Tuesday, June 21, 2005

John Calvin’s view of God

John Calvin was the great exegete of the Reformation. Calvin wrote commentaries for almost every book in the entire Bible. Missing from the list are 1 and 3 John, and Revelations. Of these books, Revelations in particular, Calvin did not write on because he said he did not understand them (a route that many should take today). Of all Calvin’s works The Institutes of Christian Religion was his greatest work. In these books Calvin outlines what we would consider orthodox Christianity. In his summation of orthodox Christianity Calvin begins with how we should view God. Our view of God will determine what we believe in every other area of doctrine.

First, to Calvin, God is necessary in our World. Not only is God the creator of the universe, but in Jesus Christ he is also the sustainer. When we look out the window and see a 30 foot oak we have to ask ourselves how it got there. And the only way to really answer that question is God. This is what Calvin deemed natural revelation. The heavens and the earth are declaring the glory of God! Are we listening? But beyond natural revelation we have special revelation. Special revelation is Scripture. We have in one book God’s word about himself. And this word is just as powerful as God’s word when He spoke creation into existence.

The second thing that Calvin highlights is that all men have an innate knowledge of God. It is what theologians have termed the imageo Dei, or the image of God. We can go back to Genesis and see that all men are made in the image of God. All men posses universal qualities because they are created in the image of God. All have a sense of right and wrong, no matter how jaded it may be. All have senses and feelings. All have the ability to think. What other way can we explain this, than all men have been created in the image of God. As witnesses to this we have Scripture, we have nature, and we have our own experience. Scripture tells us plainly that men are distinct from all the rest of creation because they have been created in the image of God. It is clear the men have a place of dominion within nature. And in our own experiences we can see that there are universal morals and feelings that must come from some where.

The third thing that Calvin highlights is the result of knowing who God is. To paraphrase Mr. Calvin one cannot even know who he is without first knowing who God is. When we see the utter majesty and perfection of God it leads to a proper understanding of man. We realize our need for a savior, and the wonder of God’s grace. When we know who God is we realize that we have no right to mistreat the guys next to us. This is why Calvin begins The Institutes of Christian Religion with how we should view God.


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