Thursday, August 23, 2007

St. Bartholomew's Day Massacare - Peter Ramus

August 24th is St. Bartholomew’s Day, or at least it was in 1572. That was when the great massacre occurred in France where the Reformed were killed by the thousands to please the Romish church. Every August 24th I remember the sacrifice of the Reformed in France, and I like to remember them by telling one of their stories.

Peter Ramus is a forgotten man in today’s world. However, he was a reformer from France who lived and died for the Reformation. His main work was philosophical. Peter Ramus wanted to bring the Reformation to bear on Philosophy itself, particularly the reliance on Aristotle that Ramus thought caused many of the Romish errors. In fact, Ramus was so brazen about attacking the one St. Thomas Aquinas referred to simply as The Philosopher, that his doctoral thesis was "All Aristotle says is false." He became a teacher so popular that the government took action against him forbidding him to teach philosophy. So, Ramus taught Math instead, and still remained a popular teacher. Ramus became a Protestant after the Colloquy at Poissy. By 1562 assassins tried to murder him often enough that he had to flee from Paris. He would return but had to flee again in 1568. He traveled to all of the major Protestant cites, Zurich, Basel, Strasburg, and finally Heidelberg. Despite the fact Ramus was Reformed he was not always welcomed because many of the Reformers still held to Aristotelianism. Men such as Theodore Beza and Zacharias Ursinus opposed his philosophical approach and derogatorily referred to him as the ‘French Plato.’ However, some Reformers like Casper Olevianus agreed with him and welcomed him. This conflict within the Reformed camp always kept him from staying and teaching at any of the great universities of the time. In the end, Ursinus went back to Paris via Geneva.

Ramus had a successful teaching position at the Royal College in France, but his stay would not last long. August 24th, 1572 the followers of Rome and the Guises came to find him and silence him once and for all. They did not reach him until the 27th because Ramus had official protection papers from the King of France himself. Thugs broke into his office and began to take the valuables before they killed him. Ramus prayed allowed in his last moments, “O my God, against thee and thee only have I sinned and done this evil in Thy sight. Thy judgments are justice and truth. Have mercy on me and pardon these wretched men, O God, for they know not what they do.” He was then shot in the head, and his lifeless body stabbed and dragged around the fifth floor of the building.

Ramus never completed his reform of philosophy. He stood more against Aristotle than for anything. Ramus realized that the Christian faith must dominate every aspect of our lives and that includes the philosophical pursuits. His oratory was so great that he doubtless converted many not only to his cause, but the cause of Christ. This is evident from the large number of his students who broke with the church of Rome. Ramus is forgotten now because the views of Aristotle still dominate the philosophical landscape even in the Christian church; thus, Ramus is still an enemy. But regardless of one’s position on Aristotle we ought to be able to rejoice together in the love and devotion that Peter Ramus showed to the Lord of lords. His death stands as one of the most significant in the mighty massacre during that dark time in France in 1572. Let us follow his example at least in as far as we reform our lives to the Word of God, and stay faithful even if the end is bitter.