Thursday, December 03, 2009

Antidote to John Calvin's Institutes (IV,17:38-43) [Eucharist: Calvin's Docetism / Theosis / Consensus Tigurinus / Self-Examination]

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



38. Ends for which the sacrament was instituted.

Thirdly, The Lord intended it to be a kind of exhortation, than which no other could urge or animate us more strongly, both to purity and holiness of life, and also to charity, peace, and concord. For the Lord there communicates his body so that he may become altogether one with us, and we with him.

But not physically . . . This is so obviously driven by a prior (quite unbiblical) antipathy to matter and sacramentalism in the proper traditional sense of the word. Calvin wants everything about the Eucharist except the physical aspect, which is essential to it.

Moreover, since he has only one body of which he makes us all to be partakers, we must necessarily, by this participation, all become one body.

In order to do that, there has to be a physical characteristic to it! It's so clear; how can Calvin miss it? Throughout the Bible is very literal about these things, by equating the Body of Christ with Christ Himself (at Paul's conversion: Acts 9:5; cf. 8:1,3, 9:1-2; cf. also 1 Cor 12:27; Eph 1:22-23; 5:30; Col 1:24); by Paul's language about "in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions" (Col 1:24), by His reference to profaning the body and blood of Christ in an irreverent Communion (1 Cor 11:27-30), and particularly in the extraordinary theosis passages:

2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Ephesians 3:17-19 and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, [18] may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, [19] and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fulness of God.

Ephesians 4:13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ;

2 Peter 1:3-4 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, [4] by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, that through these you may escape from the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become partakers of the divine nature. (cf. John 14:20-23, 17:21-23)

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.

The Greek word for "fulness" in all instances is pleroma (Strong's word #4138). Theosis and pleroma do not at all imply equality with God, but rather, a participation in His energies and power, through the Holy Spirit. The Church fathers believed in theosis, or divinization. For example:

. . . this is the reason why the Word became flesh and the Son of God became the Son of Man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God.

(St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, III 19, 1)

When the Word came upon the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Spirit entered her together with he Word; in the Spirit the Word formed a body for himself and adapted it to himself, desiring to unite all creation through himself and lead it to the Father.

(St. Athanasius, Ad Serap. 1, 31)

There is no reason to deny the literal sense to the eucharistic passages: to make an arbitrary exception in that case, just because Calvin has a Docetic antipathy to matter used by God to convey grace (just as in the incarnation and crucifixion).

This unity is represented by the bread which is exhibited in the sacrament.

Holy Communion is not a touchy-feely sentimental affair with bread merely "representing" Christ's Body. It's far more profound. It is the Real Thing.

As it is composed of many grains, so mingled together, that one cannot be distinguished from another; so ought our minds to be so cordially united, as not to allow of any dissension or division.

Denying the biblical, apostolic, patristic, Catholic doctrine of the Eucharist does anything but foster Christian unity. Calvin expresses the right thought, yet the doctrine he is promulgating here mitigates strongly against it, and is a heretical corruption of true doctrine.

This I prefer giving in the words of Paul: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we being many, are one bread and one body, for we are all partakers of that one bread” (1 Cor. 10:15, 16). We shall have profited admirably in the sacrament, if the thought shall have been impressed and engraven on our minds, that none of our brethren is hurt, despised, rejected, injured, or in any way offended, without our, at the same time, hurting, despising, and injuring Christ; that we cannot have dissension with our brethren, without at the same time dissenting from Christ; that we cannot love Christ without loving our brethren; that the same care we take of our own body we ought to take of that of our brethren, who are members of our body; that as no part of our body suffers pain without extending to the other parts, so every evil which our brother suffers ought to excite our compassion.

Thus (sadly) Calvin sees a certain form of literalism, but fails to see the whole truth.

Wherefore Augustine not inappropriately often terms this sacrament the bond of charity. What stronger stimulus could be employed to excite mutual charity, than when Christ, presenting himself to us, not only invites us by his example to give and devote ourselves mutually to each other, but inasmuch as he makes himself common to all, also makes us all to be one in him.

