Sparrows

Instead of taking a needed nap this afternoon, I decided to get ahead in next week’s reading of Institutes of the Christian Religion.

Today’s (it’s actually tomorrow’s) selection was from Book 1, Chapter 17, Sections 3-7. Chapter 17 is titled, “Use to Be Made of the Doctrine of Providence.”

This excerpt is from Section 6 (emphasis mine),

The chief aim of the historical books of Scripture is to show that the ways of His saints are so carefully guarded by the Lord, as to prevent them even from dashing their foot against a stone.

Therefore, as we a little ago justly exploded the opinion of those who feign a universal providence, which does not condescend to take special care of every creature, so it is of the highest moment that we should specially recognize this care toward ourselves.

Hence, our Savior, after declaring that even a sparrow falls not to the ground without the will of His Father, immediately makes the application, that being more valuable than many sparrows, we ought to consider that God proves more carefully for us.

As I read this, my wife drew my attention to something right outside our kitchen window. I saw it, grabbed our camera and took a couple of pictures, here’s one of them:

sparrows

Coincidence? Ha!

Calvin, of course, is alluding to Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:29-31.

Convinced

I’ve read the Bible solely as an important work of literature. I’ve also read it with the intent of using it as a weapon against the faith of someone who was utterly convinced of its unique divine inspiration.

In fact, it was during this time that I myself became utterly convinced that the Scriptures were of divine origin.

Yes, I know that the Bible “did not arrive by fax from heaven”.

As a matter of fact, Dan Brown might have benefited from reading John Calvin before erecting such an absurd straw man through one of his characters.

How did I become convinced that the Scripture is from God? Well it’s hard to put into words but I think Monsieur Calvin adequately describes my experience here:

Scripture, carrying its own evidence along with it, deigns not to submit to proofs and arguments, but owes the full conviction with which we ought to receive it to the testimony of the Spirit.

Enlightened by him, we no longer believe, either on our own judgment or that of others, that the Scriptures are from God; but, in a way superior to human Judgment, feel perfectly assured—as much so as if we beheld the divine image visibly impressed on it—that it came to us, by the instrumentality of men, from the very mouth of God.

We ask not for proofs or probabilities on which to rest our judgment, but we subject our intellect and judgment to it as too transcendent for us to estimate.

This, however, we do, not in the manner in which some are wont to fasten on an unknown object, which, as soon as known, displeases, but because we have a thorough conviction that, in holding it, we hold unassailable truth; not like miserable men, whose minds are enslaved by superstition, but because we feel a divine energy living and breathing in it—an energy by which we are drawn and animated to obey it, willingly indeed, and knowingly, but more vividly and effectually than could be done by human will or knowledge.

Such, then, is a conviction which asks not for reasons; such, a knowledge which accords with the highest reason, namely knowledge in which the mind rests more firmly and securely than in any reasons; such in fine, the conviction which revelation from heaven alone can produce.

I say nothing more than every believer experiences in himself, though my words fall far short of the reality.

Taken from Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 1, ch.7, s.5

Wayne, Garth and John Calvin

My attitude towards  Top 10 lists may be summed up with one word, to quote Brick Top, “Ehh.”

However that didn’t stop me from recruiting Wayne and Garth to present my Top 10 dishes (below) or previously posting the Top 10 quotes of 2007.

waynes-top10-list
A list only a cardiologist and Pfizer Pharmaceuticals could love.

In my previous post I intimated that 2009, for me, would be the year of Calvin, this in reference to my stated goal of getting through his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

I’m roughly following the reading plan found here.

The same folks (Reformation21) also published a post titled, Why read through Calvin’s Institutes in 2009? , in which Pastor Ligon Duncan gives his Top 10 answers to that very question.

My ehhness toward Top 10 lists doesn’t prevent me from listing Pastor Duncan’s Top 10, they are as follows:

  1. Because it is the most important book written in the last 500 years.
  2. Because it is foundational for every Reformed systematic theology ever since.
  3. Because Calvin was the best exegete in the history of Christianity.
  4. Because Calvin is one of the five greatest theologians in Christian history.
  5. Because he wrote it as a “sum of piety” not as an arid, speculative dogmatic treatise.
  6. Because it gave J.I. Packer the idea for “Knowing God.”
  7. Because Calvin thought and wrote succintly and clearly. “Brevitas et claritas” was his motto – brief and clear!
  8. Because you will know God better, if you read it prayerfully and believingly.
  9. Because it’s the 500th anniversary year of Calvin’s birthday. Don’t be a party pooper.
  10. Because I agree with what Derek and Iain say in their posts.

Calvin in ’09

Gift cards. To some they are the very antithesis of the gift giving spirit associated with Christmas. Whether or not they are one more sign that the apocalypse is upon us I can’t say, but having received an American Express variant for Christmas, I did make use of it shortly thereafter.

What did I purchase? The Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin (Published by Hendrickson).

The work was originally written in Latin, and since my 2 years of high school Latin mostly taught me that there was a shortage of Latin teachers and not much beyond that, I must read a translation of Calvin’s magnum opus.

I’ve read books on Reformed theology who cite Calvin but have never read anything written by the man himself. It seemed best to go straight to the source, especially one associated with so much controversy (is that the right word?)

I started reading and found it not too difficult to follow, it is an immense help that the edition I purchased has footnotes as well as several indices (Scripture, people, works) in the back. Didn’t get out of Book 1 before I found out that the good folks over at Reformation 21 are blogging through Calvin’s work in 2009:

Blogging the Institutes

So without further ado, we present the unofficial poster of “Blogging the Institutes”,

john-calvin

John Calvin on Injustices committed against the Christian

This is from Calvin’s masterpiece, Institutes of Christian Religion (1:17:8),

When unjustly assailed by men, overlooking their malice (which could only aggravate our grief, and whet our minds for vengeance), let us remember to ascend to God, and learn to hold it for certain, that whatever an enemy wickedly committed against us was permitted, and sent by His righteous dispensation.

I gather that this might not be well received in some circles…

Books to Read

The “inspiration” for this post came from a comment made by j razz over at his blog (Blogged Down World).

It can be truly said that the wife and I are bibliophiles. We’ve gotten to the point where we buy more books than we have time to read and as a result the queue is getting increasingly long.

For what it’s worth, here’s the list of books that are sitting on my shelf (or numerous other places throughout our home) and which I know that God willing I will finish at some point in the future:

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