Monday, May 6, 2013

Calvin's Institutes, Chapter Five

The Knowledge of God Conspicuous in the Creation, and Continual Government of the World

Section One

  • The whole of the universe speaks to the existence and glory of God

Section Two

  • Anyone with a liberal education can see even more clearly the proof of God through science and medicine

Section Three

  • Man himself is quite an example of God’s power, wisdom, and goodness
  • We know God is our creator because of the gifts He gives us—no one would follow God willingly if he did not know already the goodness of God’s love

Section Four

  • Although our bodies and our talents are a testament to God, men become proud in themselves rather than worshipful of God
  • They use their God-given abilities to suppress God; they use the excellence of creation as proof that it came to be through chance or nature

Section Five

  • [Calvin assigns the functions of our brain, intellect, and memory to the soul, not the body. Was this common at the time?]
  • The creation becomes, to many, either god or its own creator. Nature is a work of God, not god itself

Section Six

  • The power of God in nature is visible to Christians and non-Christians; it is this power that leads us to other of God’s attributes, as only a self-existent and eternal being could cause the existence of all other things
  • We can also see that God is good because of how He sustains and preserves His creation, and this ought to be enough to cause us to love Him

Section Seven

  • God’s perfection is also evident in His other works (besides creation/nature)
  • As He conducts the affairs of men, He dispenses justice and mercy perfectly
  • Although evil may flourish, and good suffer, God will always dispense justice in His own good time
  • When God punishes one sin, it is evidence that He hates all sin [How/Why?]

Section Eight

  • What men call luck is actually the providence of God
  • So many are blind to the wonders of God, but that does not mean that God does not show His power

Section Nine

  • We don’t need complicated arguments to prove God; there is proof enough all around us

Section Ten

  • From what we see of God now, we can assume that there is more to know of Him in the future (Heaven), because not all goodness is rewarded on this earth, and not all sin punished [I’m not sure this argument works. Maybe this is a random and arbitrary universe.]

Section Eleven

  • Although the manifestations of God are obvious, people are so stupid that they don’t see them

Section Twelve

  • Nearly everyone has substituted their own conception of God for the real God

Section Thirteen

  • Man cannot invent correct religion
  • God has to bear witness to His own truth, since who’s going to follow a religion because tradition says so?

Section Fourteen

  • Creation shows the glory of God, but does not show us the path to Him
  • We need faith through “internal revelation” [the Holy Spirit] to be able to see beyond creation – we cannot do it with our own intelligence
  • Creation does not lead to faith, but does make us without excuse [cites Acts 17:27, but if creation tells us that God exists, but doesn’t impart knowledge of Christ, how can mere knowledge that there is a God make us without excuse for knowledge of Jesus? It’s possible that after we become aware of God, we should seek how best to know Him and through His word find Christ – but how do we be sure that we have the correct God (obviously the Holy Spirit, but what if we don’t have Him?)?]
  • God bestows so many kindnesses upon us all, yet so many continue to live according to their own ways

Section Fifteen

  • We cannot know God using our intellectual capabilities, but because the problem is within us, we cannot make excuses
  • We cannot plead ignorance, despite our stupidity, because nature shouts of God
  • Most people see nature but still don’t get it
  • People see nature, get a vague idea of God, and go off to create idols

Quotes from the Chapter

“What shall we say but that man bears about with him a stamp of immortality which can never be effaced? But how is it possible for man to be divine, and yet not acknowledge his Creator? Shall we, by means of a power of judging implanted in our breast, distinguish between justice and injustice, and yet there be no judge in heaven? Shall some remains of intelligence continue with us in sleep, and yet no God keep watch in heaven? Shall we be deemed the inventors of so many arts and useful properties that God may be defrauded of his praise, though experience tells us plainly enough, that whatever we possess is dispensed to us in unequal measures by another hand?”

“Let each of us, therefore, in contemplating his own nature, remember that there is one God who governs all natures, and, in governing, wishes us to have respect to himself, to make him the object of our faith, worship, and adoration. Nothing, indeed, can be more preposterous than to enjoy those noble endowments which bespeak the divine presence within us, and to neglect him who, of his own good pleasure, bestows them upon us. In regard to his power, how glorious the manifestations by which he urges us to the contemplation of himself;”

“[…] how richly does he supply us with the means of contemplating his mercy when, as frequently happens, he continues to visit miserable sinners with unwearied kindness, until he subdues their depravity and woos them back with more than a parent’s fondness?”

“And here we must observe again that the knowledge of God which we are invited to cultivate is not that which, resting satisfied with empty speculation, only flutters in the brain, but a knowledge which will prove substantial and fruitful wherever it is duly perceived, and rooted in the heart. The Lord is manifested by his perfections. When we feel their power within us, and are conscious of their benefits, the knowledge must impress us much more vividly than if we merely imagined a God whose presence we never felt.

"It therefore becomes us also diligently to prosecute that investigation of God which so enraptures the soul […]”