But Calvin doesn't understand biblical theosis. It's ironic that he comes so close to it but simply can't grasp it. In the final analysis, Calvin's view basically comes down to pure Zwinglian symbolism (much as he would protest against this).

The Consensus Tigurinus was written by Calvin in 1549 in order to clarify "Reformed" eucharistic doctrine over against Lutheranism. It was adopted by the Zurich theologians (and remember, Zurich was where Zwingli resided, and also his successor, Heinrich Bullinger (who wrote some of the notes). That they would adopt a document by Calvin is highly significant. Here are some excerpts (translated by Henry Beveridge):

Article 7. The Ends of the Sacraments

The ends of the sacraments are to be marks and badges of Christian profession and fellowship or fraternity, to be incitements to gratitude and exercises of faith and a godly life; in short, to be contracts binding us to this. But among other ends the principal one is, that God may, by means of them, testify, represent, and seal his grace to us. For although they signify nothing else than is announced to us by the Word itself, yet it is a great matter, first, that there is submitted to our eye a kind of living images which make a deeper impression on the senses, by bringing the object in a manner directly before them, while they bring the death of Christ and all his benefits to our remembrance, that faith may be the better exercised; and, secondly, that what the mouth of God had announced is, as it were, confirmed and ratified by seals.

[ . . . ]

Article 9. The Signs and the Things Signified Not Disjoined but Distinct.

Wherefore, though we distinguish, as we ought, between the signs and the things signified, yet we do not disjoin the reality from the signs, but acknowledge that all who in faith embrace the promises there offered receive Christ spiritually, with his spiritual gifts, while those who had long been made partakers of Christ continue and renew that communion.

Article 10. The Promise Principally to Be Looked To in the Sacraments.

And it is proper to look not to the bare signs, but rather to the promise thereto annexed. As far, therefore, as our faith in the promise there offered prevails, so far will that virtue and efficacy of which we speak display itself. Thus the substance of water, bread, and wine, by no means offers Christ to us, nor makes us capable of his spiritual gifts. The promise rather is to be looked to, whose office it is to lead us to Christ by the direct way of faith, faith which makes us partakers of Christ.

[ . . . ]

Article 12. The Sacraments Effect Nothing by Themselves.

Besides, if any good is conferred upon us by the sacraments, it is not owing to any proper virtue in them, even though in this you should include the promise by which they are distinguished. For it is God alone who acts by his Spirit. When he uses the instrumentality of the sacraments, he neither infuses his own virtue into them nor derogates in any respect from the effectual working of his Spirit, but, in adaptation to our weakness, uses them as helps; in such manner, however, that the whole power of acting remains with him alone.

[ . . . ]

Article 15. How the Sacraments Confirm.

Thus the sacraments are sometimes called seals, and are said to nourish, confirm, and advance faith, and yet the Spirit alone is properly the seal, and also the beginner and finisher of faith. For all these attributes of the sacraments sink down to a lower place, so that not even the smallest portion of our salvation is transferred to creatures or elements.

[ . . . ]

Article 17. The Sacraments Do Not Confer Grace.

By this doctrine is overthrown that fiction of the sophists which teaches that the sacraments confer grace on all who do not interpose the obstacle of mortal sin. For besides that in the sacraments nothing is received except by faith, we must also hold that the grace of God is by no means so annexed to them that whoso receives the sign also gains possession of the thing. For the signs are administered alike to reprobate and elect, but the reality reaches the latter only.

[ . . . ]

Article 21. No Local Presence Must Be Imagined.

We must guard particularly against the idea of any local presence. For while the signs are present in this world, are seen by the eyes and handled by the hands, Christ, regarded as man, must be sought nowhere else than in Heaven, and not otherwise than with the mind and eye of faith. Wherefore it is a perverse and impious superstition to inclose him under the elements of this world.

Article 22. Explanation of the Words "This Is My Body."

