The Lovely Italian Princess & the Erudite Spanish Reformer: Giulia Gonzaga & Juan de Valdés in the 16th century Reformation

By Alejandro Moreno Morrison

[Nota Bene: To read the footnotes, please scroll down to the bottom of the page.]

Upon personal invitation of the emperor Charles V, the 22 years-old Giulia Gonzaga Colonna, Duchess of Trajetto, Dowager Countess of Fondi, and Dowager Duchess of Gaeta, moved to Naples in December 1535.[1]  Giulia, “illustrious by birth, was still more so by her mental and personal endowments.”[2]  “Admirable woman of… aristocratic and thorough beauty,” as shown in her portrait kept in the British Museum,[3] Giulia was wooed by Ippolito Di’Medici, and variously celebrated by poets, painters, scholars, and noblemen.  The fame of her beauty reached such international proportions that, in the summer of 1534, Barbarossa, admiral of the Turkish-Ottoman fleet, almost succeeded in kidnapping her for the harem of sultan Soliman II.[4]  But God had a wonderful plan for her life, having predestined her for salvation before the foundation of the world.

But how could she come to saving faith in Christ and in Him alone when her religion taught her to merit salvation by works and not to acknowledge it as coming by grace alone to be received through faith alone?  How could she believe a gospel she had never heard?  And who could possibly be the preacher suited to her peculiar circumstances?  Although the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone was being preached already all over Europe, on Giulia’s side of the Alps and of the social gap such message was perceived with the political taints of a German revolt against the unity of the empire[5] and Christendom, and further tainted by the 1527 sack of Rome in which some German Lutherans were involved.

Years before, Spanish nobleman Ferrando (or Hernando) de Valdés, Perpetual Regent of Cuenca, Spain,[6] had three children among whom two stand out in history: Alfonso (b. ca. 1501) and Juan (b. ca. 1509).[7]

Alfonso de Valdés studied Latin and Law under royal tutor Pedro Mártir de Anglería,[8] whose assistance “helped secure Alfonso a future place in [emperor] Charles’s service”[9] at the imperial court.  Alfonso was present at the coronation of Charles V[10] and not much later became his Latin Secretary,[11] and some years later his Chief Secretary.[12]  Alfonso was present at Luther’s trial at the Diet of Worms.[13]  But the German monk did not produce any favourable first impression on the Spanish courtier, who called Luther “audacious, shameless,” his books “poisonous,”[14] and his followers “prone to evil.”[15]  Yet, he agreed on the need for a reformation and was dissatisfied with the way in which Rome was handling the Luther affair.[16]  “Alfonso’s name is found subscribed to imperial letters of the years 1526 and 1527, addressed to Pope Clement VII and to the College of Cardinals, in which a General Council is most energetically demanded.”[17]  That was exactly what Luther had originally requested. Through his writings and imperial politics, Alfonso pursued a reformation programme along the lines proposed by Erasmus, of whom he was protector[18] and friend, and who held both Valdés brothers, Alfonso and Juan, in very high esteem.[19]

Juan spent his youth years in the Spanish royal court,[20] and later went on to study at Universidad Complutense[21] (most likely Humanities and Canon Law).[22]  He was well versed in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew and mastered the Spanish (Castilian) language.[23]  In January 1529, Juan published Dialogue on Christian Doctrine, which ignited against himself the hostility of the Spanish Inquisition.  Providentially, his case was appointed to scholars of his alma mater who were sympathetic to him, while enjoying also the favourable intervention of other people in prominence (including the General Inquisitor), all of which finally secured his absolution.

Around the same time, Alfonso de Valdés also provoked the wrath of the Spanish Inquisition with his writings, but such was his political power and influence that in 1530 he got an ample charter of absolution for his whole family from Clement VII, the pope he had attacked in his writings.[24]

By 1531 Juan had found refuge from the Spanish Inquisition in Clement’s papal court with the honorary title of Chamberlain[25] and the honorary dignity of Imperial Secretary with some semi-official role as Imperial agent.[26]  At Clement’s court Juan enjoyed the confidence of Pietro Carnesecchi, the pope’s Secretary and later Protonotary of the Apostolic See –a man so influential that it was believed “that he… wielded the pontifical power.”[27]

Meanwhile, Alfonso was travelling with the Emperor through Germany and having meetings with Melanchthon at Augsburg.

