Unsettled Christianity

Gloria Dei homo vivens – St Irenaeus
October 17th, 2016 by Joel Watts

ignorant laity (a quote by John Calvin)

I believe in icons, but I think that using them in the place of sound teaching produces idol worshipers. If we read the words of John Calvin in this light, I think we see the root of the problem in many of our denominations today. No one is actually teaching.

But then we shall also answer that this is not the method of teaching within the sacred precincts believing folk, whom God wills to be instructed there with a far different doctrine than this trash. In the preaching of his Word and sacred mysteries he has bidden that a common doctrine be there set forth for all. But those whose eyes rove about in contemplating idols betray that their minds are not diligently intent upon this doctrine.

Therefore, whom, then, do the papists call uneducated whose ignorance allows them to be taught by images alone? Those, indeed, whom the Lord recognizes as his disciples, cwhom he honors by the revelation of his heavenly philosophy, whom he wills to be instructed in the saving mysteries of his Kingdom. I confess, as the matter stands, that today there are not a few who are unable to do without such “books.” But whence, I pray you, this stupidity if not because they are defrauded of that doctrine which alone was fit to instruct them? Indeed, those in authority in the church turned over to idols the office of teaching for no other reason than that they themselves were mute. cPaul testifies that by the true preaching of the gospel “Christ is depicted before our eyes as crucified” [Gal. 3:1 p.]. aWhat purpose did it serve for so many crosses—of wood, stone, silver, and gold—to be erected here and there in churches, if this fact had been duly and faithfully taught: that Christ died on the cross to bear our curse [Gal. 3:13], to expiate our sins by the sacrifice of his body [Heb. 10:10], to wash them by his blood [Rev. 1:5], in short, to reconcile us to God the Father [Rom. 5:10]? From this one fact they could have learned more than from a thousand crosses of wood or stone. For perhaps the covetous fix their minds and eyes more tenaciously upon gold and silver than upon any word of God.1

  1. Calvin, J. (2011). Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2. (J. T. McNeill, Ed., F. L. Battles, Trans.) (Vol. 1, p. 107). Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.
Joel Watts
Watts holds a MA in Theological Studies from United Theological Seminary. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians, as well as seeking an MA in Clinical Mental Health at Adams State University. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Comments

One Response to “ignorant laity (a quote by John Calvin)”
  1. I visited, as I abundantly mentioned on #fb, a Reformed Episcopalian (Anglican) Church last week. Other than things that were simply beyond my customs, such as bowing to the crucifix, which I think were minor things, I couldn’t find anything I didn’t like. Pertinent to this post is the fact that, in every aspect of their liturgy, this church is, in fact and directly, teaching! There were no idols there, but the words of the minister (priest), from the Word of God, the motions and movements leading the audience to the centrality of the Cross and that the worshiped entity was the only important thing, not the worshiping one, were again, in fact and directly teaching the Word of God. Somehow some Reformed Denominations, or those who are really, off-shot thereby, managed to maintain a healthy measure of symbolism without delving into idolatry.

    I believe this to be only one of the legacies of the teaching of John Calvin.

    In fairness I have to give Joel Watts (apart from the other God, the one who sits on the throne) for arousing in me the interest to return to what I call good tradition.

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