Blog 11: 1.5.12 - 1.6.1

Paul Helm

Whether or not Calvin patterns the Institutes after the Letter to the Romans it is pretty clear that at this point he has Romans 1-2 in mind. God manifests his nature, his power and goodness, to all men and women through the  creation. Its regularity and power, beauty and order, as well as its bountiful goodness, unmistakably testify to God as creator. But humanity, self-deceived through sin, generates idols, and 'casts out all awareness of God'.

Calvin's case for this verdict seems to be made in two phases. There is empirical evidence, from the pagans, Stoics, Epicureans,  from the rough as well as the smooth. Even though not all are as bad as each other, no one jumps the hurdle. When men and women know God (through the creation) they do not glorify him as God. But since the knowledge of God is clear, they are without excuse. Though we should build on what we know, we fabricate idols.

Hence the need for the Scripture, which acts like a pair of glasses, enabling its readers to focus. But focus on what? Not - yet - on the God of gracious redemption, but (still) on God the creator.  Calvin speaks here of Scripture's theology of nature. Only that? Is there within that testimony facts that may provide arguments for God? Is that the significance of Calvin's reference to 'common proofs' at this point?  However that may be, for Calvin grace builds on nature, God's hand in nature revealed by direct testimony but especially, due to our sin, nature's author and nature's purpose revealed through Scripture.