Sunday, October 18, 2009

Conversion Stories - John Calvin, Martin Luther, Menno Simons, St. Ignatius Loyola

For a Reformation History Class I have to read, compare and contrast the autobiographical conversions of Luther, Calvin, Menno, and Ignatius. I don't think our Prof picked the best sources, but nonetheless it's interesting reading them after my re-conversion (conversion to Catholicism, rather than conversion to Christ).

Menno Simons: growing up in a half-Mennonite background I have to say this guy stuck out like a sore thumb. He is so legalistic and self-righteous that it amazes me he could ever be said to have a share in the gospel of grace and faith alone (Maybe they should exclude the Anabaptists). He ends up describing how awesome he is as a biblical expositor and mentions that after conversing with Luther, Bucer, and Bullinger on infant baptism that they are all 'unbiblical' and foolish. He also notes that every Christian MUST be a pacifist, etc. Didn't like him at all. He ends his story by accusing the Catholics of being unbiblical because they allow repentant sinners to have communion, and that the Catholics should expel all "unrighteous persons" from their midst. ....seriously, does this guy even believe in imputed righteousness?!

Calvin: He can't seem to speak two sentences without mentioning the bondage of the will, everything he says about himself is in the passive voice. "I was forced by the divine will" I was "compelled against my will", the "violent hand of Heaven was upon me". Like we get it: you believe in predestination. He also uses the predestination thing to excuse himself from the guilt of executing heretics (he refers to them in the plural, so it makes me wonder if he only ever killed that unitarian doctor). The funniest part was when he made his exile from Geneva look like an accident. All in all, better than Simons, more humble for sure.

Ignatius Loyola: Here is where no one can call me biased. I think Ignatius was kind of dumb. For the sake of beauty he endures greatly painful surgery and then claims this pain was 'suffering for Christ'. He's basically converted by a Marian Ghost and a few Spanish hagiographies, and he has the arrogance to say that he wanted to out-saint St. Francis and St. Dominic (thus he would try to show his Jesuits better than the Franciscans and Dominicans). Kind of a hot-headed, theologically-ignorant, Spaniard. But he did find some good friends like St. Francis Xavier, and St. Robert Bellarmine, so I'll give him that, but from this reading he seemed to be my least favourite Jesuit.

Martin Luther: There's something about Luther, he's someone you just gotta love, or at least love to hate. While I do think it's ridiculous how he treated his prince like a bodyguard and glorified Church-State relations to the point of Caesaro-Papism just because it suited him, I still must say he is an awesome figure. He describes his holiness as a Catholic monk and his entire conversion seems to have nothing to do with "becoming a righteous Christian" but rather accepting Christ's righteousness and leaving it and simply being joyful about that. Even if he is a heretic, I think I'll always admire Luther in some ways (if nothing else, for giving me attacks on Reformed & Anabaptist Theology/Sacramentology)

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