Skip to comments.The Institutes Book 1, Chapter 6
Posted on 01/31/2003 1:18:27 PM PST by ksen
Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book I: The Knowledge of God the Creator
Chapter 6: THE NEED OF SCRIPTURE, AS A GUIDE AND TEACHER, IN COMING TO GOD AS CREATOR.
Section 1: God bestows the actual knowledge of himself upon us only in the Scriptures
Therefore, though the effulgence which is presented to every eye, both in the heavens and on the earth, leaves the ingratitude of man without excuse, since God, in order to bring the whole human race under the same condemnation, holds forth to all, without exception, a mirror of his Deity in his works, another and better help must be given to guide us properly to God as a Creator. Not in vain, therefore, has he added the light of his Word in order that he might make himself known unto salvation, and bestowed the privilege on those whom he was pleased to bring into nearer and more familiar relation to himself. For, seeing how the minds of men were carried to and fro, and found no certain resting-place, he chose the Jews for a peculiar people, and then hedged them in that they might not, like others, go astray. And not in vain does he, by the same means, retain us in his knowledge, since but for this, even those who, in comparison of others, seem to stand strong, would quickly fall away. For as the aged, or those whose sight is defective, when any books however fair, is set before them, though they perceive that there is something written are scarcely able to make out two consecutive words, but, when aided by glasses, begin to read distinctly, so Scripture, gathering together the impressions of Deity, which, till then, lay confused in our minds, dissipates the darkness, and shows us the true God clearly. God therefore bestows a gift of singular value, when, for the instruction of the Church, he employs not dumb teachers merely, but opens his own sacred mouth; when he not only proclaims that some God must be worshipped, but at the same time declares that He is the God to whom worship is due; when he not only teaches his elect to have respect to God, but manifests himself as the God to whom this respect should be paid.
(Two sorts of knowledge of God in Scripture)
The course which God followed towards his Church from the very first, was to supplement these common proofs by the addition of his Word, as a surer and more direct means of discovering himself. And there can be no doubt that it was by this help, Adam, Noah, Abraham, and the other patriarchs, attained to that familiar knowledge which, in a manner, distinguished them from unbelievers. I am not now speaking of the peculiar doctrines of faith by which they were elevated to the hope of eternal blessedness. It was necessary, in passing from death unto life, that they should know God, not only as a Creator, but as a Redeemer also; and both kinds of knowledge they certainly did obtain from the Word. In point of order, however, the knowledge first given was that which made them acquainted with the God by whom the world was made and is governed. To this first knowledge was afterwards added the more intimate knowledge which alone quickens dead souls, and by which God is known not only as the Creator of the worlds and the sole author and disposer of all events, but also as a Redeemer, in the person of the Mediator. But as the fall and the corruption of nature have not yet been considered, I now postpone the consideration of the remedy, (for which, see Book 2 c. 6 &c.) Let the reader then remember, that I am not now treating of the covenant by which God adopted the children of Abraham, or of that branch of doctrine by which, as founded in Christ, believers have, properly speaking, been in all ages separated from the profane heathen. I am only showing that it is necessary to apply to Scripture, in order to learn the sure marks which distinguish God, as the Creator of the world, from the whole herd of fictitious gods. We shall afterward, in due course, consider the work of Redemption. In the meantime, though we shall adduce many passages from the New Testament, and some also from the Law and the Prophets, in which express mention is made of Christ, the only object will be to show that God, the Maker of the world, is manifested to us in Scripture, and his true character expounded, so as to save us from wandering up and down, as in a labyrinth, in search of some doubtful deity.
Section 2: The Word of God as Holy Scripture
Whether God revealed himself to the fathers by oracles and visions, or, by the instrumentality and ministry of men, suggested what they were to hand down to posterity, there cannot be a doubt that the certainty of what he taught them was firmly engraven on their hearts, so that they felt assured and knew that the things which they learnt came forth from God, who invariably accompanied his word with a sure testimony, infinitely superior to mere opinion. At length, in order that, while doctrine was continually enlarged, its truth might subsist in the world during all ages, it was his pleasure that the same oracles which he had deposited with the fathers should be consigned, as it were, to public records. With this view the law was promulgated, and prophets were afterwards added to be its interpreters. For though the uses of the law were manifold, (Book 2 c. 7 and 8,) and the special office assigned to Moses and all the prophets was to teach the method of reconciliation between God and man, (whence Paul calls Christ "the end of the law," Rom. 10: 4;) still I repeat that, in addition to the proper doctrine of faith and repentance in which Christ is set forth as a Mediator, the Scriptures employ certain marks and tokens to distinguish the only wise and true God, considered as the Creator and Governor of the world, and thereby guard against his being confounded with the herd of false deities. Therefore, while it becomes man seriously to employ his eyes in considering the works of God, since a place has been assigned him in this most glorious theatre that he may be a spectator of them, his special duty is to give ear to the Word, that he may the better profit. Hence it is not strange that those who are born in darkness become more and more hardened in their stupidity; because the vast majority instead of confining themselves within due bounds by listening with docility to the Word, exult in their own vanity. If true religion is to beam upon us, our principle must be, that it is necessary to begin with heavenly teaching, and that it is impossible for any man to obtain even the minutest portion of right and sound doctrine without being a disciple of Scripture. Hence, the first step in true knowledge is taken, when we reverently embrace the testimony which God has been pleased therein to give of himself. For not only does faith, full and perfect faith, but all correct knowledge of God, originate in obedience. And surely in this respect God has with singular Providence provided for mankind in all ages.
