Reading Report: Cavin's Institutes, Chapter 1 (1-28)

January 11, 2020

I almost always find something rich when I dip into Calvin's Commentaries during sermon preparation. However, I have never sat down and read him as a normal book would be read. I am enjoying it so far. Here are some assorted items:

  • "...no one ever attains clear knowledge of self unless he has first gazed upon the face of the Lord, and then turns back to look upon himself." (2). A lot of attempted human flourishing today finds is basis in the proposed solutions of the field of psychology. I believe in God's common grace there is much help here. Yet, Calvin's point rings true and demonstrates why psychology's solutions are limited (not to mention world view issues). I will say again, I have found enormous value with how the field of psychology describes human brokenness; however, Calvin's statement lays bare the essential weakness and limitation of it.
  • I love Calvin's analogy of looking at the ground at things around us verses looking at the sun (2).
  • I am grateful for Calvin's citation of sources. I would not have otherwise come across them. I ordered the book on Gaius Caligula off of Amazon (5). Has anybody else studied him? He would have been emperor during some of the earliest days of the church in Acts.
  • "The more outspoken a person is in his contempt of God, the more startled he will be by the sound of a leaf falling from a tree! Why is that? It is because God's majesty takes vengeance upon such people: the more they try to flee from it, the more he terrifies their conscience." (5). I find this a striking description. I do find myself wondering if this is always true though. Is there not a hardness of heart that goes deeper than this for some people?
  • The phrase "duty of gratitude" struck me as not quite right (5). I can reason it out as to why to say it, but I am sharing this in case there is some good discussion to be had.
  • "Because God desires that the chief end of the blessed life should be to know his name, he reveals himself clearly to everyone, so that he should not seem to want to deny some men entry into happiness." (9). I understand we are talking about general revelation here and that general revelation is not enough to save. I found it unique to include human happiness in the introduction to general revelation.
  • "...because [God] leaves many sins unpunished, we must expect a later judgment, sin's punishment being deferred." (12). Naturally I am familiar with 2 Thessalonians 1, but Calvin's statement here is a salient point that perhaps I have not given enough attention or thought to. One of my concerns as a pastor is offering explanations, like this, to people to help them apply the Scriptures to their life.
  • "...we must observe that the knowledge of God to which we are called does not consist in empty speculation, but is useful and fruitful once we truly understand it." (13). This, to me, is like the quote above - striking and obvious yet helpful with its wording to cultivate richer interaction of God's truth. How much knowledge in life is but empty speculation yet it gives us a sugar jolt that takes us lower than before. Whereas all of God's truth will never fail to give nutrients for the soul.
  • "We must not try, however, in our reckless curiously, to pry into the greatness of his essence..." (13). I am not sure about this. More reflection is required.
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