Knowability of God


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

Post#10 (Note: This post should’ve gone before post#9 but I goofed)

For God is made known to us in his works so that, when we feel their force within us and receive their benefits such knowledge should touch us more keenly than if we conceived of God as some airy being of whom we had no real experience. Accordingly, the proper way to seek God and the best way to proceed is to behold him in his works, for through them he becomes close and familiar to us, and indeed imparts something of himself.

 

This kind of knowledge should not only prompt us to know and serve God, but should also arouse and awaken us to the hope of the future life. For we perceive that the signs which God gives both of his goodness and severity are partial and only half complete: they are samples, as it were,of what will be fully and finally revealed on the appointed day. Moreover, since we see the good and the innocent bowed down with suffering, hurt by insults, wounded by slanders, enduring scorn and shame; and since on the other hand the wicked flourish, prosper, enjoy untroubled ease and esteem, we are led to conclude that there will be another life in which iniquity will be punished and righteousness rewarded.

Notice Calvin’s frequent use of the word should in the above two quotes. The knowledge He gives us in His works and the benefits we receive daily in His gracious provision should touch us deeply. It should motivate us to know and serve Him. It should give us hope for resurrection life. His use of should is intentional. Man should behold what he plainly does not. In the next section Calvin goes on to explain humanity’s blindness to God’s revelation in His works. This flaw is not one of design, meaning, God didn’t create man with an innate deficiency to prevent us from beholding His majesty. No, the failure to behold is ours. It is a moral failure and it is absolute. Sin’s grip never relaxes its hold on our souls. The blind cannot command themselves to see. The help must come from outside ourselves. Only God can restore sight to the sightless (Psalm 146:8).  Continue reading

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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

Post#9

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. Continue reading

Works of Providence


Blogging the Institutes

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

Translated by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

Post#8

For in ruling over mankind he so orders his providence that, although he is commonly and in every way kind and generous to all, he daily reveals his righteousness to the good whom he guides, and his judgment to the wicked. For the retribution which he metes out for sin is neither secret nor hidden.In the same way he appears as the sure protector and guardian of innocence, for through his blessing he gives prosperity to the good, assists them in time of need, relieves their suffering, remedies their misfortunes, and ever and always provides for their salvation.

Calvin answers a question I think many ask themselves at one time or another: Does God still judge sin? The response Calvin gives is an emphatic “yes!” We see it everyday when justice is served to those who have been caught in their crimes. We know it subconsciously when someone is struck down suddenly in their prime who has reveled in unrepentant immorality.We see his generosity every time we experience a joy of everyday life: the warm embrace of a loved one, the abundance of food on our table, the sturdy shelter over our heads. We feel his kindness when those who’ve been served with injustice are consoled, comforted and supported by those who’ve reached out in compassion for their plight. By providence we mean that God works His will through the everyday course of events and circumstances in the world. God is sovereign and works all things according to the counsel of His will (Eph 1:11-12). If this were not so God would cease being God. He would not then be worthy of our worship. Continue reading

The Uncelebrated Birthday


Our family will be observing a special birthday this Sunday. It will be different from all others. There won’t be a colorfully decorated cake to cut. We won’t have any candles to blow out. There will be no stack of presents to unwrap. The sounds of laughter, clapping and singing won’t be heard. No pictures will be taken, no lasting memories will be made. It will be a birthday empty of celebration, yet full of sorrow.

It is the third birthday of my grandson, Nash. He won’t be present. He has fled his mortal shell. The victim of a horrific act of evil, our little red-headed boy was taken from us far too soon. We feel the sting of his loss anew every single day. The weekends are far too quiet. The house far too clean. His toys far too dusty. His birthday also marks the sixth month anniversary of the incident that took his life. The pervasive sense of sadness and loss will never leave us. It is here to stay; a cold companion who hovers in the shadow of our daily lives.

