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Five hundred years of Protestant Reformation: A Calvinist worldview interfacing with bioethics. Specifically, it is possible to perceive the applicability of a Bible derived worldview, centered on a Christian belief system, especially that experienced by the reformer John Calvin.
Because it is characterised as a little-known intellectual construction, the Calvinist worldview, presented here, needs to be better understood and studied. Freud understands that worldviews are inevitable characteristics of the human condition and points to the existence of two fundamental world views, scientific and spiritual. Freud stands in defense of the materialistic, scientific worldview and seeks to convince others that a spiritual worldview, as found in religion, is childish 3.
Worldview has recently been defined as a general overview of knowledge, forming a totality of vision, a coordination of opinions intertwined with each others 4. We explain here the spiritual worldview with the aim of contributing to broaden the capacity to interpret themes and facts related to human existence and its conflicts in contemporary society.
There is not just one spiritual worldview and there is not just one Christian worldview. As well as authors who preceded us in approaching this theme, we present a worldview and a perspective of the life of Calvinists , who can actually bring something relevant to the table in bioethics discourse if they are given a seat 8.
In so doing, we seek to open the discourse of bioethics to the possibility that many Christian traditions may offer compelling methodological and substantive resources for addressing the problems of modern bioethics 8. This option, as noted by Garrafa, prevents the implementation of changes and advances in respect not only to universal themes such as citizenship and human rights but also with respect to the fulfilment of the national Constitutions of each nation, especially in the chapters referring directly to the health and life of the people This proposal is committed, according to Garrafa, to embrace pluralistic approaches based on the complexity of the facts 13 and proposes a concrete alliance with the historically weakest side of society 14 , in the sense of adequately coping with persistent problems routinely detected in developing nations A bioethics, according to Porto, understood as a tool to fight the inequalities that still mark our South American continente At the conclusion of his thesis, Moraes emphasises that influence of the reformer himself and of the Calvinists goes beyond the reductionist label that binds them to the doctrine of predestination Even with this caveat, we continue with the intention of this reflection - to seek to understand the Calvinist ideology - relying on Daniel-Rops, who understands the relevance of John Calvin when he expresses that few men left such a deep trail on the earth.
Who can deny his greatness? He sowed great ideas, accomplished great things and determined great events. The story would not have been as it was if he had not lived, thought and acted with his relentless will He also affirms that the reformer belongs unquestionably to the very small group of masters who, over the centuries, have shaped the destiny of the world with their own hands In that article, the author emphasises that I see only two: Rousseau, no doubt, who has reshaped the nineteenth century, and also the XX and, even more influential, John Calvin At first, it is necessary to emphasise that the prolific literary production of the reformer studied here is deeply marked by theological interpretation - applied theology, committed to the society of his time.
It is not possible, then, to understand the reformer without understanding his time and the historical and social circumstances. The first, advanced by Protestant theologians, maintains that the Catholic Church gradually lost influence because it became ethically and morally corrupt. The second, advanced by historians, asserts that circumstances forced the Catholic Church to take sides in a series of conflicts between emergent northern European states and emergent cities … The third, advanced by economists … holds that state-supported religious monopolies behave inefficiently in many ways, thereby opening up the possibility of entry by more efficient competitors In any case, the sequence of events leading up to the Reform in Geneva must be highlighted.
During this period, the feudal world collapsed 24 and the European crisis worsened in the political, social and religious areas. The war led to a shortage of resources in Europe, plagued by the Black Death. Emerged, in this context, precursors of the Protestant Reformation such as JohnWycliffe, a professor at the University of Oxford who led a movement in England proposing reforms and with vehement criticisms of the Church.
Then came Jan Hus, incumbent of the Bethlehem Chapel in Prague, who dared to remain faithful to his anti-papal convictions and criticism to the Church and was burned at the stake by a decision of the Council of Constance in This movement which had been supposed to suffocate in the blood after the condemnation of Jan Hus, awakens with new ardor In this context, it is important to point out that more than four hundred editions of the Bible 26 were published from to Then the Augustinian monk Martin Luther enters the scene.
