Today marks the quincentenary of John Calvin’s birth. Over at the First Things site, I take the occasion to pay special attention to Calvin’s concern for articulating the antiquity, and therefore the catholicity, of the Reformation.
Among the factors that converts from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism very often cite as major influences on their move is the novelty of the former compared with the antiquity of the latter. This is, undoubtedly, an important point that ought to be addressed by concerned Protestants.
But I argue, in continuity with the Reformers, I think, that this concern is best answered in the first place not by discounting the value or the importance of antiquity, but rather by doing justice to the claims of the Reformation itself to representing the ancient and catholic faith.
Sometimes the Reformation is summed up by reference to the five “solas,” and Calvin is associated with the saying, “Cor meum tibi offero Domine prompte et sincere.” (“I offer my heart to you, Lord, promptly and sincerely.”)
But the motto of the Reformers might just as well have been (as a colleague has put it), “Expellete nova, impellete vetera!” (“Out with the new, in with the old!”)