I thought I'd share something from my reading today. Calvin has some interesting things to say about Church discipline. He seemed quite anxious that the Church's exercise of discipline might turn into cruelty and legalism.
"Although excommunication also punishes the man, it does so in such a way that, by forewarning him of his future condemnation, it may call him back to salvation. But if that be obtained, reconciliation and restoration to communion await him. Moreover, anathema is very rarely or never used. Accordingly, though ecclesiastical discipline does not permit us to live familiarly or have intimate contact with excommunicated persons, we ought nevertheless to strive by whatever means we can in order that they may turn to a more virtuous life and may return to the society and unity of the church. So the apostle also teaches: 'Do not look upon them as enemies, but warn them as brothers' [II Thess. 3:15]. Unless this gentleness is maintained in both private and public censures, there is danger lest we soon slide down from discipline to butchery." [From Calvin's Institutes, Chapter XII, Section 10].
When Calvin spoke of "excommunication," he meant that persons under discipline were not allowed to partake of the Lord's Supper, unless they met the condition of repentance for which they were under discipline. This is why he mentions that the "anathema" is very rarely or never used. Anathema meaning that someone was essentially cut off from Christ without hope of reconciliation.
We Must Do the Impossible
4 years ago