Pilgrimage to Puritanism: History and Theology of the Marian Exiles at Geneva, 1555-1560.
(Studies in Church History, 9.) New York: Peter Lang, 1999. 168 pp. $42.95. ISBN: 0-8204-3884-7.
Charles L. Parker. The Reformation of Community: Social Welfare and Calvinist Charity in Holland, 1572-1620.
(Cambridge Studies in Early Modern History.) Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998. v + 221 pp. illus. $59.95. ISBN: 0-521-62305-7.
These two monographs, despite their differing methodologies and subject matter, both revolve around the definition of community for Reformed Protestantism and the question of continuity with the medieval past.
The prosopographical chapters of Danner's useful book -- the first overarching analysis of the Genevan Marian Exiles since 1915 -- reveal a group of like-minded returnees who adhered to the more uncompromising form of Puritanism. But they did not form a party. Following the advice of Calvin and other Swiss Reformed leaders, the four Elizabethan bishops who had spent at least part of their exile in Geneva were less unyielding to the demands of Elizabeth and more apt to forgo ceremonial purity to be free to preach the Word. It is telling that most other Genevan exiles did not heed Calvin on the necessity of compromise. For it is Danner's argument that Genevan exiles were not Calvinists and that only a later generation of Puritans would make Calvin their lodestar. A chapter on theology makes this clear. Danner argues that the exiles continued a pre-exilic, native English Protestant theological tradition that agreed with Calvin on some issues, but was decisively original in others. On the Eucharist, there was a preference for Zwinglian memorialism over Calvin's spiritualized real participation. Danner emphasizes, though he does not explain, the exiles' obsessive anti-Catholicism that saw all things once used by the Papal idolaters as forever profaned and unholy. He does point to an underlying hermeneutic that set them apart from their Continental allies. Unlike Calvin, or Luther, for whom sola scriptura was a means to safeguard the Gospel, for the Genevan exiles the Bible itself was the focus and all of its contents the object of careful, literal exegesis and punctilious observance. In this, as Danner observes, they resembled the Anabaptists. Here is a fruitful line for further research. The Anabaptists shared the literal hermeneutic but applied it almost exclusively to the New Testament. The Genevan exiles, however, applied it to both Testaments and gave preference to the Old, like Zwingli, who had appealed to infant circumcision to justify infant baptism. But the Genevan exiles parted company with Zwingli over the underlying disagreement between the Zurich reformer and the Anabaptists: the careful pace of reform and Zwingli's principled submission to the Magistrate. The problem of Bullinger's lukewarm support for the Puritans is thus explained. Zwingli's successor was simply maintaining the Zurich pattern of reform. To Bullinger the English exiles may have sniffed of Anabaptism. The Old Testament also provided a "Deuteronomic" vision of England as the covenanted new Israel commissioned to cleanse the Temple of obscenities, but threatened with divine wrath if it failed. Why did this theme so appeal to the English exiles and not their Swiss hosts? To be sure, the Swiss cities were sacral communities in Bernd Moeller's understanding of the term. Yet the Swiss never pursued the full Deuteronomic agenda. Perhaps it results from the English exilic experience. Or perhaps it was the fact that England was a kingdom with an anointed ruler that made this vision so congenial. An examination of late medieval English ruler ideology and incipient nationalism might reinforce Danner's general conclusion that the Genevan exiles' theology and Elizabeth Puritanism continued a native tradition.
Charles Parker's study of poor relief in six Dutch cities during the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries lies at the intersection of a number of lines of research that have been prominent in recent Reformation research: Confessionalization, Reformed Protestantism, and charity. Parker describes the expansion of poor relief and its eventually co-optation by municipal governments during the later middle ages in Dordrecht, Harlaam, Delft, Leiden, Amsterdam, and Gouda. He then examines developments in the sixteenth century, under the strain of war and economic recession, and the impact of humanist proposals for a rationalized system of relief for the "worthy poor" alone. Finally Parker analyzes the uneasy relationship of traditional, civic, "sacral" municipal charity extended to all the "worthy poor" and the Calvinist diaconal charity limited to the "household of faith." The argument of the book revolves around this distinction. Poor relief continued to be a religious duty for both magistrates and cons istory throughout the period, but the definitions of the community they served differed greatly. The magistrates maintained the medieval tradition of "sacral community" in which the entire city and all of its inhabitants stood as a corporate person before God. It was the duty of the magistrate to solicit God's grace and fend off God's wrath from the People of God. Charity, as both a personal and communal Christian virtue, was central to that undertaking. By contrast, the Calvinist churches, whose anomalous position as the public, but not state church, made for much confusion, viewed their community as the disciplined, pure, eucharistic community. Parker argues that the Calvinist vision would have been "confessional," but that the failure to become a State Church, and a self-identity as an exile Church, unwittingly helped to create the pluralistic society for which Holland is well-known.
The book is rich in detail and solidly based on archival research, though it tends to be somewhat repetitive. However, the claim that the medieval sacral community remained the model for magistrates at the beginning of the seventeenth century is problematic. Given the tolerance granted to the many competing Christian sects (Mennonite, Catholic, Lutheran) and even, in some cases, to the Jews, it is difficulty to imagine a "sacral" community that could embrace them all. In what sense is it still "sacral" and not merely "civic"? Is it simply that the magistrates were religiously motivated? But could not Christian charity extend beyond the boundaries of any religiously defined community? That is, while the motive was religiously defined the community of recipients need not be. To be sure, this is a battle over words, but it betrays an underlying conceptual imprecision that obscures the real significance of Parker's achievement and his contribution to the larger discussion of both charity and confessionalization. Is the position of the magistrates secularistic, as some have claimed? Parker argues that it is not, and I am inclined to agree with him since it lacks the programmatic character of later secularism. Nonetheless, it does represent a diminished zeal and diluted dogmatism that could lead in that direction. By contrast, the Calvinist vision of the community is truly "sacral," its sacrality hedged about by the commitment to discipline that it shares with other confessional traditions, including the Counter-Reformation. But then, the confessional state was the primary heir of medieval Christendom, the sacral community writ large, just as the roots of modern "discipline" reached into the medieval monastery. These two studies, each in its own way, provide support for Richard Muller's call to look more closely at the medieval roots of Calvinist theology.
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|Author:||MCLAUGHLIN, R. EMMET|
|Article Type:||Book Review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2000|
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