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John Calvin – The Kind Of Knowledge We Are After

9 Jun

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We are called to a knowledge of God: not that knowledge which, content with empty speculation, merely flits in the brain, but that which will be sound and fruitful if we duly perceive it, and if it takes root in the heart. For the Lord manifests himself by his powers, the force of which we feel within ourselves and the benefits of which we enjoy. We must therefore be much more profoundly affected by this knowledge than if we were to imagine a God of whom no perception came through to us. Consequently, we know the most perfect way of seeking God, and the most suitable order, is not for us to attempt with bold curiosity to penetrate to the investigation of his essence, which we ought more to adore than meticulously to search out, but for us to contemplate him in his works whereby he renders himself near and familiar to us, and in some manner communicates himself. The apostle was referring to this when he said that we need not seek him far away, seeing that he dwells by his very present power in each of us [Acts 17:27–28]. For this reason, David, having first confessed his unspeakable greatness [Ps. 145:3], afterward proceeds to mention his works and professes that he will declare his greatness [Ps. 145:5–6; cf. Ps. 40:5]. It is also fitting, therefore, for us to pursue this particular search for God, which may so hold our mental powers suspended in wonderment as at the same time to stir us deeply. And as Augustine teaches elsewhere, because, disheartened by his greatness, we cannot grasp him, we ought to gaze upon his works, that we may be restored by his goodness.

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.5.9. p. 61-62.

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Charles Spurgeon – It Matters What You Do With Your Knowledge

26 May

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Those who boast of their knowledge betray their ignorance. Knowledge is not a possession to be proud of, since it brings with it so great a responsibility that a nurse might as well be proud of watching over a life in peril. Knowledge may become good or ill according to the use which is made of it. If men know God, for instance, and then glorify him as God, and are thankful, their knowledge has become the means of great blessing to them; but if they know God, and fail to glorify him, their knowledge turns to their condemnation. There is a knowledge which does not puff up the mind, but builds up the soul, being joined with holy love. Did not our Lord say, “And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent”? But for men to know God, and not to glorify him as God, and to be unthankful, is, according to our text, no benefit to them: on the contrary, it becomes a savour of death unto them, because it leaves them without excuse. Our Saviour could plead for some, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” But what plea is to be used for those who know what they do, and yet do evil; who know what they ought to do, and do it not? These have the light, and close their eyes; or, to use another figure, they have the light, and use it to sin by. They take the golden candlestick of the sanctuary into their hands, and by its help they perform their evil deeds the more dexterously, and run in the way of wickedness the more swiftly.


Charles Spurgeon




The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 30 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1884), 61. Vol. 30, Sermon No. 1,763; Titled: Knowledge, Worship, Gratitude Click here for a free PDF of this sermon.

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Herman Bavinck – God: Knowable, Yet Incomprehensible

24 Apr
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1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

God’s incomprehensibility, so far from canceling out God’s knowability, rather presupposes and affirms it. The riches of God’s being—riches that surpass all knowledge—are in fact a necessary and significant component of our knowledge of God. The fact remains that God makes himself known to us in the manner and measure in which he reveals himself in his creatures.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 56.

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Herman Bavinck – The Cosmological, Teleological, Ontological, and Moral Arguments

10 Apr
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1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

The cosmological argument attempts to deduce the existence of a cause from the demonstrable existence of an effect. This argument has some validity but fails to tell us anything about the character and nature of the cosmic cause. All we have is a self-existent, first, and absolute World-cause. The teleological argument, proceeding from the world’s order and beauty, takes us one step further to an intelligent cause that must be conscious. However, we still do not know whether this means one intelligent Being or several working in harmony. We are still not nearly at a knowledge of the God of Scripture.

The ontological argument, in its various forms, attempts to infer existence from thought. Our common sense recognizes that this argument is not true when it comes to creatures. Nonexistent beings can be conceived. With God matters are slightly different. Though we cannot convincingly demonstrate the reality of God from our ideas about God, it is true that whenever we do think about God we necessarily think of God existing. The benefit of this argument is that human beings are confronted with the choice of either trusting this necessary witness of their consciousness or else despairing of their own consciousness.

The moral argument infers the existence of a supreme and sovereign Lawgiver from moral phenomena such as human conscience, fear of death and judgment, repentance, and reward and punishment. While these phenomena are powerful witness to the enduring moral nature of even fallen humanity, they are less than a proof for the existence of a righteous and holy God. The same is true for the argument that proceeds from the universal reality of religion. This fact bears powerful witness to the existence, revelation, and knowability of God but cannot as such disprove the claim that it reflects a universal pathology of the human mind, a passing fancy or delusion. Finally, arguments based on the purposefulness of history presuppose what they claim to demonstrate. History is susceptible to different interpretations that are, in the final analysis, a matter of faith, not proof. The heart rather than the intellect is the final arbiter.

That must also be our judgment concerning these “proofs” in general. Even the term “proofs” is infelicitous. The cosmological, teleological, and moral testimony to God is not a matter of logical, mathematical proof but belongs to the category of moral and religious truth.

The proofs may augment and strengthen our faith, but they do not serve as its grounds. They are, rather, the consequences, the products of faith’s observation of the world. The proofs do not induce faith, and objections against them do not wreck it. They are, instead, testimonies by which God is able to strengthen already-given faith.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 55-56.

