Ministerial / Apostolic Succession in the Presbyterian Tradition

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DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Peter
DTK, No one is arguing for the Popish notion that apostolic succession is the necessary mark of the invisible church or that we should yield obedience to any false teacher who claims such succession. We believe, with the Westminster Divines and the Church of Scotland, that the power to ordain officers belongs soley to officers. The implication is that those not ordained by lawfully ordained officers are not truly ordained. "Ministerial succession" is a natural outgrowth of that belief.
I understand that, and agree. But the term "apostolic succession" has been bandied around here without any explanation as to what that means.

BTW, of whom are you speaking when you state "We believe?"

Blessings,
DTK
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
Just in terms of being more specific than Calvin (in his Roman context), how would one lawfully join together "apostolic succession" in doctrine (which we would all agree) with "ministerial succession" (which seems really to be the more touchy point)?

In other words, we all agree that Calvin was right - the Roman church can't claim apostolic succession based only upon succession itself because they have repudiated doctrine. That is NOT what Westminster taught at all; they also repudiated Roman apostolic succession.

Now that we are agreed that apostolic doctrinal succession (which is really simply being a good exegete of the Bible overall, so I think the term "apostolic succession" is not that helpful there) is true, (i.e. a good theologian and exegete) how is that molded or melded into ministerial succession?

For example, when I read Bannerman on this, and he has a whole chapter on it, he takes a HUGE amount of time (9/10ths of his chapter) to tell us that same thing Calvin just did in a paragraph, and then on the last 10th "attempts" to answer the ministerial apostolic question (without using the term) VERY POORLY. He really skirts around it and really answers nothing, which is disappointing. If that chapter was taken away it would not hurt the overall scope of the work at all. It was, really, a waste of paper for him.

So how does the OPC or PCA or anyone, claim ministerial succession without being CONGREGATIONAL (which is really the question overall I think)?

Thoughts?
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Originally posted by webmaster
So how does the OPC or PCA or anyone, claim ministerial succession without being CONGREGATIONAL (which is really the question overall I think)?

Thoughts?

How would they be congregatonal? They have ordained men, still doing the ordaining. The OPC originating from men ordained in the PCUSA and the PCA from the PCUS, both of whom descended from the same Presbyterian body before the War between the States. How would they be congregational in this?
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
If they were to say, which I would hope they would not, that ministerial succession is irrelevant (as the Congregationalists do) then it would be a problem. But, if as you said, we all came from a good stock ministerially speaking, and our church did not go schismatic or apostate, then that denomination would be fine. That is why i said in the paper I wrote, that succession would lead one back to uniformity (true uniformity) to the WCF (i.e. we embrace subscriptionalism). Otherwise, we take exception to the standard (that's another thread altogether.) But if the PCA, as it does in its BCO, says "all churches" are OK so long as they are "apostolic in their doctrine on the basics) that is simply practical congregationalism. Would that not be the assessment? So that brings us back to wondering why our PCA BCO has that "clause" in it if they really understand Jus divinum. Are congregational churches, according to our denominations, true churches? Or not? If they are, then have we not left the idea of ministerial succession in the dust. If they are not, then we need to change the BCO.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
David:

I am not going to rehash our discussion of the roles of private judgment and ecclesiastical authority. Suffice to say that we disagree.

In terms of the present issue, I appreciate your input. I don't read Calvin in a way that would have him contradict his successor Turretin or the London Ministers, both of whom affirmed a form of ministerial succession.

Let me ask this. What is your understanding of what makes a call to ministry lawful?

Thanks
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"How would they be congregatonal? They have ordained men, still doing the ordaining. The OPC originating from men ordained in the PCUSA and the PCA from the PCUS, both of whom descended from the same Presbyterian body before the War between the States. How would they be congregational in this?"

I would agree with Patrick on this.

Also, as to Matt, I don't see how the PCA including that provision in the BCO would invalidate the ministerial calls. The PCA's understanding of its relation to other churches is not part of the essence of the call or the call's legitimacy. One argument the independents made against the London ministers was that Rome's errors invalidated her ordinations. The London ministers said no. Shouldn't the PCA's errors (assuming for the sake of discussion that they are errors), similarly not invalidate her calls?
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"So how does the OPC or PCA or anyone, claim ministerial succession without being CONGREGATIONAL (which is really the question overall I think)?"

I think this is the right question. If all that matters is doctrine, then to the extent one even sees church government as meaningful, then you will ultimately be independent or congregational in terms of what constitutes a lawful call from God. By independent or congregational, I mean that, as the London Confession says, the understanding that God has given each local church "all that power and authority, which is in any way needful for their carrying on that order in worship and discipline."

They don't need to rely on the initial deposit of the authority with the apostles or those ordained by them. They have that authority within the congregation.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
David:
Let me ask this. What is your understanding of what makes a call to ministry lawful?

