Skip to comments.The Institutes Book 1, Chapter 1
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.
FreeRepublic , LLC
PO BOX 9771
FRESNO, CA 93794
Was Calvin not as sold on Total Depravity as we may have been led to believe?
What hast thou wrought? ;o)
I am not sure why you are asking. (Have you been reading too much stuff by Dave Hunt [grin]?)
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 hasnt 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 Ive heard on this forum from my Calvinist FRiends.
(Have you been reading too much stuff by Dave Hunt [grin]?)
Ha! I havent picked his book up for a couple of days. ;^)
Well, Calvin does say that the natures of God and Man are mutually connected.
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.
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:
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD NATURALLY IMPLANTED IN THE HUMAN MIND.
- 1. The knowledge of God being manifested to all makes the reprobate without excuse. Universal belief and acknowledgement of the existence of God.
- 2. Objection--that religion and the belief of a Deity are the inventions of crafty politicians. Refutation of the objection. This universal belief confirmed by the examples of wicked men and Atheists.
- 3. Confirmed also by the vain endeavours of the wicked to banish all fear of God from their minds. Conclusion, that the knowledge of God is naturally implanted in the human mind.
THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD STIFLED OR CORRUPTED, IGNORANTLY OR MALICIOUSLY.
- 1. The knowledge of God suppressed by ignorance, many falling away into superstition. Such persons, however, inexcusable, because their error is accompanied with pride and stubbornness.
- 2. Stubbornness the companion of impiety.
- 3. No pretext can justify superstition. This proved, first, from reason; and, secondly, from Scripture.
- 4. The wicked never willingly come into the presence of God. Hence their hypocrisy. Hence, too, their sense of Deity leads to no good result.
THE NEED OF SCRIPTURE, AS A GUIDE AND TEACHER, IN COMING TO GOD AS A CREATOR.
- 1. God gives his elect a better help to the knowledge of himself--viz. the Holy Scriptures. This he did from the very first.
- 2. First, By oracles and visions, and the ministry of the Patriarchs. Secondly, By the promulgation of the Law, and the preaching of the Prophets. Why the doctrines of religion are committed to writing.
- 3. This view confirmed, 1. By the depravity of our nature making it necessary in every one who would know God to have recourse to the word; 2. From those passages of the Psalms in which God is introduced as reigning.
- 4. Another confirmation from certain direct statements in the Psalms. Lastly, From the words of our Saviour.
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. ;^)
Thanks to all scholars
I have the worst case of deja vu all over again LOL
Hobbit Hole Dweller. ;^)
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..
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
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
We like Mercy, we don't like Justice.......unless of course it is Justice meted out on someone else.
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.
Don't worry Mom, I'll make sure to read Hunt with a big grain of salt. ;^)
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.
Thanks for the tip.
BTW, I like your tagline. Kenneth Branagh's adaptation is one of my favorites.