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The Institutes Book 1, Chapter 1
The Institutes of the Christian Religion ^ | 1500's | John Calvin

Posted on 01/23/2003 5:27:50 AM PST by ksen

Institutes of the Christian Religion

Book I: The Knowledge of God the Creator


Chapter 1: THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD AND OF OURSELVES MUTUALLY CONNECTED. - NATURE OF THIS CONNECTION.

Section 1: Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God

Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves. But as these are connected together by many ties, it is not easy to determine which of the two precedes and gives birth to the other. For, in the first place, no man can survey himself without forthwith turning his thoughts towards the God in whom he lives and moves; because it is perfectly obvious, that the endowments which we possess cannot possibly be from ourselves; nay, that our very being is nothing else than subsistence in God alone. In the second place, those blessings which unceasingly distil to us from heaven, are like streams conducting us to the fountain. Here, again, the infinitude of good which resides in God becomes more apparent from our poverty. In particular, the miserable ruin into which the revolt of the first man has plunged us, compels us to turn our eyes upwards; not only that while hungry and famishing we may thence ask what we want, but being aroused by fear may learn humility. For as there exists in man something like a world of misery, and ever since we were stript of the divine attire our naked shame discloses an immense series of disgraceful properties every man, being stung by the consciousness of his own unhappiness, in this way necessarily obtains at least some knowledge of God. Thus, our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us, (see Calvin on John 4: 10,) that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves. For what man is not disposed to rest in himself? Who, in fact, does not thus rest, so long as he is unknown to himself; that is, so long as he is contented with his own endowments, and unconscious or unmindful of his misery? Every person, therefore, on coming to the knowledge of himself, is not only urged to seek God, but is also led as by the hand to find him.

2.Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self

On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity. Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also - He being the only standard by the application of which this conviction can be produced. For, since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself. And since nothing appears within us or around us that is not tainted with very great impurity, so long as we keep our mind within the confines of human pollution, anything which is in some small degree less defiled delights us as if it were most pure just as an eye, to which nothing but black had been previously presented, deems an object of a whitish, or even of a brownish hue, to be perfectly white. Nay, the bodily sense may furnish a still stronger illustration of the extent to which we are deluded in estimating the powers of the mind. If, at mid-day, we either look down to the ground, or on the surrounding objects which lie open to our view, we think ourselves endued with a very strong and piercing eyesight; but when we look up to the sun, and gaze at it unveiled, the sight which did excellently well for the earth is instantly so dazzled and confounded by the refulgence, as to oblige us to confess that our acuteness in discerning terrestrial objects is mere dimness when applied to the sun. Thus too, it happens in estimating our spiritual qualities. So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods. But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of Being he is, and how absolute the perfection of that righteousness, and wisdom, and virtue, to which, as a standard, we are bound to be conformed, what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity; what strangely imposed upon us under the name of wisdom will disgust by its extreme folly; and what presented the appearance of virtuous energy will be condemned as the most miserable impotence. So far are those qualities in us, which seem most perfect, from corresponding to the divine purity.

3.Man before God's majesty

Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God. When we see those who previously stood firm and secure so quaking with terror, that the fear of death takes hold of them, nay, they are, in a manner, swallowed up and annihilated, the inference to be drawn is that men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God. Frequent examples of this consternation occur both in the Book of Judges and the Prophetical Writings; so much so, that it was a common expression among the people of God, "We shall die, for we have seen the Lord." Hence the Book of Job, also, in humbling men under a conviction of their folly, feebleness, and pollution, always derives its chief argument from descriptions of the Divine wisdom, virtue, and purity. Nor without cause: for we see Abraham the readier to acknowledge himself but dust and ashes the nearer he approaches to behold the glory of the Lord, and Elijah unable to wait with unveiled face for His approach; so dreadful is the sight. And what can man do, man who is but rottenness and a worm, when even the Cherubim themselves must veil their faces in very terror? To this, undoubtedly, the Prophet Isaiah refers, when he says, (Isaiah 24: 23,) "The moon shall be confounded, and the sun ashamed, when the Lord of Hosts shall reign;" i. e., when he shall exhibit his refulgence, and give a nearer view of it, the brightest objects will, in comparison, be covered with darkness.

