The One True God

Chapter Summary of Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book One, Chapter X – Scripture to Correct All Superstition, Has Set the True God Alone Over Against All the Gods of the Heathen

The Scriptures by various means have distinguished God as utterly unique. In creation God has revealed himself eternally existent, beneficent, patient and just as described in his title, Elohim.

He has made his attributes apprehensible to his creatures. “Let him who glories, glory in this,” he says, “that he knows that I am the Lord who exercise mercy, judgment, and justice in the earth.” [Jer. 9:24; I Cor. 1:31]. The Scriptures add to our comprehension of the divine character teaching us to fear his holiness, trust in his justice and hope in his goodness.

While creation and the imprint of God on the souls of men from conception are sufficient to leave men without excuse for their idolatry, the Scriptures comes along to further condemn those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”

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The Logical Primacy of Scripture

Chapter Summary of Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion
Book One, Chapter IX – Fanatics Abandoning Scripture and Flying Over to Revelation, Cast Down All the Principles of Godliness

There are those who have ascribed primacy of the teaching role of the Spirit to the exclusion of written Scripture. Interestingly, it is the Spirit of Christ then that they claim testifies to the truths contrary to the inscripturated teachings of Christ himself. For Paul clearly teaches that it is Scripture that “is useful for teaching, admonishing, and reproving in order that the servants of God may be made perfect” [2 Tim. 3:16-17]. Contrary to their understanding, it is not the role of the Spirit to add to or modify revelation but to seal to the believer the truths of the gospel as taught in the Scriptures. Indeed Paul warns against teaching “any other doctrine” [Gal. 1:6-9].

The contrary contention then has been that one errs who would constrain the Spirit to the doctrine of a mere book. This assertion lacks merit and sound logic. It is no demerit to himself that the Spirit would be found in conformity with himself, with the very “God-breathed” revelation he himself inspired. Quite the opposite, to constrain the Spirit by the rationality of men would indeed be degrading.

The “fanatics” (as Calvin calls them) err deeply when they call Scripture “the letter that kills”. Paul makes it clear that if the Word of God is sealed to the heart by the Spirit, it is rightly seen as the Word of Life [cf. Phil. 2:16] and by neglecting the Word, which is “the ministration of the Spirit” [II Cor. 3:8], we “quench the Spirit” [cf. I Thess. 5:19–20].

Human Reason and the Credibility of Scripture

Chapter Summary of Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion

Book One, Chapter VIII – So Far as Human Reason Goes, Sufficiently Firm Proofs Are at Hand to Establish the Credibility of Scripture

“Human reason is like a drunken man on horseback; set it up on one side and it falls over on the other.” –Martin Luther

The faith established in the believing heart, as with the Corinthian’s, is founded “upon God’s power, not upon human wisdom” [I Cor. 2:5] and “not in persuasive words of human wisdom but in demonstration of the Spirit and of might” [2:4]. Though, while this is certainly true it is also true that for the one duly persuaded such evidences found in human reason provide added support to the conviction.   

There is in the style of Scripture wide variety from writer to writer from the eloquence of David to the meanness of Zechariah. In common however they reveal thoughts beyond that which could be humanly contrived. As to its antiquity, Scripture dates to Moses, far preceding any extant writings of other religions. Further, Moses did not create a new deity but rather harkened to the one true God of Abraham handed down through the generations. Moses clearly shows himself a faithful messenger from the Lord. He portrays God’s dealing with Israel “warts and all”. Rather than flattering his own people or seeking his own interests he recalls to mind their iniquity [Gen. 49:5-6] and relegates the role of high priest to the lowest rather than his own household.

Miracles testify to the authority bestowed upon Moses. Were these not so could he have written accounts of them as testimony to his contemporaries? By way of refutation, Pharaoh’s sorcerers attempted to explain away miracles of Moses as magic [Ex. 7:11; 9:11]. So distasteful to Moses were the dark arts that he, to the contrary, made their practice or seeking out those who perform such a capital offense.

Beyond bonafide miracles there are ancient prophecies frequently fulfilled in the seemingly most unlikely ways. Consider, Jacob’s prophecy of the kingly line of Judah. By all accounts, through Saul the kingly line should have been that of Benjamin, not the line inaugurated through the youngest son of a shepherd! Further, resounding evidence is the confirmation of numerous recorded prophecies. Consider Isaiah’s naming of Cyrus as the king by whom captive Israel would be freed – over 100 years before the birth of Cyrus [Isa. 45:1]. Or, Jeremiah’s foretelling of the exile and its duration [Jer. 25:11–12; 29:10].

While there have been times of human neglect, God has providentially preserved and propagated the sacred writings from generation to generation. Through all of the persecutions and attacks of his enemies God has seen his Word preserved, indeed propelled.

Turning to the New Testament, its veracity is seen in part in that such heavenly discourse is found in the pens of greedy, unlearned and even murderous men. The esteem given Scripture over the ages has remained and multiplied despite attacks by the most keen-witted skeptics in all ages. Evidence is found further in the broad diversity of individuals in whom this esteem is found. Finally, there is confirmation of the integrity of the Scriptures in the willingness of so many godly men who have willingly died in its defense. As the chapter began, we must remain cognizant of the fact that, though useful, such “evidences” cannot ultimately prove the truth of Scripture. This is left to the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of men so gifted with illumination.