Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,10:19-26) [Corrupt Worship? / Holy Water / Jerusalem Council / Friday Abstinence / "Inventions"]

See the introduction and links to all installments at the top of my John Calvin, Calvinism, and General Protestantism web page; also the online version of the Institutes. Calvin's words will be in blue throughout. All biblical citations (in my portions) will be from RSV unless otherwise noted.

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Book IV



19. Illustration taken from the simple administration of the Lord’s Supper, under the Apostles, and the complicated ceremonies of the Papists.

And not to become prolix, by giving a catalogue of all, we shall be contented with one example. Under the apostles there was great simplicity in administering the Lord’s Supper. Their immediate successors made some additions to the dignity of the ordinance, which are not to be disapproved. Afterwards came foolish imitators,

Who are these fools? When did they start to dominate? It's so easy to make unsubstantiated claims, isn't it?

who, by ever and anon patching various fragments together, have left us those sacerdotal vestments which we see in the mass, those altar ornaments, those gesticulations, and whole farrago of useless observances.

The Church thus went from purity and simplicity to a "farrago of useless observances" we know not how or when. But Calvin tells us it is so, and apparently he expects us to bow to his wisdom, sans rational argument and demonstration.

But they object, that in old time the persuasion was, that those things which were done with the consent of the whole Church proceeded from the apostles. Of this they quote Augustine as a witness. I will give the explanation in the very words of Augustine. “Those things which are observed over the whole world we may understand to have been appointed either by the apostles themselves, or by general councils, whose authority in the Church is most beneficial, as the annual solemn celebration of our Lord’s passion, resurrection, and ascension to heaven, and of the descent of the Holy Spirit, and any other occurrence observed by the whole Church wherever it exists” (August. Ep. 118). In giving so few examples, who sees not that he meant to refer the observances then in use to authors deserving of faith and reverence;—observances few and sober, by which it was expedient that the order of the Church should be maintained? How widely does this differ from the view of our Roman masters, who insist that there is no paltry ceremony among them which is not apostolical?

Perhaps exaggerated claims were made in some particulars, but at least the Catholics of Calvin's time (and ever since) maintained St. Augustine's view in the Real Presence and the Sacrifice of the Mass. Calvin cites Augustine but does not follow his teachings.

20. Another illustration from the use of Holy Water.

Not to be tedious, I will give only one example.

Fantastic! An example! Our hopes and prayers for Calvin have been fulfilled . . . one is better than none. But only one, out of the hundreds of corruptions and dead traditions that Calvin constantly implies are present in the Church?

Should any one ask them where they get their holy water, they will at once answer,—from the apostles. As if I did not know who the Roman bishop is, to whom history ascribes the invention, and who, if he had admitted the apostles to his council, assuredly never would have adulterated baptism by a foreign and unseasonable symbol; although it does not seem probable to me that the origin of that consecration is so ancient as is there recorded.

Scripture has more than sufficient indication that holy water is not foreign to the Christian, biblical worldview at all, and indeed, quite consistent with it. It refers to water that has been blessed (Ex 23:25), "holy water" (Numbers 5:17), "water for impurity" (Num 19:9, 13-20), “healed” (KJV), “purified” (NASB), or "wholesome" (RSV) water (2 Ki 2:19-22). Water is spoken of as being connected to cleansing (Lev 14:8-9, 50-52, 15:5-27, 17:15; Num 8:7, 19:12, 18-19; 2 Ki 5:12; Ps 51:7; Ezek 16:4, 36:25; Eph 5:26; Heb 10:22), purifying (Ex 29:4, 40:12, 30-32; Lev 11:32, 16:4, 24, 26, 28, 22:6; Num 19:7-8, 31:23; Deut 23:10-11; 1 Ki 18:33-34; Jn 2:6; Heb 9:19), and healing (2 Ki 5:14; Is 35:5-7; Jn 5:4; 9:6-7).

For when Augustine says (Ep. 118) that certain churches in his day rejected the formal imitation of Christ in the washing of feet, lest that rite should seem to pertain to baptism, he intimates that there was then no kind of washing which had any resemblance to baptism.

