Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Thomas Heyne: A Polemicist rather than a Patrologist: Calvin's Attitude to and Use of the Early Church Fathers

Some scholars have argued that John Calvin was a respectful and insightful student of the Church Fathers, and Calvin himself claimed that he read and understood the Fathers better than his Roman Catholic opponents. But a close analysis of Calvin's treatment of several early Christian writings (including those of Augustine, Chrysostom, Eusebius-Rufinus, and the Second Council of Nicaea), reveals that he was more of a polemicist than a patrologist. Calvin appreciated and used the Fathers' writings predominantly as a means to his disputatious ends. He cited the Fathers primarily when they supported his interpretation of Scripture; otherwise, he was willing to ignore them, obscure them, and even deceitfully distort them. Unlike Desiderius Erasmus and others, Calvin was no humanistic historian; he showed little desire to learn from the Fathers and make their teachings widely known.

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