Stumbling in the Dark

Blogging The Institutes

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

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God


Nevertheless, whatever light is kindled for us as we behold God’s works, our mind, in attempting to picture both him and his eternal kingdom, is so carnal that these very clear proofs convey no more to us about them than they do to the blind. When it comes to the structure of the whole wide world, how many of us lift our eyes heavenward? Or in surveying every country on earth, how many think to remember the Creator? And how many, ignoring the workman, look no further than the creature? As for what lies outside the ordinary course of nature, how many there are who only see chance at work, as it tosses and tumbles men about, instead of God’s providence which in fact governs them! And if, as inevitably happens to all men, we are sometimes forced to consider God’s role in all of this, we no sooner have a vague inkling of some deity or other than we return to the foolish notions of the flesh, and in our vanity we corrupt God’s pure truth.

This sphere of green and blue in which we exist tells us something about God. But most of the time we aren’t looking for the answers to the questions we aren’t asking. In my pre-conversion mind I thought little about God’s role in creation. Perhaps because that would force me to consider MY role in God’s creation. I didn’t want to be a character in someone else’s play. This is my story and I’ll write my own happy ending thank you very much. On the rare occasion that I would consider God, I imagined Him unconditionally benevolent, always smiling down on my silly antics. Without a deeper, more complete revelation (that I had no interest in discovering) I could not know the whole truth of His nature.

For no sooner do we acquire from our study of the world some small taste of divinity, than we abandon the true God.  His place is taken by whatever fantasies our brain dreams up, and we give them the credit for God’s righteousness, wisdom, goodness and power. Moreover we so obscure God’s daily works, or else minimize and thus dismiss them, that he is deprived and robbed of the praise and thanks we owe him.

Every ray of sunshine, every drop of rain, every crop that springs from the earth, is evidence of God’s daily provision for the needs of His people. Instead of the proper response of gratitude He is owed, we either take for granted His gracious gifts or redirect our thanks to idols forged in the fires of our vanity. And we wonder why the wrath of God is stored up for a day of reckoning (Rom 1:18)?

God could have abandoned us to the darkness we so recklessly plunged ourselves into. In His great love God gave us His own self revelation in the form of the Bible that we might see Him in the glorious countenance of His beloved Son (Heb 1:3).

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