Saturday, December 22, 2018

Reading Notes from Niesel's The Theology of Calvin: Part Three of Three

For earlier posts, see part one and part two.

Chapter 13: The Church:

Calvin “characterized the being of the church by a single word which was applied to it from the earliest times; the church is our mother” (186).

Calvin: “Of the true church, with which we strive to be at one, since it is the mother of all the pious” (186; Inst. 4.1.1).

“Anyone who sees in Calvin the author of all centrifugal tendencies in church life shows that he has not read a single line of him” (196).

“But whether the church is a true church or not cannot be decided by the moral condition of its life; it must be decided solely by asking whether it preaches the Word” (198).

“Calvin did not include the fact of the exercise of church discipline among the signs by which the true church may be recognized. Here again the Christocentric direction of his theology becomes clear. The reality of the church depends not upon our standards, even though they may have been commanded us, but solely upon the work of Christ accomplished towards us and within us through Word and Sacrament. Yet Calvin maintained that the existence of the church can hardly be preserved apart from the exercise of discipline” (199).

Calvin: “As for the outward details of the action, whether believers should take the bread in their hand or not, should distribute it among themselves or whether they should eat the portion just as it is given to him, whether they should hand the cup back to hand of the deacon or pass it to their neighbor, whether the bread should be leavened or unleavened, whether red or white wine should be used—all this is of no importance. These things are merely material instruments about which we can decide freely” (Inst. 4.17.43; as cited on 206-207).

Niesel: “Under no cirumstances must we idolize what are after all simply the forms of worship” (207).

“Now and then it is even good if complete uniformity does not prevail ‘so that it may be manifest that the Christian faith does not consist in such matters’” (207).

Chapter 14: The sacraments:

“The fellowship with the divine… is real fellowship not fusion” (226).

Chapter 15: Secular Government:

Calvin: “Even if we lived under Turks, tyrants, or deadly enemies of the gospel it would still be incumbent upon us to be subject to them? Why? Because it is the good pleasurer of God” (239).

For Calvin, even the worst tyrant “‘is better than no order at all.’ It is better and more profitable than anarchy” (242).

Calvin: “If it is possible for us to live in a place where God is truly honored and worshipped, then it is by far better to live in exile than to remain in the fatherland from which Christ the King of heaven and earth has been banished” (as cited on 245).

[Note: Recall that Calvin lived in Geneva as an exile from his homeland of France. Cf. Herman Selderhuis’ John Calvin: A Pilgrim’s Life.]

Niesel: “In this sentence there resounds once again the theme of Calvin’s whole life and work. It is the name of Jesus Christ” (245).

Chapter 16: The theology of Calvin and its structural organization:

“Jesus Christ controls not only the content but also the form of Calvinistic thought” (247).

Calvin on the relation between justification and sanctification: “Just as Christ cannot be torn asunder, so these two benefits which we receive in Him both simultaneously and in conjunction (simul et coniunctim in ipso) are not to be separated from one another” (249).

Last line of book: “…the structure of Calvin’s thoughts is dependent on the Chalcedonian definition and so on the living fact of divine self-revelation” (250).


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