Thanks
Well Scott, I'll offer you the beginning of an answer that Turretin himself proposed...
Francis Turretin (1623-1687): Hence if it is inquired to which of two assemblies we ought to join ourselves, the one which is supposed to have an uninterrupted succession (but without the truth), but the other truth of doctrine (but without the succession), no one will hesitate in replying that we ought to join the latter because a call without the truth cannot save, but truth can save without the call. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 3, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1997), p. 235 (XXVIII.xxv.3).
Now, I understand very well that this is not the sum and substance of all that Turretin expressed. But he does seem to be clear on this scenario if push comes to shove, for therein we see ultimately where his sentiments lie. After all, he himself offered this scenario.

According to Scripture and ancient custom, three things. 1) a call and giftedness from God, 2) the suffrage of the people in extending a call and 3) ordination at the hands of a presbytery make one's call lawful, as Turretin himself also argues.

And as Turretin argues contrary to your conclusion of Matthew 23:1-3...
Francis Turretin (1623-1687): If therefore pastors are to be heard, they are to be heard not absolutely and simply whatever they may advance, but conditionally, if they themselves hear Christ and speak the oracles of God (1 Pet 4:11) and do not recede from the form of sound words. Otherwise Christ commands his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Paul wishes us to hold him accursed who teaches anything other than the gospel of Christ. Nor is it to be said that the unlearned people cannot judge of the truth of doctrine except by a comparison of the doctrine of predecessors and of ordinary pastors, because if the ignorance of the people does not prevent them from being able to compare the doctrine delivered with the doctrine of predecessors, why should it hinder them from being able to compare the doctrine of their pastors with that of Christ? This the Bereans did happily, daily comparing Paul´s discourses with the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Now although the people can by themselves judge of the doctrine of their pastor, it does not follow that they do not need preachers. It is one thing to examine the truth of the doctrine delivered; another thing to teach publicly. The former belongs to private persons; the latter to pastors only. The sheep ought not to be shepherds, but they are also not brutes, but rational (logikai) beings (who can discern the true from the false and who not only ought not to follow an erring shepherd, but to fly and recede from him and to seek another teaching the truth and to call him into the place of the one teaching error). Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 3, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1997), p. 228. (XXVIII.xxiv.12).
And you are right, Scott. We do disagree on this matter.

Blessings,
DTK
 

Peter

Puritan Board Junior
David,
I think what you are not getting is that ministerial succession and doctrinal succession are NOT DIALECTICAL! Doctrinal succession is most important however both are needed for a true ministry.
 

fredtgreco

Vanilla Westminsterian
Staff member
Originally posted by Peter
David,
I think what you are not getting is that ministerial succession and doctrinal succession are NOT DIALECTICAL!

What exactly does this mean?

Do you mean that they cannot be exclusive?

Isn't that exactly what the first quote from Turretin that David posted said?
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Peter
David,
I think what you are not getting is that ministerial succession and doctrinal succession are NOT DIALECTICAL! Doctrinal succession is most important however both are needed for a true ministry.
Dear Peter,

I'm not quite sure what your point is, but I'm content to permit you (once you get to heaven) to take it up with Calvin, Farel, Turretin's arguments, and all those other Reformers who failed to have a ministerial succession precede them.

I believe that ministerial succession is of the bene esse of the church, but not of the esse of the church. Doctrinal succession is both. For as Turretin also argues...
Francis Turretin (1623-1687): Although the body of the church has committed the exercise of the right to call pastors to the presbytery in order to avoid confusion, it has not on that account absolutely and simply deprived itself of that right, so that it can be said to be without it and that it cannot use it anymore in any case. It so committed the exercise of that right to the rulers who administer it in its name that, nevertheless, it has reserved it as originally proper and peculiar to itself. Nor does the example of civil society belong here, where the people resign their right to the prince whom they elect, as to be divested of it absolutely and simply. In this respect, a political and sacred society widely differ. In the former the people can absolutely resign their right to the prince, subjecting themselves to to him as a master, but the church does not transfer her right to pastors, as to ownership, as if to masters, but only to use and exercise, as to ministers, who may administer it"”not in their own name, but in the name of the church. The reason of the difference is that in civil society (where only temporal goods are considered) nothing prevents the people from being able absolutely to resign their right; nay, it is sometimes expedient in order to avoid confusion and anarchy. But in the church, where salvation is considered, believers cannot without criminality absolutely divest themselves of that right which they have in the means which is given to them for the promotion of their salvation (such as the ministry is). For although their faith and piety do not depend absolutely upon the pastors, still the exercise of a ministry which is sound and pure is a great help to piety. On the other hand, the preservation of faith is a very difficult thing under a corrupt ministry. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 3, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1997), p. 233. (XXVIII.xxiv.24).
Cheers,
DTK
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
David,

Just a point of clarification:


all those other Reformers who failed to have a ministerial succession precede them.

Were Calvin, Farel, etc, not Catholic priests ordained by the church? (Maybe I'm missing something here.) If they were, why would you say they don't have a succession before them? Do you not count their ordination in the RCC valid? (i.e. before Trent)

I guess what I am trying to understand by your posts -

Early Chruch >>>>>>RC Church >>>>>>Reformers

Where is the break here? Are you excluding the RCC's ordination altogether? (Calvin was ordained a priest, as was Luther, Zwingli, etc.)

