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The History of the Church 168 Protestant Intolerance Ever ready to demand liberty of conscience for themselves, the Protestants also demonstrated intolerance toward those who contested their dogmas. The story of John Calvin and Miguel Servet provides an apt illustration.* Calvin was a jurist, born in the Picardy region of France. Having converted to the doctrines of Luther, he preached the new faith while introducing some slight changes to what he had received. In France, his followers were called Huguenots. In 1536 he became a theologian in Geneva—which had aligned itself with the Reformation—though he was later banned for his excessive rigorism. He returned some years afterward and before long was exerting absolute authority over the city. It was at this point that Miguel Servet—a physician from Spain who practiced in Vienne, not far from Geneva—began exchanging letters with him, in an attempt to win Calvin over to his own theories, particularly his rejection of the Trinity. Calvin denounced Servet, going so far as to send the letters the doctor had written him to the Catholic tribunal in Vienne. Servet managed to escape and began a time of clandestine wanderings, which brought him to Geneva, where he was recognized. Calvin then formulated 39 points of accusation against him, which ultimately led to Servet’s being condemned to death. On the eve of his execution, October 26, 1553, the theologian again attempted to bring the physician to repentance, but Servet refused and was publicly burned to death. Theodor Pixis (1831–1907) Calvin and Servet Die Pfalzgalerie, Kaiserslautern * Other accounts of these events depict Calvin’s role somewhat differently, indicating that he was reticent to condem Servetus and only did so because he felt his hands were tied. Calvin requested that Servetus be decapitated rather than burned, since that would result in less suffering, but the Geneva Council, which presided over the sentence, refused. ...


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