Prepare Your Heart to Lead Your Home: Advent Advice for Fathers

The heart of true religion is, not surprisingly, the heart. But in saying this, I want to borrow and reapply the term from Michael Behe, and acknowledge that true religion is also much larger than the heart, and is irreducibly complex. The entire syste…

The Smile of the Reformation: Pierre Viret (1511–1571)

The Smile of the Reformation

Pierre Viret, born in 1511, was an apologist, an orator, a humorist, and an economist, and he was far ahead of his time. In addition to all this, he was also a great theologian.

A recent biography of Pierre Viret by Jean-Marc Berthoud is subtitled “A Forgotten Giant of the Reformation,” and that subtitle just about sums it up. We are so used to remembering the known giants of the Reformation — the likes of Luther and Calvin — that we sometimes forget they had peers.

Geneva’s Stepfather

Viret was a close personal friend to Calvin, and they both owed a significant debt to the same man, William Farel. Farel was the man who had heard that Calvin was passing through Geneva on his way to a quiet life in a library somewhere, and persuaded Calvin to stay there to help with the work of reformation. Persuaded is a mild way of putting it — he predicted thunder and ruin if Calvin did not remain — and so it was that William Farel scared Calvin into his prominent place in world history.

The Smile of the Reformation uoc1prhy

Pierre Viret was a native Swiss, but had gone to the University of Paris. He was converted to the Reformed faith while he was there, and fled to his hometown of Orbe to get away from the persecutions that had broken out in Paris. Farel was the man who then called Viret to the ministry, and so it was that he preached his first sermon at the age of 20, in May of 1531. This was five years before Calvin was confronted by Farel. Under his preaching ministry at Orbe, Viret had the great privilege of seeing his parents converted and brought into the Reformation.

Just as Calvin was associated with Geneva, so Viret was associated with Lausanne. The Genevan Academy is justly famous, but that academy was actually the stepchild of Viret’s earlier work. Viret had founded the first Reformed Academy in Lausanne in 1537. That academy grew and flourished there, and in its heyday had about a thousand students. Some of its former students went on to write the Heidelberg Catechism (Ursinus and Olevianus) and the Belgic Confession (de Bres). And Theodore Beza was the principal there.

Bridges Berned

But Viret was up against a similar challenge as that which faced Calvin — the issue of state-controlled church discipline. Because Lausanne was under the city of Bern’s authority, and because the civil authorities there would not permit church discipline apart from their review and permission, the result was continued moral corruption.

For one glaring example, one man was running a prostitution ring out of his mother’s home, and Bern prohibited withholding the Lord’s Supper from him. According to biographer Jean-Marc Berthoud, “In his polemical writings Viret was often to declare that the Bernese Pope in short frock (the absolute State) was a far worse enemy for the faith than the old Pope of Rome in his long gown” (Pierre Viret, 35).

After many appeals, Viret decided that he simply needed to draw the line. He had the local authorities postpone a communion service so that he could examine and instruct those coming to partake. When the lords of Bern heard about this, they were outraged and demanded that Viret be sacked, which he then was. Viret then went to Geneva — and the entire faculty resigned in protest. As a result, a few months later, the academy in Geneva was formed. In effect, the Lausanne Academy relocated — and a cloud of blessing with it.

A Reformer with a Grin

Farel, mentioned earlier, was fully orthodox, but it must be acknowledged that his head was kind of on fire. Viret, by contrast, was much more even-keeled. Although Viret was an effective polemicist, and by no means an ecclesiastical pacifist, by the time he died in 1571 he earned the sobriquet “The Smile of the Reformation.”

Viret knew how to be combative, but he was also entirely winsome. May his tribe return, and increase.

The Monastery’s Lost Houselamp: Johannes Oecolampadius (1482–1531)

The Monastery’s Lost Houselamp

The first thing we should do is get the issue of the name out of the way. Let us not stumble over the name. If he lived among us today in North America, we would call him John Houselamp. His German surname was Hussgen, which John himself worked into the Greek form (as was customary at the time).

In this brief overview of this talented man’s contribution to the great Reformation, perhaps we should just call him John.

“I Have Lost the Monk”

John was born in Germany in 1482, ten years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. As Calvin is associated with Geneva, Bucer with Strasbourg, and Luther with Wittenberg, John Oecolampadius is associated with Basel. He was one of the rising tribe of humanist scholars, thoroughly trained in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. By 1515, John had attained the post of cathedral preacher in Basel.

The Monastery’s Lost Houselamp tl2mly4d

While in Basel, he worked as an assistant to Erasmus — the project being Erasmus’s first edition of the Greek New Testament, for which John wrote the epilogue. John was a humanist scholar who went over to the Reformation, while Erasmus was a humanist scholar who remained in the Roman communion. This was a time of spiritual turmoil for John, resulting in him becoming a monk. But he soon decided that was not right, saying, “I have lost the monk; I have found the Christian.”

