Friday, March 12, 2010

Calvin - Chapter 3

Chapter 3: The Knowledge of God Has Been Naturally Implanted in the Minds of Men.

It is worth remembering that in Book 1 (where we will be all year), Calvin is speaking of knowledge of God as creator.* In Book 2, he moves on to knowledge of God the redeemer in Christ. So, as we read his words about knowledge of God, he is not yet talking about saving knowledge through Christ. When he speak of all men knowing God and who he is, he is referring to the knowledge of God that is evidenced through creation and the conscience of man.

In this chapter, he talks of how the knowledge of God is in the minds of men:
There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity... God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty. (Ch 3, pt 1, p43)
All peoples and civilisations have an idea of the divine, and even idolatry is proof of it - mankind are willing to worship objects of wood and stone to fulfill this knowledge.

Therefore, religion is not an invention:
it is utterly vain for some men to say that religion was invented by the subtlety and craft of a few to hold the simple folk in thrall by this device... (p44)
Even those who claim to be atheists cannot always fully sustain their own position. Like the friend who claims not to believe in God, but is happy for you to pray for him. The person who doesn't want to know God, but still asks you why He would let someone she loved die.

So, Calvin claims, actual godlessness is impossible.
Indeed, the perversity of the impious, who though they struggle furiously are unable to extricate themselves from the fear of God, is abundant testimony that this conviction, namely, that there is some God, is naturally inborn in all, and is fixed deep within, as it were in the very marrow. (p46)
Do we believe this? Do you assume a knowledge of God when you speak to un-believers? If we agree with Calvin, we can. For all the current ideas of post-modernism and the death of religion (which, as we see, is not so new if Calvin was writing about it!), generally people do have a sense of the divine. Someone (hopefully) is in control of the world. Someone made the ordered beauty we see in creation. People do search for meaning in life.

Perhaps we should let God as creator speak more clearly to his creation. Show people that innate longing for God felt by all mankind. Point out the knowledge of God that already resides in them.

And then, show them to the Christ who has saved them.

* Book 1 is in fact titled Knowledge of God the Creator

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