The Contribution Of Calvin And Company

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Reformers John Calvin (1509-1564), John Knox (1513-1572), and Martin Bucer (1491-1551) added to the liturgical molding. These men created their own orders of worship between 1537 and 1562. Even though their liturgies were observed in different parts of the world, they were virtually identical.59 They merely made a few adjustments to Luther's liturgy. Most notable was the collection of money that followed the sermon.'

Like Luther, Calvin stressed the centrality of preaching during the worship service. He believed that each believer has access to God through the preached Word rather than through the Eucharist.' Given his theological genius, the preaching in Calvin's Geneva church was intensely theological and academic. It was also highly individualistic, a mark that never left Protestantism.'

Calvin's Geneva church was held up as the model for all Reformed churches. Thus its order of worship spread far and wide. This accounts for the cerebral character of most Protestant churches today, particularly the Reformed and Presbyterian brand."

Because musical instruments were not explicitly mentioned in the New Testament, Calvin did away with pipe organs and choirs." All singing was a cappella. (Some contemporary Protestants, like the Church of Christ, still follow Calvin's rigid noninstrumentalism.) This changed in the mid-nineteenth century when Reformed churches began using instrumental music and choirs." However, the Puritans

These liturgies were used in Strasbourg, Germany (1537), Geneva, Switzerland (1542), and Scotland (1562). The collection was alms for the poor (Senn, Christian Liturgy, 365-366). Calvin wrote, "No assembly of the church should be held without the Word being preached, prayers being offered, the Lord's Supper being administered, and alms given" (Nichols, Corporate Worship, 29). Although Calvin desired to have the Lord's Supper weekly, his Reformed churches followed Zwingli's practice of taking it quarterly (White, Protestant Worship, 65, 67).

Stanley M. Burgess and Gary B. McGee, eds., Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 904. The "Word" in Reformed usage meant the Bible and the preached word as conveying the incarnated Word. Both the sermon and Scripture-reading were connected and were viewed as the "Word" (Nichols, Corporate Worship, 30). The idea that the preaching of the Bible is the very "Word of God" appears in the Confessio Helvetica Posterior of 1566.

The rugged individualism of the Renaissance influenced the message of the Reformers. They were a product of their times. The gospel they preached was centered on individual needs and personal development. (t was not communitarian as was the message of the first-century Christians. This individualistic emphasis was picked up by the Puritans, Pietists, and Revivalists, and it pervaded all areas of American life and thought (Senn, Christian Worship, 100, 104; Terry, Evangel/sm, 125. White, Protestant Worship, 65.

Ibid., 66. Zwingli, a musician himself, shared Calvin's conviction that music and choirs ought not to be part of the church service (p. 62).

(bid., 76. For Calvin, all songs had to include the words of Old Testament Scripture, so hymns were excluded (page 66).

(English Calvinists) continued in the spirit of Calvin, condemning both instrumental music and choir singing."

Probably the most damaging feature of Calvin's liturgy is that he led most of the service himself from his pulpit." Christianity has not yet recovered from this. Today, the pastor is the MC and CEO of the Sunday morning church service—just as the priest is the MC and CEO of the Catholic Mass. This is in stark contrast to the church meeting envisioned in Scripture. According to the New Testament, the Lord Jesus Christ is the leader, director, and CEO of the church meeting. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul tells us that Christ speaks through His entire body, not just one member. In such a meeting, His body freely functions under His headship (direct leadership) through the working of His Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 14 gives us a picture of such a gathering. This kind of meeting is vital for the spiritual growth of God's people and the full expression of His Son in the earth."

Another feature that Calvin contributed to the order of worship is the somber attitude that many Christians are encouraged to adopt when they enter the building. That atmosphere is one of a profound sense of self-abasement before a sovereign and austere God."

Martin Bucer is equally credited with fostering this attitude. At the beginning of every service, he had the Ten Commandments uttered to create a sense of veneration." Out of this mentality grew some rather outrageous practices. Puritan New England was noted for fining children who smiled in church! Add to this the creation of the "Tithingman" who would wake up sleeping congregants by poking them with a heavily-knobbed staff.'

