Hunted Heretic: The Life and Death of Michael Servetus, 1511-1553 By Roland H. Bainton

Roland H. Bainton Å 5 Summary

Michael Servetus, a Spaniard executed for heresy in John Calvin's Geneva, is remembered as an important Reformation-era theologian and as a physician credited with the discovery of the circulation of the blood through the lungs. His first book, On the Errors of the Trinity, so shocked both Catholics and Protestants that he was compelled to live under an assumed name. All but a few copies of his magnum opus, Christianity Restored, were destroyed shortly after publication. However, the case of Servetus, which has been taken up by Voltaire, Gibbon, and many others, marks the beginning of the idea of religious toleration. Hunted Heretic: The Life and Death of Michael Servetus, 1511-1553

Out of the Flames is a great book if you want to know the settings of Severtus's time. Hunted Heretic is great if you want to know the details about him. His life is accurately accounted and theorized using a lot of primary material for detailing his life through writing and those who wrote about him at the time. This is a great companion. 280 3.5 stars. Read this last year for a paper I wrote on Calvin's role in Servetus's death at the stake. Although the author, (rightfully) famed historian Roland Bainton, is very sympathetic to Servetus, he was quite fair (for the most part) and balanced in his treatment of the issue, rightfully recognizing Calvin not only as a product of his times but also recognizing that Calvin was not the all-powerful dictator of Geneva who hunted Servetus down, as the story sometimes gets caricatured. This is well worth the read, but should be taken along with some biographies of Calvin such as Alister McGrath's or Bruce Gordon's, as well as some nuanced studies of martyrdom and persecution, such as Brad Gregory's Salvation At Stake. This was an interesting read about an interesting character. 280 I do believe Bainton ends on a note of indignation. For the record of the trial alone, which takes up the last two chapters, this book is valuable. 280 Michael Servetus was burned at the stake in Geneva after spending 20 years on the run from the Inquisition for the heretical ideas he espoused in his books On the Errors of the Trinity and Christianity Restored, among others. His case is unusual in that he was killed solely for his heretical ideas, and not for more extreme charges, such as sedition. John Calvin was instrumental in Servetus's arrest and conviction.

The story of Servetus is still remembered today as an example of the dangers of religious intolerance.

Bainton's book, originally published in 1953, is still considered a seminal work, and Bainton was careful to be factual and even-handed in his telling of the tale. It is not always an easy read, however, due to stilted phrasing, an assumption of extreme familiarity with many of the religious and socio-political issues of the time, as well as a tendency of the author's to mention a name once and them assume the reader will remember who that person is through the rest of the book.

Even with those drawbacks, Servetus's is an exciting and dramatic tale, and one well worth remembering. 280