The intercourse between the two [Alfonso and Melanchthon] was a very friendly one, and with the sovereign, Valdés successfully set off the conciliatory and reasonable tone of the Protestants, and smoothed the way for a public reading of [the Augsburg Confession] in the presence of the Emperor…  It was with pleasure that he saw the Emperor… constrained to yield great liberty to the evangelical movement.[28]

Alfonso died in October of 1532, and it was so reported to Henry VIII by his then ambassador in Vienna, Thomas Cranmer, who wrote to the English king about Alfonso de Valdés in very complimentary terms.[29]

By 1535, after the death of pope Clement VII, Juan de Valdés became imperial agent and moved to Naples, which would become his home place for the rest of his short life, and his missionary field.  Variously described by his contemporaries as “Gentleman of cape and sword,” “noble and wealthy knight,” “prudent and learned man,” of “courtly bearing”[30] and “patient spirit,” [31] “of handsome looks, very sweet manners and of smooth and attractive speech,”[32] Valdés enjoyed the friendship of “the most distinguished members of the aristocracy of Italy of their period.”[33]  He used to gather them at his country house on the Riviera di Chiaia[34] –“one of the most beautiful places on earth”.[35]

Here Valdés received on the Sunday a select number of his most intimate friends; and they passed the day together in this manner: after breakfasting and enjoying themselves amidst the glories of the surrounding scenery, they returned to the house, when he read some selected portion of Scripture, and commented upon it, or some ‘Divine consideration’ which had occupied his thoughts during the week—some subject on which he conceived that his mind had obtained a clearer illumination of heavenly truth.[36]

Juan’s circle included scholars, literati, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, noblemen, and “the most noble and discrete women of Naples,”[37] such as the poetess Vittoria Colonna (1490-1547), friend of Baldassare Castiglione (author of Il Cortegiano) and Michelangelo’s Platonic love, and the young noble Giulia Gonzaga Colonna.[38]  It would be Giulia toward whom Juan’s mind would be “most forcibly brought into exercise.  Her noble faculties, her pursuit of the highest virtue, and the loveliness of her mind and person alike engaged his regard.”[39]

Juan de Valdés was probably first recommended to Giulia as legal advisor on a litigation brought about by the death of her husband.[40]  However, as confidence ripened between the two during the Lent season of 1536, it became apparent that Giulia’s core needs were not legal but spiritual, and that her legal advisor’s chief gifts were in biblical exposition, theology, and pastoral care.  One day, Giulia and Juan attended one of the Lenten sermons by Bernardino Ochino in company with emperor Charles V, his court, and the whole of Neapolitan society.  The whole audience, including the Emperor and Giulia, was deeply moved, and for Valdés the experience was apparently “akin to… a religious conversion.” [41]

Although “Valdés was undoubtedly the superior intelligence, and was further advanced in ‘Paulinism’”[42] and the doctrine of justification by faith, Ochino’s sermon was somehow used by the Holy Spirit to transform that knowledge into passionate action, moving Juan to display the fullness of his theological abilities and devoting to it increasingly more of his interest and time.

As a result, Juan first wrote Alfabeto christiano to address Giulia’s spiritual thirst.  Furthermore, the gatherings with his influential and aristocratic friends became opportunities for biblical exposition, theological discussion and, most of all, for the preaching of the gospel of salvation by grace alone through faith alone.  Valdés promoted the reading of works by John Calvin, Martin Luther, Martin Bucer, and Ulrich Zwingli, among such people as Carnesecchi, Ochino, Benedetto, and Pietro Martire Vermigli.  It was through Juan de Valdés that Vermigli was first nurtured in the gospel to become later one of the chief theologians of the Reformation.[43]  Thus, Valdés had a direct influence upon the two most influential pulpits in Naples, the ones held by Vermigli and Ochino.  Valdés’s writings reached as far as the influential cardinal Gasparo Contarini who, in striving for a reformation of the western Church from within and from the top, would later recommend Vermigli to be appointed for reformation commissions on two occasions.[44]