But though the knowledge of God and the knowledge of ourselves are bound together by a mutual tie, due arrangement requires that we treat of the former in the first place, and then descend to the latter.


TOPICS: Apologetics; Evangelical Christian; General Discusssion; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: johncalvin
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Ok, let's see how this goes......
1 posted on 01/23/2003 5:27:50 AM PST by ksen
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To: RnMomof7
Mom, would you mind pinging the usual suspects?

Thank you.
2 posted on 01/23/2003 5:28:35 AM PST by ksen (HHD - Ok, back to work for me now......)
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To: All
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3 posted on 01/23/2003 5:32:19 AM PST by Support Free Republic (Your support keeps Free Republic going strong!)
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To: All
Ok, we've been through one whole chapter, and no reference to Augustine yet......
4 posted on 01/23/2003 5:38:54 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: Support Free Republic
Too bad the other guy's jersey didn't say "Bush". ;^)
5 posted on 01/23/2003 5:40:16 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: the_doc; OrthodoxPresbyterian; Jean Chauvin; CCWoody; drstevej; xzins
Thus, our feeling of ignorance, vanity, want, weakness, in short, depravity and corruption, reminds us, (see Calvin on John 4: 10,) that in the Lord, and none but He, dwell the true light of wisdom, solid virtue, exuberant goodness. We are accordingly urged by our own evil things to consider the good things of God; and, indeed, we cannot aspire to Him in earnest until we have begun to be displeased with ourselves.

Was Calvin not as sold on Total Depravity as we may have been led to believe?

6 posted on 01/23/2003 5:45:14 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen
I'm an avid lurker and this post has the promise of some valuble stuff. I love it. Thanks,ksen
7 posted on 01/23/2003 5:52:58 AM PST by sea oats (All glory to God!)
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To: sea oats
Heh, you're welcome sea oats, however, you better hold off your thanks until we see how things develop over the rest of the day. ;^)
8 posted on 01/23/2003 6:07:36 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen
I,m not afraid, ksen. I've been around a long time. I can't wait for those "usual suspects" to appear with more of the truth..ooopps...I don't mean to be inflammatory.
9 posted on 01/23/2003 6:20:40 AM PST by sea oats (All glory to God!)
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To: sea oats; PayNoAttentionManBehindCurtain; SoothingDave; angelo; Sass
I do like Calvin's thoughts about us not knowing our true selves until we have compared ourselves to God. After all, I look pretty good compared to the average Joe on the street, but compared to God.......

I have heard it said that people won't get saved until they get lost. IOW, unless a man can see himself from God's viewpoint, he will not come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ.
10 posted on 01/23/2003 6:29:58 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen
Are we going to read all the books over the next few weeks?
11 posted on 01/23/2003 6:33:52 AM PST by CCWoody
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To: CCWoody
If this is well-received then I don't see why we can't.
12 posted on 01/23/2003 6:39:41 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: CCWoody
We talk an awful lot about what OTHER people say Calvin and Arminius taught, I thought it would be nice to let Calvin (and maybe Arminius later) speak for themselves.
13 posted on 01/23/2003 6:41:59 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen
Ok, let's see how this goes......

What hast thou wrought? ;o)

14 posted on 01/23/2003 6:58:53 AM PST by malakhi
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To: ksen
This could get interesting. I think I'll watch.
15 posted on 01/23/2003 7:14:58 AM PST by Corin Stormhands (HHD)
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To: ksen; OrthodoxPresbyterian
Was Calvin not as sold on Total Depravity as we may have been led to believe?

I am not sure why you are asking. (Have you been reading too much stuff by Dave Hunt [grin]?)

16 posted on 01/23/2003 7:18:02 AM PST by the_doc
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To: the_doc
I am not sure why you are asking.

I am asking because Calvin, in this opening chapter, talks about us being urged by our evil natures to consider the “good things of God.” He hasn’t said anything, yet, about God having to break through our evil nature in order to get us to consider Him. I know this is only the beginning, but I thought the way Calvin phrased that argument was peculiar, given everything I’ve heard on this forum from my Calvinist FRiends.

(Have you been reading too much stuff by Dave Hunt [grin]?)

Ha! I haven’t picked his book up for a couple of days. ;^)

17 posted on 01/23/2003 7:26:05 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen
***Ha! I haven’t picked his book up for a couple of days. ;^)***

I suggest you set Hunt aside and read Calvin more extensively. You will more likely understand Calvin better by reading Calvin than by reading Dave Hunt.
18 posted on 01/23/2003 7:42:57 AM PST by drstevej
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To: ksen; OrthodoxPresbyterian; the_doc; Jerry_M; Calvinist_Dark_Lord; Jean Chauvin; gdebrae; ...
I am asking because Calvin, in this opening chapter, talks about us being urged by our evil natures to consider the “good things of God.” ~ ksen Woody.

Romans 2:4
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?
19 posted on 01/23/2003 7:53:19 AM PST by CCWoody
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To: drstevej
Hunt's book is required reading for my next class, as well as Ryrie's So Great Salvation, Showers' There Really is a Difference, and Thiessen's Lectures on Systematic Theology.
20 posted on 01/23/2003 8:00:54 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: CCWoody
...Calvin would not focus on the nature of man.

Well, Calvin does say that the natures of God and Man are mutually connected.

21 posted on 01/23/2003 8:03:34 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen; CCWoody; RnMomof7; gdebrae
It's been a while since I've studied the Institutes, but you've hit on something here.

Woody is correct. Book I deals with the understanding of God. Who is he. What are his attributes. How does he relate to creation.

The proper understanding of God is fundamental to proper theology.

The issue that the natures of Man and God are mutually connected (I have yet to read the article you posted) is speaking to the knowledge of Man and the knowledge of God.

Calvin argues that the true knowledge of God will bring us to true knowlege of Man. When we understand really who God is, this will bring us full circle to the correct understanding of who Man is. (This is NOT to say that man is God -I can see some arminians attempting to twist these words to say that very thing)

Calvin also goes on to say that the true knowledge of Man will bring us to a correct knowlege of God. But, according to Calvin, Man, in his sinful and depraved nature (post fall), cannot correctly understand himself. Calvin's contention of a true knowlege of Man is in the context of a perfect sinless man (pre-fall) and his understanding of himself.

Calvin goes on to argue that becuase of the fall, it is not possible for man to look inward and gain a true insight into God. He sees God, as is evidenced by the fact that all men profess a belief in something (even if they profess a belief that there is nothing), but he cannot come to a proper understanding of the true knowledge of God. Thus the need for special revelation in order to bring us the proper understanding of the true knowledge of God.

I hope that helps. I ~am~ going by memory from my Calvin's Institutes class over 12 years ago.

Jean

22 posted on 01/23/2003 8:25:58 AM PST by Jean Chauvin
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To: Jean Chauvin
He sees God, as is evidenced by the fact that all men profess a belief in something (even if they profess a belief that there is nothing), but he cannot come to a proper understanding of the true knowledge of God.

This could help explain all the different religions in the world. God has made Man in such a way that Man has an innate sense that God exists. But due to our sin nature our picture of God becomes perverted and in our attempt to worship this twisted view of God we get all sorts of false religions from animism to voodooism and everything in between.

23 posted on 01/23/2003 8:58:14 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen
"This could help explain all the different religions in the world. God has made Man in such a way that Man has an innate sense that God exists. But due to our sin nature our picture of God becomes perverted and in our attempt to worship this twisted view of God we get all sorts of false religions from animism to voodooism and everything in between."

Yup! Basic Calvinism 101

Reading on in Book I of the Institutes you will find:

CHAPTER 3.

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD NATURALLY IMPLANTED IN THE HUMAN MIND.

Sections.

CHAPTER 4.

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD STIFLED OR CORRUPTED, IGNORANTLY OR MALICIOUSLY.

Sections.

CHAPTER 6.

THE NEED OF SCRIPTURE, AS A GUIDE AND TEACHER, IN COMING TO GOD AS A CREATOR.

Sections.

If your getting your Institutes on-line, I recommend actually buying the books. It's much easier to cross reference and index when you have the actual book in front of you.

