Blog 15: 1.8.10 - 1.9.2

Paul Helm

Calvin skilfully weaves themes together like strands of thread.  Faith  appears in connection with the self-authentication of Scripture, then disappears from view, returning in Book III. Word and Spirit come together, and then come together again. This style is partly due to his care to safeguard his teaching against misunderstanding. He qualifies what he says, and then qualifies the qualification.

At this point he can see a danger - that his emphasis on the Holy Spirit might be misunderstood as favouring the 'left wing' of the Reformation. The Anabaptists and Libertines, with their emphasis on the Spirit as against the Word, misused Paul's teaching on the Spirit and the letter. So the final Chapter of his treatment of Scripture, on the character of divine revelation, is designed to head off this misunderstanding. Does Calvin's appeal to the Spirit mean that he also is among the Libertines? No,  certainly not. The internal testimony of the Holy Spirit is not fanatical nor 'frenzied'. Why not? Because it's a case of Word and Spirit, not Spirit against Word.

The Spirit not only illumines and authenticates the Word, his authenticating is also tested by the Word. In his theological thought Calvin is quite fond of the idea of two things being linked by a 'bond' - the knowledge of God and of ourselves, for example, and justification and sanctification. Here it is Word and Spirit.  'For by a kind of mutual bond the Lord has joined together the certainty of his Word and of his Spirit so that the perfect religion of the Word may abide in our minds when the Spirit, who causes us to contemplate God's face, shines'. (1.9.3)