Blog 40: 2.1.1 - 2.1.4
Calvin proceeds from "The Knowledge of God the Creator" (Book One) to "The Knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ..." (Book Two). Calvin begins Book Two with a meditation on self-knowledge (2.1.1-3). Why begin an exposition of "the Knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ" in this way? Calvin has established at the outset of Book One that the knowledge of God and self-knowledge are inseparable (1.1.1-3). Consequently, if we are to appreciate biblical teaching on the work of Christ, we must also understand our sin. To understand sin properly requires self-understanding.
Right self-understanding, Calvin argues, yields two conclusions. First, all that we are as creatures comes by the favor and provision of God. We should therefore respond to God with humility and a sense of dependence upon him. Second, "our condition after Adam's fall" is a "miserable" one. We should therefore be "humbled" and "overwhelmed with shame" (2.1.1). The tragic consequence of sin, however, is that our natural gifts become the occasion of self-flattery and self-sufficiency (2.1.2). To be sure, sin has effaced neither our natural "gifts" nor our divinely-appointed "purpose" as human beings. What sin means is that we are "completely estranged" from that purpose (2.1.3).
Calvin begins his formal consideration of sin in Book Two with a study of the nature and consequences of Adam's first sin. In 2.1.4, Calvin addresses the nature of Adam's sin. Calvin supplements Augustine's statement that "pride was the beginning of all evils" with the observation that "unfaithfulness was the root of the Fall." Unbelief in the Word of God resulted in Adam's opposing God's authority (2.1.4).
Calvin draws two practical observations from Adam's sin in the Garden. First, unbelief in God's Word results in our putting off "all reverence" for God and the purity of his worship. Second, to deter sin we should always remember "that nothing is better than to practice righteousness by obeying God's commandments; then, that the ultimate goal of the happy life is to be loved by him" (ibid.).
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