de Gruchy oor Calvyn – “Word & Sacrament”

27 03 2010

Hiermee wat ek by prof John W de Gruchy gehoor het tydens dag 2 van die VBO in Port Elizabeth. Weereens is dit slegs my eie interpretasie van wat ek gehoor het.

Word and Sacrament

When tackling this theme, one has to remember that, for Calvin, Word & Spirit is fundamental to everything. Without Word & Spirit there is no sacrament.

Christianity as a sacramental faith

A sacrament makes the word concrete (John 1:1-14 – remember, John can also be called the “Sacramental Gospel”) This directly opposes Gnosticism which spiritualised everything. The Gnostics also believed that all matter is evil. The Bible, however, teached that God made everything good and that redemption happens in the world – the Word became concrete, flesh and blood (John 1:14). In the end the meaasage of the Bible is that redemption is the total renewal of creation.

The thread that we see running through the Bible is:  Incarnation → Cross → Ressurection

The Body of Christ is

  • The church (as historical fleh & blood people)
  • the bread that we break (at communion)
  • and our bodies are also a Temple of the Holy Spirit (The totality of our humanity)

Christ is the sacrament, as He became flesh.

The eucharist – a source of conflict

Within our own Dutch Reformed Church, the source of the 1857 decision to split communion services based on racial grounds, also boils down to a conflict about the Lord’s Supper.

Zwingli

Sees the eucharist as a replica of the Last Supper, a remembrance of the night Jesus was betrayed. For him it is a feast of thanksgiving, but not a sacrament, only a sign.

“The Eucharist was a replica of the Supper shared by the disciples with their Lord on the night before he was crucified. He was present, not in the way he had been then, but through his Spirit, and became known yet again through the “breaking of the bread.””

Luther

Sees the eucharist very similar to the Roman Catholic Mass, except he did not see it as a sacrifice. Accepts contranssubstantiation – Jesus is present in the bread and wine. If you accept Luther’s viewpoint, you can say that God was crucified. Not so with Calvin, for him only Christ was crucified.

Bucer

Writer of the Anglican book of common prayer, seeked unity between Zwingli and Luther. Stressed that the Eucharist should be a token of unity and not division.

Calvin

Eucharist is a Holy Banquet. Christ is really present in  the eucharist, but it is not transsubstantiation.

“We loudly proclaim the communion of flesh and blood, which is exhibited to believers in the Supper; and we distinctly show that that flesh is truly meat, and that blood truly drink – that the soul not contented with an imaginary conception enjoys them in very truth. That presence of Christ, by which we are ingrafted in him, we by no means exclude from the Supper, nor shroud in darkness, though we hold that there must be no local limitation, that the glorious body of Christ must not be degraded to earthly elements; that there must be no fiction of transubstantiating the bread into Christ, and afterward worshipping it as Christ. “

  • The critical issue for all, whether Catholic, Lutheran, Zwinglian or Calvinist, was how we understand the presence of Christ in the Eucharist specifically in relation to the consecrated bread and wine.
  • Calvin believed that Zwingli had rightly objected to the idea that the Mass was a means of salvation and the danger of superstition. Zwingli was correct in gong back to the New Testament and early church practice in reforming the Eucharist as a real meal or what he called a “holy banquet.”
  • “The trouble was, in Calvin’s eyes, that Zwingli reduced the sacraments to acts by which we attest our faith, whereas they are first and foremost acts of God to strengthen our faith.” The Eucharist, along with Baptism, is a sacrament, and as such a means of grace not just a confession of faith.
  • In eating the bread and drinking the wine we receive the “body and blood of Christ” which was offered once-for-all on the cross. For Zwingli this was unacceptable, largely because for him the bodily presence could never be confused with the spiritual presence of Christ.

Thus we draw life from his flesh and blood, so that they are not undeservedly called our “food.” How it happens, I confess, is far above the measure of my intelligence. Hence I adore the mystery rather than labour to understand it. John Calvin (In a letter to the reformer Peter Martyr Vermigli, * August 1555)

Epiclesis

The epiclesis (prayer to the Holy Spirit) is what makes the eucharist the eucharist. Thus the bread and wine can become for us, through faith, the Body of Christ. It helps us to remember what this meal signifies. Therefor we pray for the prescence of the Holy Spirit, because the eucharist is the Spirit’s work, NOT a priest/pastor/minister’s!