Those who insist that the formal words of the Supper, "This is my body; this is my blood," are to be taken in what they call the precisely literal sense, we repudiate as preposterous interpreters. For we hold it out of controversy that they are to be taken figuratively, the bread and wine receiving the name of that which they signify. Nor should it be thought a new or unwonted thing to transfer the name of things figured by metonomy to the sign, as similar modes of expression occur throughout the Scriptures, and we by so saying assert nothing but what is found in the most ancient and most approved writers of the Church.

Article 23. Of the Eating of the Body.

When it is said that Christ, by our eating of his flesh and drinking of his blood, which are here figured, feeds our souls through faith by the agency of the Holy Spirit, we are not to understand it as if any mingling or transfusion of substance took place, but that we draw life from the flesh once offered in sacrifice and the blood shed in expiation.

Article 24. Transubstantiation and Other Follies.

In this way are refuted not only the fiction of the Papists concerning transubstantiation, but all the gross figments and futile quibbles which either derogate from his celestial glory or are in some degree repugnant to the reality of his human nature. For we deem it no less absurd to place Christ under the bread or couple him with the bread, than to transubstantiate the bread into his body.

Article 25. The Body of Christ Locally in Heaven.

And that no ambiguity may remain when we say that Christ is to be sought in Heaven, the expression implies and is understood by us to intimate distance of place. For though philosophically speaking there is no place above the skies, yet as the body of Christ, bearing the nature and mode of a human body, is finite and is contained in Heaven as its place, it is necessarily as distant from us in point of space as Heaven is from Earth.

Article 26. Christ Not to Be Adored in the Bread.

If it is not lawful to affix Christ in our imagination to the bread and the wine, much less is it lawful to worship him in the bread. For although the bread is held forth to us as a symbol and pledge of the communion which we have with Christ, yet as it is a sign and not the thing itself, and has not the thing either included in it or fixed to it, those who turn their minds towards it, with the view of worshipping Christ, make an idol of it.

Protestant scholar Philip Schaff, in the 1919 sixth revised edition of his Creeds of Christendom (Vol, I, § 59. The Consensus of Zurich. A.D. 1549), comments on the background of this document:

In the sacramental controversy—the most violent, distracting, and unprofitable in the history of the Reformation—Calvin stood midway between Luther and Zwingli, and endeavored to unite the elements of truth on both sides, in his theory of a spiritual real presence and fruition of Christ by faith. This satisfied neither the rigid Lutherans nor the rigid Zwinglians. The former could see no material difference between Calvin and Zwingli, since both denied the literal interpretation of 'this is my body,' and a corporeal presence and manducation. The latter suspected Calvin of leaning towards Lutheran consubstantiation . . .

The wound was reopened by Luther's fierce attack on the Zwinglians (1545), and their sharp reply. Calvin was displeased with both parties, and counselled moderation. It was very desirable to harmonize the teaching of the Swiss Churches. Bullinger, who first advanced beyond the original Zwinglian ground, and appreciated the deeper theology of Calvin, sent him his book on the Sacraments, in manuscript (1546), with the request to express his opinion. Calvin, did this with great frankness, and a degree of censure which at first irritated Bullinger. Then followed a correspondence and personal conference at Zurich, which resulted in a complete union of the Calvinistic and Zwinglian sections of the Swiss Churches on this vexed subject. The negotiations reflect great credit on both parties, and reveal an admirable spirit of frankness, moderation, forbearance, and patience, which triumphed over all personal sensibilities and irritations.

. . . It contains the Calvinistic doctrine, adjusted as nearly as possible to the Zwinglian in its advanced form, but with a disturbing predestinarian restriction of the sacramental grace to the elect.

Calvinist William G. T. Shedd offers his take on the implications of the document:

In this Consensus Tigurinus, he defines his statements more distinctly, and left no doubt in the minds of the Zurichers that he adopted heartily the spiritual and symbolical theory of the Lord's Supper. The course of events afterwards showed that Calvin's theory really harmonized with Zuingle's.

