Francis Turretin and His Love for Biblical Truth
Much of Turretin’s work was aimed at protecting the church from what he considered the greatest doctrinal threats—Roman Catholicism, Arminianism, and Amyrauldianism—and encouraging Christians to stay faithful to Scriptures.
Francis, the third of the seven children of Benedetto and Louise Turretin, was born on October 17, 1623 and named after his paternal grandfather. Recognizing the boy’s exceptional intelligence, Benedetto encouraged his studies. But Benedetto died when Francis was only seven, and Louise became the most important figure in Francis’s life—as later correspondence attests.
Studies and Travels
After studying at the Geneva Academy under renowned teachers such as Giovanni Diodati and Theodore Tronchin, Turretin traveled to some of the best European university of that time, spending time Leiden, Utrecht, Paris, Saumur, Montauban, and Nîmes.
Antoine Leger, pastor and professor in Geneva, was concerned about Turretin’s inevitable exposure to heterodox theological views (such as the widespread Socinianism), but advised him to treat others with charity.
Turretin did, in fact, come into contact with many different ideas. He became particularly acquainted with Amyrauldianism, a system of doctrines that, with a belief in hypothetical universalism, was considered very akin to Arminianism. In fact, Turretin became friends with a sympathizer of this system, Jean Daillé, and continued to correspond with him for the rest of his life – maybe remembering the reminder Leger had given him: “intimate friendship enjoys hours of constant strain.”
A Pastor’s Heart
As soon as Turretin returned to Geneva in 1647, the city’s Company of Pastors proposed that he should seek ordination. After he passed the required exams, he was appointed to the ministry and called to serve as pastor of the Italian church. But, before the actual laying of hands, he requested two weeks to think it over. Apparently, he disliked being pressured. Once, when he felt pressured to serve as a professor at the Academy, he even asked to withdraw his consent to ordination.
Before Turretin began his pastorate in the the Italian church, the Company of Pastors received a letter from the church in Lyon, asking them to send Turretin to them “on loan” as a pastor. They had met Turretin before, during one of his travels. The Company refused, and in 1549 Turretin was ordained as pastor of the Italian church in Geneva.
Turretin took his ministry seriously, refusing an appointment to the Chair of Philosophy at the Academy, since his pastorate was taking all of his time. In 1652, however, the church in Lyon repeated their request. To convince Turretin to answer their call, the elders of that church wrote a letter to Turretin’s mother, asking her to encourage her son to accept (another indication of her influence on him). The letter was delivered by two ambassadors who insisted on the urgency of the matter. A plea also came from Turretin’s friend Daillé, who was sincerely concerned about the situation in Lyon at that time.
Moved by the urgency of the matter but hesitant to let Turretin go, the Company of Pastors agreed to send him for three or four months. The three months turned to ten, and still the church in Lyon was begging him to stay indefinitely. Eventually, the Company of Pastors requested him back.
The church and the city of Lyon, sad to see him leave, composed a poem of gratitude in his honor, naming him “star of the morning, beautiful and dawning dawn…blessed man of God, offspring of a worthy father, mouth of gold…heart inflamed with love for faithful souls, charitable, zealous, enemy of the rebels, rich vase where all goods are amply kept.”
“Maybe our faults have caused this loss, but who was not moved by your eloquent mouth?…Farewell, rising sun, farewell. The whole church, regretting your departure and missing your exquisite doctrine, says good-bye, with full affection.”