Today With Calvin

On this day in 1537 Calvin published his

Articles concerning the Organization of the Church and of Worship at Geneva proposed by the Ministers at the Council January 16, 1537

Which begins

Right Honourable Gentlemen: it is certain that a Church cannot be said to be well ordered and regulated unless in it the Holy Supper of our Lord is always being celebrated and frequented, and this under such good supervision that no one dare presume to present him self unless devoutly, and with genuine reverence for it. For this reason, in order to maintain the Church in its integrity, the discipline of excommunication is necessary, by which it is possible to correct those that do not wish to submit courteously and with all obedience to the Word of God. Further, it is a thing very expedient for the edification of the Church, to sing some psalms in the form of public devotions by which one may pray to God, or to sing his praise so that the hearts of all be roused and incited to make like prayers and render like praises and thanks to God with one accord. Third, it is strictly required and quite necessary for maintaining the people in purity of doctrine, that infants of tender age be so instructed that they are able to give reason for the faith, so that evangelical doctrine is not left to decay, and also that its substance be diligently maintained and transmitted from hand to hand and from father to son. Finally out of the tyranny which the! exercised in the matter of marriage and the iniquitous laws which he imposed, many controversies persist. To settle them, it would be advisable to make certain ordinances by which they may be controlled, and, if any difference of opinion arise, to take appropriate steps for composing them.

It’s a grand work, still worth reading.

Today With Calvin

It was 11 January, 1546, that Calvin’s Order for the Visitation of the Ministers and Parishes dependent on Geneva appeared. It

calvin87… shows that at this time the reformer realized the need for drawing up a new draft for organizing a regular inspection of the country churches, in order to ensure the maintenance of good order and the supervision of ministers in the exercise of their functions, as well as of the congregations in the discharge of their religious duties. Calvin presented his draft to the meeting of the Council on January 25, 1546 when it was adopted. The Register of the Venerable Company reports the introduction of these visitations in these terms: “In the month of (? January) 1546, it was resolved by the brethren met in general assembly, that henceforth visitations be made of all the parishes of the Church of Geneva. It was also agreed by those present, and ordained, that two counsellors should also go with the ministers to visit the local lords, so that the minister on his side might make enquiry concerning the doctrine and life of the pastor of the place and the counsellors of the life of the squire.” This rule later found a place in the Ordinances of 1561.*

Can you imagine such a thing taking place today? Every mega-church would be closed down and Rick Warren, Mark Driscoll, and their ilk would be shown the outbound road of town and ordered never to return. And that’s why we call them ‘the good old days’.

Here are the five major purposes of the ‘inspection’:

calvin2First, in order to maintain proper uniformity of doctrine in the whole body of the Church of Geneva, that is to say in the city and also in the parishes dependent on the Seigneury, the Magistracy is to elect two of their Lordships of the Council and similarly the Ministers two of their Congregation, who will be charged with going once a year to visit each parish, to enquire whether the Ministry of the place have accepted any doctrine in any sense new and repugnant to the purity of the gospel.

Second, this Visitation is to enquire whether the Minister preaches edifyingly, or whether there be anything at all scandalous, or unfitting to the instruction of the people because it is obscure, or treats of superfluous questions, or exercises too great rigour, or some similar fault.

Third, to exhort the people to attendance at Service, to have a liking for it, and to find profit in it for Christian living; and to expound what is the office of the Ministry, in order that they understand how they ought to discharge it.

calvin3Fourth, to know whether the Minister is diligent not only in preaching but also in visiting the sick, and particularly in admonishing those that need it, and to prevent anything that might be for the dishonour of God.

Fifth, to discover whether he lead an honest life, and show a good example, or if he commit any dissoluteness or frivolity which renders him contemptible, or if he get on well with his people and likewise with all his family.

Yessir- the mega-churchers would be finished, and so would a lot of so called churches where everything but the Gospel is preached and ministers of all sorts of depraved cravings fleece the flock.