Section 3: Without Scripture we fall into error
For if we reflect how prone the human mind is to lapse into forgetfulness of God, how readily inclined to every kind of error, how bent every now and then on devising new and fictitious religions, it will be easy to understand how necessary it was to make such a depository of doctrine as would secure it from either perishing by the neglect, vanishing away amid the errors, or being corrupted by the presumptuous audacity of men. It being thus manifest that God, foreseeing the inefficiency of his image imprinted on the fair form of the universe, has given the assistance of his Word to all whom he has ever been pleased to instruct effectually, we, too, must pursue this straight path, if we aspire in earnest to a genuine contemplation of God; - we must go, I say, to the Word, where the character of God, drawn from his works is described accurately and to the life; these works being estimated, not by our depraved judgement, but by the standard of eternal truth. If, as I lately said, we turn aside from it, how great soever the speed with which we move, we shall never reach the goal, because we are off the course. We should consider that the brightness of the Divine countenance, which even an apostle declares to be inaccessible, (1 Tim. 6: 16,) is a kind of labyrinth, - a labyrinth to us inextricable, if the Word do not serve us as a thread to guide our path; and that it is better to limp in the way, than run with the greatest swiftness out of it. Hence the Psalmist, after repeatedly declaring (Psalm 93, 96, 97, 99, &c.) that superstition should be banished from the world in order that pure religion may flourish, introduces God as reigning; meaning by the term, not the power which he possesses and which he exerts in the government of universal nature, but the doctrine by which he maintains his due supremacy: because error never can be eradicated from the heart of man until the true knowledge of God has been implanted in it.
Section 4: Scripture can communicate to us what the revelation in the creation cannot
Accordingly, the same prophet, after mentioning that the heavens declare the glory of God, that the firmament sheweth forth the works of his hands, that the regular succession of day and night proclaim his Majesty, proceeds to make mention of the Word: - "The law of the Lord," says he, "is perfect, converting the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes," (Psalm 19: 1-9.) For though the law has other uses besides, (as to which, see Book 2 c. 7, sec. 6, 10, 12,) the general meaning is, that it is the proper school for training the children of God; the invitation given to all nations, to behold him in the heavens and earth, proving of no avail. The same view is taken in the 29th Psalm, where the Psalmist, after discoursing on the dreadful voice of God, which, in thunder, wind, rain, whirlwind, and tempest, shakes the earth, makes the mountains tremble, and breaks the cedars, concludes by saying, "that in his temple does every one speak of his glory," unbelievers being deaf to all God's words when they echo in the air. In like manner another Psalm, after describing the raging billows of the sea, thus concludes, "Thy testimonies are very sure; holiness becometh thine house for ever," (Psalm 93: 5.) To the same effect are the words of our Saviour to the Samaritan woman, when he told her that her nation and all other nations worshipped they knew not what; and that the Jews alone gave worship to the true God, (John 4: 22.) Since the human mind, through its weakness, was altogether unable to come to God if not aided and upheld by his sacred word, it necessarily followed that all mankind, the Jews excepted, inasmuch as they sought God without the Word, were labouring under vanity and error.
You're right. The logic and righteousness flow from the text. It's very reassuring.
What did you think of it? Ksen?
Sure. I don't mean to distract. I was gone over the weekend and am trying to catch up on reading. I was just wanting to bookmark Chapter V.
My first thought is on this passage..God first delt with men directly and now thorugh His written word...
I completed a book by Sproul recently where he (teaching on the idea of seening God through "media") made the point that When we look at nature we see God..but it is a limited view...and that He revealed Himself more through His written word. But our "picture" of Him will not be complete untill we see Him...am I getting this right??
I'll be working my way through it in a little bit....
i must also plead that i burned myself out a bit in a discussion with OP on another matter. Hopefully i can look at this in the late afternoon (EST).
