Why Calvin Wanted to Study the Word

Many people tell me they do not like John Calvin.  Of all the reasons I hear (which is many) one rises to the top.  People tell me the reason they don’t like Calvin is because “systems of doctrine rid our faith of the mystery that is present and eradicates true love for God.”  I obviously do not agree with such thoughts.  In my opinion that claim is theologically lazy, because everyone does theology.  The real question is whether one does it well or poor.  But let’s hear from Calvin himself on this:

Consequently, we know the most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of His essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate Him in His works whereby He renders Himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates Himself. (Institutes Book 1, chapter 5, paragraph 9)

You see why Calvin sought to do such deep theology?  You see what Calvin sought to avoid?  It is clear from the above quote that Calvin thought it was wrong for us to “meticulously” search out God and His works.  What are we to do instead?  Adore Him and His works.  How do we do that?  By contemplating (studying, pondering, thinking deeply about) those things where God renders Himself near to us because it is in His works that He communicates Himself to us.  Where has God communicated His works to us?  His Word.

This is nothing more than Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but what is revealed belongs to us…”

There are things we cannot ever know about God – they are secret, and we should never try to meticulously search them out.  But notice that’s not all of what God is.  So for us to remain in the “secret” or the “mysterious” is sinful neglect the knowledge of God, like I said it’s lazy.  God is more than mystery, there are also things He has revealed about Himself to us.  Where are these revealed things?  In His Word.  Those things which are revealed we ought to press into, devote our life to, and study with all our might.  Hear Calvin again:

Not to take too long, let us remember here as in all religious doctrine, that we ought to to hold one rule of modesty and sobriety: not to speak, or guess, or even to seek to know, concerning obscure matters anything except what has been imparted to us by God’s Word.  Furthermore, in the reading of Scripture we ought ceaselessly to endeavor to seek out and meditate upon those things which make for edification. (Institutes, 1.14.4.)


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