Archive for the ‘freedom of religion’ Category

Failure to live by high ideals

December 23, 2011

In his Utopia Sir Thomas More described a land where “everyone was free to practise what religion he liked, and to try and convert other people to his own faith, provided he did it quietly and politely, by rational argument.”

Yet More was a tireless persecutor of Protestants. A writ for Thomas Bilney’s burning was quickly procured from More, who despatched him to the flames with a heartless joke remarking the proper course would have been to “burn him first and procure a writ afterwards”.

“Husbandmen, artists, tradespeople and even noblemen felt the cruel fangs of the clergy and of Sir Thomas More,” wrote hsitorian Merle d’Aubigne

More defended the burning of heretics (A Dialogue concerning Heresies) as just an necessary.

More couldn’t even be polite let alone tolerant as his ideal suggested. He called Tyndale, one of the greatest of Englishman,

“a beast discharging filthy foam of blasphemies out of his brutish beastly mouth “- a “railing ribald” – a “drowsy drudge that has drunken deep in the devil’s dregs” – because he translated the New Testament into English from Greek.

 

 

 

Truth and freedom are inextricably linked. We must speak the truth, because otherwise we lose our freedom

June 16, 2011

Truth and freedom are inextricably linked. We must speak the truth, because otherwise we lose our freedom.

Geert Wilders (final remarks at his Amsterdam show trial)

Foxe gets it about right in the Calvin/Servetus affair

February 14, 2011

It has long been the delight of both infidels and some professed Christians, when they wish to bring odium upon the opinions of Calvin, to refer to his agency in the death of Michael Servetus. This action is used on all occasions by those who have been unable to overthrow his opinions, as a conclusive argument against his whole system. “Calvin burnt Servetus!–Calvin burnt Servetus!” is a good proof with a certain class of reasoners, that the doctrine of the Trinity is not true-that divine sovereignty is Antiscriptural,–and Christianity a cheat.

We have no wish to palliate any act of Calvin’s which is manifestly wrong. All his proceedings, in relation to the unhappy affair of Servetus, we think, cannot be defended. Still it should be remembered that the true principles of religious toleration were very little understood in the time of Calvin. All the other reformers then living approved of Calvin’s conduct. Even the gentle and amiable Melancthon expressed himself in relation to this affair, in the following manner. In a letter addressed to Bullinger, he says, “I have read your statement respecting the blasphemy of Servetus, and praise your piety and judgment; and am persuaded that the Council of Geneva has done right in putting to death this obstinate man, who would never have ceased his blasphemies. I am astonished that any one can be found to disapprove of this proceeding.” Farel expressly says, that “Servetus deserved a capital punishment.” Bucer did not hesitate to declare, that “Servetus deserved something worse than death.”

The truth is, although Calvin had some hand in the arrest and imprisonment of Servetus, he was unwilling that he should be burnt at all. “I desire,” says he, “that the severity of the punishment should be remitted.” “We endeavored to commute the kind of death, but in vain.” “By wishing to mitigate the severity of the punishment,” says Farel to Calvin, “you discharge the office of a friend towards your greatest enemy.” “That Calvin was the instigator of the magistrates that Servetus might be burned,” says Turritine, “historians neither anywhere affirm, nor does it appear from any considerations. Nay, it is certain, that he, with the college of pastors, dissuaded from that kind of punishment.”

It has been often asserted, that Calvin possessed so much influence with the magistrates of Geneva that he might have obtained the release of Servetus, had he not been desirous of his destruction. This however, is not true. So far from it, that Calvin was himself once banished from Geneva, by these very magistrates, and often opposed their arbitrary measures in vain. So little desirous was Calvin of procuring the death of Servetus that he warned him of his danger, and suffered him to remain several weeks at Geneva, before he was arrested. But his language, which was then accounted blasphemous, was the cause of his imprisonment. When in prison, Calvin visited him, and used every argument to persuade him to retract his horrible blasphemies, without reference to his peculiar sentiments. This was the extent of Calvin’s agency in this unhappy affair.

It cannot, however, be denied, that in this instance, Calvin acted contrary to the benignant spirit of the Gospel. It is better to drop a tear over the inconsistency of human nature, and to bewail those infirmities which cannot be justified. He declared he acted conscientiously, and publicly justified the act.

It was the opinion, that erroneous religious principles are punishable by the civil magistrate, that did the mischief, whether at Geneva, in Transylvania, or in Britain; and to this, rather than to Trinitarianism, or Unitarianism, it ought to be imputed.

Foxes Book of Martyrs, CHAPTER XIII

Oh! the thoughts of the hardship I thought my poor blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces

December 8, 2009

But notwithstanding these helps, I found myself a man and compassed with infirmities; the parting with my wife and poor children, hath often been to me in this place, as the pulling the flesh from the bones, and that not only because I am somewhat too fond of these great mercies, but also because I should have often brought to my mind the many hardships, miseries, and wants that my poor family was like to meet with, should I be taken from them, especially my poor blind child, who lay nearer my heart than all besides: Oh! the thoughts of the hardship I thought my poor blind one might go under, would break my heart to pieces.

