Calvin's "Institutes"

I am reading John Calvin’s “Institutes of the Christian Religion” for literature class. Have any of you ever read that book? What do you think of it?
God bless you,

I recall the excerpts on Predestination. At some points he appeals to the “authority of Augustine.” (e.g. 3.23.4) However, he is selective as to which writings of Augustine are authoritative because some writings of Augustine contradict Calvin doctrines, as even Calvin admits elsewhere (e.g. 3.22.8).

I think Calvin’s defense of “paedo-Baptism” (infant Baptism) is the best I have ever read, from any source.

All “mainline” protestant churches with a strong Calvinist background (Presbyterian, Anglican, Episcopal, Methodist) continue to Baptize infants. Among other protestants, there seems to be a (mistaken) consensus that only the Catholic Church Baptizes infants.

Interesting! Thankyou.

I have always assumed that these churches performed infant baptism as an unacknowledged acceptance of tradition, ie. Catholicism, and was not aware that Calvin had endorsed it (presumably from scripture).

I have read it twice, because I used to be a Calvinist. It’s a massive work. Calvin is a great writer, and is able to reduce a lot of people he argues against to seemingly absurd positions with his dicey use of insults.

Could be worse: You could have been assigned Barth’s “Church Dogmatics.”

Reminds me of a joke…

One day, up in Heaven, our Lord decides that, in an effort to bring greater unity amongst the Saints, that He will personally spend one hour, alone, with each of three of the Church’s greatest theologians wherein they can each ask whatever questions they like and finally settle their greatest questions.

First up, St. Augustine. He walks into Jesus’ office and an hour later, he comes out and says, “At last! I understand all the mysteries of sin and grace.”

Then, Jean Calvin. He walks into Jesus’s office and an hour later, he comes out and says, “At last! I understand all the mysteries of predestination and free will.”

Finally, Karl Barth. He walks in to Jesus’ office an an hour later… nothing.

Two hours… still nothing.

Finally, after three hours Jesus sticks His head out and says, “Can anybody tell me what the heck this guy is talking about?”

My apologies to anyone I may have just offended.

I don’t think even a devoted Barthian would be offended. One can think Barth is right without holding the patently absurd view that he is easy to understand. And Barth himself made fun of his own works–one of the most charming stories about him is that he had a dream one day in which he was trundling up the road to heaven pushing a wheelbarrow with all of his books on it. Barth took pretty seriously his paradoxical claim that all theology is a form of unbelief, even though he also thought that theology was necessary! This is actually one of the things I like most about Barth.

I know Calvin a lot better than I do Barth, and Calvin is certainly a much clearer writer. In fact, my own piece of irreverence is that Calvin’s fame rests more on his merits as a writer than on his merits as a theologian. Not that he’s an unintelligent theologian by any means, but in my opinion he often uses his rhetorical skills to skate over “thin ice” in his theology. For instance, is he a voluntarist or an intellectualist? You really can’t figure it out, because Calvin seems to have taken intellectualist ideas from Bucer and voluntarist ones from Melanchthon and never really bothered his head about how to make them fit. One of the most famous and beautiful passages in the Institutes is his description of fallen human beings seeing God’s truth by flashes of lightning, or in a dim and blurred manner as if they were old men with spectacles on. There’s some vision, but not enough to do them any good. A vivid image, and apparently satisfying to many Calvinists. But logically it doesn’t make sense. The objection Calvin is trying to answer is how people can be responsible for their disobedience to divine revelation they have not received. And his vivid metaphors don’t answer the objection. If effectively they don’t get enough truth to do them any good, how do they get enough to make them responsible?



I’ve heard of Karl Barth, but know nothing of him. Still, I thought this was hilarious, and can picture that it might apply to many theologians - professional and amateur.

(From Post #7)

…The objection Calvin is trying to answer is how people can be responsible for their disobedience to divine revelation they have not received. And his vivid metaphors don’t answer the objection. If effectively they don’t get enough truth to do them any good, how do they get enough to make them responsible? Edwin

I can’t speak to the days before the printing press and the Bible in native tongues, nor to countries where the Bible is forbidden. I trust that God made/makes provision.

However, for many years for the majority of us, it has been impossible to not be exposed to ‘enough Truth’. Truth has been a giant wave breaking over us constantly for the past 200 years, at least. Even used to be in our schools - the alphabet learned from books of Bible verses. Enlightened writers were blooming all over the place in the 1800s. I could ‘feel’ Truth in their words. But they failed to tell me how to find It for myself. Why didn’t they? (I still puzzle about this occasionally.)

