Monday, May 11, 2009

5/11- Providence and Knowing God

Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

3 Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. 4 One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts. 5 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty— and I will meditate on your wonderful works. 6 They tell of the power of your awesome works— and I will proclaim your great deeds. 7 They celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. 8 The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and rich in love. 9 The LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. 10 All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you. 11 They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might, 12 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
and the glorious splendor of your kingdom. (Psalm 145:3-12)
Calvin: 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. f237 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]. (I.v.9)

Calvin’s first chapter of the Insitutes was about the Knowledge of God. The first part of theology is “How do we know about God?” Medieval theology was full of speculation about the essence of God. Such theology for Calvin is guesswork, and not very profitable. Calvin prefers that we look at God’s fingerprint- what God does through providence and learn about God. Calvinism believed God has a purpose for each person, and God guides each person in life- through the bad and the valleys but also through the good and the mountaintops. Calvin wrote a very tough treatise on providence in which he strongly affirmed that God works despite and through evil to accomplish good (Romans 8:28- “For we know that all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose”).
There is much speculation again today about the essence of God (partly because of today’s pluralism- think panentheism, new age theology). That speculation has arisen because postmodern humans do not trust two primary sources for knowledge about God today- 1) the scriptures and 2) providence. God is not silent. God speaks to us through providence and through the scriptures. Many are saying in seminary we cannot know God because they have given up on knowing Him through scriptures and providence. But by giving up on these things, they are in effect making up God as they wish Him to be instead of how reality reveals Him. God’s revealing Himself in providence, however, is necessarily vague. It is like an artist’s painting- we cannot necessarily and absolutely discern the artist’s intent by looking at their painting. So providential knowing is always subservient to the scriptures (as natural/general revelation was subservient to the special revelation in scriptures for Calvin). C.S. Lewis once called pain “God’s megaphone.” God gets our attention through pain, through joy, through the opening and closing of doors. Calvin believed God is very active in the world today- caring for the world (and for us). This is how we can pray to God. This is one way we can know God. If we believe, we can also trust the providence of God- as Calving did.

Prayer: Open our eyes, Lord, to see your hand leading and guiding us in life.

No comments:

Post a Comment