Daily Archives: 9 Nov 2014

How Do the Early Church and the Modern Church Differ?

A brief look at Acts helps us see the answer to that question:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

First- the early Church was a church of devoted people.  Devoted to learning, fellowship, communion, and prayer.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common;  they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need.

Second- the early Church was a church of people who shared their excess with those who had less.  The Apostles didn’t charge for their services (unlike most ‘healers’ today) and the regular folk didn’t believe that they lived only for themselves.

Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts,  praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved. (Act 2:42-47)

Finally- the early Church was a church which met not just sparingly but daily.  In doing so they were knit into an authentic community and as a real community, the Church was really attractive to all those who had no community of their own.

So what of the modern Church?

First- The modern Church, by contrast, is comprised for the most part of people who are not devoted to learning, fellowship, communion, or prayer.  They are devoted to sports, but not to faith.

Second- The modern Church, by contrast, is not populated, in the West, of people who willingly sell what they have to benefit the poor.  Sell what they have?  No.

Finally- The modern Church, by contrast, is not willing to assemble more than once a week, if that often.

The reason for the malaise of Christianity in Western culture and the spiritual malaise of many if not most Christians can be directly attributed to a failure to do the three things which the early Church did daily.  The cure for the modern Church’s malaise is the adoption of the three facets of practice long ago abandoned.

Of course that would take personal commitment by every Christian.  And that would be nothing short of a miracle.

Wendy’s… Their Meat Is Not What You Think (Apparently)

Via the twitter-


The Passage of Scripture the Universalists Ignore

Dante and Virgil in Hell‘When the Son of man comes in his glory, escorted by all the angels, then he will take his seat on his throne of glory.   All nations will be assembled before him and he will separate people one from another as the shepherd separates sheep from goats.  He will place the sheep on his right hand and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right hand, “Come, you whom my Father has blessed, take as your heritage the kingdom prepared for you since the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you made me welcome,  lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you visited me, in prison and you came to see me.”  Then the upright will say to him in reply, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and make you welcome, lacking clothes and clothe you? When did we find you sick or in prison and go to see you?”  And the King will answer, “In truth I tell you, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

Then he will say to those on his left hand, “Go away from me, with your curse upon you, to the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you never gave me food, I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink,  I was a stranger and you never made me welcome, lacking clothes and you never clothed me, sick and in prison and you never visited me.”  Then it will be their turn to ask, “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or lacking clothes, sick or in prison, and did not come to your help?”  Then he will answer, “In truth I tell you, in so far as you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you neglected to do it to me.”  And they will go away to eternal punishment, and the upright to eternal life.’ (Mat 25:31-46 NJB)

The righteous aren’t saved by good works: they do good works because they are redeemed.  The rejected are rejected and not metaphorically.  Not everyone goes to blessedness- many go to eternal punishment.

You Learn Something New Every Day

Especially when you’re reading books in manuscript form pre-publication.  Today’s gem- the word favored by the Reformers for the anabaptists:


I shall now use it of Joel Watts with delighted regularity.

Tomorrow is the Anniversary of Luther’s Birth

So, it’s time to call him to account for his mean treatment of the dear Zwingli.  So, Martin, why did you say this?

“Offenses arise from my teaching, but I comfort myself as Paul did when he wrote to Titus that this truth was revealed to further the faith of the elect [Titus 1:1]. For the sake of the elect it [the deed of Christ] was done. It is for their sake that we preach, for they are serious about it. I wouldn’t lose a word over the rest. I’ve bitten into many a nut, believing it to be good, only to find it wormy. Zwingli and Erasmus are nothing but wormy nuts that taste like trap in one’s mouth.”


Candida’s Latest

The idea that intersexed bodies are “birth defects” is perpetuated by a lack of familiarity with intersexuality. But it wasn’t always this way.

