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
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