Calvin’s appeal for “fraternal concord among the churches”

After concluding that the dispute between Luther and Zwingli on the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper was rooted in a mutual misunderstanding, Calvin, in his “Short Treatise on the Supper of our Lord,” calls for the churches of the Reformation to find satisfaction in their common confession:

Meanwhile it should satisfy us, that there is fraternity and communion among the churches, and that all agree in so far as is necessary for meeting together, according to the commandment of God. We all then confess with one mouth, that on receiving the sacrament in faith, according to the ordinance of the Lord, we are truly made partakers of the proper substance of the body and blood of Jesus Christ. How that is done some may deduce better, and explain more clearly than others. Be this as it may, on the one hand, in order to exclude all carnal fancies, we must raise our hearts upwards to heaven, not thinking that our Lord Jesus is so debased as to be enclosed under some corruptible elements; and, on the other hand, not to impair the efficacy of this holy ordinance, we must hold that it is made effectual by the secret and miraculous power of God, and that the Spirit of God is the bond of participation, this being the reason why it is called spiritual.[1]

I know that the issues between the Lutherans, Calvinists and Anglicans[1] are important, but perhaps, despite our various doctrinal formulations on the Supper, we can find a certain commonality that serves to make our invisible fraternity in the Lord a little more visible.

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[1] Found here: http://www.the-highway.com/supper1_Calvin.html (section 60).

[2] Of course, Calvin is not addressing Anglicans, but their view, according to the Thirty-Nine Articles, closely resembles the view present in the traditional Reformed confessions.

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4 Responses to Calvin’s appeal for “fraternal concord among the churches”

  1. infanttheology says:

    Stephen,

    I would invite you to look at Andrew’s post here and the ensuing discussion. I don’t think it was a misunderstanding, as subsequent events revealed.

    As a confessional Lutheran, I am pleased to participate on this blog and appreciate your desire that we would show a united witness to the world. I think that this can certainly be done to some extent, for example, here, and on places like the White Horse Inn (even as I wish that differences would be honestly and forthrightly discussed there more often as well, because there is much work to be done).

    +Nathan

  2. infanttheology says:

    Stephen,

    Sorry – forgot the link. Here it is: http://reformation500.com/2014/05/07/this-is-my-body-pt-3/

    +Nathan

  3. truthunites says:

    Mr. Wolfe, perhaps this Reformation 500 post and ensuing thread comments may be of assistance as well:

    A Common but Poor Argument Directed at Baptists.

  4. truthunites says:

    “I know that the issues between the Lutherans, Calvinists and Anglicans[1] are important, but perhaps, despite our various doctrinal formulations on the Supper, we can find a certain commonality that serves to make our invisible fraternity in the Lord a little more visible.”

    Mr. Wolfe,

    Did you enjoy this recent piece by Steve Hays:

    “i) Sacramentalists believe there’s something special about the communion elements that makes them a means of grace. The communion elements become Jesus. Or Jesus is physically present in the communion elements.

    By parity of logic, what makes the baptismal water efficacious is that it becomes the Holy Spirit. Or the Holy Spirit is somehow “in” the water (like an eye-drop of dye dispersed in water). But sacramentarians don’t argue for the nature of the baptismal water in the same way they argue for the nature of the communion elements. Why the lack of consistent explanation?

    If the “presence” or identity of Jesus with the bread and wine is what makes it efficacious, doesn’t that require a parallel in the case of water baptism?

    ii) There’s another problem with the sacramentalist inference. Because the Bible ascribes certain effects to communion and (especially) baptism, sacramentalists infer that there’s an intrinsic link between the two, where the baptismal water or communion bread and/or communion wine causes a spiritual effect.

    (This also depends on whether you think their prooftexts actually refer to baptism and communion.)

    But let’s take a couple of comparisons:

    a) Samson’s superhuman might is associated with his long, uncut hair (Judges 13:5; 16:17,22). But does that mean the narrator thought his hair was the actual source of his strength? Did he have magic hair?

    But surely ancients Jews were aware of the fact that long hair didn’t automatically confer superhuman strength on men. Indeed, not even Nazirites in general had superhuman strength.

    So the hair wasn’t what caused his superhuman strength. The hair was only emblematic. God assigned an arbitrary link between his hair and his strength. But his superhuman might came from direct divine empowerment.

    b) Take the case of Uzzah, who was struck dead for touching the ark of the covenant (2 Sam 6:6-7). Is that because the ark was electrified? Like people who are electrocuted if they touch a live power line?

    No, the ark was made of wood. The wood wasn’t fatal on contact. You could use the same kind of wood to make many other harmless artifacts. It’s not like death from eating a poisonous mushroom.

    Rather, the ark was ritually sacrosanct object. It symbolized God’s unapproachable holiness. It wasn’t the ark that caused his death, but God.”

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