according to Turrettini, the church would do well to concentrate on Christianity's 'fundamental articles' or 'essential truths', respecting the Cartesian criteria of order, precision, and clarity. Like his English colleagues, with whom Turrettini was on friendly terms, he hoped that such an approach would help to reunite Protestants. Turrettini's was thus a moderate Christian rationalism close to that of John Locke and the English Latitudinarians. Again like the English, Turrettini's endorsement of reason's role in religious matters had much to do with his desire to put an end to the proliferation of individual revelations of the enthusiastic kind.

But Turrettini worried also that Calvinism was losing ground because it had become too dry, too pessimistic, formal and dogmatic. To address this problem, he stressed his religion's moral and practical aspects. He softened and played down the doctrines of predestination and original sin. It was under Turrettini's guidance that Geneva withdrew its support for the strict formula of Calvinist orthodoxy called the Formula Consensus. Soon thereafter, in 1725, the city's Venerable Company of Pastors asked that contentious matters of dogma be avoided in sermons. The pastoral corps now agreed that such things 'were not very important' and, in any case, 'not essential for salvation'. Most significantly, they felt that the disputed doctrines had 'no influence on morals'.8

Clearly, Enlightened Christians like Turrettini saw themselves as fighting not just one enemy, but in fact three. On the one hand were the religious 'fanatics' - the Pietists or 'enthusiasts' whose view of religion was dangerously subjective and therefore subversive to both church and state. On the other, was a growing number of deists and materialists. Actually, these could be seen as 'enthusiasts' as well, since their view was also dangerously subjective and disrespectful of authority and tradition. In fact, it was not at all clear to early eighteenth-century Christians which of these constituted the greater threat. The third enemy, who was thought to be particularly responsible for the predicament Christianity found itself in, consisted of the old-fashioned orthodox and scholastic dogmatists who had dominated the church, and whose religion was too pessimistic, too formal, rigid, and dry, and therefore out-of-touch with modern sensibilities. The effort to enlist reason and reasonableness, and to stress 'the [moral] essentials' of the Christian religion, was part of the larger project of Enlightened Genevan Calvinists to confront these three challenges.

The rationalizing and moralizing tendencies, instigated by Jean-Alphonse Turrettini, were furthered by his disciple Jacob Vernet, the very model of an Enlightened Christian. According to Vernet, two harmful extremes in matters

0 0

Post a comment