Testimony of Scripture


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

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If we think of how inclined the human mind is to forget God, how easily it is led into error,  by what flights of fancy it dreams up, hour by hour, new and counterfeit religions, we may readily understand how necessary it was for the heavenly doctrine to be couched in written form, lest it perish through forgetfulness, or be lost through error, or be corrupted by the impudence  of men.

So it is that David first of all declares that the heavens proclaim God’s glory and the firmament his handiwork, and that his majesty is revealed in the orderly succession of day and night. He then goes on to celebrate God’s word, saying: ‘The law of the Lord is spotless, converting souls; the testimony of the Lord is true, giving wisdom to the humble; the righteous deeds of the Lord are just, rejoicing the heart; the precepts of the Lord are clear, enlightening the eye’ (Psa 19:7-8). What he means is that the message of God’s creation is universal, for all peoples, but that the teaching of the word is the school peculiar to God’s children.

Calvin asserts the word of God became necessary because while natural revelation reveals God’s power and many of His invisible attributes, in the hands of corrupted man, this knowledge can easily be twisted to suit his own purposes. Historic pagan religions bear witness to this fact. Ancient Greek culture invented deities that controlled particular aspects of nature instead of giving the one true God the glory He is due for His sovereign reign over all the cosmos. Many civilizations of old have followed their own imaginations in defining who or what brushed the blank canvas of space with a full palette of color, beauty and diverse complexity. Continue reading

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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

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…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

True Godliness


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

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The believing heart does not haphazardly forge for itself some kind of god. Rather it looks to him who is the true and only God. It does not ascribe to him whatever qualities it pleases but is content to take him as he shows himself to be: it is always careful not to depart from God’s will through headstrong pride. Knowing him thus, and understanding that he governs all things by his providence, it confidently accepts him as guardian and protector, and thus entrusts itself to his keeping, since it knows him to be the author of all that is good.

A contrite heart doesn’t work to construct a god acceptable to its own liking. On the contrary it willingly accepts the testimony of Scripture of who God is, of what it tells us is pleasing and acceptable to Him. A believing heart is a trusting heart. God’s providence over all creation and world events gives Christians security and comfort. This faith helps believers overcome sufferings and trials. They are ordained by God for His purposes and our eternal good (Rom 8:28 ESV). Continue reading

Twin Evils of False Religion


Blogging the Institutes

Excerpts taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin

Translation by Robert White

Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God

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It is easy indeed to see how, the victim of its own empty illusions, superstition mocks God whenever it tries to please him. It only fastens on the things which God expressly says mean nothing to him. It ignores those which he has commanded and which he has said are acceptable to him; or else it openly rejects them. Therefore all who, wishing to honour God, set up religions of their own devising, are merely worshiping their own fantasies. For they would never have ventured to trifle with God if they had not first fashioned him according to their whims.

Superstitious worship is the first of two great evils Calvin identifies in the realm of professing Christianity. Superstition is an irrational belief usually founded on ignorance or fear and characterized by obsessive reverence for omens, charms, etc. People will focus on the dice rolls of fate, accompanied by  serendipitous trinkets, prophetic words and meaningless rituals. They believe these things will increase their chances at good fortune  and a favorable countenance from the god of their fevered imaginations. Such a nebulous, hopeless ploy at finding comfort and approval in falsehood is the height of human folly. God is not pleased by our cleverly devised fables. Continue reading

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

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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

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

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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