Monday, April 26, 2010

Calvin - Chapter 5

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

This chapter is a bit longer and a bit heavier - took me a few goes to get my head around it, and I'm not yet convinced I have yet but here goes!

Not only has God clearly planted the seed of religion in all men (which we saw in Chapter 3), he has also "revealed himself and daily discloses himself in the whole workmanship of the universe" (p52):
wherever you cast your eyes, there is no spot in the universe, wherein you cannot discern at least some sparks of his glory. You cannot in one glance survey this most vast and beautiful system of the universe, in its wide expanse, without being completely overwhelmed by the boundless force of its brightness ... the skillful ordering of the universe is for us a sort of mirror in which we can contemplate God, who is otherwise invisible (ch 5, pt 1, p52-3)

Then, if we are willing to look - we can see than mankind itself is proof of God's amazing creativity. Sadly however, such a fact does not make us turn to God:
They [men] have within themselves a workshop graced with God's unnumbered work and, at the same time, a storehouse overflowing within inestimable riches. They ought, then, to break forth into praises of him but are actually puffed up and swollen with all the more pride. (Ch 5, pt 4, p55)
I do always find it astonishing when people encounter the miracles of the human body and it's work and order that they conclude that it all 'just happened'. It seems to me much easier to believe in a creator who fashioned it to be that way:
For nothing is more preposterous than to enjoy the very remarkable gifts that attest the divine nature within us, yet to overlook the Author who gives them to us at our asking. (Ch 5, pt 6, p58-9)

Calvin goes on say that our knowledge of God should change us:
we are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart. ch 5, pt 9, (p61-2)
and it should arouse us to worship God, and to encourage us to the hope of the future life.

Sadly, mankind fail to know and worship God and therefore fall into superstition and confusion. He has a not-so-subtle dig at philosophers at this point, who "act like utter fools". I knew there was a reason I hated philosophy at college! Idolatry abounds when we fail to know God:
For as rashness and superficiality are joined to ignorance and darkness, scarcely a single person has ever been found who did not fashion for himself an idol or spectre in place of God. (ch 5, pt 12, p65)

At this point Calvin acknowledges that the manifestation of God in nature is in vain - I was waiting for this!
It is therefore in vain that so many burning lamps shine for us in the workmanship of the universe to show forth the glory of its Author. Although they bathe us wholly in their radiance, yet they can of themselves in no way lead us into the right path (ch 5, pt 14, p68)
However, we are without excuse, for the fault is ours for not being able to see God in his creation:
For at the same time as we have enjoyed a slight taste of the divine from contemplation of the universe, having neglected the true God, we raise up in his stead dreams and specters of our own brains, and attribute to anything else than the true source the praise of righteousness, wisdom, goodness and power. (ch 5, pt 15, p69)

Next chapter (6) sounds like we will be getting more to the point - scripture is needed for anyone who wants to know God. Looking forward to it!

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