Thread 1.2

(A series on the history of Calvinism)

Reformed Christianity existed before Calvin became a Protestant and so calling the churches Calvinist to which he belonged is anachronistic. Before Geneva became a home for Protestantism, several cities in the Swiss Confederation, Zurich chief among them, had initiated reform. At the same time, Geneva was a late addition to the Swiss Confederation and always dependent on stronger Swiss cities. This meant that in addition to the struggles Calvin faced in his adopted city, he also encountered resistance and sporadic opposition from the other Reformed churches in Switzerland. His difficult dealings with the other pastors make all the more ironic the later identification of Reformed Protestantism with Calvinism. For instance, in 1554 around the time that Calvin was facing stiff opposition in Geneva from old-time aristocrats who fought the new spiritually inspired regulations of city life, the government of Bern banned Calvin=s writings from the lands under its authority and ordered that they be burned. Burning books was what Roman Catholics were supposed to do with Protestant texts but here was a Reformed city judging Calvin=s teaching beyond the pale. In point of fact, the opposition to Calvin from the Bernese officials had less to do with theology than politics; Geneva was an upstart city that seemed to be acting independently of Bern and so the Bernese wanted to teach the Genevans a lesson. As one biographer argues, this treatment of Calvin=s writings said more about the personalities involved than the intricacies of double predestination or any other contested point of doctrine. Still, the incident is instructive for remembering Calvin=s status among the Reformers and their civic patrons in Switzerland. (p.21)

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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?

Locating the Source of 2K Objections (aside from theonomy and Neo-Calvinism)

I would prefer not to encourage these guys (don’t worry, discouragement is coming) since the Calvinist International provides a highly dubious reading of Reformed Protestantism. But because the Aquila Report (an equal-opportunity aggregator, they even link to Old Life) gave their views on Hooker, Calvin, and political theology a measure of respectability, some response is in order. For a better and more thoughtful response, continue to keep an eye on Matt Tuininga’s blog (with whom the Internationalists have been carrying on a fairly vigorous debate).

In their own words, here is the heart of the matter:

The matter of the controversy can be briefly summed up. We say that the Kingship of Christ is of universal extent, and in two ways: the first spiritual, invisible, immediate and pertaining to the just, though eschatologically and cosmologically universal; the second temporal, visible, mediate and pertaining to all. We say the original two kingdoms of the Reformers means those two modes, the invisible and the visible, not the ministry and the magistrates, both of which are on the visible side. They say that the church is a politically distinct group of people who have no real investment in the temporal realm, but are temporally governed by ordained leaders representative of God by divine right, and that Christ’s kingship is exclusively over it and not over creation or the commonwealth. We say that the church is primarily invisible, but that its temporal profile is a vast multitude, the corpus christianorum, which in situations where the whole community has not recognized the kingship of Christ, constitutes a voluntary schola, but in situations where the community has formally and representatively recognized Jesus’ Kingship, is basically coterminous with the commonwealth. They call our position “Erastian” or “Zwinglian,” and say that Calvin was up to something fundamentally different.

(I have finally figured out who this “we” is — I do find its repeated use by the Internationalists dumbfounding since when I claim “we” on my wife’s behalf I generally pay for it once the guests leave. It is Wedgeworth (W) and Escalante (E) who seem to have more agreement than most couples.)

This is, by the way, one of the oddest readings of church polity since it would seem to make the visible church a matter indifferent to the spiritual and invisible church. As long as you belong to Christ, it doesn’t matter what the preaching, sacraments, ordination standards, or worship patterns are in your own church. Of course, WE don’t say this, but it is an implication of THEIR view and seems to be how church life played out in the Church of England — a communion that their beloved Richard Hooker defended.

THEY go on to say:

In pointing to Hooker as the better reader of Calvin, and in saying that the idea of a Christian commonwealth is normative, we have been repeatedly, and despite repeated clarifications, misconstrued as “theonomist” or “Erastian” by Dr. Darryl Hart, who seems to think that we wish for an authoritarian State applying the Mosaic penal code, when the opposite is in fact the case. Neither Hooker nor Calvin is our regula fidei, and we are happy to adapt their principles appropriately within the context of the modern order of political freedom- an order which only follows from those Protestant principles. Still, we do claim the history for our side. We share the basic theological principles of the Reformation, and specifically those of Luther, Calvin, and Hooker. We hope our contribution can be the accurate genealogy and specific application of the older principles in the 21st century context.

What we have recovered is what seems to us the classical Protestant doctrine of politics. In particular, we have said that the two kingdoms do *not* directly correspond to the two estates of magistracy and ministerium, but rather, that both magistracy and ministerium are within the temporal kingdom.[4] Our opponents do, however, identify the two estates with the two kingdoms respectively.

