The Institutes (8)

Book 1 Chapter 5 Sections 11-15

With all the clear testimonies, why doesn’t man respond to God as he should? With all this weighty evidence of the Creator, surely man should be seeking Him wholly. But, we do not.

For as rashness and superficiality are joined to ignorance and darkness, scarcely a single person has ever been found who did not fashion for himself an idol or specter in place of God.


… no mortal ever contrived anything that did not basely corrupt religion.

Men’s hearts are inclined towards the production of and clinging to idols. The testimony of God in nature (human and otherwise) and His sovereignty over the affairs of man are not enough to overcome our insistence on idolatry given to us by our earthly father, Adam. And yet, we are still left without excuse.

For at the same time as we have enjoyed a slight taste of the divine from contemplation of the universe, having neglected the true God, we raise up in his stead dreams and specters of our own brains, and attribute to anything else than the true source the praise of righteousness, wisdom, goodness, and power. Moreover, we so obscure or overturn his daily acts by wickedly judging them that we snatch away from them their glory and from their Author his due praise.

Any smothering of the internal witness to God (conscience and the construct of our natures), or of the inestimable ways in which His power is displayed in society, history, and nature is to rob Him of His glory and attribute it to another. It’s a subtle idolatry that debases God. I wonder what it will be like when I get to heaven and all the ways in which I wished away God’s sovereignty are exposed, and His hidden purposes in human history are revealed. No doubt I will bow myself and exalt Him.

So are we stuck? Without hope? Our perception is flawed enough that we cannot (in of ourselves) grasp the character of the One Who created everything from our souls to the stars.  And it’s not just lack of ability: we must have inward piety to see God, and instead we have the baseness of Adam that regresses towards complete godlessness apart from God’s grace. So what must be done? Where will we see God for Who He truly is?

Therefore, since either the custom of the city or the agreement of tradition is too weak and frail a bond of piety to follow in worshiping God, it remains for God himself to give witness of himself from heaven.

The Scriptures!


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