I think the best way to approach the Institutes of the Christian Religion is by journaling the experience, sharing as I go.
In today's post, I'll be covering book one: THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD THE CREATOR. (It's roughly two hundred pages of theology.)
The edition I'm reading is wonderfully organized. The table of contents describes and summarizes the contents of each chapter. For example, Chapter 6: "Scripture is Needed as Guide and Teacher for Anyone Who Would Come to God the Creator" and Chapter 16: "Discussion of Human Nature as Created, of the Faculties of the Soul, of the Image of God, of Free Will, and of The Original Integrity of Man's Nature." In addition, the text of each chapter is broken into sections and paragraphs--with subtitles. If I said it made the book accessible, I'm not sure you'd believe me. So I'll just say it makes the book more accessible than you might think.
My first impressions are positive. I am finding John Calvin quite readable!!! I didn't expect to, mind you. Calvin can be quite straightforward and thought-provoking. Some of his bold statements remind me of what I love about A.W. Tozer.
I am NOT going to discuss the contents of each and every chapter of book one. (The first book has eighteen chapters.) My goal is not to summarize. I think it would be tedious for me and tedious for you. My primary goal, of course, is to read the book myself, to work my way through it. I'll be sharing quotes as I go. The book has some great treasures within, and, I want to remember them. Of course, if that inspires YOU to seek out John Calvin's Institutes that would be great. But at the very least, I hope a few quotes of what I share will benefit you as is.
I will say that the first book is about God, about God's nature and attributes, about how God has revealed Himself in nature and in the Word, about the trinity. Plenty is also said about mankind--humanity--primarily in terms of being God's creation. As God's creatures what do we owe him, what should we think about God, about ourselves, etc. Topics like knowledge and wisdom and truth.
I call "piety" that reverence joined with love of God which the knowledge of his benefits induces. For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond him--they will never yield him willing service. Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him. (41)
What help is it, in sort, to know a God with whom we have nothing to do? Rather, our knowledge should serve first to teach us fear and reverence; secondly, with it as our guide and teacher, we should learn to seek every good from him, and, having received it, to credit it to his account. (41)
But they do not realize that true religion ought to be conformed to God's will as to a universal rule; that God ever remains like himself, and is not a specter or phantasm to be transformed according to anyone's whim. (49)
We know the most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of his essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate him in his works whereby he renders himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates himself. (62)
For as rashness and superficiality are joined to ignorance and darkness, scarcely a single person has ever been found who did not fashion for himself an idol or specter in place of God. (65)
For by his Word, God rendered faith unambiguous forever, a faith that should be superior to all opinion. (71)
And let us not take it into our heads either to seek out God anywhere else than in his Sacred Word, or to think anything about him that is not prompted by his Word, or to speak anything that is not taken from that Word. (146)
The theologian's task is not to divert the ears with chatter, but to strengthen consciences by teaching things true, sure, and profitable. (164)
For if we have God's glory at heart, as we should have, we ought with all our strengths to contend against him who is trying to extinguish it. If we are minded to affirm Christ's Kingdom as we ought, we must wage irreconcilable war with him who is plotting its ruin. Again, if we care about our salvation at all, we ought to have neither peace nor truce with him who continually lays traps to destroy it. (174)
At the outset, then, let my readers grasp that providence means not that by which God idly observes from heaven what takes place on earth, but that by which, as keeper of the keys, he governs all events. Thus it pertains no less to his hands than to his eyes. (202)
For our wisdom ought to be nothing else than to embrace with humble teachableness, and at least without finding fault, whatever is taught in Sacred Scripture. (237)© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible