Blog 16: 1.9.3 - 1.11.1
January 26, 2009
It is characteristic of Calvin's theology in general and of his Institutes in particular to give strong affirmation to the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
Generally speaking, Calvin does not do this by treating the Third Person of the Trinity as a separate topic of doctrine, but by highlighting the Spirit's work in connection to every other subject that he addresses.
Calvin makes such a connection here, in his teaching about the Word of God. Because of their strong emphasis on the unique and indispensable authority of Scripture, the Reformers were sometimes accused of placing too much emphasis on the Bible, and thus of failing to heed Paul's warning that "the letter kills," whereas "the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6).
Yet Calvin rightly understood that the best way to let the Spirit do his life-giving work is to teach more Scripture, not less. Remember that the Spirit gave us the Word to begin with, and that he is present in power whenever the Word is truly and faithfully preached. The way to experience the Spirit's work, therefore, is not through some experience apart from Scripture, but by hearing his voice in the reading and preaching of the Spirit's very own Word.
Also characteristic of Calvin's theology--from the very first sentence of the Institutes--is instruction in the knowledge of God, not a matter of theological speculation, but as a living experience.
Beginning in chapter 10, Calvin moves beyond general revelation (what God has revealed of his character in creation) to special revelation (what God has revealed about himself through his Word). He does this so that we can know God "as he is toward us"--our Creator and Redeemer.