October 17, 2012 by Jason Hood
What Calvin rejects in monasticism is its
elitism and separatism . . . not the “rituals” associated with it. So Calvin “storms the monastery” as it were, not to demolish the disciplines of the community but to liberate these formative practices from their separatist captivity.
“For Calvin,” Boulton observes, “monastics are mistaken only insofar as they make elite, difficult and rare what should be ordinary, accessible, and common in Christian communities: namely, whole human lives formed in and through the church’s distinctive repertoire of disciplines, from singing psalms to daily prayer to communing with Christ at the sacred supper.”
That is from Jamie Smith, “John Calvin’s Catholic Faith.” (In a footnote he points out that he has previously cited Calvin’s affirmation of a “holy and lawful monasticism”: Desiring the Kingdom, 209 n.118.)
Smith’s/Boulton’s/Calvin’s point is that Christ is Lord over everything, and that Christians need to be shaped for all their vocations (for all of life, that is) by the same activities that fueled the better parts of monastic Christian service. Smith certainly takes his shots on the way to making the point: “our ‘functional Zwinglianism’ offers little anchor for resisting the spirit of the age.” I have no doubt Calvin would agree.
The point is that monks did almost all manner of things–from plant genetics to music to the preservation and transmission of ancient manuscripts to hospitality, prayer, liturgy, evangelism and fasting–to the glory of God. And in these vocations, they were in fact not going beyond the ordinary Christian life; they were being shaped for service and mission. So from one angle, the Reformation goal was to widen participation in this dedicated life of service, not restrict it.
This is but a sub-point for the larger argument of Smith’s essay, summed up in this way: “Protestantism, on this account, is not the demolition of Catholic Christianity, but rather its expansion and democratization.”0 Comments
December 31, 2011 by Gerald Hiestand
Augustine famously defines a sacrament as “a visible word” — a visible sign of an invisible grace. Lombard and the Scholastics take this farther (or “clarify”, if you’re Catholic), and assert that the sign not only signifies Christ and his work, but also dispenses the grace that it signifies. Thus Thomas defines a sacrament as, “The sign of a sacred thing in so far as it sanctifies men” (Summa III.60.2).
I’m preaching a sermon this Sunday on the Christian’s motivation for reading the Bible… And it’s struck me that most low-church evangelicals adopt an essentially sacramental view of Scripture, in this later Thomistic sense. We see the Bible as a holy book (i.e., an external sign) about Christ that uniquely mediates the grace of Christ to those who read it through the eyes of faith.
Of course, there’s nothing unique about this view of Scripture reading — it’s consistent with the way Christians have always read the Bible, at lease since Origen. But there’s a certain irony here in that we low-church protestants view the Scriptures in a sacramental sense, but don’t view the sacraments in a sacramental sense.9 Comments
July 20, 2011 by Jason Hood
A few quotes from Calvin’s Institutes on sacraments and salvation, spawned by an old conversation with pastoral friends on union with Christ and a new conversation with an educated lay leader who is struggling with the human side of Christology.
Godly souls can gather great assurance and delight from this Sacrament; in it they have a witness of our growth into one body with Christ such that whatever is his may be called ours.
We cannot be condemned for our sins, from whose guilt he has absolved us, since he willed to take them upon himself as if they were his own. This is the wonderful exchange which, out of his measureless benevolence, he has made with us:
becoming Son of man with us, he has made us sons of God with him;
by his descent to earth, he has prepared an ascent to heaven for us;
by taking on our mortality, he has conferred his immortality upon us;
accepting our weakness, he has strengthened us by his power;
receiving our poverty unto himself, he has transferred his wealth to us;
taking the weight of our iniquity upon himself (which oppressed us), he has clothed us with his righteousness.
First of all, we are taught from the Scriptures that Christ is from the beginning that life-giving Word of the Father, the spring and source of life, from which all things have always received their capacity to live.
‘I am’ he says, ‘the bread of life come down from heaven. And the bread which I shall give is my flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.’ By these words he teaches not ony that he is life since he is the eternal Word of God, who came down from heaven to us, but also that by coming down he poured that power upon the flesh which he took in order that from it participation in life might flow unto us.
Accordingly, he shows that in his humanity there also swells fullness of life, so that whoever has partaken of his flesh and blood may at the same time enjoy participation in life.