Degree Year


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts




Marcia Colish


Ecumenical, John Calvin, Doctrine, Nace


The Reformation Era witnessed heated debates over the doctrine of the Eucharist. This doctrine was a marvelously convenient focal point for the arguments of the theologians because it embodied doctrinal, ecclesiological, pastoral, as well as ceremonial questions. Thus, many of the basic differences among the reformers and between them and the Roman Catholic Church could be expressed in the forum of the Eucharistic debates. A study of Calvin's Eucharistic doctrine, then, affords the student the opportunity of exploring not only the content of one of Calvin' s basic teachings but also provides a means of understanding many features of Calvin's theology against the backdrop of other, contemporary doctrines. This paper will, therefore, begin with a general survey of the non-Calvinist Eucharistic doctrines of the Reformation and proceed to a discussion of Calvin's doctrine, exploring at the same time the points where these doctrines crossed paths with Calvin's thought and contrasting the topics and approaches over which they differed.

Calyin is not of interest solely as a means of gaining perspective on the Reformation, however. His thought, in itself, and the interpretations it has inspired are of equal interest. Having established the interconnections of Calvin's doctrine of the Eucharist with the other positions on the subject, we will be able to address two interpretations of Calvin's Eucharistic doctrine specifically that lend themselves nicely to the background we have covered. Those two can be labelled "polemic" and "ecumenical" Each has to do with understanding the origins, motivations, colorations, and atmosphere of the development of Calvin's doctrine. One position suggests that Calvin's doctrine of the Lord Supper, formed in a time of heated polemics, is an obvious product of the controversies. The "ecumenical" position suggests that Calvin was aware that his doctrine occupied a middle position theologically and that he considered it a useful tool in his efforts for uniting the fragmenting Protestant sects.

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