He sought primarily to reform the customs of the Church, let alone to separate from it, urging the return of the clergy to a living faith and piety and based essentially on the message of the grace of Jesus Christ in the Word of God to subsist in the gospel Luther nailed his 95 theses to the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, , seeking to deepen the theological debate on topics such as penance, indulgences and justification by faith alone - an act that remained for history as the initial mark of the Protestant Reformation.
In Switzerland, the reformer Huldrych Zwingli stands out. Zwingli, according to Mainka, was not only the most important theological leader in Zurich, but also the person responsible for the dissemination of the Reformation in the Swiss Confederacy.
The religious reforms proposed by Zwingli in Zurich are consolidated in social reforms. Another prominent Protestant reformer, also in Switzerland, is the eloquent Guillaume Farel, always cited as responsible for persuading Calvin to remain in Geneva in and to return in , after having being expelled in Farel influenced the vote at the Council of Two Hundred in Geneva on November 14, , creating the General Hospital, in order to assist the poor and sick, in the abandoned building of the Convent of the Poor Clares, where nuns had lived and worked.
Lyra points out that the members of these councils were elected by the people and had the purpose of exercising both executive and legislative power as well as the judiciary power. The councils were in number of four: the council of four syndics, which exerted the executive function; the little council of 25 that incorporated the four syndics and 21 other members; the Council of the , composed of elected citizens; and the general council Finally, John Calvin, born in , in Noyon, France.
Calvin also studied philosophy, latin, humanities and classical literature. Calvin is reference of this work, which describes his praxis in Geneva. Money and pleasure meant nothing to him. He repeatedly refused more money offered him by the Council. He lived sparingly and without luxury. He was willing even to sell his beloved books when it became necessary The situation experienced by the reformer studied here points to the consolidation of Switzerland, at that time , in fact , as a European center for modernisation in theological and political thought This theme is discussed next as a way of facilitating an understanding of the context in which the worldview in study germinated.
He traveled from Paris to Strasbourg and was forced to spend the night in the city when Guillaume Farel met Calvin and urged him to stay and help him with the Reformation Centred on the doctrine of justification by faith alone, the Lutheran teaching, according to Ebeling, had been consolidating itself as a liberating statement of meritorious pastoral practices. It re-defined theological concepts and pointed to a new Christian way of life which had salvation as its principle, not its goal.
It has thus shaped the basis of a way of life: the justified way of living Through his biblical interpretation, Luther understood that the cross, with the shedding of blood and death, is the guarantee of the liberation of the one who through faith in Christ gets rid of the bondage of sin. Calvin, in another way, reinforced the doctrine that deals with the union with Christ, the relationship between Jesus and Christians.
Calvin himself explains how this conjunction of the head and the limbs, this abode of Christ in our hearts, finally, this mystical union of Christ with us is established as of the highest importance, so that, made ours, Christ make us participants of the gifts of which he was endowed The work of the reforming scholar involved preaching the gospel, and he also cared for the oppressed and the poor, who were followers of biblical principles, reformed or not. He had the clear intention of building a city At the same time, Matos addresses the Calvinist position on the relationship between clergy and government, stating that the reformer understood that there should be strong cooperation between the two spheres, but not any subservience of the Church to the state.
The firm positions of the reformer, as Moraes points out, make clear his demands on the people of Geneva for moral rigor Ultimately, Calvin knows that a set of evil men [separated from God by original sin] needs clear normative guidance and an incisive and coercive State that tries to minimize evil as much as possible It should be noted that John Calvin did not hold in Geneva positions in the public power or ecclesiastical leadership that would had given him the right to exercise authority similar to that of a pontiff or a monarch.