(A History of Christian Doctrine , Vol. II, New York: Charles Scribner & Co., 3rd edition, 1865, p. 468)

39. True nature of the sacrament, contrasted with the Popish observance of it.

This most admirably confirms what I elsewhere said—viz. that there cannot be a right administration of the Supper without the word. Any utility which we derive from the Supper requires the word.

No one disagrees with that. It comes from the Word of Holy Scripture, and so must be accompanied by that same Word.

Whether we are to be confirmed in faith, or exercised in confession, or aroused to duty, there is need of preaching. Nothing, therefore, can be more preposterous than to convert the Supper into a dumb action. This is done under the tyranny of the Pope, the whole effect of consecration being made to depend on the intention of the priest, as if it in no way concerned the people, to whom especially the mystery ought to have been explained. This error has originated from not observing that those promises by which consecration is effected are intended, not for the elements themselves, but for those who receive them. Christ does not address the bread and tell it to become his body, but bids his disciples eat, and promises them the communion of his body and blood. And, according to the arrangement which Paul makes, the promises are to be offered to believers along with the bread and the cup. Thus, indeed, it is. We are not to imagine some magical incantation, and think it sufficient to mutter the words, as if they were heard by the elements; but we are to regard those words as a living sermon, which is to edify the hearers, penetrate their minds, being impressed and seated in their hearts, and exert its efficacy in the fulfilment of that which it promises.

This is such a ridiculous caricature of what goes on in the Mass that it doesn't even deserve the dignity of a reply. Granted, there were corruptions in practice in that period of Catholic history, as there are in all periods (it is only a matter of degree), but that gives Calvin no license to extrapolate corruptions to all Masses everywhere, as he is wont to do, in his propagandistic anti-Catholic broad-brush painting. My main purpose is to reply to his reasoning for his own positions, not to correct every caricature and straw man that he constructs. One has only so much patience . . .

For these reasons, it is clear that the setting apart of the sacrament, as some insist, that an extraordinary distribution of it may be made to the sick, is useless. They will either receive it without hearing the words of the institution read, or the minister will conjoin the true explanation of the mystery with the sign.

The Body and Blood of Christ are never "useless." Under Catholic presuppositions, this makes perfect sense. Under Calvinist premises, it is senseless because there is no Body and Blood to give in the first place. Calvin makes no attempt to understand the Catholic's own view. He simply bashes it.

In the silent dispensation, there is abuse and defect. If the promises are narrated, and the mystery is expounded, that those who are to receive may receive with advantage, it cannot be doubted that this is the true consecration. What then becomes of that other consecration, the effect of which reaches even to the sick? But those who do so have the example of the early Church. I confess it; but in so important a matter, where error is so dangerous, nothing is safer than to follow the truth.

It is in the effort to follow truth that one must often disagree with Calvin. He's not the last word: Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and Holy Mother Church provide that.

40. Nature of an unworthy approach to the Lord’s table. The great danger of it. The proper remedy in serious self-examination.

Moreover, as we see that this sacred bread of the Lord’s Supper is spiritual food, is sweet and savoury, not less than salutary, to the pious worshippers of God, on tasting which they feel that Christ is their life, are disposed to give thanks, and exhorted to mutual love; so, on the other hand, it is converted into the most noxious poison to all whom it does not nourish and confirm in the faith, nor urge to thanksgiving and charity. For, just as corporeal food, when received into a stomach subject to morbid humours, becomes itself vitiated and corrupted, and rather hurts than nourishes, so this spiritual food also, if given to a soul polluted with malice and wickedness, plunges it into greater ruin, not indeed by any defect in the food, but because to the “defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure” (Titus 1:15), however much it may be sanctified by the blessing of the Lord.

We agree that partaking in mortal sin or without faith is a very serious transgression.

