OUR CHURCH AND OTHERS
THE REFORMED CALVINISTIC CHURCHES
A. Reformed churches may be divided roughly into two large groups.
1. The Reformed Calvinistic
2. The Reformed Arminian
B. The Reformed Calvinistic
a. Name first shared by all those who left Roman Church.
b. But, name was claimed in 1561 at a meeting with King Charles IX by the Calvinists.
c. To support the claim than their reformation was more thorough than Luther’s.
a. Applies to those churches which adhere to basic theology of John Calvin.
b. They do differ in certain doctrines, in church discipline, and in form of worship.
c. But they do recognize each other as branches of same family.
3. Had beginnings in reformation movement of Huldreich (Ulrich) Zwingli.
b. Motivated largely by humanistic interests.
4. John Calvin is one considered primarily responsible for developing Reformed Theology.
b. Must understand his theology to properly evaluate the American theological scene.
5. Union of Zwinglianism and Calvinism.
a. At first, two distinct and independent movements.
b. One in German section of Switzerland and southwestern Germany.
(1) Inaugurated by Zwingli.
(2) His co-workers Oecolampadius, Bullinger and Bucer.
c. The other in French Switzerland.
(1) At Geneva.
(2) Spearheaded by Calvin.
d. Calvin effected a union between the two in the Consensus Tigurinus of 1549.
II. Zwingli’s Theology
A. Luther’s influence.
1. Much debated.
2. But, Zwingli’s religious interest fundamentally different.
B. Trained in the humanistic spirit, remained such.
C. His theology characterized by:
1. Intellectual moralism.
2. A modified scholasticism.
4. “Enthusiasm”: “The Holy Spirit requires no vehicle.”
D. Motivated largely by ardent patriotism.
E. His reformation:
1. Focused on
a. The cultus (worship).
2. Rather than theology.
3. By legislation rather than by Gospel preaching.
F. In one motion, cast aside the church’s entire liturgical heritage.
G. Supported the use of force in “reforming” the still Romanist cantons of Switzerland.
H. Mortally wounded in battle at Kappel with Romanists.
I. His theology:
1. Viewed the Bible as sole norm and standard in regulating the external life of the Christian community.
2. He placed “the spirit” above “the letter” (the “inner word”).
3. Failed to distinguish between Law and Gospel.
4. Definitely legalistic.
J. His “material principle” (central idea).
1. Absolute divine causality (God’s Sovereignty)
a. A consistent determinist.
b. Found the exclusive cause of evil in God.
c. But, since He is the absolute Sovereign, He is above all law.
2. Sole cause of man’s salvation found in God’s absolute predestination.
a. Wrought immediately by God.
b. Is the infallible sign of election.
c. Can never be lost.
4. Predestination may extend beyond Church and include the upright heathen.
5. Unlike Calvin, did not teach election to reprobation.
6. Did not teach man’s total depravity.
7. The value of Christ’s work consisted in this, that God had appointed Christ as the pledge of our election.
8. God does not employ means of grace.
a. Word preached merely as a “sign of God’s grace”.
b. Baptism merely a public profession.
c. Lord’s Supper only a symbolic action to provide an opportunity to thank God publicly.
III. Calvin’s Theology
A. Did more to shape Reformed Theology than any other individual.
B. Personal history.
1. Studied law briefly.
2. No known deep soul struggle.
3. Little known as to reasons he converted to Protestantism.
4. Fled to Basel under Francis I’s persecution of Protestants.
a. When 27, published the Institutio Religionis Christianae
b. Foremost defense of Calvinistic theology.
5. Persuaded to remain in Geneva.
a. Geneva’s former libertine lifestyle gave way to strict moral severity.
b. Libertine party initiated rebellion, leading to Calvin’s expulsion.
6. Exile at Strasbourg from 1538 to 1541.
a. Came into contact with Bucer.
b. Signed the Augsburg Confession “in the sense in which its author understood it.” (F.E. Mayer, p. 205)
7. Returned to Geneva.
a. Established a plan of government.
b. College of Pastors and the Consistorial Court of Discipline, with Calvin at the head.
c. Directed city’s affairs and controlled the social life of its citizens.
d. Geneva really became a theocracy.
C. Material Principle of Calvin’s Theology (center of his theology)
1. Frequently, but wrongly, assumed to be theory of double election.
2. Nor is it justification.
3. Rather, it is his concept of the glory of God.
a. He is the best representative of theocentricism.
b. For Calvin, God is the beginning, the means, the end of everything.
c. He integrated all areas of life with this God-centered concept.
