Confession and Society

Confession and Society : Calvinism

Church and State . . Jean Calvin, before responding to the call to return to Geneva, demanded and achieved the city council's promise to follow his directions. Geneva 1541-1563 is referred to as a theocracy; the Calvinist church organization was set up without state interference, and the self- administration of the community is central to her. Calvinist communities, like the English PURITANS and the Scottish PRESBYTERIANS, have strongly resisted state interference in church affairs, and have regarded bishops as functionaries which facilitated such interference; hence their rejection of bishops.
The SYNOD OF DORDT of 1618-1619 which passed the CANONS OF DORDT, a document basic to most Calvinist communities today, met in a very different environment. The debate between Arminianists and Gomarists, decided by the synod in favour of the latter, covered a political conflict between the regents of Holland on one and stadholder Maurice of Orange on the other side; Raadspensionaris Johan van Oldenbarneveld was executed after having been sentenced in a political trial. In the early 19th century, King William I. of the NETHERLANDS attempted to transform the Dutch Calvinist Church into a state-influenced state church; this caused a schism with the Dutch Calvinist church.

Clergy and Laymen . . The Calvinist church emphasized the education of priests and teachers. As the Calvinist church is the 'democratic church', emphasizing the autonomy of the local community, the participation of laymen (church elders) is of great weight.
The theory of PREDESTINATION assumed that those who obeyed the ethical rules of the bible were to be accepted into heaven. While both the Catholic and the Lutheran church laid the responsibility mainly on the shoulders of the clergy, Calvinism stressed the responsibility of the individual.

Lutheranism and Literacy . . Calvinism stressed the necessity of both universal elementary education, and of secondary education for the clergy. Numerous Calvinist universities were founded.

Women in Lutheran Society . . In early Calvinist communities, women were expected to be mothers and housewives; it was not expected of women to take an active role in the community - higher education was barred to them until into the 18th century, and men only were elected church elders. Calvinist societies believed in the existence of witchcraft and at times burnt perceived witches.

Festivals . . Calvinism stressed that there were to activities by which man could serve God - work and pray. The Catholic church's many saints days were abolished, as was carnival. When christmas and easter were celebrated, humility on the side of the parishioners was expected, extravagance discouraged. The same applies for THANKSGIVING DAY, a fiest day introduced by Massachusetts' Puritan community. Leisure activities such as card playing, gambling, sports activities and theatre performances were banned in Calvin's Geneva, in Cromwell's England and in Puritan Massachusetts.


This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 21st 2003, last revised on November 15th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz