Saturday, 20 August 2016

Chapter 5 The knowledge of God shines forth in the fashioning of the universe and the continuing government of it


1. The clarity of God's self disclosure strips us of every excuse

According to Calvin God "daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe"

In our twenty first century world how many people recognise that?

When the countryside and seaside are full of tourists on a sunny day do any of them recognise the source of the beauty and warmth they are enjoying?

Calvin suggests that it was impossible not to acknowledge that God's work points to Him quoting Psalm 104 verse 12.  Indeed the order of the universe mentioned by the author of the letter to the Hebrews is to Calvin a mirror in which we can envisage God.  These ideas seem alien in a society that largely worships the created order rather than its creator. For all the wonders of modern science and technology can generate new genes or chemical compounds it is the living God who provides the raw material.  Do you recognise this? Even when the sun is not shining?


Saturday, 16 July 2016

The Ordinances of 1541


There are four orders of offices that our Lord instituted for the Government of his Church: first the pastors then the teachers, after those the elders and fourthly the deacons.  Therefore if we would have the church well -ordered and maintain it in its entirety we must observe that from of rule.

(By contrast in the first edition of the Institutes only the pastors and deacons are mentioned and the 1537 Articles mention only pastors)

What must they do?

·         Serve God faithfully

·         Keep the Ecclesiastical ordinances

·         Maintain the honour and privileges of the Seigneury and of the city

·         Obey the laws and the magistracy “without prejudice to the freedom we must teach what God commands us and to do those things that belong to our office”

How would ministers perform today against these criteria?

In the Church of England ordained minsters uphold the ordinal and serve God faithfully.  The relationship with the State is more difficult: we owe allegiance to the monarch but are ministers called to speak out against harsh measures put in place by the government of the time?

As Bucer did in Strasbourg, in Geneva Calvin always gave the Magistracy the right to the final decision.

How do Calvin’s fourfold requirements of minsters compare with the threefold ministry in the Church of England?  {pastors, teachers, elders and deacons vs Bishop, Presbyter and Deacon in the Church of England}

Friday, 24 June 2016

4.Hypocrisy




Do we never “consider God unless compelled to”?  Probably this is true of all human beings whether they are believers or not for every human being is capable of hypocrisy.  Calvin quotes Statius in that “fear first made gods in the world”. So often it is fear that brings people to know God: it may arise in circumstances of illness, bereavement or tragedy or through a sense of pointless existence.  Calvin seems to distinguish between those who do know god and those who claim they do through some “semblance of religion”.  In his eyes such people are not open to the “bridle of the Holy Spirit”.

How would our world change if we were open to the “bridle of the Holy Spirit”?  Calvin describes hypocrites as thinking they can win God’s favour “through frivolous little trifles and worthless little observances” so much so that trust is placed in these and not in God Himself.  Calvin insists that these people who are guilty of hypocrisy are not utterly ignorant of God, would you agree with this?

How many people would you know who would claim to be faithless but whose lives bear fruit for the living God?

Saturday, 21 May 2016

3. We are not to fashion God according to our own whim


 
God “is not a spectre or phantasm to be transformed according to anyone’s whim”

Do people today set up “their own false rites to God”?

What could those be:

1.       Social media 2. Multiple Credit cards 3. different internet personalities

Calvin suggests that if they worshipped the living God they would not dare even try and he illustrates this with reference to Galatians 4:8.  If this verse is the case then it does not matter if you set up one god or many that are not the true God.

Lactantius and Calvin agree: “no religion is genuine unless it is joined with the truth”.

How would we apply this proposal to those around the world who support radical fundamentalist beliefs of whatever tradition?

 

Saturday, 16 April 2016

2. Conscious turning away from God


Calvin argues that through “insolent and habitual sinning” human beings forget God. In our contemporary world are people are of either sin or God? The world is conscious of many things that go wrong in the lives of individuals and of nations but how do people deal with such things? Through anger, a desire for revenge or quiet resignation?.  Calvin draws out another possibility that human beings shut God up as “idle in heaven”.  Do you know someone who believes in God but thinks that He is impotent and unable to have any impact on the needs and problems of our world?

Calvin believes that David explains this best: “the fear of God is not before the eyes of the ungodly” in Psalm 36:1.  Even so God cannot deny Himself as St. Paul writes in 2 Timothy 2:13 and so people will come to a place of judgment.  According to Calvin the problem is people have no fear of this moment of judgment.  Who do you know who has no fear of the living God?  Have they reached that place consciously? Or has the idea been planted in them by someone else?

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Chapter 4 This knowledge is either smothered or corrupted partly by ignorance partly by malice


Chapter 4

This knowledge is either smothered or corrupted partly by ignorance partly by malice

1.       Superstition

“God has sown a seed of religion” in all but Calvin believes that barely one in a hundred develop it. Would a similar proportion be the case today?  Calving thinks that some slip  into superstition but they do this through being vain and obstinate rather than by examining the evidence for the Christian faith.

How many conversations do you hear that begin “it says so in the Bible” in which those initiating the comments then go onto quote from hymns, popular culture or superstition.  Thus they illustrate Calvin’s point to day: few of those who would even claim to be Christian delve into the faith sufficiently deeply to discover God’s purposes for them in Christ.

Calvin cites Romans 1:22 “striving to be wise they make fools of themselves” about these people.  If we agree that this is true in our politically correct twenty first century world how

can Christians point this out?  If we do, through wither word or action the results may be unpleasant.

What do you think are the superstitions of today by which Calvin might allege that people “measure God by their own carnal stupidity”?

Could they be money, drugs, or alcohol?  Or is it simply fashionable to be ignorant of God.

Are we so spiritual yet so ignorant of God?

Saturday, 20 February 2016

3. Actual godlessness is impossible


Calvin cites a number of thinkers in this vein:

Diagoras who mocked the religious through atheistic impiety

Dionysius who mocked heavenly judgment and Cicero who thinks religion can only gain strength with passing generations.

But Calvin mentions the approach taken by Plato that when the soul has grasped the knowledge of God it is transformed into his likeness.  Gryllus (in the writings of Plutarch) reasons that if religion is absent then men are no different from brute beasts.

“Worship of God renders men higher than the brutes” .This is true today or is it?

So many people say that worship of God causes violence, division and hatred.  Consider the evil of Islamic state violence or the divisions in South Africa or the Eastern bloc countries.  Many of these have ideological or theological convictions at their roots.  These are a diversion away from true religion to serve the desire of fallen human beings.

As Calvin says the world “tries as a far as it is able to cast away all knowledge of God and by every means corrupts the worship of him”.  Whether this happens in the life of an individual or a nation the only certain thing would appear that it does happen.  Calvin again shows us that his words and considerations are timeless.  Can we heed his message?