Monday, October 26, 2009

Lest we slide down from discipline to butchery

Calvin's Institutes (1559)
Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein

Chapter 12 - Church Discipline in censures and excommunication
8-13 - Moderation in discipline enjoined, and rigorists confuted
8. The early church was too severe, imposing suspension of several years and excommunicating for life those who fall back into sin after being forgiven by the church once. This brought despair, instead of hope for forgiveness.
9. Love should temper all judgment of men - 2 Cor 2:7-8; Gal 6:1. Rather than write them off dismissively or harshly, we should "hope for better things of them in the future than we see in the present."
10. Excommunication and anathematizing both remove one from the church, but excommunication is corrective. Anathematizing is not. It is rarely used. We must be gentle to keep from "butchery." See 2 Thess 3:15.
11. "If [laymen] see vices not diligently enough corrected by the council of elders, should not therefore at once depart from the churech; and that the pastos themselves, if they cannot cleanse all that needs correction according to their hearts' desire, should not for that reason resign their ministry or disturb the entire church with unaccustomed rigor." Augustine: "Whoever either corrects what he can by reproof, or excludes, without breaking the bond of peace, what he cannot correct - disapproving with fairness, bearing with firmness - this man is free and loosed form the curse." See Eph 4:2-3; Matt 13:29.
12. The anabaptists today are like the Donatists of Calvin's day, requiring too high and severe a standard, which does not edify but brings contention. This is Satan disguised as an angel of light - 2 Cor 11:14. Such men don't really hate wickedness, but take pride in their own judgment.
13. Sharp discipline is especially needed when sin gets contagious and threatens the peace of the church.

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