Saturday, 23 December 2017

2. The word of God as Holy Scripture

Calvin believed that the patriarchs obtained their knowledge of God through “oracles and visions” and by “the work and ministry of men”.  He also believed that the law was committed to Moses and that Christ is the end of the law (Romans 10:4).  As a result Calvin thinks that any human being “should contemplate God’s works” and “prick up his ears to the Word”.  Do you do this day by day? How?  In this respect Calvin notes especially the development of doctrine indicating that it is not possible to obtain “even the slightest taste of right and sound doctrine unless someone is a pupil of scripture”.  How many teachings and doctrines of the Church today are put forward without reference or with only a passing acquaintance of Scripture?  Are you equipped to be a pupil of Scripture?  If not then what do you need to do?

Saturday, 18 November 2017

CHAPTER VI  : SCRIPTURE IS NEEDED AS GUIDE AND TEACHER FOR ANYONE WHO WOULD COME TO GOD THE CREATOR 1.       God bestows the actual knowledge of Himself upon us only in the Scriptures

Calvin describes the scriptures as “another and better help” to us in obtaining knowledge of God. The people who have access to the scriptures are those “He regarded as worthy of this privilege those whom he pleased to gather more closely and intimately to Himself”.  Scripture is the spectacles for those who have weaker vision for through scripture human beings can see God “distinctly”. This assertion has been one of Calvin’s most discussed similes.

Why? Is scripture like spectacles for you? Does it aid your vision of God? Calvin goes on to describe the two types of knowledge of God that can be obtained from the scriptures – the first being that of knowing the God who founded and governs the universe and the second that god is found in “the person of the mediator as the redeemer”.  Calvin explains that there are many testimonies about this in the Old and New Testaments but concludes that God “the Artificer of the universe is made manifest in scripture”.  The Oxford Dictionary defines Artificer as “craftsman, skilled mechanic  in the army or navy.”  God’s skill revealing Himself in creation and in Christ is clear to Calvin.  Is this clear to you/ what could be awry in your view?

Saturday, 21 October 2017

15. We have no excuse

Calvin says that we have no excuse for a lack of knowledge because of “dullness” within us.  Many people in the modern age would never admit to being dull.  Here Calvin is returning to one of his favourite thoughts that the creatures of God declare His glory saying “even irrational creatures give instruction”. God plants a seed of knowledge of Him in human beings but we corrupt that seed through our “own failing”.  Recognition of God is then attributed by humans to anything other than God Himself.

To what do we attribute the beauty of the created order? Some might argue it is due to evolution or ecological management. If this is the case then they forget the ultimate creator.  Centuries after he wrote Calvin’s suggestion would seem to be correct.  What would be your excuse for a lack of knowledge of God? Can you give the “Author” of creation “his due praise”?

Saturday, 16 September 2017

14. The manifestation of God in nature speaks to us in vain

In this concise section Calvin uses scripture to show to us the “burning lamps” that point to God’s manifestation in nature and how the human race ignores them.  Using the letter to the Hebrews he explains that we cannot see God at work unless we have the “inner revelation of God through faith” (Hebrews 11:3).  God permits us to go our own way but sends benefits from heaven (Acts 14:14-17) to open our eyes to his work.  Calvin concludes that God “attracts men to the knowledge of Himself with many and varied kindnesses” but that human beings still go their own way and this is their “fatal error”. What kindness do you see in nature placed by the hand of God?  Who do you know who makes the “fatal error” of going their own way?

Saturday, 19 August 2017

13. The Holy Spirit rejects all cults contrived by men

According to Calvin when human beings follow their own opinions they cast themselves away from the “one and only God”.  Calvin uses several examples from both the Old and New Testaments to support his case – the Ephesians who were without God until they learned the Gospel and worship of the true God (Ephesians 2:12-13) and the Samaritans who approached piety only in certain circumstances (John 4:22).

Calvin is concerned that both the “illustrious” and the “common” fall into this error concluding that the Holy Spirit “rejects as base all cults contrived by the will of men”.  The people who constructed society and were in Calvin’s eyes “the best legislators” founded their religion upon public agreement.  In support of this Calvin explains that Socrates praised the oracle of Apollo and that each man could worship in the way of his ancestors or in the style of the city in which he resides.  Yet for Calvin these are poor reasons for worship – tradition and location do not make for worthy worship.  It is God himself who bears witness and makes our worship worthwhile.

Is your worship moribund through tradition? Do you feel that God can only be worshipped in the style of your location?

