“My Body,” Their Souls

Father Dwight (who seems to write more than Tim Keller) is back with a biblical justification for placing relics under the altar in Roman Catholic churches.

In Revelation 6:9 it is written: And when he had opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of them that were slain for the word of God, and for the testimony which they held.

What does it mean “under the altar were the souls of them that were slain for the Word of God and the testimony they held.”?

In the early church, the remains of the martyrs were placed in above ground table tombs. Similar to the one shown here. During the times of persecution the church would gather in the catacombs for worship and the table tombs were used as the altar for Mass. Thus the remains of the martyrs were under the altar.

When they no longer had to worship in secret, the early Christians still wanted the presence of their martyrs to be near them so they opened the tombs, removed the bones and put them into jars which they then placed beneath the altar.

If you visit churches in Rome today you will often seen the jars with relics on display beneath the altar. More than that, you will often see the whole body of the saint on display beneath the altar. Here, for example is the altar beneath which is the relic of Pope St John XXIII.

Call me a literalist, but Rev 6:9 does not say “bodies.” It also says that the author was able to “see” something that is not visible. How do you see a soul?

So notice that when it comes to the body of Christ in the Mass, the bread becomes the very (true) body of Christ. After all, Christ said, “this is my body.” But when it comes to relics, the bones are memorials to the souls under the altar.

I’m confused. Maybe Zwingli can sort it out.

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Time for Sausage

Martin Luther’s reform began with posting a message — how logocentric. Reformed Protestantism began with eating food. To reinforce Protestant identity while so many manque Protestants are finding their inner penitential selves, here are a couple recipes.

The first is for St. Galler bratwurst:

63.00% veal
32.00% pork jowl
1.50% salt
1.25% milk, dry skim
0.85% sugar
0.42% mustard seed, ground
0.42% lemon zest
0.35% pepper, white, ground
0.10% ginger, powdered
0.06% mace, ground

26mm sheep casings

For those who think that looks hard (I do — who measures like that?), here’s a way to dine on sausage that looks tasty and comforting:

Ingredients 12 SERVINGS
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more
1 medium boule sourdough, cut into 1-inch pieces (9–10 cups), dried out overnight
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound sweet or spicy Italian sausage, casings removed
2 large onions, finely chopped
3 celery stalks, chopped
¼ cup finely chopped sage
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
2 large eggs, beaten to blend
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups half-and-half
1 pound aged cheddar, grated (about 5 cups), divided

Preparation
Preheat oven to 300°. Butter a shallow 13×9″ baking dish and a large piece of foil. Place 9 cups bread in a large bowl.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook sausage, stirring occasionally and breaking into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 7–10 minutes. Transfer to bowl with bread.
Place onions, celery, sage, and 2 Tbsp. butter in same skillet; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until onions are golden brown and soft, 10–12 minutes. Add wine and cook, stirring occasionally, until almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes; scrape into bowl with bread and sausage.
Whisk eggs and broth in a medium bowl until smooth, then pour over bread mixture. Pour in half-and-half and add 3 cups cheese; toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to prepared baking dish and cover with foil, buttered side down. Bake until a paring knife inserted into the center comes out hot, 40–50 minutes .
Heat broiler. Uncover stuffing and top with remaining cheese. Broil until top is golden and bubbling, about 4 minutes. Let sit at least 10 minutes and up to 30 before serving.
Do Ahead: Stuffing can be assembled 1 day ahead; cover with foil and chill. Stuffing can be baked (but not broiled) 3 hours ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temperature until ready to broil.

Reformed Protestants Who Pick Nits

John Piper posted for the recent anniversary of John Calvin’s birthday about the origin of Calvinism. He went right to John Calvin and his conversion:

He was born in July 1509, in Noyon, France, and was educated at the best universities in law, theology, and classics. At the age of twenty-one, he was dramatically converted from tradition-centered medieval Catholicism to radical, biblical, evangelical faith in Christ and His Word.

Radical? At least it wasn’t earnest.

This is the sort of understanding of Reformed Protestantism that drives folks in Zurich nuts. At least a decade before John Calvin arrived in Geneva, Ulrich Zwingli was already reforming the churches of Zurich. Calvin was only twelve when Zwingli started on his way to Protestantism.

Nor should Martin Bucer be forgotten. He initiated reforms in the city of Strasbourg a year or so after Zwingli’s activities. Bucer also put his stamp indelibly on Calvin when in 1538 Geneva’s city authorities told Calvin to leave. Calvin ministered in Strasbourg for two years to a French speaking congregation and taught at Strasbourg’s academy, an institution that was a model for the Geneva Academy.

