Seminary at Aix-en-Provence, France, Changes Its Name

December 26, 2010

The Faculte Libre de Theologie Reformee Is Now the Faculte Jean Calvin

 

We might think we know what’s in a name, but what’s in a change of name?

There are several reasons that lead us to take this rather surprising step and perhaps some people will have difficulty understanding why "reformed" was abandoned.

Since 1974, when the FLTR was founded, the world has seen tremendous changes. Globalisation, internet and virtual communication, the rise of more and more sophisticated technology, the intermingling of peoples and beliefs, the threat of terrorism: all of these things have brought about dramatic changes in our society, in ways that are often disturbing. We are living in a different world and this is true of the Church and theology as well.

At the Seminary, a great deal of thought has been given to the religious changes in our society, particularly to the most immediate challenges. For starters -dechristianisation means France is no longer a Roman catholic country, traditional ethical values have gone out of the window, the presence of Islam makes itself increasingly felt and the rise of new age spirituality and "do-it-yourself" religion have all had an impact.

Within French Protestantism there has also been a numerical falling away in the "main-line" institutional churches with a corresponding decrease in their influence and the rise of "relational" churches also within evangelicalism.

In view of these sea-changes, what does the word "reformed", that the Seminary chose 35 years ago, mean? Elsewhere "reformed" refers to Reformed theology, "reformed according to the Word of God", to quote Dr Pierre Courthial, one of the founding fathers of the Seminary. However it’s not the case in France! Very few people understand it that way, because the major Protestant church, the French Reformed Church, is pluralistic.

The word  "reforme" had become ambiguous in the present church situation and is simply synonymous with theological liberalism and modernism. It was time to find a new name that conveyed our identity while avoiding all ambiguity. But what name should we choose? Several unsatisfactory suggestions were made, but finally our president, Pascal Geoffrey, came up with the name FACULTÉ JEAN CALVIN. 2009 was the 500th anniversary of Calvin’s birth, and it seemed a good way to bring Calvin home and honor him in his native France.

The new name gives a more accurate take on our theological position. Calvin’s name is inseparable from the unchangeable Gospel he dedicated his life to, the Gospel of grace revealed through the Holy Scriptures. Calvin’s theology honors God’s sovereignty, the unique place of Christ as mediator between God and man and the work of the Holy Spirit. His teaching on the "two graces" that flow from Jesus Christ, our justification and sanctification, on the authority of Holy Scripture inspired by God and on the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross are the foundations of evangelical theology. This is the teaching that powered revivals in many countries and missionary activity throughout the world.

The Seminary holds to the great doctrines of grace epitomized by the Calvinistic Reformation: Christ alone, Scripture alone, grace alone, salvation by faith alone, the glory of God alone, our Creator, our Redeemer and our hope.

Our vision is to see these great truths preached today and in the years to come, in France and throughout the world.

The mission of the Seminary has not changed: the name of John Calvin will make its commitments clear to all. It is not intended to show an attachment to Calvin for Calvin’s sake, nor do we unconditionally agree with all that Calvin did or said, but it shows our deep concern for the proclamation of biblical truth that characterised his action five centuries ago.

Dr. Paul Wells
Dean & Professor of Systematic Theology
pwells@club-internet.fr