Jean

24 posted on 01/23/2003 9:25:44 AM PST by Jean Chauvin
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To: Jean Chauvin
If your getting your Institutes on-line, I recommend actually buying the books. It's much easier to cross reference and index when you have the actual book in front of you.

Unfortunately online is all I can do right now. Besides, it is much easier to cut-and-paste the chapters over here instead of having to type them in. ;^)

25 posted on 01/23/2003 9:42:44 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: Jean Chauvin; All
Ok, so far in chapter 1 we have:

1) Man can only know God by knowing himself;
2) Man can only know himself by knowing God;
3) Sin hinders Man from truly knowing God, and thus from truly knowing himself.

Does all that sound fair?

Now, the question is, does our sin nature COMPLETELY stop us from coming to know God, or does it merely HINDER us?
26 posted on 01/23/2003 9:47:18 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: JHavard; Havoc; OLD REGGIE; Iowegian; TrueBeliever9; Prodigal Daughter; Zadokite; babylonian; ...
Ksen has asked for a serious discussion of the Institutes for a class he is going to take..There is alot of serious brain power here on FR ..can we look at it together and see what Calvin really wrote and in the process help Ksen write a paper and get an A..as well as

Thanks to all scholars

27 posted on 01/23/2003 9:57:16 AM PST by RnMomof7
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To: ksen
They are on sale at CBD for $99 I think (they were right after christmas)
28 posted on 01/23/2003 9:58:14 AM PST by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
Yeah, I saw in our latest CBD catalog an offer for all of Calvin's commentaries for $99. That's still pretty steep for me right now.
29 posted on 01/23/2003 10:02:05 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen
If you ebay, look here.

Both books right now for $19.99

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=2907097262&category=12571
30 posted on 01/23/2003 10:10:25 AM PST by Wrigley
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To: ksen
I would probably drop the "only".

Calvin does not say that one can "only" know God by himself.

Likewise, Calvin does not say that one can "only" know himself by knowing God.

He simply says that true knowledge of God will lead one to true knowledge of himself and that true knowledge of himself will lead him to true knowledge of God.

Jean
31 posted on 01/23/2003 10:12:25 AM PST by Jean Chauvin
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To: ksen; RnMomof7
Calvin's Commentaries are distinct and different from his Institutes. The Institutes are not that expensive as Wrigley has already pointed out. Most come in a two book set. I think I've also seen the entire Institutes in one book.

The Commentaries were written as an exhaustive exegesis of the text. The Institutes were written as a summary of Christian Doctrine which brings applicable texts into the wording.

The Institutes were originally written to the King of France to convince him of the Reformed faith such that he would put an end to the persecution of those in France (Calvin's homeland) who professed to the Reformed faith.

When the Institutes became popular (i.e. became MORE than a letter to the King of France), they went through several editions as Calvin's thought evovled. The final edition was in 1558, I think.

Jean
32 posted on 01/23/2003 10:17:49 AM PST by Jean Chauvin
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To: CCWoody; xzins; Corin Stormhands; fortheDeclaration
Well, not having ever read the Institutes (or much Augustine)

I have the worst case of deja vu all over again LOL

33 posted on 01/23/2003 10:43:04 AM PST by Revelation 911 (<---------sinner)
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To: ksen
What does HHD mean?
34 posted on 01/23/2003 10:54:18 AM PST by rwfromkansas (What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. --- Westminster Catechism Q1)
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To: ksen
I do not think so. Even Calvinists don't always use language like "God led us to himself" etc.

Sometimes even Calvinists say "we have got to turn to Christ and see our own sin." It doesn't mean we have abandoned our deeper beliefs about HOW this occurs simply by appealing to humans to turn to Christ.

I don't have a problem with Scripture saying "Choose this day..." because I have a deeper understanding of HOW I choose....and it really in the deeper sense is God choosing me.

Thus, Calvin's language does not mean he believes we can choose God by ourselves.
35 posted on 01/23/2003 10:58:31 AM PST by rwfromkansas (What is the chief end of man? To glorify God and enjoy Him forever. --- Westminster Catechism Q1)
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To: rwfromkansas
What does HHD mean?

