When the city electors voted unanimously to make Geneva a Reformed Protestant city in 1535, several culture-shaping initiatives were set in motion.
One initiative was that every child would be taught to read. This was something new.
"This commitment," writes Thomas Bloomer, "was the result of their theology that each person was created in the image of God and that each one could be in relationship with God directly and only needed to read the Bible to know how that was supposed to work. This was a real first in the history of the world--all children of a nation being taught to read, even the girls." *
Bloomer maintains, "literacy for all is a biblical idea." What happened in Geneva underscores the fact that worldviews determine values that influence behavior and shape culture. There is a reason why some cultures do not educate girls. And there is a reason why Christianity promotes literacy for all.
And because city leaders believed the basis for rebuilding Geneva was "individual conversion so that the population would put its trust in God," preaching the gospel became a priority.
"The French Reformers," writes Bloomer, "believed that every adult had to make a personal commitment to Christ to be saved. To ensure that every person had a chance to respond to Christ, there was a sustained, ongoing effort for many years to proclaim the gospel, even in the streets and marketplaces."
As more and more citizens came into personal relationship with Christ, it became evident that further teaching was necessary, "so that people would know how to live, the authorities would know how to govern, and all would know how to work in their different spheres."
To fill this need, William Farel--the evangelist once booted out of town, prior to the city's changes--sought out John Calvin.
In effect, Farel asked Calvin to come apply the theology he wrote about in Institutes of Religion to Geneva.
Did I say asked? To be accurate, Farel's words were: "May God curse you and your studies if you do not join me here in the work He has called you to!"
Calvin, "gave the rest of his life so that Geneva would be a city that was as biblically based as possible."
What does this mean?
*From Thomas Bloomer's, Calvin and Geneva: Nation-Building Missions, in His Kingdom Come (YWAM Publishing).