Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sundays with John

This has been another excellent week of fellowship for Dave and I as we read Calvin together. Some of my favorite moments:

In talking about the knowledge of God, John points out the logic, as seen in Augustine, that judgment here is present, but not final:
Indeed, Augustine's remark is well known: 'If every sin were to suffer open punishment, it would seem that nothing is reserved for the final judgment. Again, if God were now to punish no sin openly, one would believe that there is no providence.'
~Calvin, Institutes I.5.10

What beautiful logic, and how little thought about these days. It makes me sigh and wonder, along with the Professor from Lewis' book, "What do they teach in schools these days?"

Calvin also gives us such a clear, lucid defense of the need for a written Word:
Suppose we ponder how slippery is the fall of the human mind into forgetfulness of God, how great the tendency to every kind of error, how great the lust to fashion constantly new and artificial religions. Then we may perceive how necessary was such written proof of the heavenly doctrine, that it should neither perish through forgetfulness nor vanish through error nor be corrupted by the audacity of men. it is therefore clear that God has provided the assistance of the Word for the sake of all those to whom he has been pleased to give useful instruction because he foresaw that his likeness imprinted upon the most beautiful form of the universe would be insufficiently effective.
~Calvin, Institutes, I.6.3

We also see Calvin's relentless logic as he discusses the proper ground of authority for the church. Here, he is fighting the Roman Catholic notion that the Church gives authority to the bible by proclaiming the books included in the canon of Scripture. Instead, he says:
But such wranglers are neatly refuted by just one word of the apostle. He testifies that the church is "built upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles" [Eph.2:20]. If the teaching of the prophets and apostles is the foundation, this must have had authority before the church began to exist.
~Calvin, institutes, I.7.2

And this week, we run into one of the great cries of the Reformation, from Calvin's own lips: the self-authentication of Scripture through the work of the Spirit:
Let this point stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Holy Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by his power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else's judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men.

~Calvin, Institutes I.7.5

And in the category of quotable quips, how about this zinger:
Consequently, those for whom prophetic doctrine is tasteless ought to be thought of as lacking taste buds.
~Calvin, Institutes, I.8.2

If any of you are reading Calvin, and have not yet done so, be sure to get the e-mail of Blogging the Institutes you can find at Reformation21. Here is one of my favorites from Sinclair Ferguson to whet your appetite:
We have within ourselves a veritable divine "workshop." Yet instead of praising him men swell with pride in themselves and find reasons for rejecting the revelation God has given to them. Instead of acknowledging the true and living God men "substitute nature for God."

We have all seen or heard it. A secular naturalist engages in the activities Calvin here describes--whether by exploring the heavens or investigating things on earth. Insects and animals with the most limited mental capacity are said to engage in all kinds of detailed logical thinking as they develop coping mechanisms in a hostile environment. And as the program ends the naturalist comments "And so again we find ourselves saying 'Isn't Mother Nature wonderful?' "

But who, one might ask, is Mother Nature? Why is her name always capitalized? On what logic has our agnostic or atheist presenter smuggled in his or her appeal to the transcendent? How profoundly true are Paul's words that men exchange the truth about God for the lie.

~Sinclair Ferguson, Blogging the Institutes

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