The Structure of John Calvin's Theocratic Geneva


#1

Just something I found interesting.

Calvin believed the church should faithfully mirror the principles laid down in Holy Scripture. In his Ecclesiastical Ordinances he argued that the New Testament taught four orders of ministry: pastors, doctors, elders, and deacons. Around these, [Geneva] was organized.

Pastors conducted the services, preached, administered the Sacraments, and cared for the spiritual welfare of parishioners. In each of the three parish churches, two Sunday services and a catechism class were offered. […]The Lord’s Supper was celebrated quarterly.

The doctors, or teachers, lectured in Latin on the Old and New Testaments usually on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The audience consisted mainly of the older schoolboys and ministers, but anyone could attend.

[E]lders kept an eye on spiritual affairs. If they saw that so-and-so was frequently the worse for drink, or that Mr. X beat his wife, or that Mr. Y and Mrs. Z were seeing too much of each other, they admonished them in a brotherly manner. If the behavior didn’t cease, they reported the matter to […] the church’s governing body, which would summon the offender. Excommunication was a last resort and would remain in force until the offender repented.

Finally, social welfare was the charge of the deacons. They were the hospital management board, social security executives, and alms-house supervisors. The deacons were so effective, Geneva had no beggars.


#2

Which of the four orders of ministry was in charge of burning heretics at the stake?


#3

Neither. It was the state (Geneva’s governing council). And Servetus was only in Geneva because he was fleeing the Catholics, who were chasing him for heresy. And even after he was arrested in Geneva, the French inquisitors were requesting that Geneva extradite him back to France for execution. It seems both Catholics and Protestants wanted him dead. There are no winners here.


#4

Least of all Servetus himself.


#5

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