Notwithstanding the above, the first and special object of the theological works of this “Dottore e Pastore of noble and illustrious persons”[45] was the spiritual growth of his dearest friend Giulia –“the one who drank deepest of his instructions.”[46]  It was for Giulia that Juan translated the Scriptures into Spanish and for whom he wrote his Bible commentaries also in Spanish.  It was to Giulia that Juan dedicated his translation and Commentaries to the Epistles of Saint Paul, his translation and Commentary to the Psalms, and his translation and Commentary to the Gospel According to Matthew.[47]  “Possibly no man ever lived that did more by word and by writings to teach another spiritual truth, than did Valdés for Julia.”[48]

Juan de Valdés died in 1541, right before the beginning of the Italian Inquisition’s persecution in Naples and six years before the Council of Trent’s Decretum iustificatione against the doctrine of justification by faith alone.  In spite of his Protestant views, Valdés did not separate formally from the Roman Church, as he was never forced to make that choice.  More than attacking Rome, he “confined himself to the inculcation of what he believed to be Divine truth.”[49]

From the peculiar vantage point of his time (before the Council of Trent) and of his influential position, the hope for a Reformation from within and from the top was not ungrounded.  Juan de Valdés’s life, influence, and reformist ministry among the aristocracy and high clergy in Italy stand indeed as an incontestable witness to the fact that every possibility for a reformation without separation was exhausted, and that the Vatican, having turned its back deliberately and explicitly against the biblical and apostolic faith, cannot possibly be the one holy, catholic and apostolic Church.

Juan de Valdés’s ministry succeeded in overcoming socio-economic and socio-political hindrances that would have prevented many in the aristocracy south of the Alps to embrace the biblical doctrine of the gospel of grace.  Thousands of people who otherwise would have never heard the gospel of justification by faith alone came to saving faith in Christ, including the princess whom God had predestined for salvation and preserved from the hands of the Sultan, and who is now enjoying the presence of Christ, her Saviour, and life everlasting in God’s glory.

[Editorial note: The first version of this text was originally written for and published in The Progress of St. Paul’s (the monthly newsletter of St. Paul’s Church (Presbyterian Church in America), Orlando, Florida, ca. Oct. 2000  This is a revised version (Oct. 28, 2017).]


[1] Giulia Gonzaga, born in 1513, got married in 1526 to Vespaciano Colonna (born in 1485), Count of Fondi and Duke of Gaeta, who died on March 13, 1528.  See Philip McNair, An Anatomy of Apostasy (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1967), p. 31; and http://www.visitaitri.it/nuova_pagina_1.htm.

[2] John T. Betts “Preface” to his edition of Juan de Valdés, Commentary upon the Gospel of St. Matthew (London: Trubner & Co., 1882), p. viii.

[3] Marcelino Menéndez-Pelayo, Historia de los heterodoxos españoles: Erasmistas y protestantes. Sectas místicas.  Judaizantes y moriscos.  Artes mágicas (México: Porrúa, 1995, reprint of the 1882 ed.), p. 104.

[4] Cf. McNair, op. cit., p. 30.

[5] See Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit., pp. 55 & 84.

[6] See ibid., p. 54.

[7] The year of birth of both these siblings is unclear.  The ambiguity is connected to the fact that two sources seem to suggest that Alfonso and Juan were twins.  The main source of the ambiguity and possible confusion is a letter from Erasmus to Juan (March 21, 1529), in which Erasmus refers to both as twins (gemellos), although it could have been an allusion to the likeness between the two siblings (see ibid., p. 84, and José C. Nieto, Juan de Valdés y los orígenes de la Reforma en España e Italia, 1st Spanish ed. (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1979, corrected and augmented from the 1st English ed., 1970), p. 176).  One of the reasons to doubt they were twins is the fact that Alfonso was already Secretary to emperor Charles V when Juan was still a student in Escalona, Spain.  Therefore, it is most likely that, as Nieto thinks (see ibid.), Juan was younger than Alfonso.  Consequently, the most likely explanation for the two dates given for the birth of Alfonso a Juan is that Alfonso was born ca. 1501, and Juan ca. 1509.

