Friday, March 5, 2010

Calvin - Chapter 2

Chapter 2: What it is to Know God, and to What Purpose the Knowledge of Him Tends.

As I read these chapters I am amazed at how succinct, yet how meaty Calvin is. I want to quote the whole chapter because it is all gold.

As both Cathy & Meredith have already discussed, piety is a big theme so far. It's taking me a while to get my head around the idea of piety. It's a term we rarely use anymore, which is a shame. Calvin gives us a definition of piety:
that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces. For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him - they will never yield him willing service. (Ch 2, pt 1, p41)
Today when the term pious is applied to someone, it is rarely a compliment. Rather, it tends towards an accusation of self-righteousness (as Cathy also pointed out). However, when you see true piety, you recognise it. G & I know two men who we have recently described as pious, using the full complimentary meaning of the term - they are men who truly seek to serve God & do so obediently, because of their great love for him. When you see true piety, it is a joy to behold.

Calvin claims that piety is required to know God, to know him as creator and sustainer of all things, let alone knowing him as saviour and redeemer. In doing so, we acknowledge that all good comes from God, and from nowhere else.

When we seek to know God, what we want to know is "what sort he is and what is consistent with his nature" (p41). What God do we know?
the pious mind does not dream up for itself any god it pleases, but contemplates the one and only true God (p42)
Our knowledge of God serves to teach fear and reverence, and then with it guiding us, we learn to seek every good.

He ends the chapter with a rather pointed comment:
all men have a vague general veneration of God, but very few really reverence him; and whenever there is great ostentation in ceremonies, sincerity of heart is rare indeed. (p43)
This comes back to piety doesn't it? A piety that is self-righteous will want to be showy, to proclaim the greatness of man while giving lip-service to God. True piety will never be ostentatious, as the desire is to give God, and God alone, the glory. Or as the reformers, such as Calvin, claimed: Soli Deo Gloria (for the glory of God alone).

It seems appropriate to pray for piety, both for myself and for the Christian community - so that we can know God better and glorify him alone.

1 comment:

Meredith said...

When I did church history, one of my favourite bits was learning about the pietists. The way they conducted their lives just seemed to resonate with me. It may be worth another look at them because yes, I agree, piety is a term that is rarely used or else, misused. Thank you for this post. It has been interesting to see what strikes a chord with others.