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Living for God’s Glory: A Review

Calvinism. In the circles that I’ve grown up in, to say that name brings a measure of concern to most people. It’s as if a popular not-quite-heresy has just been named. Or as if someone has just desired to kill all decent conversation just by saying the word. This rubbed off on me for many years, until such a time that I began to understand more thoroughly the doctrines of grace.

The interesting thing is that so many who think they know what Calvinism is simply don’t have any clue. Maybe a preacher has caricatured the doctrines commonly referred to as “Calvinistic” as being deadening to someone’s spiritual life. Or an individual or group of individuals has sown division among Christian believers, all while claiming the name “Calvinism.” Or a man has burst out in frustration, telling a friend that God just is playing a “game” and that such a God could never be loving just ordering around robots. The list goes on and on.

But is this really Calvinism? Or do some Calvinists exemplify humility? Is it all erudite theological sophistication? Or do some of those who call themselves Calvinists have a passion to see the lost saved? Are they all undermined by their theology, and just “aren’t being true” to what they believe? It appears not to be so. Two springs ago, TIME Magazine came out with this cover story… where they declared that the “New Calvinism” was one of the major factors shaping the world today. Each of the three men mentioned as spearheading this resurgance (John Piper, Mark Driscoll, Al Mohler) have an evangelistic zeal that is entrenched in the reality of God’s sovereignty.

I’ve benefitted greatly from each of their ministries, and especially in the case of Piper, I learned to believe not all caricatures are true. In continuing to read the Scriptures, I myself have come to espouse the soteriological (i.e. salvation) side of Calvinism. God gets all the credit for saving a sinner, but those who reject Him get all the blame. This is my cry in evangelism, along with many of my Calvinistic brothers.

So, in picking up this book on Calvinism, I was looking for what might properly represent the beliefs and attitudes of the better side of Calvinism. And I found it in abundance. I’ve not been familiar with Joel Beeke’s writings or preaching prior to reading Living For God’s Glory, but what I’ve read leaves me impressed. He’s fairly precise in his language, and not as much a wordsmith as some, but he conveys with passion what the truths of Scripture are that Calvinism trumpets, with little of the excess mentioned above.

Observations:

1) Beeke doesn’t just write about theological Calvinism; he writes about Calvinism as a worldview. Or, to phrase it another way, what a Christian’s worldview would look like if God was considered sovereign in every area of life. As such, there is something here for everyone, it seems. Philosophy, history, ethics, practical issues… just about every area is touched on and examined from a Calvinistic point-of-view.

2) He doesn’t write as a strict Presbyterian. There is much here for Reformed Baptists, too, and the inclusion of the discussion concerning historic Reformed roots is enlightening for the uninformed. Having taken a few courses on church history here, and studying on my own, it’s surprising for many to find how Calvinistic our Baptist roots are. To be a Baptist at one point in history meant almost without exception to be a Calvinist.

That being said, I would like to see how Calvinistic theology affects the different strains of Christian thought when it comes to Baptism. The idea is scarely mentioned throughout the pages of the book, and I wonder if (considering the thoroughness of the book overall) if Beeke didn’t write about it to keep his reading base as wide as possible.

3) He includes a large section at the end about the Puritans, the English Calvinists who many consider to exemplify the best of what came out of the Reformation. Beeke and others take us through the effect that Calvinism had on the family, the political world, and the work force with great personal anecdotes from the lives of those who were there, living it out.

4) All of the five points are examined in great detail, and it is rightly discerned that Calvinism (and I would argue Christianity as a whole) has claims upon one’s mind before it has claims upon one’s affections or will. The arguments against each point are examined and dealt with both from Scripture and from systematic theology. For instance, the different arguments for or against Limited Atonement (the doctrine that Christ died for only some) are examined in the light of Scripture, and the breadth of the Calvinistic positions are at least mentioned.

One thing to note is that the infralapsarian/supralapsarian debate that is common among Calvinists isn’t mentioned at all here. I would have liked to have seen a clarification of these two positions, as well as Beeke’s own thoughts on the matter.

