Monday, January 16, 2012

On the Existence of God

Calvin has a wonderful section on the "knowledge of God" in his Institutes (I, iii).

He begins his argument:
That there exists in the human minds and indeed by natural instinct, some sense of Deity, we hold to be beyond dispute, since God himself, to prevent any man from pretending ignorance, has endued all men with some idea of his Godhead, the memory of which he constantly renews and occasionally enlarges, that all to a man being aware that there is a God, and that he is their Maker...Since, then, there never has been, from the very first, any quarter of the globe, any city, any household even, without religion, this amounts to a tacit confession, that a sense of Deity is inscribed on every heart. Nay, even idolatry is ample evidence of this fact.
Calvin speaks of physical idolatry (worshiping wood and stone), but we only need look at our hearts to see that we all worship something, even the most atheist within the world has a heart of worship. So then Calvin goes on to refute what amounts to a tired argument:

It is most absurd, therefore, to maintain, as some do, that religion was devised by the cunning and craft of a few individuals, as a means of keeping the body of the people in due subjection, while there was nothing which those very individuals, while teaching others to worship God, less believed than the existence of a God...The most audacious despiser of God is most easily disturbed, trembling at the sound of a falling leaf. How so, unless in vindication of the divine majesty, which smites their consciences the more strongly the more they endeavour to flee from it. They all, indeed, look out for hiding-places where they may conceal themselves from the presence of the Lord, and again efface it from their mind; but after all their efforts they remain caught within the net.
So the argument is that it is ridiculous to suppose that atheists have invented religion, and acknowledges that even though many traditions of men have crept into what is called religion, it is nonetheless supported by men who believe in God. Then he says that the most ardent opponents of Deity live their lives in such a manner as to show that they believe in God, even if they will not confess it. I believe this is true today by the virtue that agnostics and atheists are willing to exercise morality.

For the world (as will be shortly seen) labours as much as it can to shake off all knowledge of God, and corrupts his worship in innumerable ways. I only say, that, when the stupid hardness of heart, which the wicked eagerly court as a means of despising God, becomes enfeebled, the sense of Deity, which of all things they wished most to be extinguished, is still in vigour, and now and then breaks forth.
We will refuse to acknowledge Deity because it is inconvenient, and we wish to be our own gods. But that itself is evidence of God, since the selfish acknowledge that something ought to be at the center of the universe.

Thank God that he has revealed himself. He has given us the knowledge of himself through creation and conscience, through Word and prophesy, but best of all by his Son. We can know God because we can know his Son, who walked on this earth and spoke of his Father. We may be reconciled to God because this Son of God has taken the wrath of God on himself that we might have his righteousness--if only we will believe in him. 

"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me." --Jesus [John 14:1]

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