That doesn't necessarily follow. The Catholic Encyclopedia ("Holy Water") gives evidences of early patristic use of holy water. St. Augustine lived from 354-430. I've inserted the dates of other early figures in brackets:
[I]t is permissible to suppose for the sake of argument that, in the earliest Christian times, water was used for expiatory and purificatory purposes, to a way analogous to its employment under the Jewish Law. As, in many cases, the water used for the Sacrament of Baptism was flowing water, sea or river water, it could not receive the same blessing as that contained in the baptisteries. On this particular point the early liturgy is obscure, but two recent discoveries are of very decided interest. The Pontifical of Scrapion of Thumis, a fourth-century bishop, and likewise the "testamentum Domini", a Syriac composition dating from the fifth to the sixth century, contain a blessing of oil and water during Mass. The formula in Scrapion's Pontifical is as follows: "We bless these creatures in the Name of Jesus Christ, Thy only Son; we invoke upon this water and this oil the Name of Him Who suffered, Who was crucified, Who arose from the dead, and Who sits at the right of the Uncreated. Grant unto these creatures the power to heal; may all fevers, every evil spirit, and all maladies be put to flight by him who either drinks these beverages or is anointed with them, and may they be a remedy in the Name of Jesus Christ, Thy only Son." As early as the fourth century various writings, the authenticity of which is free from suspicion, mention the use of water sanctified either by the liturgical blessing just referred to, or by the individual blessing of some holy person. St. Epiphanius [c. 315-403] (Contra haeres., lib. I, haer. xxx) records that at Tiberias a man named Joseph poured water on a madman, having first made the sign of the cross and pronounced these words over the water: "In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, crucified, depart from this unhappy one, thou infernal spirit, and let him be healed!" Joseph was converted an subsequently used the same proceeding to overcome witchcraft; yet, he was neither a bishop nor a cleric. Theodoret [c.393-c.466] (Church History V.21) relates that Marcellus, Bishop of Apamea [d. 388], sanctified water by the sign of the cross and that Aphraates [c.280-c.345] cured one of the emperor's horses by making it drink water blessed by the sign of the cross ("Hist. relig.", c. viii, in P.G., LXXXII, col. 1244, 1375). In the West similar attestations are made. Gregory of Tours [538-c.594] (De gloria confess., c. 82) tells of a recluse named Eusitius who lived in the sixth century and possessed the power of curing quartan fever by giving its victims to drink of water that he had blessed; we might mention many other instances treasured up by this same Gregory ("De Miraculis S. Martini", II, xxxix; "Mirac. S. Juliani", II, iii, xxv, xxvi; "Liber de Passione S. Juliani"; "Vitae Patrum", c. iv, n. 3). It is known that some of the faithful believed that holy water possessed curative properties for certain diseases, and that this was true in a special manner of baptismal water. In some places it was carefully preserved throughout the year and, by reason of its having been used in baptism, was considered free from all corruption. This belief spread from East to West; and scarcely had baptism been administered, when the people would crown around with all sorts of vessels and take away the water, some keeping it carefully in their homes whilst others watered their fields, vineyards, and gardens with it ("Ordo rom. I", 42, in "Mus. ital.", II, 26).
Be this as it may, I will never admit that the apostolic spirit gave rise to that daily sign by which baptism, while brought back to remembrance, is in a manner repeated. I attach no importance to the fact, that Augustine elsewhere ascribes other things to the apostles.

And I attach no importance (though much infamy) to the fact that Calvin attributes many things to the fathers, that they did not teach.

For as he has nothing better than conjecture, it is not sufficient for forming a judgment concerning a matter of so much moment. Lastly, though we should grant that the things which he mentions are derived from the apostolic age, there is a great difference between instituting some exercise of piety, which believers may use with a free conscience, or may abstain from if they think the observance not to be useful, and enacting a law which brings the conscience into bondage.

Catholics were obliged to sprinkle holy water on themselves, with penalties for disobedience? One would like to see that proven. But as we know, Calvin is not renowned for documenting his factual assertions regarding supposed history.

Now, indeed, whoever is the author from whom they are derived, since we see the great abuses to which they have led,

What abuses are those?

there is nothing to prevent us from abrogating them without any imputation on him,

Who is "him"?

since he never recommended them in such a way as to lay us under a fixed and immovable obligation to observe them.

So Calvin argues that we don't know who started the practice, but nevertheless, that he didn't recommend the use of holy water in the (unspecified) ways that Calvin detests; therefore, this mysterious originator is freed from blame, even though we don't know who he is. Compelling reasoning there . . .

21. An argument in favour of traditions founded on the decision of the Apostles and elders at Jerusalem. This decision explained.

