The Betrayal Fiction Review : 2009/07/29
The Betrayal: A Novel on John Calvin
by Douglas Bond
Phillipsburg: P&R, 2008, 375 pp., paperback.
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powerfully brings to life a mysterious figure born half a millennium ago. John Calvin, revered scholar and reviled Reformer, grew up in France but made his greatest impact in Switzerland as a pastor in Geneva.
Douglas Bond writes this novel from the perspective of a boyhood friend of Calvin's who serves as the reformer's servant and assistant. He only wants to escape from their plagued small town despite his personal dislike for his employer, making him an often cynical observer.
Bond was careful to use Calvin's writings as the source for quotes, so we can rest assured that the teaching and historical references are accurate. At the same time, he is able to fill in the gaps in such a way as to make this an enjoyable read in the tradition of the finest historical fiction.
I gained a new appreciation for John Calvin the man from The Betrayal
, and even learned some significant new facts. My favorite was the account of his great debate in the Lausanne cathedral, a place I visited and photographed in 2007 (the photo seen here was taken from our hotel room). Calvin was so impressive as he quoted the Early Church Fathers from memory while making an hour-long case against transubstantiation that one priest stood up and converted to the Reformed faith on the spot as soon as Calvin sat down. Eventually about 200 other priests followed suit, and the Roman Catholic cathedral soon became a Reformed church, still active today over 700 years since it was constructed.
I highly recommend this book for its careful attention to the historical record, and for how effectively it humanizes a mythical figure in church history.
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