[Milton-L] piercing word

Daniel W. Doerksen dwd at unb.ca
Sat Jan 10 21:27:58 EST 2009

Since I have spent much of my career writing about Calvinism as it relates 
to sixteenth- and seventeenth English literature (including Milton), I was 
of course fascinated to read the New York Times article on Mark Driscoll by 
Molly Worthen. The author shows some awareness of Calvin and his tradition 
beyond the cliches, such as by recognizing that people of Driscoll's church 
"care about the arts, living out a  long Reformed tradition that asserts 
Christ's mandate over every corner of creation."

However some of Worthen's statements about Calvin are inaccurate. To say 
that he "had heretics burned at the stake" is misleading in two ways, 
because Calvin was involved (and only indirectly) in only one such burning, 
that of Servetus, and he protested  in vain against that method of 
execution. (So much also for his being an absolute dictator in Geneva.) One 
should see even that event in context, because Servetus had just escaped 
receiving the same fate from the Roman church in France. It was a bloody 
century, during which the "saintly" Thomas More actively worked to secure a 
number of burnings of heretics.

The following is also misleading: When some church members opposed 
Driscoll's plans to consolidate this pastor's power, he preached, "They are 
sinning through questioning." Molly Worthen here responds: "John Calvin 
couldn't have said it better himself." But John Donne praised Calvin (whom 
he quoted a hundred times in his sermons) for his undogmatic readings of 
Scripture. And Randall Zachman in a recent book says Calvin taught that 
teachers including himself "must ... be ready and willing to listen to the 
instruction of others throughout their lives, because God has not revealed 
the fullness of his wisdom to any individual."

Dan Doerksen

At 01:32 PM 1/10/2009, you wrote:
>A story of interest, I think, re: Christian Doctrine, Calvinism, etc.
>Milton-L mailing list
>Milton-L at lists.richmond.edu
>Manage your list membership and access list archives at 
>Milton-L web site: http://johnmilton.org/

Daniel W. Doerksen 
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