Thursday, 4 October 2018

Chapter VIII So far as human reason goes, sufficiently firm proofs are at hand to establish the credibility of scripture (the unique majesty and impressiveness and the high antiquity of scripture 1-4) 1. Scripture superior to all human wisdom

1.       Scripture superior to all human wisdom

If you had to choose a favourite author then who might you choose: Shakespeare, Chaucer or a more contemporary writer: Ian Hislop, Chaim Potok or Carol Ann Duffy?  In this section of the Institutes Calvin argues that the effect of scripture on human beings is greater than anything else.  He says that “Of human writings however artfully polished, there is none capable of affecting us all comparably”.  Calvin’s examples of writings lesser than scripture include Demosthenes, Cicero, Plato and Aristotle.  Scripture will “penetrate your heart” and “fix in your very marrow”.  Would this be true for you?  Which Bible passages affect you in this manner?  In this section Calvin asserts that scripture “breathes something divine”.  Can you agree?

Saturday, 15 September 2018

5. Scripture bears its own authentication

How do you decide if something you read is going to alter your course of action? Does reading scripture make any difference? For Calvin: scripture seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit.  For many in our world the scriptures have no greater power than any other text and possibly less than some.  What would be your pecking order? How central is the Bible to your day to day living?  Calvin suggests that God distinguishes His elect and they can comprehend the mysteries of God (Matthew 13:11).  Would this be your experience?  Can the guidance of the Holy Spirit deepen our faith?

Saturday, 18 August 2018

4. The witness of the Holy Spirit is stronger than all proof

Calvin believes that seeking reason to verify and authenticate scripture is not the best approach.  He writes: the testimony of the Spirit is more excellent than all reason.  Sometimes our world speaks only of the power of reason yet how often do you believe something because you heard about it through social media or rumour rather than a carefully verified source?  Calvin believes that we can believe God’s word when we received the inward testimony of the Spirit.  Surely the Holy Spirit is more reliable than an unreferenced internet source.  The challenge for those who trust in the Holy Spirit is how to discern His will and speech.  It is the Spirit who is the seal and guarantee for our faith (2 Corinthians 1:2) but dare you trust the Holy Spirit?

Monday, 16 July 2018

The influence of John Calvin upon marriage and divorce

Roman Catholicism revered celibacy and placed a ban on divorce.  The protestant reformers whilst in favour of marriage did not easily embrace divorce. Calvin’s teachings shaped the divorce legislation in many Europeans countries and in North America. He loathed adultery and also believed that an unbeliever’s desertion of a protestant spouse was grounds for divorce but he denied that cruelty impotence, disease or loathing were sufficient grounds for divorce.  These views were expressed in the 1541 Institutes of Christian Religion and implemented in the city of Geneva.

The authorities would scrutinize the intimate details of married life, often hearing eye witness accounts from resident servants and incorporated torture in to their interrogations and forced warring spouses to reconcile. They punished adultery wit banishment and whipping , or in outlying villages nine days imprisonment on bread and water and payment of  a fine. Adulteresses were publicly drowned and adulterers decapitated.  In 1566 only two years after the death of Calvin  Geneva passed a law making adultery a capital offence.  Calvin’s own approach was that divorce was permitted but granted only as a last resort.  During Calvin’s ministry from 1541 until 1564 only twenty six divorces were granted in Geneva.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

3. Augustine cannot be cited as counterevidence

Calvin explains that he thinks Augustine is not speaking against the Church being grounded upon scripture, but that the consensus of the Church can impel people to turn to Christ.  Is it possible that those who have not yet received the gift of faith can be influenced by Church teaching to come to Christ?
In our world today the Church is often portrayed as uncaring or irrelevant.  When was the last time you heard a news report about the positive benefits of being a disciple of Christ? Calvin appears concerned that as St. Augustine comes with such a reputation of being a theological heavy weight, readers of the Institutes may be tempted to think that Augustine’s words some with the same weight as scripture.  Calvin makes his position clear- scripture is for him the inspired word of God and the Church points to its truth.
How readily does the Church direct people towards the Scriptures today?

Saturday, 26 May 2018

2. The Church in itself is grounded upon Scripture

How do you react to Calvin’s assertion:

Scripture exhibits fully as clear evidence of its own truth as black and white things do of their colour or sweet and bitter things do of their taste.

In this sentence Calvin is refuting the argument that the Church is responsible for decisions on the truth of material contained in the Canon of Scripture, the Bible.  Calvin is saying that scripture’s truth was clear before the foundation of the Church, that it self- authenticates.  What more evidence do you need in a world that seems to demand evidence for every event and observation?  Many would take as evidence material on social media as truth, whilst others consider scientific experiments as infallible.  Yet they would have problem with the scriptures –denying their inspiration by God and the copious documentary and archaeological material that points to their veracity.  How true are the scriptures for you?

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Chapter 7 Scripture must be confirmed by the witness of the Spirit. Thus may its authority be established as certain and it is a wicked falsehood that its credibility depends on the judgment of the Church

1 Scripture has its authority from God not from the Church

Chapters 7-9 of this Book are about the authority of the Bible.  Prior to the Reformation the Church was the agent through which scripture was interpreted and explained.  Calvin regards the “consent of the Church” in weighing scripture as a “pernicious error”, for him it mocks the Holy Spirit.  Yet questions centred on the authority of written work are often raised in our world today- who is qualified to interpret and give meaning to a text? In addressing this questions Calvin makes the case for inner testimony -  a self- authentication of the Bible as the work of God, even if distilled and written down by fallen humanity.  If someone asked you who is the overall author of the Scriptures what would you say?