Symbol

Does the symbolism of the eucharist only remind us of something, or does it signify/communicate something to us? Zwingli would go with the first choice, Calvin with the second. The Sacrament always takes place in the community of faith – faith is fundamental for the sacrament.

Calvin and the Anabaptists

Calvin’s wife was an Anabaptist, therefor he took their teachings seriously, and responded to what they said.

The Anabaptists took the Sermon on the Mount very seriously. Luther saw the Sermon on the Mount as only given to make us feel bad, because we can’t reach that ideal. The Anabaptists says it talks about discipleship.

  • The Anabaptists only believe in the “believer’s baptism”, because they say that only disciples can be baptised. Calvin said that their position made baptism into a work, a good deed, something WE did, instead of grace – something God does. Calvin stressed the covenant of grace. Sacraments are firstly about faith, it is the response of faith to the word. Therefor word and sacrament belongs together and always goes together.
  • Calvin saw the Law of God threefold:
    • To show our sin
    • As guide for civil government
    • As guide for Christian discipleship
      • Seeing this wrongly leads to moralism, which turns the Gospel back into a law.

Karl Barth stressed that grace comes first, then the law. Grace brings about faith, because grace prompts/demands a response!

It is Armenian to preach doubt, in order to make people afraid, and then to preach redemption as a means to save you from what you are afraid of.

Calvin said that doubt is the temptation of faith, doubt follows faith.

Reactions to Calvin

Many later Calvinists thought Calvin’s language was far too close to the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Mass and preferred Zwingli’s position.

But neither the Lutherans nor the Catholics felt that Calvin’s position was adequate.

At stake was the objectivity of Christ’s presence in the bread and wine. For Calvin this came about not through priestly action, but solely through the Word of promise and the action of the Spirit awakening faith in the believer to whom the bread and wine thereby became the body and blood of Christ.

Grace and gratitude

The Eucharist is a means of grace – It is always God’s work. This is true of Baptism as well.

The proper response to grace is gratitude/responsibility. This means to live as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2) The only sacrifice present in the eucharist is our own one, our lives as living sacrifices to God.

This is fundamental to the formation of a Christian congregation in the image of the incarnate, crucified and risen Christ (Bonhoeffer – Ethics) Worship must shape / form / transform us into the image of God. In the eucharist we symbolically tranforms into the image of Christ.

Christian Liturgy

Liturgy is our service to God. A common life of prayer, scripture reading and teaching, breaking bread together. Liturgy is also our response to God’s grace.  (cf. Acts 2:42; Romans 12:1-2)

Worship is then  remembering , celebrating, anticipating,  a prelude to and a preparation for mission

The Structure of Liturgy

Act 2:42 is the basis for our Liturgy. It is based on what happened in the Synagogue, and christians added what happened at the Last Supper. The Word and Sacrament together always sends us out into the world, to carry on with the “worship after the worship”.

Calvin’s Genevan Liturgy

  • The basic structure and some elements of the Mass were retained in simplified form.
  • The congregation was not made up of observers watching the Mass but a community actively engaged in the service through appropriate responses and psalm singing.
  • The preaching of the Word was sacramental, that is, a means of grace
  • The celebration of the Lord’s Supper was equally important because it had been instituted by Jesus himself.

Calvin wrote: ” the Communion of the Holy Supper of Jesus Christ” should, “as a rule” be held “every Sunday”. He continues: “it was not instituted by Jesus for making a commemoration two or three times a year, but for a frequent exercise of our faith and charity, of which the congregation of Christians should make use as often as they be assembled…” (Articles Concerning the Organization of the Church and of Worship at Geneva (1537))

In the same vein Karl Barth wrote: ” Reformed churches no “longer even realise that a service without sacraments is one which is outwardly incomplete. As a rule we hold such outwardly incomplete services as if it were perfectly natural to do so.”  “Why do the numerous movements and attempts to bring the liturgy of the Reformed church up to date … prove without exception so unfruitful? Is it not just because they do not fix their attention on this fundamental defect, the incompleteness of our usual service, i.e. the lack of sacraments?”

