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

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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

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

I’m Not Good Enough, I’m Not Smart Enough and Dog-Gone-it God Just Doesn’t Like Me


My carefully constructed religious edifice came under fierce attack some five years ago and suffered irreparable damage.  The alarms of imminent collapse began reverberating through the dark corridors of my failing heart.  Wave upon wave of relentless missile attacks crumbled the once stalwart marble pillars of my faith.  The incoming warheads contained a volatile combination of sin and self-righteousness. Structural failure was inevitable.  My religion had failed me; no longer could it support my overwhelming sense of failure.  It could no longer assuage my feelings of guilt.  I attempted to prop up the sagging ceiling with support columns of modern evangelical platitudes and aphorisms.  They turned out to be hollow inside and buckled beneath the weight.  The brick and mortar I had so meticulously hand-crafted disintegrated all around me in a resounding crash.

Exposed to the harsh elements of the wilderness I couldn’t help but gaze at the majesty of the heavens and contemplate my plight.  Late one night in the midst of  an intense spiritual malaise I raised my eyes to the stars and cried out in desperation, “Father help me, I’ve lost my way.  I don’t measure up to your righteousness and I never will.  I don’t know what to believe anymore.  Please reveal to me the truth.”  If ever I’ve been convinced that God hears and answers my prayers, that night crystallized the reality of it once and for all.

Yes, God heard me.  I’m sure he had been waiting for this cry for deliverance for quite some time.  After all, God is in the deliverance business.  Salvation itself is defined as deliverance or rescue from danger.  I have no doubt that through his sovereign power he had brought me to this fiery trial, carried me through the flames and now was in the process of  treating all my grievous burns. Continue reading

The Cornerstone Commandment – Can We Keep It?


While driving back to work after lunch one recent afternoon I happened to hear a commercial on a Christian radio station that supposedly endorsed an evangelical gospel message.  However, the message fell woefully short of its purposed end and actually accomplished the opposite of what it intended.  This blurb clarified in my mind why the free will view of salvation is so damaging to the church.

The ad began like this: A cheerful lady’s voice rang out that people should love God as much as he loves us.  After all, God has done everything within his power to make possible a relationship with him.  Again, she encouraged listener’s to just love God because he loves us.

What?  That was it? I couldn’t believe my ears.  She did not bother to communicate the good news of the hope of salvation.  She did just the opposite.  She gave listeners an imperative that no person can possibly keep.  When she says to love God she is invoking the cornerstone commandment of the entire moral law; the commandment that Jesus called the first and greatest.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength‘ ( Mk 12:30). Continue reading

Can We Send God to Hell?


Provocative title, I know.  But I didn’t come up with it!  Read on for details.

I just received a drive-by comment on an old post I wrote a couple of years ago that demands an immediate response.  The post is titled ‘Does God Send People to Hell?’  In it I dispelled a popular myth in the modern church that God does not send people to hell.  This denial of God’s responsibility in condemning sinners takes two equally heretical forms.  First (and the issue primarily dealt with in the article) is that many people deny that God ‘sends’ anyone to hell, they simply go there by the free exercise of their will.  The other false teaching is that there is no hell at all.  The orthodox Christian teaching of eternal punishment is a misinterpretation of the text.  Neither position holds weight under the full testimony of scripture. God executes his judgment on all unrepentant sinners; he sends them to a place of eternal misery.  Apparently several readers disagree with my position, some vehemently. Here is the comment in full that I just received. Continue reading

Is Christianity a Crutch for the Weak?


I remember attending a Sunday school class one morning long ago where the teacher asked us an intriguing question.  He prefaced it by quoting media mogul Ted Turner’s statement that Christianity is a crutch for the weak, a religion for losers.  I had heard variants of that sentiment many times before.  Of course, Turner is far from the only person to make such accusations.  Christianity is often scorned by non-believers as a security blanket to comfort those who have failed at life.

The teacher then posed the question, “Do you agree or disagree that Christianity is only for the weak?”  Unanimously, every person in the class disagreed, offering responses such as, “Christianity is for people of strong resolve.  The Christian life is not easy and only resilient people can live it. The weak could not persevere through the demands of a Christian lifestyle.” Continue reading

Will Atheists Go to Hell?


Thursday morning I was shaken out of my mundane weekday routine by a surprising question from my teenage daughter on the way to school.  It surprised me for a couple of reasons:

1. In the past my daughter has not been open to conversing about spiritual matters.

2.  None of us are morning people.  No one is usually talkative, much less thinking about deep theological issues at 7:30ish.  I’m certain my children’s morning moods are genetically assigned by their dear old dad.  I am not conversant or even pleasant company until around 10:00  most days.

So, imagine my surprise when my daughter blurts out of the blue, “Mom got mad at me the other day.”

I only offered a muffled “Mmmph” as a reply: an indication for her to continue the thought.

“I told mom I didn’t believe atheists would ‘go down there'”, she pointed her finger downward ominously.  “She got really mad at me for saying that. What do you think?”  Continue reading