[8] Pedro Mártir de Anglería was an “Italian humanist brought to the Spanish royal court by Ferdinand and Isabel to provide such instruction” (Daniel A. Crews, Twilight of the Renaissance: The Life of Juan de Valdés (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008), p. 15).

[9] Ibid.

[10] Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit., p. 55.

[11] See Nieto, op. cit., p. 281.

[12] As reported by Thomas Cranmer in 1532, while Cranmer was Henry VIII’s ambassador to the imperial court (see Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit., p. 56).

[13] See ibid.

[14] See ibid.

[15] Ibid.

[16] See ibid.

[17] Edward Boehmer, Lives of the Twin Brothers Juán and Alfonso de Valdés (London: Trubner & Co., 1882), p. 16.

[18] See Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit., pp. 58-9.

[19] John Stoughton, Footprints of Italian Reformers (London: The Religious Tract Society, 1881), p. 107.  Menéndez-Pelayo interprets a paragraph by Francisco de Enzinas (an acquaintance of both Valdés brothers) as implying that it was Alfonso who inculcated into Juan the “reformist ideas” (op. cit., p. 85).

[20] The Valdés family was very wealthy and politically powerful (see Crews, op. cit., p. 12).

[21] “Complutense” means “from Alcalá de Henares.”  It was in this university where the Poliglotha Complutense edition of the Bible had been prepared.

[22] Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit., p. 84.  This author reports that many are the authors who refer to Juan de Valdés as “jurisconsulto” (jurist).

[23] See ibid., pp. 84-85.  In fact, his best-known work (still in print and widely read and studied) is his Diálogo de la lengua (ca. 1533-36), considered one of the three foundational documents of the modern Spanish language.  Juan wrote this book in Naples for non-Spanish-speakers in the imperial court eager to learn to speak proper Spanish, since that was emperor Charles V’s favourite language.

[24] Boehmer, op. cit., p. 16.

[25] Betts, in his “Introduction” to Boehmer’s Lives… explains that the post was “…that of ‘Cameriere d’onore, di spada e cappa’, meaning a chamberlain of honour, a secular, a layman, a post of honour involving no regular duties . . . they do not present themselves at the palace except when they choose to do so, and that it is usual for the Popes to send the Cardinal’s hat by them to newly-appointed Cardinals” (op. cit., p. iv).

[26] See ibid., pp. 20-21.

[27] Betts in the “Introduction” to Boehmer, Lives…, op. cit., p. vi (citing Riguccio Galluzzi, Storia del Granducato di Toscana Firenze, 1822).

[28] Boehmer, op. cit., p. 16-17.  Menéndez-Pelayo reports, nevertheless, that Alfonso found some of the propositions of the confession to be “bitter and intolerable” (op. cit., p. 70).

[29] See ibid., p. 17, and Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit.

[30] See Stoughton, op. cit., p. 110; and Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit., p. 94.

[31] Stoughton, op. cit.

[32] Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit., p. 100.

[33] Betts, “Preface”, op. cit., p. viii.

[34] “On the Chiaja, not far from the rock-cut road from Naples to Pozzuoli, where tropical vegetation mingles with that of higher latitudes, and where Virgil’s tomb arrests the traveller’s attention… Juan de Valdés had a country house, not crowded into a long line of palaces and villas, but standing by itself, ‘set in verdure’, with an open view of the glorious bay, and refreshed at eventide by a cooling breeze” (Stoughton, op. cit., p. 109).

[35] Betts, “Preface,” op. cit., p. viii.

[36] “Life and Writings of Juan de Valdés”, by B. J. Wiffen, prefixed to the CX Considerations, tr. John T. Betts, p. 138.  Cited in Stoughton, op. cit., p. 109.

[37] Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit., p. 103.