[Edited on 3-8-2005 by webmaster]
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by webmaster
David,

Just a point of clarification:


all those other Reformers who failed to have a ministerial succession precede them.

Were Calvin, Farel, etc, not Catholic priests ordained by the church? (Maybe I'm missing something here.) If they were, why would you say they don't have a succession before them? Do you not count their ordination in the RCC valid? (i.e. before Trent)

I guess what I am trying to understand by your posts -

Early Chruch >>>>>>RC Church >>>>>>Reformers

Where is the break here? Are you excluding the RCC's ordination altogether? (Calvin was ordained a priest, as was Luther, Zwingli, etc.)

[Edited on 3-8-2005 by webmaster]
Dear Matt,

I've given an extended quote addressing this very question, which was removed by yourself or another moderator from the board the last time this question of succession was raised. Did you read it? If you've lost it, I will (i.e. with permission) repost it. Neither Calvin, nor Farel (as far as we know) were ever ordained as Roman priests. Moreover, it's quite evident to me that in later years, Knox himself "came to regard his having been made a priest in the Roman Church of little worth and of no validity for the Reformed Church Ministry." See James L. Ainslie, The Doctrines of Ministerial Order in the Reformed Churches of the 16th and 17th Centuries (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1940), pp. 163.

I'm saying that the Reformers who did indeed receive ordination under the Roman Church saw no need to be re-ordained. But they were not in any way beholding to those ordinations for some kind of ministerial succession.

Blessings,
DTK
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
I definitely did not remove it. Yes, post again.

Just so we all have some info on Calvin that seems to be lacking here:

With Calvin:

"Thus destined to the sacred office, his father procured a benefice for him from the bishop of noyons, int he Cathedral Church, and thereafter a cure of a parish connected with a suburban village called Pont-Eveque...it is certain that Calvin, though not in priest orders, preached several sermons in this place before he quitted France." Beza, Life of Calvin.

A "benefice", according to Beza, is an ecclesiastical church office endowed with fixed capital assets that provide a living. A "cure" is a spiritual charge or care, as of a priest for a congregation. Calvin was operating as a priest without being ordained as one. That was his early years.

Beza then says that the official orders which were going to be given to him were interrupted by a change in the views of both his father and himself. He became a lawyer instead.

After some schooling in various locales, he wound up with Farel in Geneva (we know the story). At his reception:

Beza continues, "The people consenting, he was not only chosen preacher (this he had first refused) but was also appointed professor of Sacred Literature...August 1536."

Schaf says, "After a short time he assumed the office of pastor which at first he declined."

He, Farel and courralt were booted for not adminsitering the Supper to covenant breakers. He left for Strausburg for 3 years.

On his return:

After this, historical records show that Calvin made a number of decisions on behalf of the Presbytery of Geneva upon his return from Strausburg. We know that the the Council, ministers and the people of city urgently called him back to take up the office.

Schaff also says that though Calvin was reluctant to accept the call, believing Geneva to be "hell", he ultimately followed God's will to the call to the ministry again, and picked up where he left off.

Could we say that the ordained men already in the city were not actually ordained men? I don't see how. Do you have some info that negates this that the ministerial colloquy there were not made up of Catholic priests who converted to the Reformation? Seems to me that Farel brought Geneva both the Reformation and Calvin. But Geneva then accepted and installed the man.

Your thoughts?

[Edited on 3-8-2005 by webmaster]
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"Well Scott, I'll offer you the beginning of an answer that Turretin himself proposed..."

David: That is a very incomplete picture of Turretin, as I expect you know. You also seem to be sparing against an imagined Roman Catholic opponent who is advancing positions nobody here has advanced.

Nobody here has argued for "aboslute" succession. Matt, Scott B, Peter, and I recognize an exception for emergency circumstances and we recognize that the Reformed ministerial succession relies in part on that exception (meaning that some parts can really only trace their authority back to those exceptional ordinations). We have also not pitted doctrine against ministry, which you seem to see as a perhap inevitable conflict. We have simply said that both are important, and we all agree that doctrine trumps. Doctrinal apostacy is still poison even if accompanied by succession.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"According to Scripture and ancient custom, three things. 1) a call and giftedness from God, 2) the suffrage of the people in extending a call and 3) ordination at the hands of a presbytery make one's call lawful, as Turretin himself also argues."

Ok, let's look at point 3. The members of the presbytery are themselves authorized by ordination for other presbyters. And they were likewise authorized by the ordinations of other presbyters. Where does it end? What was the original investiture of jurisdiction that started this series of ordinations?
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"And as Turretin argues contrary to your conclusion of Matthew 23:1-3..."

David: Would you go back to my original post and tell me what you think about my post contradicts Turretin? I don't see anything in Turretin I disagree with and don't believe I have said anything that would contradict him. My impression is that your response is a reflexive mistrust of the use of passages often cited by Catholics. I noticed that you were quick to point out that Catholics aften cite the passage.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"I believe that ministerial succession is of the bene esse of the church, but not of the esse of the church. Doctrinal succession is both."

This is my position too. (I may differ from Matt on this). I have always said that whether a congregation is a true church is measured by Word and Sacrament, not historic or ministerial succession. A church can be a true church and have illicitly ordained ministers, though.