5) In doing all of this, Beeke makes it abundantly, thoroughly clear that there aren’t three options in salvific history. You don’t have Arminianism vs. Calvinism vs. Biblicism. There is an Arminian way of looking at it: man chooses God which results in God choosing man, or a Calvinistic way of looking at it: God chooses man which results in man choosing God. The myth of the “Biblicist” position is abundantly clear after reading through these pages; I’m grateful for the clarification.

There are ways to transcend the sometimes petty bickering that marks Calvinist/Arminian debates (note that I did not say all the time… some of that is more than bickering, and is needed!), but claiming a third option as if the other two sides weren’t trying to be Biblical is really a cop out. It’s sad that positions on salvation are now characterized by their most popular proponants (John Calvin and Jacob Arminius), but it doesn’t detract from the fact that throughout the history of Christendom that there have only been two ways of looking at salvation. There are degrees of gray in between, but they fall in one of two camps ultimately.

Problems:

I would detract one star for one thing that I am very wary of: the trumpeting of men in place of Scripture. Earlier in the book, I thought Beeke was doing this as he exalted how the Reformers did certain things. I very much got a “because so-and-so did it, we should too” vibe numerous times. Regardless of whether or not this is able to be corrobrated, I’m very much on guard for this. He does a good job of making Scripture king, but sometimes lapses into exalting men without consideration to Scripture. A contributor writing later in the book directly disavows any attempt to do this, and makes a deliberate swing from mentioning the Reformer’s practice to what Scripture has to say about the matter. It was refreshing, to say the least.

Calvinism has its excesses, and its not for no reason that it is so often caricatured. But if you want to understand what Calvinists really believe, I suggest you pick up a book like this and keep a Bible nearby to see the truths of the Scripture. I genuinely believe that God saves sinners despite the sinner’s inability, and am praying that if you are suspicious or deny these things that God will reveal to you all His character in the Gospel… and the doctrines of grace.

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Book Review of Jonathan Edwards: A Life

What makes a good biography? If the biographer communicates a sustained vision of the subject’s culture, values, relationships, etc. the reader usually walks away from the book with a greater understanding of that person in their own time. What makes a good Christian biography? If the biographer communicates the subject’s commitment to Christ, how that led them to make decisions, and how that affected the world around them, the reader is encouraged to look to Christ in a similar way and walk accordingly. It’s Philippians 3:17 postmortem style.

There is a problem though: Christian biographers create a good Christian biography and forget to make a good biography. How does this happen? From the small children’s biographies of famous missionaries up to the bigger tomes on prominent theologians (Edwards included), the common mistake seems to be that in their rush to portray the subject as a Christian, the biographer forgets to substantially include the setting that gives context to the subject’s commitment to Christ.

George Marsden, thankfully, doesn’t fall into this trap. In his biography of Jonathan Edwards, he supplies both a biography and a Christian biography. Properly placing Edwards’ faith in its historical context yields much fruit for those who are familiar with his works, or for those interested in reading Edwards. Three things stood out to me:

1) I consider Marden’s biography essential reading before delving into Edwards’ theological works. I’ve read The Religious Affections and The Freedom of the Will, and my understanding of both has been greatly served by reading Marsden’s biography. When the reader understands Edwards’ postmillenial interpretation of Scripture, his works come alive. But even more so, Marden does well to show the theological and philosophical background of the day, and especially the beliefs of those whom Edwards is arguing against in his theological treatise. Religious Affections argues against the “Old Light” Puritan beliefs concerning conversion, and instead argues positively for a conversion that shows up in an individual’s emotions and experience. Freedom of the Will argues against both the Arminian understanding of soteriology, as well as a libertarian view of man’s will. I recommend both… after you read this biography.

2) I consider Marden’s biography important reading before reading other biographies on Edwards. The only other Edwards biography I’ve found especially helpful is Iain Murray’s, but even that one leans too far on the Christian side of biography. The others I’ve been acquainted with lean too far one way or the other, and are less helpful in of themselves.  A helpful addition is Marsden’s examination at the end of the book on how Edwards has been viewed throughout the years by different biographers. An examination of Edwards in light of the 21st century surge in Calvinism would have been nice, but in 2003 that may have been off Marsden’s radar, and is likely too nuanced for him to include in a future edition.

