Christianity by Force
I. We live in a country where the choice of one’s religion is freely made.
A. It is not that way in all countries, nor has it always been like this
II. The Catholic church had a long history of compelling membership
A. In his book, WHAT LOVE IS THIS, Dave Hunt writes and quotes: "Augustine ... saw the church as a mixture of believers and unbelievers, in which purity and evil should be allowed to exist side by side for the sake of unity. He used the power of the state to compel church attendance (as Calvin did 1,200 years later): 'Whoever was not found within the Church was not asked the reason, but was to be corrected and converted....' (The Rise of Christianity, by W. -H. C. Frend, p. - 671.)"
B. "Though he preferred persuasion if possible, Augustine supported the death penalty for those who were re-baptized as believers after conversion to Christ and for, other alleged heretics."
C. In E. . Broadbent's book, The Pilgrim Church, p. 49, he writes, "Why therefore should not the Church use force in compelling her lost sons to return? ... The Lord Himself said, 'Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in...."'
III. It wasn’t limited to Catholicism. 1,200 years later, John Calvin, a student of Augustine’s writings, obtained a high place in the government of Geneva, Switzerland, and like Augustine before, used his council position to impose his Institutes of Region upon the citizens.
A. A religion group called the Donatists, so called after Donatus, a 4th century Catholic bishop of Carthage in North Africa in the year 311, and holding that sanctity is essential for the administration of sacraments and church membership." Webster's Dictionary.
B. It was declared: "...the Donatists were heretics ...who could be subjected to imperial legislation [and force] in exactly the same way as other criminals and misbelievers, including poisoners and pagans.' (Frend, op. cit., p. 671.) "
C. Calvin's power and influence over state authorities was so great, they were compelled to act on all his orders without questions.
D. "Calvin used the civil arm to impose his peculiar doctrines upon the citizens of Geneva and to enforce them. Zweig, who pored over the official records of the City Council for Calvin's day, tells us, 'There is hardly a day in the records of the setting of the Town Council in which we do not find the remark: Better consult Master Calvin about this.'" (The Other Side of John Calvin, by Stefan Zweig, p. 217.)
E. Hunt writes (p 18): "By Calvin's personal orders Michael Servetus, whom John Calvin had declared to be a heretic, was murdered by beheading. The Catholics and Protestants alike were for Servetus being burned at the stake. Some critics argued that burning Servetus would only encourage the Roman Catholics of France to do the same to the Huguenots “
1. Huguenot were French Protestants, who were of the French Reformation communion.
2. 70,000 Huguenots were slaughtered in one night in 1572.
F. Historian, Philip Schaff wrote:"It was a glaring inconsistency; that those who had just shaken off the yoke of popery as an intolerable burden, should subject their conscience and intellect to a human creed; in other words, substitute for the old Roman popery modern Protestant popery [John Calvin]" (History of the Christian Church, 8:357.)
G. Of Calvin’s efforts in Geneva, Will Durant. op. cit., p. 474 writes: "To regulate lay conduct a system of domiciliary visits was established ... and questioned the occupants on all phases of their lives... .The allowable color and quantity of clothing ... and number of dishes permissible at a meal, were specified by law. Jewelry and lace were frowned upon. A woman was jailed for arranging her hair to an immoral .height ...
H. "Censorship of the press was taken over from Catholic and secular precedents and enlarged books ... of immoral tendency were banned... .To speak disrespectfully of Calvin or the clergy was a crime. A first violation of these ordinances was punished with a reprimand, further violation with fines, persistent violation by imprisonment or banishment. Fornication was to by punished with exile or drowning; adultery, blasphemy, or idolatry, with death ... a child was beheaded for striking its parents. In the years 1558-59 there were 414 prosecutions for moral offenses; between 1542 and 1564 there were seventy-six banishments and fifty-eight executions; the total population Geneva was then about 20,000."
IV. Even in our country, it continues
A. "There are many Christian activists of looser attachment to Calvin hope in their own way, through protest marches and the organizing of large enough voting blocks, to force an ungodly American citizenry into godly living." (What Love is This? p. 83)
V. True Christianity is not like this
A. Ward Hogland once said, "If force were allowed, we could all arm ourselves with sub-machine guns and demand all to be baptized into Christ!"
B. Revelation 22:17 - The key words are: "whosoever will," those who come to Christ must do so of a willing mind.
C. Psalm 110:3 - God’s religion is voluntary