The problem I have is that for many people "benne esse" basically is about as meaningful as chopped liver. It can be ignored for any reason at all or for no reason at all. This is error. Churches with illicit ministers should be avoided in preference of churches with licit ministers. This assumes they both meet some doctrinal minimum.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Scott wrote...
David: That is a very incomplete picture of Turretin, as I expect you know. You also seem to be sparing against an imagined Roman Catholic opponent who is advancing positions nobody here has advanced.

Nobody here has argued for "aboslute" succession. Matt, Scott B, Peter, and I recognize an exception for emergency circumstances and we recognize that the Reformed ministerial succession relies in part on that exception (meaning that some parts can really only trace their authority back to those exceptional ordinations). We have also not pitted doctrine against ministry, which you seem to see as a perhap inevitable conflict. We have simply said that both are important, and we all agree that doctrine trumps. Doctrinal apostacy is still poison even if accompanied by succession.
Scott,
I know it´s not a complete picture of Turretin, and I stated that very thing. But it´s one of the pictures missing from your ipse dixit of Turretin´s album. The mere invoking of Turretin´s name via ipse dixit from the picture of your imagination needs some finishing touches, and I´m trying to offer some. As far as my "œimagined Roman Catholic opponent" is concerned, it´s not so imaginary. I have spent the last decade interacting with Roman apologists. I know how they argue, and where it leads without the necessary corrections. We have had a number of prominent Reformed ministers in our day defect to Rome on the basis of that kind of imprecise argumentation. I am pointing out that Roman apologists offer precisely the same arguments that you do without any clarification, again as you have. Therefore, let him who thinks he stands against this imaginary Roman opponent, take heed lest he fall. Your clarifications are never offered until I offer the pictures missing from your albums of Calvin and Turretin. I am showing where this argumentation leads if not corrected by adding these additional pictures of what our Reformers believed. And they certainly disagreed with your exegesis of passages like Matthew 23.

According to Scripture and ancient custom, three things. 1) a call and giftedness from God, 2) the suffrage of the people in extending a call and 3) ordination at the hands of a presbytery make one's call lawful, as Turretin himself also argues."

Ok, let's look at point 3. The members of the presbytery are themselves authorized by ordination for other presbyters. And they were likewise authorized by the ordinations of other presbyters. Where does it end? What was the original investiture of jurisdiction that started this series of ordinations?
Now, who´s contending against an imaginary opponent?

"And as Turretin argues contrary to your conclusion of Matthew 23:1-3..."

David: Would you go back to my original post and tell me what you think about my post contradicts Turretin? I don't see anything in Turretin I disagree with and don't believe I have said anything that would contradict him. My impression is that your response is a reflexive mistrust of the use of passages often cited by Catholics. I noticed that you were quick to point out that Catholics aften cite the passage.
Well Scott, you tell me! You offered an exegesis of Matthew 23 with no qualification as to how far we are bound to follow ecclesiastical leaders. When I offered Calvin´s exegesis of the passage, you then told me we were not going to revisit old arguments, and you indicated to me (suffice it to say) we disagreed. Your position on ecclesiastical submission is one thing one time, and then when I offer the positions of these Reformers from their own words, your response then is simply that you see no indication of how that contradicts your picture of them. This is precisely what I have found in your responses to me over and over again. When I point out the necessary correctives to your pictures, you have responded time and again that you fail to see how that is a contradiction to what you´ve presented. You go back and forth on these issues, at times telling me our disagreements are only matters of emphasis, while at other times you insist we disagree, so it´s very difficult for one to ascertain what your position is on church authority. I´ve offered the balance of Turretin´s position that your album has yet to include, such as the fact that the laity must never resign all authority to their ecclesiastical leaders, but that they must examine the results of their synod´s decisions according to the light of God´s word. Your album of Turretin, for example, doesn´t include that picture. But here´s another picture from Turretin you might want to add to your album, because I´ve yet to see it in yours...
Francis Turretin (1623-1687): Although the authority, which according to us belongs to synods, is great, still it is not absolute and unlimited, to which we are bound to submit in blind obedience and without examination; rather it is limited and ministerial, depending upon a twofold condition. The first is that they decide nothing except from the word of God. The other, that they always leave to believers the liberty of the examination of their decisions. The clause of submission, appended to the letters to the synod, means nothing else when the churches protest that "œthey will submit themselves to all that will be determined in the sacred assembly, being persuaded that the Holy Spirit will be present there, and will lead its members into all truth and justice by the rule of the word." For this evidently includes a tacit condition (to wit, that all the decisions will be made according to the rule of the word, from which if it is found to have departed, by that very circumstance all obligation to submission ceases). Therefore, this persuasion of the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit is the persuasion of charity, which judges and hopes well of that assembly"”that it will decide all things by the word of God"”until the contrary appears. It also includes a tacit wish for that guidance. But it is not a persuasion of infallibility, implying absolute submission and excluding the right of examination. Nor can a favorable presumption which we can have concerning the learning and orthodoxy of those who constitute the synod hinder believers from being always bound (after the example of the Bereans) to examine whatever is decreed there is consistent with the Scriptures. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr., Vol. 3, (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1997), p. 85 (XXVIII.xi.37).
Now Scott, I do want to thank you for these exchanges, lest my words seem sharp beyond Christian charity. I think it´s of the essence of Christian charity to be very frank and straightforward, which is why I´m arguing the way I am. I don´t think that I´ve offended you, but I want to be assured that I do hold all of our best interests at heart. It is good to be able to exchange sharply, because iron sharpens iron.