Oh for the really, really good old days…

*J.K.S. Reid, Calvin: Theological Treatises, p. 73.

Fun Facts From Church History: Calvin’s Family, too, Had its Warts

The wife of [Calvin’s] beloved brother, Antoine, long suspected of unworthy conduct, was charged with adultery committed with Calvin’s hunchbacked secretary-servant, Pierre Dagnet, while all were inhabiting Calvin’s house. On January 7, 1557, Calvin and his brother laid the case before the Consistory, by which it was referred to the Little Council. On February 16th, the crime having been proved, the Little Council gave Antoine a divorce and ordered his former wife to leave the city.

The scandal and the chagrin of the reformer were great; but the case seems to have been aggravated. It gave to his enemies, however, an annoying point of attack, especially when Antoine Calvin shocked Roman Catholic feeling by marrying again in 1560.

Nor was this the only trial occasioned by those of his own household and circle that Calvin was to experience. In 1562, his step-daughter, Judith, fell into similar disgrace,—a matter which Calvin felt so keenly that he left the city to seek the solitude of the country for a few days after the misdeed became public knowledge.*

See, you aren’t the only one with messed up relatives…

*Williston Walker, John Calvin: The Organiser of Reformed Protestantism (New York; London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1906), 357–358.

That One Time When Geneva Decided Any Wretch Was Welcome to the Lord’s Supper…

During Calvin’s first stint in Geneva, he insisted that the Church alone be allowed to determine who could receive the Lord’s Supper.   Unrepentant wretches and those living in open disobedience to God were refused entry.

Although the civil rulers of Geneva at first co-operated to the best of their ability with Calvin, opposition soon arose. Crypto-Catholics, some of them belonging to prominent families, and the so-called Libertines, as well as partisans of Farel like Ami Porral and others, opposed the strict discipline which Calvin sought to impose upon their city. When on January 4, 1538, the Council of Two Hundred voted “that the Supper be refused to no one,” thus offering a direct affront to Calvin and Farel who had vehemently insisted upon the exclusive right of the church and its clergy to determine admission to or exclusion from the Lord’s Supper, the opposition took on serious character. A few months later, on April 22, 1538, the Council ordered Calvin and Farel to leave the city of Geneva within three days. Thus ended Calvin’s first attempt to put into practice his high church ideal.*

*William Mueller A., Church and State in Luther and Calvin: A Comparative Study, 109.

Calvin: on Illness and Death

Do not, therefore, cast away your consolation, for that it hath pleased the Lord to abase you for a season, seeing that this is no more than what the Scripture forewarns you must come to pass, even that he exalts the humble and the despised, and lifteth them out of the dust, the needy he raises up from the dunghill; that to those who are in weeping and in tears he gives a crown of joy; that he gives light to those who sit in darkness, and raises up to newness of life those who have dwelt in the valley of the shadow of death. Hope, therefore, that this gracious God will open such a deliverance that you shall have good cause to magnify and also to glorify his clemency.  — John Calvin

Fun Facts From Church History: Weird Ideas About the Lord’s Supper if Celebrated on Christmas Day

Calvin writes

[A] new matter for a tragedy has arisen out of mere nothing. For the chief magistrate of Ternier, on false and reckless information, eagerly summoned, as he is accustomed to do, John de Saint André before a public tribunal, charging him with having said before a public assembly, that whoever received the Supper on Christmas-day, received the devil and not Christ. And witnesses were found to give evidence against him. In short, Satan will not lay aside such fanners as these until he has kindled some dreadful conflagration.

Strange people were about in the 16th century.  Very strange people who believed strange things about Christmas day.  Calvin did his best to disabuse them of their superstitious notions but people are hard to teach.

The 2018 Calvin Conference at Westminster Theological Seminary

Since 1974, the International Calvin Congress has been meeting in forums around the globe to further the academic and theological study of John Calvin’s work. The Congress has been held at academic institutions in South Africa, Germany, Japan, Scotland, Switzerland and the United States. Westminster Theological Seminary is proud to be the selected institution for the 12th meeting of the Congress, which will be held August 26–31, 2018.

