I was reading Calvin this morning. It regularly strikes me how ‘modern’ he seems to be!
We live in a culture where commitment is a rare commodity. In particular, amongst professing believers, commitment to the visible church is often discounted. We live in a culture where authority is questioned. Even the authority that God institutes in the Scriptures.
In Book 4, Chapter 1 Calvin shows the place of the visible church as ‘mother’ to believers and the place of preaching and teaching for the benefit of the body. However, even in Calvin’s day, he notes,
Many are led either by pride, dislike, or rivalry to the conviction that they can profit enough from private reading and meditation; hence they despise public assemblies and deem preaching superfluous. But, since they do their utmost to sever or break the sacred bond of unity, no one escapes the just penalty of this unholy separation without bewitching himself with pestilent errors and foulest delusions.
I don’t think I have met a professing believer who has effectively been a spiritual nomad and isn’t way out (i.e. has ‘pestilent errors and foulest delusions’) on significant doctrinal matters.
Individualism was present then as it is now. It is not just a persistent ripple of the Enlightenment philosophy. It is a tsunami of original sin raging throughout the ages.
We need the church, and we need preaching and preachers.