It gives them no great help, in defending their tyranny, to pretend the example of the apostles. The apostles and elders of the primitive Church, according to them, sanctioned a decree without any authority from Christ, by which they commanded all the Gentiles to abstain from meat offered to idols, from things strangled, and from blood (Acts 15:20).

Not according to Catholics, but according to the Bible.

If this was lawful for them, why should not their successors be allowed to imitate the example as often as occasion requires?

Exactly! Why, indeed? Why should there be an example of a council in the early Church, in Scripture, if not as some sort of model for later Christianity? Is that not an eminently sensible, reasonable conclusion? That is the biblical model. Calvin's model, however, is his casual assumption of his own authority -- that he doesn't in fact possess, and arbitrary decrees of doctrines and condemnations of existing Catholic traditions. If anything is unbiblical and contrary to previous Christian history, it is that, as opposed to Catholics daring to actually follow an explicit biblical example.

Would that they would always imitate them both in this and in other matters!

The same applies to Calvin and all Protestants. If he wants to condemn Catholic instances of alleged or actual departure from apostolic and biblical and patristic precedent, then by the same token he ought to subject Protestantism to the same scrutiny and the same standard. But so often, of course, he does not do so. It's all one-way, and winking at the glaring faults and false premises of his own general party.

For I am ready to prove, on valid grounds, that here nothing new has been instituted or decreed by the apostles. For when Peter declares in that council, that God is tempted if a yoke is laid on the necks of the disciples, he overthrows his own argument if he afterwards allows a yoke to be imposed on them. But it is imposed if the apostles, on their own authority, prohibit the Gentiles from touching meat offered to idols, things strangled, and blood.

The Church has authority to make decrees, and to bind and loose. That came straight from our Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:19, 18:18; John 20:23). Jesus even granted the Pharisees a continuing teaching authority (Matthew 23:2-3). But Protestants have to always maintain an unbiblical "loophole" by denying the infallibility of the Church and ecumenical councils and popes.

The difficulty still remains, that they seem nevertheless to prohibit them.

What difficulty?

But this will easily be removed by attending more closely to the meaning of their decree. The first thing in order, and the chief thing in importance, is, that the Gentiles were to retain their liberty, which was not to be disturbed, and that they were not to be annoyed with the observances of the Law. As yet, the decree is all in our favour. The reservation which immediately follows is not a new law enacted by the apostles, but a divine and eternal command of God against the violation of charity, which does not detract one iota from that liberty. It only reminds the Gentiles how they are to accommodate themselves to their brother, and to not abuse their liberty for an occasion of offence. Let the second head, therefore, be, that the Gentiles are to use an innoxious liberty, giving no offence to the brethren. Still, however, they prescribe some certain thing—viz. they show and point out, as was expedient at the time, what those things are by which they may give offence to their brethren, that they may avoid them; but they add no novelty of their own to the eternal law of God, which forbids the offence of brethren.

In a sense it is new; in another it is nothing new; as is the case with all legitimate developments of doctrine and practice. How Calvin thinks any of this is somehow an argument against the Catholic Church, is a mystery. He surely doesn't demonstrate such a glaring inconsistency here.

22. Some things in the Papacy may be admitted for a time for the sake of weak brethren.

As in the case where faithful pastors, presiding over churches not yet well constituted, should intimate to their flocks not to eat flesh on Friday until the weak among whom they live become strong, or to work on a holiday, or any other similar things, although, when superstition is laid aside, these matters are in themselves indifferent, still, where offence is given to the brethren, they cannot be done without sin; so there are times when believers cannot set this example before weak brethren without most grievously wounding their consciences. Who but a slanderer would say that a new law is enacted by those who, it is evident, only guard against scandals which their Master has distinctly forbidden? But nothing more than this can be said of the apostles, who had no other end in view, in removing grounds of offence, than to enforce the divine Law, which prohibits offence; as if they had said, The Lord hath commanded you not to hurt a weak brother; but meats offered to idols, things strangled, and blood, ye cannot eat, without offending weak brethren; we, therefore, require you, in the word of the Lord, not to eat with offence. And to prove that the apostles had respect to this, the best witness is Paul, who writes as follows, undoubtedly according to the sentiments of the council: “As concerning, therefore, the eating of those things which are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one.”—“Howbeit, there is not in every man that knowledge: for some with conscience of the idol unto this hour eat it as a thing offered unto an idol; and their conscience being weak is defiled.”—“But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumbling-block to them that are weak” (1 Cor. 8:4-9). Any one who duly considers these things will not be imposed upon by the gloss which these men employ when, as a cloak to their tyranny, they pretend that the apostles had begun by their decree to infringe the liberty of the Church. But that they may be unable to escape without confessing the accuracy of this explanation, let them tell me by what authority they have dared to abrogate this very decree. It was, it seems, because there was no longer any danger of those offences and dissensions which the apostles wished to obviate, and they knew that the law was to be judged by its end. Seeing, therefore, the law was passed with a view to charity, there is nothing prescribed in it except in so far as required by charity. In confessing that the transgression of this law is nothing but a violation of charity, do they not at the same time acknowledge that it was not some adventitious supplement to the law of God, but a genuine and simple adaptation of it to the times and manners for which it was destined?

