Calvin on Schism

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DTK

Puritan Board Junior
John Calvin: We have laid down as distinguishing marks of the church the preaching of the Word and the observance of the sacraments. These can never exist without bringing forth fruit and prospering by God’s blessing. I do not say that wherever the Word is preached there will be immediate fruit; but wherever it is received and has a fixed abode, it shows its effectiveness. However it may be, where the preaching of the gospel is reverently heard and the sacraments are not neglected, there for the time being no deceitful or ambiguous form of the church is seen; and no one is permitted to spurn its authority, flout its warnings, resist its counsels, or make light of its chastisements—much less to desert it and break its unity. For the Lord esteems the communion of his church so highly that he counts as a traitor and apostate from Christianity anyone who arrogantly leaves any Christian society, provided it cherishes the true ministry of Word and sacraments. He so esteems the authority of the church that when it is violated he believes his own diminished.
It is of no small importance that it is called “the pillar and ground of the truth” and “the house of God” [1 Timothy 3:15, KJV]. By these words Paul means that the church is the faithful keeper of God’s truth in order that it may not perish in the world. For by its ministry and labor God willed to have the preaching of his Word kept pure and to show himself the Father of a family, while he feeds us with spiritual food and provides everything that makes for our salvation. It is also no common praise to say that Christ has chosen and set apart the church as his bride, “without spot or wrinkle” [Ephesians 5:27], “his body and... fullness” [Ephesians 1:23]. From this it follows that separation from the church is the denial of God and Christ. Hence, we must even more avoid so wicked a separation. For when with all our might we are attempting the overthrow of God’s truth, we deserve to have him hurl the whole thunderbolt of his wrath to crush us. Nor can any more atrocious crime be conceived than for us by sacrilegious disloyalty to violate the marriage that the only-begotten Son of God deigned to contract with us. [Cf. Ephesians 5:23-32.] Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, reprinted 1977), Book IV.1.10, pp. 1024-1025.

DTK
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
That is good. He is addressing a context where people were leaving the established church and simply not attending church, right? I would be curious how he would view the denominational variety we have in today's America, with people leaving one church for another for often trivial reasons. The PCA seems to permit this, as the BCO simply calls for noting the irregularity in the rolls and does not direct any further action be taken, so long as the transferring member joins with another branch of the visible church.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
I agree with Calvin, but many who leave churches say they also agree. When the preacher preaches something they disagree with, they say the 'ministry of the word' is not cherished. Or if the Lord's Supper is distributed with the wrong element, they say the 'ministry of the sacrements' is not cherished. If you want to leave a church you can make up just about any reason.

I wonder if Calvin would leave a non EP church?
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
John Calvin: The pure ministry of the Word and pure mode of celebrating the sacraments are, as we say, sufficient pledge and guarantee that we may safely embrace as church any society in which both these marks exist. The principle extends to the point that we must not reject it so long as it retains them, even if it otherwise swarms with many faults. What is more, some fault may creep into the administration of either doctrine or sacraments, but this ought not to estrange us from communion with the church. For not all the articles of true doctrine are of the same sort. Some are so necessary to know that they should be certain and unquestioned by all men as the proper principles of religion. Such are: God is one; Christ is God and the Son of God; our salvation rests in God’s mercy; and the like. Among the churches there are other articles of doctrine disputed which still do not break the unity of faith. Suppose that one church believes—short of unbridled contention and opinionated stubbornness—that souls upon leaving bodies fly to heaven; while another, not daring to define the place, is convinced nevertheless that they live to the Lord. What churches would disagree on this one point? Here are the apostle’s words: “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, be of the same mind; and if you be differently minded in anything, God shall reveal this also to you” [Philippians 3:15]. Does this not sufficiently indicate that a difference of opinion over these nonessential matters should in no wise be the basis of schism among Christians? First and foremost, we should agree on all points. But since all men are somewhat beclouded with ignorance, either we must leave no church remaining, or we must condone delusion in those matters which can go unknown without harm to the sum of religion and without loss of salvation.
But here I would not support even the slightest errors with the thought of fostering them through flattery and connivance. But I say we must not thoughtlessly forsake the church because of any petty dissensions. For in it alone is kept safe and uncorrupted that doctrine in which piety stands sound and the use of the sacraments ordained by the Lord is guarded. In the meantime, if we try to correct what displeases us, we do so out of duty. Paul’s statement applies to this: “If a better revelation is made to another sitting by, let the first be silent” [1 Corinthians 14:30 p.]. From this it is clear that every member of the church is charged with the responsibility of public edification according to the measure of his grace, provided he perform it decently and in order. That is, we are neither to renounce the communion of the church nor, remaining in it, to disturb its peace and duly ordered discipline. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, reprinted 1977), Book IV.1.12, pp. 1025-1026.

John Calvin commenting in 1 Cor 11:19: For there must be also heresies. He had previously spoken of divisions. (1 Corinthians 11:18.) Now he uses the term heresies, with the view of amplifying the more, as we may infer, too, from the word also, for it is added for the sake of amplification. (pro auchesin) It is well known in what sense the ancients used those two terms, and what distinction they made between Heretics and Schismatics. Heresy they made to consist in disagreement as to doctrine, and schism, on the contrary, in alienation of affection, as when any one withdrew from the Church from envy, or from dislike of the pastors, or from ill nature. It is true, that the Church cannot but be torn asunder by false doctrine, and thus heresy is the root and origin of schism, and it is also true that envy or pride is the mother of almost all heresies, but at the same time it is of advantage to distinguish in this way between these two terms.
But let us see in what sense Paul employs them. I have already expressed my disapprobation of those who explain heresy as meaning the setting up of a separate table, inasmuch as the rich did not partake of their Supper along with the poor; for he had it in view to point out something more hateful. But without mentioning the opinions of others, I take schism and heresy here in the way of less and greater. Schisms, then, are either secret grudges — when we do not see that agreement which ought to subsist among the pious — when inclinations at variance with each other are at work — when every one is mightily pleased with his own way, and finds fault with everything that is done by others. Heresies are when the evil proceeds to such a pitch that open hostility is discovered, and persons deliberately divide themselves into opposite parties. Hence, in order that believers might not feel discouraged on seeing the Corinthians torn with divisions, the Apostle turns round this occasion of offense in an opposite direction, intimating that the Lord does rather by such trials make proof of his people’s constancy. A lovely consolation! “So far, says he, should we be from being troubled, or cast down, when we do not see complete unity in the Church, but on the contrary some threatenings of separation from want of proper agreement, that even if sects should start up, we ought to remain firm and constant. For in this way hypocrites are detected — in this way, on the other hand, the sincerity of believers is tried. For as this gives occasion for discovering the fickleness of those who were not rooted in the Lord’s Word, and the wickedness of those who had assumed the appearance of good men, so the good afford a more signal manifestation of their constancy and sincerity.” Calvin’s Commentaries, Vol. XX, trans. John Pringle (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprinted 1979), p. 366.

DTK
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I really appreciate this Pastor King. Thank you for sharing it as it perfectly complements not a few open threads right now.

When I was in Church one time a Pastor said this: If my wife and I get tired of Okinawa we can just go back home but if the military people here decide they get tired of this place they get thrown in jail.

I think the military, sadly, is one of the last remaining institutions that makes vows literally a life and death matter. Part of the reason I'm so careful at making vows is the propensity in my heart to be an oath-breaker and also the great trials I've had to endure for my military oath.

I've been in situations that were personally abusive to the extreme in a combat zone where I hadn't seen my wife and little baby (James) for months. The only thing that kept me going was my sense of a vow. It simply never occured to me that giving up and getting an other than honourable discharge was an option.

I consider it a great sin how easily people give up on Pastors and congregations these days. I consider it a graver sin how easy many Churches make it for people to break their vows.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Does anyone think Calvin's comments apply to a situation in which a person leaves one evangelical church for a second in our denominationally diverse country? Why?

I am for very strong church vows. I am just not sure if Calvin's comments are completely on point for our current situation, denominational pluralism. In his situation, isn't he talking about leaving an established, state church? In other words, he is talking about people separating from a true church to not go to church at all (or perhaps a dissenting church or an underground church not approved by the authorities). He is not writing against people leaving one denomination to go to another.

The PCA has addressed denominational pluralism by allowing for voluntary exit of members to other evangelical congregations (of whatever denomination or no denomination at all) for any reason or no reason at all. Indeed, entire congregations can remove themselves from the PCA denomination without any explanation or cause. Given that structure, it is hard to say that someone is violating a vow or otherwise sinning when they leave because they prefer the youth program of another church, even if the doctrine is no as solid. In the PCA's view, such a move is not sin or breach of covenant. The actual church membership covenant does not deal with its termination. The BCO makes clear that it is a sort of at-will covenant that applies only so long as someone is a member. Anyone can get an honorable discharge without cause, just by taking it.
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
I would agree with Calvin. Schism can be large or small. It doesn't have to be whole churches.

"He is not writing against people leaving one denomination to go to another."

That was relatively rare until the days of the Anabaptist.

This is quite good:

"I take schism and heresy here in the way of less and greater. Schisms, then, are either secret grudges — when we do not see that agreement which ought to subsist among the pious — when inclinations at variance with each other are at work — when every one is mightily pleased with his own way, and finds fault with everything that is done by others. Heresies are when the evil proceeds to such a pitch that open hostility is discovered, and persons deliberately divide themselves into opposite parties. Hence, in order that believers might not feel discouraged on seeing the Corinthians torn with divisions, the Apostle turns round this occasion of offense in an opposite direction, intimating that the Lord does rather by such trials make proof of his people’s constancy. A lovely consolation! “So far, says he, should we be from being troubled, or cast down, when we do not see complete unity in the Church, but on the contrary some threatenings of separation from want of proper agreement, that even if sects should start up, we ought to remain firm and constant."
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
I would agree with Calvin. Schism can be large or small. It doesn't have to be whole churches.

"He is not writing against people leaving one denomination to go to another."

That was relatively rare until the days of the Anabaptist.

This is quite good:

"I take schism and heresy here in the way of less and greater. Schisms, then, are either secret grudges — when we do not see that agreement which ought to subsist among the pious — when inclinations at variance with each other are at work — when every one is mightily pleased with his own way, and finds fault with everything that is done by others. Heresies are when the evil proceeds to such a pitch that open hostility is discovered, and persons deliberately divide themselves into opposite parties. Hence, in order that believers might not feel discouraged on seeing the Corinthians torn with divisions, the Apostle turns round this occasion of offense in an opposite direction, intimating that the Lord does rather by such trials make proof of his people’s constancy. A lovely consolation! “So far, says he, should we be from being troubled, or cast down, when we do not see complete unity in the Church, but on the contrary some threatenings of separation from want of proper agreement, that even if sects should start up, we ought to remain firm and constant."

But now the sects are established and this country has never had a federal established church (some states have also never had them). That was not true in Calvin's day when the established state church enjoyed governmental support and other sects were suppressed.

So, today in America is there a moral obligation to stay in a particular congregation? If so, what is the source of this obligation? What about if the denomination's official position is that members can transfer freely to "other branches of the visible church?" The PCA's vows, for example, do not create a permanent relationship.
 

NaphtaliPress

Administrator
Staff member
Whether the vow of membership is to the particular church or whatever, I think it is true folks leave on light reasons and often schismatically. But I don't think there are no reasons one may transfer churches, if for nothing else, to avoid contention. Here is what James Durham has to say on a chapter on officers defective in their duty. [James Durham, A Treatise Concerning Scandal (Naphtali Press 1990). Part Two: Public Scandals. Chapter Four: When Church Officers are Defective in Their Duty, 123–125.]He is obviously giving his pov in the context of a state church and a parish system. After dealing with the “Duty Of Private Persons When Church-Officers Spare Such As Are Scandalous,” “A Particular Consideration Of 1 Cor. 11:17ff,” “Showing More Particularly What It Is That Church Members Are Called To Do In Such A Case,” “Why It Is Necessary To Acquiesce In The Church’s Determination As To Practice,” and “Concerning Whether The Ordinances Of Christ Be Any Way Polluted By Corrupt Fellow Worshippers,” Durham addresses:

Showing If Anything Further In Any Imaginable Case Is Allowed To Private Christians.