This week news broke that the Vatican would be inviting representatives of the world’s religions to a conference in late November on the “Complementarity of Man and Woman.” The conference’s attendees will be drawn from 23 countries and include speakers from Judaism, Hinduism, and Islam as well as conservative Protestants like mega-church pastor Rick Warren. After the recent media storm over the “softening” of the Church’s position on same-sex marriage and divorce, the announcement of a conference on the “complementary” (read: different and not necessarily equal) roles of men and women has flown completely under the radar. It just doesn’t fit public perceptions of Pope Francis.

Feminists should be concerned about the invocation of traditional roles. But in this discussion there’s a bigger issue here: when will religious groups talk about intersexuality?

Ignorance about the existence of persons with intersex conditions is hardly limited to the religious. Also known as hermaphroditism or DSD (“differences of sex development”), intersex is a general term used to describe a whole range of conditions in which a person’s sexual anatomy does not fit conventional definitions of male and female. Sometimes intersex happens at birth but sometimes it is revealed later in life—most commonly at puberty.


Not being at all familiar with any of what she covers I’m appreciative of her insights.  She’s really a good scholar with such varied interests and talents of expression.

The Ecclesiastical Ordinances of 1541

A good overview of the Ordinances is available here.

calvin_consistory_1549In the ecclesiastical ordinances Jean Calvin defines the organisation of the Church and the relations between the reformed Church and the political power in Geneva.

The ordinances define four church ministries.

  • The Pastors preach God’s word and perform sacraments. However, they cannot implement civil jurisdiction and must take a civil oath to make the people respect the city’s authority.
    The Doctors teach the holy doctrine.
    The Elders keep watch over the morality of the believers. They are lay people chosen by the city councils.
    The Deacons are in charge of the poor and the sick.


And here are the ordinances:

First there are four orders of offices instituted by our Saviour for the government of his Church: namely, the pastors, then the doctors, next the elders [nominated and appointed by the government,] and fourthly the deacons. If we wish to see the Church well-ordered and maintained we ought to observe this form of government.

The duty of pastors

Pastors are sometimes named in the Bible as overseers, elders and ministers. Their work is to proclaim the Word of God, to teach, admonish, exhort and reprove publicly and privately, to administer the sacraments and, with the elders or their deputies, to issue fraternal warnings.

The examination of pastors

This consists of two parts. The first concerns doctrine – to find out if the candidate has a good and sound knowledge of the Bible; and, secondly, comes his suitability for expounding this to the people for their edification.

Further, to avoid any danger of his having any wrong ideas, it is fitting that he should profess to accept and uphold the teaching approved by the Church.

Questions must be asked to find out if he is a good teacher and he must privately set forth the teaching of our Lord.

Next, it must be ascertained that he is a man of good principles without any known faults.

The selection of pastors

First the ministers should choose someone suitable for the position [and notify the government]. Then he is to be presented to the council. If he is approved, he will be accepted and received by the council. [as it thinks fit]. He is then given a certificate to be produced when he preaches to the people, so that he can be received by the common consent of the faithful. If he is found to be unsuitable and this demonstrated by evidence, there must be a new selection to find another.

As to the manner of introducing him, because the ceremonies previously used led to a great deal of superstition, all that is needed is that a minister should explain the nature of the position to which he has been. appointed and then prayers and pleas should be made that our Lord will give him grace to do what is needed.

After election he must take an oath of allegiance to the government following a written form as required of a minister.

Weekly meetings to be arranged

In the first place it is desirable that all ministers should meet together once a week. This is to maintain purity and agreement in their teaching and to hold Bible discussions. Attendance shall be compulsory unless there is good reason for absence…As for the preachers in the villages under the control of the government, it is for the city ministers to urge them to attend whenever possible…

What should be done in cases of difference about doctrine

If any differences of opinion concerning doctrine should arise, the ministers should gather together and discuss the matter. If necessary, they should call in the elders and commissioners [appointed by the government] to assist in the settlement of any difficulties.

There must be some means available to discipline ministers…to prevent scandalous living. In this way, respect for the ministry can be maintained and the Word of God not debased by any minister bringing it into scorn and derision. Those who deserve it must be corrected, but at the same time care must be taken to deal with gossip and malicious rumours which can bring harm to innocent parties.

