“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.
Ignorance is No Excuse
Although experience demonstrates that all people have some knowledge of God (like a seed in their minds), only a few people (maybe like 1 in a 100) actually cherish this knowledge in their hearts. And even then, no one sees this seed blossom and grow into full knowledge of God.
While some people become superstitious and others overtly rebel against God, the point is that all people are so degenerate with reference to knowing God that nowhere in the world can true godliness actually be found. Now, let me clear something up. When I say that some people become superstitious, I don’t mean that they are free some guilt. They are guilty because their blindness to God’s knowledge is also accompanied by pride and stubbornness.
We see pride manifested in their search for God. Rather than having their thoughts “ascend” to contemplate God’s greatness, they reduce God down to their own human expectations and then indulge in speculation about Him. They don’t try to get know God on His own terms, for who He really is; rather, they imagine God to be whoever they want Him to be.
Because of their pride, it’s like a great pit is open right in front of them and they can’t help but fall into it. Because their knowledge of God is so distorted, any worship or obedience they attempt to render to Him is futile; it doesn’t “count.” Because they’re not really worshipping the true God as He really is, but instead, they are worshipping a God of their own imagination and own creation. Paul describes how this happens when he says that, “thinking they are wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22). Right before that, he also said that people were “vain in their imaginations.” Now, this doesn’t mean they are blameless. Paul quickly adds that they deserved to be blind to spiritual realities because they actively flirt with evil. They also deceive themselves with empty religious rites. Therefore, their foolishness is not the result of pointless curiosity, but evil desire and a lust to pursue forbidden knowledge. They are justly condemned.