Abstinence from meat on Friday in remembrance of our Lord's death on the cross is, of course, a perfectly scriptural practice and nothing can be said against it. Jesus casually assumed that His disciples would fast (Matthew 6:16-18). The earliest Christians after Pentecost were described as "worshiping the Lord and fasting" (Acts 13:2-3). Anna the prophetess spent her time "worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day" (Luke 2:37). Jesus Himself fasted for forty days and forty nights (Matthew 4:2). Are we not to imitate Him? But Calvin wishes to take a few passages about liberty to extremes, so that supposedly the Church cannot make any practices whatever binding? The texts don't require that. And, as always, who is Calvin to go against traditions of hundreds of years, grounded in Holy Scripture and the apostles and fathers, and decided upon by assemblies of holy bishops?

23. Observance of the Popish traditions inconsistent with Christian liberty, torturing to the conscience, and insulting to God.

But though such laws are hundreds of times unjust and injurious to us,

Are they, really? Why did the early Christians (at least the Jewish ones) continue to abide by the Jewish festivals and other laws, then, if this is so? Why did they not immediately perceive what Calvin does, about how antithetical virtually all "laws" are to Christian liberty?

still they contend that they are to be heard without exception; for the thing asked of us is not to consent to errors, but only to submit to the strict commands of those set over us,—commands which we are not at liberty to decline (1 Pet. 2:18). But here also the Lord comes to the succour of his word, and frees us from this bondage by asserting the liberty which he has purchased for us by his sacred blood, and the benefit of which he has more than once attested by his word.

Again, Calvin sets one word, "liberty" and a few passages taken out of context, against the self-evident biblical notion of Church authority. It just won't work. No matter how much he may wish this were the case, the Bible can't be stretched far enough to make it be so. Paul says of the Church, that it is "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15).

For the thing required of us is not (as they maliciously pretend) to endure some grievous oppression in our body, but to be tortured in our consciences, and brought into bondage: in other words, robbed of the benefits of Christ’s blood.

So the abundant scriptural testimony of penitential practices is swept away by a grand conclusion of John Calvin that the Catholic Church only desires to torture consciences and keep people in bondage. It's amazing how he can transform a good thing (legitimate penance and fasting and abstinence) into evil at the drop of an acerbic, cynical, slanderous sentence. Calvin's malice and inability to exercise the slightest restraint where Catholics are concerned do not magically change biblical teaching into something it is not.

Let us omit this, however, as if it were irrelevant to the point. Do we think it a small matter that the Lord is deprived of his kingdom which he so strictly claims for himself? Now, he is deprived of it as often as he is worshipped with laws of human invention, since his will is to be sole legislator of his worship.

How is something "human invention" if it is thoroughly grounded in the Bible? Calvin can't get away with his inane unsubstantiated claims against Catholic tradition. If he is so convinced that Catholic practices are indefensible, then let him demonstrate that from Scripture: the thing both parties accept as authoritative. But he rarely does this. He needs to be called on it. It is the height of uncharity as well as extremely annoying for him to continue to do this over and over in the Institutes.

And lest any one should consider this as of small moment, let us hear how the Lord himself estimates it. “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men: therefore, behold, I will proceed to do a marvellous work among the people, even a marvellous work and a wonder; for the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent men shall be hid” (Isaiah 29:13-14). And in another place, “But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mt. 15:9).

That was directed towards corrupt Pharisaical traditions, not all Pharisaical tradition. Likewise, even if there was corruption among Catholic men, and in their spirits, in Calvin's time (as there assuredly was), that gives him no license to sweep all Catholic tradition away, just as Jesus didn't do so with the Pharisee's teaching and traditions (Matthew 23:2-3).