A German Choir

He left Basel for a time, but returned in 1522 when he assumed a post at the University of Basel. He was a scholarly and effective participant in various disputations — which was one of the ways that cities made their decisions — and as a result, the leaders of Basel decided to join forces with the Reformation. The Mass was abandoned in Basel by 1529.

This was a time of genuine spiritual quickening, as was demonstrated by the following incident:

At about this time, God honored Oecolampadius and his church with something spectacular. Normally a choir gave short responses in Latin at various prescribed liturgical moments in the worship service. However, on Easter Sunday, the congregation in St. Martin’s spontaneously broke out in German singing during the service. Nothing like this had happened anywhere. The Council immediately forbade such singing. The congregation responded by continuing to do it. (Reformer of Basel, 19–20)

Marriage and Controversy

One interesting detail relates to John’s decision to marry in 1528. His wife was a widow named Wibrandis, who, after John passed away, married another Reformation leader, Wolfgang Capito. After he passed away, she married another Reformer, Martin Bucer. These things happen of course. But not that often.

On the matter of the Lord’s Supper, the reformational world was divided between the respective views of the Lutherans, the Calvinists, and the Zwinglians. The Lutherans held to a physical presence of Christ in the Supper, the Calvinists held to a spiritual presence, and the Zwinglians held to a memorialist position.

Basel is only 54 miles from Zurich, where Zwingli was ministering. John grew close to Ulrich Zwingli, working together with him, and came to hold Zwingli’s position on the Lord’s Supper. In 1529, John participated in the Marburg Colloquy, together with Zwingli, Luther, Bucer, Melanchthon, and others, in an unsuccessful bid for Protestant unity on the Supper.

When Zwingli was killed in battle, in 1531, John took the shocking news very hard, and died himself shortly after.

The Monastery’s Lost Houselamp: Johannes Oecolampadius (1482–1531)

The Monastery’s Lost Houselamp

The first thing we should do is get the issue of the name out of the way. Let us not stumble over the name. If he lived among us today in North America, we would call him John Houselamp. His German surname was Hussgen, which John himself worked into the Greek form (as was customary at the time).

In this brief overview of this talented man’s contribution to the great Reformation, perhaps we should just call him John.

“I Have Lost the Monk”

John was born in Germany in 1482, ten years before Columbus sailed the ocean blue. As Calvin is associated with Geneva, Bucer with Strasbourg, and Luther with Wittenberg, John Oecolampadius is associated with Basel. He was one of the rising tribe of humanist scholars, thoroughly trained in Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. By 1515, John had attained the post of cathedral preacher in Basel.

The Monastery’s Lost Houselamp tl2mly4d

While in Basel, he worked as an assistant to Erasmus — the project being Erasmus’s first edition of the Greek New Testament, for which John wrote the epilogue. John was a humanist scholar who went over to the Reformation, while Erasmus was a humanist scholar who remained in the Roman communion. This was a time of spiritual turmoil for John, resulting in him becoming a monk. But he soon decided that was not right, saying, “I have lost the monk; I have found the Christian.”

A German Choir

He left Basel for a time, but returned in 1522 when he assumed a post at the University of Basel. He was a scholarly and effective participant in various disputations — which was one of the ways that cities made their decisions — and as a result, the leaders of Basel decided to join forces with the Reformation. The Mass was abandoned in Basel by 1529.

This was a time of genuine spiritual quickening, as was demonstrated by the following incident:

At about this time, God honored Oecolampadius and his church with something spectacular. Normally a choir gave short responses in Latin at various prescribed liturgical moments in the worship service. However, on Easter Sunday, the congregation in St. Martin’s spontaneously broke out in German singing during the service. Nothing like this had happened anywhere. The Council immediately forbade such singing. The congregation responded by continuing to do it. (Reformer of Basel, 19–20)

Marriage and Controversy

One interesting detail relates to John’s decision to marry in 1528. His wife was a widow named Wibrandis, who, after John passed away, married another Reformation leader, Wolfgang Capito. After he passed away, she married another Reformer, Martin Bucer. These things happen of course. But not that often.

On the matter of the Lord’s Supper, the reformational world was divided between the respective views of the Lutherans, the Calvinists, and the Zwinglians. The Lutherans held to a physical presence of Christ in the Supper, the Calvinists held to a spiritual presence, and the Zwinglians held to a memorialist position.

Basel is only 54 miles from Zurich, where Zwingli was ministering. John grew close to Ulrich Zwingli, working together with him, and came to hold Zwingli’s position on the Lord’s Supper. In 1529, John participated in the Marburg Colloquy, together with Zwingli, Luther, Bucer, Melanchthon, and others, in an unsuccessful bid for Protestant unity on the Supper.

When Zwingli was killed in battle, in 1531, John took the shocking news very hard, and died himself shortly after.

A childish life

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A virgin by any other name . . .
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