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.