Blessings,
DTK
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"You offered an exegesis of Matthew 23 with no qualification as to how far we are bound to follow ecclesiastical leaders."

David: I would suggest that you simply look at my post on Matt. 23. I did not even cite Matt. 23 to make a point about obedience to ecclesial authorities at all. It was for a completely different and, hopefully, uncontroversial point (namely that many Reformers taught that Rome was a real Church until Trent). I cited Matt. 23 to show that even bankrupt church officers could hold actual authority. That is a pretty far cry from uncritical acceptance of their teaching. I can´t see how you got that from my post.

I am aware and not surprised that in today´s climate even quoting Matt. 23 for a positive purpose (as opposed to citing it to explain what it does not mean) can induce strong negative reactions, which I think is disappointing. It is there for our edification, not just for Catholics. And I don´t think we need to roll out every qualification whenever we cite a passage like Matt. 23 (Jesus did not feel that need). I would suggest that the reason that people react so strongly to positive citations of them is that they facially contradict an essentially independent ecclesiology, which dominates the conservative Christian world right now (including Reformed). Even Presbyterian churches, at least in terms of authority, often have a fundamentally independent view of the source of their authority (even if their surface polity is not), as Matt has mentioned.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"SR: Ok, let's look at point 3. The members of the presbytery are themselves authorized by ordination for other presbyters. And they were likewise authorized by the ordinations of other presbyters. Where does it end? What was the original investiture of jurisdiction that started this series of ordinations?

DTK: Now, who´s contending against an imaginary opponent?"

I don't understand. A question is not a contention. It seems to me that there are a farily limited set of options and the path will lead you back to one.
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Matt wrote...
Could we say that the ordained men already in the city were not actually ordained men? I don't see how. Do you have some info that negates this that the ministerial colloquy there were not made up of Catholic priests who converted to the Reformation? Seems to me that Farel brought Geneva both the Reformation and Calvin. But Geneva then accepted and installed the man.