The purpose of the International Calvin Congress is to bring together scholars from around the world, both from university and seminary settings, who focus their work on the history and doctrines of John Calvin. The scholars who participate are not necessarily in ministry or church work, but they are scholars who universally recognize the importance of Calvin and the Reformation.

During the Congress meetings there are typically two plenary keynote addresses, along with several smaller sessions where scholars are invited to present papers on various topics. The main theme of the 2018 Congress is “John Calvin: the Bible’s Impact on Politics and Freedom.” The papers are typically presented in English, German or French, and many of them are formally published after the Congress.

In hosting the 2018 International Calvin Congress, Westminster will be welcoming many renowned Reformation scholars from across the globe. “We hope that our students will not only join us in welcoming the scholars onto our campus but will also participate in the conference by attending the lectures and, if appropriate, perhaps even share in presenting a short paper,” Lillback commented. Rules for paper submissions will be posted at a later date.

John Calvin will be honored in a number of ways at Westminster in 2018. Not only will the Congress be held on campus, but Dr. Carl Trueman and Dr. Bruce Gordon will be publishing their book, The Oxford Handbook of Calvin and Calvinism. This significant volume will contain 20–30 essays, each of which will be devoted to a unique aspect of Calvinism. Some of the topics include Calvinism in Brazil, Calvinism and Scottish literature, and Calvinism and secularism.

As we finish out the year, Westminster will be continuing preparations for the publication of this book as well as hosting the 2018 International Calvin Congress. Our Communications department is developing a website for the Congress, which will be live in the first half of 2017 and will provide information on event registration, paper submission and other important details. We will continue to update our website as further details are confirmed.

Mark your calendars!  The 2014 meeting in Zurich was absolutely brilliant, so Philadelphia is a must attend.  And keep a lookout for updates on the Conference website (on the off chance that I miss them).

Fun Facts From Church History: Calvin was No Coward

[Calvin] himself in 1547 confronted the Council of Two Hundred. Feeling had then been running high about the laws for the enforcement of public morals. The Council itself was sharply divided. Calvin, of course, was fiercely abused by those who were opposed to his policy. The Council met on December 16. Word was brought to him that sharp contention had arisen at the meeting, and that threats of violence had been uttered. The streets were filled with excited throngs. He said that he would himself attend the Council. His friends remonstrated, but in vain. He passed through the streets to the council chamber, at the doors of which, as he tells us in his letter to Viret, a tumultuous assembly was gathered.

‘Fearful,’ he says, ‘was the sight. I cast myself into the thickest of the crowd. I was pulled to and fro by those who wished to save me from harm. I called God to witness that I was come to offer myself to their swords, if they thirsted for blood.’

In his farewell words to the ministers of Geneva, just before his death, he refers to this incident, and says that when he entered the Council they said to him, ‘Sir, withdraw, it is not with you we have to do;’ and that he answered, ‘No, I shall not! Go on, rascals, kill me, and my blood will witness against you, and even these benches shall require it.’ He indeed could truly say, ‘The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’*

*C. H. Irwin, John Calvin: The Man and His Work (Bellingham, WA: The Religious Tract Society, 1909), 114–116.

Fun Facts From Church History: Calvin’s Foes and the Ends they Went to In Order to Discourage Him

calvin4It took ten years constant and vigilant police oversight with combined moral and spiritual education to secure to Calvin his triumph over the intrigues of parties and the hatred of base born men. From 1545 to 1555 he felt the utmost venom of their opposition.

At one time he almost despaired and, December 14, 1547, wrote to Farel: “Affairs are in such a state of confusion that I despair of being able longer to retain the Church, at least by my own endeavors.” His opponents were of the same crowd who drove him away in 1538, and though they afterwards submitted, and in the case of one or two, even joined in the invitation for his return, yet under the fretting of his harsh discipline they began serious and offensive resistance.

