Outline of Calvin’s Institutes, Book 1

Outline and Notes.

Knowledge of God

Calvin placed intuitive knowledge on a more direct footing.  We have direct knowledge of an actually present object:  Intuitive knowledge arises under the direct impact of the divine Being.

    1. Calvin: We know God through his speaking to us in his Word (Word, being Logos, inheres in the divine being).
      1. There is a compulsion of Veritas on our minds.
      2. Knowledge of God, like all true knowledge, is determined by the nature of what is known (86).
        1. arises out of our obedience.
        2. evidence: evidence of ultimate reality, which means it is self-evident.
      3. Our intuitive knowledge is in and through God’s Word.
        1. it is reached by hearing, not seeing.
        2. The Word of God we hear in Scripture reposes in the divine Being. That is the objective ground in our knowledge of God.
  1. Without knowledge of God there is no knowledge of self, since God is the standard of knowledge.
    1. Knowledge of God involves trust and reverence (1.2.2).
      1. Knowledge of God, hence, involves obedience.
      2. The object of knowledge, in this case, partially determines how we know God.
    2. Implanted in the minds of men (1.3-4)
    3. Scripture is needed if we are to have true knowledge (1.6-8)
      1. The church itself is grounded in Scripture. Eph. 2.20.
      2. Witness of the Holy Spirit..  God is a fit witness of himself. Isaiah 59.20-21.
    4. Contra fanatical knowledge (1.9).
      1. The Holy Spirit agrees with Scripture.
      2. Word and Spirit belong together.
    5. Contra superstition (1.10-11).
      1. No visible form of God.
      2. Dulia/latria collapses.
        1. It is harder to serve a being than to reverence it (1.11.11).
        2. Scripture itself blurs this distinction (1.12.2). Gal. 4.8.
  2. The Being of God and the Trinity
    1. The Father has made his hypostasis visible in the Son (1.13.2).

Book I.V.13-15

“No pure and approved religion founded on common understanding alone.” 1 Cor. 2.8.

Chapter VI: Scripture Necessary

Knowledge of God in Scripture

True understanding emerges when we reverently embrace what pleases God (I.VI.2). This might be what Torrance has in mind when he says true scientific knowledge is when the knower submits to the structures of the object known.  “Right knowledge of God is born of obedience” (Omnis recta cognito Dei ab obedientia nascitur)

Chapter VII: Scripture must be confirmed by the Spirit

(Chapters 7-9 form an excursus on biblical authority)

“Scriptures obtain full authority among believers only when men regard them as having sprung from heaven, as if there the were living words of God were heard (7.1).  Is Calvin saying the bible becomes authoritative as we assent to its authority?  Maybe.  This is very close to what Barth says about Scripture’s becoming the Word of God in us when we submit to it.

*The highest proof of Scripture comes from God, since Scripture comes from God.  God himself is a “fit witness” for his Word.

Inward testimony of the Spirit

The Spirit must penetrate into our hearts to persuade us of Scripture (VII.4).  Is. 59.21.

Hilary of Poitiers: “For he whom we can know only through his utterances is a fitting witness concerning himself” (De Trin. I.18).

Calvin: “It is not right to subject Scripture to proof and reasoning.”  Proofs only work when the Spirit seals them on our hearts. The only true faith is that which the Spirit seals on our hearts.

Chapter 10.2

Uses language of God in himself, but goes on to say that “Experiences teaches us to find God as he is in his Word.”

Chapter 11: Impropriety of Images

section 1.  “God himself is the sole and proper witness of himself” (cf. Hilary, De Trin. I.8).

sect. 2: How can spirit be analogous to a material object?

Epistemology and Icons

The problem with the dulia/latria distinction.

  • Scripture doesn’t use that distinction (Mt. 4:10; Rev. 19:10, Acts 10:25).
  • Common sense logic says that one who is enslaved/under service to a greater necessarily gives honor to the greater (pp. 118-119).

DOCTRINE OF GOD, PROPERLY SPEAKING

Chapter 13

Divine simplicity on p. 122.

  • The Father’s hypostasis is visible in Jesus (p. 123).

Definition of Person (p.128).

  • better spoken of as “subsistence.”
  • Persons are distinguished by an incommunicable quality
  • John 1:1–Word could not be God without residing in the Father, hence the idea of subsistence emerges.

Distribution or economy in God has no effect on the unity of the essence.

Christology

Calvin summarizes the basic arguments for the deity of Christ.  Not much new here.  However, some points:

  • If apart from God there is no salvation, no righteousness et al, yet Christ contains all of these.  Then Christ is God.
  • The name of a Jehovah is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe.  Yet the name of Christ is invoked for salvation.  Therefore, Christ is on the same level as Jehovah.

Deity of the Holy Spirit (I.XIII.14-15)

*The Spirit is author of regeneration by his very own energy.

*Through him we come into communion with God, so that in a way we feel his life-giving power toward us.

Distinction and Unity of the Three Persons (I.XIII.16-20).

Fairly standard stuff.  Includes Calvin’s famous quote of Gregory of Nazianzus (p.141).

*Father is attributed the beginning of the activity and the fountain of all things; the Son, wisdom, counsel, and the ordered disposition of all things; but to the spirit is assigned the power and efficacy of all that activity (sec. 18).

*For in each hypostasis is the whole divine nature understood

Chapter 14: Creation

Standard textbook material.  Rebuts Pseudo-Dionysius on angels.  Calvin is aware of the dearth of evidence for some conclusions and refuses to go beyond it.

Chapter 15: Creation of Man

Basic substance dualism, though Calvin is heavier on the Platonic line.  Rebuts the idea that there is a difference between image and likeness.

Human soul consists of two faculties–understanding and will (sec. 7).  Calvin places himself in the intellectualist tradition by seeing that the will follows the understanding.  He is not a voluntarist.

Chapter 16: Providence

“Fortune and chance are pagan terms” (quoting Basil, Homilies on the Psalms).

Chapter 17: How We May apply this doctrine to our greatest benefit

(1) God’s providence sometimes works through an intermediary (p.210).

(2) God’s Hidden Will: Calvin isn’t actually positing two wills in God, bu notes that it appears manifold to us (sec. 3)

 

Advertisements

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
This entry was posted in Church History, theology and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Outline of Calvin’s Institutes, Book 1

  1. Pingback: Outline: Book 2, Calvin’s Institutes – Outlaw Huguenot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s