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In the minority, Calvin advocated toleration -- in the majority, he practiced murder.

Posted by on Apr. 29, 2012 at 2:55 AM
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No orthodox church ever had power that it did not endeavor to make people think its way by force and flame. And yet every church that ever was established commenced in the minority, and while it was in the minority advocated free speech -- every one. John Calvin, the founder of the Presbyterian Church, while he lived in France, wrote a book on religious toleration in order to show that all men had an equal right to think; and yet that man afterward, clothed in a little authority, forgot all his sentiments about religious liberty, and had poor Serviettes burned at the stake, for differing with him on a question that neither of them knew anything about. In the minority, Calvin advocated toleration -- in the majority, he practiced murder.


by on Apr. 29, 2012 at 2:55 AM
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by Silver Member on Apr. 29, 2012 at 2:56 AM

by Silver Member on Apr. 29, 2012 at 3:00 AM

In 1553 a man was tried at Vienna by the Catholic Church for
heresy. He was convicted and sentenced to death by burning. It was
apparently his good fortune to escape. Pursued by the sleuth hounds
of intolerance he fled to Geneva for protection. A dove flying from
hawks, sought safety in the nest of a vulture. This fugitive from
the cruelty of Rome asked shelter from John Calvin, who had written
a book in favor of religious toleration. Serviettes had forgotten
that this book was written by Calvin when in the minority; that it
was written in weakness to be forgotten in power; that it was
produced by fear instead of principle. He did not know that Calvin
had caused his arrest at Vienna, in France, and had sent a copy
of his work, which was claimed to be blasphemous, to the archbishop.
He did not then know that the Protestant Calvin was acting as one
of the detectives of the Catholic Church, and had been instrumental
in procuring his conviction for heresy. Ignorant of all this
unspeakable infamy, he put himself in the power of this very
Calvin. The maker of the Presbyterian creed caused the fugitive
Serviettes to be arrested for blasphemy. He was tried. Calvin was
his accuser. He was convicted and condemned to death by fire. On
the morning of the fatal day, Calvin saw him, and Serviettes, the
victim, asked forgiveness of Calvin, the murderer. Serviettes was
bound to the stake, and the fagots were lighted. The wind carried
the flames somewhat away from his body, so that he slowly roasted
for hours. Vainly he implored a speedy death. At last the flames
climbed round his form; through smoke and fire his murderers saw a
white heroic face. And there they watched until a man became a
charred and shriveled mass.


Michael Servetus also Miguel Servet or Miguel Serveto also Miguel de Villanueva or Michel de Villeneuve;[1] (29 September 1511 – 27 October 1553) was a Spanish theologian, physician, cartographer, and humanist. He was the first European correctly to describe the function of pulmonary circulation. His interests included many sciences: mathematics, astronomy and meteorology, geography, human anatomy, medicine and pharmacology, as well as jurisprudence, translation and the scholarly study of the Bible in its original languages. He is renowned in the history of several of these fields, particularly medicine and theology. He participated in the Protestant Reformation, and later developed a nontrinitarian Christology. Condemned by Catholics and Protestants alike, he was arrested in Geneva and burnt at the stake as a heretic by order of the Protestant Geneva governing council.

Imprisonment and execution

On 16 February 1553, Michael de Villeneuve, while in Vienne, was denounced as a heretic by Guillaume de Trie, a rich merchant who had taken refuge in Geneva— a very good friend of Calvin,[19]—in a letter sent to a cousin, Antoine Arneys, who was living in Lyon. On behalf of the French inquisitor Matthieu Ory, Michel de Villanueva as well as Balthasard Arnollet, the printer of Christianismi Restitutio, were questioned, but they denied all charges and were released for lack of evidence. Arneys was asked by Ory to write back to De Trie, demanding proof. On 26 March 1553, the letters sent by Michel to Calvin and some manuscript pages of Christianismi Restitutio were forwarded to Lyon by Trie. On 4 April 1553 Michael de Villanueva was arrested by Roman Catholic authorities, and imprisoned in Vienne. Calvin said he had proofs of Michel saying his true personality was "Servetus", and "Michel de Villeneuve" a pseudonym, but was never able to prove this, not even for the judgement of Vienne against Michel de Villeneuve. Considering that Calvin would have used this fact if it had been true, it might not be true, like when he accused Michael of being Castilian-Portuguese, a totally false idea. The royal document of French naturalization by the Chamber of Comptes of France, with eight witnesses and also inspected by the Royal Chancery of France, has been recovered, and required previous legal documentation of birth and identity from Spain, in which Michael says that his name is Michel de Villeneuve.[1] De Villeneuve was arrested because he had worked in a print shop outside Vienne, with Arnoullet, and that was forbidden by the laws of Henry II of France. Michel escaped from prison three days later. On 17 June, Michel de Villeneuve was convicted of heresy, "thanks to the 17 letters sent by Jehan Calvin, preacher in Geneva"[20] and sentenced to be burned with his books. An effigy and his books were burned in his absence.

Meaning to flee to Italy, De Villenueva inexplicably stopped in Geneva, where Calvin and his Reformers had denounced him. On 13 August, he attended a sermon by Calvin at Geneva. He was arrested after the service[21] and again imprisoned. All his property was confiscated. Michael affirmed to be "Servetus", but in the judgement document it is stated he did not present any document for proving this. Servetus claimed during this judgement he was arrested at an inn at Geneva. French Inquisitors asked that Servetus be extradited to them for execution. Calvin wanted to show himself as firm in defense of Christian orthodoxy as his usual opponents. "He was forced to push the condemnation of Servetus with all the means at his command."[21] Calvin's delicate health meant he did not personally appear against "Servetus".[22] Nicholas de la Fontaine played the more active role in Servetus's prosecution and the listing of points that condemned him.