It’s difficult to process all the images and emotions of that fateful time in late October. I cried like a baby at his beautiful funeral service. The tears have never flowed so freely as it did watching the captured memories of his brief life come across the screen. The procession to the grave site was a surreal experience. Flanked by hordes of bikers (there to shield us from potential protesters) we drove by the university where I work. There, outside to my left at the football stadium I saw something I’ll never forget. The entire football squad stopped practice, faced the procession, took a knee and bowed their heads in unison. I trembled in awe at the show of respect for our grandson. I’ll always treasure that moment.

At the conclusion of the graveside services a strange sensation came over me. As the line of people paying their respects to the family dwindled, a wave of peace washed over my spirit. It didn’t make sense to me. In the midst of my lowest moment, staring at the miniature casket about to be lowered into the ground, my faith in God and His goodness stood unshaken. The tangle of mixed emotions momentarily confused me. The new sentiment didn’t make sense to me within that context. It didn’t compute. Peace? At at time like this? How? Why? I couldn’t fight it. I couldn’t reason it away. It just was. God, in that moment granted me a peace that surpasses all understanding. Honestly, that sense of acceptance and tranquility has never left me. I think I know why. Continue reading

Reflections of God’s Glory


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

Post#7

…whichever way we turn our eyes, there is no part of the world, however small, in which at least some spark of God’s glory does not shine. In particular, we cannot gaze upon this beautiful masterpiece of the world, in all its length and breadth, without being completely dazzled, as it were, by an endless flood of light. Accordingly, in Hebrews the apostle aptly calls the world the mirror of things invisible, because the structure of the world serves as a mirror in which we behold God, who otherwise cannot be seen (Heb 11:3).

The whole purpose of the material creation is to reflect the glory of the invisible God. His glory sparkles in the heavens above, through the warm brilliance of the sun, the cold beauty of the moon and the twinkling shimmer of the stars. It shines forth in the world below, from the rolling hills of green to the ubiquitous oceans of blue. It breaks out from the flight of birds in the air to the fleeting beasts of the field to the swarming fish of the sea. His likeness reflects most clearly in the form of man, crafted lovingly by the Maker’s hand to be His image bearer to all creation.

The Fall brought man low, blighting and obscuring God’s glory to the point where it no longer shines brightly as a light in our dim, myopic vision. All of creation mourns the darkness to which man has plunged it (Rom 8:22). Our blindness and intentional ignorance will not stand up in God’s court. He has revealed enough of Himself to condemn the entire human race for refusing to honor His majesty. Continue reading

This Present Evil Age


Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:15-17 ESV)

Any Christian should be quite familiar with this well-worn text of Scripture. We’ve probably all been convicted by its strong words at one time or another during our walk with Christ. Vanity Fair has seduced its fair share of prospective pilgrims throughout history. The question I have now in my 3rd decade on the narrow path isn’t how much love I have for the world, it’s more along the line of How much hate I have for the world, and is it OK to hate the world we live in?

I think I’ve always had a fundamental distaste for the modern age in which we live. From a very young age I’ve always been fascinated with different time periods. I romanticized the various epochs in my vivid imagination growing up. I loved the eras of ancient Greece, the Roman Empire and especially the medieval period in Europe. This fact was confirmed just a few days past when I visited my first Medieval fair. Good times.

I think that’s why I play video games – particularly role-playing games. I’m thoroughly enthralled at the ability to be transported to another time and place. Sometimes people ask why I still play video games at my age. My answer is simple: They take me someplace else. Continue reading

Permissibility of Polygamy & Adultery


Bible Inquiries & Explanations

Q: Why was adultery and polygamy allowed to happen so freely prior to the 10 commandments?

A: As a start I should begin with what Scripture reveals as God’s plan for human flourishing and how polygamy and adultery don’t conform to said plan.

God created woman from the rib of the first man and presented her to him. Adam proclaimed her to be bone of his bone and the flesh of his flesh and he called her woman because she was taken out of man. The Bible then states:

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh (Gen 2:24 ESV)

Notice the specific use of the singular nouns – one man shall cleave to one wife and the two become one flesh.

Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, reiterated this great truth in the gospels:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt 19:3-6 ESV)

Continue reading