For, as Paul says, “Whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord;” “eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body” (1 Cor. 11:27, 29). For men of this description, who without any spark of faith, without any zeal for charity, rush forward like swine to seize the Lord’s Supper, do not at all discern the Lord’s body. For, inasmuch as they do not believe that body to be their life, they put every possible affront upon it, stripping it of all its dignity, and profane and contaminate it by so receiving; inasmuch as while alienated and estranged from their brethren, they dare to mingle the sacred symbol of Christ’s body with their dissensions. No thanks to them if the body of Christ is not rent and torn to pieces. Wherefore they are justly held guilty of the body and blood of the Lord, which, with sacrilegious impiety, they so vilely pollute. By this unworthy eating, they bring judgment on themselves.

This passage (1 Corinthians 11) only makes sense unless it is literally understood as the actual Body of Christ. But Calvin ignores the actual words and makes of them what he will.

For while they have no faith in Christ, yet, by receiving the sacrament, they profess to place their salvation only in him, and abjure all other confidence. Wherefore they themselves are their own accusers; they bear witness against themselves; they seal their own condemnation.

It is a terrible thing, but so is the denial of the very nature of the sacrament, which is Calvin's own serious error and act of disbelief.

Next being divided and separated by hatred and ill-will from their brethren, that is, from the members of Christ, they have no part in Christ, and yet they declare that the only safety is to communicate with Christ, and be united to him. For this reason Paul commands a man to examine himself before he eats of that bread, and drinks of that cup (l Cor. 11:28). By this, as I understand, he means that each individual should descend into himself, and consider, first, whether, with inward confidence of heart, he leans on the salvation obtained by Christ, and with confession of the mouth, acknowledges it; and, secondly, whether with zeal for purity and holiness he aspires to imitate Christ; whether, after his example, he is prepared to give himself to his brethren, and to hold himself in common with those with whom he has Christ in common; whether, as he himself is regarded by Christ, he in his turn regards all his brethren as members of his body, or, like his members, desires to cherish, defend, and assist them, not that the duties of faith and charity can now be perfected in us, but because it behoves us to contend and seek, with all our heart, daily to increase our faith.

Unity is a great and commanded thing. This unity also includes doctrinal unity, and that is where Calvin goes astray, even while abstractly giving good advice in these sections.

41. The spurious examination introduced by the Papists. Refutation.

In seeking to prepare for eating worthily, men have often dreadfully harassed and tortured miserable consciences, and yet have in no degree attained the end. They have said that those eat worthily who are in a state of grace. Being in a state of grace, they have interpreted to be pure and free from all sin.

No; free from all mortal sin: a crucial distinction.

By this definition, all the men that ever have been, and are upon the earth, were debarred from the use of this sacrament.

Yes, but since it is not what we teach, it only shows how foolishly Calvin caricatures opposing positions.

For if we are to seek our worthiness from ourselves, it is all over with us; only despair and fatal ruin await us.

Who is saying that? All good things derive from the grace of God.

Though we struggle to the utmost, we will not only make no progress, but then be most unworthy after we have laboured most to make ourselves worthy. To cure this ulcer, they have devised a mode of procuring worthiness—viz. after having, as far as we can, made an examination, and taken an account of all our actions, to expiate our unworthiness by contrition, confession, and satisfaction.

Examination of conscience is thoroughly grounded in Holy Scripture. So is confession and absolution.

Of the nature of this expiation we have spoken at the proper place (Book 3 chap. 4 sec. 2, 17, 27). As far as regards our present object, I say that such things give poor and evanescent comfort to alarmed and downcast consciences, struck with terror at their sins. For if the Lord, by his prohibition, admits none to partake of his Supper but the righteous and innocent, every man would require to be cautious before feeling secure of that righteousness of his own which he is told that God requires.

Again, this is not our teaching. Nor do we rely on our own righteousness, but rather, that which is infused in us ultimately by God's grace alone.

But how are we to be assured that those who have done what in them lay have discharged their duty to God? Even were we assured of this, who would venture to assure himself that he had done what in him lay? Thus there being no certain security for our worthiness, access to the Supper would always be excluded by the fearful interdict, “He that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself.”

