Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ignorance Is Not Necessarily Bliss

I have been employed in the I/T field for over 20 years now.  In that time, I have dealt with my share of DEU's (Dumb End-Users).  Yes, I have had people ask where the "any" key was.  There is the story of the user calling for tech support because his screen was blank.  After the technician ran through some simple troubleshooting, he realized that the computer did not have any power.  He instructed the user to bend down underneath his desk and check to make sure that the power strip was on and the computer was plugged in.  After the user told the technician to wait while he got a flashlight because the power was off to the building, the technician exclaimed that he figured out the problem.  He instructed the user to box the computer back up and return it to the store for a refund.  He was too ignorant to use a computer.

Calvin wrote in today's lesson that ignorance is no excuse for sin just as ignorance was no excuse in the mind of the technician.  Apparently Plato had argued that ignorance was a just excuse for sin, but Calvin clearly refuted that notion here.  In discussing Romans 2:14-15, Calvin writes, "Because it might seem absurd that the Gentiles perish without any preceding judgment, Paul immediately adds that for them conscience stands in place of the law; this is sufficient reason for their just condemnation."  There is no excuse because God has written his law on the hearts of all men.  Calvin defines natural law as, "that apprehension of conscience which distinguishes sufficiently between just and unjust, and which deprives men of the excuse of ignorance, while it proves them guilty by their own testimony."  In other words, men have no excuse for sin and we know it when we sin.

Men try to justify their own sin in their minds.  Calvin uses the examples of two men: one who is plotting a murder and one who is committing adultery.  The first sees this murder as something good.  The adulterer is flattered by his own sin.  In both cases, these men have become blind to their sin and have decided that their evil is good.  Most of the time "rushed headlong into wickedness", knowing that it is evil.  He continues to explain that we fail everyday.  We fall into the trap of sin all the time.  Even though we know what is evil and wicked, we choose this path.  We cannot use ignorance as an excuse because we know what is good and what is evil.  We have God's law to use as a measuring stick.  When we compare our actions to God's law we see immediately that we do not measure up.

Finally, Calvin reminds us of our need for the Holy Spirit to guide our lives.  Not all sins are committed out of malice.  Sometimes we make the wrong decision because of deception or misunderstanding.  This is no excuse for committing the sin.  "But Augustine so recognizes this inability of the reason to understand the things of God that he deems the grace of illumination no less necessary for our minds than the light of the sun for our eyes.  Not content with this he adds the correction that we ourselves open our eyes to behold the light, but the eyes of the mind, unless the Lord open them, remain closed."

Tomorrows reading: 2.2.26-2.2.27

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