[38] The following lines by Jacob Burckhardt provide a good picture of Valdes’s social circle in Italy:

It would be juster to wonder at the secure foundations of a society which, notwithstanding these tales, still observed the rules of order and decency, and which knew how to vary such pastimes with serious and solid discussion. The need of noble forms of social intercourse was felt to be stronger than all others. To convince ourselves of it, we are not obliged to take as our standard the idealized society which Castiglione depicts as discussing the loftiest sentiments and aims of human life at the court of Guidobaldo of Urbino, and Pietro Bembo at the castle of Asolo.  The society described by Bandello, with all the frivolities which may be laid to its charge, enables us to form the best notion of the easy and polished dignity, of the urbane kindliness, of the intellectual freedom, of the wit and the graceful dilettantism, which distinguished these circles. A significant proof of the value of such circles lies in the fact that the women who were the centers of them could become famous and illustrious without in any way compromising their reputation.  Among the patronesses of Bandello, for example, Isabella Gonzaga (born an Este) was talked of unfavorably not through any fault of her own, but on account of the too-free-lived young ladies who filled her court. Giulia Gonzaga Colonna, Ippolita Sforza married to a Bentivoglio, Bianca Rangona, Cecilia Gallerana, Camilla Scarampa, and others, were either altogether irreproachable, or their social fame threw into the shade whatever they may have done amiss. The most famous woman of Italy, Vittoria Colonna (b. 1490, d. 1547), the friend of Castiglioni and Michelangelo, enjoyed the reputation of a saint. It is hard to give such a picture of the unconstrained intercourse of these circles in the city, at the baths, or in the country, as will furnish literal proof of the superiority of Italy in this respect over the rest of Europe.

The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy (Seattle: The World Wide School), Part V, Ch. IV, “Social Etiquette”).  On-line edition: http://www.worldwideschool.org/library/books/hst/european/TheCivilizationoftheRenaissanceinItaly/chap36.html

[39] Stoughton, op. cit., p. 119.

[40] See McNair, op. cit., p. 31.

[41] Ibid., p. 35.

[42] Ibid., p. 36.

[43] Vermigli became professor of Divinities at the University of Oxford during the reign of the Reformed “Boy King,” Edward VI of England.

[44] See ibid.

[45] Nieto, op. cit., p. 244 (citing Edmondo Cione, “Epistola del primo Editore” to Juan de Valdés, Le cento e dieci divine considerazioni (Milano: Fratelli Bocca, Editori, 1944), p. 527).

[46] Stoughton, op. cit., p. 119.

[47] “Juan de Valdés has the merit of having translated for the first time into our language [Spanish] any part of the New Testament” (Menéndez-Pelayo, op. cit., p. 105).  Menéndez-Pelayo, an ultra-conservative Spanish Roman-Catholic, recognizes Valdés’s translation as “faithful and accurate” (ibid., p. 106).

[48] Betts, “Introduction,” op. cit., p. vii.

[49] Stoughton, op. cit.

______________________

Alejandro Moreno Morrison is a Mexican lawyer and Reformed theologian.  He studied at Escuela Libre de Derecho (Mexico City), Reformed Theological Seminary (Orlando, Florida) and the University of Oxford.  At Reformed Theological Seminary he was teaching assistant of the Rev. Dr. Ronald H. Nash.  He was also Spanish resources consultant for the Rev. Dr. Richard L. Pratt at Third Millennium Ministries.  Alejandro has ministered as intern, teacher, or visiting preacher or teacher at churches and missions of several denominations including Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada de México, Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana de México, Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana Conservadora de México, Iglesia Presbiteriana Ortodoxa Reformada, the Presbyterian Church in America, the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, and the Reformed Presbyterian Church, North America Synod.  With the latter he was in charge of a mission congregation during 2014.  He has also been guest lecturer on Systematic Theology, Ethics, Evangelism, and Apologetics at Seminario Teológico Reformado of Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada de México, on Contemporary Political Systems at the Faculty of Law of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, and on Corporate law at the Massachusetts Institute of Technologies (Global Startup Lab for Mexico).  Since 2010 he is adjunct lecturer on Jurisprudence at Escuela Libre de Derecho.

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La música en la Iglesia occidental en tiempos previos a la Reforma

Por: Alejandro Moreno Morrison.

Hay quienes piensan, erróneamente, que durante la llamada Edad Media y el Renacimiento no había mucha música en las iglesias europeas, o que toda la música usada en las iglesias era lenta, monótona, ritual, “demasiado” reverente (como si tal cosa fuera posible), o “aburrida.”  La evidencia histórica, no obstante, demuestra lo contrario.