3) Marden’s biography is good devotional reading. He quotes Edwards directly (as any good biographer should), showing Edwards transformation from a generally curious and inquisitive youth into a theological and philosophical powerhouse. Along the way, we see his internal struggles with his own sin, his external struggles with people, and his personal struggle with his ambition to do something great for the sake of the Gospel. It’s this ambition that I found particularly compelling. When reading other good biographies, the reader gets a sense of nuanced personal ambition. Thus, Jim Elliot wanted to take Christ where He was not named; Whitefield’s wanted to spread Christ’s fame among the churched but unconverted populace in England and America. Edwards ambition was writing for the glory of God. He saw history coming to a decisive turning point in the Church’s struggle against evil in the world, and he saw himself as a warrior in the struggle. Thus, he lended his great intellectual abilities and pen to the cause of Christ within a postmillenial framework. Today’s Church benefits from his writing, regardless of our millenial understandings.

So, Edwards becomes an example in the manner of Philippians 3:17 to show others how one pursued Christ, and by implication challenges others to follow him as he follows Christ. With head, heart, and hands, Edwards wanted more of Christ. Marden’s biography is the best introduction that I’ve read to the life of Edwards.

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Just Do Something: A Review

I first heard of Keven DeYoung when I picked up “Why We’re Not Emergent” a couple of years back. He gave a well-reasoned theological approach to discerning the newest shade of liberalism sneaking into the church, while providing a witty prose to make the book all the more interesting.

Fast forward to December, when I stumbled across an opportunity to review books for Christianaudio.com. The deal goes like this: I get a free audiobook to review, as long as I post two per quarter on my blog. Not a bad deal, and since I review books anyways, it seemed like a good match. As such, this review will comment on both the book itself and the narrator, Adam Verner. More on him in a moment.

Just Do Something comes in a long-line of books responding to popular ideas in Christianity that really have no biblical basis. Your Jesus is Too Safe was another such book I’ve reviewed recently. Many of our Americanized conceptions of spiritual life have, quite frankly, damaged the cause of Christ and caused needless anxiety for His people. Keven addresses one such conception: the mystical idea of “God’s will” that many people, young and old, seek their entire life.

Whether it be a spouse, or a job, or a friend, or a possession, we think of God’s will as exceptionally specific in each and every situation. In fact, it’s our job to find God’s specific desire for us in each area, lest we be “outside God’s will.” Keven goes about dismantling these notions with biblical truth.

First, God’s will is sometimes displayed in the Bible with specific words towards specific people. But this is not normal, for us or them. In what was quite eye-opening for me, Keven shows how often biblical characters did what seemed wise at the time. Just check out Acts 15, and the several times that “seem” or “seemed” is used as the believers in Jerusalem try to discern God’s will. Keven shows a number of other times where this is the case in Scripture: where people did what was best according to the way of wisdom.

Second, this way of wisdom is found in the Scriptures. We are people of the Book, and we’re supposed to live the normal Christian life – a life of profound attachment to the Word of God. While not discounting what Keven calls “impressions” – subjective feelings – these should not be the primary way we discern God’s will. We discern God’s will by staying close to Him through the Word. A favorite saying of mine seems appropriate: find God’s will for today and you will find it for tomorrow.

Why is this true? Because God’s revealed will for the church is Christlikeness. So, Keven argues, if a girl catches a young man’s eye, he gets to know her, she is actually godly, and all counsel given to him affirms he should pursue that girl, trusting that as he does God will make His will known. The will of God for us is our sanctification (1 Thessalonians 4:3), and it’s improper to speak of God’s will apart from this.