They nicknamed him “Cain,” and named dogs after him; they threatened him in the pulpit, and fired guns off under his windows; even trying on one occasion to wrest from his hands the sacred elements at the Eucharist. Only an extraordinary man could have resisted the pressure.*

Just remember that the next time your Elders or Deacons call you up and tell you you’re a failure.  At least they aren’t naming their dogs after you… or…. are they?

RT Stevenson, John Calvin: The Statesman, p. 137.

Calvin On Those Who Lie About Faith

zwingli_calvinHow does [John] prove that they are liars who boast that they have faith without piety? even by the contrary effect; for he has already said, that the knowledge of God is efficacious. For God is not known by a naked imagination, since he reveals himself inwardly to our hearts by the Spirit. Besides, as many hypocrites vainly boast that they have faith, the Apostle charges all such with falsehood. –  John Calvin

It’s not hard to imagine what Calvin would say about Trump, Moore, Falwell Jr, Metaxas, White, and the rest of Trump’s religious advisory council…

Quote of the Day

calvin87We must carefully notice these two things—that a knowledge of all the sciences is mere smoke, where the heavenly science of Christ is wanting; and man, with all his acuteness, is as stupid for obtaining of himself a knowledge of the mysteries of God, as an ass is unqualified for understanding musical harmonies.*

*John Calvin, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians, 1:20.

Predestination and Preaching in Genevan Theology from Calvin to Pictet

Given the conclusions of recent research, that predestination was no central dogma to, and did not affect the method of reformed theology, this study investigates the question of if and how the doctrne of predestination affected the ideas and practice of preaching. The relation of predestination and covenant, congregation, atonement, faith etc. are researched in the theology and sermons of John Calvin, Theodore Beza, John Diodati, and Theodore Tronchin, Francis Turretin, and Benedict Pictet.

This study shows that in Genevan Reformed Theology from Calvin to Pictet, predestination and the external call were inseparably connected, but that the doctrine of predestination neither dominated the content nor restricted the address of the external call.

Zwingli and Others on Harlots and Harlotry

Is it not a disgraceful thing to sleep with a woman and next morning hold mass? Answer: Can one not also do that if he has stayed with a harlot? If we had not conscience otherwise than that we so far forgetting God and ourselves should be inclined to such wickedness…  – H. Zwingli

I am now come to speak of adultery, which is a sin whereby the husband goeth to another woman, or the wife turneth aside after another man, to whom they make common the use of their bodies, which are not their own bodies now, but their mates in wedlock. Some there are that flatter themselves, and are of opinion, that they are not culpable of adultery, if they have the company of any unbetrothed maiden, or one that is unmarried; or if a woman play the harlot with an unwedded man: they will have it (in God’s name) to be fornication, and not adultery. But the scripture teacheth the contrary. Thou goest to another woman, thou art an adulterer: thou breakest thy faith, thou art forsworn: thy body is not thine, but thy wife’s; when therefore thou bestowest thy body on another, thou committest adultery. If thou, being wedded, dost lie with a married wife, thou doublest the sin of thine adultery. – H. Bullinger

… all know that no seed is so fertile in propagating mankind as the sacerdotal: for to such a degree has the untamed lust of almost all monks and popish priests burst forth, that he is justly deemed chastest who is satisfied with a harlot in his house. — J. Calvin

Never has a heathen, never a Turk, never a pope, never an emperor, and never any human being on earth made or enforced a law that anyone should be put to death because of marriage.  It is a new, unheard-of thing, begun by you new bishops, who are the greatest endowment robbers, harlot keepers, and whore hunters on earth in your chapters.  Nor do you do it for the sake of chastity, but all because others will not practice harlotry and unchastity, as you do, for you let them go unpunished. No one can believe that you conscientiously intend chastity with this penalty, since there are no greater enemies of chastity anywhere than you are, for you pursue it in your own bodies with all lewdness most shamefully, without letup. – M. Luther

