Sunday, August 31, 2008

Calvin Confessions

No, no - I don't have the authors mixed up. I realize that Augustine wrote Confessions, not Calvin (but what's 1200 years between friends?). The confessions in my title are mine.

Confession #1 - I haven't told many people that I'm reading the Institutes this summer (I bought the LF Battles translation a few weeks ago). The reason for this is that I think it might seem pretentious to some people.

Confession #2 - I haven't told many people that I'm reading Calvin this summer because my theological friends might be surprized (and I might be embarassed) that it's taken me so long to get to them. I've read bits and pieces, but never the whole thing.

So, it's a lose-lose proposition: "You're reading that? What for?" or "You're only reading the Institutes now? What's up with you?"

Maybe I should worry less about what people are thinking (though my tongue is in my cheek as I write this) and press on with my reading.

I will share a few favorite Calvin quips so far (though they are much better with context):

Regarding the naturalists who deny that the creation declares the wisdom of God:
Do all the treasures of heavenly wisdom concur in ruling a five-foot worm while the whole universe lacks this privilege? P. 56

Regarding the necessity of special revelation, i.e. the Scriptures:
Just as old or bleary-eyed men and those with weak vision, if you thrust before them a most beautiful volume, even if they recognize it as some sort of writing, yet can scarcely construe two words, but with the aid of spectacles will begin to read distinctly; so Scripture, gathering up the otherwise confused knowledge of God in our minds, having dispersed our dullness, clearly shows us the true God. P. 70

On the Trinity, quoting Gregory of Nazianzus:
I cannot think on the one without quickly being encircled by the splendor of the three; nor can I discern the three without being straightway carried back to the one. p. 141

An old classic (borrowed from Augustine):
When a certain shameless fellow mockingly asked a pious old man what God had done before the creation of the world, the latter aptly countered that he had been building hell for the curious.

Desiring God:
But, without controversy, just as man was made for meditation upon the heavenly life, so it is certain that the knowledge of it was engraved upon his soul. An if human happiness, whose perfection it is to be united with God, were hidden from man, he would in fact be bereft of the principle use of his understanding. Thus, also, the chief activity of the soul is to aspire thither. Hence the more anyone endeavors to approach God, the more he proves himself endowed with reason. – p. 193

Regarding God’s providence behind the scenes:
God’s providence does not always meet us in its naked form, but God in a sense clothes it with the means employed. – p. 216

I'm enjoying the Institutes, though I am working thorough it slowly.

P.S. For my few faithful readers, I'm sorry for the paucity of posts. The draft for this one was originally dated August 7th. I will try to be more regular this fall.