2. It may be yet further moved, ‘Can there be no more allowed in any supposable case?’ ANSWER. It is most unsuitable, in a matter of practice, when folks are not contending for curiosity, but for direction, to suppose cases hardly or rarely possible in a constitute church which is worthy of that name, or upon that ground to found a contest in dispute, or schism in practice, in cases palpably different; at least, union should be kept till such cases come about. And is it likely, where the order formerly laid down is observed, that there can be habitual admission of notoriously or grievously scandalous persons, though, it may be, there are lesser failings of several sorts? Yet, supposing that any, out of infirmity or affection, not having such knowledge, or otherwise, should stick to join in the ordinances at some times, or in some places, upon such an account, who yet do not love separation, or the erecting of a different church, we say further:

(1.) That in such a case, such persons may remove from one congregation to another, where such grossness cannot be pretended to be; and the persons being otherwise without scandal, can neither be pressed to continue (they being so burdened) nor yet refused to be admitted where [in an] orderly [way] they shall desire to join, seeing this could not be denied to any. And we suppose few will be so uncharitable, as to think there is no congregation whereto they can join, or yet so addicted to outward respects, as to choose separation with offense to others, disturbance to the church, and, it may be, with little quietness to themselves, when they have a remedy so inoffensive allowed unto them.

(2.) Although separation is never allowable, and secession is not always at an instant practicable, yet we suppose in some cases, simple abstinence, if it is not offensive in the manner and circumstances, if it is not made customary, and if the ground is so convincing, and the case so gross that it will affect any ingenuous hearer, and so evident that there is no access to any acquainted in such places to deny the same, or that there be a present undecided process concerning such things before a competent judge; in some such cases, I say, as might be supposed, we conceive abstinence were not rigidly to be misconstructed: it being for the time the burden of such persons, that they cannot join, and, it may be, having some public complaint of such a thing to make out, and in dependence elsewhere. Although we will not strengthen any to follow this way, nor can it be pretended to, where the case is not singularly horrid; yet supposing it to be such, we conceive it is the safest one way for the person’s peace, and the preventing of offense together. Yet much Christian prudence is to be exercised in the conveying of the same, if it were by removing for a time, or otherways, that there appear to be no public contempt. But we conceive this case is so rarely incident, and possibly that there needs be little said of it, much less should there be any needless debate or rent entertained upon the consideration or notion thereof. And certainly, the case before us of the admitting of the Nicolaitans and Jezebel, considering their doctrine and deeds, is more horrid than readily can be supposed. Yet it would seem that, though this defect should still have continued, the Lord requires no other thing of private professors, but their continuing in or holding fast of their former personal purity, which is all the burden that he lays upon them.

To shut up all, we may see what evils are to be evited in the prosecution of public scandals, and what a commendable thing it [would be] to have this in the right manner vigorous. If private Christians were zealous, loving and prudent in their private admonitions; if officers were diligent, single, grave, and weighty in what concerns them; if offending persons were humble and submissive, and all [were] reverent and respective of the ordinances, and studious of private and public edification, how beautiful and profitable a thing would it be? Certainly this manner of procedure would be more beautifying to the ordinances of Christ, more convincing to all onlookers, more sweet and easy both to officers and people, and more edifying and gaining to all, and, by God’s blessing, would be the way to make the mistaken yoke of discipline to be accounted easy and light. And if all those ends are desirable, and the contrary evils are to be eschewed, then unquestionably the right manner of managing this great ordinance of discipline is carefully to be studied and followed both by officers and people.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Scott wouldn't this fall under the nineth commandment?

I don't think so, unless one of the elements of the church vow is to remain with the church for a certain duration. I am not sure about other denominations, but the PCA has nothing like that. Or, are you thinking about something else?
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
John Calvin:From this it follows that separation from the church is the denial of God and Christ. Hence, we must even more avoid so wicked a separation. [Cf. Ephesians 5:23-32.] Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 1, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, reprinted 1977), Book IV.1.10, pp. 1024-1025.

DTK

Pastor King,

How does this fit in with the Roman Church to which Calvin and other's were apart of, at least by birth?
 
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DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Pastor King,

How does this fit in with the Roman Church to which Calvin and other's were apart of, at least by birth?
Calvin is making reference here to the church as composed by congregations of the Reformed, and not Rome. Calvin believed that Rome had departed from the "pure ministry of the Word and pure mode of celebrating the sacraments." Calvin and the other reformers would, to be sure, accept baptisms performed in Roman communions, and even irregular baptisms performed by laymen (if for no other reason because they detested anabaptism), but he stressed that Rome did not have genuine pastors, and that the Reformed should refuse to have their children baptized there. Notice the following selections from Calvin...

