Thursday, October 20, 2011

Calvin:  Regarding faith.

Calvin's comments on faith constitute a long section with many thoughts, so the one I highlight below should not be considered characteristic of the whole.  Still, it jumped out at me:

"Here, however, a question might be raised as to the view to be taken of Sarah and Rebekah, both of whom, impelled as it would seem by zeal for the faith, went beyond the limits of the word. Sarah, in her eager desire for the promised seed, gave her maid to her husband. That she sinned in many respects is not to be denied; but the only fault to which I now refer is her being carried away by zeal, and not confining herself within the limits prescribed by the word. It is certain, however, that her desire proceeded from faith. ..." - Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, chapter 2.

Rebekah proceeded with outright deceit.  Thus, we are left in a bit of a problem.  Christian salvation is through faith, yet certainly not faith in just anything.  Faith in our material goods?  Faith in a political leader?  Faith in another religion?  Thus, Calvin acknowledges that Christian faith can never have a perfectly clear view of the object to which Christian faith is directed, namely God and His promises through Jesus Christ.  Thus, Calvin concludes:

"These examples certainly show that error is often mingled with faith; and yet that when faith is real, it always obtains the preeminence. For as the particular error of Rebekah did not render the blessing of no effect, neither did it nullify the faith which generally ruled in her mind, and was the principle and cause of that action. In this, nevertheless, Rebekah showed how prone the human mind is to turn aside whenever it gives itself the least indulgence. But though defect and infirmity obscure faith, they do not extinguish it. Still they admonish us how carefully we ought to cling to the word of God, and at the same time confirm what we have taught—viz. that faith gives way when not supported by the word, just as the minds of Sarah, Isaac, and Rebekah, would have lost themselves in devious paths, had not the secret restraint of Providence kept them obedient to the word." - Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book III, chapter 2.

This is related to something I have thought about for sometime:  No human has as clear a view of God as Satan had, yet humans can come to God through faith, while Satan cannot.  It is clear that perfect theology is not a requirement, but rather something more fundamental regarding the human soul.


Delirious said...

Faith in Jesus CHrist is the most very basic, fundamental step in religion. All else that we do, comes from that faith.

Looney said...