Destroying Eve-il is a Reformed Family Tradition: Today Danvers, Tomorrow the Gallows
Great pizza party last night with an author who is writing a sci-fi novel. As I sat and listened to him share his shocking plot designed to invoke terror in his future readers, my recent research for “Reformation Myth” (due to be published in January 2013) made the chilling plot seem mundane in comparison to sexy witches being hung, burned, and impaled with images of Mary fitted with large spikes.
On the one hand, the Reformers were supposedly brilliant for recognizing Plato’s theory that pure truth and beauty is immutable, while on the other hand, their brutality was merely the “mentality of the age.” It is also understandable why Reformed folks are so big on, “all truth is God’s truth” because the Catholic church had a lot of ideas that the Reformers thought were pretty cool; specifically, that because of Eve, women in general are predisposed to evil, or Eveil.
Between sips of mocha that could barely be executed because of my fixated attachment to the narrative, the little angel on my right shoulder kept saying, “Excuse me, this is history, and it really happened.”
Indeed it did happen, and the war declared on witches by the Catholic Church and the Reformers resulted in casualties that surpass many, many wars waged throughout history. And, to say the least, the due process of law that determined who was a witch was, well, shall we say, a little lean. Since it was thought that 90% of all witches were women, if you were a woman, and dragged into court, your gender was a bad start to the process. In at least one case, a particularly pious woman didn’t even take her arrest seriously and was sarcastic towards her accusers—who later executed her. I guess there is only one thing worse than a witch—a sarcastic woman. Then, there was this also:
The climate of fear created by churchmen of the Reformation led to countless deaths of accused witches quite independently of inquisitional courts or procedure. For example, in England where there were no inquisitional courts and where witch-hunting offered little or no financial reward, many women were killed for witchcraft by mobs. Instead of following any judicial procedure, these mobs used methods to ascertain guilt of witchcraft such as “swimming a witch,” where a woman would be bound and thrown into water to see if she floated. The water, as the medium of baptism, would either reject her and prove her guilty of witchcraft, or the woman would sink and be proven innocent, albeit also dead from drowning (Helen Ellerbe: The Dark Side of Christian History,Chapter Eight: 1450 – 1750 C.E.).
It all started with the Catholics first, and the Reformers later joined the campaign that supplemented the inquisition:
Pope John XXII formalized the persecution of witchcraft in 1320 when he authorized the Inquisition to prosecute sorcery. .” Thereafter papal bulls and declarations grew increasingly vehement in their condemnation of witchcraft and of all those who “made a pact with hell.” In 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issued the bull Summis desiderantes authorizing two inquisitors, Kramer and Sprenger, to systematize the persecution of witches. Two years later their manual, Malleus Maleficarum, was published with 14 editions following between 1487-1520 and at least 16 editions between 1574-1669. A papal bull in 1488 called upon the nations of Europe to rescue the Church of Christ which was “imperiled by the arts of Satan.” The papacy and the Inquisition had successfully transformed the witch from a phenomenon whose existence the Church had previously rigorously denied into a phenomenon that was deemed very real, very frightening, the antithesis of Christianity, and absolutely deserving of persecution.
It was now heresy not to believe in the existence of witches. As the authors of the Malleus Maleficarum noted, “A belief that there are such things as witches is so essential a part of Catholic faith that obstinately to maintain the opposite opinion savors of heresy.” Passages in the Bible such as “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” were cited to justify the persecution of witches (Ibid.).
The following gives us an idea as to the extent that this was going on:
Contemporary accounts hint at the extent of the holocaust. Barbara Walker writes that “the chronicler of Treves reported that in the year 1586, the entire female population of two villages was wiped out by the inquisitors, except for only two women left alive.” Around 1600 a man wrote:
Germany is almost entirely occupied with building fires for the witches… Switzerland has been compelled to wipe out many of her villages on their account. Travelers in Lorraine may see thousands and thousands of the stakes to which witches are bound (Ibid.).
