A man of his time?



May 22, 2107

Dear Friends:

As I mentioned earlier I am reading a book about the reformation and only have a few pages left.  But last night I stopped and had to quite reading as I read about a man from France named Servetus, the heretic that did not believe in the Trinity. Since the word “Trinity” does not exist in the Bible and there are few direct references to it in scripture, he denied its existence on the ground that it was not biblical.

John Calvin and others opposed him in court and had Servetus  convicted of heresy.  He was burned alive at a stake.  Calvin was largely responsible for this. John Calvin.  If you go to Switzerland a plaque to Servetus acknowledges Calvin’s hand in the execution but then explains that “Calvin was a man of his time”.  That suggests, I suppose, that since those that disagreed with what the church or ruling religious majority believed, at that time,  were “heretics” and should be burned alive;  since it was common for all of God’s children to think and act this way about torturing heretics, Calvin should be excused.

Baloney.  I can’t think of anything else to say. To suggest that a man of God, like Calvin, could one day argue the truths of the faith and of regeneration based upon God’s mercy and grace, and the next day calmly watch another child of God be burned alive “because it was the practice of the day” causes me to wonder just how intimate a relationship with Jesus Christ Calvin had.  Me saying that is heresy to my Presbyterian and Reformed friends, I suppose, but are we to believe that the mind of Christ, which we are all urged to acquire according to Paul, is a mind that is conditioned “according to the historical setting”?   Would Jesus Christ have been a part of another man’s death—and is  such a hideous way?  Could you imagine Paul, or Peter or John taking part in lighting a fire to extinguish the life of one that disagreed with them?

But here was a colossal figure in the Reformation, John Calvin, doing something unthinkable to the apostles 1500 years earlier, and he was excused because he was “a man of his time”.   We’re redeemed to not merely be men and women of our time, but Sons and Daughters of Almighty God that are able to prayerfully discern mercy, grace, kindness, forgiveness and compassion.  Surely one who walks intimately with Jesus is not bound to accept the mores, norms and values of the present generation but is taught from Him who is Holy what is pure, proper, just and pleasing to God.

This all causes me again to look in the mirror and ask myself, “What am I doing right now that  represents a man of my time but is inconsistent with the Son of God’s timeless expectations of a true disciple?”  

May God give us leaders, preachers, camp directors and cabin counselors that are men and women who are not limited by the pressures and prejudices of their own generation, but live, act and respond to others as citizens of the eternal Kingdom of God—one that eschews indifference, hatred, intolerance and cruelty.




Dean Barley


1 comment

  • JOsh COllins

    This was awsome. Thanks for the encouraging word.

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