The Church is our Mother

Quick Random Reflections

Paul writes that the Jerusalem above is our Mother. In our Lord’s Day assembly we are invited to the heavenlies. The Church is indeed our Mother, since heaven becomes our Mt. Zion and our New Jerusalem; our abode. This is why the Church has declared– both Catholic and Protestant– that outside her there is no ordinary possibility of salvation.How could there be? All mysteries are in her, and through her, as Paul writes, the wisdom of God flows to the world.

Modern day evangellifish (as Wilson puts it) is plagued by Romaphobia. If Rome does it, it must be wrong. This was certainly the opposite of how the Reformers viewed it. Rituals, high-Church, read prayers, corporate confessions were a necessary part of the early Reformed services. Calvin’s liturgy in Geneva was strikingly rich in liturgy. Yet, modern Reformed churches have abandoned their heritage– trading the blossoming Reformation for blended forms of accomodationism.


3 responses to “The Church is our Mother

  1. Hello, Uri. What do you think of this quote from Carlos Eire’s War Against the Idols- regarding what he says is Calvin’s view of man-made ceremonial worship?

    Calvin maintains that the human heart is also led into the error of idolatry through its love of ceremony and ritual (A good study of Calvin’s view of ceremonies is T.W. Street’s John Calvin on Adiaphora [Ph.D. dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, New York, 1954], pp. 208-16). Calvin attacks the excessive and improper use of ceremonies by the Catholic church as a denial of spiritual worship. First, because it is an abrogation of God’s commands; secondly, because it often entails the improper use of material paraphernalia; and finally because it is often taken to be some sort of automatic communication between God and man. Humanly devised ceremonies are a bold affront to God’s power, honor, and freedom. Through them men attempt to worship God as they please and to bind His power to specific situations. Consequently, Calvin deals with ceremonies as dangerous distractions that only serve to confuse man and rob God of His majesty (Grau, Calvins Stellung, p. 12; Wencelius, L’Esthetique, pp. 221-2). Calvin also carries his analysis of the psychology of idolatry to the social level. “We see,” he says, “how by mutual persuasion, men urge one another to defend superstition and the worship of idols.” Calvin asserts that the more the truth of God is manifested, the more obstinately man persists in following his own way against God, as if he intends to wage war against Him (take heed Jim – RB). Calvin is convinced that the perversion of man is such that, since the beginning of the Reformation, there has been an increase in idolatry, not a decrease (Commentary of Isaiah, CR 37.37 [CR refers to: Corpus Reformatorum: Joannis Calvini Opera quae supersunt omnia, edited by W. Baum, E. Cunitz, and E. Reuss, Brunswick, 1863-80]). Calvin attributes this rebellion against God to a form of mass hysteria in which idolaters take comfort from each other’s encouragements and from the security that comes from belonging to a large group (Ibid. CR 37.254). Calvin also argues that people remain steeped in idolatry out of habit and a false sense of awe resulting from the antiquity of their beliefs. It is very difficult, he indicates, to believe that anything ancient can be wrong. The older the idolatry, therefore, the harder it is to displace from men’s hearts (Sermons on Deuteronomy, CR 28.711). Zwingli has also made a similar reference to this phenomenon in De vera et falsa religione(Latin Works, 3.337).

  2. Becky, there is much to say about this quote. There are a lot of historical assertions made, which I do not have the resources to confirm. A couple of comments:

    “Calvin maintains that the human heart is also led into the error of idolatry through its love of ceremony and ritual.”
    This is consistent with Calvin’s themes in the Institutes. He writes that the human heart is an idol factory. Calvin’s critique is mainly a critique of Rome’s liturgical abuses. It is not a critique of Reformational methods of worship and liturgy. The Reformers were deeply interested in liturgy. The Reformers argued that idolatry comes when it is not accompanied by the gospel. In Rome’s case the gospel was missing, and beyond that, liturgy became the privilege of the priests. The Lord’s Supper itself was not given to the common man. Thus, the Word, Sacrament, plus the rampant corruption led to the Reformation. This is the context Calvin and Luther has in mind. The ceremony and ritual are empty rituals because they are not accompanied by the gospel. I deal with this in my Reformation sermon:

    “Calvin also argues that people remain steeped in idolatry out of habit and a false sense of awe resulting from the antiquity of their beliefs. ”
    These quotes are clearly consistent with the Reformation. They must all be viewed in context. Historically, there were many like Lafavre in the early part of the 16th century who embraced the Reformation principles, even before Luther, but did not have the courage to leave Rome. Though their sentiments were noble, Calvin and Luther took the next logical and radical step.
    The common layman were steeped in their tradition, because many only had a particular view of the church in mind. They did not expect a reformation of any sort. They simply went with the flow and hoped that Rome would see its glory days in the future. The masses follow the elite. This has always been the case. Rome forgot its true allegiance. The Reformation broke the flow of history and overturned the tables of error. They believed–as we should continue to believe–that the Scriptures need to continually sanctify the Church.
    Hope this helps.

  3. as far as Calvin and the Church goes… He too called it Mother and warned against those who would abandon it:
    (from book four, chapter one of the institutes)
    4. But as it is now our purpose to discourse of the visible Church, let us learn, from her single title of Mother, how useful, nay, how necessary the knowledge of her is, since there is no other means of entering into life unless she conceive us in the womb and give us birth, unless she nourish us at her breasts, and, in short, keep us under her charge and government, until, divested of mortal flesh, we become like the angels (Mt. 22:30). For our weakness does not permit us to leave the school until we have spent our whole lives as scholars. Moreover, beyond the pale of the Church no forgiveness of sins, no salvation, can be hoped for, as Isaiah and Joel testify (Isa. 37:32; Joel 2:32). To their testimony Ezekiel subscribes, when he declares, “They shall not be in the assembly of my people, neither shall they be written in the writing of the house of Israel”(Ezek. 3:9); as, on the other hand, those who turn to the cultivation of true piety are said to inscribe their names among the citizens of Jerusalem. For which reason it is said in the psalm, “Remember me, O Lord, with the favour that thou bearest unto thy people: O visit me with thy salvation; that I may see the good of thy chosen, that I may rejoice in the gladness of thy nation, that I may glory with thine inheritance” (Ps. 106:4, 5). By these words the paternal favour of God and the special evidence of spiritual life are confined to his peculiar people, and hence the abandonment of the Church is always fatal.”

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