What is important to see is that WE claim not to be Erastian and THEY also claim that Hooker is the better interpreter of Calvin than Thomas Cartwright or anyone else who holds to jure divino Presbyterianism. That jure divino view, by the way, was an effort to assert the autonomy of the church from the oversight of the state and to claim for the visible church the real keys of the kingdom and the power of excommunication. One of the reasons that folks like Hooker didn’t want the church to have such autonomy or power was that it might give back to the papacy authority that Anglicans understandably didn’t want the Bishop of Rome to have. A contemporary application for those associated with Federal Vision is that if the church doesn’t have such authority, then Federal Visionaries won’t face church discipline, because the magistrate sure isn’t going to do it.

What gets particularly difficult for WE’s interpretation of Calvin and Hooker — not to mention Calvin’s own discussion of church polity in Book Four or Ursinus Zacharias’ commentary on the keys of the kingdom in his companion volume to the Heidelberg Catechism — is the way THEY invoke W. J. Torrance Kirby, a scholar of Zurich and England’s political theology who teaches at McGill University. In his book, The Zurich Connection and Tudor Political Theology, Kirby would seem to regard Bullinger, Hooker, and WE as Erastian and as different — even hostile — to Calvin.

The influence of Zurich theology is particularly evident in the theory underpinning the political institutions of the Elizabethan Settlement, chief among them the Royal Supremacy, the lynchpin of the constitution. In his defence of the royal headship of the church in the 1570s against the attacks of the disciplinarian puritans Thomas Cartwright and Walter Travers, John Whitgift, then Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, relied closely on the political writings of Vermigli, Bullinger, and two other prominent Zwinglians – Gualter and Wolfang Musculus of Berne. Whigift’s so-called “Erastian” conception of society as a unified “corpus christianum,” where civil and religious authority were understood to be coextensive, takes its name from the Zinglian theologian Thomas Lieber . . . alias “Erastus” of Heidelberg. The controversy between Whitgift and promoters of the Genevan model of reform in England is in many respects a replay of the dispute on the continent between Erastus and Theodore Beza, Calvin’s successor in Geneva. Richard Hooker’s celebrated defence of the Elizabethan constitution published toward the end of the century is an elaboration of the same Zwinglian-Erastian political theology. It is worthy of note that Hooker’s patron while at Corpus Christi College in the late 1560s and early ‘70s was John Jewel, Vermigli’s disciple and secretary who had earlier followed his master into exile at Zurich. . . .

The heart and substance of Bullinger’s prophetical office with respect to England was to defend, to interpret , and to promote the Civil Magistrate’s pivotal role as the supreme governing power in the ordering of religion in the realm. . . Strange though it may appear, the institution of the Royal Supremacy with its hypostatic conjunction of supreme civil and ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the Prince, constitutes for Bullinger a vivid exemplar of the unitary character of Christian polity, and also of the distinction and cooperation of magisterial and ministerial power. From the standpoint of Bullinger’s unique covenantal interpretation of history, it is certainly arguable that the Old Testament exemplar is more completely realised under England’s monarchical constitution than under the republican conditions of Bullinger’s own city and canton of Zurich.

In other words, if Kirby is right, contrary to WE, Hooker is not following Calvin but is tracking with the Erastians, Bullinger and Vermigli. At this point, WE’s point about continuity between Calvin and the Church of England would seem to go up incense. Also, THEIR reading of the Reformed tradition, which virtually ignores the important disagreements between Zurich and Geneva, looks like another case of historical cherry picking.

But aside from the historical debates, what the disagreement between WE and Tuininga also reveals is that opposition to the contemporary recovery of 2K is coming not simply from theonomists or neo-Calvinists but from Zwinglians. And what all of these forms of protest share is a high estimate of the state compared to 2k’s assertion of the church’s legitimate access to the keys of the kingdom. Whether it’s a case of not trusting the church, or sensing that circumstances need a solution more effective than word, sacrament, and discipline, the critics of 2k enlarge the kingdom of Christ so that the officers responsible for guns and bombs have power to enforce a Christian community.

I understand the frustration with church power. I wouldn’t want to be disciplined any more than Peter Leithart, and I recognize that church discipline is hardly binding in a society where religion is largely private and personal. What I don’t understand is pining for sixteenth-century England or Geneva. Calling on the magistrate to help with church work, after all, did not work out so well. Don’t these folks ever consider the important connections between established religion and liberal theology? Bullinger and Hooker perhaps could not since they were only a handful of decades into a disrupted Christendom or the rise of the nation-state. But for folks living over four hundred years from Erastianism not to see its faults is stunning.

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)