The message of the book is freeing. Be wise about your decisions, pursue God first in everything, and then do what you want. Let God show His will through your desires. This isn’t a blank check to pursue every lust of your heart, but rather an exhortation to pursue after God first, and trust in His sovereign hand to guide you through your desires and choices to His will: your sanctification in and through who you marry, what car you buy, what career you choose, and where you settle down.

Adam Verner does a good job staying in tune with Keven’s words. I can actually imagine Keven himself writing just as Adam reads, with the dry wit, the weighty pauses, and the humorous anecdotes. He compliments the book well.

Purchase it at Amazon, Christian Audio, Monergism, or Christian Book Distributors.

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The Institutes (32)

Book 1 Chapter 17 Sections 1-5

If God is sovereign, does that mean that Christians live a fatalistic life? “Since God is in control, who cares what I do.” Calvin heads these presumptions off at the pass and seeks to address the practical implications of God’s providence in the life of a believer. He notes three things that Scripture says about providence, more-or-less a summary of his previous work on the topic:

First, God’s providence must be considered with regard to the future as well as the past. Secondly, it is the determinate principle of all things in such a way that sometimes it works through an intermediary, sometimes without an intermediary, sometimes contrary to every intermediary. Finally, it strives to the end that God may reveal His concern for the while human race, but especially his vigilance in ruling the church, which he deigns to watch more closely.

God’s love is displayed towards the whole world, not just the church. But particularly, His love is displayed towards the Church. This is even evident in the Cross, where the pardon is offered to all but only applied to God’s sheep. Many in Calvin’s day argued against this level of providence (as he discussed earlier), and shows that the Church, if it will only stop and watch with eyes of faith, will see Him:

… the thought creeps in that human affairs turn and whirl at the blind urge of fortune; or the flesh incites us to contradiction, as if God were making sport of men by throwing them about like balls. It is, indeed, true that if we had quiet and composed minds ready to learn, the final outcome would show that God always has the best reason for his plan: either to instruct his own people in patience, or to correct their wicked affections and tame their lust, or to subjugate them to self-denial, or to arouse them from sluggishness; again, to bring low the proud, to shatter the cunning of the impious and to overthrow their devices.

Yet however hidden and fugitive from our point of view the causes may be, we must hold that they are surely laid up with him, and hence we must exclaim with David: “Great, O God, are the wondrous deeds that thou hast done, and thy thoughts toward us cannot be reckoned; if I try to speak, they would be more than can be told.”

All things do work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose. Calvin apparently ascribes to the “best possible world” point-of-view concerning God’s sovereignty, predating Leibniz in his arguments by a century-and-a-half. God has his “best conceived order to a right end.” To think that He preconceives and pushes everything in the direction that it should go in order to meet the end that He preordains for it… that’s a big God. Too big for humanity to conceive, too big for humanity to bow to and still retain autonomy. But this is what a Christian desires above all else…

… no one will weigh God’s providence properly and profitably but him who considers that his business is with his Maker and the Framer of the universe, and with becoming humility submits himself to fear and reverence.

Calvin is quick to note that the absolute nature of His will does not discount our responsibility: this is clear as one reads Scripture. God both commands the Israelites to change their hearts (Ezekiel 18) and promises that he will be the one to change their hearts (Ezekiel 36). 2 Chronicles 30:9-12 also shows that the Lord commanded all Israel to repent, but He had his hand upon the hearts of those who did repent, while the rest were still held responsible for their sin… even though God did not grant them repentance.

How does it happen that a provident [prepared] man, while he takes care of himself, also disentangles himself from threatening evils, but a foolish man perishes from his own unconsidered rashness, unless folly and prudence are instruments of the divine dispensation in both cases? For this reason, God pleased to hide all future events from us, in order that we should resist them as doubtful, and not cease to oppose them with ready remedies, until they are either overcome or pass beyond all care…

God’s providence does not always meet us in it’s naked form, but God in a sense clothes it with the means employed.

In other words, our preparations and foolhardiness are in the hands of God to work His purposes. Disheartening? Or incredibly freeing for the believer? Can we rest in His sovereignty… His control? Can we move, and take risks, and fight the good fight without fear of being cast out, or fear of His failure? He will accomplish His purposes on the earth, down to the last willful choice of man.

