The compromise of Calvin

Discussion in 'Church History' started by Matthew1344, Mar 14, 2017.

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  1. Matthew1344

    Matthew1344 Puritan Board Freshman

    My pastor said that Calvin had to compromise on some things, or he never would have had the voice he had.

    After the worship service, my pastor and a couple buddies of ours were talking to my pastor about EP. He holds to EP, but we don't practice it. We sing from the Psalter, and we love it. We also sing hymns, and we love it. We also have one instrument, the guitar, and we love it.

    Over the past year and a half, I've picked up that my pastor is an EP guy. So I asked him to share with us how he go there. He did. It was great. We all asked him "Then why don't we do it?"

    His response was "You can't practice everything you believe. I remember reading calvin say 'I believe this, but can't practice this,' and thought I was misreading him. So I went and looked back at the text, and it was very plain. Calvin did not practice everything he believed. I did not practice Christmas for 8 years. People thought I was a lunatic. It was not until I put a Christmas tree in our house, did people start listening to me. If we become EP, we will lose all our voice. We have to learn to prioritize the things. Justification by faith, is a big one. Bringing back the role of a deacon is a big one. The sacraments are big. Giving, praying, fasting, serving the poor, and the Lords day are big things. A liturgical service is big. But Ep will take some time. Justification by faith is an 'A' thing. EP is a 'X,Y,Z' thing. The first generation reformers would not have died on an 'EP' hill. The second generation reformers would have. But we are closer to 1517 than 1646"

    Does anyone know what he might have been talking about with Calvin? When I asked, he said he could not remember. And I do believe he read him say that. My pastor is very knowledgable and has read so many books, it is crazy.
  2. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    There was no EP hill to die on for the first generatoin; the reformed mostly sang the psalms. The second generation (ie second Presbyterian/puritan reformation) and later contended against the introduction of hymns. It is inconceivable to me that someone who believes in EP would sing hymns; I would question the belief at that point. To perform an element of worship which one supposedly believes is not prescribed; i.e. positively breaking the second commandment? Calvin didn't do everything he wanted but compromised on what he determined were more trifling matters not worth destroying the whole work of reform over, preaching on pretended holy days for instance, but that didn't stop him from telling his congregation the evil of superstitious days; he got in their face about it. Calvin did not violate his conscience on prescribed worship as far as I know. EP given the basis from which it is argued is a primary issue because singing something else is sin to the EP advocate. I really would like chapter and verse out of Calvin here.
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  3. Matthew1344

    Matthew1344 Puritan Board Freshman

    me too :)
  4. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    ... and on parallel in Calvin's mind to a second commandment issue which is the view of EP. Not some trifling circumstance that Calvin thought he at least could control like the pretended holidays. Calvin is also routinely cited to defend/excuse the observance of the calendar (not tolerating it mind you but positive observance). Yet if one wants to use Calvin as an excuse, use Calvin honestly. He was willing to tolerate some use of the Calendar for preaching on Christ's birth, etc. but he was no fan and as I implied, if you want to use Calvin's example for such preaching, then you need to also be willing to preach what many congregants would deem a screed against pretended holy days and superstition. This was Calvin's view from beginning in 1636 when he and Farel opposed the calendar (which were soon imposed by the council from direction from Bern) to late in his career when Geneva reversed course and abolished holy days and cut things back to preaching around one or two of them.
    December 25, 1557, “With respect to ceremonies and above all the observance of holy days [I offer the following]: Although there are some who eagerly long to remain in conformity with such practices, I do not know how they can do so without disregard for the edification of the church, nor [do I know] how they can render an account to God for having advanced evil and impeded its solution…. Nevertheless, since we have to endure a number of imperfections when we cannot correct them, I am of the opinion that no brother ought to allow the above to be the cause of his leaving his church, unless the majority support the opposite.”[1]

    [1] Calvin's Ecclesiastical Advice, trans. by Mary Beaty and Benjamin W. Farley {Louisville: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1991}, 90.

