Does Calvin teach that the Church ceased to exist on account of the Eucharist?Mar 10th, 2009 | By Taylor Marshall | Category: Blog Posts
Calvin’s high view of the church doesn’t allow him to make the claim that the true Church of Christ ceased to exist between the time of the Apostles and the 16th century. However, I recently came across something in the Institutes that throws a wrench into Calvin’s consistency.
In Institutes IV, 18, 7 Calvin writes:
I come now to the crowning point, viz., that the sacred Supper, on which the Lord left the memorial of his passion formed and engraved, was taken away, hidden and destroyed when the mass was erected.
Here’s the problem. According to Calvin, there are necessary conditions which must be met in order for a body to be reckoned as a “church”. Check out what he writes in Institutes IV, 1, 9:
With regard to the general body we must feel differently; if they have the ministry of the word, and honour the administration of the sacraments, they are undoubtedly entitled to be ranked with the Church, because it is certain that these things are not without a beneficial result. Thus we both maintain the Church universal in its unity, which malignant minds have always been eager to dissever, and deny not due authority to lawful assemblies distributed as circumstances require.
So here’s Calvin’s problem. As long as the Holy Mass was being celebrated, it “hid and destroyed” the Lord’s Supper. Consequently, that body (i.e. the Catholic Church) celebrating the Holy Mass could not be a “Church” according to Calvin’s definition since his definition includes “the administration of the sacraments”. Since the Holy Mass has been celebrated nearly without change since at least the days of Saint Gregory the Great (arguably before), then we have “no Church” from about A.D. 600 till the 16th century.