What about that willful choice of man? What about the wicked? Do they serve God’s will? Calvin tackles the question…

… I deny that they are serving God’s will. For we shall not say that one who is motivated by an evil inclination, by only obeying his own wicked desire, renders service to God at His bidding… if we contrive anything against his commandment, it is not obedience but obstinacy and transgression. Yet unless he willed it, we would not do it. I agree. But do we not do evil things to the end that we may serve him? Yet he by no means commands us to do them; rather we rush headlong, without thinking what he requires, but so raging in our unbridled lust that we deliberately strive against him. And in this way we serve his just ordinance by doing evil, for so great and boundless is His wisdom that he knows right well how to use evil instruments to do good…

… [God] works through them. And whence, I ask you, comes the stench of a corpse, which is both putrified and laid open by the heat of the sun? All men see that it is stirred up by the sun’s rays; yet no one for this reason says that the rays stink. Thus, since the matter and guilt of evil repose in a wicked man, what reason is there to think that God contracts any defilement, if he uses his service for his own purpose?

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The Institutes (31)

Book 1 Chapter 16 Sections 5-9

Jonathan Edwards, the pastor of Northhampton Church during the 18th-century, oversaw and encouraged an awakening of the people to realize their position before God. This was not what was commonly called the First Great Awakening, but a smaller “awakening” that preceded it in 1734 and 1735. Edwards preached on sin, judgment, and the glory and satisfaction of God. The intended effect was to help people turn towards God and away from themselves.

This didn’t always have the intended effect. On the morning of June 1, 1735, a prominent man in the community, Joseph Hawley II, slit his throat. In the sermon the Sunday before, Edwards had spoken about men’s consciences showing them that they were bound for judgment, and the need for them to repent. Although we do not know for sure, there is a good probability that Hawley latched onto the first, and not the second.

Hawley was Edwards’ uncle, and the news of his death absolutely staggered him. This effectively ended the “awakening”, and Edwards struggled to find an answer or reason for what he labeled “awful providence.” And in his mind it must be awful, because a sovereign, huge, omnipotent God who was directly or indirectly controlling all things must be in some sense responsible for Hawley’s death.

Edwards’ viewpoint on God’s sovereignty reflected a Calvinistic worldview, one that Calvin himself would have ascribed to. To Calvin, God’s sovereignty means not just a “permission” for events that take place in time, but a causality. Talking about Augustine’s view of God’s providence, Calvin writes:

How the term “permission,” so frequently mentioned by [Augustine], ought to be understood will best appear from one passage, where he proves that God’s will is the highest and first cause of all things because nothing happens except from his command or permission. Surely he does not conjure up a God who reposes idly in a watchtower, willing the while to permit something or other, when an actual will not his own, so to speak, intervenes, which otherwise could not be deemed a cause.

Calvin goes for the jugular throughout this section; his aim is to show that nothing, small or big, falls outside of God’s control. This is especially true concerning mankind, God’s chief creation. Calvin sums up his view of God’s providence over man:

… it is clear that the prophet and Solomon ascribe to God not only might but also choice and determination… It is an absurd folly that miserable men take it upon themselves to act without God, when they cannot even speak except as he wills!

To believe Scripture is to believe that God is actually God, not a deity that lacks power or accedes to chance. The rub comes in when dealing with the presence of evil. This is the question that Edwards had to struggle with after the suicide of his uncle. If God is sovereign, why does He let evil exist? Calvin declares that all contingencies and circumstances find their original source in God’s providence, which means that evil must exist at least by His “permission”… but even that is causal. So why does evil exist?

What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

Evil exists so that we might not only see our need of mercy, but also see the extreme awesomeness of His goodness. The wicked are made “for the day of trouble” (Proverbs 16:4). Is your picture of God this big? That He can allow evil to highlight His goodness?