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  5. Cymro

    Cymro Puritan Board Junior

    There has to be wisdom and time in trying to change the practice of a congregation. It is difficult to alter the habit and tradition overnight. Nevertheless it takes teaching to bring it about, not whether Calvin did this or that. As Chris has observed, it is the breaking of the second commandment, which is a serious issue. Also purity of worship is likewise. I am of the opion, (but I am no prophet or son of a prophet), that it is when we return to the biblical worship our fathers espoused we will see the reformation of the church, unless of course He returns first.
  6. Hamalas

    Hamalas whippersnapper

    Sorry, I don't have a Calvin citation for you but I do think the general thrust of your Pastor's advice is sound: sometimes a wise ministry requires patience and prudence in picking your battles (if memory serves me correctly Terry Johnson makes much the same point in this helpful talk: I'm sure many here might disagree with exactly where those lines should be drawn on the EP issue or other topics.
  7. Ed Walsh

    Ed Walsh Puritan Board Sophomore

    I found four references which said something similar to this:

    Whatever influence Calvin had in Geneva during the 1540s and the first half of the 1550s was based on the moral authority of his preaching, teaching, and wisdom. Even then, the city council often operated against his judgment and recommendations. For example, Calvin wanted weekly communion, but the city council insisted that communion should be administered only four times a year.

    Calvin, J., & Beeke, J. R. (2008). 365 Days with Calvin (p. 13). Leominster; Grand Rapids, MI: Day One Publications; Reformation Heritage Books.
    From the Institutes Book 4, Chap. 17, sect. 43:
    Now, to get rid of this great pile of ceremonies, the Supper could have been administered most becomingly if it were set before the church very often, and at least once a week.

    Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (J. T. McNeill, Ed., F. L. Battles, Trans.) (Vol. 1, p. 1421). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
    Last edited: Mar 14, 2017
  8. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    What did Josiah do when he "found" the book of the Law? For that matter, what did Manasseh do with worship once he repented?

    If its over the color of the rug in the sanctuary, or what Lord's Day you have a fellowship meal on, by all means, pick your battles.
    But not on worship. Worship is on a whole other commanded level.
  9. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    I've just ran a search on all of Calvin's sermons, the Institutes, his tracts and biographies. The word "compromise" doesn't even appear if that helps at all.
  10. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Good grief; the issue in this case is the minister not just ministering in a non EP church, but singing the hymns along with them. That's what I'm hearing; maybe that is not what is going on; my apologies if so. But if that is what is going on, there's a drastic difference in the EP view in question or a surprising willingness not just to compromise on better v. best but sin v. not sin. If the minister is EP he's sinning if he sings the hymns; period; he knows it is not what God commands.
  11. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    More broadly, the question is whether or not Calvin had to "compromise" on some of his convictions. I suppose we can use the word compromise but I'd prefer to note that Calvin had certain convictions that he lacked the authority to put into place. That said, I think it is instructive that he believed he had a larger responsibility to the Body of Christ for some of those convictions but was willing to be "fired" for others. He was famously dismissed by Geneva insisting upon certain standards for communion (and would have been quite happy to stay away) but was called back.

    There's a great lecture series on the Reformation available at WTS given by Carl Trueman. Trueman points out that Geneva as under the protection of another city (name escapes me at the moment) and so some of the practices were dictated by the "mother city". We also need to remember that the Reformation was quite young so certain things that were nigh impossible for Calvin to put in place early on were later implemented as he rose in esteem among the population. Calvin was, after all, an outsider (Frenchman) and all the "immigration issues" caused some friction even to the allegation that Calvin was harder in discipline on Genevans than the French interlopers.
  12. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    You are thinking of Bern I guess.
    The council of the city of Bern inisisted the Geneval council impose Bern's worship practices on the city. When Calvin and Farel began the holy days of the RCC had been abolished. Bern insisted serveral be reimposed. Calvin and Farel were willing to preach on such days but that requested the days not be treated like extra Sundays (everything shutting down). Genevan council's response was, live with Bern's practices. The also insisted the preachers not meddle with public life (that might be in reference to determining who could have communion?). Apparently without authorization Farel and Calvin did preach the Easter of 1638, and apparently did not restrain themselves, and they were summarily banished. Geneva desended into civil and ecclesiastical chaoes while Calvin went to study under Bucer in Strasbourg for three years. When Calvin was faced with decideding to return, he said something like he'd rather die 100 times over. Farel, being Farel, seems to have convinced him to return (maybe like when he pronounced an imprecation on Calvin if he did not stay in 1636?).
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  13. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    Bern! Thanks Chris.
  14. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Calvin's banishment from Geneva demonstrates his willingness to suffer rather than sin. On that occasion he is reported as saying, “We protest before you all, that we are not obstinate about the question of bread, leavened or unleavened; that is a matter of indifference, which is left to the discretion of the Church. If we decline to administer the Lord’s Supper, it is because we are in a great difficulty, which prompts us to this course.”

