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?

Saturday, 18 February 2017

7. God’s government and judgment

Would you consider that God “tempers his providence”?

Is this an unduly controlling aspect of god’s character? Calvin believes that god declares his clemency to the godly and his severity to the wicked”  Do you see evidence of this in our world today? Or are human beings so far from God that it is impossible to determine?  Calvin begins to address the notion that bad things happen to good people and that sometimes the wicked seem to prosper.  But Calvin’s view of God is one of infinite kindness: God “pursues miserable sinners with unwearied kindness”. Can you see God doing this in our world today? Who in your opinion is the most miserable sinner that God needs to pursue? Could it be you?

Saturday, 21 January 2017

6. The Creator reveals His Lordship over the creation

Calvin insists that “nothing is more preposterous than to enjoy the very remarkable gifts that attest the divine nature within us yet overlook the author”. He describes certain natural events as taking place at God’s “pleasure”.  How do we view this with our technology to predict weather and earthquakes and much more?  He finds instances of the testimony of nature in the books of Job and Isaiah.  He notices that seeing God at work in nature can be common to those familiar with God’s ways and those who are “strangers”.  All this Calvin suggests should direct us towards God’s love as there is no creature “upon whom God’s mercy has not been poured out” (Psalm 145:9, Ecclesiasticus 18:11).

How frequently do you look at some creature and imagine God’s mercy being poured out upon it? Could it be true for a rat in the sewer or for a house fly?

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Christmas and New Year Special - Calvin and Newman : controversies against Arians

Calvin’s controversy with Servetus arose because Servetus defended Monarchianism of which there are two types.  Adoptionism is the belief that Christ was a mere man.  This is a form of psilanthropism put forward by Theodotus (one of the group of Greek philosophers who was with Galen).  A second type is modalism-  this blurs the distinctions between Father, Son and Holy Spirit and was first suggested by Noetus of Smyrna. In this form the names of the godhead become just names applicable at different times. Sabellus developed a more sophisticated form saying that the God head is like the sun with its warmth and light.  Calvin was unable to support such views because he maintained that the whole divinity came to us in the person of Christ, whilst the three persons of the Trinity remain distinct.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

5. The confusion of creature with Creator

Calvin uses some words from Aristotle to draw out the idea that human beings often confuse the created order with the Creator, who, of course is God himself.  Aristotle said that “the soul is inseparable from the body.  Calvin recognises that the soul operates far outside the functions which serve the body.   “Of what concern is it to the body that you measure the heavens?” he says.  Calvin considers certain characteristics of humans that are “signs of divinity in man”.  These include things held in the memory or the skill to devise incredible things and “marvellous devices”.  He criticises Vergil for suggesting that the universe was its own Creator rather than a “spectacle of God’s glory”.

How do you understand nature/ where do you see God at work? Or do you regard him as uninvolved in nature? Would you agree with Calvin that nature is the “order prescribed by God”?

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?