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

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

An Empty Show of Righteousness

Blogging The Institutes

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

Translation by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

Post #2

Deeply rooted in all of us is an arrogance which persuades us that we are righteous, truthful, wise and holy. Only clear evidence that we are unrighteous, deceitful, foolish and vile will convince us of the contrary. We feel no such conviction if all we do is look upon ourselves and not also upon the Lord. He is the one and only standard with which our judgment must accord. But because hypocrisy is something to which we are all naturally prone, we are quite content with an empty show of righteousness rather than with its reality.

John Piper once wrote that the problem with mankind is not that we are difficult to please but that we are too easily satisfied. We settle for less than God’s best at every turn. People worship lifeless idols rather than the living God. We become distracted from God’s glory by every sparkling bauble. We are seduced by carnal longings that come and go but refuse to satiate our soul with the living water of Christ (John 7:38). Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Blogging Calvin’s Institutes

I’m beginning a fairly ambitious project here at A Peculiar Pilgrim; one that I hope to stick out until the end. I pray it will bless my readers as it has blessed me in writing it.

I just received a copy of the Institutes of the Christian Religion – 1541 Edition by John Calvin a few weeks ago. I’ve been reading through the first few sections and have been so blessed by it that I’ve decided to share all this theological goodness with my readers. Every chapter of The Institutes is divvied up into small sections. It makes for great devotional reading.

The format for my blog articles will start with selected quotes from each section followed by my own thoughts and insights. I plan to keep each post at 500 words or under. I want quick, easily digestible nuggets for maximum readability. That will be the biggest challenge for me, as I tend to get long-winded at times. So, if I occasionally exceed my own self-imposed limits hopefully you won’t mind all that much.

I hope to churn out  2-3 posts per week – but I’m keenly aware of my inconsistencies. I tend to promise more than I can deliver. It may be more, prayerfully it won’t be any less.

I also plan to write other articles as well as some new works of fiction this year.

Again, it is my prayer that this new series will edify and encourage fellow believers. Perhaps it will engage skeptics as well and pique their curiosity enough to take a deeper look into the Christian faith.

I’m confident you will be blessed, not because my insights are keen but because  I’ll be quoting one of the greatest theological minds the Church has ever produced.

Read Entry One Here.