John Calvin (1509-1564): If those who profess to return to the right way feel hurt by these requirements, they are greatly mistaken. For it is impossible to accept them as Christian pastors if they have not renounced the papal priesthood in which they were ordained to sacrifice Jesus Christ, which is a blasphemy worthy of the highest detestation. In addition, they must solemnly promise to abstain henceforth from all superstitions and pollutions which are repugnant to the simplicity of the gospel. For how can they administer the Holy Supper unless they have separated from the abominations of the Mass? Moreover, they cannot be ministers of baptism unless they have rejected the confusions by which it has been corrupted. In sum, the church cannot accept them as pastors if they do not feel obliged to do their duty. Letter for Bishops and priests of the Papacy. John Calvin, Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Advice, trans. Mary Beaty and Benjamin W. Farley (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), p. 59.

John Calvin (1509-1564): The same principle ought to prevail in the case of baptism. Even if imminent danger is threatening, it still is not permitted to do what God clearly disapproves. We know that baptism in the papacy has been corrupted by many base elements and almost adulterated. If fear were a factor, all the pious would readily agree that it is wrong for parents to bring their infant children to a sinful baptism. It is superficial to seize upon danger as an excuse, as if the baptism itself could change its nature because of that. We know that bearing witness to piety is more precious before God than for piety to yield to threats and fears, at least when fear forces us to a pretense that is a tacit approval of impieties. We grieve with our pious brothers out of affection, but it is not up to us to free them from God’s incontestable law. The Hebrew women in Egypt long ago did not hesitate to put their own lives at risk to save others’ infants [Ex. 1:17]; it is shameful for parents to be so fearful that they defile the souls of their own babies, to the extent that they can. Letter On Certain Controversies Among the Pious Brothers. John Calvin, Calvin’s Ecclesiastical Advice, trans. Mary Beaty and Benjamin W. Farley (Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991), p. 118.

John Calvin (1509-1564): Finally, even though all these things were conceded, a brand-new conflict with them arises when we say that there is no church at Rome in which benefits of this sort can reside; when we deny that any bishop exists there to sustain these privileges of rank. Suppose all these things were true (which we have already convinced them are false): that by Christ’s word Peter was appointed head of the whole church; that he deposited in the Roman see the honor conferred upon him; that it was sanctioned by the authority of the ancient church and confirmed by long use; that the supreme power was always given to the Roman pontiff unanimously by all men; that he was the judge of all cases and of all men; and that he was subject to no man’s judgment. Let them have even more if they will. I reply with but one word: none of these things has any value unless there be a church and bishop at Rome. This they must concede to me: what is not a church cannot be the mother of churches; he who is not a bishop cannot be the prince of bishops. Do they, then, wish to have the apostolic see at Rome? Let them show me a true and lawful apostolate. Do they wish to have the supreme pontiff? Let them show me a bishop. What then? Where will they show us any semblance of the church? They call it one indeed and have it repeatedly on their lips. Surely a church is recognized by its own clear marks; and “bishopric” is the name of an office. Here I am not speaking of the people but of government itself, which ought perpetually to shine in the church. Where in their church is there a ministry such as Christ’s institution requires? Let us remember what has already been said of the presbyters’ and bishop’s office. If we test the office of cardinals by that rule, we shall nothing less than they are presbyters. I should like to know what one episcopal quality the pontiff himself has. The first task of the bishop’s office is to teach the people from God’s Word. The second and next is to administer the sacraments. The third is to admonish and exhort, also to correct those who sin and to keep the people under holy discipline. What of these offices does he perform? Indeed, what does he even pretend to do? Let them say, therefore, in what way they would have him regarded a bishop, who does not even in pretense touch any part of this office with his little finger. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, reprinted 1977), Book IV.7.23, pp. 1142-1143.

