reformation

History 101.20

The below article was written by Dr. Eugene Murphey and was published in The Tower newsletter of October 2006.  

In concluding our history of the stained glass windows in the church sanctuary, we return to the last panel in the west wall.  Last month we discussed Martin Luther, reputed Father of the Christian Reformation.  The remaining two figures are John Calvin and John Knox, side by side and central in the panel with Martin Luther at the top and Francis Mackamie at the bottom.

John Calvin (or correctly Jean Cauvin) was born in the Picardy region of France in 1509, and according to the Encyclopedia  Britannica, first studied religion at the University of Paris and later law in schools in Orleans and Bourges.  Returning to Paris in 1531, he studied the Bible and soon became involved with a movement that emphasized the Reformation tenet of salvation by grace, not by works. Government forces opposed the radical movement which led Calvin to move to Basel, Switzerland, where he wrote the first edition if the Institutes of the Christian Religion.   His reputation grew, and he moved to Geneva to establish and further his theology.  Once again he was opposed by city authorities and expelled from the city in 1538.  However,  three years later he was able to return.  His Ecclesiastical Ordinances, which included enforcement of sexual morality and abolition of Catholic ‘superstition,’ were accepted by the city council.   In his later years, Calvin was pastor and headmaster of the Genevan Academy where his sermons, writings, and biblical interpretations became the basis of Calvinism. Calvin died in Geneva in 1564.

John Knox, the father of Presbyterianism, is shown in the window panel on the right. He was born in Haddington, Scotland in 1514. He was trained for the priesthood at St. Andrew University in Edinburgh and ordained in 1540, but soon began to embrace the beliefs and teachings of John Calvin.  While in Edinburgh he became associated with a group of Protestants who over and fortified St. Andrew’s Castle.  They were soon overcome by a contingent of French Catholics who carried them away into slavery. Two years later the English government intervened, and they were released. Knox returned to England and spent four years preaching until Mary I, a staunch Catholic, ascended the throne. Alarmed by the possibility of further reprisals Knox fled to the continent where he served as pastor at Frankfurt au Main and Geneva.   He was able to return to Scotland in 1559 when an alliance was made with Elizabeth I of England. She feared the French would gain control of Scotland, which was ruled by Mary, Queen of Scots, a Catholic. Knox is said to have survived several conflicts with Mary over their opposing religious beliefs but was able to spend his remaining years establishing the Presbyterian Church.   He died in Edinburgh in 1572.

-Eugene M. Murphey, M.D.