Tuesday, January 27, 2009

0 The Institutes: God Presented in the Word and in the World

Calvin makes a very important point in chapter 10 of Book I of the Institutes, which I'll comment on only briefly. God's revelation to us in Scripture, that perfect, sufficient presentation of His Holy attributes, is primary - all other information, including the work of His hands that we see in us and in the rest of creation, is secondary. The two - just as Spirit and Word are consonant and never contradict one another - speak the same things about God to the ear that hears and present the same information to the eyes that see.

When we are brought to a proper fear of the Lord, we can see, then, that our experience of God's self-revelation in the world is entirely consistent with the presentation of Himself in His Word.. nowhere finding a whit if contradiction, but being parallel descriptions of who He is. Calvin writes,
"...and nothing is set down there [TKP - in Psalm 145, to which Calvin just referred] that cannot be beheld in his creatures. Indeed, with experience as our teacher we find God just as he declares himself in his Word. In Jeremiah, where God declares in what character he would have us know him, he puts forward a less full description but one plainly amounting to the same thing. "Let him who glories, glory in this," he says, "that he knows that I am the Lord who exercise mercy, judgment and justice in the Earth" [Jer. 9:24; 1 Cor. 1:31]. (p. 98, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
God's two books - of revelation in nature and revelation in Scripture, speak with one voice to God's power, authority, and glory, and to His attributes. When one only has the book of nature to look at - and hasn't been brought to his knees in adoration of God through the powerful two-edged sword of the Word, one inevitably misreads the world, and is liable to all manner of idolatrous error. When the Word is active and powerful and has brought a man to humble adoration and fear of the Lord, instead, nature provides powerful testimony to that which Scripture has told him. As we will see when Calvin further discusses the role of the Holy Spirit in believers' lives, it is the presence of God by His Spirit that opens the eyes to these truths. Without His presence with us, we are blind and deaf to all that God has said - and turn inward to ourselves, and fall prey to the fate presented in Romans 1. Thanks be to God for the indescribable gift of His Spirit to His people - that he opens the eyes of the blind, and unstops the ears of the deaf - and unleashes the tongues of the dumb, that they might praise Him for His works and for His very being.



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