- PISTEUR Christophe, DERMANGE François - Lire Calvin aujourd’hui (Introduction)
- CAMPI Emidio - Jean Calvin et l’unité de l’Eglise
- RORDORF Bernard - Etiam Extra Ecclesiam : l’action de l’Esprit Saint selon Calvin
- FERRARIO Fulvio - Calvin et la providence : actualité provocatrice d’un thème embarrassant
- DERMANGE François - Quel usage de la Bible en éthique politique ?
- BOUVIGNIES Isabelle - Calvin, aux origines de la démocratie moderne ?
- MÜLLER Denis - Actualité et limites d’une éthique calvinienne
- FUCHS Eric - Comment peut-on être calviniste aujourd’hui ?
In this essay, Emidio Campi shows that in the context of a resurgent Catholicism boasting about its institutional unity, and a radical sectarianism suggesting a separatist model of church consisting only of regenerate members, Calvin steered a middle course between the ecclesiological extremes of Rome and the Anabaptists. With the « judgement of charity » he set a precise standard in the quest for church unity. Calvin was concerned that disunity represented the biggest threat to the Reformation movement and concentrated himself on the task of building unity between the currents, notably the Zwinglians and the Lutherans. In the the Lord’s Supper he sought a middle way between Luther’s consubstantiation and Zwingli’s symbolism ; to that end, he insisted on what he called the spiritual eating of the body of Christ. His major achievement in this field was the joint statement on the sacraments that he produced with Heinrich Bullinger in 1549, called Consensus Tigurinus. Beyond promoting the union of the Swiss Reformed churches with Geneva, the Zurich Agreement intended to heal the breach between the Reformed and the Lutherans. Paradoxically, however, Lutheran theologians regarded the document as definitive abandonment of Luther’s teaching of the Supper in favour of Zwinglianism and vehemently opposed it.
For Calvin, the Holy Ghost acts in a triple way: in the whole creation, with all people, and with the elects. Bernard Rordorf suggests that the obvious discontinuity between the first two categories-which are linked to general and specific providence-and the third one-which is linked to predestination-raises questions concerning the Spirit’s unity of action, and, more specifically, concerning the unity of Christ’s work.
What are the fundamental outlines of Calvin’s thoughts about providence? Fulvio Ferrario shows how the Reformer’s interpretation of biblical texts uses important elements of Stoical philosophy acquired through the Humanism of the Renaissance. Themes such as God’s omnipotence and faith obviously have a central position. A contemporary rereading of the Calvinist doctrine on providence requires, according to the author, a more radical coupling of the first article of the Credo with Christology and Pneumatology.
Calvin suggests two possible political readings of the Bible. The first one emphasises a formal, minimal and universal structure, which prefigures the human rights and probably indirectly the modern democracy. The other one leads to a radical project which uses power as the main tool for the elimination of impurity. François Dermange argues that behind this hesitation between justice and holiness, the relationship between the Reformer and power is at stake, as well as the ambivalence of the bringing-in of religion to politics.
Universality is not something given and should not be merged with the natural law (lex naturalis), as conceived in the natural theology of Thomas Aquinas. Isabelle Bouvignies shows that by thinking the natural law in its biblical frame, Calvin, following Luther and his conception of the freedom of a Christian, makes a moral law of it, aimed at each man. It becomes, therefore, impossible to conceive any longer the righteous law in a naturalization process. Contemporary political philosophy tends to see in this impossibility a kind of irreparable loss. Yet, it should be enough to remember (or to realize) that universality issues from a process of never ending extension to otherness, the very process at the basis of our modern democracy, as a result of the collapse of European society and of its worldview based on unity.
Denis Müller argues that Calvin’s ethics should not be idealised out its context of production and reception. A critical genealogy forces us to reconstruct it, through a permanent dialogue with our contemporary culture and by taking into account the pluralism of the democratic societies and ethics themselves. It is only thanks to such an effort that we will rediscover its possible relevance.
In this paper Éric Fuchs reflects upon the deep tension between Calvin’s fascination for the greatness of the unfathomable mystery of God’s will on the one hand and his unrelenting wish to organise the Church and the society in agreement with God’s Law on the other hand. This tension is never resolved by Calvin, and this is what gives his thought such strength and dynamism. Being a Calvinist means refusing a spirituality which would have no political or social downfalls, as well as refusing a political involvement which would not be linked to humility born out of the conscience of our fundamental ignorance of the ultimate goals of our action.