Saturday, January 10, 2009

0 The Institutes: The Knowledge of God and its Suppression

Calvin's third chapter of the first book of the Institutes takes an interesting turn - toward the natural knowledge of God that all have, even in the face of the Fall. The Apostle Paul tells us quite clearly in Romans, chapter 1, that all men have an innate understanding that there is a God - whether it is admitted by them or not. Calvin firmly affirms this truth, and two natural corollaries - that religion is no arbitrary invention of men, and that actual godlessness is an imposibility.

All people have some form of religious belief: Calvin notes,
Yet there is, as the eminent pagan says, no nation so barbarous, no people so savage, that they have not a deep-seated conviction that there is a God. And they who in other aspects of life seem least to differ from brutes still continue to retain some seed of religion. So deeply does the common conception occupy the minds of all, so tenaciously does it inhere in the hearts of all! (p. 44, Institutes of the Christian Religion)
When one reaches an extreme level of entrenchment in man-centeredness and sin, one throws off the natural understanding that there is in fact a God entirely and claims atheism. It is easy for people like Richard Dawkins and other atheistic secularists to maintain the non-existence of God, while they have life and breath. One well-known scientist, who maintains a weekly email list of science news updates, wrote:


WN promised to contrast Jesus of Nazareth with Isaac Newton, who came along 16 centuries later. What was I thinking? A third of the all the people on Earth count themselves as followers of Jesus. Do I need 2.2 billion people mad at me? They believe Jesus, an itinerant Galilean preacher and healer, to be the divine Son of God. All that's known about him comes from the four gospels. The earliest copies are in Greek and, according to biblical scholar Bart Ehrman in "Misquoting Jesus" (Harper, 2005) they contain a multitude of mistakes and intentional alterations by earlier translators. In 585BC, long before Jesus, the Greek philosopher Thales of Mellitus concluded that every observable effect must have a physical cause. The discovery of causality is now taken to mark the birth of science, and Thales is immortalized as its father. But causality also means the death of superstition. What went on in the 1600 years between Jesus and Newton? It was the Middle Ages; religious superstition was the dominant belief. (What's New by Bob Park, January 9, 2009)
I finally unsubscribed from this guy's list this week, after years of insults tossed at believing scientists. He will have much to answer for when he faces God, finally; that is, unless he comes to his senses and realizes that he owes God all, and repents. I pray for this man to come to repentance and faith - but as for now, I can't any longer listen to his rotten bile and rancor. He has deeply suppressed that knowledge of God which he was born with - and this kind of evil ranting is what one obtains when that knowledge is so deeply suppressed and twisted.

I wonder, though, how many claimed atheists truly, if given the opportunity for reflection at the end of their lives, remain firm and steadfast in their rebellion. How many find that there are stirrings of angst and concern that they might be wrong in their arrogance? I'm not sure we'll know. Certainly those who steadfastly maintain their atheism aren't going to be willing to admit their fears when faced with grave illness or when sitting alone at night. I should simply be content to let sleeping dogs lie, and not peer into what I'll never have access to - their own private thoughts.



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