At his trial, Servetus was condemned on two counts, for spreading and preaching Nontrinitarianism and anti-paedobaptism (anti-infant baptism).[23] Of paedobaptism Servetus had said, "It is an invention of the devil, an infernal falsity for the destruction of all Christianity."[24] In the case the procureur général (chief public prosecutor) added some curious sounding accusations in the form of inquiries—the most odd sounding perhaps being, "whether he has married, and if he answers that he has not, he shall be asked why, in consideration of his age, he could refrain so long from marriage." To this oblique imputation of unchastity (or perhaps homosexuality), Servetus replied that rupture (inguinal hernia) had long since made him incapable of that particular sin. More offensive to modern ears might be the question "whether he did not know that his doctrine was pernicious, considering that he favours Jews and Turks, by making excuses for them, and if he has not studied the Koran in order to disprove and controvert the doctrine and religion that the Christian churches hold, together with other profane books, from which people ought to abstain in matters of religion, according to the doctrine of St. Paul."

Calvin believed Servetus deserving of death on account of what he termed as his "execrable blasphemies".[25] Calvin expressed these sentiments in a letter to Farel, written about a week after Servetus’ arrest, in which he also mentioned an exchange with Servetus. Calvin wrote:

...after he [Servetus] had been recognized, I thought he should be detained. My friend Nicolas summoned him on a capital charge, offering himself as a security according to the lex talionis. On the following day he adduced against him forty written charges. He at first sought to evade them. Accordingly we were summoned. He impudently reviled me, just as if he regarded me as obnoxious to him. I answered him as he deserved... of the man’s effrontery I will say nothing; but such was his madness that he did not hesitate to say that devils possessed divinity; yea, that many gods were in individual devils, inasmuch as a deity had been substantially communicated to those equally with wood and stone. I hope that sentence of death will at least be passed on him; but I desired that the severity of the punishment be mitigated.[26]

As Servetus was not a citizen of Geneva, and legally could at worst be banished, the government, in an attempt to find some plausible excuse to disregard this legal reality, had consulted with other Swiss Reformed cantons (Zürich, Bern, Basel, Schaffhausen.) They universally favored his condemnation and suppression of his doctrine, but without saying how that should be accomplished.[27] Martin Luther had condemned his writing in strong terms. Servetus and Philip Melanchthon had strongly hostile views of each other. The party called the "Libertines", who were generally opposed to anything and everything John Calvin supported, were in this case strongly in favor of the execution of Servetus at the stake (while Calvin urged that he be beheaded instead). In fact, the council that condemned Servetus was presided over by Perrin (a Libertine) who ultimately on 24 October sentenced Servetus to death by burning for denying the Trinity and infant baptism.[28] When Calvin requested that Servetus be executed by decapitation as a traitor rather than by fire as a heretic, Farel, in a letter of 8 September, chided him for undue lenience.[29] The Geneva Council refused his request. On 27 October 1553 Servetus was burned at the stake just outside Geneva with what was believed to be the last copy of his book chained to his leg. Historians record his last words as: "Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have mercy on me."[30]

Calvin agreed that those whom the ruling religious authorities determined to be heretics should be punished:

Whoever shall maintain that wrong is done to heretics and blasphemers in punishing them makes himself an accomplice in their crime and guilty as they are. There is no question here of man's authority; it is God who speaks, and clear it is what law he will have kept in the church, even to the end of the world. Wherefore does he demand of us a so extreme severity, if not to show us that due honor is not paid him, so long as we set not his service above every human consideration, so that we spare not kin, nor blood of any, and forget all humanity when the matter is to combat for His glory.[31]
by Silver Member on Apr. 29, 2012 at 3:06 AM
Quoting Clairwil:

On 27 October 1553 Servetus was burned at the stake just outside Geneva with what was believed to be the last copy of his book chained to his leg.

That one line, in red, so annoyed me with its petty cruelty, that I went and did a search to see if any copies of the book escaped the purge by the church.

And it turns out they did.  One was recently discovered, and has been partially translated into english.

And, do you know what we missed out on, because of the purge?  The gem the burned book contained?

 "   The following is Servetus' postulation of the secondary circulation of the blood. He is credited with being the first to publish this discovery! It was found in his final book, Christianismi restitutio   "


(link to translated book)

by Silver Member on Apr. 29, 2012 at 3:19 AM

And yes, fact checking it, it really does look like the accusation against Calvin holds:

This wasn't an obscure case.  It was a cause celebre, and has been analysed to bits by all sides.

"  You can always spot the atheists.   They're the ones with so much reliable ammunition, that they're not afraid to fact check their own side.  "  --Clairwil, 2012

by on Apr. 29, 2012 at 9:03 AM

Horrible. I am glad some of his writing survived. I think it was interesting that the whole thing revolved around infant baptism and rejection of a triune god. There are many Christian sects today who have those beliefs. JW's come to mind instantly. Baptists believe in the trinity but not infant baptism.

I wonder what would have happened if he had stuck to science and just ignored these religious questions? Would he had been allowed to live, to study and to write? Was his need to be "correct" about Christianity kill him? Just making me think this morning.

by on Apr. 29, 2012 at 12:59 PM

 Utopias of any sort, where one POV is in true control, do seem to take this route.  Dissenting minorities seem somehow essential to a fair(ish) society, whether they are horrid dissenters like white power types or rational dissenters like atheists or irrational dissenters like various religious sects.  It is disappointing when the people arguing for tolerance change their tune, once they're on top. 

by on May. 2, 2012 at 9:07 PM
Too bad the snake handlers never overrun the catholic hierarchy but they believe the pope is as close as we will find to the antichrist until someone finally stands up and proclaims the title for himself. I think most would love for it to be Obama.
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