In the last 6 years, there has been much correction in my theology. It's hard to go from thinking you understand to realizing you don't know anything at all.
Sometimes I read the Word without the charasmatic spin and wonder how did I get so screwed up. Well, I got screwed up because my foundation and the teachers and pastors who taught me were screwed up. There was no malice in their teaching. They are just in error. So, I sharply curtailed my influences and trust only those who are firmly grounded in the Word. The difference... it is between light and darkness.
So, I have run back to the Word.
Hire Welsh Engineers!
Calvin makes a good point about God's general nature being revealed by the Creation, but His specific nature is revealed to us in the Scriptures.
I don't agree with the sentiment above that says the Bible was only given to bring SOME to salvation.
For, seeing how the minds of men were carried to and fro, and found no certain resting-place, he chose the Jews for a peculiar people, and then hedged them in that they might not, like others, go astray.
Hmm, but the Jewish people DID go astray as any cursory reading of the OT will show.
Huh? I think I am misunderstanding something here. Is Calvin saying that the Patriarchs had access to God's written word? I thought Moses wrote everything down?
If true religion is to beam upon us, our principle must be, that it is necessary to begin with heavenly teaching, and that it is impossible for any man to obtain even the minutest portion of right and sound doctrine without being a disciple of Scripture.
Amen! Preach it Brother John!
Hence, the first step in true knowledge is taken, when we reverently embrace the testimony which God has been pleased therein to give of himself. For not only does faith, full and perfect faith, but all correct knowledge of God, originate in obedience.
This is an interesting statement. Does obedience precede faith, or does faith precede obedience? I always thought faith preceded obedience(i.e. Abraham).
I think it is simultaneous. Faith is manifest through obedience. Obedience is evidence of faith. From the moment you believe; you obey. From the moment you obey; you believe.
If God intended to show Himself to all Mankind through His Creation, why would He not also intend to have His Word be effectual to all Mankind when the revelation of Himself in the Creation was found to be insufficient?
It seems to me that one is assuming that God intended to make His word be affectual to all Mankind. i do not believe that Calvin has yet gotten in to aspects of the Divine Will. At this point, he has only maintained that God has given a (partial) revelation of Himself in the creation, and for a fuller revelation, one must attend to His special revelation, namely the Scriptures.
Calvin is not making assumptions in order to build a theology, he is taking slower steps, and attempting to avoid as many a-priori assumptions as possible. We could for example, question why God would give "general revelation" at all when He knew from all eternity that it would not be sufficient, or even why He did not make it sufficient, thereby eliminating the need for "special revelation".
But Calvin said earlier that God had intended for the general revelation to be sufficient, but Man's nature overrode what God intended (Calvin's thoughts, not original with me).
From Chapter 5:
Whether they will or not, they cannot but know that these are proofs of his Godhead, and yet they inwardly suppress them. They have no occasion to go farther than themselves, provided they do not, by appropriating as their own that which has been given them from heaven, put out the light intended to exhibit God clearly to their minds.
You know why the Welsh language looks so complicated don't you?...so that ye can make the English choke to death on their bloody tongues when they try to pronounce the words! As for engineers, why settle for second best when there are plenty of Scots available?...
Welcome aboard lad!!!!!!!!!!
Here is a little testimony just for you:
Sufficient to His purposes. This does not imply a specifically salvific purpose. He merely is providing Mankind knowlege of His existence and some of His attributes, and a bit of what He requires...it is this partial knowlege that man suppresses...what do you suppose they would do with a Total (above and beyond the "sufficient salvific revelation" of Scripture), revelation?
1. THOSE who, rejecting Scripture, imagine that they have some peculiar way of penetrating to God, are to be deemed not so much under the influence of error as madness. For certain giddy men have lately appeared, who, while they make a great display of the superiority of the Spirit, reject all reading of the Scriptures themselves, and deride the simplicity of those who only delight in what they call the dead and deadly letter...Hence the office of the Spirit promised to us, is not to form new and unheard-of revelations, or to coin a new form of doctrine, by which we may be led away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but to seal on our minds the very doctrine which the gospel recommends.
Calvin's Institutes I.IX.1
"In the last 6 years, there has been much correction in my theology. It's hard to go from thinking you understand to realizing you don't know anything at all.
Sometimes I read the Word without the charasmatic spin and wonder how did I get so screwed up. Well, I got screwed up because my foundation and the teachers and pastors who taught me were screwed up. There was no malice in their teaching. They are just in error. So, I sharply curtailed my influences and trust only those who are firmly grounded in the Word. The difference... it is between light and darkness."