This seperates Word and Sacraments. The only church that has communion every time they meet, are the Catholics.

(Recommended reading: Andrew Murray‘s views on communion)

Liturgical Renewal

The renewal of Reformed worship will not come about by an uncritical borrowing of liturgical elements from other traditions. The Reformed tradition has a liturgical integrity that is worth affirming both for our own sake and for the sake of enriching the ecumenical church as a whole. The liturgy it is primarily God who acts in Word and Sacrament, and we who respond in faith, thanksgiving and mission. But there is no reason we should not learn from other liturgical traditions and practices within the framework of what we regard as important.

Calvin said that the elements of renewal are inherent in Scripture.

Before doing any renewal, we must ask our selves the following questions:

  • What do we want to do and be??
  • What are the resources within the Reformed tradition?

Remember, Liturgy is predominantly God who acts in Word and Sacraments

We must also remember our own context:

  • The Reformed tradition has always recognised the importance of the historical context within which the church exists.
  • There is a particular need for the churches of the Reformed tradition within the South African context to recognise that the renewal of liturgical life cannot be considered apart from our multi-cultural diversity
  • Liturgical renewal is also a challenge to recognise that such renewal is not unrelated to the struggles for justice and reconciliation in the world. Through renewal we must also seek to address the unjustness of the world.

Liturgy and aesthetics

Where worship is given it’s correct place, the form, images, beauty comes to the fore. Don’t focus on tecniques, not on liturgical correctness – what is important is the sharing of the word and grace.

  • There must awake an aesthetic sensibility within the church which is able to appreciate form texture and colour, to appreciate beauty with all our senses
  • “The artistic impoverishment and aesthetic starkness of Reformed liturgy is a natural consequence” of the separation of the Word from the Sacrament.
  • “By contrast,” where proclamation is not allowed to overwhelm the liturgy, where the dimension of worship is given its rightful place, there the richness of life will put in its appearance. There colour and gesture and movement and peace and sound will enter in as vehicles of praise and gratitude. (Wolterstorff)

Mission, the worship after the worship, is our liturgy after the liturgy, our response to God’s grace.





De Gruchy oor Calvyn – “Word and Spirit”

25 03 2010

Het ‘n baie prikkelende twee dae deurgebring waar Prof John W.  de Gruchy gepraat het oor “The Reformed Pastor as Theologian”.  Dit is aangebied deur die Begeleidingsnetwerk van die NGK in die Oos-Kaap as deel van hulle VBO (Voortgesette Bedieningsontwikkeling).  Ek gaan probeer om my verstaan van wat hy gesê het, in ‘n paar posts hier te plaas. Belangrik! Dit is wat ek GEHOOR het wat Prof de Gruchy sê, m.a.w. my indrukke. Ek alleen is verantwoordelik vir wat ek gehoor het. Hierdie is nie Prof de Gruchy se amtelike, ex cathedra uitsprake nie! Omdat die lesing in Engels was, is dit ook vir my makliker om die meestal in Engels weer te gee. Sal lekker wees as van die ander mense wat daar was kan aanvul waar ek verkeerd/te min gehoor het.

Wat hieronder volg is my notas oor Prof de Gruchy se verduideliking van Calvyn, en hoe hy vir ons vandag as Gereformeerde teoloë/dominees iets te sê het.

Word & Spirit

Understanding Theology

The earliest understanding of doing theology was as Prayer. Anselmus’ way of doing theology was, for example, by writing a long prayer. From there it evolved into theology as Science, as Critical Reflection, and as Engagement.

Priority of the Word

After the iconoclastic controvesy of the 9th century, the theologians that lost the battle, went West to Charlemagne’s court. Here they influenced the Western church so that WORD became more important than IMAGE. This was done in the light if John 1:1-14. The fact that faith comes by hearing was seen as important. Calvin said: “We hear the Gospel in order to see.”

Scripture and tradition

Tradition in Eastern Orthodoxy :”Handing down what the Spirit allowed us to understand.”

In Reformed circles tradition is seen as being handed down by the confessions.

Tradition and Gospel

Often people have a fear of tradition. It was also true in the reformation. This is partly why the reformers stresses :”Scripture alone” (There is much more to this though!)

