Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Straight to Christ

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 10 - Power of making laws: Pope's tool of tyranny
27-32 - Right church government and worship:
Decency, love, and a free conscience
27. Some try to do away with all church law, but that isn't right either. It can be hard to tell good from bad order and tradition. Every society needs organization - 1 Cor 14:40. But we can't bind conscience with scruples to consider it needed for salvation or piety.
28. The mark of good order is decency, dignity, humanity, moderation, love and piety fostered, modesty and gravity, peace and quietness.
29. Much worship is trifling pomp, when it "ought to lead us straight to Christ." Many rules like this, in Scripture and in our culture apply the decency criteria: no profane drinking at Communion (1 Cor 11:21-22), women with covered heads (1 Cor 11:5), kneeling to pray with bare heads, burial with reverence, silence during sermons, set hours for public worship, women forbidden to teach in the church (1 Cor 14:34), etc.
30. Church laws need to be "founded upon God's authority, drawn from Scripture." Many details are not given in Scripture, and we should let "the customs of each nation and age" prevail, as long as they don't violate "those general rules which He has given" in Scripture.
31. We should readily follow just church laws and customs, out of loving regard for each other. Conscience should not be bound rigidly to these, though. If forgetfulness or emergency forbid a woman covered in public, a corpse bured without the right cloth, an old man not kneeling to pray, the time of worship, the structure of the building, the psalms sung on any given day. If such customs are gone against from contempt, that's different. We need conformity to these kinds of things, to have an ordered society, but must avoid "overscrupulousness" (1 Cor 11:16).
32. Customs and rites should be few, and all useful. They are changeable and removable, if it becomes necessary, as it has in our day.

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