Blogging the Institutes–1.5.7–Knowing God’s Goodness, Justice, and Mercy

“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

Knowing God’s Goodness, Justice, and Mercy

Besides what God has made, there is also a “second class” of His works, those who which flow from His nature. They provide crystal clear evidence of His divine perfections. First of all, there is God’s goodness: the way He arranges the course of our lives. He shows us that although everyone benefits from God’s goodness, He specially blesses His people. The wicked and evil, meanwhile, are objects of His severity.

Second, there is His justice. It is impossible doubt His justice because He regularly punishes the wicked’s crimes. He is also the protector—yes, even the Avenger—of the innocent! He showers His people with blessings. He gives them what they need, soothes their grief, gives solace in the midst of suffering, and provides for their safety.

It is true that He often allows the guilty to get away with things for a while. Even the innocent can be persecuted and oppressed for a time.  Yet, such circumstances should not cause us to doubt God’s justice. In fact, the opposite understanding should be drawn.  When one crime draws out a visible manifestation of His anger, it is because He hates all crime.  When He leaves many crimes unpunished, it is because there is a coming Judgment. He will surely inflict His judgment upon those crimes—just at the Last Day. He is storing up His wrath against the wicked.

Finally, there is His mercy. He gives us ample opportunity for us to think about His mercy. For example, He continually sheds upon sinners perpetual kindness. He does so until He subdues our wickedness and wins us back to Himself.

Blogging the Institutes–1.5.6–We Know God Through His Creation

“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

We Know God Through His Creation

There is one God who governs over all things. He wishes that we respect Him and make Him the object of our faith, worship, and adoration. There is nothing worse than enjoying all of God’s good gifts given to us—our natural talents, our bodies, etc.—but neglecting the Giver of the gifts.

With respect to His power, it is so glorious! Through it, He urges us to contemplate what He is like. His power will work effectively in us, unless we pretend not to know whose energy sustains the universe:

At one time, God makes the skies reverberate with thunder and sends forth the blinding lightening, which lights up the whole atmosphere. At another time, God stirs up raging storms on the seas and yet, in an instant, can make it perfectly calm. He keeps the sea at bay even though it seems to swell and rage and threaten to engulf the dry land. He even lashes the sea into a fury by the wind and yet appeases its rage and stills the waves.

I could go on and on about God’s power with glowing descriptions. His power can be illustrated through many natural events, many of which are recorded in the Bible, especially in the books of Job and Isaiah. I won’t talk about them here, however, because I want to wait to introduce them in another chapter on creation. I just want to make one more observation: it’s common practice both within and outside the Church to learn about God by studying His creation. If we first begin to contemplate the power of God, we’ll be lead to think about God’s forever existence because any created things, which were made by God’s power, must necessarily be dependent on a God who is self-existent and eternal.

Now, some people may wonder why God even chose to create anything in the first place. There’s really no other reason other than this: His own goodness. Furthermore, if God’s own goodness is the reason He made anything at all, this reason alone should be enough to draw our love towards Him. Every person already participates in His mercy, as the Psalmist says: “His tender mercies are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).