Dear friends :),
History is very important. Simply absent of theology, we must recognise the facts of history. I have a few questions based on John Calvin’s idea of the Church. :o
Calvin makes several very interesting points about the Church in this fourth book of the “Institutes of the Christian Religion” that are contrary to my expectations. It was written near to his death, and it’s somewhat less ‘protestant’ than his experiments in Geneva. There is a distinctly non-Papal flavour, but several points sound downright ancient and episcopal. His chapters are separated into Sections, and each section is numbered, so here are a few summaries of sections I’ve written:
Beginning with “[the Church,] into whose bosom God is pleased to collect his children, not only that by her aid and ministry they may be nourished so long as they are children, but may also be guided by her maternal care until they grow up to manhood and, finally, attain perfection to the faith.”
“Et unam, sanctam, catholicam, et apostolicam Ecclesiam” is taken to mean “I believe one … Church”, not “I believe in one Church”, since the Church is an instrument of God, not to be believed in of itself. He also says that the children of God in the Church are often indistinguishable from brute animals because of our sinfulness and greed, so we cannot be trusted. He says we need not believe “in” the Church, for we believe in God. He stresses the requirement of unity with all members of Christ’s Body, past and present; elect and militant.
He says that the Nicene Creed forces us to conclude that “every member must maintain brotherly concord with all the children of God, give due authority to the Church, and conduct ourselves as sheep of the flock”. “Christ would not allow His faithful followers to be severed from Him, just as He would never allow members of His own body to be torn apart … so long as we remain in the bosom of the Church, we are sure that the truth will remain with us”.
He says that membership in the Church is required and necessary in Earthly life, as it keeps us in the framework that brings us to eternal life, allows forgiveness of sins, and brings us to salvation. He concludes that holiness is always in those who are His people, and that the abandonment of the Church is “fatal”.
“We see that God, who might perfect His people in a moment, chooses not to bring them to manhood in any other way than by the education of the Church”. “All who reject the spiritual food of the soul divinely offered to them by the hands of the Church deserve to perish of hunger and famine”. “Just as He appointed prophets to speak as angels in the Old, so He appoints masters and priests to speak His word in the New”. (But they must remain holy and do the works of faith in Christ, if they are truly masters - never to be evil)
He also says that pride leads some men to believe they can study in private, ignoring public meetings of the faithful and preaching. He says that many wicked errors spring up in the mind when this state is reached.