Your thoughts?
Matt, I have yet in my own research to find proof for the presupposition that there were "œordained men" in Geneva and who were in sympathy with the Reformation. So, though I find no "œinfo" that negates this "œministerial colloquy," neither have I found any "œinfo" in favor of that proposed scenario. Your proposition is worded in such a way so as to place the burden on me to produce evidence against such, but I see no reason (i.e. evidence) to presuppose it. Now McGrath states the following...
Alister E. McGrath on Calvin´s arrival in Geneva: He [Calvin] totally lacked pastoral experience, and was virtually innocent of the realities of urban political and economic life. Calvin may have been at home in the cosmopolitan republic of letters; the needs of the republic of Geneva were something rather different. His initial responsibilities at Geneva suited his temperament very well; he was not required to exercise any pastoral ministry, nor to liaise with the city council, nor even to preach; his obligation was simply to act as a teacher, or a public lecturer on the Bible. Alister E. McGrath, A Life of John Calvin (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1990), p. 96.
Then McGrath essentially states that we have no proof that Calvin was ever ordained in the official ecclesiastical sense, and that the first official call he received came strictly from the city council, though it was Farel who urged Calvin to stay in Geneva as he was passing through.
Alister E. McGrath: At this point it is necessary to stress that the evangelical ministers of Geneva in 1536 were little more than civil servants (indeed, it is highly likely that Calvin was never "˜ordained´ in any ecclesiastical sense of the term; he was probably simply licensed as a pastor by the city council). Unlike their catholic predecessors, they were devoid of power and wealth within the city; indeed, they were not even citizens of Geneva, with access to decision-making bodies. After the Reformation, the Genevan ministers were generally French émigrés, rather than local Genevans "“ a situation which gave rise to some tension within the city. Pierre Viret was a native of the region around Geneva now know as the Suisse Romande; nevertheless, he was not a Genevan citizen. It is true that after the second revolution of 1555, the evangelical ministers of Geneva assumed a commanding position in the domestic and international affairs of the republic of Geneva; not a hint of these future roles and status, however, is evident in the final six months of 1536. Calvin was little more than a civil servant, living in the city under sufferance. It was the city council "“ not Calvin, Farel or Viret "“ who controlled the religious affairs of the new republic. Alister E. McGrath, A Life of John Calvin (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1990), pp. 97-98.
On Calvin´s return to Geneva, McGrath´s understanding is that the city council called both Farel and Calvin back to their city, though from all appearances it was with the consent of the people.
Alister E. McGrath on Calvin´s return to Geneva: By October 1540, the pro-Farel faction had gained control of the city. Events in the absence of Farel and Calvin had demonstrated the close interdependence of reformation and autonomy, of morals and morale. Although the city council was concerned primarily with the independence and morale of the city, the fact that Farel´s religious agenda could not be evaded gradually dawned. The pro-Farel party probably had little enthusiasm for religious reformation or the enforcement of public morals; nevertheless, it seemed that the survival of the Genevan republic hinged on them. One of their first actions was thus to recall Farel and Calvin, with a view to restoring Farel´s reforms of 1536. Their enemies had been neutralized; it was safe to return. The invitation, it seems, was primarily addressed to Farel. Alister E. McGrath, A Life of John Calvin (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1990), p. 103.
Now, I understand that the editor of Beza´s biography of Calvin attempts to argue that Calvin was ordained, but it seems to me that his argument is from silence of proof against it. But now, I want to repost the rather extended comments from James L. Ainslie, whose work addresses this subject. He argues that we have no indication that Calvin and Farel were officially ordained, but then he goes on to cite the example of Calvin´s approval of the situation of Poulain, the leader of the French-Walloon Church, who was never officially ordained.
James L. Ainslie: Perhaps some other facts might be thought to show that there were lax views of ordination in the Reformed Churches. There was in the case of Calvin. He had never been ordained in the way which is usually thought of as ordination. In the Papal Church, as a boy and young man, certain benefices had been bestowed upon him, which served to maintain him in his school and college days, and he may even have been given the tonsure. But he was never ordained as a priest. In the Reformed Church he received, so far as we know, no formal ceremonial ordination. He was invited by the Genevan authorities to be a minister in their city. He had been recognised and accepted as such by the people. That would be sufficient to constitute his induction to the Reformed Church of Geneva. Doumergue on this point quotes the words of Beza, "œIl fut déclaré Pasteur et docteur en ceste église avec légitime election et approvation . . . par les suffrages du presbytère et du magistrate, le people donnant son consentement." (He was declared pastor and teacher in this Church by legitimate election and approbation . . . by the votes of the Presbytery and of the Magistrate, the people giving their consent.) Calvin himself would probably consider this sufficient for his official position in the Ministry, but not that it includes all that is meant by ordination. More than this was needed to represent all the elements of the "œCall," especially "œthe solemn setting apart." Farel, his sometime fellow-worker and friend, was in like position to himself. He, also, had never been ordained a priest in the Roman Church. There were as a matter of fact not a few, both in the Lutheran (e.g. Melancthon) and Reformed Churches, who had never received a formal ceremonial ordination. Poulain, the leader of the French-Walloon Church, had trouble on that account. When he was serving as minister in Frankfurt, some of the people had raised the question as to whether he were a proper minister. Calvin was appealed to, and gave his convinced opinion. He wrote and declared that in the unsettled state of religious affairs, seeing that Poulain had gathered a congregation, and had been, by the fact of their gathering under his ministry, practically accepted as minister by the people, that would stand as being the "œCall," and it would be the same in all like cases. We are not to conclude, however, that here Calvin meant that such qualification was all that there ought to be for the right and proper admission and ordination to the Ministry. We know he had other thoughts in his mind. Such as the above mentioned regarding Poulain might be considered sufficient as the part of the "œCall" required to give an official position in the Ministry, but in addition there must also be that which would take the place of the very important element in the "œCall" which was spoken of as "œthe solemn setting apart." Calvin believed that when religious affairs were profoundly unsettled, and properly constituted ecclesiastical procedure had not been established, and regularised ordination was not possible, then God had His own direct ordering of His servants in the true Ministry. God Himself directly effected "œthe solemn setting apart." His thought is in accordance with this when He refers to the Apostles, Prophets, and Evangelists, mentioned in Eph. Iv. 11, "œThe Lord raised up the other three [those three offices] at the beginning of His kingdom, and still occasionally raises them up when the necessity of the times requires" (Institutes, IV.3.4). It was upon this Divine working above all that he relied for the undeniable authorisation of his own ministry and of that of his brethren who were in a like position to himself. This was a doctrine which found ready acceptance with most Reformed churchmen. It is given expression to in the French Confession of Faith of 1559, with which Calvin is supposed to have had much to do, "œLaquelle exception nous y adioustons notamment, pource qu´il a fallu quelques fois, et mesme de nostre temps (auquel l´estat de l´Ã‰glise estoit interrompu), que Dieu ait suscité gens d´une façon extraordinaire, pour dresser l´Ã‰glise de nouveau, qui estoit en ruine et désolation." (Which exception [ in the normal procedure ] we in this matter add particularly, for it has been necessary on some occasions, and even in our times, in which the constitution of the Church has been broken up, for God to have raised up men in an extraordinary way to construct anew the church which was in ruin and desolation.) The Scottish First Book of Discipline also has a short reference to the same belief. After mentioning ordinary admission to the Ministry, it goes on"”"œWe speak of ane ordinarie vocatioun, where churches ar reformed, or at least tend to reformatioun, and not of that which is extraordinarye, when God by himself, and by his only powers raiseth up to the ministerie such as best pleaseth his wisdome." Such a doctrine as this does not lower the conception of what is required for entrance into the Ministry, or encourage laxness and carelessness in the matter for them is that their appointment or ordination is of God, and that they have that in which to glory whether it is immediately or mediately from God.
