Thursday, February 18, 2010

God's Image

This is a good time to start chapter 15.  Not because we just finished chapter 14, but because this is the beginning of Lent and this chapter starts a discussion of the knowledge of ourselves and our depravity.  Remember the first thing Calvin said in the Institutes: "Without knowledge of self there is no knowledge of God."  The inverse is true, "without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self."  We have been studying God since then and now it is time to look at ourselves in order to get the most complete picture of God.

Calvin in this chapter tells us, "This knowledge of ourselves is twofold: namely, to know what we were like when we were first created and what our condition became after the fall of Adam."  Our study at this point will be more centered around the state of man before the fall.  Calvin does then go into a defense of God and his justice.  Calvin wants to make it clear that God is not responsible for the corruption of man.

The next section I admittedly did not totally understand Calvin.  He starts off talking about spirit and soul.  According to him, these words are synonymous except when used together.  But I never could figure out what the distinction was between the two when they are used together.  Any help clarifying Calvin's statement would be appreciated by me and I am sure many of the readers here.  The soul is endowed with essence and is immortal.  Calvin writes, "Now the very knowledge of God sufficiently proves that souls, which transcend the world, are immortal, for no transient energy could penetrate to the fountain of life."  He argues that there must be something in us beyond our bodies when he states, "With our intelligence we conceive the invisible God and the angels, something the body can by no means do.  We grasp things that are right, just, and honorable, which are hidden to the bodily senses.  Therefore the spirit must be the seat of this intelligence."  Calvin speaks about how even sleep and dreams are evidence of our souls.

We move on to a section about man being made in the image of God.  There are several small topics about semantics such as the difference between "image" and "likeness" and the false dichotomy that certain theologians have made between the two.  Primarily it is man's soul that is made in God's image, not his body, although "God's glory shines forth in the outer man."

God's image in man was not destroyed but deformed when Adam committed the first sin.  "Therefore, even though we grant that God's image was not totally annihilated and destroyed in him [Adam], yet it was so corrupted that whatever remains is frightful deformity.  Consequently, the beginning of our recovery of salvation is in that restoration which we obtain through Christ, who also is called the Second Adam for the reason that he restores us to true and complete integrity."  I am reminded of one of the first Bible verses Ernest Mellor encouraged me to memorize: 2 Corinthians 5:17 (KJV) "Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

These words of Calvin are good to end on: "Now we see how Christ is the most perfect image of God; if we are conformed to it, we are so restored that with true piety, righteousness, purity, and intelligence we bear God's image."

Tomorrow's reading: 1.15.5-1.15.8

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