Saturday, 19 November 2016

4. But man turns ungratefully against God

In the passage Calvin illustrates concisely and colourfully how human beings reject God’s goodness even in the creation of their bodies. He describes the human body as “exquisite workmanship” yet explains that human beings “substitute nature for God”.  How many of the advertisements we encounter day by day fall into this snare?

Could Calvin be mocking those who substitute their own bodies for God?  In a reference to the Cyclopes – a malformed giant who assisted the god Zeus in his war against the Titans in Greek mythology Calvin wonders about humans in their shameless war against God.

Whilst we now know the “course of atoms” that cook food and drink and turns some components of food into excrement, some in to blood and some into the energy for day to life we still do not know everything.  It is the things that we do not know that point to the signs of God’s divinity yet many according to Calvin set God “aside” from them.  In the twenty first century humans are just as guilty of this as they were in the sixteenth century.  Yet who would claim that human beings have made progress?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

3. Man as the loftiest proof of divine wisdom

Calvin argues that there is no need to go outside of ourselves to find comprehension of God “for each one undoubtedly feels within the heavenly grace which quickens him”.  Most human beings today would sense this in some way even if they do not acknowledge God’s presence in their lives.  For when we feel good inside or experience something miraculous there is cause to wonder as to its source.

Calvin quotes David in the Psalms “what is man that thou art mindful of him?” (Psalm 8:4).  Likewise “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou hast established strength” (Psalm 8:2).  In this Calvin explains that even infants have tongues that can speak of the glory of their Creator.  So many people neglect to believe this: thinking that the splendour of human beings is no more than a blend of genes, coupled with nutrition, the environment and education.
For those who taste the love of God and are drawn to Him, Calvin believes such people will give themselves “freely and willingly to God’s service”.  How many people do you know for whom this is true?  Would you be among them?

Saturday, 17 September 2016

2. the divine wisdom displayed for all to see

Observation through science (for Calvin) declares God’s wisdom as does observation “by untutored and ignorant persons”.  Does our world view observation by those who are scientists with such high esteem as those who are not educated in this way?  Does the modern mind always seek more sophisticated or exact knowledge?

How then do we view the human body? Calvin says the following about the human body  “a composition so ingenious that its Artificer is rightly judged a wonder worker”.  Many people would not see their bodies in this way for the media tell us that we are masters of our own bodies and our destiny.  No wonder the song “I did it my way” is so popular for funerals.  Can you imagine what Calvin would have thought of that?

What do we understand by the word “Artificer”? It is not commonly used day by day in the twenty first century.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as follows: craftsman, skilled mechanic in the army or navy.  How do we relate that definition to almighty God?  Perhaps some component is the ordering and discipline exerted by the natural world.  Predator prey relationships ensure that populations do not become too large.  Chromosomal segregation upholds the transfer of genes from parent to progeny and so on.  May be also there is a sense that God is in overall charge as a  craftsman can fashion whatever he desires from the material he works with or as a naval  commander has authority over a ship.

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


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?