And, indeed, when the children of Israel polluted themselves with manifold idolatries, the cause of the whole evil is ascribed to that impure mixture caused by their disregarding the commandments of God, and framing new modes of worship. Accordingly, sacred history relates that the new inhabitants who had been brought by the king of Assyria from Babylon to inhabit Samaria were torn and destroyed by wild beasts, because they knew not the judgment or statutes of the God of that land (2 Kings 17:24-34). Though they had done nothing wrong in ceremonies, still their empty show could not have been approved by God. Meanwhile he ceased not to punish them for the violation of his worship by the introduction of fictions alien from his word. Hence it is afterwards said that, terrified by the punishment, they adopted the rites prescribed in the Law; but as they did not yet worship God purely, it is twice repeated that they feared him and feared not. Hence we infer that part of the reverence due to him consists in worshipping him simply in the way which he commands, without mingling any inventions of our own. And, accordingly, pious princes are repeatedly praised (2 Kings 22:1, &c.) for acting according to all his precepts, and not declining either to the right hand or the left. I go further: although there be no open manifestation of impiety in fictitious worship, it is strictly condemned by the Spirit, inasmuch as it is a departure from the command of God. The altar of Ahaz, a model of which had been brought from Damascus (2 Kings 16:10), might have seemed to give additional ornament to the temple, seeing it was his intention there to offer sacrifices to God only, and to do it more splendidly than at the first ancient altar: yet we see how the Spirit detests the audacious attempt, for no other reasons but because human inventions are in the worship of God impure corruptions. And the more clearly the will of God has been manifested to us, the less excusable is our petulance in attempting anything. Accordingly, the guilt of Manasses is aggravated by the circumstance of having erected a new altar at Jerusalem, of which the Lord said, “In Jerusalem will I put my name” (2 Kings 22:3, 4), because the authority of God was thereby professedly rejected.

All of this presupposes that Catholic worship is guilty of the same idolatries and blasphemies of the corrupt, compromised ancients. Needless to say, that remains to be proven. Calvin has not provided here anything that a Catholic could respond to at all. How does one rationally reply to an assertion of (in effect, and Calvin often makes it clear elsewhere) "your form of worship is filled with monstrosities and blasphemies and idolatries"? One wants to know the basis upon which such a negative judgment was made (particularly -- preferably -- from Scripture: the common premise and starting-point). Then there is something tangible and objective to interact with. But no such luxury can be found in this portion.

24. All human inventions in religion displeasing to God. Reason. Confirmed by an example.

Many wonder why God threatens so sternly that he will bring astonishment on the people who worship him with the commandments of men, and declares that it is in vain to worship him with the commandments of men. But if they would consider what it is in the matter of religion, that is, of heavenly wisdom, to depend on God alone, they would, at the same time, see that it is not on slight grounds the Lord abominates perverse service of this description, which is offered him at the caprice of the human will.

No one disagrees with this general observation.

For although there is some show of humility in the obedience of those who obey such laws in worshipping God, yet they are by no means humble, since they prescribe to him the very laws which they observe. This is the reason why Paul would have us so carefully to beware of being deceived by the traditions of men, and what is called ἐθελοθρησκεία, that is, voluntary worship, worship devised by men without sanction from God. Thus it is, indeed: we must be fools in regard to our own wisdom and all the wisdom of men, in order that we may allow him alone to be wise. This course is by no means observed by those who seek to approve themselves to him by paltry observances of man’s devising, and, as it were, against his will obtrude upon him a prevaricating obedience which is yielded to men.

And what, pray tell, are some (any!) of these abominable practices? Are we to be kept in the dark yet again? It reminds me of a certain presidential campaign, where little substance was offered. People could, therefore, project whatever they wanted onto the candidate and his views. If Calvin doesn't tell the reader what exactly he is talking about, then the ones given to a prior hostility towards Catholicism will insert whatever it is they wish, as the intended object of scorn. That's how propaganda works, but not, alas, reasoned argument.

This is the course which has been pursued for several ages, and within our own recollection, and is still pursued in the present day in those places in which the power of the creature is more than that of the Creator, where religion (if religion it deserves to be called) is polluted with more numerous, and more absurd superstitions, than ever Paganism was. For what could human sense produce but things carnal and fatuous, and savouring of their authors?