The general mentality of the Eveil motif was part and parcel with the war on witches:
The witch hunts were an eruption of orthodox Christianity’s vilification of women, “the weaker vessel,” in St. Peter’s words. The second century St. Clement of Alexandria wrote: “Every woman should be filled with shame by the thought that she is a woman.” The Church father Tertullian explained why women deserve their status as despised and inferior human beings:
“And do you not know that you are an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert that is, death even the Son of God had to die.”
Others expressed the view more bluntly. The sixth century Christian philosopher, Boethius, wrote in The Consolation of Philosophy, “Woman is a temple built upon a sewer.” Bishops at the sixth century Council of Macon voted as to whether or not women had souls. In the tenth century Odo of Cluny declared, “To embrace a woman is to embrace a sack of manure…” The thirteenth century St. Thomas Aquinas suggested that God had made a mistake in creating woman: “nothing [deficient] or defective should have been produced in the first establishment of things; so woman ought not to have been produced then.” And Lutherans at Wittenberg debated whether women were really human beings at all. Orthodox Christians held women responsible for all sin. As the Bible’s Apocrypha states, “Of woman came the beginning of sin/ And thanks to her, we all must die”(Ibid.).
And the Reformers were completely onboard with the Eveil rage of that Day:
St. Augustine of Hippo (354 to 430 CE). He wrote to a friend:
“What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman……I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.”
Martin Luther (1483 to 1546):
“If they [women] become tired or even die, that does not matter. Let them die in childbirth, that’s why they are there.”
St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 to 1274 CE):
“As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence.”
But the Reformers did way more than stand on the sidelines and cheer. When doing a pdf document search on Witch Hunts In Europe And America, An Encyclopedia by William Burns, “Calvin” got 32 hits including the following:
There are about five hundred recorded witch trials in the 150 years after Calvin’s arrival in Geneva. Given the high rate of survival of Genevan records, this probably represents the majority of cases that occurred. The witch-hunt in Geneva peaked relatively early, in the 1560s and early 1570s. The records show that, outside the witch-hunt of 1571, Geneva had one of the lowest rates of execution in Europe, about 20%. Geneva magistrates seem to have used banishment as an alternative to execution in cases where the guilt or innocence of the subject was in doubt, rather than following the practice of other areas which simply tortured until a confession was obtained. The relatively mild torture practiced by the Genevans kept individual witch cases from developing into large hunts, and in some cases the magistrates were uninterested in following up accusations even when an accused witch named others…
The comparatively small kingdom of Scotland, whose legal system blended English and Continental elements, had from the mid-sixteenth century on a zealous Calvinist clergy intent on creating a godly society. It executed the most witches of any British region. The other British area of high witch-hunting activity was the legally anomalous Channel islands….
William Perkins was Elizabethan England’s leading Calvinist theologian, and his posthumously published A Discourse on the Damned Art of Witchcraft (1608) had an unrivalled influence on subsequent Puritan demonologists in old and New England. Perkins’s approach was intellectually austere. He shunned reference to previous demonologists or actual cases of witchcraft, and based his argument almost entirely on the Bible, particularly Exodus 22.18, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” Perkins saw the essential nature of witchcraft as the making of the satanic pact, or “covenant,” which inverted the covenant relation between God and his elect that was basic to Puritan Calvinist theology. So closely does Perkins relate the witch’s contact with the Devil to the good Christian’s contact with God that he claims that to deny the possibility of physical contact with devils would be to deny the possibility of covenant with God. Perkins describes the making of the covenant as a simple agreement, without the necessity for the witch to sign in blood or kiss or have sex with the Devil. Other central aspects to the witch stereotype as the sabbat or the Devil’s mark he also ignored. Even maleficia played a minor role. Perkins’s principal target was not the maleficent witch, but the “good witch,” whom he described over and over as even more worthy of death than the evil witch. Perkins believed that all power to perform “magic” could only come from Satan.
William Perkins was the elder statesman of the very same Calvinist Puritans that boarded the Mayflower and landed on Plymouth Rock. John Robinson, their pastor and follower of Perkins, gave an impassioned speech to them before they boarded the ship. The Pilgrims, who were really political refugees, set up a Geneva style Calvinistic theocracy known as the American Colonies and was the spawning grounds for colonial Calvinism.
