, but he wasn't systematic. I mean, he was one of these people who would shoot his mouth off and then have to be apologized for by people running around after him. You know, says, well, he didn't really mean that, you know, not apply, you know, the kind of person and the others, I mean, you know, we're all right in their way. But they lacked the kind of organizing mind that Calvin had. And Calvin's sense of organization is seen most clearly in his theological program because Calvin had a very definite idea of what was needed. And he saw in his system. Of course, the key to success was training ministers. The minister of the word was the key figure. Now, in one way, of course, this is rather like medieval Catholicism, where the priest is the key figure. And there were people who accused Calvin and Calvinism of that. Notably John Milton in the 17th century. You know, when he said that New Presbytery is old priest writ large, you know, and he didn't like Calvinism of the Genevan variety for that reason. But Clark, in another way is quite different. The power of the Catholic priest revolved around the sacrament. Particularly the Eucharist, the Holy Communion, the ability to turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. And because only the priest could do this. The priest had a power, you see, to open the gateway to heaven. And he was a kind of mediator between God and the people. And he had to be respected for this. Now, there was a price to pay, you know, being a priest in the Middle Ages carried with it the obligation of celibacy.
And although that obligation was frequently disregarded in practice, it was nevertheless there. And it was there for a reason. It was there to keep out the wrong kind of person, you know, that you have to make the sacrifice which is required if you are going to have the responsibility and authority which you will be given as a sacrifice, as someone who celebrates the sacrifice of the mass. All right. The reformation, of course, throws all that out and therefore allows priests to marry because there's no reason anymore why they should be separate, separate from the laypeople around them. I mean, this kind of distinction is no longer necessary. But this does not mean that a Protestant clergyman is just any old body that you pick out from among the congregation. Not at all, because to be a Protestant clergyman is actually much more difficult than to be a Catholic priest, because a Catholic priest does not need any training. Any education. You see that the logic of the system is that if the bishop lays hands on you and says the right words, then you receive the power to consecrate and that's it. You can go off and consecrate whether you know how to read and write or not. And of course, this was a major complaint of people like Luther. You see all these ignorant, uneducated priests running around. Now, the Catholic Church, to its credit, solve that, sorted that problem out later on, as we know. But what you need to remember is that the Catholic seminary was actually an idea which they stole from the Protestants. It was Protestants who founded seminaries. And the Catholics said, yes, this is what we want. This is the way we're going to do it. And they took it over and applied it, of course, within the celibacy context.
And therefore, the seminary became very much more powerful as an institution within the Catholic Church because it was a residence as well as a as a as a place of learning. And so you had control over people 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and for the rest of their lives in a way that you didn't in a Protestant society, because, of course, once a pastor married, the church, lost control over him to his wife. And this was a very different kind of church as a result, again, not officially, but, you know, we all know how it works. So this is you know, this is the difference anyhow, to be to qualify as a as a pastor in the Protestant system, you had to be highly educated. And this was the the thing that Calvin harped on much more than any of the other reformers. He set out with a deliberate program of educating a Protestant ministry. And his main contribution to the history of the Christian church is his educational program. Although people don't realize this, this is actually true. Because what did Calvin do? Well, Calvin saw his educational program as having three main pillars to it. The first was exegesis. If you really believe that the Bible is the foundation of the church, you have to know what it says. You know, it's no good just getting a big one and thumping it. You actually have to read it and apply it in the right way. And so your exegesis and your ability to do good exegesis is primary. It's fundamental. If you can't do that, you can't do anything. Therefore, of course, Calvin's seminary is going to have compulsory Greek, compulsory Hebrew, and they didn't have to have compulsory Latin because everything was done in Latin anyhow.
You see. So basically you're doing Hebrew, Greek and Latin, the three languages of the cross, all of which would be foreign to the students who were there because the lectures would take place in Latin and they would write their papers in Latin and everything would be done in Latin, but Greek and Hebrew would be added on top of that. So you can see what the entrance requirements are already kind of stiff, you know. Then, of course, you would have analysis of the biblical text, and Calvin contributed to this. I mean, he provided a textbook in his commentaries. Calvin's commentaries were designed for that purpose, which is one of the reasons why they survived the test of time as well as they have done. You know, they have this didactic purpose built into them. The next thing, of course, is doctrine. It's all very well to have exegesis, but you have to do your exegesis within a framework. In other words, you cannot read one verse of Scripture and go off on a tangent, you know, totally disregarding what the rest says. You've got to get this in its proper context and see the overall picture. And to do that, of course, you need doctrine. You need a framework of what the Scripture says on the whole, what is the overall message of the gospel? You say, what? Where are we heading with this? And this is what Calvin endeavored to provide in his institutes. The third thing was application. It's all very well to sit in the seminary, but if you can't actually communicate what you are saying to the people around you, you're wasting your time. So you have application and this is what we find in Calvin's sermons, and most of what Calvin wrote falls into one of these three categories.
