Calvin 1.1: True wisdom & self-awareness


Structure mirrors Apostles’ Creed

“The subject handled by the author of these Christian Institutes is twofold: the former, the knowledge of God, which leads to blessed immortality; and the latter (which is subordinate to the former), the knowledge of ourselves. [goes on to compare to Apostles' Creed]“-Institutes, Method and Arrangement by Gaspar Olevian

Sovereign over, but pure from, sin

“… though God employs the instrumentality of the wicked, he is pure from sin and from taint of every kind.”-Calvin, Institutes, Argument

True wisdom – knowledge of God and ourselves

“Our wisdom, insofar as it ought to be deemed true and solid wisdom, consists almost entirely in two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”-ibid., 1.1.1

We don’t see how sinful we are, until…

“For (such is our innate pride) we always seem to ourselves just, and upright, and wise, and holy, until we are convinced, by clear evidence, of our injustice, vileness, folly, and impurity.  Convinced, however, we are not, if we look to ourselves only, and not to the Lord also – he being the only standard by the application  of which this conviction can be produced.  For since we are all naturally prone to hypocrisy, any empty semblance of righteousness is quite enough to satisfy us instead of righteousness itself…  So long as we do not look beyond the earth, we are quite pleased with our own righteousness, wisdom, and virtue; we address ourselves in the most flattering terms, and seem only less than demigods.  But should we once begin to raise our thoughts to God, and reflect what kind of being he is … what formerly delighted us by its false show of righteousness will become polluted with the greatest iniquity.”-ibid., 1.1.2

The holiest men quaked in God’s presence

“Hence that dread and amazement with which as Scripture uniformly relates, holy men were struck and overwhelmed whenever they beheld the presence of God.  When we see those who previously stood firm and secure so quaking with terror, that the fear of death takes hold of them, no, they are, in a manner, swallowed up and annihilated, the inference to be drawn is that men are never duly touched and impressed with a conviction of their insignificance, until they have contrasted themselves with the majesty of God.”-ibid., 1.1.3