Poor child! thought I, what sorrow art thou like to have for thy portion in this world! Thou must be beaten, must beg, suffer hunger, cold, nakedness, and a thousand calamities, though I cannot now endure the wind should blow upon thee. But yet recalling myself, thought I, I must venture you all with God, though it goeth to the quick to leave you: Oh! I saw in this condition I was as a man who was pulling down his house upon the head of his wife and children; yet, thought I, I must do it, I must do it.

John Bunyan, on the consequences of refusing to conform and being sent to prison for the truth of Scripture, in Grace Abounding 327-328, quoted in Faith Cook, Fearless Pilgrim: The Life and Times of John Bunyan, Evangelical Press, 2008, pp.188-9

I begged of God that if I might do more good by being at liberty than in prison, that then I might be set at liberty; but if not, His will be done

December 8, 2009

I was not at all daunted but rather glad, and saw evidently that the Lord had heard me; for before I went down to the justice, I begged of God that if I might do more good by being at liberty than in prison, that then I might be set at liberty; but if not, His will be done; for I was not altogether without hopes but that my imprisonment might be an awakening to the saints in the country, therefore I could not tell well which to choose; only I, in that manner, did commit the thing to God.

John Bunyan, on the prospect of imprisonment, in Faith Cook, Fearless Pilgrim: The Life and Times of John Bunyan, Evangelical Press, 2008, p.188

what mad folk we have so long been, who have wished to force the Turk to the faith with the sword, the heretic with fire, and the Jews with death

November 3, 2009

…what mad folk we have so long been, who have wished to force the Turk to the faith with the sword, the heretic with fire, and the Jews with death, to root out the tares with our own power, as if we were the people who could rule over hearts and spirits and make them religious and good, which God’s Word alone must do.

Martin Luther

Princes are not to be obeyed when they command submission to superstitious errors, but their aid is not to be invoked in support of the Word of God. Heretics must be converted by the Scriptures, and not by fire, otherwise the hangman would be the greatest doctor.

Heresy is a spiritual thing which one cannot hew with any iron, burn with any fire, drown with any water. The Word of God alone is there to do it.

Martin Luther

Can the sword of steel or arm of flesh make men faithful or loyal to God ? Or careth God for the outward loyalty or faithfulness, when the inward man is false and treacherous ?

November 3, 2009

Can the sword of steel or arm of flesh make men faithful or loyal to God ? Or careth God for the outward loyalty or faithfulness, when the inward man is false and treacherous ? Or is there not more danger from a hypocrite, a dissembler, a turncoat in his religion (from the fear or favor of men) than from a resolved Jew, Turk, or papist, who holds firm unto his principles ? ” A carnal weapon or sword of steel may produce a carnal repentance. ” Faith is that gift which proceeds alone from the Father of lights, and till he please to make his light arise and open the eyes of blind sinners, their souls shall lie fast asleep and the faster, in that a sword of steel compels them to a worship in hypocrisy.” Even more serious is the effect that compulsion to religion ” carries men to be of no religion all their days, worse than the very Indians.”

Roger Williams, quoted by Roland Bainton

 

He that complies against his will is of his own opinion still.

Samuel Butler.

To the Reformation Englishmen owe an English Bible, and liberty for every man to read it

September 26, 2009

To the Reformation Englishmen owe an English Bible, and liberty for every man to read it. To the Reformation they owe the knowledge of the way of peace with God, and of the right of every sinner to go straight to Christ by faith, without bishop, priest, or minister standing in his way. To the Reformation they owe a Scriptural standard of morality and holiness, such as our ancestors never dreamed of. For ever let us be thankful for these inestimable mercies ! For ever let us grasp them firmly, and refuse to let them go ! For my part, I hold that- he who would rob us of these privileges, and draw us back to pre-Reformation ignorance, superstition, and unholiness, is an enemy to England, and ought to be firmly opposed.

J.C.Ryle, Five English Reformers, Banner, 1994, p.43

Heresy and Tolerance

August 26, 2009

Errors are refuted by argument, not by fire.

Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153

Nowhere in Scripture is the Church armed with the temporal sword to punish falsehood. Nor is she to hypocritically call on the power of the State to do her dirty work. Christ said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath’ (John 18.11) and nowhere afterwards is she told to remove it.

Freedom of Religion

August 23, 2009

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Article 18 the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

On December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the full text of which appears in the following pages. Following this historic act the Assembly called upon all Member countries to publicize the text of the Declaration and “to cause it to be disseminated, displayed, read and expounded principally in schools and other educational institutions, without distinction based on the political status of countries or territories.”