Mark 4:14 - The Sower soweth the Word.

Mark 4:20 - And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.

So, the problem isn’t a dearth of Truth, but the failure of religion/spiritual paths to show us how to till the ground of our hardened, cold hearts that are ‘deceitful and wicked beyond measure’ - in a particular way. If spiritual leaders don’t have the Indwelling Holy Spirit, chances are members will also fail to Find. It isn’t magic, this tilling of the ‘inner’ ground so that the Word can take root. But we must know the angle and the signposts that tell us we’re on the Narrow Path. We need ‘mind tools’ and be shown how to use them for Purpose.

Everyone receives Grace - those moments of Inspiration that we apply and a slice of life is easier. Out of unlikely mouths and fingertips fall nuggets of Truth. All courtesy of the Holy Spirit being able to get a Word in edge-wise. But the problem with getting a Morsel as an adult is that it either stops there because we don’t know how to proceed or vain imagination takes over.

And along with religions/others not knowing The Way, there is also the great hindrance of personal fear. Fear of the unknown evil that lurks beneath the surface defense mechanisms and solidified personality; fear of sacrifice; fear of having been wrong, wrong, wrong; fear of the fear the Ego throws up each time we make a little headway in glimpsing a truth about ourselves that isn’t pretty, and a rationalization/justification that is quick to follow.

The Harvest is forever plentiful but workers are few who find the Path to the Field and stay on it until the Indwelling and beyond. The good news is that regardless of how old we are, we are the right age. The parable of the workers - those hired early are paid the same wage as those who come late in the day. God is truly Good and Merciful.

I’m prevented from sharing in a detailed way in this forum because there would be a conflict with Church doctrine concerning Confession as it is practiced. Seeing and doing Confession differently was critical to my Finding. Many would agree that Confesson is key to spiritual progress. However, if something were not amiss in how we go about it, many more would Find.

How do I Seek? Where do I Find? What kind of ‘knock’ opens the door to the Holy Spirit? How do I recognize the Holy Spirit Guiding, and how do I keep hold of It’s hand until the temple is cleared enough for Indwelling?

  1. It has been my experience that I didn’t turn into a Perfect Being upon the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit - the Journey continues but is even more fascinating and challenging. There is always More. How do we know the Indwelling? Job 41:18 - “By his neesings a Light doth shine.” The Nose Knows. “May the Bird of Paradise fly up your nose…” “Cultivate the garden of the nose and the eyes will take care of themselves.”

I have no idea how long I was experiencing the ‘neesings’ before one day, I suddenly thought there was something just too peculiar about it all. Looked up ‘nose quotes’ and found the answers ‘hidden in plain sight’. Since then, “led by the nose” has spiritual practical application, of course. It’s one thing not to throw ‘pearls before swine’ and quite another not to share the informatin we need to pursue the Direct Experience Christ tells us is essential. Christ must rise from the dead - within us. 1Cor 12-20.

“Once, when a British Prime Minister sneezed, men half a world away would blow their noses. Now when a British Prime Minister sneezes nobody else will even say ‘Bless You’.”
Bernard Levin


I doubt anyone is sneezing in Washington DC these days, or has the itch to do so. In a republic, God is the highest authority. In a democracy, man is the head. Pres. Obama keeps calling our government a democracy; perhaps, these days, he’s right. Democracy runs on feelings; a standard republican party by intellect; a Republic by Mind. Can’t have Mind without Christ on the Bridge (pun intended). “An inch in a man’s nose is much.”

  1. What would we think of Jesus if the Answer involved all of us getting a degree in theology and majoring in apologetics? Salvation wouldn’t be for all of us. The object isn’t to convince people of Truth but to show them how to find the Holy Spirit/Truth for themselves. The Path is simple. Not easy at first, but simple.

  2. No need to fear ‘sacrifice’ as far as giving up material things, foods, non-mood-altering substances … we are not to ‘help’ the Holy Spirit by changing before we are changed from within. The deeper one goes on the Path, things have a tendency to ‘fall away’. The greater my attachment to the Process, the less attached I was to things that used to seem all-important. It was really remarkable, to me, how that worked.

Perhaps it would be acceptable to share a different way of looking at Confession in this thread and if it is considered too untenable, then delete it. If it could co-exist along with the standard way of Catholicism, so much the better. Just a shift in focus for those who are Seekers and haven’t found the Spirit Within by other methods.

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