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Boston Hosts Grand Celebration of John Calvin's 500th Birthday

by Staff
July 9, 2009
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BOSTON, (christiansunite.com) -- More than a thousand gathered in downtown Boston this last week to honor the 500th birthday of John Calvin (July 10, 1509) as part of the Reformation 500 Celebration hosted by Vision Forum Ministries. The event, held July 1-4 at the Park Plaza Hotel, featured more than 40 live reenactors, 30 formal history lectures, and 20 walking tour of historic landmarks in Boston, a Children's Parade in Boston's Public Gardens, and more. The conference emphasized both the theological an practical implications of the Reformation and John Calvin's influence on the institutions of family, church, and state, as well as the broader culture.

The Reformation 500 Celebration culminated on July 4 with the tolling of an exact replica of America's Liberty Bell, which was rung thirteen times in honor of the principles of liberty that leaders of America's original thirteen colonies drew from Calvin and other Protestant Reformers from the past.

"The torch of liberty that burned so bright in 1776 was kindled in the 16th century by the groundbreaking efforts of the Protestant Reformers -- of whom John Calvin was chief," noted Doug Phillips, president of Vision Forum Ministries. "John Adams, an ardent patriot and our nation's second president, himself referred to Calvin as 'a vast genius' of 'singular eloquence', adding this admonition to his hearers: 'Let not Geneva be forgotten or despised. Religious liberty owes it much respect.'

"In hosting the Reformation 500, it was our goal to heed President Adams' charge by celebrating the great legacy of liberty that Calvin forged in Geneva, as well as the broader heritage of freedom that the Reformation bequeathed to the West. With Calvin's birthday on July 10, 1509, and the subsequent reforms that he and such men as Martin Luther and John Knox effected in the pivotal 16th century, tyranny was quashed, liberty was championed, and the West was radically transformed. The religious and civil liberties we enjoy today in America flow directly from their efforts."

Although the event included important presentations by church historians and Calvin scholars such as Dr. Joseph Morecraft, one mission was to make the great doctrines of the Reformation and the very lives of the Reformers themselves accessible to the man in the pew and to children. The week's activities were designed for whole families to enjoy. More than 40 reenactors -- representing such Reformation characters as John and Idelette Calvin, John and Margaret Knox, Martin and Katherina Luther, and Pierre Viret, as well as American colonial figures such as Sam Adams, Priscilla Mullins, and Anne Bradstreet -- engaged with guests over the course of the four-day celebration. Children who obtained 30 or more reenactor signatures were awarded a $10 coupon good toward the purchase of a 1-ounce troy silver commemorative coin of John Calvin that was minted specially for the event.

"It was our desire to make Reformation history come alive for families," Phillips commented. "And we are pleased with the enthusiastic response that young and old showed in participating in our Children's Parade led by Gen. George Washington and our Fife and Drum Corps. Christians from dozens of states, including hundreds of homeschooling families, participated. The children came in costume and had a splendid time. And their active conversations with the formal reenactors were a thrill to behold."

One of the other features of the Reformation 500 was "Calvin vs. Darwin: The Boxing Match of the Millennium", a vigorous head-to-head debate between two re-enactors representing John Calvin and Charles Darwin's diametrically-opposing worldviews. Both Calvin and Darwin advanced their ideological positions using the most compelling arguments in their worldview arsenals.

Millions around the world are celebrating their distinct birthdays: the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth on the one hand, and the 200th anniversary of Darwin's birth on the other (as well as the 150th anniversary of the publication of Darwin's "Origin of Species").

Acknowledging both Calvin and Darwin's world- shaping influence, Phillips noted: "No two men of the millennium have done more to shape the thoughts of mankind or to effect the political and social destiny of nations than Calvin and Darwin -- the former for great good and the glory of God, and the later for unimaginable evil. The children of Calvin and the Reformers gave us the rise of nation states that embraced republican representative government. The children of Darwin gave us Marxism and totalitarianism."

Concluded Phillips: "The reforms of Calvin resulted in the blossoming of Christendom. Darwin foreshadowed the darkness of modernity."

John Calvin, a convert to Reformation Christianity born in Noyon, France, on July 10, 1509, is best known for his influence on the city of Geneva. It was there that he modeled many of the principles of liberty later embraced by America's Founders, including anti- statism, the belief in transcendent principles of law as the foundation of an ethical legal system, free market economics, decentralized authority, an educated citizenry as a safeguard against tyranny, and republican representative government which was accountable to the people and a higher law.

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