Not everything, but most of it, you say, can be put under one of these three headings, and they are the three pillars of an educated ministry. Now you can see what is meant here, because if you take one of these away, what do you end up with? If you take away exegesis and if you just have doctrine and application, you will end up possibly with something very like the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church has a very clearly stated system of doctrine. You know, it's never a problem to find out what the Catholic Church teaches about anything you care to name they have. They'll say something about it. It also has a very clear pattern of application, because if you don't know how, you know how to put into practice what the Catholic Church teaches, all you have to do is call the 800 number at the Vatican or something like that. And they'll tell you, you know, I mean, this they're well-organized on that in that sort of way. The snag, of course, from a Protestant point of view, is that the relationship of all this to the Bible is rather questionable. And so we would say the snag is exegetical. You see, they're not getting this out of the book, out of the scriptures. They may have an answer, but where does it come from? You see, this is the main Protestant complaint about this system. And so Calvin would say, well, that's what you get if you ignore exegesis. If you ignore doctrine, what do you get? Well, you get the average modern Protestant church because the average modern Protestant church. And it doesn't matter whether you're a Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Congregationalist, you know, snake eaters or snake handlers or whatever you are.
So I was thinking of you coming up from that part of the world. You come up there, don't you, in a snake handlers or whatever doesn't. I mean, the label that you put on the modern Protestant church is a secondary thing because all of them are united by the fact that doctrine doesn't matter. Not really. You know, it's a kind of interest for people who get up at 6:00 in the morning and, you know, have these studies together. But, you know, for the ordinary person, this can be left out because what you have is you have the preacher standing up with a Bible verse, you know, like remember Lot's wife. And the application could be absolutely anything. You know, the connection between the text of Scripture and the way that it's applied. Finding out this is often the most interesting part of any sermon, trying to figure out what exactly this link is, you know, between what the man is supposed to be saying and what he is actually saying. And then you go away. I'm not saying these sermons are necessarily totally useless. Often you get very good advice, you know, in the pulpit. They'll say all kinds of things or lots of wonderful information, you know, that you haven't had time to download off the Internet. So it's given to you on Sunday morning. And isn't that great? You know, you get it, but there's no doctrine and therefore there's no cutting edge. There's no purpose to this. It doesn't go anywhere because it lacks the engine. It's like a car without the engine. So if you if you do this. All right, that's what happens if you lose, doctor. If you lose application, you end up with the sort of church like that's reformed or, you know, strict Presbyterian or something like this, you know, Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, you know, where if you're not crazy when you go in, you're crazy when you come out.
Whether you think I'm joking, I everyone I've ever met from there, you know, needs help. But the thing is what what is what happens here is these are the people who run around. These are the Calvinists. You can see them coming. You know, the people have got the institutes under their arm and they've got chapter and verse. They know exactly what they want to say about absolutely everything. And they're usually hot under the collar about somebody or other who hasn't quite dotting the I's or cross the T's in exactly the same places they have. And they're just looking for the wood to build the steak to burn them on. You know, you can see these people that you you know, they're around, aren't they? These people, you don't have to look very far and they've got it in the head. They all this sort of head knowledge and doctrine and so on down pat. But there's no real application. You know, they might as well be locked up in a computer lab somewhere and left to play around because, I mean, well, you know, they can't relate to to where most people are. Now, I say this with some feeling because this is actually one of the reasons why most churches today have no doctrine, because when you meet somebody who has got doctrine, it's not applicable. You know, that's all they've got. They know, you know, the 39 and a half points of Calvinism and so on. But and they can repeat them whether they're asked to or not. Usually not, but that's it. The average person who sits there thinks useless. You know, what are we going to make of them? And, you know, they'd rather have someone sort of talk about basketball.
Well, really, I mean, because at least that they understand that, you know, and you can get some good lessons out of it and so on, rather than worry about, you know, super lapsed arianism. I mean, not many people care about super lap surrealism, I'm sorry to say. You know, whether it's right or wrong, they don't care. So Calvin, you see, is very important in this respect because he got the balance. Now, you might disagree with what Calvin actually said. Most people do. Very few people agree with everything that Calvin said. You know, you'll find something somewhere you don't agree with. That's fine. I can. I don't mind. You know, you disagree with Calvin as much as you like, as far as I'm concerned. But what I want you to appreciate in terms of Calvin and where Calvin's greatness lies, is in this. Because in this he has established a pattern. Which if it can be realized in practice. Provides you with a healthy living. Vital Christian church. If you fail to do this, you'll have a lopsided Christianity. Somehow or other, it won't be working properly. And so really, what I want to leave with you this afternoon is this framework and this way of thinking. Think yourself. You see, when in your own life, in your own ministry, and above all in your own preaching, is this the kind of pattern that governs your preaching? I'm not saying you should look up Calvin's commentaries take it out there than the Institute's take that. Then the sermons take that and regurgitate. No, but I'm saying is you should do your exegesis properly. You should consider your doctrine. What is the message here? What is God saying to us through this text? Where is it headed and how on earth can I apply it in a way which is going to connect with the needs of the people out there? You know, I mean, how can we actually put this into practice for now, for today, for our situation? And if you start thinking like that and you may flop, you know, now and again, we all fail sooner or later, somehow you know that failure is not the problem.
You've got to start in the right way. You've got to have the right ideal. And believe me, if you if you have this picture in your mind, you will see as you develop in your ministry, how God will guide you into that way of thinking. And that you will you will gradually mature into it and eventually somebody might actually not only listen to what you say, but hear what you say and put it into practice. You know, and that's a real miracle when that occurs. Right. Well, on that rather cynical note, we have to leave you until Thursday when we'll pick up this scintillating study again. All right. Thank you.