But it is of first importance to notice that certain crimes are quite incompatible with the ministry and cannot be dealt with by fraternal rebuke. Namely heresy, schism, rebellion against Church discipline, open blasphemy deserving civil punishment, simony and corrupt inducement, intriguing to take over one another’s position, leaving the Church without special permission, forgery.

There follows the second order which we have called the doctors

The special duty of the doctors is to instruct the faithful in sound doctrine so that the purity of the gospel is not corrupted by ignorance or wrong opinion.

As thing stand at present, every agent assisting in the upholding of God’s teaching is included so that the Church is not in difficulties from a lack of pastors and ministers. This is in common parlance the order of school teachers. The degree nearest the minister and closely joined to the government of the Church is the lecturer in theology.

Establishment of a college

Because it is only possible to profit from such teaching if one is first instructed in languages and humanities, and also because it is necessary to lay the foundations for the future…a college should be instituted for instructing children to prepare them for the ministry as well as for civil government.

In the first place suitable accommodation needs to be provided for the teaching of children and others who want to take advantage of it. We also need a literate, scholarly and trained teacher who can take care of the establishment and their education. He should be chosen and paid on the understanding that he should have under his charge teachers in languages and logic, if they can be found. He should also have some student teachers (bacheliers) to teach the little ones…

All who are engaged must be subject to the same ecclesiastical ordinances as apply to the ministers.

There is to be no other school in the city for small children, although the girls are to have a separate school of their own as has been the case up to now.

No one is to be appointed without the approval of the ministers – essential to avoid trouble. [The candidate must first have been notified to the government and then presented to the council. Two members of the ‘council of 24’ should be present at all interviews.]

Here follows the third order, or elders

Their duty is to supervise every person’s conduct. In friendly fashion they should warn backsliders and those of disorderly life. After that, where necessary, they should report to the Company [of pastors] who will arrange for fraternal correction…

As our Church is now arranged, it would be most suitable to have two elected from the ‘council of 24’, four from the ‘council of 60’ and six from the ‘council of 200’. They should be men of good repute and conduct…They should be chosen from each quarter of the city so that they can keep an eye on the whole of it.

Method of choosing the elders

Further we have decided upon the machinery for choosing them. The ‘council of 24’ will be asked to nominate the most suitable and adequate men they can discover. In order to do this, they should discuss the matter with the ministers and then present their suggestion to the ‘council of 200’ for approval. If they are found worthy land [and approved], they must take an oath in the same form as it is presented to the ministers. At the end of the year and after the elections to the council, they should present themselves to the government so that a decision can be made as to whether they shall be re-appointed or not, but they should not be changed frequently and without good cause provided that they are doing their work faithfully.

The fourth order of ecclesiastical government, namely, the deacons

There have always been two kinds of these in the early Church. One has to receive, distribute and care for the goods of the poor (i.e. daily alms as well as possessions, rents and pensions); the other has to tend and look after the sick and administer the allowances to the poor as is customary. [In order to avoid confusion], since we have officials and hospital staff, [one of the four officials of the said hospital should be responsible for the whole of its property and revenues and he should have an adequate salary in order to do his work properly.]

Concerning the hospital

Care should be taken to see that the general hospital is properly maintained. This applies to the sick, to old people no longer able to work, to widows, orphans, children and other poor people. These are to be kept apart and separate from others and to form their own community.

Care for the poor who are scattered throughout the city shall be the responsibility of the officials. In addition to the hospital for those visiting the city, which is to be kept up, separate arrangements are to be made for those who need special treatment. To this end a room must be set apart to act as a reception room for those that are sent there by the officials..

Further, both for the poor people in the hospital and for those in the city who have no means, there must be a good physician and surgeon provided at the city’s expense…

As for the plague hospital, it must be kept entirely separate.


In order to stop begging, which is contrary to good order, the government should use some of its officers to remove any beggars who are obstinately present when people come out of Church.

And this especially if it should happen that the city is visited by this scourge of God.