Saturday, 15 July 2017

12. The manifestation of God is choked by human superstition and the error of the philosophers

Calvin says that the “labyrinth” of the human mind can formulate many idols or specters of god so an “immense crowd of gods flow forth from the human mind” What are the gods of today? Could they be money, power, relationships, social media and sex perhaps?  These comments of Calvin refer to those whom he describes as “untutored.”  He reserves particular venom for those who are philosophers in an allusion to Cicero and his disagreement among the learned gods in “Nature of gods”.  Who are the philosophers of our time who disagree over what or who God is?  Calvin then moves on to the Epicureans for whom it became customary to deny outright God’s existence.  Finally Calvin indicates that if human beings were taught by nature then upon recognising that there was “nothing certain or clear cut”, they would worship an unknown god.  He uses the example of the Athenians to illustrate this point  as St. Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus and found and altar “To an unknown god” [Acts 17:23].  Who do you know who worships and unknown god today?

Thursday, 6 July 2017

11. The evidence of God in creation does not profit us

Do you look at beautiful animals and plants and “disregarding their author sit idly in contemplation of his works”? As spring and summer come how often do you see people doing exactly what Calvin describes here? Why?  Some believe that there can be no God.  Others are so ensnared by the distractions of modern living that they have no time to think. Calvin is correct it would seem that our reasons for ignoring God’s work in creation are our own “particular error” whether we are educated or not.  Calvin criticises Plato as disappearing in his own round globe – a sarcastic reference to Plato’s sphere.  But the problem remains: how can human beings profit from and appreciate God’s creation?

Sunday, 21 May 2017

10. The purpose of this knowledge of God

When Calvin sees the “pious laden with afflictions” and how the “wicked flourish” he believes that these point to God’s judgment on all future sin.  He seems to believe that these situations arise because “God’s powers are represented as a painting”.  Do you look at the minutiae of creation rather than seeking the purpose of the whole?  Scholars have viewed the account in Genesis as a whole with its chiastic structure and symmetry yet so readily critics malign the account thinking that it is a manual of how creation took place.  So it seems that Calvin is encouraging us to look at the whole created order and then to recall the ways in which we see God working in our lives.  He cites David in Psalm 92:5-6 in saying that unbelievers often do not see “the designs of God in the governance of mankind” nor in the work of creation.  How easy or difficult do you find it to see God at work in human institutions?

Saturday, 15 April 2017

9. We ought not to rack our brains about God: but rather we should contemplate him in His works

According to Calvin “no long or toilsome proof”  is needed to show God at work.  This is because God’s work can “be easily observed with the eyes and pointed out with the finger”.  Cast your eyes around your surroundings, how hard do you have to look to see signs of God’s work?  Knowledge of God for Calvin will be “sound and fruitful” if it “takes root in the heart”. What knowledge of God has become deeply embedded in your heat?

Calvin cites Paul speaking in the centre of the Areopagus as emphasising that God is not far from each one of us (Acts 17:27-28) and he mentions David declaring God’s greatness (Psalm 145:5-6).  Using teaching from Augustine on the Psalms Calvin stresses that human beings “cannot grasp” God.  How caught up are we in a world that grasps for knowledge, for money and for meaning?  How can we replace such grasping with “sound and fruitful” knowledge of God?

Saturday, 18 March 2017

8.God’s sovereign sway over the life of men

Calvin believes that Psalm 107 illustrates the heavenly providence of God thus giving the godly the opportunity to rejoice. But he also believes that most people “get immersed in their own errors” and are therefore blind to God’s providence.  Do you know people today who are blind in the face of the goodness of God?  What are the twenty fist century causes of such blindness?  Calvin has a sense that God shows his power over the impious “their arrogance vanquished” at a time of “best opportunity” thus “confounding the wisdom of the world”.  So “he catches the crafty in their own craftiness (1 Corinthians 3:19, Job 5:13). Have you ever seen God catch the crafty and thus reveal His glory?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

7. God’s government and judgment

Would you consider that God “tempers his providence”?

Is this an unduly controlling aspect of god’s character? Calvin believes that god declares his clemency to the godly and his severity to the wicked”  Do you see evidence of this in our world today? Or are human beings so far from God that it is impossible to determine?  Calvin begins to address the notion that bad things happen to good people and that sometimes the wicked seem to prosper.  But Calvin’s view of God is one of infinite kindness: God “pursues miserable sinners with unwearied kindness”. Can you see God doing this in our world today? Who in your opinion is the most miserable sinner that God needs to pursue? Could it be you?

Saturday, 21 January 2017

6. The Creator reveals His Lordship over the creation

Calvin insists that “nothing is more preposterous than to enjoy the very remarkable gifts that attest the divine nature within us yet overlook the author”. He describes certain natural events as taking place at God’s “pleasure”.  How do we view this with our technology to predict weather and earthquakes and much more?  He finds instances of the testimony of nature in the books of Job and Isaiah.  He notices that seeing God at work in nature can be common to those familiar with God’s ways and those who are “strangers”.  All this Calvin suggests should direct us towards God’s love as there is no creature “upon whom God’s mercy has not been poured out” (Psalm 145:9, Ecclesiasticus 18:11).

How frequently do you look at some creature and imagine God’s mercy being poured out upon it? Could it be true for a rat in the sewer or for a house fly?