> Like Luther, John Calvin had his faults. Some of his faults become magnified when judged by 21st-century standards rather than 16th-century standards. Nevertheless, some of his actions do warrant criticism. But was he the tyrant that some people make him out to be? Did he really rule Geneva with an iron fist? The facts indicate otherwise:
“Although Calvin’s effort to reform the morals of Geneva has been heavily criticized and he has been portrayed as an authoritarian dictator, the effort to regulate morals was not unusual in sixteenth-century cities. Before the Reformation Geneva, like other cities, had laws on moral issues such as drunkenness and prostitution, but in the early sixteenth century they were not strictly enforced. Furthermore, Calvin’s power was in reality extremely limited since the only position he held in Geneva was that of an ordinary pastor. He had no greater authority than any other minister, and for most of his time in Geneva he was a foreigner who did not even have the right to vote. He was an employee of the city and could be dismissed and even expelled from the city at the whim of the government.” [emphasis mine]
Rudolph W. Heinze, Reform and Conflict, From the Medieval World to the Wars of Religion, AD 1350-1648. John D. Woodbridge and David F. Wright, eds., The Baker History of the Church, Vol. 4 (Grand Rapids: BakerBooks, 2005), 185-6.