Blog 106: 3.4.10 - 3.4.15

Stephen Nichols

Nothing to do with Calvin, just a note to say it's great to pick up where Sean left off.  Back in Seminary we used to finish each other's sentences in class discussions.  It's good to see we're still at it.  Now to Calvin.

Despite there being those who got public confession quite wrong, as was just covered, Calvin commends the public confession of sin.  It might be worthwhile ot break from Calvin's criticism of Rome here and think about what can be positive concerning public confession.  Calvin makes to key statements about it:

1.  Public confession comes after secret or private confession to God
2.  Public confession happens "extraordinarily in a special way, whenever it happens that people are guilty of some transgression in common" (3.4.10).

A good case study of 3.4.10 can be seen in the New England Puritan practice of fast day sermons.  When pestilence, war, or barrenness, as Calvin lists out the calamities, happens to a people, it is cause for soul-searching, (maybe) repentance and fasting, and then the awaiting of forgiveness.  The NE Puritans were quite good at this sort of thing.  Some call this retribution theology.  Others think of it differently. 

What strikes me the most about it is its "otherness" to our experience.  What an alien thought to think that God speaks to us, prods us, convicts us, through the events around us?  And what a further alien though to think that we stand and fall--not in an ultimate sense, mind you--as a community before God.  Calvin again . . .

"In every sacred assembly we stand before the sight of God and the angles, what other beginning of our action will there be than the recognition of our won unworthiness?"