Hobbit Hole Dweller. ;^)

36 posted on 01/23/2003 11:28:49 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen
On the other hand, it is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he have previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself. For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity

ksen I have just finished reading this and the above quote hit me

I am reminded of two things one that unless man sees himself not in relation to other men .but in relation to the HOLY God ..He will never appreciate God's mercy

The second comes from a book I am reading ..the author says men have Mercy confused with Justice..

37 posted on 01/23/2003 11:38:37 AM PST by RnMomof7
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To: ksen
Ksen Calvin was a holy man and a genius. I believe he wrote the Institutes in his 20's..

He was not the extremist.  that some like to paint him . He was a thoughtful scholar...I agree with Steve ..put Hunt down and let Calvin show you himself

You can always read Hunt later to see if your impression was the same as his

38 posted on 01/23/2003 11:45:39 AM PST by RnMomof7
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To: ksen
This could help explain all the different religions in the world. God has made Man in such a way that Man has an innate sense that God exists. But due to our sin nature our picture of God becomes perverted and in our attempt to worship this twisted view of God we get all sorts of false religions from animism to voodooism and everything in between.

I believe that men will always seek a god that reflects them and their needs...

If you look around you can see the promise of Satan in Genesis fulfilled ..You shall be gods..that was a part of the fall IMHO

39 posted on 01/23/2003 11:49:21 AM PST by RnMomof7
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To: Jean Chauvin
Woops I knew that the commentaries and Institutes are different I hade a senior moment..because I covet the commentaries.
40 posted on 01/23/2003 11:52:28 AM PST by RnMomof7
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To: RnMomof7
..the author says men have Mercy confused with Justice..

We like Mercy, we don't like Justice.......unless of course it is Justice meted out on someone else.

41 posted on 01/23/2003 11:54:00 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen; RnMomof7
Fallen man not only does not seek God, he flees from Him. He's not semi-fallen or quasi-fallen; he's toast.

Through God's gracious gift of regeneration we are born again, desiring only to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

At the center of that gift is Christ's sacrifice on the cross, wherein He suffered in our place, and washed our sins away forever.

42 posted on 01/23/2003 11:55:07 AM PST by Dr. Eckleburg
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To: RnMomof7
You can always read Hunt later to see if your impression was the same as his.

Don't worry Mom, I'll make sure to read Hunt with a big grain of salt. ;^)

43 posted on 01/23/2003 11:57:56 AM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: Dr. Eckleburg
If Man is actively fleeing from God than how do you explain the universal need of Man to connect with God (or a god if you prefer). The other religions are false, but they are still Man attempting to encounter the Divine.
44 posted on 01/23/2003 12:00:25 PM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: ksen
Hunt's book is required reading for my next class, as well as Ryrie's So Great Salvation, Showers' There Really is a Difference, and Thiessen's Lectures on Systematic Theology.

You may wish to read James White's book as well...can't remember the name at the present, mental block, either The Potter's Field or The Potter's Freedom...i think the second one is what i meant, since it deals with God as the Potter. It is a rebuttal to both Dave Hunt and Norman Geisler.

45 posted on 01/23/2003 12:07:00 PM PST by Calvinist_Dark_Lord (Once more dear friends into the breach, once more!)
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To: RnMomof7
Shhhhh! I might have to give some of those back as well.

Jean

46 posted on 01/23/2003 12:08:36 PM PST by Jean Chauvin
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To: Calvinist_Dark_Lord
You may wish to read James White's book as well...can't remember the name at the present, mental block, either The Potter's Field or The Potter's Freedom...

Thanks for the tip.

BTW, I like your tagline. Kenneth Branagh's adaptation is one of my favorites.

47 posted on 01/23/2003 12:09:20 PM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: xzins
Where are you today?
48 posted on 01/23/2003 12:10:35 PM PST by ksen (HHD)
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To: Calvinist_Dark_Lord; ksen
btw, Hunt has admitted (proudly) that he has never read Calvin or any of the Reformers.
49 posted on 01/23/2003 12:12:25 PM PST by Calvinist_Dark_Lord (Once more dear friends into the breach, once more!)
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To: ksen
out debating with the anti-methodists

what about you?

Is John Calvin holding his own?
50 posted on 01/23/2003 12:15:19 PM PST by xzins (things that make you go.....hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm......)
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