“Blogging the Institutes” is my on-going attempt to paraphrase John Calvin’s work, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. You can find out more about the series in the Introduction. For all the posts in this series, check out the Master List.
Knowledge of God has a few parts to it. It means knowing that God exists. It also means knowing what God does for our benefit and for His own glory. Furthermore, it is concerned with what is fitting to know about God.
God is not known where there are no religions or religious practices. Now, to clear something up, I’m not talking about “saving” knowledge of God—the kind of knowledge found in God as our Redeemer through Jesus our Mediator. Rather, I am talking about a simple—even “primitive”—knowledge of God which we could have had by merely looking at the world if Adam had not sinned.
We do not recognize God as our Father, and the author of salvation, and favorable of His creatures, because of our sinful corruption. We will only come to that kind of knowledge when Christ stands in our place and gives us His peace: in short, saves us. It is like there are two kinds of knowledge of God. The first recognizes God as the Creator, the One who rules over the world in His providence, takes care of us because of His goodness, and gives us many material blessings. The second goes “deeper”: You know God more fully when you embrace His grace which reconciles us to Himself through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
Therefore, to sum it up: knowledge of God has two parts. Knowledge of Him as Creator. And knowledge of Him as Redeemer. Since God first shows up to us as the Creator through our observance of the world, and since God also shows up first as Creator in Scripture (see Genesis 1:1), I will tackle knowledge of God as Creator first.
Now, whenever you begin thinking about God our minds cannot help but offer Him some kind of worship. Yet, it is not sufficient to merely think that God is the Creator who all people should worship. Rather, we must go further and believe that He is the source of goodness. We must seek everything good to be found in Him, and in Him alone. Again, we must not merely believe that He created the world, and thus sustains it with His power, governs it by His wisdom, preserves by His goodness, rules the world with justice, shows people mercy, and protects them. We must also learn of His absolute sovereignty. Not one particle of light, wisdom, justice, power, uprightness, or truth comes from anywhere but God. He is the source of all things. Consequently, we must ask for things only from Him and thank Him for whatever He decides to give us.
God’s divine perfections are like a Teacher, who shows us how to practice our faith. Learning how to practice our faith happens when knowledge of who God is inspires us to adore and love Him. We will never truly obey God until we feel that we owe everything to Him. We need to know that He loves us as our Father. He is also the source of all our blessings; yes, all of our blessings. We will never truly yield our lives to God until we find our happiness in Him alone.