Paltry Amends & Ceremonies

Blogging Calvin’s Institutes

Excerpts taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God


Instead of maintaining a life-long attitude of constant obedience to God, we resist him in almost everything we do, and try to placate him by making a few paltry amends. Instead of pleasing him by holiness and innocence of heart, we invent a mishmash of paltry ceremonies, hoping these will occupy his attention. What is more, the trust which should centre wholly on him is placed instead in ourselves or other creatures.

Two distinctive methods fallen humanity utilizes to appease the nagging voice of conscience, according to Calvin, is first to make meager restitution to both fellow neighbor and to God for the wrongs we’ve committed.  Second, man performs meaningless religious rituals they hope will satisfy God’s demand for duty and obedience. Examples of meager restitution would include insincere apologies to people we’ve offended and vain lip service to God that ‘I’ll never commit that sin again’. In both instances the heart is far from Him, only creating greater distance with each empty gesture(Is 29:13). Continue reading

Adam, Eve & Noah

Bible Inquiries and Explanations

Question 1:

Q: If God knew he was going to destroy the Earth before the flood and start all over with Noah, why did he take the time to create Adam/Eve and all that before Noah? Why didn’t he just start with Noah?

A: Maybe for the same reason God doesn’t just start with the promised new heavens and earth at the end of Revelation. It wasn’t part of His eternal plan. I mean, all injustice, suffering and human cruelty could’ve been bypassed altogether if he had done so but God ordained the course of human history to go exactly as it has gone. Why God chose to permit sin and evil in his universe is one of those questions that brings us to the cliff’s edge of God’s secret knowledge. How a good and sovereign God can allow evil to exist has been debated by scholars, theologians and skeptics for centuries. But that’s not the question you asked, so –  moving right along.

Your question appears to suggest that from the time of Adam up until the Flood was just a supreme waste of time and effort, since most of humanity ends up washed away by the Flood. However, the story of Adam and Eve explains mankind’s original honor and dignity in the garden of Eden. They lived in paradise and had communion with God. They had dominion and authority over the earth. They didn’t toil with the soil, feel pain, sorrow or suffer from sickness and death. Life was good. Then the Fall happened. Unbelief and pride entered their hearts and shattered the sweet fellowship with God they had enjoyed. Continue reading

The Irresistible Allure of Idolatry

Blogging The Institutes

Excerpts taken from The Institutes of the Christian Religion (1541 Edition) by John Calvin

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

Post #3

The Lord has instilled in everyone some understanding of his majesty, so that all, having learned that there is one God and that he is their Creator, should be condemned by their own testimony because they have failed to honour him and to devote their lives to doing his will.

Just as birds, by instinct, build elaborate nests and even the smallest ants, by nature, construct labyrinthine underground cities, man has an innate understanding that there is a creator who is worthy of all honor and praise. However, unlike the animals, who do just as God has created them to do, the human race, made in the very image and likeness of God, does not give God the glory He is due. How this apparent contradiction exists will be discussed in detail later on in Calvin’s works. For now, it is important to understand that all people know God exists and the conscience is a constant reminder we owe him our whole-hearted allegiance. The problem is we suppress the truth by our unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). Calvin explains the most fundamental way man does this: Continue reading

Bible Inquiries and Explanations

I have a good friend who is determined to read through the entire bible, from Genesis to Revelation. She is currently plowing through the first book but has been troubled with nagging questions in just about every chapter. Like any studious reader, she has jotted down questions that need answering. She contacted me for help and I proposed to use my blog as a forum for discussing the issues she comes across in her readings.

I wanted to publicize our correspondence because I imagine the questions she’s wrestling with are likely to be shared by many others who try to seriously tackle the Bible for the first time. It can be a peculiar tome to those who may not have been raised on a steady diet of bible stories and memory verses in Sunday school as a child. I didn’t read the bible until I was 23. It took awhile for the whole work to make cohesive sense. Frankly, to this day I’m still connecting theological dots between biblical concepts. Mastering Scripture is a lifetime pursuit. It is akin to comprehending the mind of God. Since His thoughts are higher than our thoughts and His ways higher than our ways (Isa 55:9) Scripture can be perplexing and confounding to finite minds. Continue reading