A Strange Reformation Irony

One of my favourite places to go to is St. Fagans in Cardiff.  When my three children were children in the 1990’s, my wife and I virtually lived there – I mean, we took the children there a lot, not that we went there to escape them!

We went back a year ago with our adopted fourth child, and just loved it; especially to see what had changed and what had delightfully stayed the same.  One of the additions to the Museum, was what looked like, at first glance (or even a long stare), was a plain looking, church-like, chapel kind of building.  It was new to the museum and us, but old in the sense of centuries.  It is St Teilo’s, and it looked very plain and unassuming:

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This was a Catholic Church built around the time of the great Thomas Aquinas (late 12th or 13th century), so is very old.  It was now restored and had been relocated to St Fagans, just outside Cardiff.  Inside, it was breathtaking.  A blaze of colour and images telling biblical stories.  All the pictures had been restored – not because they had faded over time, no, no, no.  But because at the 16th century Reformation, the “Reformers” decided that they had had enough of colour and art and imagination, and so, whitewashed the walls (that’s why many Protestant churches and chapels are plain, oh so plain)!!

 

 

I was irked and very annoyed to be a Protestant at that time.  It was quite something to experience – and, to sooth my ontological angst, the member of staff on duty was excellent and up-to-speed on her Reformation-Catholic knowledge, which helped, so well done St Fagans!

Having said all that, another favourite place of mine was visiting the Reformation Wall at Geneva, built between 1909 and 1917, during my 2017 Sabbatical from pastoral ministry,  What a place and what a city (very expensive cheese – but so worth the inevitable cheese-sweat)!

In the city, I found the magnificent Wall, Calvin’s church (near Purgatory Street); the Reformation Museum and even Calvin’s grave:

 

 

Below is a picture of me at the Wall taken by my daughter (above):

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The central group represents the four great preachers: William Farel, John Calvin, Theodore Beza and John Knox, all four dressed in the “Geneva dress” and holding the little Bible of the people in their hands.  The berk on the left is me, holding a pamphlet about something-or-other.

It was a very special time, and although I’m a (UK) Baptist, I’m certainly not a card carrying Calvinist, as my tradition would suggest.  But, to be in that place was wonderful.  So, what’s the connection?

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Calvinism and free-will

A Calvinist arrives at St. Peter’s gates and sees that there are two queues going in.  One is marked “predestined,” and the other is marked “free will.”  Being the card-carrying Calvinist that he is, he strolls on over to the predestined queue.  After several moments an angel asks him, “Why are you in this line?” He replies, “Because I chose it.”  The angel looks surprised, “Well, if you ‘chose’ it, then you should be in the free will line.”  So our Calvinist, now slightly miffed, obediently wanders over to the free will line.  Again, after a few minutes, another angel asks him, “Why are you in this line?”  He sullenly replies, “Someone made me come here.”

With thanks to Michael Bird in his epic Evangelical Theology (excerpts and review to follow)

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