We can know we are not in mortal sin by examining ourselves. It's not rocket science. If I consort with a prostitute, and know anything about Christian teaching, I know that is objectively a mortal sin. If I steal or worship a graven image, or engage in gluttony at supper, or deliberately lie and bear false witness, etc., I know those are mortal sins. It's not as if it is advanced epistemology.

42. The nature of Christian examination.

It is now easy to judge what is the nature, and who is the author, of that doctrine which prevails in the Papacy, and which, by its inhuman austerity, deprives and robs wretched sinners, oppressed with sorrow and trembling, of the consolation of this sacrament, a sacrament in which all that is delightful in the gospel was set before them. Certainly the devil could have no shorter method of destroying men than by thus infatuating them, and so excluding them from the taste and savour of this food with which their most merciful Father in heaven had been pleased to feed them.

How horrible and cruel and clueless we ignorant papists are . . . pray that one day we'll attain to Calvin's sublime spiritual estate!

Therefore, lest we should rush over such a precipice, let us remember that this sacred feast is medicine to the sick, comfort to the sinner, and bounty to the poor; while to the healthy, the righteous, and the rich, if any such could be found, it would be of no value. For while Christ is therein given us for food, we perceive that without him we fail, pine, and waste away, just as hunger destroys the vigour of the body. Next, as he is given for life, we perceive that without him we are certainly dead. Wherefore, the best and only worthiness which we can bring to God, is to offer him our own vileness, and, if I may so speak, unworthiness, that his mercy may make us worthy; to despond in ourselves, that we may be consoled in him; to humble ourselves, that we may be elevated by him; to accuse ourselves, that we may be justified by him; to aspire, moreover, to the unity which he recommends in the Supper; and, as he makes us all one in himself, to desire to have all one soul, one heart, one tongue. If we ponder and meditate on these things, we may be shaken, but will never be overwhelmed by such considerations as these, how shall we, who are devoid of all good, polluted by the defilements of sin, and half dead, worthily eat the body of the Lord? We shall rather consider that we, who are poor, are coming to a benevolent giver, sick to a physician, sinful to the author of righteousness, in fine, dead to him who gives life; that worthiness which is commanded by God, consists especially in faith, which places all things in Christ, nothing in ourselves, and in charity, charity which, though imperfect, it may be sufficient to offer to God, that he may increase it, since it cannot be fully rendered. Some, concurring with us in holding that worthiness consists in faith and charity, have widely erred in regard to the measure of worthiness, demanding a perfection of faith to which nothing can be added, and a charity equivalent to that which Christ manifested towards us. And in this way, just as the other class, they debar all men from access to this sacred feast. For, were their view well founded, every one who receives must receive unworthily, since all, without exception, are guilty, and chargeable with imperfection. And certainly it were too stupid, not to say idiotical, to require to the receiving of the sacrament a perfection which would render the sacrament vain and superfluous, because it was not instituted for the perfect, but for the infirm and weak, to stir up, excite, stimulate, exercise the feeling of faith and charity, and at the same time correct the deficiency of both.

In the first part of this section Calvin says many good and wise things, but then he gets back to his miserable wrongheaded bashing of his straw "Catholic" man. There is no need to respond to more of that. Anyone who knows anything about Catholicism already knows how Calvin errs.

43. External rites in the administration of the Supper. Many of them indifferent.

In regard to the external form of the ordinance, whether or not believers are to take into their hands and divide among themselves, or each is to eat what is given to him: whether they are to return the cup to the deacon or hand it to their neighbour; whether the bread is to be leavened or unleavened, and the wine to be red or white, is of no consequence. These things are indifferent, and left free to the Church, though it is certain that it was the custom of the ancient Church for all to receive into their hand.