The point is that Reformed Protestants acknowledge the importance of Calvin but don’t put all their hero-worship eggs in one basket.

Piper to his credit quotes Benjamin Warfield who wrote:

The Calvinist is the [person] who sees God behind all phenomena, and in all that occurs recognizes the hand of God…

Is it too much to ask the New Calvinists to see the hand of God in the old Calvinism that emerged in places like Zurich and Strasbourg well before John Calvin was even a Protestant?

Imagine That

The rules that guide the church don’t extend beyond the church parking lot:

In reply to Joe Vusich’s article, in which he states that “all images of the divine Persons of the Trinity are sinful”, and that, “Historically, Reformed and Calvinist churches have taught that all images/statues/paintings of Jesus Christ (and of the Father and the Holy Spirit) are violations of the 2nd Commandment,” I would simply offer the following observations.

The Reformers’ attitude to the representational arts is well known in the worlds of both church and art history. All the Reformers were concerned with returning the Bible to a central place in the life of the Church in contrast with the centuries-long pattern of idolatry and superstition within the Roman Catholic Church. Given that art had sustained a pivotal role in facilitating the iconographical model of worship of Roman Catholicism, and had maintained a close relationship with false doctrine, the Reformers developed restrictive procedures on art, especially with regard to the use of images in worship.

Although they objected to the iconographical use of art in worship, Calvin and Zwingli were not against the use of art in other venues.

Calvin said, “I am not gripped by the superstition of thinking absolutely no images permissible, but because sculpture and paintings are gifts of God, I seek a pure and legitimate use of each” (Institutes, 1.11.12. Although Calvin clearly forbade the depiction of the “majesty of God”, that is, of Divinity, lest we tarnish his glory, he finds use for “historical” . . . “representation of events” for “The former are of some use for instruction or admonition” Institutes, 1.11.12).

And Zwingli, known for his extreme iconoclastic views, went as far as to permit the use of art in churches just as long as it was not used for the purposes of worship. He said “where anyone has a portrait of His humanity, that is just as fitting to have as to have other portraits.” Quoted in Charles Garside, Zwingli and the Arts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1966), p. 182.

Not sure about all the details of this post. But it does show how readily 2k comes to most any reasonable Christian not caught in the grip of make-everything-Christian (especially the American, Scottish, or Dutch nation).

A Reformed Protestant by Any Other Name Has to Be Shorter

From my trip to Geneva last summer for the festivities to celebrate John Calvin’s 500th birthday I still recall the indignation of a professor from the University of Zurich during his plenary presentation. He complained about Calvinism as the designation for Protestants who come from the Swiss Reformation. Obviously, he has a point since the Reformed churches started well before Calvin was a Protestant. What is more, Geneva was a bit of an outlier in the Swiss Confederation, not joining until the 19th century (though it was an ally of Bern which brought Geneva in closer relationship to Switzerland). And during the Reformation itself, Geneva and Zurich were not always on the best of terms. The Consensus Tigurinus (1549) is one indication of an effort by Calvin and Bullinger to bury the butter knife.

The primacy of Zurich to Geneva and of Zwingli to Calvin means that Calvinism is a misnomer. Should the better name be Zwinglian? Well, the Lutherans might find that agreeable – as in the Reformed finally own up to their real convictions on the Lord’s Supper. But Zwingli died in 1531 and hardly spoke for a body of churches that were just emerging (Geneva had yet to reform its church).

Another disadvantage of Calvinism is that it abstracts a doctrine of salvation from the church and sacraments – as in John Piper is a Calvinist. Piper may share Calvin’s view of the five points, but does he follow Calvin on church polity or the Lord’s Supper? And why would the doctrines of grace determine the nature of Calvinism more than worship or the church?

Of course the advantage of Calvinist is that it is shorter than Reformed Protestant. At three syllables, Calvinist weighs in right there with Lutheran and Anglican, meaning you don’t have to exert yourself to identify as a Calvinist. Reformed Protestant is a five-syllable mouthful; Reformed Protestantism is no quicker to say. RP might work but the Covenanters already have that moniker cornered.

So we may be stuck with Calvinism. But all Reformed Protestants, that is, those Protestants different from Lutherans and the Church of England, who identify with like-minded saints in places like Hungary, Poland, France, Scotland, the Netherlands, and the Palatinate, should feel a pang of remorse when identifying their ecclesial heritage as Calvinist – sort of the way readers of Wendell Berry feel guilty when turning the ignition of their car and burning more fossil fuel.