Today With Calvin: In Dispute With Hesshuss

On November 28, 1554 Calvin published a tract against one Hesshuss of Westphalia who had involved himself in dispute with the Reformer on the subject of the sacraments. That was a pretty bad idea on the part of Mr Hesshuss- for Calvin noted in the Preface:

It is the property of Satan to slander, to darken the light; and as the father of contention, to destroy peace, and break the unity of the faith. Such being the characteristics of this babbler, nothing remains for us but to designate him a child of the devil.”*

Yes, it’s a bad idea to annoy Calvin, known to many as ‘Mr I-Won’t-Put-Up-With-Any-Of-Your-Nonsense!’  I like that about him.

*The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer Volume 2 (281). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

Today With Calvin

The Catechism of the Church of Geneva: that is a Plan for Instructing Children in the Doctrine of Christ was published on 27 November, 1545. Every citizen of the City was to learn it.

Here’s his introduction:

It has always been a practice and diligent care of the Church, that children be rightly brought up in Christian doctrine. To do this more conveniently, not only were schools formerly opened and individuals enjoined to teach their families properly, but also it was accepted public custom and practice to examine children in the Churches concerning the specific points which should be common and familiar to all Christians. That this be done in order, a formula was written out, called Catechism or Institute.

After this, the devil, miserably rending the Church of God and bringing upon it his fearful destruction (of which the marks are all too evident in most parts of the world), subverted this sacred policy; nor did he leave surviving anything more than certain trivialities, which give rise only to superstitions, without any edifying fruit. Of this kind is that Confirmation, as they call it, made up of gesticulations which are more than ridiculous and suited rather to monkeys, and rest on no foundation.

What we now bring forward, therefore, is nothing else than the use of a practice formerly observed by Christians and the true worshippers of God, and never neglected until the Church was wholly corrupted.

Learned Christian children make learned Christian adults.

Calvin’s Letter to Bullinger, About Luther, on 25 November 1544

In a letter to Bullinger, dated November 25, 1544, he adjured him to treat the great man, meaning Luther, with respect:—

“I hear that Luther assails not only you, but all of us, with horrible abuse. Now I can scarcely ask you to be silent, since it is not right to allow ourselves to be so undeservedly abused, without attempting some defence. It is difficult moreover to believe that such forbearance could do any good. I wish however that the following may be clearly understood:—in the first place, how great a man Luther is; by what extraordinary gifts he is distinguished; and with what energy of soul, with what perseverance, with what ability and success he has continued up to the present day to overthrow the kingdom of antichrist, and to extend at the same time the doctrine of salvation.

I have already often said, that were he to call me a devil, I should still continue to venerate him as a chosen servant of God, uniting with extraordinary virtues some great failings. Would to heaven that he had striven more to subdue those tempests of feeling which he has so continually allowed to break forth! Would that he had only employed that violence, so natural to him, against the enemies of the truth, and not against the servants of God! Would that he had exercised more care to discover his own defects!

Unhappily there was too great a crowd of flatterers about him, who added still more to the self-confidence peculiar to his nature. It is even our duty to view his failings in such a light, that we may the more properly estimate his extraordinary gifts.

I beg you therefore to bear in mind, that we have to do with one of the first servants of Christ; with one to whom we all owe much. I would also have you consider, that you could not possibly gain any advantage by entering into a struggle with him. You would only, by such a course, afford pleasure to the enemy, who would delight not so much in our defeat as in that of the Gospel.

People will everywhere willingly believe what is said, when we vilify and condemn each other. You must consider this, rather than what Luther may have deserved on account of his violence; lest that should happen to us of which Paul speaks, namely, that while we bite and devour one another, all may go to the ground. Nay, even should he challenge us to the contest, we must rather turn away than hazard by our twofold fall the injury of the church.”*

Calvin understood Luther better than Luther understood himself.

*Paul Henry and Henry Stebbing, The Life and Times of John Calvin, the Great Reformer, vol. 2 (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1851), 15–16.