Full Text for Church History 2- Volume 34 - Calvin in Strasbourg (Video)

File 34. >> I didn't know that Calvin spent considerable time in Strasbourg. We normally only hear of Calvin in Geneva. Did Calvin meet with the same kind of hostility in Strasbourg? >> As a matter of fact, no, he did not. Calvin was there for about three years, 1538 to 1541, and generally these were very good years for him. Very productive and relatively peaceful. I mean, for one thing, he was not the principal reformer of Strasbourg at all. That role fell basically to Martin Butzer. And Strasbourg had already been Protestant for some years prior to Calvin's arrival. In the mid 1520s, it had embraced the Reformation, and I think as we've already mentioned, Strasbourg, under Butzer's influence, had embraced the Augsburg Confession, and Butzer had signed the Wittenberg Concord. So by the time Calvin gets there, it's really a Lutheran Lutheran city. It's an imperial city that has now become a part of the Lutheran Reformation. Butzer was an accommodating sort who tried to find some middle ground between the Swiss and the Lutherans. Strasbourg was open to refugees from other parts of the world, and some French Protestants had actually found refuge in Strasbourg, and Calvin was, in effect, hired by Butzer to be the pastor of the French refugee church. While in Strasbourg, Calvin experienced firsthand what a truly reformed city might look like, and he had opportunity to learn from one of the leaders of the first generation of the Reformation, Martin Butzer. While there, Calvin not only pastored the church, but had an opportunity to return to some of his studies. He was able to produce a second edition of "The Institutes of the Christian Religion." He also began to write Biblical commentaries. One of the important contributions that Calvin made to 16th century Protestantism was in the form of Biblical commentaries, and the first of those was his commentary on Romans, and he prepared that while he was at Strasbourg. These were years, too, in which Butzer was involved with religious policy within the Holy Roman Empire, and there were some meetings of theologians that took place in these years, and Calvin had an opportunity to go with Butzer and to participate in some of these meetings, and it was at one of these that he met Philip Melanchthon, for example, and the two became friends and maintained a correspondence over the years later in the Reformation. So, as I say, these were good years for Calvin. And, oh, yes. I should mention that on a personal note, that Calvin also would have said these were good years because it was while he was in Strasbourg that he got married. He married Idelette de Bure, who was the widow of a man. She had a couple of children, and Calvin decided to marry her. The marriage was a good one, and Calvin always spoke positively about marriage. It was not a long marriage. Mrs. Calvin died in 1549, and Calvin never remarried thereafter. But, nonetheless, I think it's important to note that John Calvin had kind of a normal family life and that began for him here in Strasbourg. Now, there's one other point that I should mention about these years in Strasbourg, and that is, not too long after he had arrived, he had occasion to do something on behalf of Geneva. Now, that may sound a little surprising, but it is the case. What happened was this: Shortly after Calvin and Farel had been driven out of Geneva, the Catholics decided to take steps toward perhaps winning Geneva back to the old faith, and one of the leaders of the Catholic church, actually in the area, one Cardinal Sadoleto, basically a reform minded Catholic cardinal that is, he knew there were problems in the church and was willing to fix them up, although he wanted to remain faithful to Rome actually sent a letter to the people of Geneva in which he argued that they ought to come back to the true church; that it was a matter of salvation to be a part of the true church and although even though that church had some problems, nonetheless, their salvation would be secure if they, once again, entered into communion with the church of Rome. Well, the city government of Geneva was concerned that this letter might have an impact upon the people of Geneva, and so they looked around for someone who could write in defense of their reformation. Now, they tried a few people who turned them down, until at length one of those who turned them down said, "The only man for this job is John Calvin." And so they approached Calvin to write this letter, and Calvin agreed. He agreed to defend the Reformation in response to Cardinal Sadoleto. And this reply of his to Cardinal Sadoleto is well regarded as one of Calvin's nicest, best expressions of the evangelical faith in which he argues, yes, it is correct that we need to be a part of the true church, but how do you identify the true church? Well, you don't identify it by an external organization or hierarchy; you identify it by whether it has the word of God or not. You want the church that is faithful to the word of God. That's Calvin's basic argument here, that the church is defined by the word of God. At any rate, the letter was published, the Genevans liked it, and so Calvin's relations with the city of Geneva improved, in spite of the fact that he was now pastoring a church in Strasbourg.