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Repost: Calvin, On the Body of Christ!

August 21, 2016

Calvin, On the Body of Christ!
March 27, 2015

“When Calvin speaks, as he regularly does, of the Church as the Body of Christ, he invests the Scriptural figure with immense significance. When he insists on the Headship of Christ in His Church – a central doctrine in Calvin – he is not merely protesting against corruption in ecclesiastical government or obliquely reminding his hearers of the tyranny of Rome; nor is he using the figure in general, mythopoeic fashion. The Headship of Christ is a reality without which notion of the Church would be deprived of all the importance he attaches to it. The language, though Biblical, is figurative; nevertheless, Calvin used it with an eye to the ontological fact of the relation of being that exists between Christ and the Church. The Church, as the Body of Christ, is overflowing with the divine “agape”. In the Church, the prayer of St. Paul could be fulfilled, ‘that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith, that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph. 3: 17-19) When St. Paul speaks of the Church as the Body of Christ he is speaking of its oneness with Christ in love; the oneness is a mystery rooted in the divine purpose. It is not for nothing or by accident that the same figure , “corpus Christi”, is used of both Church and Eucharist; nor is it by accident, in Calvin’s view, that the figure had been in both cases radically distorted in the Middle Ages. . . . . On the question of ecclesiastical order, both in the ministry of Christ’s holy mysteries of Word and Sacrament and in the government and discipline of the Church, all is constantly referred to the Headship of Christ. There is no other absolute criterion for determining any matter concerning that order of the Church. Though Calvin argues from Scripture and primitive practice in favour of every safeguard from the notorious abuses with which he was familiar in the medieval Church, he nowhere proposes any fundamental principle of Church order, government or discipline except the Headship of Christ.” (Calvin, Inst., IV, vi, 9.) ” (Quoted from Geddes MacGregor’s book: Corpus Christi, The Nature Of The Church According To The Reformed Tradition, Westminster Press, Philadelphia, 1958).

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5 Comments
  1. Indeed, “the Headship of Christ” is almost a lost theological doctrine today in the visible Church! Calvin, gets it right here…’Calvin used it with an eye to the ontological fact of the relation of being that exists between Christ and the Church. The Church, as the Body of Christ, is overflowing with the divine “agape”.’ (1 Cor. 6: 17 – “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.” – Scripture quote mine, Fr. R.)

    • Also Calvin’s doctrine and teaching of our/the believers Union with Christ, is profound!

      *See btw J. Todd Billings book: Calvin, Participation, and the Gift, The Activity of Believers in Union with Christ, (Oxford, 2007 / Reprinted 2009). This book is a fine theological piece, 218 pages with Bibliography and Index. A must read for Calvin students, and those that care about the great subject of Union with Christ.

      • See also Billings 2011 paperback book (Baker Academic), Union with Christ, Reframing Theology and Ministry for the Church, (180 pages) See especially chapter 3: Encountering a Mystery in Union with Christ, On Communion with the Incomprehensible God.

  2. And btw, my own theological opinion is that generally speaking, the Christian historical Mysticism is lacking, especially in monasticism. There are of course exceptions, as Bernard of Clairvaux in the West. And I do like some of the writings of both Florovsky and Bulgakov, of course EO. But they do have common errors with the loss of the doctrine of Imputation! But again of course I am Reformational and Reformed in both ecclesiology and christology.

    • And as I have written elsewhere, Karl Barth thought that the EO historically were in error often in their idea and use of Mysticism, i.e. their lack of Christ’s Biblical Imputation & Mediatorship. And I completely agree!

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