Calvin begins his Antidote1 with the following word (Preface):

The name of Sacred Council2 is held in such reverence in the Christian Church, that the very mention of it produces an immediate effect not only on the ignorant but on men of gravity and sound judgment. And doubtless, as the usual remedy which God employed from the beginning in curing the diseases of his Church was for pious and holy pastors to meet, and, after invoking his aid, to determine what the Holy Spirit dictated, Councils are deservedly honored by all the godly. There is this difference, however, — the vulgar, stupified with excessive admiration, do not afterwards make any use of their judgment, whereas those of sounder sense allow themselves, step by step, and modestly, indeed, but still allow themselves to inquire before they absolutely assent. And so it ought to be, in order that our faith, instead of rashly subscribing to the naked decisions of men, may submit to God only.


I see one glaring contradiction here:

  • "Men of sound judgement" consider [General] Councils "Sacred" and, if they are "godly," they "honor" said Councils, since their teaching is what "the Holy Spirit dictated" and in fact are "the normative remedy which God employ[s]" for combating heresy ("curing the diseases of his Church").

  • "However," a Council's teaching can be rejected ("[not submitted to]") on the nebulous and subjective ground of its being against "their judgement" and "sounder sense," in which case the teaching is deemed actually "the ... decisions of men" and not God.

I like to think of myself as having a basic grasp on logic. So when I read this, the gist is:

  • Councils have the authority to agree with me, because God is behind them. Only have the power to agree with me, because ones who don't are no Councils at all, but the decisions of men; and because they agree with me, God is behind them (question-begging).

Of course it's clear to see this is logically incoherent and fallacious—but my point is that it is the necessary conclusion of the above.

What am I missing here? How aren't Councils hereby portrayed as no-more-important-opinions-than-any-believers' simply stated 'louder,' in bigger numbers (in some caess), and with more insistence (bullying)? (It's 'bullying' if it's not legitimate authority taking punitive measures (such as excommunication/anathema).

P.S. Even though this question is primarily to do with Calvinism, answers from a similar or identical stance on the basic role and meaning of Councils are welcome to answer it as well.

NOTE: Nothing I have asked or said or ever will ask or say is asked with an intentionally offensive, or disingenuous spirit. Any offense caused is therefore neither intended nor my fault—in addition to being, by definition, a misreading of my question.

Thanks in advance.

1 i.e. to the Council of Trent

2 i.e. as an institution in general

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