Monday, January 19, 2009

Calvin's Institutes 1.5.6 - 1.5.11

I was really hoping to get this post done before today, but not only was it a very busy weekend (at least is seemed to be), but our son decided that he should keep waking up at night. Although he didn't wake me up all the way, he did disturb my sleep enough to make it less than restful. Now to Calvin.

The last section dealt with mixing up that which is created with the one who created it by attributing to nature what should only be attributed to God. From that in the next section Calvin moved to look at how the Creator shows that he is in control of the creation, not the other way around. God is the one who sustains all things by his Word. He can and does direct the courses of all things, even those things that are called 'natural' events. All people, whether believers or not should be able to see this.

It is in this governing of all thing God shows himself in granting good to all, yet at the same time showing his mercy to the godly and his anger toward the wicked. Some may object to this, seeing how not all sin is punished and not all the godly are preserved. In response Calvin wrote,
But a far different consideration ought, rather, to enter our minds: that with a manifest show of his anger he [God] punishes one sin, he hates all sins; that, when he leaves many sins unpunished, there will be another judgment to which have been deferred the sins yet to be punished. Similarly, what great occasion he gives us to contemplate his mercy when he often pursues miserable sinners with unwearied kindness, until he shatters their wickedness by imparting benefits and by recalling them to him with more than fatherly kindness!
God shows this in how he directs the ways of humanity. He does this both in saving the godly when there are seemingly beyond hope, and by bringing down the wicked when they seem to be safe from any danger snatching success from their hands.

From this Calvin moved on to assert that we should consider God not in some abstract musings, but instead should contemplate him in his works. He wrote,
And here again we ought to observe that we are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart . . . Consequently, we know the most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of his essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate him in his works whereby he renders himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates himself.
All this is meant to encourage both worship in God and also hope for the future life. Because God shows that he is angry with sin, that there will be a coming judgement, and that he at time saves the godly from distress even as he at times brings down the wicked, we should be moved by this knowledge of God to realize there is another life beyond this one. So Calvin quoted Augustine, "If now every sin were to suffer open punishment, if would seem that nothing was reserved for the final judgment. Again, if God were now to punish no sin openly, one would believe that there is no providence."

However, having gone through all of this. Showing how there are abundant ways that God reveals himself in the universe, in humanity, in his providential governing of all things including humankind, nevertheless, humanity misses all of this. Although there are moments when a person may be affected by these various things, and moved to a sense of God, Calvin wrote:
Yet after we rashly grasp a conception of some sort of divinity, straightway we fall back into the ravings or evil imaginings of our flesh, and corrupt by our vanity the pure truth of God. In one respect we are indeed unalike, because each one of us privately forges his own particular error; yet we are very much alike in that, one and all, we forsake the one true God for prodigious trifles.


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