John Calvin (1509-1564): No doubt but the Papists will brag enough of their multitude: yea, but we see that the Prophet laugheth all of them to scorn. And why? We must always discern which are the [true] children. For what else are all the Churches of the Papists than Brothel houses of Satan? All things are infected, nothing is there but filthiness, God’s service is there utterly marred, and to be short, there is no soundness at all in them. The Papists therefore for all that ever they can pretend to make themselves God’s Church, are but misbegotten Bastards, as they that are tied to the Brothel house with their mother that Synagogue of hell. The Thirtieth Sermon on Galatians, Galatians 4:26-31.

John Calvin (1509-1564): For we see that all the horned Prelates, and all the route of the Popish Clergy, have no more but the bare title. For where is the said word of God? They think that that were a stain to their state: it is enough for them to do their Ceremonies and gewgaws [trinkets, showy trifles], and they bear themselves in hand that they have very well discharged their duty, when they have so played an interlude: and so those Hypocrites do nothing else but fill the world full of their abuses and Illusions. Therefore let us learn to discern God’s true Church, from all the Synagogues that Satan hath builded in the world, and wherewith he dazzleth our eyes nowadays. That is to wit, when God’s word is preached faithfully, let us conclude that God also doth both know and acknowledge the flock that is assembled there. Fortieth Sermon on Galatians, Gal 6:6-8.

John Calvin (1509-1564): On the whole, we conclude that the servants of God never felt themselves obstructed by this empty title of Church, when it was put forward to support the reign of impiety. It is not enough, therefore, simply to throw out the name of Church, but judgment must be used to ascertain which is the true Church, and what is the nature of its unity. And the thing necessary to be attended to, first of all, is, to beware of separating the Church from Christ its Head. When I say Christ, I include the doctrine of his gospel, which he sealed with his blood. Our adversaries, therefore, if they would persuade us that they are the true Church, must, first of all, show that the true doctrine of God is among them; and this is the meaning of what we often repeat, viz., that the uniform characteristics of a well-ordered Church are the preaching of sound doctrine, and the pure administration of the Sacraments. For, since Paul declares that the Church is “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” (Ephesians 2:20) it necessarily follows that any church not resting on this foundation must immediately fall. John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church (Dallas: Protestant Heritage Press, 1995), pp. 127-128.

John Calvin (1509-1564): For both the writings of holy fathers, the acts of councils, and all history, make it plain that this height of power, which the Roman pontiff has now possessed for about four hundred years, was attained gradually, or rather was either craftily crept into, or violently seized. But let us forgive them this, and let them take for granted that primacy was divinely bestowed on the Romish see, and has been sanctioned by the uniform consent of the ancient church; still there is room for this primacy only on the supposition that Rome has both a true church and a true bishop. For the honor of the seat cannot remain after the seat itself has ceased to exist. John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church (Dallas: Protestant Heritage Press, 1995), pp. 133-134.

John Calvin: Can she be the mother of all churches, who not only does not retain, I do not say the face, but even a single lineament, of the true church, and has snapped asunder all those bonds of holy communion by which believers should be linked together? John Calvin, The Necessity of Reforming the Church (Dallas: Protestant Heritage Press, 1995), p. 135.


John Calvin: We believe that we ought to observe and keep up the unity of the church, and that all those who separate themselves from it are perverse persons whom we ought to shun as deadly pests. Nevertheless we are of opinion that we ought prudently to discern which is the true church, because several falsely abuse this title. We declare then, that it is the society of the faithful who agree to follow the word of God and that pure religion which depends on it, and who profit therein during the whole course of their lives, increasing and confirming themselves in the fear of God, according as they have need to make progress, and tending always to that which is beyond. Moreover, that, whatever efforts they make, it behooves them incessantly to have recourse to Christ for the remission of their sins. Letter 480, To the King of France.

John Calvin (1509-1564): But these he has profaned by his sacrilegious impiety, afflicted by his inhuman domination, corrupted and well-nigh killed by his evil and deadly doctrines, which are like poisoned drinks. In them Christ lies hidden, half buried, the gospel overthrown, piety scattered, the worship of God nearly wiped out. In them, briefly, everything is so confused that there we see the face of Babylon rather than that of the Holy City of God. To sum up, I call them churches to the extent that the Lord wonderfully preserves in them a remnant of his people, however woefully dispersed and scattered, and to the extent that some marks of the church remain—especially those marks whose effectiveness neither the devil’s wiles nor human depravity can destroy. But on the other hand, because in them those marks have been erased to which we should pay particular regard in this discourse, I say that every one of their congregations and their whole body lack the lawful form of the church. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, reprinted 1977), Book IV.ii.12, pp. 1052-1053.

