Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Lasserre On Calvin's Advice to the Huguenots

For years, I have heard about a friend of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's who defended pacifism from a Reformed perspective. The man was Jean Lasserre, a French Reformed pastor whose defense of pacifism rested primarily upon the Decalogue. This position of Lasserre's was most fully expressed in his book War and the Gospel (at least a third of the book is committed to the Sixth Commandment). Having recently obtained a copy for myself after much searching, I have every intention of reading it. As I was examining some of the footnotes (I was looking to see who he quotes the most, and I see a lot of Calvin and a lot of Barth), I came across this fascinating gem that might spark some interesting discussion:
A striking example of how hard it is to draw a line between lawful and unlawful war is to be found in Calvin's tergiversations on whether French Protestants might defend themselves by arms against their enemies, the Dukes of Guise. The day after the massacre of Vassy, he frankly encouraged and helped the Huguenots to organise their army, finding many fine pretexts, resting on great principles, to authorise such action. But quite soon afterwards, in April 1563, he wrote: "I shall always recommend that arms be abandoned and that we should all perish rather than return to the confusions that have been experienced."

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