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Herman Bavinck – Where Proofs For God’s Existence Fit In

1 Apr

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

It is important, however, to make some distinction between implanted and acquired knowledge of God. In the former God’s revelation acts upon human consciousness, creating impressions and intuitions. In the case of the acquired knowledge of God, human beings reflect upon that revelation of God and seek by reasoning and proof to rise above impressions and intuitions to clearer ideas. This is the natural human desire to explain the how and why of our knowledge. This distinction must not be restricted to so-called natural theology in opposition to revealed theology. God reveals himself to us in his handiwork of creation, but even Christian believers depend on Scripture and the illumination of the Holy Spirit to truly know God the Creator. We are indebted to Scripture for both implanted and acquired knowledge.



This insight helps us to consider aright the so-called proofs for God’s existence, neither overestimating nor disdaining them. Christian theology accepts the support given to its convictions about God by pagan philosophy but judges these proofs within the doctrine of faith, not as preambles to it. Christian conviction about what can be known about God apart from special revelation is a valid natural theology. However, when this natural theology stands on its own and in a self-sufficient and rationalistic fashion sets aside the need for special revelation, it is an invalid and impious activity.



~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 54-55.

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Herman Bavinck – The Effort Involved In Unbelief

25 Mar

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

Belief in a personal God is both natural and normal; it arises in human consciousness spontaneously and universally. Unbelief requires enormous effort. There is no proof available to it.



~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 53.

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Herman Bavinck – The Theater of His Glory

19 Mar

1854-1921. Dutch Reformed Theologian and Churchman. Professor at Free University in Amsterdam.

All knowledge of God rests on revelation. Though we can never know God in the full richness of his being, he is known to all people through his revelation in creation, the theater of his glory. The world is never godless. In the end there are no atheists; there is only argument about the nature of God. The recognition is universal of a power greater than human beings themselves, to whom they owe piety.

~Herman Bavinck~




Reformed Dogmatics Vol. 2: God and Creation John Bolt and John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI; Baker Academic; 2004) p. 53.

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Geerhardus Vos – God Alone Possesses Ideal Knowledge

17 Mar

It is also true that we do not have an in-depth and comprehensive knowledge of God. All our knowledge, even with regard to created things, is in part. This is even truer of God. We only know Him insofar as He reveals Himself, that is, has turned His being outwardly for us. God alone possesses ideal knowledge of Himself and of the whole world, since He pervades everything with His omniscience.

~Geerhardus Vos~




Reformed Dogmatics ed. Richard B. Gaffin and Richard de Witt, trans. Annemie Godbehere et al., vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2013), 8.

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Geerhardus Vos – Truly “Knowing” God

29 Jan

God’s self-revelation to us was not made for a primarily intellectual purpose. It is not to be overlooked, of course, that the truly pious mind may through an intellectual contemplation of the divine perfections glorify God. This would be just as truly religious as the intensest occupation of the will in the service of God. But it would not be the full-orbed religion at which, as a whole, revelation aims. It is true, the Gospel teaches that to know God is life eternal. But the concept of ‘knowledge’ here is not to be understood in its Hellenic sense, but in the Shemitic sense. According to the former, ‘to know’ means to mirror the reality of a thing in one’s consciousness. The Shemitic and Biblical idea is to have the reality of something practically interwoven with the inner experience of life. Hence ‘to know’ can stand in the Biblical idiom for ‘to love’, ‘to single out in love.’ Because God desires to be known after this fashion, He has caused His revelation to take place in the milieu of the historical life of a people. The circle of revelation is not a school, but a ‘covenant’.

~Geerhardus Vos~

 

 

Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Edinburgh, Scotland; The Banner of Truth Trust; 1975), p. 8.

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John Calvin – The Undoubted Power and Majesty of God’s Word

17 Jan

Let this point therefore stand: that those whom the Holy Spirit has inwardly taught truly rest upon Scripture, and that Scripture indeed is self-authenticated; hence, it is not right to subject it to proof and reasoning. And the certainty it deserves with us, it attains by the testimony of the Spirit. For even if it wins reverence for itself by its own majesty, it seriously affects us only when it is sealed upon our hearts through the Spirit. Therefore, illumined by his power, we believe neither by our own nor by anyone else’s judgment that Scripture is from God; but above human judgment we affirm with utter certainty (just as if we were gazing upon the majesty of God himself) that it has flowed to us from the very mouth of God by the ministry of men. We seek no proofs, no marks of genuineness upon which our judgment may lean; but we subject our judgment and wit to it as to a thing far beyond any guesswork! This we do, not as persons accustomed to seize upon some unknown thing, which, under closer scrutiny, displeases them, but fully conscious that we hold the unassailable truth! Nor do we do this as those miserable men who habitually bind over their minds to the thralldom of superstition; but we feel that the undoubted power of his divine majesty lives and breathes there. By this power we are drawn and inflamed, knowingly and willingly, to obey him, yet also more vitally and more effectively than by mere human willing or knowing!

~John Calvin~






Institutes of the Christian Religion, Volumes 1 & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011) Vol. 1.7.5. p. 80.

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