Monday, March 8, 2010

Knowledge and Gifts from God

Yesterday Calvin wrote of natural and supernatural gifts.  Today he wrote of the natural gifts of knowledge of social order, arts, and sciences.

There are both heavenly and earthly things.  Heavenly things include "the pure knowledge of God, the nature of true righteousness, and the mysteries of the Heavenly Kingdom."  Earthly things include "those which 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."

Social order is implanted in the minds of all humans.  We naturally want to have social order in our lives and communities.  Some reject this idea by pointing to criminals who willingly break laws.  Calvin defends the idea of social order against these arguments by stating, "Such persons hate laws not because the do not know them to be good and holy; but with raging headlong lust, they fight against manifest reason."

God has implanted in nearly all men an aptitude for art and science.  This aptitude is not equal among men.  Some have a greater aptitude for arts and others for science and others have a lesser aptitude for them.  We should recognize this aptitude as a gift that God has given us.  Calvin also tells us that we should be grateful for these gifts and that when we see "imbeciles" that we should be reminded of this gratitude.

As a departure from the Catholic church, Calvin recognized that the sciences were indeed a gift from God.  "If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever is shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God."  All truth comes from God. 

In my favorite line from today's reading, Calvin writes, "What shall we say of all the mathematical sciences?  Shall we consider them the ravings of madmen?"  I will have to get back with Calvin on an answer to this.  My brother, the math professor and PhD student, will need to provide me with a little more insight here.  Not looking good for mathematicians though.  Just kidding, Daniel.

God distributed natural gifts among all men for the common good of mankind.  "He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45b NIV).  Though God gives these natural gifts to all, Calvin points out that these are different gifts from the spirit of sanctification which he only gives to his chosen people.  However, "if the Lord has willed that we be helped in physics, dialectic, mathematics, and other like disciplines, by the work and ministry of the ungodly, let us use this assistance.  For if we neglect God's gift freely offered in these arts, we ought to suffer just punishment for our sloth."

Tomorrow's reading: 2.2.17-2.2.21

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