Tuesday, January 13, 2009

0 The Institutes: God Rejected

Calvin continues in sections 4 and 5 of Book I, Chapter 5, to describe the suppression of the knowledge of God by men. When men discover the gifts they have, and the abilities they have been given to explore, think and study, as Calvin writes, they become prideful - and reject the very giver of those gifts as irrelevant to them. Calvin is clearly writing before mechanistic evolutionary thought gained the ascendancy, for he writes:
They will not say it is by chance that they are distinct from brute creatures. Yet they set God aside, the while using "nature," which for them is the artificer of all things, as a cloak. They see such exquisite workmanship in their individual members, from mouth and eyes even to their very toenails. Here also they substitute nature for God. (p. 55-56, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
Not only today is "nature" used for "God" - but indeed the argument is that "chance" is what distinguishes men from brute creatures. No design, no purpose, no plan, but mere chance. It is no wonder that animals gain preference over human beings when push comes to shove - we are no different than dogs or worms, say today's academics, and therefore dog rights, and pig rights line right up with human rights when conflict comes about. We must be good stewards, yes - but animals do not bear the image of God.

In section 5, too, Calvin presages popular opinion of our day. He continues,
But now I have no concern with that pigsty; rather, I take to task those given to fanciful subtleties who willingly drag forth in oblique fashion that frigid statement of Aristotle both to destroy the immortality of the soul and to deprive God of his right. For, since the soul has organic faculties, they by this pretext bind the soul to the body so that it may not subsist without it, and by praising nature they suppress God's name as far as they can. Yet the powers of the soul are far from being confined to functions that serve the body. Of what concern is it to the body that you measure the heavens, gather the number of the stars, determine the magnitude of each, know what space lies between them, with what swiftness or slowness they complete their courses, how many degrees this way or that they decline? (p. 56-57, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
The soul is under question... thoughts and dreams are electrical impulses and chance reactions to various stimuli. The soul itself is denied any existence at all - and therefore, here today, gone tomorrow, is the motto. Given, in the popular view, that we are chance results of directionless evolutionary processes, we are, of course, "the tops", "the crowning glory"... there could be nothing higher, since we are the most capable animals, they say. Having dispensed with God by a presuppositional declaration, they then go on to attribute to mankind the abilities of God - judgment of right and wrong based on an arbitrary human standard, and the like. We become gods, as it were, of our own making. We become our own idols. Alas, for man! What has been wrought by that first sin!



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