Blog 191: 4.9.4-11

Justin Taylor
Calvin's entries here continue his discussion about councils--insisting on their value and refuting that idea that they are doctrinally infallible. Scripture foretells that there will be danger and destruction within the church by pastors of the church; therefore we must always be on guard. We must always evaluate the councils by the standard of the Bible.
Calvin gives us an interesting window into his own process for judging the decree that comes from a council. Ever the careful, contextual exegete, the first thing he does is to determine the particulars:
·     When was the council held?

·     What was the occasion of the council?

·     What was the intention of the council?

·     Who was present at the council?

He then compares the decree with the teaching of the Word itself. And if the two are aligned, then the council is to be revered as sacred, given that they embrace and embody God's Word. It's clear that Calvin holds the Councils of Nicea, Constantinople, the first of Ephesus, Chalcedon, etc., in this regard. But this was the golden age, as it were, of councils, and things go from worse to worse as various councils meet to make decrees that don't accord with the Word of God.
We would do well to follow Calvin's method when examining any teaching from Church history: we first seek understanding (who? what? when? where? why? how?) and then we make an evaluation. At the end of the day, we have no other standard than the Word of God.