DTK
 

SolaGratia

Puritan Board Junior
DTK,

Wow! How do you get those references so fast? Do you use a software program?

"Thank You, Pastor King"

Calvin has been the most influential Reformer I have read who has help me get rid of my Popish side affects.
 
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Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
I also wonder about what moral guidelines we should have about splitting, or causing schism, with a denomination that has emerged from prior schisms. It is sort of schism from a schism from a schism. Is there a point at which the visible church is so broken up that the idea of schism does not make sense anymore?

I have a second question too. What are the moral implications of a congregation leaving a denomination that permits congregations (or groups of congregations) to leave? After real property issues surrounding the the PCA's split from the PCUSA (the PCUSA kept the buildings of the departing congregations), the PCA by code made congregational association with the PCA completely voluntary. Per the BCO, any congregtion can leave at their discretion and without justification. In that context is schism even possible? The PCA has enacted the ecclesial equivalent of a no-fault divorce provision. I am only using the PCA as an example, because it is what I am most familiar with.

I have thought about and researched these issues a good deal but don't have any clear answers. I think that is in part because denominationalism is not the biblical model, but it is what we inherited and have to work with.

Regarding the first question about whether there a point at which the visible church is so broken up that the very idea of schism does not make sense, here is a chart on presbyterians (the so-called Split P's):
presbyteriansplitchart.jpg
 

Reformed Baptist

Puritan Board Sophomore
"Calvin believed that Rome had departed from the "pure ministry of the Word and pure mode of celebrating the sacraments."

So this is a good reason to remove one's self from a congregation. I agree. Let liberty reign and men's conscience remain free from control of church-states. Let not the Baptist conscience be aggravated by a state-church imposing fines and confiscating property and jailing such persons for refusing an imposed church-tax to construct parishes of congregations a Baptist may be grieved to support believing such church or churches may have departed from the pure ministry of the Word and pure more of celebrating the sacraments." (if they are properly called sacraments).

I mean no diversion, but this was the case in the united states as state-churches, protestants, persecuted Baptists. Long live a separation of church and state in the proper form. I recommend reading "Church, state, and Calvinism" by Isaac Backus. For such history.

If I were a member of a PCA church, and became grieved in my conscience due to the mode of baptism or church government, and sought to share fellowship with like-minded believers of a Baptist congregation, I do not sin.

I think other groups should be afforded the same liberty Calvin took.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
I think other groups should be afforded the same liberty Calvin took.
But Calvin did not really afford this liberty very widely. He supported a monopolistic state church with a civil government that would supress the creation of competing churches. His reasoning was a justification to leave the Roman Church. It was not a justification for people to leave his church. I am not saying that is right or wrong, but that is the way these principles were put into practice. The religion of a country typically changed with the leaders. If a protestant was in charge, the state church was protestant. If a Catholic was in charge, then the state religion was Catholic. This was a principle called cuius regio eius religio, or states follow the religion of the ruler.

Or perhaps this is what you were saying - that Calvin and other protestants should have been more accommodating to baptists?
 
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Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
Brother Scott,

Where did the chart come form? Do you have an image with better resolution I could use?
It is from the Presbyterian Historical Society. You can get a better and bigger jpeg here. Scroll down to the thumbnail and click on it. It will blow up a larger version of it. I made it smaller to fit the message board.
 

Reformed Baptist

Puritan Board Sophomore
But Calvin did not really afford this liberty very widely. He supported a monopolistic state church with a civil government that would supress the creation of competing churches. His reasoning was a justification to leave the Roman Church. It was not a justification for people to leave his church. I am not saying that is right or wrong, but that is the way these principles were put into practice. The religion of a country typically changed with the leaders. If a protestant was in charge, the state church was protestant. If a Catholic was in charge, then the state religion was Catholic. This was a principle called cuius regio eius religio, or states follow the religion of the ruler.

Or perhaps this is what you were saying - that Calvin and other protestants should have been more accommodating to baptists?

