How many times have Calvin’s detractors accused him of the murder of the heretic Michael Servetus? Typically I find when people assert such historical revisionism it is because they do not fairly and accurately seek the truth. They have an agenda to defend and that is the abhorrence of Calvin’s theology. It seems to me that the aim is to assail the man in hopes others will reject his theology.
One of the most common and unfair charges leveled against John Calvin is, “Calvin burned Michael Servetus at the stake!” This, of course, is patently untrue. Servetus was indeed burned at the stake, in Geneva, for heresy. But Calvin is not to be impugned. This was a civil trial carried out by the State, not the Church. Calvin was not the judge. He was not a juror. He was not the executioner. What he was, was the prosecution’s star witness. And why wouldn’t he be? Who would be a better witness in a trial regarding theology than John Calvin?
Calvin, via private letter, warned Servetus [who was wanted in several European States] to not come to Geneva. This letter was to no avail. Servetus brought his particular brand of heresy [he denied the Trinity] to Geneva and was subsequently arrested by the magistrate, tried for heresy, and condemned to death by burning. Calvin pleaded with the authorities for a more humane execution. This also, was to no avail.
Soli Deo Gloria!
For His Glory,