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 two: The Knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ, First Disclosed to the Fathers Under the Law, and Then to Us in the Gospel. It's roughly three hundred pages of theology! It covers a handful of topics:
- Adam, Eve, the fall, original sin, sin, concept of total deprivation
- free will?! what is "free" and what is "enslaved" about our nature and/or will, election, new birth, etc.
- the law, the ten commandments, old covenant, new covenant
- Jesus, the incarnation, his life, his death, his resurrection, the Apostles Creed, the atonement, Christ as prophet, priest, and king.
- the need for people to understand the bad news before hearing the good news, or, appreciating the wrath of God so you can "get" the mercy of God
All chapters within book two are not of equal worth and importance to modern readers. For example, some chapters focus exclusively on refuting or debating specific arguments by specific theologians. The chapters where Calvin clearly presents his theology and more often than not backs it up with Scripture--many, many Scriptures, are excellent. The chapters where Calvin is discussing the ideas--often flawed ideas--of dozens of other theologians--some his contemporaries, some from the past--are of less interest perhaps. It is almost always enjoyable, however, to have Calvin quoting Augustine. For example, "For what do you have of your own but sin?" and "Why do we presume so much on ability of human nature? It is wounded, battered, troubled, lost. What we need is true confession, not false defense." (269) "To will is of nature, but to will aright is of grace" (335) and "Unless God helps, we shall be able neither to conquer nor even to fight" (335).
Here, then, is what God's truth requires us to seek in examining ourselves: it requires the kind of knowledge that will strip us of all confidence in our own ability, deprive us of all occasion for boasting, and lead us to submission. (242)
Once we hold God's Word in contempt, we shake off all reverence for him. For, unless we listen attentively to him, his majesty will not dwell among us, nor his worship remain perfect. (245)
Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God's wrath, then also brings forth in us those works which Scripture calls "works of the flesh." (251)
Only those men, therefore, who have heard and have been taught by the Father come to him. What kind of learning and hearing is this? Surely, where the Spirit by a wonderful and singular power forms our ears to hear and our minds to understand. (279)
If anyone wants a clearer answer, here it is: God works in his elect in two ways: within, through his Spirit; without, through his Word. (322)
The will of man is said to be restored when, with its corruption and depravity corrected, it is directed to the true rule of righteousness. (335)
The Word of God does not leave a "half life" to man, but it teaches that he has utterly died as far as the blessed life is concerned. Paul does not call the saints "half alive" when he speaks of our redemption, "Even when we were dead,… he made us alive" [Ephesians 2:5]. He does not call upon the half alive to receive the illumination of Christ, but those who are asleep and buried. [Ephesians 5:14]. (339)
The law is like a mirror. In it we contemplate our weakness, then the iniquity arising from this, and finally the curse coming from both--just as a mirror shows us the spots on our face. (355)
Here, therefore, let us stand fast: our life shall best conform to God's will and the prescription of the law when it is in every respect most fruitful for our brethren. (417)
This is our acquittal: the guilt that held us liable for punishment has been transferred to the head of the Son of God. [Isaiah 53:12] We must, above all, remember this substitution, lest we tremble and remain anxious throughout life--as if God's righteous vengeance, which the Son of God has taken upon himself, still hung over us. (510)
Therefore, we divide the substance of our salvation between Christ's death and resurrection as follows: through his death, sin was wiped out and death extinguished; through his resurrection, righteousness was restored and life raised up, so that--thanks to his resurrection--his death manifested its power and efficacy in us. (521)
© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible