The following is a summary of and reflection upon an abridged version of Calvin’s Institutes produced by Tony Lane and Hilary Osborne (see it here on Amazon). I should note that I did not read the final book, Book IV: Outward Means by which God Helps Us, in its entirety; and therefore, it was directly not taken into consideration in the writing of this review.
* * * * *
Calvin’s understanding of how men know God, know themselves, and the relationship between these two types of knowledge is seemingly foundational to the entirety of his theology (1:1:1). For Calvin, knowledge of self is intrinsically linked to knowledge of God while knowledge of God results in proper assessment of self (1:1:1). Genuine knowledge of self necessarily assumes knowledge of God. One cannot fully grasp the existence of the creature apart from his fundamental relationship to his Creator and Sustainer (1:1:1). Comprehension of man’s falleness assumes an ideal, one that is rooted in God’s creative-design; transgression implies the reality of Judge (1:1:1). On the other hand, without knowledge of God, no one ever truly knows himself (1:1:2). Lacking insight into the purpose for which He was created, ignorance of his original nature and its divine intent flourish. Unaware of God’s standard of righteousness, man consequently assesses his moral condition inaccurately (2:1:1).
The following comes from a paper presented for Dr. Scott Manetsch at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for the course Classic Texts in the History of Christianity CH 8100.
* * * * *
In The Bondage of the Will Martin Luther sets out to investigate what ability human freedom possesses and how it relates to God’s grace (II.iii.). For Luther, this theological dispute over human freedom is of utmost importance. He claims it is the fundamental disagreement between himself and the Catholic tradition (II.iii.; VIII.). Because this topic strikes at the heart of soteriology, truths of “eternal consequence” are at stake (II.vi.). To know nothing of these matters is to know nothing of Christianity (II.iii.); the entirety of the Christian faith and the gospel would be ruined by such ignorance (II.v.).
Responding to Desiderius Erasmus’ Discourse on Free Will, Luther asserts that man has no “free-will.” Contrary to Erasmus (IV.i.), men are not autonomous in regards to meriting or even willing salvation (II.x.), but are enslaved, “ever turned in the direction of their own desires, so that they cannot but seek their own” (V.iv.). God’s will is carried out necessarily; no room is left for man’s so called “free-will” (V.vii.).
Recent events have caused us to rethink our society. It has been said that “we [our nation] will have to change.” Many solutions have been proposed.
Before the Genesis-flood, God described humanity as such: “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Gen 6:5). “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways” (11, 12). One might find some parallels between this description and they way many individuals currently feel about our society.
Talking about the film “Courageous,” Andy Naselli stated, “some may embrace moralism and feel good about themselves as they try to earn God’s favor by being good dads. This is not the fault of the film but more a comment about how in our depravity we can be very, very bad by being very, very “good.” We can make an idol out of just about anything—even family.” This is a perspective of depravity we don’t often think of, but it is very true.