Reading Report: Calvin's Institutes, Chapter 2B (56-81)

January 25, 2020

Chapter two has continued, for me, with the same sentiment that I expressed last time. It is good, but not as good as chapter one. I don't mind how much he interacts with the philosophers, but I am bothered slightly that Calvin gives us a lot of reasoning, and doesn't always interact richly with the Scriptures. There are times as I read this chapter where I am thinking, I hope this isn't all that Calvin will give us here, and I expect he will dig deeper into the Scriptures on this later. And, when Calvin says, "I think...this can be better demonstrated by appealing to the witness of Scripture rather than to mere argument", I am thinking, Yes, by all means (57)!

I like Brian's synopsis he has been giving us at the beginning of his reading report (For my blog readers, all one or two of you, I am a part of a reading group). It is super helpful, and I am going to continue to just bullet out my thoughts with anticipation for Brian's synopsis.

  • Did anybody catch the translation of "natural man" (1 Cor. 2:14) that is used in this English translation of the Institutes (58)? The word "sensual" is used instead of "natural." I did a quick text comparison in Logos Bible Software:
    • ESV - "natural"
    • KJV - "natural"
    • NIV - "without the Spirit"
    • NASB95 - "natural"
    • NLT - "aren't spiritual"
    • The Message - "unspiritual self"
    • CSB - "without the Spirit"
    • none use the word "sensual"
  • I appreciated Calvin's definition of natural law (60). I would think I have read a definition before, but it is faint enough in my mind that this stood out to me.
  • "Men...are so inclined to self-flattery that they always want, as far as possible, to dissuade the mind from recognizing their sin." (60). So true, and we need this reminder regularly.
  • "This...is what ignorance is all about: it is when man having arrived at a sound general judgment, muddles his personal interest with the principle, thus forgetting the rule which he earlier followed when he was not thinking of himself." (60). A pastor friend of mine says it this way, "Never underestimate your capacity for low self-awareness." Romans 2:1 says it this way, "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things." I hate this about our fallen humanity. We all live out our sinfulness in this manner.
  • "Sometimes vile wickedness so sears the sinner's conscience that he falls not because he has a false notion of goodness, but because he surrenders to evil knowingly and willingly." (60). I know there are Scripture passages Calvin could bring to bear here, but he doesn't use any. And, although Calvin answers this question later, because he does not use Scripture here, the question could be posed, could not the inverse of Calvin's statement be true? In other words, because an extra measure of common grace virtue, could not the sinner's conscience become more sensitive and therefore engage virtue more willingly? I am not saying I believe this, but Calvin, I believe, needs his statement more anchored in Scripture. But again, who am I? But since we discuss these things from our reading, I am laying this out. Anybody want to take it up?
  • Calvin uses the word "twist" with how Origen and other Fathers deal with truth (64). I found that very strong.
  • "Thus merely to will is of man, to will evil is of a corrupt nature, and to will good is of grace." (70). Powerful summary statement.
  • The discussion of necessity and constraint was interesting (70). I think I need to read more on that sometime.
  • "We will appreciate the extent of our utter poverty if we reflect on the work [God] does in us." (71). This might be my favorite quote so far in this chapter.
  • This next quote, is a close second to the one immediately above: "...there is nothing which we are more reluctant to do than to cease from all our works and to make room for his." (74).
  • "We should therefore reject the opinion often voiced by Chrysostom that 'God draws only those who are willing to be drawn'." (75). I had never heard this concept sourced to Chrysostom.
  • "There is no doubt that perseverance should be seen as a free gift of God." (76). I have not thought of perseverance in these terms. I think I agree. Any thoughts?
  • Calvin's discussion about man's effort in sanctification on page 77 is something I want to read more on. Philippians 2:12-13 gives the balance of this, but I believe that Calvin loves more of verse 13 than verse 12.
  • "God has thus come to the aid of man's frail will directing it so that it cannot be bent this way or that, and overruling it so that it cannot turn aside." (78). Do you guys think there is a better word here than "overruling"?
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