Saturday, February 16, 2013

Wikipedia's "John Calvin's views on Mary" (Part 1)

This is an installment of  "Be Careful What You Find on Wikipedia."

I've been intrigued by the alleged "Mariology" of the Reformers for years because of the argumentation of Roman Catholic apologists. While searching around the other day, I came across Wikipedia's John Calvin's views on Mary entry. I didn't get far into the entry before I came across a few facts that appeared odd. I'm going to work through the entry, time allowing.

One of the first oddities of this entry is that it states early on, "Calvin shows a decidedly positive view of Mary, and he did not hold to a number of the Protestant views on her that became common after the Reformation." It shortly thereafter states, "The criticism of Calvin on the Catholic Church in general and in regard to Mary in particular, is severe." The entry then states:
To Calvin, Mary is an idol in the Roman Church, and she diminishes the centrality and importance of Jesus. Hence, his Genevan Catechism not only outlawed Marian veneration, it also punished related behavior, such as carrying a rosary, observing a saints day, or possessing holy relics.[2]
Certainly this type of punishment is consistent with the reforms put forth in Geneva in the 16th Century.  However, note what the Wiki article asserts: Calvin's Genevan Catechism outlawed and punished Marian devotion. Now that's interesting, isn't it? A catechism that outlaws Marian devotion and sets forth punishment.

The [2] in the Wiki entry refers to Will Durant's volume on the Reformation, p. 469. Here's what Durant states:
"To restore the religious basis of an effective morality, Farel issued a Confession of Faith and Discipline, and Calvin a popular Catechism,  which the Great Council approved (Novembver 1536). Citizens persistently transgressing the moral code were to be excommunicated and exiled. In July 1537, the Council ordered all citizens to go to the church of St. Peter and swear allegiance to Farel's Confession. Any manifestation of Catholicism- such as carrying a rosary, cherishing a sacred relic, or observing a saint's day as holy- was subject to punishment." 
Now I appreciate that the Wiki entry provided a reference, but if you compare what their entry says to what Durant says, it's two different things. The 1536 Confession of Faith can be found here. It doesn't have anything even remotely similar to what the Wiki article asserts. The closest you'll get to Wiki's assertions are the following:
XIX. Excommunication Because there are always some who hold God and his Word in contempt, who take account of neither injunction, exhortation nor remonstrance, thus requiring greater chastisement, we hold the discipline of excommunication to be a thing holy and salutary among the faithful, since truly it was instituted by our Lord with good reason. This is in order that the wicked would not by their damnable conduct corrupt the good and dishonor our Lord, and that though proud they may turn to penitence. Therefore we believe that it is expedient according to the ordinance of God that all manifest idolaters, blasphemers, murderers, thieves, lewd persons, false witnesses, sedition-mongers, quarrellers, those guilty of defamation or assault, drukards, dissolute livers, when they have been duly admonished and if they do not make amendment, be separated from the communion of the faithful until their repentance is known.
XXI. Magistrates  We hold the supremacy and dominion of kings and princes as also of other magistrates and officers, to be a holy thing and a good ordinance of God. And since in performing their office they serve God and follow a Christian vocation, whether in defending the afflicted and innocent, or in correcting and punishing the malice of the perverse, we on our part also ought to accord them honour and reverence, to render respect and subservience, to execute their commands, to bear the charges they impose on us, so far as we are able without offence to God. In sum, we ought to regard them as vicars and lieutenants of God, whom one cannot resist without resisting God himself; and their office as a sacred commission from God which has been given them so that they may rule and govern us. Hence we hold that all Christians are bound to pray God for the prosperity of the superiors and lords of the country where they live, to obey the statutes and ordinances which do not contravene the commandments of God, to promote the welfare, peace and public good, endeavouring to sustain the honour of those over them and the peace of the people, without contriving or attempting anything to inspire trouble or dissension. On the other hand we declare that all those who conduct themselves unfaithfully towards their superiors, and have not a right concern for the public good of the country where they live, demonstrate thereby their infidelity towards God.

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