Saturday, February 11, 2006

Calvin's Institutes 2.2.12-17

I. Man did not lose all his natural capacity in the fall.
A. When Adam sinned, he and his descendants lost the supernatural gifts from God: “faith, love of God, charity toward neighbor, zeal for holiness and for righteousness” (pg. 270). These qualities have been restored by Jesus Christ and can only be obtained through regeneration.
B. Adam also lost the “soundness of mind” and “uprightness of heart.” This is a “corruption of the natural gifts. For even though something of understanding and judgment remains as a residue along with the will, yet we shall not call a mind whole and sound that is both weak and plunged into deep darkness” (pg. 270).
C. Reason has not been completely lost since it is how man determines right from wrong. But it has been “weakened and partly corrupted,” we see this in John 1:5. Man is still a rational being, not a “brute” beast, yet the light of understanding is “choked with dense ignorance, so that it cannot come forth effectively” (pg. 270).
D. The will was not completely destroyed but now it is so “bound to wicked desires that it cannot strive after the right” (pg. 271).
E. The thought that human understanding has been completely corrupted is contrary to the Scriptures and experience. “For we see implanted in human nature some sort of desire to search out the truth to which man would not at all aspire if he had not already savored it” (pg. 271). But man's mind is unable to understand the truth and falls into error. The knowledge that man should pursue, he does not desire to do so and quickly loses his way (Eccles. 1:2, 14; 2:11).

II. Man understands earthy things.
A. Calvin distinguishes between two types of understanding: an understanding of “earthly things” and an understanding of “heavenly things.”
i. “Earthly things” are things that “do not pertain to God or his Kingdom, to true justice, or to the blessedness of the future life; but which have their significance and relationship with regard to the present life and are, in a sense, confined within its bounds” (pg. 272). These include “government, household management, all mechanical skills, and liberal arts” (pg. 272).
ii. “Heavenly things” are those things like “the pure knowledge of God, the nature of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom” (pg. 272). This includes “the knowledge of God and of his will, and the rule by which we conform our lives to it” (pg. 272).
B. There has been implanted in man a “seed of political order” even though there are some who rebel against.

III. All men have some aptitude for some type of art and since it is “bestowed indiscriminately upon pious and impious, it is rightly counted among natural gifts” (pg. 273).

IV. Science is a gift from God. We should not despise or deny the truths of the “ancient jurists,” philosophers and those who worked in the sciences since they labored for the benefit of man. To do so would be denying the work of the Holy Spirit. “Let us be ashamed of such ingratitude, into which not even the pagan poets fell, for they confessed that the gods had invented philosophy, laws, and all useful arts” (pg. 274).

V. The Spirit of God gifts man with art and science.
A. Bezalel and Oholiab were empowered by the Holy Spirit to build the temple (Ex. 31:2-11; 35:30-35).
B. Even though the Holy Spirit only dwells in the believer (Rom. 8:9), nevertheless God “fills, moves and quickens all things by the power of the same Spirit, and does so according to the character that he bestowed upon each kind by the law of creation” (pg. 275). And if God desires for us to be helped in science and mathematics by the ungodly then we should accept the help and should suffer punishment for refusing to do so. But those who hold these gifts are not given something eternal, their gifts are transitory and are corrupt because natural man is corrupt.


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