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H. Henry Meeter Center: Specializing in John Calvin, Calvinism, the Reformation, and Early Modern Studies


"Polish Calvinism in Crisis: The Emergence of Antitrinitarian Theology in the 16th Century"

Piotr Wilczek, Professor Ordinarius at the Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies “Artes Liberales” and Head of the Collegium Artes Liberales - the Honors College at the University of Warsaw, Poland

Audio Recording of the lecture


Given on November 12, 2009

The lecture was devoted to the situation of Polish Calvinism vs. Antitrinitarianism in the second half of the 16th century with special emphasis on the emergence of the Church of the Polish Brethren which was established in the 16th century as the result of a split in the Calvinist church. During numerous synods of this church there were many disputes and debates on theological issues. Many Polish members of the church wanted to introduce changes into the recent teaching of John Calvin, who himself was very concerned about the situation, but his interventions were fruitless. The theologian Gregorius Paulus started to call into question the idea of the Holy Trinity and was supported by others, including some educated Italian and German refugees. They established the so-called „minor church” (the Calvinist majority remained in the so-called „major church”). It all happened in the period of 3 years, between 1562 and 1565. Radically following the Reformation rule „by the Scripture alone”, the Polish Brethren interpreted the Bible in their own way and rejected some basic beliefs accepted by all other churches - both Roman Catholic and Protestant: the idea of the Holy Trinity, the divinity of Jesus Christ and of the co-equal Deity of Christ and the Father. They rejected infant baptism and denied also a number of generally accepted beliefs, such as original sin, predestination, and justification by faith. In this presentation an attempt will be made to reconstruct major ideas of the Antitrinitarian theology and its relations to the Calvinist theology.