Saturday, January 31, 2009

Calvin on Scripture

Once again, I return to Calvin, whose thoughts on Scripture resonate deeply with me. Having been in a number of different kinds of churches that embraced a spectrum of teaching which varied largely due to their views on Scripture, from strict literal interpretations to pick-and-choose, I have come to love the Word of God as set down in the Bible as it reveals to us all that God has deemed needful for us to know about Himself and what he has done for us- because of who He is- in His Son, Jesus Christ.

After discoursing on how nature reveals to everyone that there is indeed a Creator, yet is not sufficient to tell us all that we must know about Him, Calvin moves to the topic of Scripture, and how vital it is for our knowledge of the one true God. We see in the Bible that God made Himself known to Adam, Noah, Abraham and the rest of the patriarchs by various means of communication;

"But whether God became known to the patriarchs through oracles and visions or by the work and ministry of men, he put into their minds what they should then hand down to their posterity... there is no doubt that firm certainty of doctrine was engraved in their hearts, so that they were convinced and understood that what they had learned proceeded from God. For by his Word, God rendered faith unambiguous forever, a faith that should be superior to all opinion." (italics mine)

Superior to all opinion. What a blessed relief, what security! That God's Word speaks for itself and can be clearly understood as it was meant to be. We had been tossed about by the opinions of men regarding the Word of God to such a degree as to render us paralyzed with fear and uncertainty. There are still moments when, reading certain passages in Scripture, I must pause and sweep away the opinions that would weigh my heart down and ensnare my mind with grave errors. As we have found to be so very true, Calvin boldly states;

"For errors can never be uprooted from human hearts until true knowledge of God is planted therein."


In establishing the credibility of Scripture- which we still must do with the world around us- Calvin discusses the simplicity of the language used to communicate the divine message;

"For it was also not without God's extraordinary providence that the sublime mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven came to be expressed largely in mean and lowly words, lest, if they had been adorned with more shining eloquence, the impious would scoffingly have claimed that its power is in the realm of eloquence alone. Now since such uncultivated and almost rude simplicity inspires greater reverence for itself than any eloquence, what ought one to conclude except that the force of the truth of Sacred Scripture is manifestly too powerful to need the art of words? Therefore the apostle rightly contends that the faith of the Corinthians was founded 'upon God's power, not upon human wisdom' (1 Cor 2:5)"... For truth is cleared of all doubt when, not sustained by external props, it serves as its own support."

How I relate to "uncultivated and rude simplicity" when it comes to communicating the gospel! Praise God that it depends not upon my own eloquence, but upon his Spirit, as Calvin affirms here;

"There are other reasons, neither few nor weak, for which the dignity and majesty of Scripture are not only affirmed in godly hearts, but brilliantly vindicated against the wiles of its disparagers; yet of themselves these are not strong enough to provide a firm faith, until our Heavenly Father, revealing his majesty there, lifts reverence for Scripture beyond the realm of controversy. Therefore Scripture will ultimately suffice for a saving knowledge of God only when its certainty is founded upon the inward persuasion of the Holy Spirit."

On the necessity of keeping Scriptural truth as the foundation upon we base our doctrine;

"... in promising it (his Spirit) of what sort did he declare his Spirit would be? One that would speak not from himself but but would suggest to and instill into their minds what he had handed on through the Word [John 16:13]. Therefore the Spirit, promised to us, has not the task of inventing new and unheard-of revelations, or of forging a new kind of doctrine, to lead us away from the received doctrine of the gospel, but of sealing our minds with that very doctrine which is commended by the gospel." (italics mine)

And the point of Scripture... may I always keep this in mind whether reading the lyrical beauty of the Psalms, or slogging doggedly through the book of Numbers;

"Indeed, the knowledge of God set forth for us in Scripture is destined for the very same goal as the knowledge whose imprint shines in his creatures, in that it invites us first to fear God, then to trust in him. By this we can learn to worship him both with perfect innocence of life and with unfeigned obedience, then to depend wholly upon his goodness."

There is so much more in the past week's reading that I would love to share here, but I will close with one last thought on the enjoyment of Scripture, and an example to dispel any ideas that reading Calvin is dry and dull;

"... those for whom prophetic doctrine is tasteless ought to be thought of as lacking tastebuds."

Well put.


Anonymous said...

Hello! :)

Garrett and Kristen Clemmer said...

Thanks for the post. I love 2 Peter 1:16-21 where he says that the prophetic word of scripture is as sure as the voice of God come down from heaven to Jesus, "this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased"