Archive for July, 2009
Book 1 Chapter 10 Sections 1-3
Having digressed to defend Scriptural authority, Calvin returns to the content and purpose of Scripture. In almost an Platonic fashion, he goes about showing how God’s attributes are shown in His creation, showing that the Form is found in particulars. The difference between Calvin and Plato? “This recognition of him consists more in living experience than in vain and high-flown speculation.” Calvin experienced the realities that Plato theorized about, as do all true believers.
Calvin highlights three particular aspects of God’s character as essential to understanding Him:
… these three things are especially necessary for us to know: mercy, on which alone the salvation of us all rests; judgment, which is daily exercised against wrongdoers, and in even greater severity awaits them to their everlasting ruin; justice, whereby believers are preserved. amd are most tenderly nourished. When these are understood, the prophecy witnesses that you have abundant reason to glory in God.
Calvin says this referring to Jeremiah 9:24, which we actually read in our devotions this morning. Small world. And, to add an Edwarsesque flavor to this, God delights in these attributes being displayed on the earth (mercy, judgment, righteousness/justice) because they display Himself. He does not delight merely in attributes of Himself being displayed, but in Himself. Why? Because God is most concerned about His own glory… He delights not merely in mercy, judgment, and righteousness, but in Himself, Who is each of those things in perfection.
There, got out my Christian Hedonism statement for the week. Continuing, Calvin points out the purpose of special revelation, particularly expressed by these three attributes:
… the knowledge of God set forth for us in the Scripture is destined for the very same goal as the knowledge whose imprint shines in his creatures, in that it invites us first to fear God, then to trust in him. By this we can learn to worship him both with perfect innocence of life and with unfeigned obedience, then to depend wholly upon his goodness.
Fear and trust… throughout evangelical Christianity today, the “trust” trumpet is sounded. But can you really trust God unless you fear Him? Unless you know that He has bought you with a ghastly, horrible price… that is at the same time universally glorious… and that He holds each heartbeat in His hand… unless you know this, can you really trust Him?
Finally, Calvin summarizes the monotheistic nature of special revelation. Even though we speak of a Trinity, there is still only One God, one Essence in three Persons. Rather than mankind having evolved from monotheism towards more complex forms of religion, man has regressed from the pinnacle of knowing the one and only God. “The truth of God has been corrupted by them all.” And, as previously mentioned, all are held to account for this.
Mercy, judgment, righteousness… the three parts of God that we must understand in order to basically grasp salvation. If we fail to declare all three of these in our preaching and our teaching, can we really be said to be Christians? We must preach the salvation of God for His own glory; and these three attributes must be lifted up to lift Him up and glorify Him as He ought to be.
Book 1 Chapter 9
In this last chapter in his defense of the inerrancy and authority of Scripture, Calvin turns to what can best be described as the early relativists of his day; those that “seize upon whatever they may have conceived of while snoring” as Calvin puts it. His intent is to show that true knowledge of God cannot be sourced in man’s own mind, but from outside man. Calvin wants to show that the source of authoritative knowledge about God is not another religion, or the whims of man, but Scripture.
… those who, having forsaken Scripture, imagine some way or other of reaching God, ought to be thought of as not so much gripped by error as carried away with frenzy.
These people are not caught in the thrall of error that has permeated their thinking… the issue is that they aren’t thinking. I’m reminded of the severe foolishness found in those who “toke the Ghost”, or in the Word of Faith movement. Just watching TBN (or watching Justin Peter’s excellent apologetic series), I’m struck by how often it simply seems like they pulled their ideas about God out of thin air.
First, Calvin sets out the goal and hope of every true Christian:
Where [God] says, “My Spirit which is in you, and the words that I have put in your mouth, will not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your seed . . . forever”, he does not bind the ancient folk to outward doctrine as if they were learning their ABC’s; rather, he teaches that under the reign of Christ the new church will have this true and complete happiness: to be ruled no less by the voice of God than by the Spirit.
This is where the Christian’s heart is drawn to… not to conjure up new and strange forms of belief and practice, but to the Scriptures, for “he would have us recognize him in his own image, which he has stamped upon the Scriptures.”
Second, He points out that the Holy Spirit and the Scripture are two inseparable parts of His revelation to man. So for someone to claim that “the Holy Spirit told me” without a corresponding appeal to Scripture carries absolutely no authority.
For by a kind of mutual bond the Lord has joined together the certainty of his Word and of his Spirit so that the perfect religion of the Word may abide in our minds when the Spirit, who causes us to contemplate God’s face, shines; and that we in turn may embrace the Spirit with no fear of being deceived wjem we recognize him in his own image, namely, in the Word. So indeed it is. God did not bring forth his Word among men for the sake of a momentary display, intending at the coming of his Spirit to abolish it. Rather, he sent down the same Spirit by whose power he had dispensed the Word, to complete his work by the efficacious confirmation of the Word.
The Christian life is a blood-bought, Spirit-filled and interpreted, God-centered journey with Scripture as the perfect guide. This is why Christians have always looked to the Bible, and those who today wish to call themselves followers of Christ without regard to Scripture are only deceiving themselves.
Certainly a far different sobriety befits the children of God, who just as they see themselves, without the Spirit of God, bereft of the whole light of truth, so are not unaware that the Word is the instrument by which the Lord dispenses the illumination of his Spirit to believers. For they know no other Spirit than him who dwelt and spoke in the apostles, and by whose oracles they are continually recalled to the hearing of the Word.
Thank God for giving us Himself in Scripture!