Do They Really Want What They Want?

Steven Wedgeworth over at Credenda Agenda has registered a critique of two-kingdom theology that uses David VanDrunen’s new book on natural law and the two kingdoms as the object of critique. Some of the usual federal vision suspects have lined up to promote Wedgeworth’s piece. Rabbi Bret writes:

Wedgeworth also spends time exposing how the Two Kingdoms, as defined by the Magisterial Reformers, covered different realities then the Two Kingdoms of Escondido fame. For the Magisterial Reformers the Two Kingdoms were defined as such that there was a diversity in unity. For Escondido the Two Kingdoms are defined in such a way that there is diversity (Nature realm vs. Redemptive realm) with no unity. (Hence the constant charge of Dualism.)

So you know it must be good.

Wedgeworth has two main complaints – one is that the idea of a spiritual and a temporal kingdom (or Augustine’s two cities) do not correlate with the church and the state. Wedgeworth writes:

It was precisely because the visible church existed in the temporal kingdom that Christian magistrates had a duty to protect and reform them. The princes were not to personally involve their office in crafting doctrine or worship, but they surely were involved in financing, defending, and promoting certain visible churches to the exclusion of others. Since all Christian laypersons were priests, the Reformers saw no problem with allowing princes to function as Christians in their particular vocation and to make use of their superior ordering abilities in the visible church. All of the Reformed confessions are in agreement on this point, as well, and so it seems impossible to remove this feature from the ecclesiology of the Reformation.

What Wedgeworth fails to acknowledge (aside from an inordinate fixation on Calvin as the standard of all things Reformed) is that Zurich and Geneva differed over the respective powers of the city council and church authority. Zurich was much closer to (if not guilty of) an Erastian model, with the magistrates reserving the right of excommunication, while Geneva worked hard to gain for the church the spiritual power of excommunication. In other words, the responsibility of the state to preserve the true religion is much more a legacy of Zurich than of Geneva and the difference is evident in the way that the Geneva Confession (1556) and the Gallican Confession (1559) refuse to attribute ecclesiastical powers to the magistrate the way, say, that the Westminster Divines did when in the original version of their Confession (subsequently altered by American Presbyterians in 1787) gave the magistrate the right to call and preside over synods and councils of the church. Can anyone imagine George Bush or Barack Obama presiding over the General Assembly of the OPC? (For that matter, can anyone imagine why a president would care to preside over a gathering of 160 pastors and elders?) And yet, that was the kind of power that a Zurichian arrangement bequeathed to one side of the Reformed brain.

(By the way, for the record this would make the Federal Visionaries pro-Zurich on political theology but pro-Geneva on the Lord’s Supper. Can you say “dualism”? Sure you can.)

While Wedgeworth’s point that the spiritual and the temporal do not equate to church and state, it’s pretty hard to read Calvin on the two kingdoms and not think that the civil and ecclesiastical polities lined up pretty neatly with the visible church and the visible state.

Therefore, to perceive more clearly how far the mind can proceed in any matter according to the degree of its ability, we must here set forth a distinction: that there is one kind of understanding of earthly things; another of heavenly. I call “earthly things” those which do not pertain to God or his Kingdom, to true justice, or to the blessedness of the future life; but which have their significance and relationship with regard to the present life and are, in a sense, confined within its bounds. I call “heavenly things” the pure knowledge of God, the nature of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom. The first class includes government, household management, all mechanical skills, and the liberal arts. In the second are the knowledge of God and of his will, and the rule by which we conform our lives to it.

Of the first class the following ought to be said: since man is by nature a social animal, he tends through natural instinct to foster and preserve society. Consequently, we observe that there exist in all men’s minds universal impressions of a certain civic fair dealing and order. Hence no man is to be found who does not understand that every sort of human organization must be regulated by laws, and who does not comprehend the principles of those laws. Hence arises the unvarying consent of all nations and of individual morals with regard to laws. For their seeds have, without teacher or lawgiver, been implanted in all men. (Institutes, II.ii.13)

Since Calvin puts government and household management – and not the church – under earthly things, it looks like the distinction between church (spiritual) and state (temporal) was in Calvin’s mind (and not just VanDrunen’s or Luther’s). Heck, it was even in the minds of the Westminster Divines when they wrote:

Synods and councils are to handle, or conclude nothing, but that which is ecclesiastical: and are not to intermeddle with civil affairs which concern the commonwealth, unless by way of humble petition in cases extraordinary; or, by way of advice, for satisfaction of conscience, if they be thereunto required by the civil magistrate. (WCF 31.5 original)

In other words, even in an Erastian environment with a king or parliament calling the church’s shots, Reformed churchmen were able to distinguish the differences between the civil and the ecclesiastical in ways that leave today’s Christendomians (read: theonomists) tripping.