Go figure, not long after, in Salem Town and Salem Village, the infamous Salem witch trials occurred. The Puritan Cotton Mather was heavily involved and attended the execution of Salem Town’s pastor, George Burroughs, who was accused of aiding and abetting a covenant of witches. An actual account of the sad proceedings follow:
George Burroughs was executed on Witches Hill, Salem, on the 19th of August, the only minister who suffered this extreme fate.
Though the jury found no witches’ marks on his body he was convicted of witchcraft and conspiracy with the Devil. While standing on a ladder before the crowd, waiting to be hanged, he successfully recited the Lord’s Prayer, something that was generally considered by the Court of Oyer and Terminer to be impossible for a witch to do. After he was hung, Cotton Mather, a minister from Boston, reminded the crowd from atop his horse that Burroughs had been convicted in a court of law, and spoke convincingly enough that four more were executed after Burroughs. Below is the original account as first compiled and published in 1700 by Robert Calef in More Wonders of The Invisible World pages 103-104, and later reprinted or relied upon by others including Charles Wentworth Upham and George Lincoln Burr,
Mr. Burroughs was carried in a Cart with others, through the streets of Salem, to Execution. When he was upon the Ladder, he made a speech for the clearing of his Innocency, with such Solemn and Serious Expressions as were to the Admiration of all present; his Prayer (which he concluded by repeating the Lord’s Prayer) was so well worded, and uttered with such composedness as such fervency of spirit, as was very Affecting, and drew Tears from many, so that if seemed to some that the spectators would hinder the execution. The accusers said the black Man [Devil] stood and dictated to him. As soon as he was turned off [hung], Mr. Cotton Mather, being mounted upon a Horse, addressed himself to the People, partly to declare that he [Mr. Burroughs] was no ordained Minister, partly to possess the People of his guilt, saying that the devil often had been transformed into the Angel of Light. And this did somewhat appease the People, and the Executions went on; when he [Mr. Burroughs] was cut down, he was dragged by a Halter to a Hole, or Grave, between the Rocks, about two feet deep; his Shirt and Breeches being pulled off, and an old pair of Trousers of one Executed put on his lower parts: he was so put in, together with Willard and Carrier, that one of his Hands, and his Chin, and a Foot of one of them, was left uncovered.
Now, in our day, and unbelievably, the proud children of this Calvinist legacy pronounce themselves the experts on “biblical manhood and womanhood.” Specifically, an organization was formed in 1987 called “The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” It is funded, organized, maintained, and directed by the who’s who of the American Neo-Calvinist movement including, Ligon Duncan, Wayne Grudem, John Piper, and Al Mohler. They formed a statement/declaration on this subject that was so well attended by their forefathers called the “Danvers Statement.” It is called the Danvers Statement because their declaration was finalized in—get this— Danvers, Massachusetts.
So, what’s relevant about that? Well, Danvers is the modern day location of Salem Town, the location of the Salem witch trials. In fact, these guys made it a point to have the meetings there that finalized the document. Ok, I mean, really, if you are a bunch neo-Nazis who want to start a forum on Judaism, would you make it a point to finalize your declaration at Auschwitz?
Furthermore, the Reformers didn’t get up one morning and decide to start burning witches—it all began with their Eveil doctrine. And the proponents of this movement not only swear by the theological genius of Calvin, but what they teach about the fall and Eve’s participation is word for word. Also, in regard to what is actually going on as far as treatment of women, all that is missing is the gallows. Whether it be women locked in basements as punishment, being spanked by their husbands, deprived of education, or their children being held hostage through manipulation of relatives by church elders—it is at least Witch Hunt Light.
Have I read the Danvers Statement? No, why would I? Christ said that false teachers are known by their fruit. The root of the fruit is the doctrine. Good trees don’t bear bad fruit, and Reformed leaders are little more than Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin in priestly garb.