Blogging the Institutes
Excerpts taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin
Translation by Robert White
Chapter 1: The Knowledge of God
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
My junior year of high school marked a significant milestone in my transition from hopeless daydreamer to somewhat functional member of society. I began obsessing less with the fantasy realms I entered in through books, movies, D&D and other vehicles that would transport me away from the dreary existence of my everyday life. I shifted my focus to more worldly concerns: What would I be when I grew up? Who would I date and someday marry? Am I making the grades I need to pursue a higher education? How much money did I need to put away to help upgrade my girl-repellant vehicle? The nebulous lands of my vivid imagination dissipated under the relentless rays of reality.
I had a close-knit group of friends I hung out with. I had a car, a job and a measure of independence I had never felt before. Times were good. I felt content – aside from the occasional pangs of teen angst over my considerable lack of ability to charm the ladies.
These were alien words in my high school vocabulary. I never heard them – I never spoke of them. Most importantly I never pondered their significance. However, this all changed sometime during the fall semester of 1988. Continue reading
“In the church where I ministered in South Wales I used to stand at the main door of the church at the close of the service on Sunday night, and shake hands with people as they went out. The incident to which I am referring concerns a man who used to come to our service every Sunday night. He was a tradesman but also a heavy drinker. He got drunk regularly every Saturday night, but he was also regularly seated in the gallery of our church every Sunday night. On the particular night to which I am referring I happened to notice while preaching that this man was obviously being affected. I could see that he was weeping copiously, and I was anxious to know what was happening to him. At the end of the service I went and stood at the door. After a while I saw this man coming, and immediately I was in a real mental conflict. Should I, in view of what I had seen, say a word to him and ask him to make his decision that night, or should I not? Would I be interfering with the work of the Spirit if I did so? Hurriedly I decided that I would not ask him to stay behind, so I just greeted him as usual and he went out. His face revealed that he had been crying copiously, and he could scarcely look at me. The following evening I was walking to the prayer-meeting in the church, and, going over a railway bridge, I saw this same man coming to meet me. He came across the road to me and said, ‘You know, doctor, if you had asked me to stay behind last night I would have done so.’ ‘Well,’ I said, ‘I am asking you now, come with me now.’ ‘Oh no,’ he replied, ‘but if you had asked me last night I would have done so.’ ‘My dear friend,’ I said, ‘if what happened to you last night does not last for twenty-four hours I am not interested in it. If you are not as ready to come with me now as you were last night you have not got the right, the true thing. Whatever affected you last night was only temporary and passing, you still do not see your real need of Christ.’ That is the kind of thing that may happen even when an appeal is not made. But when an appeal is made it is greatly exaggerated and so you get spurious conversions”. – Martyn Lloyd Jones