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The Institutes (30)

Book 1 Chapter 16 Sections 1-4

Moving on from man’s disposition and how it relates to God’s purposes, Calvin begins to discuss the sustaining of all things by God. As we might suspect, Calvin does not pull a Chris Rock and claim that God is “too busy” to pay attention to some things; God is radically and totally involved in every area of life. His sovereignty is total.

Man, even man devoid of God, perceives that the universe is sustained by something. In premodernism, this was most definitely considered divine, before the exaltation of man and reason that came along with modernism. So it’s clear that there is an eternally powerful and divine Creator; it is only by suppression that this truth may be bypassed or supposedly ignored. For many agnostics, the truth of Creation is never perceived.

But faith ought to penetrate more deeply, namely, having found him Creator of all, forthwith to conclude he is also everlasting Governor and Preserver – not only in that he drives the celestial frame as well as its several parts by a universal motion, but also in that he sustains, nourishes, and cares for, everything he has made, even to the least sparrow.

Calvin’s on the warpath again, clearly outlining the view of God that bears his name today.

No Such Thing as Chance

… it has been commonly accepted in all ages, and almost all mortals hold the same opinion today, that all things come about through chance. What we ought to believe concerning providence is by this depraved opinion most certainly not only beclouded, but almost buried… anyone who has been taught by Christ’s lips that all the hairs of his head are numbered will look farther afield for a cause, and will consider that all events are governed by God’s secret plan.

Calvin begins to describe the sun, which he readily admits causes life. And yet, even while looking at the sun which is the immediate source of heat on the earth, we must realize Who lies behind the creation of it. This is no God that hides in a box after creating the universe… instead He is personally involved in the creation and sustaining of the universe.

… a godly man will not make the sun either the principal or the necessary cause of these things which existed before the creation of the sun, but merely the instrument that God uses because he so wills; for with no more difficulty he might abandon it, and act through himself.

Which incidentally is the plan, it seems. Check out the last few pages of your Bible.

So chance has no real power in Calvin’s view. There is nothing random, but everything comes about by God’s governance. A hard teaching? Most certainly. But those who chose otherwise have no reason to “cast their cares upon Him” if He is not over all eventualities. If God is not sovereign is this way, He’s not God. So as we see all the so-called “chance occurences” taking place in disasters and accidents…

… it comes about that… fear is transferred from [God] toward whom alone they ought to direct it… Let him, therefore, who would beware of this infidelity ever remember that there is no erratic power, or action, or motion in creatures, but that they are governed by God’s secret plan in such a way that nothing happens except what is knowingly and willingly decreed by him.

In the next section of this chapter, Calvin continues to define God’s interactions with man in terms that can hardly befit Him, but at least give some indication as to His sovereignty.

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The Institutes (29)

Book 1 Chapter 15

Calvin moves on from the work of God in creation to anthropology, the study of man. For Calvin, talking about man is still talking about God. Man, he believes, is the pinnacle of God’s Creation, and if there is any battle to be won over the character of God, it must be won as we examine the nature and character of His utmost creation.

For many today, the ultimate proof that God cannot exist is all the death and suffering in the world. All of life is bound to the law of death… no one escapes from it. Many will look at this and claim that God’s goodness must be a farce due to all the pain in the world. Calvin (and many other Christians) would respond that the effect of sin on the world was not brought in by God, but by man. It was man’s sin that brought about God’s curse; God did not arbitrarily determine to place His curse upon the earth. The blame goes to man, not God.

Now we must guard against singling out only those natural evils of man, lest we seem to attribute them to the Author of nature. For in this excuse, impiety thinks it has sufficient defense, if it is able to claim that whatever defects it possesses have in some way proceeded from God. It does not hesitate, if it is reproved, to contend with God himself, and to impute to him the fault of which it is deservedly accused. And those who wish to seem to speak more reverently of the Godhead still willingly blame their depravity on nature, not realizing that they also, although more obscurely, insult God. For if any defect were proved to inhere in nature, this would bring reproach upon him.