"But since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only records in which God has been pleased to consign his truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognised, unless they are believed to have come from heaven, as directly as if God had been heard giving utterance to them...A most pernicious error has very generally prevailed--viz. that Scripture is of importance only in so far as conceded to it by the suffrage of the Church; as if the eternal and inviolable truth of God could depend on the will of men. With great insult to the Holy Spirit, it is asked, who can assure us that the Scriptures proceeded from God; who guarantee that they have come down safe and unimpaired to our times; who persuade us that this book is to be received with reverence, and that one expunged from the list, did not the Church regulate all these things with certainty?
Calvin's Institutes I.VII.1
"So, I have run back to the Word."
Their cavil about our cleaving to the dead letter carries with it the punishment which they deserve for despising Scripture. It is clear that Paul is there arguing against false apostles (2 Cor. 3:6), who, by recommending the law without Christ, deprived the people of the benefit of the New Covenant, by which the Lord engages that he will write his law on the hearts of believers, and engrave it on their inward parts. The letter therefore is dead, and the law of the Lord kills its readers when it is dissevered from the grace of Christ, and only sounds in the ear without touching the heart. But if it is effectually impressed on the heart by the Spirit; if it exhibits Christ, it is the word of life converting the soul, and making wise the simple. Nay, in the very same passage, the apostle calls his own preaching the ministration of the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:8), intimating that the Holy Spirit so cleaves to his own truth, as he has expressed it in Scripture, that he then only exerts and puts forth his strength when the word is received with due honour and respect.
There is nothing repugnant here to what was lately said (chap. 7) that we have no great certainty of the word itself, until it be confirmed by the testimony of the Spirit. For the Lord has so knit together the certainty of his word and his Spirit, that our minds are duly imbued with reverence for the word when the Spirit shining upon it enables us there to behold the face of God; and, on the other hand, we embrace the Spirit with no danger of delusion when we recognise him in his image, that is, in his word. Thus, indeed, it is. God did not produce his word before men for the sake of sudden display, intending to abolish it the moment the Spirit should arrive; but he employed the same Spirit, by whose agency he had administered the word, to complete his work by the efficacious confirmation of the word. In this way Christ explained to the two disciples (Luke 24:27), not that they were to reject the Scriptures and trust to their own wisdom, but that they were to understand the Scriptures. In like manner, when Paul says to the Thessalonians, "Quench not the Spirit," he does not carry them aloft to empty speculation apart from the word; he immediately adds, "Despise not prophesying," (1 Thess. 5:19, 20). By this, doubtless, he intimates that the light of the Spirit is quenched the moment prophesying fall into contempt. How is this answered by those swelling enthusiasts, in whose idea the only true illumination consists, in carelessly laying aside, and bidding adieu to the Word of God, while, with no less confidence than folly, they fasten upon any dreaming notion which may have casually sprung up in their minds? Surely a very different sobriety becomes the children of God. As they feel that without the Spirit of God they are utterly devoid of the light of truth, so they are not ignorant that the word is the instrument by which the illumination of the Spirit is dispensed. They know of no other Spirit than the one who dwelt and spake in the apostles--the Spirit by whose oracles they are daily invited to the hearing of the word.
Calvin's Institutes I.IX.3
That's not what I'm addressing. What I am addressing is that Calvin said that God intended for the Creation to act as a clear revelation of Himself. Man's nature, according to Calvin, overrode what God intended. Everything I've ever heard from my FRCalvinist friends is that whatever God intends, happens. Except in this case.
But it is true IF you take the word of God as infallible..
If it was intended to bring all to a saving knowlege then it would do just that
Isa 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it.
Which is true Ksen?
I ~think~ he meant the personal revelation (spoken) word
i would agree that it overrode one aspect of that revelation, only to reveal another one, Justice. Basically the idea that the creation can "thwart" the Creator is absurd on it's face.
Heh! That may be it. ;^)
Are there any synagogues near you? We have a couple of Messianic synagogues in town and I know that at least one of them has Hebrew classes. I'm sure the regular synagogues have Hebrew classes as well.
But Mom (don't you hate it when kids say that?), God intended, according to Calvin in Chapter 5, for the general revelation in Creation to bring all men to a clear understanding of Himself, but Man was able to supress the general revelation.
So if God intended all to come to a clear knowledge of Himself through the Creation, but it was supressed, why couldn't He also have intended the special revelation, Scriptures, to bring all Men to Him, but it too is supressed?
Why is Man able to supress God's intention in one case, but not able to in the other?
Then you must have a beef with Calvin because he is positting what you are calling absurd.
I'd like to "hear" some of the other Calvinists comment on this.