Between and , the French reformer did not even have citizenship rights in Geneva, which only came to happen in his last five years. Therefore it is not admissible to claim that there was a theocracy at the time when Calvin was in Geneva. Taking a closer look at the Calvinist worldview in connection with bioethical reflection, it is essential to bear in mind the analysis of Azevedo The author points out that nominalism understanding sacramentality as no longer linked to the ecclesiastical superstructure, but to individuals before God ….
From this, the paradigm is not the fear of death and hell, but the notion of vocation to serve. The identity of the restored human being is manifested in this service. For this reason, Calvinist anthropology is strongly influenced by the nominalist conception because it sees in the human being the potential to express, through life, salvation. Even though this expression is not the salvation element but the expression of it Vocation to the service is, therefore, fundamental element of the worldview in analysis.
Therefor, the bioethics discussion from the Calvinist perspective includes transcendence and materiality. Here the the bioethics exposed in this study meets with the Calvinistic biblical worldview in the same platform, which sustains a rigorous reflection on life and plans the defense of life. Composing this platform is the bioethical element that encompasses the transformations of social relations, which adopts, according to Porto 39 , the struggle against inequalities and which, according to Garrafa 13 , sustains a concrete alliance with the side that is historically more fragile.
On the other hand, the platform also includes the worldview instituted by a thinker of law, theology and philosophy who interprets life and human history from the Christian faith based on the Bible. It is an explicit worldview that reflects rigorously on life from what the Bible says. It is essential to clarify the definition of bioethics accepted in this reflection considering the diversity of concepts attributed to this field. The ongoing bioethical reflection emanates from the work of H.
Tristram Engelhardt Junior 40 - 41 , an American bioethicist, physician and philosopher with a Christian background. He was an author and publisher of global repercussion in the field of bioethics. In this work, Engelhardt asserts that bioethics rooted in Christendom of the first millennium will understand itself in the context of a globally comprehensive way of life that seeks union with God.
No decision, no matter however trivial, must lack connection with this goal The reasoning goes on to cite that the moral theology and bioethics based on the Christendom from the first millennium will be linked to a world of life transcendentally oriented Still in the same work, the bioethicist says that Christianity is not a set of anonymous philosophical principles, an impersonal way of life, or a truth that comes to us without a history. Christian bioethics is linked to Christ He emphasises that Christian bioethics must be understood in terms of a unique narrative of salvation in which people play important roles and in which God plays the crucial role through the redemptive act of his Son incarnate as the messiah of Israel Six years later Engelhardt would edit a collection of essays about the successive failure to produce a universal set of norms for bioethics.
Engelhardt addresses in this publication the human moral condition. The book brings us to confront the circumstance that the culture wars that fragment bioethical reflections into contending partisan camps are grounded in intractable moral diversity Engelhardt then advocates that we do not and cannot in general secular terms come to substantive conclusions regarding matters moral and bioethical through sound rational argument The central question then arises: what the failure of moral consensus teach us?
He closes his introductory chapter with a call, or challenge: At the very least, we can by default find procedures, strategies to live together as moral strangers in the face of irresolvable moral diversity These are persons who do not share sufficient moral premises or rules of evidence and inference to resolve moral controversies by sound rational argument, or who do not have a common commitment to individuals or institutions in authority to resolve moral controversies According to Engelhardt, bioethics must be secular, a space for dialogue and respect, a space for tolerance and for peaceful and productive coexistence, even among people of different religions and ideologies.
In a more recent publication, the author is emphatic in stating that Postmodernity is this side of the recognition that morality and bioethics are intractably plural Christianity itself has the elements for the constitution of a pluralistic and free society, and there is no contradiction between Christian orthodoxy and the relative autonomy of the political sphere Finally, Carvalho launches an inquiry closely linked to this reflection: If Calvinism played an important role in the past for the development of a more advanced political practice, how can we be sure that new contributions can not happen?
From the reflection presented, we turn to the interconnections of this work from the understanding of bioethics, as already said, as a field truly open to encounter and dialogue
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