Ibid., 67. This was also the practice of Calvin's contemporary, Martin Bucer. (White, Protestant Worship and Church Architecture, 83). Note that the New Testament presents to us different kinds of meetings. Some meetings are characterized by a central speaker like an apostle or evangelist preaching to an audience. But these kinds of meetings were sporadic and temporary in nature. They weren't the ordinary, nominal meeting of first-century believers. The "church meeting," however, is the regular gathering of Christians that is marked by mutual functioning, open participation from every member, freedom and spontaneity under the headship of Jesus Christ. Horton Davies, Christian Worship: Its History and Meaning (New York: Abingdon Press, 1957), 56. White, Protestant Worship, 74. ^ Alice Mores Earle, "Sketches of Life in Puritan New England," Searching Together 11, no. 4 (198 2): 38-39.

Such thinking is a throwback to the late medieval view of piety." Yet it was embraced and kept alive by Calvin and Bucer. While many contemporary Pentecostals and Charismatics broke with this tradition, it is mindlessly followed in many churches today. The message is: "Be quiet and solemn, for this is the house of God!""

One further practice that the Reformers retained from the Mass was the practice of the clergy walking to their allotted seats at the beginning of the service while the people stood singing. This practice started in the fourth century when the bishops walked into their magnificent basilica churches. It was a practice copied straight from the pagan imperial court ceremony.' When the Roman magistrates entered into the courtroom, the people would stand singing. This practice is still observed today in many Protestant churches.

As Calvinism spread throughout Europe, Calvin's Geneva liturgy was adopted in most Protestant churches. It was transplanted and took root in multiple countries." Here is what it looks like:"

Prayer Confession Singing (Psalm)

Prayer for enlightenment of the Spirit in the preaching Sermon

Collection of alms General prayer

Communion (at the appointed times) while Psalm is sung Benediction

The medievals equated somberness with holiness and moroseness with godliness. By contrast, the early Christians were marked by an attitude of gladness and joy. See Acts 2:46, 8:8, 13:52, 15:3, 1 Peter 1:8.

By contrast, the Psalms beckon God's people to enter His gates with joy, praise, and thanksgiving (See Psalm 100). Senn, Christian Worship, 26-27. This so-called "entrance rite" included psalmody (Introit), the litany prayer (Kyrie), and a song of praise (Gloria). It was borrowed from the imperial court ceremony (1 ungmann, Early Liturgy, 292, 296). As Constantine saw himself as God's vicar on earth, God came to be viewed as the emperor of heaven. Thus the Mass turned into a ceremonial performed before. God and before His representative, the bishop—just like the ceremonial performed before the emperor and his magistrate. The bishop, clad in his garments of a high magistrate, entered the church building in solemn procession preceded by candles. He was then seated on his special throne—the sella curulis of a Roman official. The fourth-century church had borrowed both the ritual and flavor of Roman officialdom in its worship (Krautheimer, Early Christian and Byzantine Architecture, 184).

The Geneva liturgy was "a fixed Reformed liturgy used without variation or exception not only for the celebration of the sacraments but for ordinary Sunday worship as well" (White, Protestant Worship, 69).

James Mackinnon, Calvin and the Reformation (New York: Russell and Russell, 1962), 83-84. For a more detailed version of the Geneva liturgy, see Senn, Christian Liturgy, 365-366.

It should be noted that Calvin sought to model his order of worship after the writings of the early church fathers77—particularly those who lived in the third through sixth centuries." This accounts for his lack of clarity on the character of the first-century church meeting. The early fathers of the third through sixth centuries were intensely liturgical and ritualistic." They did not have a firstcentury Christian mind-set." They were also theoreticians more than practitioners.

To put it another way, the church fathers of this period represent nascent (early) Catholicism. And that is what Calvin took as his main model for establishing a new order of worship.' It is no wonder that the so-called Reformation brought very little reform in the way of church practice." As was the case with Luther's order of worship, the liturgy of the Reformed church "did not try to change the structures of the official [Catholic] liturgy but rather it tried to maintain the old liturgy while cultivating extra-liturgical devotions.""

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  • anna
    What is the contribution of Calvin.?
    3 years ago

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