Blog 174: 4.3.8 - 4.3.15

Paul Helm

A read through these sections makes it clear that the establishing and preservation of order is a main Calvinian criterion for the various ecclesiastical rules he proposes at this point. For example,  the establishing of governors, that is, elders, overseers, is a permanent requirement of the church, since 'this sort of order is not confined to one age'. (In contrast with the impermanence of certain other apostolic arrangements).

Similarly in the case of deacons (and deaconesses) and especially in the calling of a pastor there is need for order. An inner and outer call must concur. Here is another example of Calvinian order. Even in the apostolic era, an extraordinary time, 'church order was in no respect neglected'. The outward call to the pastorate is to involve ministers of the church in cooperation with the church congregations, under the chairmanship of another pastor in order that the multitude may not go wrong....through disorder''.

The upholding of such order is, for Calvin, a necessary condition of sound church government.  To secure it he was prepared to tolerate, or even to encourage, a certain flexibility in arrangements, particularly in areas where there was, in his judgment, not so much apostolic teaching as apostolic precedent.

But although church order is necessary, it is  not sufficient, of course: a cemetery is the very model of orderliness.