“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 is Implanted in Every Human Mind
All sensible people, therefore, will believe that some knowledge of God is engraved on the human heart. This belief in God’s implanted knowledge is confirmed by the stubborn rebellion of the wicked! Although they try to run away from the knowledge of God, they cannot escape it no matter how hard they try. Though Diagoras and others like him try to make themselves happy with whatever popular beliefs about religion have been passed down through the ages, and though Dionysus mocks God’s justice, their supposed smiles are only fake grins. Because their consciences keep gnawing within themselves.
I do not agree at all with Cicero who argues that errors in beliefs go away through time and that religion gets better as time passes; because the world tries to do away with the knowledge of God and corrupts His worship in innumerable ways. Yet, when a person’s hard heart becomes weakened, the knowledge of God—which he hoped would dwindle and expire—stays strong and breaks through. Therefore, the pervasive knowledge of God is not something which is primarily learned in school. Rather, it is something all people from birth, in a sense, teaches themselves. It is also something which nature will not allow people to forget, even though they try as hard as possible to do so.
Furthermore, people should live for the purpose of knowing God. Now, let’s say that the knowledge of God is diminished in someone’s life because it does not lead them to know God more. What is the result? These people will not become “true to themselves”—they will not become the people that they were created to be, because we were created to know God. This point was even observed by the philosophers. Plato taught this point in Pheod et. Theact. He taught that the highest good for the human soul is to resemble God. In other words, the highest good is for a person to be transformed into God’s likeness by getting to know Him. Gryllus, also, quoted in Plutarch, teaches something similar. He teaches that if religion was abolished in people’s lives, then they would not excel. Indeed, they become almost like animals and commit many forms of evil. They live out a troubled and restless existence. Therefore, the one thing which makes them superior to the animals is the worship of God. For in worship, they aspire to immortality.