Blogging the Institutes–1.12.1–One God; No Idols

“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

One God; No Idols

At the beginning of my work I made the claim that knowledge of God does not consist of mere “head” knowledge but actually leads us to worship Him. I will talk at length in other places about the proper way to worship God. For now, I want to talk about God’s unity. When Scripture speaks of God’s unity, it not only speaks of His name but also that anything applied to God should not be applied to any other thing. Scripture makes clear the difference between true worship and superstition.

The Greeks themselves have a word for “right worship.” Although they were feeling around in the darkness, they still recognized that certain rules were needed to govern the worship of God.  Cicero points out that the word religion was related to the word relego. But he makes a farfetched application. He believes that true worshippers read and read again and ponder what it true. In contrast, I believe the word religion speaks of order and rules in opposition licentiousness in worship. People usually worship however they deem fit. Whereas though who are true worshippers, will worship within the proper bounds.

In a similar way, superstition seems to take its name from the fact that it’s not curtailed by reason. Rather, superstition accumulates pointless rituals and beliefs. Everyone admits that religion is corrupted whenever false opinions are injected into it. Most of what is done in the name of superstition cannot be defended. And yet, people still refuse to worship the one, true God or follow His rules concerning proper worship.

But God is a jealous God. He is a fearsome avenger against anyone who confuses Him with a false “god.” Therefore, God defines worship. Consequently, people must follow His prescriptions, not their own. God binds His people to allegiance to only Himself, being the only Lawgiver. In His Law, He sets forth the rules for proper worship. The Law was given to be a bridle to curtail people to prevent them from turning to false worship practices. Therefore, unless everything that defines God is given to God alone, He is robbed of His honor and His worship is violated.

Superstition subtly steals worship from God. It seems to avoid abandoning the one, true God by giving Him the highest place. But He is surrounded by lesser deities. By doing this, superstition robs God of His glory. Both Jews and Gentiles did something similar by placing many other gods in subjection to the father and rulers of the gods. They assigned them rulership over the universe along with the supreme God. Some even exalted the saints to a partnership with God so that they would be worshipped and adored too. Such superstition blinds people to the glory of God. All they have left is a some speculation about God’s power. Being entangled in superstition, people follow after other gods.

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