The Sum of True Wisdom

Blogging the Institutes

Taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

The whole sum of our wisdom – wisdom, that is, which deserves to be called true and assured – broadly consists of two parts, knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves.

Here Calvin introduces to his readers the two pillars propping up the entirety of the Christian faith: Understanding who God is and understanding who we are in relation to Him. The former needs first to be established in order to erect the latter.

The purpose of the first of these is to show not only that there is one God whom all must worship and honour, but also that he is the fount of all truth, wisdom, goodness, righteousness, judgment, mercy, power and holiness.

The reason any person should be driven to study theology is to intimately know the God of scripture, to discover all His holy attributes. Each of which will give us insight into the way man ought to approach God in order to please Him.

The purpose of the second is to show us our weakness, misery, vanity and vileness, to fill us with despair, distrust and hatred of ourselves, and then to kindle in us the desire to seek God, for in him is found all that is good and of which we ourselves are empty and deprived.

The only manner in which we can come to such a sobering view of our own corrupt nature is to behold the full majesty of God. In light of His glory we must come to grips with the fact that we have fallen far, far short of it. This immortal God dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16). In our flesh we can never be pleasing to Him (Rom 8:8).

We must know God as He’s fully revealed Himself to us. Then we must give an honest assessment of where we stand in contrast to His splendor. He is all that is good and true. We are all that is depraved and false (Rom 3:10-18). It is at this point we realize the desperate need mankind has of mercy, grace and salvation. God has not left us without a witness. The Holy Bible was inspired, written, compiled and distributed over the centuries to grant us the remedy – and this by the mysterious providence of God.




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