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About this book

An international community of Reformed churches emerged during the sixteenth century. Although attempts were made by Calvinists to reach agreement over key beliefs, and to establish uniformity in patterns of worship and church government, there were continuing divisions over some ideas and differences between local practices of moral discipline and religious life. However, Reformed intellectuals developed common ideas about rights of resistance against tyrants, communities prayed, fasted and donated money to aid brethren in distress, and many Calvinists across the Continent developed a strong sense of collective identity.

Beyond Calvin considers the Reformed churches of Europe in an international and comparative context from around 1540 to 1620. Graeme Murdock:
- discusses how Calvinism operated as an international movement by looking at links between Reformed churches, communities and states
- explains what Reformed churches across the Continent stood for
- focuses on how Calvinists sought to purify the practice of Christian religion, and to renew European politics, society and culture
- examines both the strengths and limits of the international Reformed community

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
Europe’s Reformed churches had no formal international organisation during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. There was no accepted primate who held authority across the Continent, nor any international agreement on a single confession or statement of doctrine. The connections between Europe’s Calvinists and Reformed churches were therefore decentralised, unofficial, and could often be disorganised and ineffective. However, many Reformed clergy and ordinary members of congregations consistently expressed their support for, and participated in, a wider international community which is the focus of this study. Establishing and maintaining the ties that bound the Reformed world together held an ideological and emotional significance for many Calvinists, even among those with no first-hand experience outside their own locality. For one thing, if Reformed religion was true, then its truth claims looked more convincing if they were shared across the Continent. However, gaining consensus on key points of Reformed doctrine proved difficult to achieve. Chapter 1 highlights the emergence and development of the shared ideas, in particular on the sacrament of Holy Communion, which underpinned all the connections between Reformed churches. Reformed theology was based not only on the work of John Calvin but was also developed from the insights of a range of leaders of Swiss and south German centres of reform. Much time and effort was spent trying to obtain and maintain international harmony on doctrine. Calvinists were, however, far from wholly united on some issues, and Reformed orthodoxy also changed over time. This was particularly the case over ideas about aspects of God’s plan for salvation and decrees of predestination.
Graeme Murdock

Chapter 1. Reformed Ideas

Abstract
Fraternal relations between Europe’s Reformed churches were grounded in broad agreement about the fundamentals of true Christian doctrine. There were strong similarities between the confessions of faith and catechisms which were adopted by different Reformed churches. Many churches also recognised the 1566 Second Helvetic Confession written by Zurich’s Heinrich Bullinger, and used the 1563 Heidelberg Catechism which was composed by Zacharias Ursinus from Breslau in Silesia and by Caspar Olevian from Trier. While it would therefore be incorrect to see John Calvin as the single, authoritative theological voice behind the European Reformed movement, his personal contribution to the emergence and development of Reformed theology was undoubtedly immense. Calvin’s ideas about the nature of God, the Church, salvation and the sacraments spread across the Continent through his published works. These texts included dogmatic works, polemic tracts, Biblical commentaries, and written versions of the sermons which Calvin delivered at Geneva on the books of the Old Testament during weekday services and his exegesis of New Testament passages on Sundays. Calvin’s intellectual authority within the Reformed world rested above all on his Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin declared that this book was intended to help readers to understand the Bible correctly by providing them with an orderly ‘sum of religion in all its parts’. The first edition of the Institutes appeared in 1536, it was first published in French in 1541, and Calvin produced a final version of the text in 1559. The Institutes then appeared in 25 different published editions between 1559 and 1578 in Latin, French, and in Dutch, English and German translations. Calvin himself acknowledged that the Institutes was ‘received by almost all godly men with an acclaim which I would never have ventured to hope for’.1
Graeme Murdock

Chapter 2. International Connections

Abstract
This chapter will explore the ways in which Reformed churches and states established and retained close contacts with one another. It will first focus on the significance of communities of Reformed exiles, who abandoned their homes to avoid persecution. The social mobility of early Calvinists, and the experiences of many who went into exile, strengthened commitment to Reformed religion as a trans-national movement, led to many personal and practical connections across the Continent, and significantly impacted on the development of Reformed churches. Calvinist refugees gathered together in some key bases, from where they planned missionary campaigns and political resistance back in their home countries. The presence of many refugees was not always warmly received by host communities, but many Calvinists offered financial and spiritual support to foreigners and exiles through collections, prayers and fasting.1 Connections between different Reformed churches were later bolstered by the education of clergy in cosmopolitan academic centres. Universities and academies became crucial centres of international activity and contacts. Personal links were built between foreign students and professors, many of whom also travelled around the Continent during their careers. Connections between this network of intellectuals often facilitated the spread of theological orthodoxy across the Continent, but contacts could also reveal differences over understanding of doctrine, patterns of ceremonies and forms of church government.
Graeme Murdock

Chapter 3. Politics and Rebellion

Abstract
Calvinist reformers announced their desire to free individuals and communities from the tyranny of Rome so that they could live under the authority of Christ. Free Christians would be dependent only upon God, the true Church and God’s appointed magistrates on earth. Reformers looked to those magistrates to help bring about necessary reforms in the Church, and to challenge the false claims to spiritual and secular power of the Pope and Catholic hierarchy. Calvinists’ search for godly rulers who would lead societies to embrace true religion found some heroes including Jeanne d’Albret in Béarn, Frederick III in the Palatinate, Edward VI and Elizabeth I in England, James VI in Scotland and Johann Sigismund in Brandenburg. Jeanne d’Albret was repeatedly encouraged during the 1560s to establish Reformed religion in Béarn. Calvin wrote to the queen in 1563 warning of
arguments advanced to prove that princes should not force their subjects to lead a Christian life… but, all kingdoms which do not serve that of Jesus Christ are ruined, so judge for yourself.
Graeme Murdock

Chapter 4. Moral Discipline

Abstract
All churches during the sixteenth century promoted their understanding of the fundamentals of Christian faith and demanded high standards of moral behaviour from their adherents. Where possible, clergy sought the support of civil authorities to assist in their efforts to enforce religious uniformity and moral discipline on ordinary people. Many of the alliances forged between clergy and princes or urban magistrates not only defended the orthodoxy of one church but also outlawed the practice of minority religions. Church institutions and state bureaucracies used schools, printed propaganda, censorship laws, and a regime of spiritual and secular sanctions in efforts to regulate church life, suppress alternative opinions and traditional forms of religiosity, and to introduce a more standard form of religious experience.1
Graeme Murdock

Chapter 5. Religious Life and Culture

Abstract
The daily experience of Reformed religious life varied according to the political environment, social setting and pattern of organisation of local churches, and changed over time as Reformed orthodoxy evolved and disciplinary and educational institutions became established. Despite such variations, enough remained held in common between different churches and generations to form an identifiable Reformed religious culture during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. This chapter will build up a portrait of the religious life and culture of Calvinists, including the names given to infants, and the ways in which both children and adults were taught about the fundamentals of their faith. Various aspects of religious life in Reformed churches will then be compared, including the appearance of church buildings, the clothing worn by ministers, and the role of sermons, public prayers, fasts, the Bible and Psalters in church services. Reformed religious culture was significantly informed by the Old Testament, and Calvinists often came to identify their communities with God’s first chosen people. The metaphor of Israel became an important means through which Reformed identity was constructed and expressed, and a prism through which many Calvinists, and especially exiles, refugees and migrants, understood both the history and the future of the Church and their communities.
Graeme Murdock
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