Blog 178: 4.5.2 - 4.5.7

The Protestant Reformation was not a renewal of doctrine only, but just as much (if not more so) a renewal of practice. This helps to explain why Book IV--which primarily concerns the sacraments, government, and ministry of the church--is by far the longest book in Institutes. 

Calvin believed that the Roman Catholic Church had departed from the authentically biblical form of government that was practiced in the early church. Rather than protecting the right of a congregation to elect its own pastor, the Church in Rome appointed bishops of their own choosing. 

The result, according to Calvin, was nothing less than disastrous. On occasion, notorious sinners were promoted to the pastorate, in direct contradiction to biblical standards for purity in the ministry (e.g. 1 Tim. 3:1-7).

Just as bad, in Calvin's view, was the widespread Medieval practice of assigning "benefices," or revenue-producing parishes, to absentee pastors. In some cases, men received multiple benefices without ever having the intention to discharge any pastoral duties for people who lived in the parish.

Calvin argued that such practices were "utterly contrary to God, nature, and church government" (IV.v.7). His attacks on these "monstrous abuses," as he called them, were motivated by strong, simple convictions about the proper government of the church: churches should call their own pastors; pastors should take seriously their God-given duty to lead holy lives and take good spiritual care of the churches they are called to serve.