More of the same contentless rantings.

25. An argument founded on the examples of Samuel and Manoah. Answer.

When the patrons of superstition cloak them, by pretending that Samuel sacrificed in Ramath, and though he did so contrary to the Law, yet pleased God (l Sam 7:17), it is easy to answer, that he did not set up any second altar in opposition to the only true one; but, as the place for the Ark of the Covenant had not been fixed, he sacrificed in the town where he dwelt, as being the most convenient. It certainly never was the intention of the holy prophet to make any innovation in sacred things, in regard to which the Lord had so strictly forbidden addition or diminution.

Ah, good: an actual example for a change. Why is it impossible, then, that Catholic laws and required observances could be analogous things not inconsistent with the Bible and prior tradition? The Christian Church is not a static, immovable thing; as if it never grows and develops. It does do that because it is a living body: the Body of Christ. Just as bodies develop and grow and become more complex over time, so does the Church: a Body, too.

The case of Manoah I consider to have been extraordinary and special. He, though a private man, offered sacrifice to God, and did it not without approbation, because he did it not from a rash movement of his own mind, but by divine inspiration (Judges 13:19). How much God abominates all the devices of men in his worship, we have a striking proof in the case of one not inferior to Manoah—viz. Gideon, whose ephod brought ruin not only on himself and his family, but on the whole people (Judges 8:27). In short, every adventitious invention, by which men desire to worship God, is nothing else than a pollution of true holiness.

That was rank idolatry. Calvin has not shown that the Catholic Mass: entirely centered on Jesus Christ and His Sacrifice, is the equivalent of that. This is often assumed by Calvin and His followers (largely because of the seeming inability to comprehend the nature and purpose of Catholic sacraments), but never demonstrated with any cogency or plausibility.

26. Argument that Christ wished such burdens to be borne. Answer.

Why then, they ask, did Christ say that the intolerable burdens, imposed by Scribes and Pharisees, were to be borne? (Mt. 23:3) Nay, rather, why did he say in another place that we were to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees? (Mt. 16:6) meaning by leaven, as the Evangelist Matthew explains it, whatever of human doctrine is mingled with the pure word of God. What can be plainer than that we are enjoined to shun and beware of their whole doctrine?

What is plain is that we are not to shun their whole doctrine, but only corruptions of it. What is so difficult to grasp about this? It is right in front of him: plain as day in Holy Scripture, yet Calvin sees only what he wants to see and ignores the rest, as if it isn't there at all.

From this it is most certain, that in the other passage our Lord never meant that the consciences of his people were to be harassed by the mere traditions of the Pharisees.

Not by man-made traditions; of course not. But the trick is to determine what are "man-made inventions" and what are not: what is harmonious with a scriptural worldview.

And the words themselves, unless when wrested, have no such meaning. Our Lord, indeed, beginning to inveigh against the manners of the Pharisees, first instructs his hearers simply, that though they saw nothing to follow in the lives of the Pharisees, they should not, however, cease to do what they verbally taught when they sat in the seat of Moses, that is, to expound the Law.


All he meant, therefore, was to guard the common people against being led by the bad example of their teachers to despise doctrine.

Likewise, Catholic hypocrites and manifest sinners do not entail rejecting much of Catholic doctrine. But Calvin does do that.

But as some are not at all moved by reason, and always require authority, I will quote a passage from Augustine, in which the very same thing is expressed. “The Lord’s sheepfold has persons set over it, of whom some are faithful, others hirelings. Those who are faithful are true shepherds; learn, however, that hirelings also are necessary. For many in the Church, pursuing temporal advantages, preach Christ, and the voice of Christ is heard by them, and the sheep follow not a hireling, but the shepherd by means of a hireling. Learn that hirelings were pointed out by the Lord himself. The Scribes and Pharisees, says he, sit in Moses’ seat; what they tell you, do, but what they do, do ye not. What is this but to say, Hear the voice of the shepherd by means of hirelings? Sitting in the chair, they teach the Law of God, and therefore God teaches by them; but if they choose to teach their own, hear not, do not.” Thus far Augustine. (August. in Joann. Tract. 46)

And we agree. So this is ultimately a red herring. We agree with much of Calvin's general reasoning about man-made inventions and traditions. We disagree that the Catholic Church is almost entirely corrupt, as he claims. And we reject the fallacious premises upon which he makes his sweeping negative conclusions about the Catholic Church.

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