La corrupción o deformación que sufrió la Iglesia occidental durante la Edad Media afectó también a la música que era usada en los cultos supuestamente para la adoración de Dios.  Hacia el inicio del S. XVI, la situación en la composición coral y el canto en las iglesias era caótica:

…se desencadenó una orgía licenciosa de música.  Era difícil explicar con reverencia lo que pasó…  Ha sido descrito por los contemporáneos de aquella época que lo sufrieron, y si la mitad de lo que dicen es cierto, debe haber sido como un rag-time desquiciado.[1]

Henry Bruinsma, antiguo profesor de Música en Calvin Collage, nos da esta descripción de la música en la Iglesia a principios del S. XVI:

La música para muchas de las misas, cantada a cuatro o más voces por el coro, era muy a menudo basada en una canción popular secular.  Por ejemplo, hubo más de treinta misas escritas durante el S. XVI basadas en la melodía popular L’Homme Arme’ (El hombre armado).  Mientras una voz cantaba la melodía original con la letra secular, las otras voces cantaban elaboradas contra-melodías con letras religiosas.[2]

Ulrico Zuinglio también da testimonio, indirectamente, en Las 67 conclusiones (1523) del caos que prevalecía en el culto de las iglesias europeas.

zuinglio-u-adoracion-verdadera-y-falsa

¿No es el cuadro hasta aquí descrito muy parecido a lo que la lucrativa industria de la llamada “música cristiana contemporánea” ha estado vendiéndole al mundo evangélico?  Música mundana, no reverente ni conducente al culto del Dios altísimo, con letras “religiosas” cursis, sentimentaloides, y a menudo heréticas o al menos doctrinalmente vacías.  Nuevamente la historia nos enseña que lo que llamamos “moderno” o “contemporáneo” no es tal, y que quienes creen estar a la vanguardia realmente están repitiendo errores y deformaciones añejas y otrora superadas.

La situación de la música en la Iglesia occidental llegó a ser tal en los albores de la Reforma, que las diversas ramas de la Reforma, ¡y aun el Vaticano!, tenían esta crisis en sus agendas de vicios que tenían que ser corregidos.

En el campo romanista, hasta el Concilio de Trento contempló la posibilidad de seguir a Ginebra en la medida de emergencia adoptada en un algún momento para poner remedio a esa situación, es decir, excluir del todo la música del culto, en vista de que, “la música se había vuelto tan secular que ya no era posible restaurarla a un lugar de valor en la adoración.”[3]  De no haber sido porque compositores de la Iglesia romana como Palestrina, Orlando Di Lasso, Vittoria,[4] y Jacobus Kerle,[5] comenzaron a producir música apta para la adoración, dicha Iglesia hubiese tenido que abolir del todo la música en el culto.[6]

En el ámbito protestante, Martín Lutero (quien contaba con conocimientos y habilidades musicales) se dio a la tarea de componer y compilar melodías reverentes y conducentes para la adoración a Dios, y de publicar himnarios, de manera que todos los cristianos (y no sólo los coros) pudiesen entonar los salmos y paráfrasis de textos bíblicos.  Lamentablemente, en virtud de que Lutero no sostenía el principio regulador o regulativo de la adoración, no reformó del todo el canto en la iglesia, dándole lugar también a himnos tradicionales de la Iglesia, cantatas, y misas para ser entonadas por coros y no por toda la congregación.   Con todo, empero, las melodías eran reverentes y conducentes a la adoración.

En el ámbito anglicano, a pesar de que la Iglesia de Inglaterra no cree en el principio regulador, por décadas, la música y el canto fueron desterrados del todo del culto público anglicano.

En el ámbito reformado (o “calvinista”), una vez superado el caos que había imperado, se enfatizó el deber y derecho de toda la congregación de participar activamente en el culto mediante el canto congregacional, a diferencia de los catolicorromanos que desestimaban el canto congregacional, tal y como sucede hoy día en el evangelicalismo que da un lugar protagónico si no es que exclusivo al “líder de alabanza” o “grupo de alabanza.”  Dicha práctica contraría la doctrina neotestamentaria del sacerdocio universal de los creyentes.