Of the sacraments

Baptism is to take place only at sermon time and is to be administered only by ministers or their assistants. A register is to be kept of the names of the children and of their parents: the justice department is to be informed of any bastard.

Since the Supper was instituted by our Lord to be more often observed by us and also since this was the case in the early Church until such time as the devil upset everything by setting up the mass in its place, the defect ought to be remedied by celebrating it a little more frequently. All the same, for the time being we have agreed and ordained that it should be administered four times a year, i.e. at Christmas, Easter, Pentecost and the first Sunday in September in the autumn.

The ministers shall distribute the bread in orderly and reverent fashion and no other person shall offer the chalice except those appointed (or the deacons) along with the ministers and for this reason there is no need for many plates and cups.

The tables should be set up close to the pulpit so that the mystery can be more suitably set forth near by.

Celebration should take place only in church and at the most suitable time.

Of the order which must be observed in obedience to those in authority, for the maintenance of supervision in the Church

A day should be fixed for the consistory. The elders, should meet once a week with the ministers, on a Thursday, to ensure that there is no disorder in the Church and to discuss together any necessary remedial action.

Since they have neither the power nor the authority to use force, we have agreed to assign one of our officials to them to summon those whom they wish to admonish.

If any one should deliberately refuse to appear, the council is to be informed so as to take action.

If any one teaches things contrary to the received doctrine he shall be summoned to a conference. If he listens to reason, let him be sent back without any scandal or disgrace. If he is obstinate, he should be admonished several times until it is apparent that greater severity is needed: then he shall be forbidden to attend the communion of the Supper and he shall be reported to the magistrates.

If any one fails to come to church to such a degree that there is real dislike for the community of believers manifested, or if any one shows that he cares nothing for ecclesiastical order, let him be admonished, and if he is tractable let him be amicably sent back. If however he goes from bad to worse, after having been warned three times, let him be cut off from the Church and be denounced to the magistrate…

[All this must be done in such a way that the ministers have no civil jurisdiction nor use anything but the spiritual sword of the word of God as St Paul commands them; nor is the authority of the consistory to diminish in any way that of the magistrate or ordinary justice. The civil power must remain unimpaired. In cases where, in future, there may be a need to impose punishments or constrain individuals, then the ministers and the consistory, having heard the case and used such admonitions and exhortations as are appropriate, should report the whole matter to the council which, in turn, will judge and sentence according to the needs of the case.]

The Day the Council of Geneva Agreed to Calvin’s Condition of Return

calvin213It was 9 November, 1541  that the Council of Geneva voted to adopt Calvin’s disciplinary rules for the city- and which adoption would be the condition upon which he would return to that wretched place.

On September 13th, 1541, Calvin returned to Geneva, and took up the work which had been interrupted. The Council provided him a house, and voted him a stipend of 500 florins per year, equal to £140. The Reformer lost no time in entering upon his work. Within a few days of his arrival, the citizens were summoned to the cathedral for confession of sin and prayer to God. After this, Calvin set himself to construct for Geneva a form of government that would establish the Reformation on a secure basis. His idea seems to have been a kind of Biblical Republic combining church and state into one organization, very much after the order of things prevailing in the time of Moses.

It is important to realise this, as it will explain much of what followed. Writing to Farel on September 16th, 1541, he says of this: “Immediately after I had offered my services to the Senate, I declared that a church could not hold together unless a settled government should be agreed on, such as is prescribed to us in the Word of God, and such as was in use in the ancient church. I requested that they would appoint certain of their number who might confer with us on the subject. Six were then appointed.”

A draft of the agreed laws of discipline was presented to the Council on September 28th; and its history then is: examination continued to October 27; adopted by the Two Hundred, November 9; accepted by the General Council, November 20; and finally voted by the people on January 2nd, 1542. “It is from that date,” records Bungener, “that the Calvinistic republic legally dates.”*

It’s a shame that Calvin’s rules aren’t in place around the world.

*John Calvin: His Life, His Teaching, and His Influence (pp. 90–92).

Happy Sunday

That is all.