I don't think church and state should be united. I think there should be a separation. And I don't think it was nice for protestants to confiscate the property and imprison Baptists..lol. I think every human being should be afforded the freedom to practice his or her religion according to the dictates of conscience. The conscience of men should not be fettered or coerced by civil government but protected.
 

JohnV

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
But Calvin did not really afford this liberty very widely. He supported a monopolistic state church with a civil government that would supress the creation of competing churches. His reasoning was a justification to leave the Roman Church. It was not a justification for people to leave his church. I am not saying that is right or wrong, but that is the way these principles were put into practice. The religion of a country typically changed with the leaders. If a protestant was in charge, the state church was protestant. If a Catholic was in charge, then the state religion was Catholic. This was a principle called cuius regio eius religio, or states follow the religion of the ruler.

Or perhaps this is what you were saying - that Calvin and other protestants should have been more accommodating to baptists?

Scott:

I think you might be misreading what Calvin is saying. If his own church was in error he would still say the same thing, and this would support those raising complaints and appeals.

The ideal, of course, is one church with everyone in accord. The idea of many and various denominations is not supported by this. One Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of us all, as Eph. 4 says. He's defining what we should and should not raise a fuss over in order to maintain that unity. We have so many denominations because we haven't kept his admonitions.

If it were easy to do then everyone would be doing it, and no one would make a big thing out of it. But it isn't easy. And it is important for Calvin to say this because it is so easy to forget this and to get worked up about things that really aren't as important as we think they are at the time. But what is easier yet, and much more prevalent, is that we misrepresent the issues, so that when something important does come up then we're fighting the issues on the wrong principles, or fighting the same principles on the wrong issues.

For example, "women-in-office" was not nearly as important as what they were doing to the Word to get to it. It was not whether "women-in-office" was important enough to cause schism over, but it was how the Word of God was regarded and handled that ought to have been the central issue. Is it at all permissible to rule that the Word of God is culturally oriented, and therefore subject to change as the cultures change? Is it indeed true that a church can do a complete 180 on the issue of "women-in-office", and still be 100% in agreement on the same Bible passages as the generation before them that forbade it? The issue ought to have been the Word of God, and not "women-in-office."

So also with any other such issue. It isn't whether or not this or that may be allowed, but whether the Word of God is being upheld. Every church will say they are upholding the Word of God. I can't imagine any denomination saying that they don't uphold the Word of God, or that they willingly compromise it to suit their needs. They always try to justify what they do by the Word of God, no matter the exegetical acrobatics required to do so.

In the meantime, I think Calvin is allowing for personal freedom with that stricture, just as the Bible itself does. The Bible doesn't seem to put a great deal of effort into correcting people as to which millennial view they hold to. But if you hold to a Dispensational-type of millennial view, where the speculative rules doctrine, then the Word is very clear. Calvin would not have us split over millennial views; but he would have us resist any effort to indoctrinate a church with one millennial view being the determinitive factor for doctrine.

It is my personal view that Calvin would have been upset over the Federal Vision thing a long time before it came up onto the floor of the GA's. But not because it was standing for a stilted view of justification, but because the pulpits and the offices were being abused. And he would justify that complaint by appealing to the stilting that was placed upon doctrine of justification that did not accord with sound doctrine, and did not accord with the stated unity of the church. In other words, those who preach it are not following the prescribed course for such things, and not submitting themselves to the guidance and leadership of the church.

You have to remember that an individual member holding to FV-ist views has been permitted for a long time. We should not doubt a man's salvation or inclusion in the Covenant simply because he doesn't quite understand the finer points of doctrine. That's not the issue here. What is at issue is that some are unsettling the church, causing division in the church, by using their offices and the pulpits to foster a difference, an admitted difference, of doctrine. It is a matter of violating both the place of the preaching of the pure Word of God and of the holy office commissioned by Christ. A man does not represent himself or his own views there; he is representing Christ.

That's my view on that matter. That's how I interpret what Calvin was saying. You can still be free to hold incorrect views, which will always happen to almost all the members of any congregation. But the church should be teaching right doctrine, and should not violate that holy commission and trust given her by Christ. If that is being done, no matter how many other errors there may be, and will always be, we should maintain the unity as much as possible.
 
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