Calvin moves on from this initial consideration to the nature of man. Calvin is clearly a dichotomist (man consists of two parts, body and soul/spirit), and goes about proving his point. In the first part of the chapter, Calvin seeks to identify the “image of God” that was present in man at Creation. He believes that “the proper seat of the image is in the soul” and, quoting Ovid, says:

…while all other living things being bent over look earthward, man has been given a face uplifted, bidden to gaze heavenward and to raise his countenance to the stars.

This is Calvin’s take on the imagio deo… an ability to relate to the divine.

… although the soul is not man, yet it is not absurd for man, in respect to his soul, to be called God’s image… the integrity with which Adam was endowed is expressed by this word, when he had full possession of right understanding, when he had his affections kept within the bounds of reason, all his senses tempered in right order, and he truly referred his excellence to exceptional gifts bestowed upon him by his Maker. And although the primary seat of the divine image was in the mind and heart, or in the soul and its powers, yet there was no part of man, not even the body itself, in which some sparks did not glow.

It is not uncommon to hear this side in the debate over the imagio deo. Others think that it’s moral accountability, others think that it’s reason. Calvin here asserts that it is the ability to relate to God, which includes all the other viewpoints on the imagio deo. But Calvin doesn’t stop here…

… we do not have a full definition of “image” if we do not see more plainly those faculties in which man excels, and in which he ought to be thought the reflection of God’s glory. That, indeed, can be nowhere better recognized than from the restoration of his corrupted nature… consequently, the beginning of our recovery of salvation is in that restoration which we obtain through Christ.

… “we… with unveiled face beholding the glory of Christ are being transformed into his very image.” Now we see how Christ is the most perfect image of God; if we are conformed to it, we are so restored that with true piety, righteousness, purity, and intelligence we bear God’s image.

The image of God is being restored in us daily as we’re conformed to Christ. Truly there is a restoration taking place in the Creation, and that is part of the Gospel. But it’s not a restoration of the earth in some enviromentalist-friendly way. The Gospel is, in some sense, the restoration of God’s image in mankind.

From the discussion of the image of God in man, Calvin moves onto the constitution of men’s souls. Calvin believes that man’s mind directs the other parts of his psyche. Here Calvin moves outside Scripture, something unusual for the Institutes. No Scripture is mentioned to back all of this up. But it’s thoroughly Scriptural… our minds lead our emotions and actions. So we’re to set our minds on things above according to Colossians 3:2, and on the basis of that we’re to change out the old clothing of evil works for the new clothing of spiritual fruit. Our minds lead our emotions and actions!

… the understanding is… the leader and governor of the soul; and that the will is always mindful of the bidding of the understanding, and in its own desires awaits the judgment of the understanding… shunning or seeking out in the appetite corresponds to affirming or denying in the mind.

Finally, Calvin discusses “free” will and Adam’s original sin.

Man in his first condition excelled in… pre-eminant endowments, so that his reason, understanding, prudence, and judgment not only sufficed for the direction of his earthly life, but by them men mounted up even to God and eternal bliss. Then choice added, to direct the appetites and control all the organic motions, and thus make the will completely amenable to the guidance of the reason.

But upon the snake introducing a new thought, man’s appetite and will was bent to do what was evil. Why had God created man thus? Here, it’s too much for Calvin’s mind, as it should be for any Christian.

… the reason [God] did not sustain man by the virtue of perseverance lies hidden in his plan; sobriety is for us the part of wisdom. Man, indeed, received the ability provided he exerciser the will; but he did not have the will to use his ability, for this exercising of the will would have been follower by perseverance. Yet he is not excusable, for he received so much that he voluntarily brought about his own destruction indeed, no necessity was imposed upon God of giving man other than a mediocre and even transitory will, that from man’s Fall he might gather occasion for his own glory.

If God did allow the Fall in order that the Cross might appear to be more glorious… does that cause us to balk? Do we proclaim the evil of a God who would exalt His own glory in our sin and salvation? Or do we shut our mouths when we realize that the cross is more supreme in God’s own mind than creation? In the cross we find the maximum display of God’s glory… in the cross we don’t just find the means of our salvation. We find the end of our salvation. God Himself.

He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.

1 Peter 1:20-21

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