We must however remember that we all stand in a tradition. Tradition is the way the Gospel is transmitted. Our identity as Christians are shaped by our traditions – it is our way of being. Tradition should help us reform, not box us in, hold us down.

Calvin

Calvin didn’t try to break with the Catholic church, he tried to reform Catholicism. Today Calvinism is often seen negatively, but Calvyn’s passion was the ongoing reformation of the church.

He lived at a time of a Europe in transition, during the Renaissance. There was an upsurge in nationalism, Europe expanded it’s boundaries, there were peasant revolt, and a lot of religious ferment.

Calvin & Christian Humanism

Calvin was deeply influenced by humanism. This included the need to reform Church and society. The returning to the sources, to read the classical and biblical texts in their original languages. He was trained in Rhetoric, and saw the Humanities (Languages, philosophy, art, etc) as extremely important.

Who was Calvin?

He was born in Noyon, France, in 1509, as a devout Catholic. Studied at the Univ. of Paris in the humanities. Later he went to Orléans to study law. After he finished his law sudies, he published his first book, a commentary on a archaic law text.

Around 1533 he heard Luthers teachings in Paris, at the court, and was converted to evangelical thinking. He was influenced by both Luther and Zwingli.

Calvin goes to Geneva as a refugee, fleeing Protestant persecution in France. He was actually on his way to Strasbourg, but was convinced by Farel to stay on in Geneva. After a fallout with the city council, he left for Strasbourg where he was influenced by Bucer, especially in his thought on liturgy and pastoral care.

In 1540 the Geneva City Council calls Calvin back to Geneva, to help with the Reformation there. Reluctantly he goes back.

Reforming Geneva

Geneva was a city of about 10,000 people, 5,000 of whom were Protestant refugees, fleeing persecution in France.

Geneva wanted both society and church reformed.

Regarding Society, Calvin did a lot, especially regarding the education of women.

Regarding Church, the following were reformed:

  • Pastors, elders, deacons and doctors were instituted.
    • The deacons represented the church in the wider society (did not collect money), for example in hospitals.
    • Pastoral care (huisbesoek) did not exist in the church in the Middle Ages. Calvin, through the elders, started it.
    • Doctors of the church were the educators of the pastors and were also responsible for writing commentary on the Bible.
  • Word & Sacraments – the importance and understanding were changed.
  • Discipline – For Calvin discipline was not a mark of the church. It arised out of his talks to the Anabaptists.

Institutes of the Christian Religion

Four books:

  1. Knowledge of God and ourselves
  2. Christ the mediator
  3. Come, Holy Spirit
  4. The church is our mother

The Institutes were written to help us understand Scripture, as a catechism. It is not a dogmatics.

Basic theme:  “You cannot know God if you don’t know yourself, and you cannot know yourself if you don’t know God.

Predestination

This is not a major theme in edition 1. Luther says a lot more on predestination, especially in his correspondence with Erasmus. Only after reading St Augustine, did Calvin start to write more on the theme. It is handled in book 3, under the topic: “The Christian Life”. Later Calvinists gave it a lot more prominence and puts it at the beginning of their Dogmatics.

  • Calvin saw predestination as a terrible, terrifying idea. He wished that he didn’t have to say anything about it, especially double predestination – Some are chosen to be saved, some to be damned.
  • Calvin talks about predestination because of it’s pastoral relevance. He talks about it to support the Protestant refugees, to let them know that God is on their side. This was an answer to the Catholic church who said to the refugees that there is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic church. Calvin uses predestination to stress that God is the one who saves! Therefore he first writes about Christ the mediator, before he tackles Predestination as a pastoral topic.
  • To talk about predestination in order to talk about who is saved and who is damned is from the Devil, according to Calvin.

Predestination – comments

  • There is nothing like an elect nation in Calvin’s thinking.
  • It was soly a pastoral concern for people under threat.
  • De Gruchy likes Barth’s option:
    • In Christ God has elected humanity for salvation. How God handles this, is His business. To say more, puts you in an untenable position.
  • Faith is a way of life, not a mental decision.

Further reading

http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/John_Calvin.htm

The Young Calvin – Alexandre Ganoczy

Gilead – Marilynne Robinson).