Castellio on Calvin’s Bloodlust

On October 27, 1553, the Spaniard, Miguel Servetus, was burned in Geneva on account of his religious convictions, the instigator of the burning being Calvin, pastor of the cathedral in that city. This execution has roused many protests, especially in Italy and France. In answer to these protests, Calvin has just issued a book, which seems to be most adroitly tinted. The author’s aim is to justify himself, to attack Servetus, and to prove that Servetus was rightly punished by death. I propose to subject this book to a critical examination. In accordance with his usual controversial manner, Calvin will probably describe me as one of Servetus’s disciples, but I hope that no one will thereby be misled. I am not defending the theses of Servetus, but am attacking the false theses of Calvin. I leave absolutely unconsidered discussions about baptism, the Trinity, and such matters. I do not even possess a copy of Servetus’s books since Calvin has burned all the copies he could lay hands on; and I, therefore, do not know what ideas Servetus put forward. I shall do no more than pillory the errors of Calvin as to points which have no bearing upon differences of principle, and I hope to make clear to everyone what sort of man this is whom the lust for blood has driven crazy. I shall not deal with him as he dealt with Servetus, whom he committed to the flames, together with the books whose writing was deemed a crime-Servetus whom, even now when he is dead, Calvin continues to revile. Calvin, having burned the man and his books, has the audacity to refer us to these books, quoting detached passages. It is as if an incendiary, having reduced a house to ashes, were then to invite us to inspect the furniture in the various rooms. For my own part, I should never burn either an author or his books. The book I am attacking is open to everyone, obtainable by everyone, in either of two editions, one Latin and the other French. To avoid the possibility of objection, I shall, in the case of every citation, put the number of the paragraph from which it is taken, while my answer to each passage will bear the same number as the original.

Sebastian Castellio

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