4. To make His own glorification possible:
a. God said to bestow His grace upon all man.
(1) called “common grace”, i.e. common to all man.
(2) is not God’s pardoning grace in Christ.
(3) Is the gift which enables man to live to His glory in areas of culture, industry, politics, science.
b. His sovereign will also said to manifest itself in bestowal of “special grace”.
(1) given only to the elect.
(2) Irresistibly works their salvation.
(3) Says that if man could resist this grace, He would no longer be sovereign and absolute.
D. Formal Principle of Calvin’s Theology (source of truth).
1. Views universe as a system of beautiful harmony, both re: spirit and nature.
a. Therefore, God’s will is revealed in nature and in history.
b. In state of integrity, man understood and followed God’s will.
c. With sin, man no longer sees this system of perfect order.
2. Therefore, Bible given as a corrective and an absolute standard and norm for all conduct both in the moral and the spiritual realms.
a. To direct man’s thinking and conduct in science, culture, business, society, the home, and in politics.
b. To serve as the norm according to which men are to pattern their conduct for the greater glory of God.
c. Is made the code for right belief.
3. Differences in understanding the “Sola Scriptura”.
a. Lutheran theology.
(1) asks: What has God done for my salvation?”
(2) finds answer in the Scriptural revelation of God’s grace.
(1) asks: What must I do to the greater glory of God?
(2) sees in the Bible the Sovereign’s will for man’s conduct and belief.
(4) reveals a mingling of Law and Gospel.
(5) sees the Law as the basis for, and the ground of, the divine-human covenant relation.
(6) law’s chief function not to serve as a mirror, but as a rule.
(7) believed that reason and faith are not opposed to each other.
(8) therefore, even in doctrinal matters, nothing contrary to right reason may be admitted.
(9) distinguishes between:
(a) the outward word of the Bible, in which God speaks to all men, and
(b) “the inner word” by which Spirit speaks only to the elect.
(c) only by their inner experiences and feelings can people discover whether Spirit is speaking by the inner word.
(d) has allowed some Calvinistic sects to discard their bibles in favor of visions, dreams, emotions, etc.
IV. Doctrinal Standards
A. Accept the ecumenical creeds.
B. Also, have their own distinctive confessions.
1. More than 60 in various countries.
2. Can still construct a “solid trunk” of Calvinistic theology.
C. They do not attach same importance to them as Lutheran church does.
1. No strict adherence to the confessional principle.
2. Some reject all denominational confessions and insist that the Bible is their creed (“non-creedal churches”)
D. Confessions include:
1. The Heidelberg Catechism, 1563.
2. The Canons of the Synod of Dort, 1574, 1578 and 1618-19.
3. The Westminster Confession of Faith, 1647.
V. Representative Reformed Calvinistic Bodies.
A. More than 150 branches of Reformed Church in U.S.
B. The Reformed Church in America.
1. Immigrants from Holland, early 1600’s.
2. Rutgers College, founded 1766.
C. The Christian Reformed Church.
1. Dutch immigrants.
2. Organized in 1857.
3. Conservative and adheres strictly to Calvinistic theology.
D. Presbyterian Bodies.
1. Elders or presbyters, two types:
a. Teaching elder (pastor).
b. Ruling elders
2. Generally strictly Calvinistic.
3. Westminster Confession of Faith.
E. The Baptist Churches.
1. Most are Calvinists.
2. Some are Arminian.
3. Neither regard sacraments as divinely appointed means of grace.
4. Tend to be strongly legalistic.
F. The Mennonites.
1. Trace back to early Anabaptist movement.
a. Church is a visible organization of regenerate persons.
b. Which must be kept holy by strict exercise of the law.
3. Salvation by “spiritual” knowledge of Christ.
a. The basis of justification.
b. Not the result.
G. The Quakers.
1. “Inner Light”.
2. Immediate knowledge of God without the medium of Scripture.
H. The Protestant Episcopal Church.
1. The daughter of the Anglican Church.
2. Originally, England very much in agreement with Lutheranism.
3. For them, as for Anglican Church, form of church government of greater importance that doctrine.
4. Bishop (Gk. episkopos) considered supreme.
5. Attach great importance to theory of apostolic succession.
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