The latter is true, as I have noted elsewhere. Unleavened bread follows from the analogy to Passover (the Last Supper being a Passover). Note how Calvin assumes that wine is to be used. That is no longer the case with most Calvinists today (as a result of the 19th century temperance movement, not serious biblical reflection or fidelity). Calvin wouldn't care about many such fine details, however, because he thinks there is no Substantial Real Presence involved. Therefore, a crumb dropping is of no consequence, since it is merely bread. Let a dog or an ant or a rat come and eat it later . . .

And Christ said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves” (Luke 22:17). History relates that leavened and ordinary bread was used before the time of Alexander the Bishop of Rome, who was the first that was delighted with unleavened bread: for what reason I see not, unless it was to draw the wondering eyes of the populace by the novelty of the spectacle, more than to train them in sound religion.

There is a developmental continuity between Jewish feats and Christian liturgy, just as there was between circumcision and baptism (an analogy Calvin himself expounds upon at great length).

I appeal to all who have the least zeal for piety, whether they do not evidently perceive both how much more brightly the glory of God is here displayed, and how much more abundant spiritual consolation is felt by believers than in these rigid and histrionic follies, which have no other use than to impose on the gazing populace.

Very eloquently executed falsehoods . . .

They call it restraining the people by religion, when, stupid and infatuated, they are drawn hither and thither by superstition.

No one is dumber than a deluded superstitious papist (which Calvin would say virtually all of us are) . . .

Should any one choose to defend such inventions by antiquity, I am not unaware how ancient is the use of chrism and exorcism in baptism, and how, not long after the age of the apostles, the Supper was tainted with adulteration; such, indeed, is the forwardness of human confidence, which cannot restrain itself, but is always sporting and wantoning in the mysteries of God.

As usual, Calvin picks some minutiae out, and ignores the overwhelming consensus on the Eucharist and the Mass in the early Church. No one is so blind as he who will not see.

But let us remember that God sets so much value on obedience to his word, that, by it, he would have us to judge his angels and the whole world. All this mass of ceremonies being abandoned, the sacrament might be celebrated in the most becoming manner, if it were dispensed to the Church very frequently, at least once a-week.

He is right about frequency at least.

The commencement should be with public prayer; next, a sermon should be delivered: then the minister, having placed bread and wine on the table, should read the institution of the Supper. He should next explain the promises which are therein given; and, at the same time, keep back from communion all those who are debarred by the prohibition of the Lord. He should afterwards pray that the Lord, with the kindness with which he has bestowed this sacred food upon us, would also form and instruct us to receive it with faith and gratitude; and, as we are of ourselves unworthy, would make us worthy of the feast by his mercy. Here, either a psalm should be sung, or something read, while the faithful, in order, communicate at the sacred feast, the minister breaking the bread, and giving it to the people. The Supper being ended, an exhortation should be given to sincere faith, and confession of faith, to charity, and lives becoming Christians. Lastly, thanks should be offered, and the praises of God should be sung. This being done, the Church should be dismissed in peace.

What makes Calvin think he can change at his own whim and fancy fifteen centuries of Catholic Christian liturgical tradition?


Adomnan said...

Calvin: What then becomes of that other consecration, the effect of which reaches even to the sick? But those who do so have the example of the early Church. I confess it; but in so important a matter, where error is so dangerous, nothing is safer than to follow the truth.

Adomnan: Here Calvin shows his contempt for the practice of the early church. Though he admits that the early church reserved the sacrament and brought it to the sick, he says that this "other" consecration (i.e., opposed to the "true consecration" mentioned in the previous sentence) is a dangerous error. In effect, Calvin says here (albeit in his convoluted way) that 1) the consecrations of the early church were not true consecrations and 2) the early church did not follow the truth, but Calvin does.

Hm. Whom to follow: the sly, prissy French lawyer or the early church? That's a tough one.

Sophia's Lover said...

Hi, Dave.

I was just wondering if you knew whether Br. Bob Fishman's Torah of Christ Ministries has an internet presence?


Dave Armstrong said...

I tried to search for it but couldn't find anything. He seems to be primarily a speaker at this point. You might try finding his email and writing a letter.

Sophia's Lover said...

Thanks all the same.