Blog 12: 1.6.2 - 1.7.2

Paul Helm

What is the knowledge of God that Scripture makes sense of? Calvin insists that, before it is the knowledge of God the redeemer, Scripture gives us the true knowledge of God our Creator and sustainer. First nature, then grace. The place of Scripture in giving us the knowledge of the God of nature leads him to begin to think of the authority of Scripture and how that authority is recognised. Reliance on Scripture is for Calvin the paradigmatic and controlling act of faith.  Faith in the Word of God is, in a nutshell, faith in the promises of God. In at least two places (1.6.1 and 1. 7. 3) he notes that to separate the recognition of Scripture's authority from the life of faith is artificial and unnatural, and he clues us in to the long discussion of faith that will occur in Book 3. This Word of God originated with the patriarchs. It conveyed to them the knowledge of the one true God, kept them from idolatry, from forgetfulness and error, and prompted in them the hope of redemption. (Ps. 19.1-2)

Now written down and preserved, handed down to us in the form of sixty-six books, the Word of God to the patriarchs, prophets and apostles may do the same for us as it did for them. Scripture is the written Word of the living God. Faith does not make Scripture God's Word, nor is it a leap of faith, a leap into the dark.  Faith, God-given faith, recognises the evidence conveyed by the pages, of the written Word, that it is breathed by Almighty God. Calvin insists that this recognition is personal and immediate, though not necessarily all-at-once.  It does not and cannot come via the say-so of the church or of any other intermediate authority, but by the Spirit. Word and Spirit together, one great cry of the Reformation.