Yet it is still to be said that Calvin himself would have been the last to approve of anything which would be in the nature of unnecessary irregularity in admission to the Ministry. Where possible he would have said that ordination had to be carried out by a regular and normal procedure. What Calvin´s doctrine leads to is this, that where special necessities demand, or when, by unavoidable circumstances, the regular procedure of the Church comes short, as it always does to some degree, God Himself is present, immediately acting, and carrying out immediately, what Himself requires, and what His Church to the best of its ability intends to do and is in need of having done. James L. Ainslie, The Doctrines of Ministerial Order in the Reformed Churches of the 16th and 17th Centuries (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1940), pp. 163-165.
Now, I am very much in favor of all three ingredients traditionally proposed to favor a legitimate ministry; 1) a call and giftedness from God, 2) the extending of a call based upon the consent/suffrage of the laity, and 3) ordination at the hands of a Presbytery. But I do think that the original position of the Reformers demonstrates that such an order makes for the bene esse of the church, while not for the esse of the church. Theoretically, I think the same scenario could one day characterize the church again, though I do believe we are far from that in our own day. Calvin indicates that this succession was often broken throughout the history of the Church...
John Calvin: As our mediators in delivering a formula of Reformation, after they have treated of Justification, come down to the Church, we must see how far arty pious man, who is unwilling to abandon the truth, may "˜be permitted to acquiesce in their decrees. The marks which they set down for discerning the Church, viz., pure doctrine, the right use of the sacraments, and the holy unity, thereon depending, I willingly receive. But who perceives not that what they add about the Succession of Bishops is captiously said? We maintain, not without reason, that for several centuries the Church was so torn and dismantled, that it was destitute of true pastors. We maintain that those who assumed the title to themselves were nothing less than pastors. Our mediators not only insist on wolves being regarded as shepherds, but affirm that the Church is not to be sought anywhere else than among them.
We certainly deny not that the Church of God has always existed in the world; for we hear what God promises concerning the perpetuity of the seed of Christ. In this way, too, we deny not that there has been an uninterrupted succession of the Church from the beginning of the gospel even to our day; but we do not concede that it was so fixed to external shows "” that it has hitherto always been, and will henceforth always be!, in possession of the Bishops. And how, pray, do they prove this to be necessary? No promise can anywhere be found. Nay rather, when Peter admonishes us that there will be false teachers in the Church, as there were among the ancient people, (2 Peter 2:1) and Paul declares that Antichrist will sit in the temple of God, (2 Thessalonians 2:4,) they point not to foreign enemies who by violent irruption and for a little time disturb the Church: they speak of what is called the ordinary administration of Prelates, that no one might dream of a tranquil and flourishing state of the kingdom of Christ. Therefore, if the Church resides in the successors of the Apostles, let us Search for successors among those only who have faithfully handed down their doctrine to posterity. Selected Works of John Calvin, Vol. 3, The True Method of Giving Peace to Christendom and Reforming the Church (Dallas: Protestant Heritage Press, 1995), p. 243.
Referring to the Romanist claim of his day, Calvin said...
John Calvin: To conclude this part of the subject in one word, I deny Succession to a thing which has no original. I likewise deny that the office of sacrificing, which they account the chief in their priesthood, ever flowed from the Apostles. Let them, therefore, look out for the founders of their order. Selected Works of John Calvin, Vol. 3, The True Method of Giving Peace to Christendom and Reforming the Church (Dallas: Protestant Heritage Press, 1995), p. 272.
And again...
John Calvin: The Church, I say, sometimes lies hid, and escapes the eyes of men, so that any external regimen or Primacy is looked for in vain. Hence, though the Succession of the Bishops is interrupted, the perpetuity of the Church, nevertheless, stands. If they do not yet perceive that they are making ado about nothing, I ask where they read that it is necessary to the end of the world that bishop succeed bishop in uninterrupted series? We read, that in ancient times, when, partly by the ignorance and sluggishness, partly by the perfidy and wickedness of the priests, the worship of God had been vitiated, the administration of sacred rites lay unattended to, pure doctrine was perverted, and the Church had well-nigh fallen, prophets were raised up by the extraordinary inspiration of God to restore her ruined affairs. And, indeed, it was necessary that it should be so. What is said in Ezekiel and Jeremiah belongs to us not less than to the ancient people, that God, to punish the iniquity of evil shepherds, will drive them away, and give good and faithful shepherds to feed according to his will. (Ezekiel 34:2; Jeremiah 3:15; 33:12.) For although God daily gives such by the calling of men, yet there is a singular species of giving, when the work of man ceases, and he himself appoints those whom he sees to be necessary, though human judgment pass them by. Selected Works of John Calvin, Vol. 3, The True Method of Giving Peace to Christendom and Reforming the Church (Dallas: Protestant Heritage Press, 1995), p. 273-274.
I agree that this is not the normal state of the church under God, but I don´t see how, according to Calvin, we can ignore the exception that he notes. Again, this is the exception and not the norm. But it is sufficient to prove (at least in my own mind) that ministerial succession is for the well being of Christ´s Church, but not absolutely for the essence of His Church. My heart is also with Calvin when he says...
John Calvin: There remains now another question, namely, that there should be a legitimate succession of persons to give a due sanction to the ordination of pastors. Because I perceive, it to be of high importance, that nothing should be done irregularly in the church, lest thus a loose should be given to the capricious humor of each; and because it has been distinctly enjoined us by the Spirit of God, speaking through the mouth of St. Paul, that all things should be done decently, and in order, I am therefore of opinion that we should reverently study to have a regularly appointed ministry. Thus then right reason as well as the command of God shews that no one should rashly intrude into, nor any private person usurp the office of a pastor, but that the man selected by the judgment of the pastors, and presented to the flock with their own consent, should be approved of. Add to these conditions the solemn imposition of hands, which is called ordination. Letter 374, To King of Poland in Selected Works of John Calvin, Vol. 6, pp. 108.
But again, he held out for the exception...
John Calvin: If that Temple, which seemed consecrated as God´s everlasting abode, could be abandoned by God and become profane, there is no reason why these men should pretend to us that God is so bound to persons and places, and attached to external observances, that he has to remain among those who have only the title and appearance of the church [Romans 9:6]. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, reprinted 1977), IV.2.3, pp. 1043-1044.

