In the Thick of It

This first week of my sabbatical I have been up and down like a roller coaster, trying to get back into the rhythms of being a scholar. It has been a while (like a decade) and things have changed…older books available online, the ability to scan microfilm and microfiche into computer-readable pdf files. The paper is expected (by the Academics in Geneva) to be done on Wednesday and a copy sent to the chair of my session. This gives me a bit of anxiety, and I have had a number of days in the Library (in the H.H. Meeter Center for Calvin Studies) during which I read a lot, but wrote not a word. Today was one of those days.

As of tomorrow (Friday, May 8 ) I will have an office in the Meeter Center that will help somewhat.

Martin Bucer
Martin Bucer (1491-1551)

But last night I had an epiphany; things started coming together; an outline formed in my head, and now I should be able to start making progress. I have a new introduction, which opens up the topic with a the story of how one of the leading Protestant princes in Germany, Landgrave Philip of Hesse–a man on whom many Reformers pinned their hopes–threw a wrench into things by getting married. That’s isn’t so bad, except when you’re already married. He took on a second wife. Because Reformers like Martin Luther, Philip Melanchthon, and especially the leader of the Reformation in Strassburg, Martin Bucer, had pinned their hopes on this guy, it presented them with a real problem. Luther said, basically, “Lie. Tell a boldface lie. A whopper.” Bucer, however, advised the prince to tell a “holy lie,” like the kind of fibs Abraham and Rahab told. Calvin would have never given the prince this kind of advice. Calvin was not in the Landgrave’s inner circle (Calvin was, after all, French, not that he had any say in the matter), but if he had been, he never would have counseled any kind of lie, deception, or cover-up. He would have demanded that the Landgrave admit that his second marriage was null and void, give up his seventeen year old second bride, and remain contented with his first and legitimate wife.

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