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?