Habiendo abolido en un principio el uso de la música en el culto como una medida de emergencia, dada la corrupción a la que se había llegado, los reformadores “calvinistas” (incluyendo al propio Calvino en Ginebra) encargaron a los mejores compositores de filiación reformada a su disposición la composición de melodías reverentes y conducentes a la adoración pública de Dios, para que toda la congregación cantara los salmos y no solamente un grupo “selecto” como sucedía en el ámbito catolicorromano y parcialmente en el ámbito luterano que conservó los coros y los cantos que estos cantaban exclusivamente, es decir, sin la congregación.

Lamentablemente, hoy en día la mayoría de las iglesias que se dicen Reformadas han perdido la brújula bíblico-doctrinal que guió a los reformadores en la reforma de la música y el canto para la adoración pública de Dios, y consecuentemente han perdido el legado de ortodoxia y ortopraxis de la adoración a Dios mediante el canto congregacional de los salmos con melodías aptas para tal propósito.

Una de las pocas melodías que han sobrevivido a la marea mercantilista y trivializadora de la música “cristiana” es la que hoy se utiliza comúnmente para la doxología “A Dios el Padre celestial.”  Esta melodía, mejor conocida como The Old Hundredth, fue compuesta en 1551 por Louis de Bourgeois como parte del Salterio ginebrino para entonar el Salmo 100 (ver Salmo 100 para canto congregacional).  Dicho salterio fue encargado y publicado por el consistorio de la Iglesia de Ginebra en tiempos de Juan Calvino.

De hecho, muchas de las melodías del Salterio ginebrino fueron usadas a su vez en el Salterio escocés, y algunas de ellas siguen estando presentes en los himnarios que usamos pero, lamentablemente, ya no para alabar a Dios con las palabras que Él nos dejó para tal fin, los Salmos inspirados, sino para entonar himnos de autoría humana.

[1] Charles V. Standford & Cecil Forsyth, The History of Music, p. 138.  Citado en Horton Davies, Worship and Theology in England.  Book I: From Cranmer to Baxter and Fox, 1534-1690 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996), p. 377.

[2] Henry Bruinsma, “John Calvin and Church Music,” en The Outlook, Vol. 51, No. 2, February 2001; p. 5.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ver Davies, op. cit.

[5] Ver Bruinsma, op. cit.

[6] Ver Davies, op. cit.

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Nota editorial: Versión revisada (2016, 2017) de la versión original publicada por la revista El Faro (México, ca. 2008). 

Ver también: El culto de la sinagoga como modelo del culto de la Iglesia apostólica; Salmo 67 para canto congregacionalSalterio de ginebra en español, letra y músicaLa luz de la naturaleza es insuficiente para prescribir el culto (texto en imagen JPG)La espiritualidad del culto público en la Iglesia del Nuevo TestamentoLa enseñanza bíblica sobre la adoración pública del Dios verdadero (video-conferencia)Dos sermones sobre Éxodo 32:1-33:6, episodio del becerro de oro (audios); Pretender adorar a Dios en cualquier forma no prescrita por Él es superstición e idolatríaSermón temático: Soli Deo gloria (audio)La espiritualidad de la verdadera adoración en el Nuevo Testamento.

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Alejandro Moreno Morrison, de nacionalidad mexicana, es un abogado y teólogo reformado. Fue educado en la Escuela Libre de Derecho (México), el Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando, y la Universidad de Oxford.  En el Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando fue asistente del Rev. Dr. Richard L. Pratt, y del Rev. Dr. Ronald H. Nash.  Ha ministrado como maestro de doctrina cristiana y Biblia y como predicador en diversas iglesias y misiones de denominaciones como la Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada de México, la Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana de México, la Iglesia Nacional Presbiteriana Conservadora de México, la Presbyterian Church of America, la Presbyterian Church of Ireland, y la Reformed Presbyterian Church North America Synod.  Con esta último estuvo a cargo de una misión durante 2014.  También ha sido profesor invitado de Teología Sistemática, Ética, Evangelismo, y Apologética en el Seminario Teológico Reformado de la Iglesia Presbiteriana Reformada de México, y de Sistemas Políticos Contemporáneos en la Facultad de Derecho de la UNAM (México).  Desde 2010 es profesor adjunto de Filosofía del Derecho en la Escuela Libre de Derecho.