Reading Report: Calvin's Institutes, Chapter 2A (29-56)

January 19, 2020

This time as I read, I had a few more question marks (on whether I agreed with Calvin) and less statements that stuck me as especially rich. This is not to say that there wasn't a lot to appreciate, I just wanted to share I felt a little contrast so far in this chapter.

  • "[some philosophers]...while exhorting man to know himself, at the same time encouraged him to reflect on his worth and excellence, and taught him to consider only what might boost his self-confidence and puff him up with pride." (29). I have done a lot of studying of human brokenness and the ways that the biblical counseling movement and the the psychology movement handles this. The first thing that struck me with Calvin's statement here is that psychology without God can have the affect that he is talking about.
  • The next paragraph after this goes on to make some excellent statements basically saying that our best thoughts and the best self-realization come through thoughts of God. I do wonder here if Calvin is being too either or (binary). Truly we are nothing without God, and we don't have the capacity to think clearly about ourselves without God's thoughts; however, should we not learn, with the help of the Spirit, to have confidence in what God has given us and who we are in Christ. It seems to me we are missing part of our identity in Christ if we cannot realize / acknowledge / have confidence in who God has given us to be. I would expect that Calvin says this elsewhere. I am not sure I agree with myself here. I am more probing. I don't want to take away from Calvin's point that we all to easy accept empty vainglory concerning ourselves while at the same time not being realistic about our need. Maybe I am referring to Romans 12:1ff... especially Romans 12:3f where we need to be dedicated, renewed, realistic, and using our gifts consciously. This might be a good discussion point for someone to take up.
  • Calvin cites the Pelagians on original sin along with the view that protestants hold (33). I have been doing some reading on the Orthodox Church (the church of the east), and they have yet a different view here. Just curious if anyone else is familiar with it.
  • "Does the grace of Christ benefit us only when it is set before us as an example to follow?" (34). I thought that Calvin was especially poignant with this rhetorical question.
  • Calvin's point that sin is "never passive in us, but continually produces new fruits - the works of the flesh" is good, but he used analogies to present this instead of Scripture (36).
  • "Nor should we here protest that God would have done better to provide for our salvation by anticipating Adam's sin." (36). As I have pastored, I have learned that this objection, in one form or another, is one that is often on people's minds. Another form of it is, "why did God allow sin? I believe it is important enough, that I have asked it when I was on the last two ordination councils I have been on. Calvin doesn't attempt to answer it here and says he will handle it under predestination. I am curious what he will have to say. I personally don't feel the best heading to handle it under is predestination. But, hey! Calvin was way more gifted than I am. But, since we are in a reading group...
  • "It is of course true that sin's fatal wound is deeply planted in our nature. However, it is one thing to say that our nature bore this wound from the very beginning, and another to hold that it appeared later and from another source. Without question, it was wounded by sin which came upon it. We therefore have no cause for complaint except against ourselves." (37). I don't totally agree with this last statement. Maybe I need to be corrected. I have preached through Genesis a couple times now, and when we are in Genesis 3, I seek to also bring in Romans 5 dealing with Adam's Headship. My line of reasoning was that perhaps we feel like it isn't fair that because of Adam's sin, that we are all automatically sinners. Yet, this is precisely what the apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit is addressing in Romans 5. Perhaps I digress.
  • "Now how could God be angry with the noblest of his creatures, given that the least of the works which he has made are pleasing to him? The answer is that he is angry not with his own work but with its corruption." (37). Calvin doesn't give any Scripture supporting this statement. I am not sure about it. Anybody have any input?

I have several other things I could share, but I wonder if it would be like Calvin's letter to the King of France!

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