What are the so-called doctrines of grace? And what bearing do they have on our lives? Jeff Medders joins me to talk about Calvinism and the practical ways it ought to manifest in those who believe it.
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.
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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).
Jimmy Needham, in his song, “Grace Amazing” (from his album, Nightlights) truly does present grace as it ought to be presented, amazing. And how does he do this? The same way any good Soteriology (doctrine of salvation) does–by starting with a good Hamartiology (doctrine of sin), namely, our total inability or total depravity. As Needham says, “That’s how it is with us all. We weren’t just damaged we fell dead at the fall.” And in doing so he recognizes that salvation is dependent on God’s sovereign grace. “Unless You breathe life into me I won’t ever feel my dead heart beating. But you open these blind eyes to see.” And the fact that God has made believers alive, who once were dead and could not give life to themselves, is what makes grace amazing. The Blind don’t give themselves sight; God does. In short, grace is amazing because the recipients of grace had no part in it. “That’s what makes Your grace amazing.”