The Church as the Mother of the Faithful

How many Protestant movements active within America would define the purpose of the Church in these words?

“I shall start, then, with the church, into whose bosom God is pleased to gather his sons, not only that they may be nourished by her help and ministry as long as they are infants and children, but also that they may be guided by her motherly care until they mature and at last reach the goal of faith.”

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.1.1

9 thoughts on “The Church as the Mother of the Faithful

  1. GREAT quote.

    I’m afraid to answer your question, however. As one with a background in parachurch ministry, I regrettably had to realize later than I should have the key role the church plays in the development of God’s people and the advancement of the kingdom in general.

    Thanks for that quote. I intend to share it in our church bulletin before too long.

  2. Sorry Brother, but I have an adverse reaction to this quote and the fond thought that John Calvin is expressing because of my own background in roman catholicism from which the LORD called me and delivered me.

    I think of the Holy Spirit as the one who does these things, not an humanized entity that I don’t see in the WORD.

    I pray I am not having an intolerant moment!

  3. Well, I understand that, but it is possible that this was a remnant concept which he didn’t discern was problematic…now I realize I just made myself wiser than John Calvin……NOT!

    But I do insist that it is not a Biblical concept….Bride yes. Mother, no.

  4. I do not believe that this is left over romanism, I instead think its biblical truth. The Holy Spririt works in and with and through the truth of God’s Word. Peter was three times told “feed my sheep”. Paul gives Timothy the mighty charge in the before God our Father and the Lord Jesus to preach the Word! God’s people must be fed His word and this is in the context of the local church! Her in America we have a brand of” John Wayne” christianity. Thus the Lord’s Supper,church discipline, and many other things are marginalized. Folks are led to believe they should just “get fired up for Jesus” and take on the world, bless you church etc. The believer is blessed through the local church not the other way around. We are part of the body of Christ not Gary Cooper riding off in the sunset. I believe we find Calvin’s quote so odd because of this John Wayne mentality. I hope I am making some degree of sense.
    Also, Calvin would tell us Christ is the Head of the Church, Scripture our only rule of faith and practice.


  5. I agree with everything you said.
    I think that the Church as Mother is not Biblical. Because Catholics call the Church, “Holy Mother, the Church”.
    We are a brotherhood, with all the mutual care as Biblically directed that you cite.
    That’s all.
    I appreciate your responses.

  6. Brenda,
    I hear ya! I don’t think it’s a “Mother” either. I do think Calvin was attempting a word picture, however effective it may have been. I can certainly see some discomfort with such wording…

  7. Hello everyone! My goal in posting this quote was not necessarily directed at the authority of the Church. I was trying to use this quote in light of the emphasis on seeker-sensitivity and missional and how these overshadow an emphasis on the maturing of the Saints. Sorry for the confusion here. “Mothering” souls does seem to be a great image, especially in light of contemporary emphasis on the “collecting” of souls.

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