To see how much the Reformed tradition identified Christ’s kingdom with the church you only need to look at the way that the Reformed catechisms treat the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer or Christ’s kingly office. Here is the Larger Catechism’s rendering of Christ role as kind:

WLC Q. 45. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in calling out of the world a people to himself, and giving them officers, laws, and censures, by which he visibly governs them; in bestowing saving grace upon his elect, rewarding their obedience, and correcting them for their sins, preserving and supporting them under all their temptations and sufferings, restraining and overcoming all their enemies, and powerfully ordering all things for his own glory, and their good; and also in taking vengeance on the rest, who know not God, and obey not the gospel.

In other words, the Reformers, whether influenced by Zurich or Geneva, were jealous to preserve the spiritual rule of Christ from being confused with the rule of the state, and to locate the spiritual rule of Christ with officers of his visible church.

Wedgeworth’s other objection to VanDrunen’s book is the distinction between Christ’s mediatorial (i.e. redemptive) and his creational rule. Wedgeworth believes this sets up an impossible scenario of a divided self where a Christian is “guided by his cultural spirit and imagination at certain moments of his life and by his religious spirit and imagination at others.” Why this is so hard to imagine I do not know. After all the Christian father who is also an elder treats his son differently when appearing before the session or when addressing him in the home, just as a Christian gynecologist treats a naked woman differently depending on whether he’s married to her and he’s her physician. Christians make distinctions of office and vocation all the time. If we can imagine doing it, why not someone who is more adept at juggling human affairs and diverse responsibilities than we are – namely, Jesus Christ.

But not to be missed is that if Wedgeworth wants to collapse the mediatorial and creational rules into one power, he is guilty of Roman Catholicism. At least, that was how David McKay explained it when expounding Samuel Rutherford’s account of church-state relations. McKay writes:

. . . Rutherford does maintain that Christian magistrates have a duty to promote the well-being of the church. He also insists, however, that “the Magistrate as a Magistrate is not the Deputie of Jesus Christ as Mediator,” a view that he goes on to describe as “the heart and soule of Popery.”(McKay, “From Popery to Principle: Covenanters and the Kingship of Christ,” in The Faith Once Delivered, p. 136)

Later in this essay, McKay also quotes George Gillespie to the following effect: Christ has all power “by the eternal generation, ad by the declaration of him to be the Son of God with power, when he was raised from the dead, Rom. 1:14.” According to McKay, Gillespie agrees that Christ has power to subdue the enemies of his church, but “as Mediator he is only the church’s King, Head, and Governor, and hath no other kingdom” (p. 139).

So while the Federal Visionaries and neo-Calvinists keep figuring out ways to redeem all of life – with the aim, I guess, of putting Christians in charge of everything so believers can be the ones calling synods and councils – they should remember first that the magisterial reformation started with the magistrate, not the church. Zwingli, Bucer, Calvin, Ursinus served at the good pleasure of the state; they did not call a church council and send petitions to the magistrates to adopt pro-Protestant policies. And if Federal Visionaries want the same circumstances today as those that informed the Reformation, they better start working on getting Doug Wilson or Neil Plantinga to run for office – preferably with a little more clout than the district superintendent of public recreation.

Or they could simply follow Calvin’s advice and remember that the effects of salvation are first, foremost, and ultimately, not cultural, political, legal, medicinal, or agricultural but spiritual. As Calvin put it at the beginning of his discussion of the magistrate, the problem with Federal Visionaries and neo-Calvinists is their addiction to the Judaic Folly:

But whoever knows how to distinguish between body and soul, between this present fleeting life and that future eternal life, will without difficulty know that Christ’s spiritual Kingdom and the civil jurisdiction are things completely distinct. Since, then, it is a Jewish vanity to seek and enclose Christ’s Kingdom within the elements of this world, let us rather ponder that what Scripture clearly teaches is a spiritual fruit, which we gather from Christ’s grace. . . (Institutes, IV.xx.1)