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John Calvin: Catholic Theologian

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image of Ecclesiology

Calvin began by affirming the Catholicity of the Church, but such positive affirmations become rarer as he grew older. By contrast, he more and more frequently rejects the claims of the Roman Church to Catholicity. The change is provoked by the barrage of claims to Catholicity that Calvin faced from his opponents, together with the claim that the Reformers had abandoned it. This made Calvin less enthusiastic about using the word for himself, thus pointing the way towards the eventual development where Catholic came to mean Roman Catholic. Calvin accepted the Catholic canon of the New Testament, though without ever explaining the basis for this. He appealed to the early Catholic tradition (most especially Augustine) for support, though he was not uncritical of it. The Church had declined from the truth during the Middle Ages and the true Church remained but had lost outward form.


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