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Christians persecute themselves

In his preface Bellius distinguishes between two types of heretics: Some are heretics because of their lifestyle, others because of their religion. A judgement on the latter is difficult, as demonstrated by the disputes of Christians about baptism, the Lord's Supper, the worship of saints, and justification. It also shows: “Catholics, Lutherans, Zwinglians, Anabaptists, monks and others pursue and condemn each other more violently than the Turks the Christians.” These con- troversies are solely based on the ignorance of the truth.

Therefore, Bellius calls for tolerance in matters of religion (with words that are still relevant today): The Jews and Turks should not persecute the Christians; these not the Turks or Jews. “Likewise, we Christians should not condemn each other, but if we are wiser, we should also be better and more merciful. The better one knows the truth, the less he is inclined to condemn others.“ The demands for tolerance are underlined, above all, by passages of the New Testament, such as the parable of the weeds under the wheat (Matthew 13:24-43) and with the reference to the Day of Judgment (1 Corinthians 4: 5): “Therefore do not judge before the time, when the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and will reveal the secret thoughts of men.

With Castellio's “De Haereticis” and Calvin's “Defensio” the polemic pamphlet warfare between Castellio and Calvin was not over: Castellio responded to Calvin's “Defensio” with the “Contra labellum Calvini” (“Against the Booklet of Calvin”); Theodor Beza, Calvin's closest confidant, refers to the “De haereticis” with the “De haereticis puniendis” (“About the punishment of heretics”). Castellio contradicted Beza with the “De haereticis non puniendis” (“On the non–punishment of heretics”), which he completed in 1555.

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