    Providence is God's business; obedience is ours.
  15. Matthew1344

    Matthew1344 Puritan Board Freshman

    He attended a church that sang 2 psalms and 2 hymns everyweek. He would sing the psalms, and then not sing the hymns and stand there. Eventually, if i understand correctly, he went to an all EP church. But he said all their fellowship was 4 families sitting in a room talking about how all the other churches are in sin. He said that couldnt be right. There had to be another way to reform nashville.

    Now he is our pastor of about 40 people. The unity is great. We are structured like Ray ortlands, where we accept both 1689 and 1646 elders. We are different
  16. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    So, your pastor doesn't sing the hymns then?
  17. Joshua

    Joshua pilgrim

    So Uzzah, Nadab, and Abihu walked into a bar, and Uzzah said, "Do you remember that time the Lord struck us dead because we were too focused and strict pertaining to the right manner of drawing nigh unto Him?" Nadab and Abihu said, "No." "Me neither," replied Uzzah.
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  18. Matthew1344

    Matthew1344 Puritan Board Freshman

    i believe he does now.

    Does EP exclude the Gloria Patri and the Doxology song? We sing those ever week as well. I really enjoy them.
  19. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    If he sings hymns now with a clear conscience he must not really be EP; otherwise I don't see how he could. Correct; EP as it is articulated now and for some time would exclude singing those.
  20. Matthew1344

    Matthew1344 Puritan Board Freshman

    i was told once that it is a song of the ancient church. that it is one of the original songs of the early church. not true?
  21. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I don't know it's history. It's age is irrelevant as to whether it ought to be sung.
  22. Matthew1344

    Matthew1344 Puritan Board Freshman

    While reading this, I looked at 1 chron 25 and 26. Psalm tiles. I have a friend who is studying greek, hopefully looking up the titles in the septuagint for me.

    I did notice in some of the psalms, it mentions playing instruments. Does this give us authority to still do so? It have not seen any speaking of holy water, ephods, or candles, so i do not see reason to carry those over to the NT instruction of worship. But, if the NT says to sings the psalms, and the psalms instruct us to use instruments, is that authority for instruments.

    Lastly, it also says something about dancing a couple times. Ill be honest. I am not a fan of that at all. I have even spoken against it. I am just admitting a bias. Any help to understand true meaning here?
  23. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    The questions move away from the topic of your thread into topics that require addressing in the worship subform on EP. If you want to pursue this you should probably repost this to a new thread there or I'll have to move the whole thread and then it will lose the original topic or confuse folks.
  24. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Another area where Calvin is accused of compromise is subscription to the Augsburg Confession. What influence did Calvin have on Philipp Melanchthon and his 1540 Revision to the Augsburg?
  25. OPC'n

    OPC'n Puritan Board Doctor

    I think it becomes dangerous when we decide to do or not to do something bc Calvin did or didn't do it. He is isn't our standard he's our encourager and teacher. I'm not EP, but I think if someone is, then they shouldn't care what the congregation thinks they should care what God thinks and just do it. If you are EP and you yet you decide to sing hymns then you sin against your conscious. That's a sin. We could argue all day whether EP is the right way to worship or if it's just a preference. I think my church is right in that it doesn't MAKE the congregation be EP, and others think their church is right in being EP. It's like baptism. The problem arises when you are doing what goes against your conscious just to satisfy other people. Your pastor is the leader of your church not the follower. I believe God will bless him if he follows his conscious and has your church become EP.
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