Turning to the questions from Lane, chapter 1 (p. 27): "How did Calvin see the Institutes relating to Scripture and to his commentaries?" He really saw the Institutes and commentaries as a dual resource, with each pointing to the other, and both pointing consistently back to Scripture. Calvin was convinced that everything Christians needed to know was in the Bible, but the Bible didn't interpret itself, so Calvin offered his assistance: "Perhaps the duty of those who have received from God fuller light than others is to help simple folk at this point, and as it were to lend them a hand, in order to guide them and help them to find the sum of what God meant to teach us in his Word" (Institutes, p. 6).
Next question from Lane: "How does Calvin answer the charge of novelty?" A major challenge to Protestantism in the 16th century was that its leaders--Calvin, but also Martin Luther and, acutely, the Anabaptists--were making up something new and leading unsuspecting folk down the garden path to perdition. Calvin tells the hostile king that he's not making up anything new, because (a) his doctrine comes straight from that ancient book, the Bible ("by calling it 'new,' they do great wrong to God, whose Sacred Word does not deserve to be accused of novelty," Prefatory address, sect. 3); and (b) even church fathers, at least the really good, really old ones, taught the same faith that Calvin himself taught. The main church father to whom Calvin will appeal, constantly, is Augustine.
Last question: "Where was the true church in the Middle Ages?" Mostly Calvin spent Prefatory Address sect. 6 complaining about the false church, but he described the true church as sustained by Christ's hand (Institutes p. 24) even while "scattered and hidden" (p. 26) during persecution. The big idea here is the distinction that Calvin, following Augustine, drew between the visible and the invisible church. You know the joke that being in a garage doesn't make you a car any more than being in a church makes you a Christian? It's a more sophisticated version of the same idea. You can read more about it here: http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/hcc8.iv.xiii.iii.html.
The last element I've asked for in these blog posts is at least one question from the blogger. I got to ask several questions of the dean in this week's podcast (see Moodle for that), so I'm kind of question-ed out. As a church historian, though, I have the large and probably unfair question of why Calvin thought his attempt to return the church to the Bible and maintain "the pure doctrine of godliness" (Institutes p. 4) was going to work. The early church had the Scriptures, but they managed to, in Calvin's estimation, go completely off the rails. Christian history is actually full of attempts to restore a pure faith. (The impulse to do so is called primitivism, and the attempts are called restorationism.) What went wrong in the early church, and how could Calvin be sure it wouldn't happen again? Or maybe Calvin wasn't sure, just hopeful. The church could be "scattered and hidden" again at any point, because of internal problems or external challenges, but as long as it was held in Christ's hand it would never die out completely.
Programmatic note for HT 775 students: Please follow this format for the lead blog posts this semester. Title your post with the number of the corresponding Lane chapter (if applicable; see Moodle for the blog schedule and the new "wild card" category) [colon] descriptive title for the post (eg. 1: Intro to the Institutes). Images and links are optional but nice. Please use a jump break so that the whole text of your post doesn't appear on the blog's front page. Text formatting works best if you compose in Blogger rather than in a Word processing program, and Blogger does allow you to save work in progress before publishing, but copy and paste should work in a pinch. If you find yourself unable to post for technical reasons, e-mail me.
Also, I had anticipated 3 lead blog posts per week, but then our class grew from 10 to 15 students, so instead there are going to be 4 each week. You might not be able to comment on all of them (I don't know how long reading and commenting will take.) For now, anticipate as your weekly participation commenting on 3 out of 4--except this week, when you should all comment on this post.
To inspire you in our blogging project, perhaps you'll want to inscribe this quote from Calvin, quoting Augustine, above your computer: "I count myself as one of the number of those who write as they learn and learn as they write" ("John Calvin to the Reader").