John Calvin: And, not to fill many pages in reciting them, we are warned by examples from almost every age that the truth is not always nurtured in the bosom of the pastors, and the wholeness of the church does not depend upon their condition. It was indeed fitting that they be executors and keepers of the peace and safety of the church, since they were appointed for its preservation; but it is one thing to render what you owe; another, to owe what you fail to render. Institutes of the Christian Religion, Vol. 2, ed. John T. McNeill and trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, reprinted 1977), IV.9.4, pp. 1168-1169.
I think these remarks from Calvin serve to prove the point for which I´m inclined to contend, viz., that a well ordered ministry is proper and fit, and necessary for the bene esse of the Church, but not for the esse of the Church.

Matt, thanks for your patience in bearing with me.

Blessings,
DTK
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott

I don't understand. A question is not a contention. It seems to me that there are a farily limited set of options and the path will lead you back to one.
Scott,

You are most correct. a question is not a contention, but you are posting here for a particular contention. At the present, I am not going to be side-tracked to address a matter on which all of us seem to agree, namely, the three ingredients necessary for a lawful ministry under a well-ordered Church. Now, my patience is extended to you (though you are putting it to the test), but we can go back to that question at a future date.

Now, let me explain to you how it is that you are testing my patience, which by the way is not at its end. Here it is - you keep offering a bunch of little missives, which have required from your hand absolutely no substantiation, only ipse dixit (your word) that such is so. Only one of us seems to be engaging in some homework here, and it's certainly not you. The fact that you are indicating no such exercise in our exchanges is simply draining on the one attempting to answer every little missive and/or objection that you post. Hence, that translates as - I don't feel disposed to run down every bunny trail of minutia when I'm the only one running. I have found that that too has been the modus operandi of virtually all the Roman apologists that I've engaged.

So then, while I hold out my patience to you, I must likewise plead for yours. I encourage you to help us all here by a little more than your ipse dixit followed by a question here and a question there that places the whole burden of work on the one with whom you disagree.

Blessings my brother,
DTK
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
(Which exception [ in the normal procedure ] we in this matter add particularly, for it has been necessary on some occasions, and even in our times, in which the constitution of the Church has been broken up, for God to have raised up men in an extraordinary way to construct anew the church which was in ruin and desolation.)
. . .
What Calvin´s doctrine leads to is this, that where special necessities demand, or when, by unavoidable circumstances, the regular procedure of the Church comes short, as it always does to some degree, God Himself is present, immediately acting, and carrying out immediately, what Himself requires, and what His Church to the best of its ability intends to do and is in need of having done.

Yes! I have stated this exception numerous times, as have the others who affirm ministerial succession.
 

Scott

Puritan Board Graduate
"Now, let me explain to you how it is that you are testing my patience, which by the way is not at its end."

David, I don't want to irritate you. I disagree with your characterizations but don't see any point in arguing further about them. Feel free to ignore my posts on subjects and be at peace. This is just a posting board. :)
 

DTK

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott
"Now, let me explain to you how it is that you are testing my patience, which by the way is not at its end."

David, I don't want to irritate you. I disagree with your characterizations but don't see any point in arguing further about them. Feel free to ignore my posts on subjects and be at peace. This is just a posting board. :)
Dear Scott,

My patience is not at its end. I have plenty of patience left. I can't ignore your posts, because I think they could possibly mislead someone else on the board. But I will, charitably I trust, continue to point out that you are providing no exercise in providing proof for what you assert here. Yes, it is just a posting board. But posts represent opinions, and opinions have the tendency to influence. If you want to help my peace, then grant me the charity of your own exercise , my brother. If your convictions are so strong, then surely you can provide us all with the background for them.

In other words, you object to what you describe as my "characterizations but don't see any point in arguing further about them." I guess that communicates very effectively what I've already noticed.

Blessings my brother,
DTK
 
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