Faithful Friday: Theodore Beza

By Ian Wilson (Rated G)

Theodore Beza was one of the lesser known Reformed theologians of the first hundred years of the Reformation, however, his influence on the Reformed movement cannot be denied.

Born in 1519 in Burgundy to upper class parents, Beza received an excellent education under the tutelage of Melchior Wolmar, a German Lutheran. He then completed his law degree in Orleans, where in 1544, he secretly married Claudine Denosse, intending to marry her in a public ceremony when the time was right.

Beza eventually opened a law office in Paris, and published a book of Latin poems, for which he became extremely popular. After a bout of extreme illness, Beza saw his need for a Savior, and surrendered his life fully to Christ. He became convinced of the Protestant doctrines, and relocated to Geneva, where he became very close friends with John Calvin.

Beza was then appointed a professor of Greek, and pastor of the Genevan church. He was, for all intents and purposes, the ambassador of the Reformed faith, traveling throughout Europe, defending the doctrines’ Biblical and logical veracity and debating both Lutheran and Catholic theologians. He spoke to many of the nobility on behalf of the persecuted Protestants, and even served in the (protestant) Huguenot army during a war with the French Catholics. His many theological works provided form and shape to Calvinistic teachings.

Beza returned to Geneva to find Calvin in declining health. Arrangements were made for the transfer of leadership of the Genevan church to Beza’s care, and Calvin was laid to rest in 1564. Far from being an aloof theologian, Beza saw the necessity of a practical, pastoral faith, and was very affectionate toward his parishioners.

Eventually, Beza’s mental and physical health began to decline. His rigorous schedule of daily preaching came to an end in 1586. From then until 1600, he only preached on Sundays. He fell asleep in the Lord in 1605, leaving behind a legacy of theology and pastoral care.

May we all love Christ with our minds, and our neighbor with our hearts as Beza did.

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